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!
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