In 1985, the Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society was first located at Norwood Equestrian Centre as the Pacific Riding for the Disabled.
The Society started with a couple of rented horses, a couple of riders and a few volunteers.
In 1989 the Society relocated to the Courtenay Exhibition Grounds, across from Vanier High School on Headquarters Road. It was another start with two horses but quickly grew to 30 riders, per week. The name was changed and the organization constituted as the Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society.
CVTRS has exploded into a very large and in-demand program with up to 15 horses, 125 riders and 150 volunteers per week. For horses there are many different breeds but the preference is for them to be quiet, sound and healthy.
Riders are physically, mentally or emotionally challenged. Volunteers walk with each horse and rider for support and safety.
There are four instructors, a program director, a volunteer director, a barn manager, a stable manager, a social worker, a bookkeeper and a caretaker.
There are also many consultants and professionals involved, for which the program is extremely grateful. They include physiotherapists, councillors, psychotherapists, social workers, nurses, teachers, teacher aides, doctors and psychiatrists. The society is eager to build a bigger facility to accommodate all the demand.
It is a very busy schedule each day.
There are the horses to feed and water, groom, tack up and finally saddles, bits and bridles to put on. Each hour the horse and/or tack is changed to suite each participant.
The instructors arrive first, then the volunteers and then the riders. There is great excitement as everyone is eager to get going with their class.
There are eight programs.
The latest one to evolve is the vets’ program, which has been developed to accommodate our returned veterans who have seen and had to do the most horrendous things.
To quote, “A few of us have been in some very serious places and have witnessed and done things that would give the normal person nightmares for life.”
Riders need a medical signed by a doctor, the horses are checked by our local veterinarians for good health, the volunteers have a criminal record check, the employees are trained by the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association and all have their First aid. Safety is a priority.
Workshops are ongoing for volunteers so you can also learn all about the horses and helping the riders feel safe and cared for. The program receives gaming grants, is supported by the United Way and many clubs on the North Island. All donations are tax-deductible.
Call 250-338-1968 or visit www.cvtrs.com to become familiar with this vibrant and heartfelt program.
— Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society