Ashley Sudds is the Executive Director for KTRA. She is a busy, blonde young woman with a big job on her hands! I did a Q & A with her and here's what I found out:
Q Ashley, what led to your career with therapeutic riding?
A I had been working an office job in customer service for 10 years and was tired of the same old thing and staring at a computer screen for 8hrs a day. I started googling jobs with horses and I came upon the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association (CanTRA) and thought, 'what a unique opportunity to work with horses and help people'.
So I registered to start my training with them and connected with PRDA in Langley. There I found my CanTRA mentor, Michelle, and she offered me a teaching position to gain some experience. It was on Tuesdays starting at 3:30pm and so I asked my office job if I could leave early on Tuesdays to go and teach and they loved the idea of therapeutic riding and supported my request and so it began.
Q So how did you get to be Executive Director for KTRA?
A In 2013 my fiance (now hubby) and I wanted to move up to Kamloops. He is originally from Clearwater and we have always preferred the country over the big city. I grew up on the coast and we lived in North Vancouver before moving to Kamloops. I really didn't want to find the same line of work in Kamloops and wanted to pursue being a therapeutic riding instructor so I researched and found that there was a therapeutic riding centre in Kamloops and contacted them to see if they had a position available.
At first all they had was a barn manager position that wasn't going to be full-time and so I contemplated it and was thinking that maybe I could do that and find some other work.
When we headed up for Christmas in Clearwater we stopped in Kamloops to meet the program director at the time and she offered me a new full-time position as Session Coordinator. I gratefully accepted even though my husband hadn't found work yet and we hadn't given notice at our current jobs on the coast but I was so excited. We both gave our one month notice and moved up to Kamloops in Feb 2014.
On my second day of work the program director had to go on emergency mat-leave leaving our small staff of 3 to figure things out. I naturally took KTRA under my wing and saw a lot of potential for KTRA to grow. In October 2014 the board offered me the newly-created role of Assistant Manager and then in September 2015 I became Executive Director.
Q Why do you continue to do this challenging type of work?
A The work is demanding, challenging and sometimes 24/7. But, seeing riders really benefit from the therapy they are receiving, smiling with confidence growing, and seeing the horses happy and enjoying their jobs is why I do it.
Q Do you have your own horses as well?
A I was very fortunate to move to Kamloops with my first horse I had been riding for years but never owned my first horse. His name is Milo and he is a Morgan/TB gelding. I love Dressage but he loves jumping better so we tried Eventing for the first time up here and have been having lots of fun.
I also have two other horses now, Levi and Catniss. Levi was donated to KTRA. We decided to re-home him but then he was leased back to us and has had a valuable roll in our Youth At-Risk program. His owner had to move to Terrace and couldn't take him with her and offered him to me and I graciously accepted. We did our first Dressage show together last year and came home with a 1st place ribbon.
Levi still participates in our YAR program and the youth just gravitate to him; he is a gentle giant. Catniss is my newest horse. She is a 10-year-old TB mare and I hope to do some Eventing with her this year.
Q So outside of your busy work schedule what do you enjoy doing?
A Apart from horses, I just really like being outside. Camping is one of my favorite things to do. My fiance and I got married outside in Pritchard at Whiskey River Ranch in September 2014. We also really like to travel. I have been to Korea, Cuba, Turkey, Greece and we are hoping to go to Nepal to hike to Everest Base Camp within the next 5 years.
What was your favorite part of our Q & A? I love the part where Ashley was so passionate about therapeutic riding that she accepted her job here in Kamloops before any other aspects of her life were secure! How inspiring!
We will be showcasing Milo, Levi, and Catniss in upcoming blogs!
I hope you are enjoying our blog posts, please leave your comments below and share this article to support KTRA.
It was a dark, icy day in December when I went to the riding center to shovel poop for a few hours. It was my second tour of poop duty and the task was simple, except for the slippery skim of ice across the pastures. Pull a sled, fill with poop, dump onto poop pile, repeat.
"You can work with Ezekiel today," I was told. I followed the pointing finger to a field with a person in it who was working without stopping, puffing frosty breath into the still air. My thrift store snow pants whisked noisily as I made my way to the field, stealthily squeezing my puffy outfit between the barbed wires without getting snagged.
"Hey! Ezekiel?" I shouted and my voice rang loud and clear. The person stopped scooping and looked up, showing red cheeks and a big smile, black toque on his head. We approached one another.
The field was flat with clumps of small, bare, woody trees. Horses stood peacefully around us, their coats thick and warm, their hot breath visible. Every crunch of snow beneath our boots cracked the silence. The air smelled of snow and horses.
"I'm working with you today!" We shook mittens. Ezekiel's blue eyes were kind and spirited. He bent immediately back to the task at hand. He was small but powerful. I watched his strong legs moving swiftly as we hauled the loaded sled to the dumping section. It didn't take long before the young man started talking.
He told me he had been working for KTRA for six months. He had arrived at the center with a horse, Talus, whom he had rescued from a dire situation. His life was unsettled in all kinds of ways, but he and his horse had found a place at the center, for which he was incredibly grateful.
Talus had been through a rough experience, and so had Ezekiel. Both were in need of healing. Both human and horse found exercise, fresh air, and a loving atmosphere at KTRA.
"It helps to be outside working hard", he told me, a horse nosing his hand looking for treats. He reached up and scratched the horse behind its ears; they touched noses. I had given up trying to remember all of the horse's names, but Ezekiel knew them.
"This one is Trigger!" A big smile spread across his face.
Ezekiel told me fascinating stories about his wife, and his personal journey with gender identification. He and his wife joined me in making a CBC radio clip about their story. You can hear it at: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/daybreak-kamloops/episode/15528347
Talus' harrowing story will be featured in an upcoming blog!
You can meet Ezekiel and Talus at Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Center!
What would you do if you if you found a frightened goat living alone on a river bank? One small goat, far from its herd, bones showing, and terrified of humans?
Well, for the first two weeks I would cross the large field she lived beside to bring her food and water. It was summer, so very hot and dry. The goat would be found hiding in an abandoned tent, her little face staring out on constant alert.
As I approached through the long grass she would dart, fleeing into the thickets.
In time, she accepted my presence and food, but was virtually untouchable. She would keep her distance as she ate, watching my every move. I could sit quietly, admiring her fuzzy brown body, large floppy ears, and cute, tufty tail, but I couldn't catch her. And every time I visited her I worried I would find her remains torn up by coyotes.
I called the staff at KTRA for help. To my relief and elation the word 'YES' came back through the phone:
'YES we will figure out how to save her.'
'YES we will bring her to KTRA.'
'YES we will do our very best.'
Yet the question hovered unspoken: will the goat heal and improve enough to live at a therapeutic riding center?
Some way, somehow, the skinny, scared goat was caught and transported to KTRA to join the friendly animals there. She was named 'Chicklet' due to her large teeth! The staff sent me photos of her first day with her new family; the other goats greeted her with sniffs and kisses!
It was fall by the time I saw Chicklet in her new home. The riding center was bright yellow with turning leaves and waving grasses. It was bustling with horses and riders. I entered the main stable in search of Chicklet. I expected her to see me and bolt.
She didn't run up demanding pets like the other goats, but she didn't flee. She stood, relaxed, and sized me up. She was chubby and calm with a healthy coat. I called to her gently, extending my hand. She retreated slowly, then pranced off with her stable mates. It was a good start.
Chicklet is adored by staff, clients, and volunteers! She is an acrobat and entertainer! She is bouncy, sweet, and loved by her whole dynamic family.
Chicklet found her forever home despite the odds stacked against her. She is a fuzzy testament to love and hope. You can visit Chicklet at KTRA!