“With nothing but a most interesting workshop, held in Langley, B.C. in the summer of 1984 (put on by physiotherapists) I was swept away with how wonderful this type of therapy could be for people. It was non-traditional, active, and before my eyes… it worked! With a background of a Grandfather who was always teaching riding and training horses I knew how I always felt better when I was lucky enough to be around them. Better emotionally, physically and mentally. At this time I had come from a trail riding job at Apex Mountain Guest Ranch near Penticton and was currently guiding for Norwood Equestrian Centre.
With the help from Norwood and the Black Creek Lions Club the Society was established, in 1986, under the tutelage of the Pacific Riding for the Disabled, B.C., with the vision to make a difference for the mentally, physically and emotionally challenged. A bookkeeper was hired, the Bingo Palace was established, and small bus was obtained to transport riders from Campbell River to Merville and Norwood. Horses were rented from Norwood. With money coming in from the Bingo, vigorous fundraising and various clubs, volunteers and horses started working together and learning how to successfully operate a therapeutic riding program. There were 3 riders to start but it quickly grew, in both participation and popularity.
In the fall of 1987, the Society moved to the outskirts of Courtenay and began renting from the Comox Strathcona Regional District, where it is today. At that time there were 3 horses and I lived in a 12 foot trailer on the grounds. The next year a fifth wheel trailer was rented and then, 2 years later a full time caretaker lived in a CVTRS purchased 40” trailer. This is where the office was; the waiting lounge was a stall with bales of hay and plastic for the walls, but the coffee pot was always on and the children stayed warm.
In the third year at the Exhibition Grounds, the enrolment went from 18 to 45 clients. On April 6th, 1988, the program became autonomous and duly constituted as an independent Society (no longer under the Pacific Riding for the Disabled umbrella). It was now the Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society. In 1995 fundraising was full speed ahead and money was obtained to add an addition on to the original barn; thus the CVTRS Administrative Complex was built. This included an office, a physio room, a lounge/kitchen, washrooms and a tack room. The biggest funders of this change were the B.C. Government and the Vancouver Foundation.
This is the 30th year of operation with 27 of them at the Exhibition Grounds. The Exhibition Grounds barn hosts programs for children and adults with physical and mental challenges, as well as programs for the ever-increasing emotional needs of children and adults, like the popular Stable Program, that serves youth from the ages of 8-18.
In 2003, the program began pilot classes for children and teens at risk and autistic spectrum disorder children such as Asberger children.
In 2006, the Stable program began working with Vancouver Island Health Children and Families (VIHA), the schools, the aboriginal leaders, the John Howard Society and the Community Justice program in order to try to integrate the very young and troubled children into our society, using the horse as the emotional content.
Again in 2006, the Society introduced a Vaulting (gymnastics on the horse) program, which is very popular and successful, teaching balance, co-ordination, teamwork, self esteem and confidence.
Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society, a registered non-profit society, began at Norwood Stables with 5 riders in 1986.
To date, the program operates three, 10-week sessions per year with approximately 100 participants for each ten-week session. There are 14 horses, 4 Instructors (all with Canadian Therapeutic Riding Certification), 2 Physiotherapists, 2 Psychotherapists, a Program Director, Caretaker, and up to 175 volunteers, on a weekly basis. The schools, colleges, day-care programs, John Howard Society, hospitals, teachers, teacher-aides, and the medical professionals all send both clients and volunteers. It is clearly a successful and popular community effort, which covers the Courtenay-Strathcona area, including all the Islands.”
Written by Marg Hind, Founder and previous Program Director of Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society
Today, with the help of over 175 volunteers, we conduct one of the largest therapeutic riding programs in British Columbia, with more than 150 clients attending per week.
In addition to the Comox Valley, our programs serve Vancouver Island communities from Fanny Bay to Port Hardy, including 3 outlying islands accessible only by ferry.
We are members of both the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association (CANTRA) and the British Columbia Therapeutic Riding Association (BCTRA).
CVTRS receives funding from United Way, BC Community Gaming Grant but relies mainly on individual and corporate donations, grants, fund raising events and minimal rider fees to meet its operating budget.
The mission of CVTRS is to provide a therapeutic riding program for physically, mentally and emotionally challenged children and adults, as well as hearing and visually impaired. It is a direct service to people and has significant long term benefits. Therapeutic riding is educational, therapeutic and research oriented.