Members of BCHBC’s North Vancouver Island Chapter take a break during a trail ride at the Memekay Horse Campsite in the Sayward Valley. Members of the organization developed the campsite and the adjacent trail network in partnership with Recreation Sites & Trails BC (RSTBC). Photo supplied

Members of BCHBC’s North Vancouver Island Chapter take a break during a trail ride at the Memekay Horse Campsite in the Sayward Valley. Members of the organization developed the campsite and the adjacent trail network in partnership with Recreation Sites & Trails BC (RSTBC). Photo supplied

North Vancouver Island’s Back Country Horsemen membership drive underway

By Terri Perrin

Special to The Record

Equestrians looking to get out and enjoy beautiful British Columbia on horseback can find like-minded folks to ride with by joining the Back Country Horsemen Society of BC (BCHBC).

They welcome riders of all ages and disciplines, with any breed of horse … and some mules, too! This volunteer-run organization has 21 regional chapters across the province and 600+ members. And, despite the name, not all of their members ride mules and head off into the wilderness to camp. The majority of BCHBC members just want to connect with other people to enjoy non-competitive trail riding close to home. They focus on safety for horses and riders, environmental stewardship, trail building and maintenance … and fun!

The North Vancouver Island (NVI) chapter is based in the Comox Valley and has members from across Vancouver Island, Denman Island and as far north as Port McNeil.

Pre-pandemic, the NVI chapter held in-person membership meetings at the Grantham Hall in Merville on the third Thursday of the month (Sept. through June). It is hoped that in-person meetings will be able to resume in 2022. For now, however, meetings are being held via ZOOM. The chapter also has a private Facebook group (a ‘benefit of belonging’ restricted to paid members) to enable riders to safely connect to plan trail rides and share stories and pictures of their trail riding adventures.

Why join Back Country Horsemen?

Whether you own horses or just want to support the maintenance of the amazing network of multi-use recreational trails and equine campsites on the Island, BCHBC is the group for you.

“I love our purpose of saving horse trails and building horse camping areas and how we cooperate with other recreational trail users to make it a safe experience,” says long-time member Rose Schroeder. “And I love how BCHBC members are willing to share their knowledge and skills. We are more than a volunteer organization. We are like a family that works hard and has fun all at the same time … with our horses and without.”

BCHBC was registered as a non-profit society in 1991 and has a proud history of developing, constructing and maintaining existing (and new) multi-use recreational trails, trail infrastructure (such as bridges, signage and maps), as well as equestrian camp facilities. Examples on Vancouver Island include the Salmon-Memekay Horse Camp in the Sayward Valley, the Spruceton Equestrian Camp near Nanaimo, and the Glenora Horse Staging Area on the TransCanada Trail near Duncan, as well as a multitude of multi-use recreational trails in all regions.

Since the year 2000, BCHBC volunteers province-wide have given freely of their time with an estimated value in human resources of over $1.6 million. Due to COVID, projects completed in 2020/21 were scaled down somewhat, however, the group still accomplished a great deal. To give a better perspective of activities during a ‘normal’ year, the economic value of BCHBC work bees and projects in 2019/20 alone equaled $111,500. Many projects benefit from funding received from Horse Council BC, Recreation Sites & Trails BC, and other organizations and government bodies, as well as creative fundraising on both the provincial and chapter levels.

BCHBC members also work in collaboration with Horse Council BC (HCBC) to create, maintain and continuously update an online trail map database. They had maintained their own trails database since early 2000. In 2012, they partnered with HCBC to host this information on their website. Members assist by uploading photos, writing descriptions and mapping trails using a cell phone app called Avenza. These geo-referenced maps can be downloaded to your phone for free.

This fall, BHCBC is holding a membership drive, in an effort to get their province-wide membership numbers back up to pre-COVID totals of more than 800. Annual membership fees are $45 for adults and are free for youth age 18 and under. All members must also be members of one of the following: Horse Council BC, Alberta Equestrian Federation or Canadian Equestrian Federation.

For all new 2022 memberships received now through Dec. 31, 2021, there will be random draws at the end of December. Prizes include six Saddle Up Magazine subscriptions, a set of custom saddlebags by Dan Taylor, two belt buckles, and a Cavallo saddle pad. Additional draws for a set of custom saddlebags by Dan Taylor and a pair of Cavallo Trek hoof boots and pads will be made for renewing members. (Winners will be contacted by email.)

In addition to work bees, sanctioned group rides and educational events, they also host a ‘Cabin Fever Party’ and an online fundraising event in February. All members, family and friends are always welcome. Anyone with specific questions may email Contact.NorthVI@bchorsemen.org.