The words of our participants, their families, and support networks are the most powerful evidence we have of what makes this program so unique and amazing. CTRA is happy to share these stories of success and human growth with you and welcomes narratives, thoughts, experiences, and the like from all of our participants, volunteers, families, supporters, or anyone who has had their lives touched by the power of the human-equine bond.
“I am taking a few minutes out of my day to let you know how much you program means to me, and most importantly, to my daughter. Since entering the program three and a half years ago, we have seen a vast improvement in her confidence, her ability to listen, her eye to hand coordination and in her comprehension skills.” (Sue Wells, mother of CTRA participant)
“Thank you for the wonderful service you have provided for our child these past two years... Riding has given her an opportunity to experience success and has given her an area of her life where she feels responsibility and control. This confidence and self esteem has enabled her to be more successful in all aspects of her life. While the ability to care for and control a large animal itself has helped to increase her confidence, the caring, nurturing, inclusive environment CTRA provides has allowed her to develop friendships with the staff and other riders that are incredibly valuable as well.” (Mr. & Mrs. McGrath, parents of CTRA participant)
“I would like to take the time to thank the people responsible for putting joy, hope, and self worth back into my life. A few things I thought I had lost forever. In 1998 my life took a drastic change when I underwent extensive emergency surgery on my leg for suspected necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease)...unfortunately due to complications I went on to develop reflex sympathetic dystrophy, extensive nerve damage, and drop foot. I also developed fibromyalgia which is a most devastating condition on its own...my days are still a struggle and I still have pain, but it has enabled me to walk more than a few steps without falling, and those dark days are fewer and further between. I am, for the first time in a very long time, looking forward to the next day, and I do a lot of laughing a smiling...less than a year of riding has done more than fives years of physiotherapy.” (Anonymous)
"I cannot walk,
or run or play a game of tennis every day.
I cannot dance or ride a bike.
I'll never know what skating's like.
I'll never sail the wind or surf,
or chase a ball across the turf.
Nor climb the snow-capped peaks above,
so many thrills I'll never love.
But I can ride through forest trails,
to see the fox and rabbit tails.
And watch the geese and ducks take flight,
while leaping stags and deer take fright.
Yes, I enjoy the “Sport of Kings”,
when carried high my feet take wings.
To fly me on a pleasure course,
for I CAN mount and ride a horse."
(By John A. Davies)
“Our ten year old daughter has attention deficit disorder and traces of fetal alcohol effect. Since she has been coming to therapeutic riding we are seeing her in a much more focused capacity, and she is feeling much more comfortable with herself generally. She is greatly enthused about her weekly riding sessions, this gives her a real sense of pride. She gained a respect for the adult instructors which she doesn't have much of a grasp on at the best of times. But, does see them in a very healthy respect. She wants very much to try her hardest and not be seen in a dim light. She is quite at ease with the horses and shows a keen sense of self-control and command of the animal. She has had her confidence soar due to valued time spent with her at the therapeutic riding center (both staff & volunteers). It has been truly of great benefit.” (mother of CTRA participant)
“CTRA has been a strong part of her independence. She has something to look forward to once a week, something she can achieve on her own. The inner strength and physical strength she has built has given her so much. She has so much more confidence in herself and she is getting so strong she can now walk with her walker the whole length of the school hall! She couldn't do this before she started riding again. This, in my opinion, has been and will be the best therapy for her. We really enjoy all of the wonderful people that make this happen. Thank you all. P.S. I don't think she will ever give up her riding, she has big goals.” (mother of CTRA participant)
“Since my daughter has been riding at CTRA I have noticed a considerable improvement in her mobility and her attitude towards herself. The mobility in her pelvis was so stiff, she stooped forward when walking. She was unable to sit in a lotus position without it causing pain. Since riding she can now sit comfortably in the lotus position, her pelvis moves with ease when walking, and she stands tall now when stationary or walking. Between Jane James, the horses, and Bev Angus (her first sidewalker), her self esteem has gone from 5% to 120%. I have nothing but praise and thanks for what the CTRA program has given not only my daughter but myself and everyone around her.” (mother of CTRA participant)
“...I have had cerebral palsy ever since I was born. In junior high it was hard because I could never fit into the things that my friends were doing. After 4 years of riding at CTRA I have recently started riding with able-bodied people, and now think that they have started to realize that I am almost like them, but just have to work a bit harder to be successful...I have found that we might look different – so what? The body is not the only thing, it's only the outer shell. If you look at someone can you see their personality, can you see how full their heart is?” (by Neil Cutler, CTRA participant)
“I recently had the privilege of observing the staff and volunteers during the camp offered to special needs children. I was impressed with the atmosphere of loving attention which surrounded each child. The quality of instruction was excellent and the sense of accomplishment was observable. It was wonderful to relax and bask in the obvious joy and pride of my grandson. Thank you for sharing in a truly professional way your expertise. You obviously enjoy what you do. It meant a great deal to me.” (grandfather of CTRA participant)
"Since arriving on Vancouver Island from Ontario I have been involved with therapeutic riding in a volunteer capacity. My love of horses and children has been a life long passion. I was fortunate to have my own horses since the age of nine. Competitive jumping and dressage has been exciting but the bond that we have with these marvelous creatures is what means the most to me. I have been challenged with a mood disorder for most of my life; there have been times when due to the medication it was not safe for me to be around horses or trying to ride. My new psychiatrist and friends encouraged me to take my own riding course. This year I began my own therapeutic riding at CTRA. Jane James has been my coach and Scotia has been my other teacher. This 16hh bay thoroughbred gelding has been the most honest and generous of all the horses I have ever ridden. When I asked correctly, Scotia gave me the leg yield or shoulder in. Scotia was so obviously happy to have me aboard, he would give me lofty trots in an excellent frame. We were both thrilled to be "doing other stuff." Riding with Jane and Scotia has been so good for my self confidence. Staying positive and grateful is the new focus for me. I had just wanted to ride again and I had no idea that being back in the saddle would be so life changing. Thank you Scotia. Thank you Jane James. Thank you CTRA." (Suzanne Cove, CTRA participant)
"Working with the Riding Instructors at the Cowichan Therapeutic Centre has changed so many things for our daughter. She has gained confidence, endurance, strength, and is now able to participate in activities that keep her active and healthy. The instructors at the Cowichan Centre are incredible. They have a vast knowledge of horses and riding, but they also know so much about physiology, self esteem, self regulation, and the heartfelt part of working with horses. Thank you, CTRA, you are all champions in our home!" (Sharyn Andruski-Collins, mother of CTRA participant)
"I am writing to express appreciation and respect for the work that your association does by providing the opportunity for people to safely work and play with horses. I have had the privilege of watching first-hand how the opportunity of riding a good horse has revitalized a person that I have been working with. The reminder that she is a talented rider and closely connected to horses has inspired an amazing growth in her confidence. She has regrained connection with an important part of herself. This has been a cornerstone of her recovery. I am wishing your association a successful new year. May these opportunities continue to be shared with those who are ready to fall in love with life through the people and horses at CTRA." (Dr. Dale McDermit, MD, FRCPC, via Vancouver Island Health Authority)
"I so appreciate the opportunity to take the Stable Management Vocational Development Program offered by Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association. It allowed me to know and understand more about the care, feeding, and grooming of horses in their work and home environment. This program came at a good time in my life as I pursue a dream I once thought unattainable, to work around horses. It has helped me prepare for that goal in an ideal setting with accommodating, caring staff and amazing, patient therapeutic horses. Bravo and Thank you Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association." (Pam Braun, CTRA participant, Stable Management Vocational Development program)
“Jakob has only been riding for a little while. He lacked the confidence for the longest time. Jakob was diagnosed with autism at three and a half years old. He started working with horses about a year and a half ago. Jakob struggles with self-regulation and often appears to have an uncontrollable shake due to being excited. There have been times when Jakob gets on Phats [therapy horse] then off, then on again. Often there have been times when Jakob has sat off centre and counted, and Phats has been so incredibly good, standing still. Most of the sessions have revolved around taking the tack off Phats and putting it away. Phats has let Jakob stumble through the process, as patient as can be. I have hours of video footage of Jakob working with Phats and I am so proud of both of them and how far they have come together.” (parent of CTRA participant)
“[At first] she was very reluctant to go anywhere, and it took me forever to convince her to go out, but once she started with the program she is ready way before it is time to go. Now she is willing to go other places. Before coming to your program I would never have been able to get her to go. She doesn't exactly make eye contact, but she will glance at me once and while, which is way more than she did before.She is now listening to me at the house and able to do some simple chores, like take the laundry to her room, set the table, and bring me the broom, again something that was just not there before. She was the typical autistic person, locked away inside of herself. Now she is such a different person it is amazing. She also smiles and laughs more. She is more happy. I have had so many people ask me what is different; I just explain that she has found herself.” (caretaker of CTRA participant - Therapeutic Horsemanship program)
“My son has autism and he looks forward to riding Ember every Friday. Taking part in CTRA has given Braden something that is his own to do that is outside of school. He really does like horses and this program has given him the chance to enjoy himself. His communication skills have improved and he has something to look forward to weekly. It gives me joy to see him improving so much. Raising a special needs child, especially alone, is a tough business. It is truly wonderful to have a place where we can come and just be. It’s this relaxing wave that comes over us when we enter the barn, and an even bigger smile when we leave. It’s become a big part of our life. We love it.” (Shannon Knight, mother of CTRA participant)
“Dontae is 8 years old and has been a part of CTRA for just shy of 2 years during the school months. He immediately felt comfortable with the horses thanks to the incredible staff and volunteers that work with him. He is having ongoing treatment with a physiotherapist and she has notice a remarkable improvement with his core muscles thanks to riding. The physical benefits are amazing but also the confidence when sharing what he is learning is boosting his self-esteem. Riding is the highlight of his week. A HUGE thank you to all that make this opportunity available to him.” (Wendy, mother of CTRA participant)
“Becky’s riding program has been very beneficial to her. Becky is more independent, more focused and her communication and listening skills have improved greatly. Staff have noticed a happier and more balanced Becky (physically and mentally). Becky looks forward to her riding, her smile says it all.” (Anonymous)
“I think the vocational program is awesome, because you get to learn more about taking care of horses. It goes really in depth I have learnt how to look at a horses conformation, weigh hay, sidewalk, lead a horse in the ring, and clip a horse. For me it's good because I want to work with horses one day, particularly these horses at CTRA and I will one day have my own horse, because I love them so much, so it’s good that I am learning as much as I can. Having been in the program for a couple years I feel very confident with working with horses.” (Kiara Caplin, CTRA participant, Stable Management Vocational Development Program)
“My daughter Bobbi-Jo has participated in your riding program for 25 years now. Since she has been 6 years old, looking forward to her weekly riding lessons has been the highlight of her week. As much as she has looked forward to being with and riding her horse, it has also helped her physical and emotional growth. This program has had such a positive impact on her development. I am so grateful to C.T.R.A. for all you have done for her. Thank you so much to the staff, instructors and all of the dedication that the volunteers provide to help make things run so well.” (Dawn Rempel, mother of CTRA participant Bobbi-Jo)
“My daughter Chelsea was invited to be part of the vocational training program. The instructor is wonderful, providing Chelsea with weekly challenges and assignments that are precisely in line with her abilities and needs. The instructor is clear and systematic, offering lots of reinforcement, repetition and practice to Chelsea, enabling her to complete the rubrics at her own pace. Chelsea loves the program and last week, when I picked her up, she said, "Mom, I could do this all day, every day". For a student who really struggles academically and needs hands on learning, and repetition, and who finds pen and paper, traditional learning so difficult, this program has provided motivation, confidence and life skills that carry into the rest of her life. I have been able to use the reading material provided for Chelsea so that she can use what she is reading and researching on horses to coincide with her English and Social studies classes, to hand in assignments to her online teacher as well. It dovetails really nicely with her modified learning needs and curriculum. As a rider, Chelsea is developing in a much more well-rounded way, having the opportunity to ride, and all that provides, but also learn to take care of so many more of the horse's needs. It allows her to give more to her horse, as well as receive. It develops strength physically and mentally and there is no end to learning the field of horses. She is motivated and happy to learn - which is a joy to see and fulfilling for her. Many thanks for this amazing experience and opportunity for my daughter!”(Joanne Day, mother of a CTRA participant)
"Our daughter was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety disorder and [was] failing in all aspects of social behaviour. Everything we had done up to this stage was a failure. Other parents treat[ed] us like outsiders due to the behaviours demonstrated by our daughter. Not knowing what was wrong with our daughter, we felt isolated and not wanted. We talk[ed] to our doctor and he gave us several options for help one of these being the CTRA. At first she [w]as very nervous but the staff were so helpful, within no time our daughter was smiling and actually enjoying riding her horse - being coached what to do all the way. The[re] [are] where times she was not obeying, but the horse and the coach soon sorted her out because [she] started to understand that [there] is a common factor between her and her horse. Now some 4 years later our daughter is riding by herself with confidence, listening and learning with her coach every week. She loves her horse and smiles every time she is there. We thank CTRA for their excellent treatment. Our daughter [has] change[d] and now is a very happy 15 year old. She now has friends which is huge. Her anxiety issue[s] are very minimal now and [she is] socially accepted where every[where] she goes. Please consider CTRA to become part of your life as it will save you. And most importantly [it] will make you and your child happy." (Andrew Crane, father of a CTRA participant)
"One of the most warmest moments of my Fall 2014 was seeing the kids ride by at the farm one morning. I had left some clothes at the store and was getting ready to drive away. There were 4 or 5 kids, each with at least 2 adults alongside. The adults encouraged the kids to say "Hi", which they did. "What a wonderful community", I thought, "where folks give their time and effort so these kids can enjoy being outside on the horses." A very big thank you to you and the others who do it!” (Jan Dwyer, visitor)
“My son has been riding since he was four. It has given him confidence, balance and coordination. Sitting on a horse has given him an awareness of something else outside of himself, which with autistic tendencies is important. On holidays we have even been able to share trail rides together. Therapeutic riding is something I would recommend to anyone with a special needs person in their lives.” (Jean Zucht, mother of a CTRA participant)
“Horses are magnificent animals. They are beautiful and strong and really kind. I like putting on my riding boots and getting ready to go to the farm to ride my horse. When I go to the farm to ride I feel happy, excited, and calm. I wonder what I’m going to do next…they are wonderful.” (Britney Ronningen, CTRA participant)
“My daughter LIVES to come to [CTRA] each week. It is her happy place. I have seen her confidence and skill level expand like it would not have been able to any other place. The staff are accommodating and helpful. They give constructive criticism, positive feedback and lots of encouragement to my daughter. They challenge and support in just the right balance. Keep up the awesome work! And thank you to the volunteers who make it all possible! THANK YOU!” (Anonymous, via program survey)
“I have enjoyed getting to know the other parents of special needs students as I watch my child in her lesson. These other parents have become friends and a source of support because we are all trying to find ways to help our child, diagnose our child, reach our child, and be the best parents we can be under often very trying circumstances.” (Anonymous, via program survey)
"I don’t want to think about where by daughter’s skills would be without this program. She's made powerful bonds with her therapy horses. You should see the smile that comes to her face when she masters a riding move, or even comes in to the barn see the horses. The program has taught her how to recognize the signs of her disorder and manage themin more effective ways. It’s given her confidence in herself and allowed her to believe in the things she does." (Anonymous, via program survey)
"We would like to thank the Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association for the wonderful and caring work they’ve done with our granddaughter, eight, who suffers with anxiety after a difficult and chaotic early life. With CTRA’s help, we watched her confidence grow, her ability to calm herself and focus improve, and her smile be ever more at the ready. As far as our granddaughter was concerned, she went for riding lessons; for us, we had valuable partners in her care in the form of her coach and her horse." (John and Judith Appleby, grandparents of a CTRA particpant)
"For children who are not able to participate in regular activities, this gives them such a feeling of belonging to society.” (CTRA volunteer, via program survey)
"I've seen the physical and emotional growth of the children I've worked with, here at CTRA. They have become stronger (using new muscles not used daily). The teachers incorporate colors, right/left, shapes, directions, listening skills, humor and help them build confidence." (CTRA volunteer, via program survey)
"The instructors are first rate: caring, knowledgeable, friendly. This is a marvelous facility for children and adults with disabilities. As a retired high school student services teacher, I recommend this program to the educational professionals - they should know about it and encourage parents of their students with disabilities to research the therapy for their special needs child." (CTRA volunteer, via program survey)
"My stress and worries melt through my legs into the horse into the sand and that makes my heart and head feel better." (Joshua, Program Participant)
“After only one session, I am so impressed with the power of this program. It was humbling to watch how skillfully Jen [CTRA Instructor] engaged, educated, and empowered Caity. We have tried many different sports in the past from gymnastics to swimming, but none have resonated with Caity like this program. Caitlyn left wanting to come back without hesitation and talked about it all the way home. She said she never felt afraid in Jen’s hands (and Ember’s hooves).” (Loraina, mother of a CTRA participant)
"Transitions are often difficult - even more so for kids with special needs. My son Bryan suffers from Cerebral palsy and recently we moved from the lower mainland to Vancouver Island. Once I contacted CTRA, I was given all the necessary information for registration and an assessment was made to find the right horse for Bryan. When Bryan first joined CTRA, he was not quite ready to ride a horse. However the amazing instructor and volunteers worked beautifully with Bryan and made him feel confident enough to want to try. Slowly Bryan has been able to participate in whole sessions. Bryan has gained so much confidence and physical strength from therapeutic riding. It is unmatched by anything else." (Claudia, mother of a CTRA participant)