2016 marks the 30th year of service for the Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association, a Duncan, Vancouver Island-based charity providing therapeutic riding and equine-based therapeutic services for persons with disabilities. Programs include therapeutic riding, therapeutic horsemanship, para-equestrian sport, stable management vocational development, and spring & summer horse camps - with a vaulting program commencing this year. This work is made possible through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers from the community, contributing thousands of hours each year. 2016 will be CTRA’s busiest year to date – with the organization preparing to welcome a record-breaking number of participants.
The association started out modestly in 1986 as a local chapter of the Pacific Riding for the Disabled. Volunteers provided therapeutic riding services using horses borrowed from the community and trailered in to a rented arena one night per week. At the time, therapeutic riding was relatively new to Canada, with CTRA playing a pioneering role in the emerging field. As the benefits of therapeutic riding were recognized, the program grew rapidly – becoming an independent entity and moving to the current location on Providence Farm in the late 1980s.
Since then, the program has grown and diversified dramatically to offer a variety of highly individualized services for persons with a wide range of special needs. Participants are referred to the program by medical professionals such as family physicians, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. While CTRA’s participants represent a wide age range, the vast majority of clients are children. Clients work towards physical outcomes (strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, reduced spasticity, etc.) as well as behavioral/emotional goals (self-control, independence, confidence, empowerment, etc.). Children and youth benefit from improved attention skills related to classroom learning and academic performance. Social connections between peers, volunteers, visitors, role-models, and the general community are fostered through a shared love of horses.
From humble origins, CTRA has emerged as a lighthouse institution for therapeutic riding in Canada. The association continues to play an instrumental role in shaping the development of the industry through its role as an “Examination and Training Centre.” CTRA remains the only member centre in British Columbia accredited at this tier by the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association (the national governing body for therapeutic riding), and the only therapeutic riding facility on Vancouver Island equipped with a lift to accommodate participants with severe mobility restrictions.
CTRA has come a tremendous difference in 30 years - help us build an even brighter future in "Our Next 30 Years!"