Paralympian Ashley Gowanlock recently spoke at Frank Hurt Secondary.

How horseback riding changed one woman’s life

Paralympian Ashley Gowanlock speaks to kids about making a difference locally and globally.

For Ashley Gowanlock, overcoming adversity has been a challenge she met head on.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two, Gowanlock was told she would never walk or talk. Extensive physiotherapy was prescribed to help build strength and flexibility, but it was a horseback riding program designed for children with disabilities that set her on a path to success.

“My parents tricked me and signed me up for a horseback riding camp to help with my stretching and therapy,” said Gowanlock, but the opportunity to work closely with the horses soon blossomed into a love of riding.

When she was 14 she attended a Scouts camp for disabled riders looking to develop their skills and pursue a dream of competing internationally. That exposure and training led to Gowanlock qualifying for numerous international events, highlighted by a chance to compete for Canada in the Para-dressage event at the Paralympic games in Beijing in 2008 and then again in London in 2012.

“I’m a competitor in these events but it’s still amazing to see people riding with no arms or no legs controlling a 1,200-pound horse with the reins in their mouth or holding the reins with just their feet trusting their horse,” she said. “Wheelchairs, canes and walkers sit abandoned in droves at the side of the arena as each horse becomes a vehicle of absolute freedom.”

Although her horse was unable to compete in London because of an injury, Gowanluck placed fifth in London on a borrowed horse.

After returning home she by chance watched a documentary about Right to Play, an international organization founded by Norwegian Olympic speed skater Johann Olav Koss, that uses sport and play as a tool for positive childhood development around the globe.

Now 27, Gowanlock decided to get involved as a junior leader, giving her an opportunity to speak to kids about her life and creating a peaceful school community.

Recently she had her first speaking engagement at Frank Hurt Secondary School in Surrey, where she spoke about her life growing up and her dream of becoming an Olympian.

“You don’t need to have heaps of money, you can still make an impact,” she said. “Even if you are not an athlete, if you have air in your lungs you have value and you have the ability to change someone else’s life, just find the thing you enjoy and do it and don’t let people put a label on you.”

This was one of 220 school-wide presentations Right to Play Ambassadors will be delivering across Canada, educating students on Right to Play’s Sport for Development and Peace movement and how they can participate in global citizenship and social justice.

For more information on Right to Play go to www.righttoplay.ca

 

Just Posted

‘It’s just taking your dreams away’: Cloverdale farmer worries ALR changes will kill house plans

Kevin Buttar’s house has been in progress for five years; new rules may have him starting all over

Surrey needs more Mounties now, city councillor says

Linda Annis says public safety cannot be put on hold while city forms its own police force

Rally planned to protest ‘postponement’ of Cloverdale ice complex

A Cloverdale arena is one of many projects set to be delayed in the City of Surrey’s draft budget

Surrey Eagles pick up overtime point on weekend homestand

BCHL team drops game to Coquitlam Express on Teddy Bear Toss night

TransLink reveals new plans for proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain

No cost estimates, but the Fraser Highway line is expected to open by 2025

VIDEO: Santa arrives in Clover Square Mall

To all the children’s delight, Santa came crashing into Cloverdale

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Military closes book on oft-criticized support unit for ill, injured troops

The transition unit will provide support and services to military members struggling with physical and mental injuries so they can return to work.

Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson named NHL’s first star of the week

Canucks centre scored two goals and six assists in three games

Protester says Canada doing U.S. ‘dirty work’ outside Huawei exec’s bail hearing

The U.S. wants to extradite Meng to face fraud allegations after Canada arrested the high-profile technology executive.

Break-in at home of detained Chinese Huawei executive

Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver on America’s request

5 to start your day

TransLink reveals new plans for proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, 81-year-old woman waits 90 minutes for a taxi in Pitt Meadows and more

Natural gas rates will go up in B.C. on Jan. 1

Regions could pay up to $68 more

Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump

It could be an “impeachable offense” if it’s proven that President Donald Trump directed illegal hush-money payments to women during the 2016 campaign.

Most Read