Sun and clear blue sky. Pinwheels spinning in the breeze. Savory smells from food trucks mingling with the scents of sunscreen, cool air off the river, and warm hay. The much anticipated day to celebrate KTRA's 30th Anniversary had finally arrived.
The ground was humming from open air music and purring generators. The air was alive with voices laughing as people flowed through the KTRA grounds greeting one another, grouping and regrouping. Friends old and new swapped hugs and news as we all took in the warm weather and cosy atmosphere.
We volunteers buzzed around like bees in our bright yellow shirts manning different stations: riding lessons, goats, info booth, parking, ticket raffle. So many volunteers showed up to support that our work was much divided and therefore light, allowing us to join in the festivities and get to know each other better.
Our KTRA riders came to visit us too! And so many excited kids showed up! There was lots of wide open space to run around on or push wheelchairs across.
Beside the information booth? Homemade quilts and wooden crafts for sale. Also, a face painting booth.
Krystal Williams of Face It Face Painting was busy turning young, shining faces into tigers and sparkly ponies. Her art was gorgeous and swiftly applied with quality paint. Even some of the adults took part. Krystal was gentle with a pretty smile and thick hair that caught the breeze. She listened carefully to each little customer's ideas on what unique touches they wanted applied to their artwork.
I asked her some questions while munching on a delicious poutine from Cookshack Cravings.
Q. What do you love the most about painting faces?
A. The smiles and how happy it makes people.
Q. How long have you been doing this kind of art for?
A. Over 10 years.
Q. What else do you enjoy doing?
A. I really love tending to my garden and going for long aimless walks with my kids.
Fellow volunteer, Kate Greffard, sat down beside me with a box of warm, fresh mini donuts from Lakeside Concession and Mini Donuts. Thankfully she shared. As sugar and cinnamon melted in my mouth, well known and loved Uncle Chris the Clown arrived with honks and shouts, wearing his wildly colorful costume and oversized glasses. A crowd quickly gathered around him.
As Uncle Chris made magic out of balloons, local musician, Tanner Dawson, sang us country songs from the deck of his truck.
Tanner grew up in the small town of Chase, BC. He began his love of music at a young age, learning acoustic guitar by ear in the summer of 2012 when he was 15. Now he can play many different instruments including Guitar, Drums, Mandolin, Bass, Cajun Drum, Doboro, Ukelele, and slide Guitar!
He has also learned to play many different styles of music such as Blues, Swing, Rock, and of course, Country!
One day Tanner hopes to experience what it is to be a professional musician. We really enjoyed his performance at our Open House so good luck Tanner! https://www.tannerdawsonmusic.com/
A baby cow named Frank circled the grounds with his owner, a member of the Lower Thompson 4H club, along with two soft, woolly sheep named Tiny and Precious. People took turns sinking their fingers into the thick, spongy wool. Nearby the KTRA goats were receiving pets and enjoyed being groomed.
Soon after, Raven from Kamloops Drum Connection arrived in flowing skirts to set up her drum circle under a tent on the grass. Some people started dancing.
To add to the colors and excitement of the event, beautiful bright parachutes from Kamloops Skydivers floated through the blue sky above us; lime green, rainbow, fluorescent orange. It was a day to remember.
KTRA would like to extend a big, heartfelt thank you all who participated in the event.
This event was sponsored by https://infotel.ca/kamloops
The Happy Camper, Cookshack Cravings, Lakeside Concession and Mini-Donuts, and Eats Amore
Uncle Chris the Clown, Tanner Dawson, and Kamloops Drum Connection
Face It Face Painting and Lower Thompson 4H Club
I asked Executive Director of KTRA, Ashley Sudds, for a quick summary of her thoughts regarding last week's event:
"It was such a nice weekend weather wise, everything came together very easily. Everyone who attended had a lovely time and there were lots of smiles. I think people, children and adults, really enjoyed the horseback riding lessons. The entertainment was great! The food from the food trucks as always was amazing. I cannot thank the volunteers and vendors enough for their help in putting on a fun event. The only thing that I would change is that I wish more people had been able to come and share our celebration with us. We have an exciting event idea for the fall/winter so I hope people keep an eye/ear out for what's to come."
To all who attended, participated, performed, volunteered etc. thank you for helping us celebrate 30 years!
Ali Viner has been a volunteer and rider at KTRA for 27 years! She describes her friends and horses at the center as 'her family'.
A caring and determined young woman, she has had a variety of challenges to overcome and big dreams to chase. She joined me for a Q and A recently; I wanted to learn about Ali and what therapeutic riding has meant to her!
Ali, can you share with us about your experience with KTRA?
I have been involved for 27 years in pretty much all capacities and aspects of KTRA.
What have you gained as a person and as a rider from your experience with KTRA?
What I have gained is confidence in all areas: mental, physical, and emotional. I started riding many different horses and progressed to an independent rider. I learned proper riding skills and gained skills through horse ownership and competing in horse shows.
As a person, KTRA has also given me experiences such as public speaking, volunteering, fundraising, employment, and involvement with many areas of KTRA's growth.
What are your goals as a rider?
Since the age of 9 my goal has always been to compete internationally through Para Equestrian and represent Canada in the Paralympics or the World Equestrian Games. Currently I am working toward my first EC Sea to Sea Para Dressage Video competition walk/trot test in October of this year.
What are your personal challenges as a rider?
I have mild spastic right sided hemiplegia cerebral palsy which affects my balance, hand eye coordination, and muscles in my legs. As a result I ride with a whip as an aid like an extension of my leg. My struggles are also mental and emotional as I have an acute anxiety disorder as well as learning disabilities.
Can you share with us about your horse partner you are working with this year?
I am currently riding Theo, a 17.2 hand draft x grulla gelding which is KTRA's tallest horse. Theo and I have been working together since April of this year. Theo is very much a challenge but I enjoy riding him and working with him. I ride him once per week and we are currently working on walk/trot transitions. We hope to achieve our goals we have set together this year and fun doing it!
Who makes up your support system outside of KTRA?
My mom, Gayle, my sister Samantha, my support workers through Insight Support Services, and my fiancée, Jill.
What are your other hobbies outside of riding?
My other hobbies include photography, advocating for and mentoring kids with disabilities, and public speaking.
For a little fun, what is your favorite food?
Definitely my mom's fettuccini and my grandma's mocha cake!
I was really happy that Ali shared her story, her challenges, and her aspirations. She is very thankful to be sponsored by KTRA as a rider for the Spring Session 2018. You can find out more about Ali by following her page on facebook!
AliciaA.V Para Equestrian
She regularly posts video updates, work out and fitness photos, and updates regarding riding goals. She encourages everyone to join her journey and check out her page!
The day is overcast yet bright. It gives a light that makes me squint my eyes and regret not bringing my sunglasses.
My boots hit the dirt of the KTRA grounds. All is quiet. Horses calmly munch on hay in the field.
I follow a loud, clear voice to the main arena. A small gathering of volunteers and trainers sit at the arena's edge on white, plastic chairs, coffees steaming beside them, completely engrossed in the lesson taking place.
No one takes notice as I find a seat on the concrete wheelchair ramp.
I set down my own cup of Joe and take out my notebook, feeling the coldness of the concrete beneath me. Cool spring breezes pull at my hair.
The comforting smells of horses, manure, and hay fill my nose, relaxing me.
Closing my eyes, I tune into the sounds around the arena: the ticking of last year's brown, crumpled leaves, still clinging to the surrounding aspen, the rhythmic clumping of horse's hooves, jingling stirrups, squawking crows. Horses in the nearby stable stamp their feet impatiently.
A strong voice with a British accent cuts crisply across the arena. I open my eyes to see a lady dressed in a baby blue, knit sweater. She is instructing two riders as they guide their horses around the ring. The riders are listening intently, sitting with perfect posture. Dust puffs up around trotting hooves; the riders click their tongues.
The horses in the surrounding pens pause in their eating, seemingly watching too.
The instructor is Mary Longden, an International Level 3 coach, an Australian ‘A’ Level dressage judge, FEI ‘I’ Level Eventing judge (until 2009), FEI ‘O’ Level Para-Equestrian judge, and an International Para-Equestrian coach and consultant.
Mary’s Philosophy: Everyone who wants to ride well, can - but only if they know where they want to go. (www.longdencorp.com)
Mary's style is sharp, commanding, and witty. She engages her audience. She makes us laugh. She asks us questions.
"So you see the rider's weight is on the right side. The horse will keep leaning toward the right to get himself directly under the saddle. What is the solution?"
"Shift the weight," the onlookers suggest.
"Yes," she calls out, "and also change the direction!"
She talks to a rider: "There are two of you. Horse and rider. One of you needs to be in control. Do you know what frontal lobes are? The frontal lobe of humans is the like this!" She holds up a clenched fist. "The frontal lobes of horses are the size of peas!"
Mary changes her expression from concentrated when instructing, to joy as she jokes. She is extremely knowledgeable, noting the finest of details, yet she is down-to-earth and personable.
"Trainers need to fix the cause, not keep trying to change the result!" She coaches her trainers.
Longtime rider and volunteer, Alicia Viner, approaches Mary timidly, leading a horse named Theo. She is to have a lesson next. Alicia is nervous and explains to Mary that she hasn't ridden Theo before.
Mary smiles encouragingly.
"Are you more afraid of the horse or of me?" she asks, making everyone laugh.
Alicia visibly relaxes and grins widely.
"You!" she says, and we all laugh again.
The lesson gets underway. Mary observes and shares tips regarding how to properly approach the mount and the proper length of stirrups.
We watch Alicia and Theo working together, paying close attention to Alicia's position in the saddle and the amount of bend in her elbows.
I admire Theo's coloring, his muscled body, the bright red bridle under wavy dark mane. I take a lot of notes, trying to keep up with the equine lingo.
When it is time for me to go, I feel humbled and honored to shake Mary's hand, goodbye. The volunteers and trainers will soak up knowledge for the rest of the day.
After a weekend of training with Mary, Alicia shares her thoughts about it on her facebook page (Alicia A V Para Equestrian):
Thank you so much Mary for giving me the tools and aids, tips and goals to work on this weekend . It's a bit difficult for me to write in words how I feel and how much your coaching and teaching has impacted my rides with Theo, from saddle fitting to bending my elbows; using my legs to get Theo going to practicing his bend.
Also transitioning from the walk to a halt and shortening as well as lengthening my reins without leaning forward. The whip as an aid makes a world of difference as well when needed.
So glad I got to experience both as a rider and a volunteer. You have made my year and I can't wait to continue to carry out the skills you have taught us both in hand and riding. So thank you for all you have done.
Thank you KTRA for giving me and several others the opportunity to meet an international equine icon!
And of course, a big thank you Mary Longden.
Kamloops CBC radio did an interview with Mary and some of the clinic's participants. Link to be available soon.
Also coming soon is a blog about KTRA rider and volunteer (and para equestrian hopeful!), Alicia Viner.
Our small wicker basket was almost overflowing with buttons. Or pins. Those old fashioned round, shiny things with pins on the back to hook onto your clothing. Those things we collected and hooked onto our 'pin boards' in the 1980's.
We had pressed our pins ourselves with a set of old, lead presses. And the pictures we pressed onto them were also old fashioned. There were pins about housewives, terrible puns, old cartoons, and mostly...terrible puns. We had laughed like crazy as we pressed them.
One late winter day, we ladies from KTRA exchanged our riding boots for city shoes and collected for a meeting at our local Red Beard Café. Our basket of pins and fundraising flyers were in our hands as we entered a bustling café that smelled delicious.
Our mission was clear: eat some darn good food, drink some darn good beer, and wrangle the owner, Mitchell Forgie into letting us display our fundraising buttons and flyers right by the cash register. Customers could choose a pin, drop a donation into a little box, and pick up a flyer about all the great things that Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association provides to the community.
The café was stuffed full of people of all walks of life sipping on coffee and eating, engrossed in their conversations. The atmosphere was warm and comfortable. We found a table by a stone fireplace with a splashy work of local art hanging above it. The waiter brought us a half pint each of local craft beer. We told him what we were up to.
The young waiter shuffled through our pins and burst out laughing. He took the basket to his coworkers and we watched hopefully as the staff gathered around, holding up pins, reading out loud, and laughing.
That was when we met Mitchell Forgie, Owner/Operator of Red Beard Café.
'Excellent initiative,' he said, reaching across the table to shake hands. He gave a confident hand shake and an embracing smile. His appearance could only be described as 'funky'; a true hipster. Known in the community as focussed and driven, he was open and more than willing to hear about our good cause.
'No problem', he said, 'set the buttons next to the cash and we will see what we can do. What a great cause.'
We were stoked.
The buttons were put out on display for 6 weeks. About 250.00 dollars were raised as well as a lot of community awareness for our amazing non-for-profit Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.
'You can keep bringing more buttons for as long as you like,' Mitch told me later as I collected the funds and the few buttons that remained.
I followed up with him recently for a quick Q & A....
What made you jump onboard to help with fundraising so quickly?
I love fundraising. Big fan! We do a lot of it through BrewLoops or helping ASK with Mz. Judged; we do a whole bunch of other community initiatives. To me, it's a win for everyone. We get to help people help other people in whatever small way we can.
That said, it is really easy when you have a relationship with the people you are fundraising for; they are looking to contribute to the community and in our business (in this case through a novel idea like pins). That makes it really easy when it's a win for our guests, a win for the KTRA, and it's easy for us to administrate.
Donating GCs to a random silent auction does little to raise money or awareness for us or the organization doing the fundraising. It's really an afterthought and I think for those reasons that this type of fundraising is way more difficult for everyone. It is not really an investment in the non-profits stakeholders, or the group or person making the donation.
What was the general reaction to the buttons by your customers?
Folks were so stoked about them! They would take them to the table and look through them all, they are a great conversation starter. Many new relationships had great first dates because of them! We could have these forever and I think they would never loose that appeal.
These funds will be going toward KTRA's Soar For More campaign where donators and fundraisers jump out of a plane. How do you feel about jumping for KTRA?
Hahaha you want me to jump out of a plane? Sure! Why not?!?! ...... yikes......
Do you often take part in community initiatives?
We had a big part in getting BrewLoops off the ground a few years ago. We work hard to help along beautification initiatives on the North Shore and we are always involved in active transportation initiatives. So I would say in general we try to be as much as possible!
What do you love doing when you are not at work?
Kamloops is the center of the world for mountain biking so I do that here as much as possible. I love to climb mountains when I have time to. I love carpentry and try to find my way onto job sites as much as I can. There is so much to learn!
Mitch and his wife Edna are well known and well loved in the community of Kamloops. KTRA is very grateful to them for their fundraising efforts and for giving us the time to interview them. Thank you to Red Beard from KTRA!!
We all gathered in the main stable: volunteers, kids, parents, and staff members. Volunteers asked questions. Kids ran about joyfully, carrying colorful coats and lunch bags. The parents toured the grounds with interest. Goats pushed stubbornly through the frenzy searching for snacks.
It was the first day of KTRA Spring Break Kid's Camp. The morning was chilly and dry. Above the grounds, weak sunlight was pushing apart low, grey clouds, promising a warm day ahead. Horses ate hay in the pastures. Little birds chattered noisily in the surrounding leafy trees. The mud around the stable sucked at our boots as we all walked in.
Inside the stable it was dim and smelled of straw and tack. The stalls were slowly filling up with horses of all different breeds and colors. The air was full of excitement.
The staff had been preparing for days, revising plans as more kids signed up for camp at the last minute. We all wanted badly to make camp fun and memorable. We wanted things to run seamlessly for our twelve camp kids. The day had finally arrived!
The volume and energy grew around us.
“Go bring in horses Max, Sandy, and Gracie”, the volunteers were instructed.
“I will grab Max!” one said brightly.
“I love working with Sandy.” said another, heading out toward the bridles.
“I will get Gracie’s tack!” a third one shouted from the tack room.
Little hands tugged at our coats. Wide, sparkling faces looked up.
“Where do I put my lunch box?”
“What horse will I be riding?”
“My dad put pepperoni in my lunch!”
The staff exchanged determined smiles. We would have to flex and communicate; be patient and fun. This camp was going to roll along smoothly, steered by our twelve, spirited little riders. Everyone was looking forward to getting our three day camp underway and it was clear we had an enthusiastic, vibrant group.
As the morning progressed, we staff found our groove, each manning our stations: Riding, Stable Management, and Crafts. Already, there were great things happening!
Craft Leader (Shannon) - “My glue had frozen and thawed. I had tubs of useless, ruined glue so could not do the craft I had planned out. The kids quickly came to my rescue. They excitedly figured out how to get the ruined glue into balloons to make stress squeezers! They continued throughout camp to use their vivid imaginations to make many unique creations.”
Volunteer Coordinator (Crystal) - "As the kids arrived I found myself sizing them up hoping I had the right horses picked out for the size of each rider as we really only had the experience levels offered on their registration forms. And usually that can be a little exaggerated. Haha! One pony ride and a few visits with a relative’s horse and they are experts and “READY TO GO FAST!”
Everyone wanted to ride first! But we had to break the kids up into groups and with a little oohing and ahhing… the first group got fitted for helmets and some put on some borrowed boots and they were off to the arena.
Everyone hopped on confidently. Then the horses started walking and WHOA! Everyone got a little humbled. However, they showed NO FEAR! I started off with some very basics and eased their young minds. Even had them feeling a little empowered as they could control their horses.
My goal for the three short days I had (actually three hours!!!) was to have all riders progress from being led around the arena to trotting around the arena unclipped and on their own!
On day three it was so rewarding to see each rider trot by with a huge smile across their face and squealing with delight!
As the first lesson came to an end all the kids groaned and reluctantly hopped off the horses. I took a deep breath and did it all again with the next group.
Executive Director (Ashley) – “"Camp is always an exciting time here at KTRA. It is neat to see campers with little to no horse experience arrive on day one and see them grow over only three days and leave camp confident with some horse skills under their belts. The key to our camps is our leadership team working so closely together and remaining adjustable and flexible with any situations that may arise. Spring Break Camp 2018 was a success; the campers even asked to do crafts again on the same day and that never happens!"
By the second day, the horses were donning braids and ribbons. Friendships were being made and the campers were choosing their favorite horses. The craft room was covered with drying works of art and the kids were learning riding and stable management skills. Even the smallest campers were lifting up horse hooves to pick them clean! We noticed the older kids were helping the younger ones out with all of their activities. And despite the overnight rain, the day was sunny and warm!
To conclude, Spring Break Camp turned out to be a huge success! Not only due to the planning that went into it, but also to the joyful, creative little riders who led the way with kindness toward their camp buddies and stable mates.
These kids dove into the dirt with exuberance. They embraced riding challenges with interest, created art out of various materials, and cared for their horses with tenderness.
We talked to four kids during the very last station. They were in the art room, gathered around a messy table, all singing in unison to the radio as they crafted. We asked them some questions…
Q So what was your favorite part of camp?
· Art! I had so much fun creating stuff.
· I jumped a horse!
· My favorite thing was making new friends.
· Meeting my horse, Sandy!
Q What were the most challenging parts of camp?
* Getting to know everybody.
* Trying to meet new people.
* Getting used to my horse’s gait.
* Making friends.
Q What did you learn?
· How to hold reigns and go faster and slower.
· How to jump!
· How to lunge a mini horse!
· I learned ‘two point’!
Q What was the funniest thing that happened?
· When one girl tried to steal another girl’s boot!
· We had a lot of funniest moments!
· Pretending to be horses jumping over the jumps!
· When horses trotted to the jump and then stopped and walked over it!
When asked if they wanted to come to camp again, all four campers gave an exuberant ‘YES!’
KTRA would like to thank everyone who came together to make this camp possible. A special thank you to our fantastic campers! We hope to see everyone back together soon!
Ezekiel SiJohn is an employee at KTRA! He is also an excellent writer! Read his gripping story about his horse, Talus, below. Don't forget to like, share, or leave a comment!
I didn't even know her name.
She was just a big bay mare in a tiny stall, standing caked in her own feces. Nobody had touched her or cleaned her stall for quite some time. She always showed the whites of her eyes.
Another horse had run her through a barbed-wire fence so she had a horrible knotty lump of scar tissue covering one of her hind cannon bones. Nobody had bothered to treat it. It was left to get infected. She was given to me because she was presumably 'dangerous', 'she would kill you if you turned your back', and she was 'not worth the time or money to do anything with'.
My choices were a.) take this horse I knew nothing about, or b.) watch her go to auction. I couldn't bear what would happen to this wild-eyed mare with the bones and scars.
I didn't even know her name.
She was being fed scarcely, and what she was fed was moldy, or rotten, or straw. All her bones jutted out and her coat was dull. Her neck and shoulders were so thin that her blanket hung off her. I'd seen her beaten. I wanted to get her out of there and somewhere safe.
After months of battling colic and vet bills, I got a bill of sale and could legally move her. What a relief it was to have her somewhere safe!
It dawned on me that she was a Thoroughbred, and that she would have a tattoo in her lip if she had ever been registered with the Jockey Club. I looked, and found that she was indeed. I searched her through the database, and it was from there I could start to piece together who she was and where she was from.
Her name is Talus Ridge. She was born March 14th, 2009. That made her 3, turning 4 the coming year. I found her owners’ and breeders’ names, her old racing videos and stats, and finally I knew her name.
Through chatting with her breeders, who have known her all her life, I got to know about Talus' past and a bit about her cheeky personality. She has always been bold, opinionated, and at times even bossy. She is a total diva. She was treated well all her life and enjoyed her job at the racetrack. It was a series of very unfortunate mistakes that led her to the dark place I found her in.
I was finally making a breakthrough with her, after she had gained some weight and had time to recover emotionally from the trauma she had been through. Then she somehow got that nasty lump of scar tissue on her injured leg hooked in a fence and de-gloved her leg to the bone. The injury took almost a year to heal, and during that time I questioned my sanity. My mare was frustrated, and so was I.
I didn't blame her for her behaviour or her reaction to pain, but there were many nights I left the barn crying because I thought that she would never trust me, and feeling so much fear that I had made a mistake. I feared there was no possible way I could help this mare.
I don't know how but I persevered and pushed through. It was not until my third year of owning Talus that I started to ride her. I knew she was broke to ride before even racing; her knowledge was fairly well-rounded. I could have done things faster, but I didn't want to push her. Her eyes had so much trauma, so many ghosts. I did not want a relationship based on fear. So I took my time, and went at Talus' pace. I was judged harshly for this and have been told many times that I am wasting her potential by not having her in a program or in the show ring.
The truth is, this horse has healed me more than I have healed her. Her presence in my life truly is a miracle. I am thankful every day that she found me. I am convinced she found me at a time in my life where I needed to be taught some valuable lessons.
Talus has taught me so much about myself and about life. I am constantly given challenges by her; she pushes me to be a better rider, a more calm and focused person, and has given me confidence in myself and as a leader. I have learned so much mindfulness from this sensitive girl; so much about letting go of the past and the importance of living in the moment.
I am so thankful that she (and I) have found a home at KTRA, where we are accepted and never judged for who we are. It is a place where we can grow at our own pace; a place where we can be in the moment and heal our past together.
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!