Emily Jones, 11, on Rupert with North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association volunteers Olivia Stanley side walking, left, and Wendy Gorrie leading. Contributed

Emily Jones, 11, on Rupert with North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association volunteers Olivia Stanley side walking, left, and Wendy Gorrie leading. Contributed

Therapeutic riding association in Maple Ridge desperate for volunteers

The North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association needs 8 to 12 volunteers right away.

Emily Jones doesn’t fit neatly into a box.

The 11-year-old is developmentally disabled and has a variety of medical, physical and mental disabilities.

Her skill development is delayed and will never reach that of a typical child her age.

But five years ago she went to her first horse riding lesson at the North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association and since then there has been a sizable difference in her physical ability, her attention span and her ability to follow instructions.

“She absolutely loves coming to riding lessons,” said her mother Toby Jones.

“She is doing remarkably well. Her core strength and her ability to lead the horse and do all those with assistance has dramatically improved,” she said.

Emily loved the lessons the very first time she went out. She goes once a week for half an hour.

“She can’t wait for them to help her mount the horse,” explained her mother.

“She knows the routine. She’s got her helmet, she gets her boots on. She knows where she is going.”

Emily also enjoys feeding the horse a treat, which she gets to do after each lesson.

Toby has not only seen improvement to her daughter’s core strength and her muscle tone, she also sees that Emily feels quite empowered by her new ability to ride a horse.

During a recent riding show a lot of Emily’s family turned out to watch her. Every time Emily passed by she would wave at them.

“It’s the only time she is looking down at people, whereas all the other times she is looking up. She is mentally empowered, she’s challenged. She is learning so many new skills,” said Toby.

Currently the organization that has done so much for Emily is in desperate need for volunteers.

Lately program coordinator Emily Felgnar has been out in the arena helping with riding lessons, instead of doing office work, because there is nobody else to help out.

The organization is looking for both leaders and side walkers.

A leader’s responsibility is leading the horse around the arena. A side walker paces beside the participant up on the horse to offer support. The side walker has the majority of the interaction, participating in the games and assisting the riders in the activities.

No experience is necessary and no horse experience is necessary. All volunteers are trained on how to get the horse ready for the lesson and everything they need to know for the arena.

“It’s quite straightforward,” said Jessie Fraser, executive director with the NFTRA.

Right now the NFTRA is looking for between eight to 12 volunteers.

“But we’ll take anyone at this point. We’ll never turn anyone down,” said Fraser.

During the summer session, lessons are Monday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday. All other sessions lessons run six days a week from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“That being said, if volunteers are limited for their time, we only require an hour and a half to two hours for volunteers,” said Fraser adding that if a volunteer wants to spend an entire morning helping out that’s great, but an hour and a half of their time and the organization is grateful.

The NFTRA offers equine facilitated riding lessons to people with disabilities, and with physical, cognitive or emotional challenges. More than 80 per cent of the riders are children.

“The beauty in being involved with this type of program is that you get to be outside, you are working around animals,” said Fraser.

The programs are subsidized. Families pay about one-third of the lesson fees for the actual class. The NFTRA doesn’t receive any government funding whatsoever.

“There is no other therapy that can duplicate this in a more clinical environment. The movement of the horse, duplicates that of a normal human walk, so it’s really a wonderful way for (participants) to develop core strength,” said Fraser.

There are a high percentage of children in the program who have autism. For those children the social interaction is key. They learn to interact with people with the help of the horse.

“Regardless what a person’s diagnosis, whether it’s autism or physical challenges, it’s the building of self esteem and self confidence. It literally can transform these kids into these confident, outgoing individuals,” Fraser explained.

“There is really a huge need for this,” said Fraser explaining that there is a waiting list. “If we could double our programs we would, but we can’t do it without volunteers. They are our backbone.”

They need anywhere from one to three volunteers per child. In September, there will be between 100 to 110 students at the centre.

Volunteer orientations are given four or five times per year.

Audrey Roberge, a volunteer with the organization for a year and a half, finds it very rewarding.

“When you see those kids up on those horses and they’re smiling from ear to ear, you just feel like you’ve done something good,” said the retired nurse.

For Toby, watching her daughter participate is soul food.

“People get so much out of watching these people accomplish the things that they can with the help of all these volunteers,” she said. “It takes an army of volunteers to make the program work to be honest.”

To volunteer with the North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association call 604-462-7786, email info@nftra.ca or go to nftrarides.wordpress.com.

Recently the NFTRA held their biggest fundraising event, the Open Benefit Horse Show, where they raised $10,000.

The focus of the show was dressage for able bodied people but they included riders with disabilities as well.

2017 NFTRA Open Benefit Show Results:

Training Level – Junior Champion Brooke Jansen

Reserve Champion Taylor Walraven

First Level – Junior Champion Devlin Sheehan-Davies

Reserve Champion Danielle Hoskins

Training Level – Senior Champion Nicole Shewchuk

Reserve Champion Rachel Duck

First Level – Senior Champion Jessica Marquis

Reserve Champion Cathy Carl

High Point – Senior Nicole Shewchuk 78.08

High Point – Junior Brook Jansen 74.77

Most Sportsmanlike RDA Marie Hol

Junior Noa Carrier

Senior Fionna Christensen

Best Turn-Out RDA Hannah Carson

Junior Brooke Jansen

Senior Jessica Marquis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Emily Jones, 11, on Rupert. Contributed

Emily Jones, 11, on Rupert. Contributed

Emily Jones, 11, on Rupert. Contributed

Emily Jones, 11, on Rupert. Contributed

Just Posted

The City of Surrey is currently working through the initial phase for a park that’ll be built at 72 Avenue and 191 Street in Clayton. (Image via City of Surrey)
New park to be built in Clayton Heights

City of Surrey asking for feedback from Clayton residents

(Photo by Kevin Hill)
40 cases linked to Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

Fraser Health says two death are associated with the outbreak

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

Sources team members (left to right) Carrie Belanger, Abby Gemino, Tatiana Belyaeva, Yasmin de Joya-Pagal cheer during the 2020 Coldest Night of the Year event. This year’s event will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sources photo)
White Rock’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser goes virtual

Annual walk raises funds for variety of Sources programs and services

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Most Read