The North Peace Ride for the Disabled is hosting its annual horse show this weekend at the North Peace Light Horse Arena, and the riders have been busy preparing for the event they look forward to all year.
Every Wednesday, riders of all ages and volunteers get together to ride horses around the arena, work on skills and spend some time with the animals they've grown to love. This Saturday, each rider will get to show off their riding abilities in front of friends, family and the community.
"Some of our riders are very disabled and can't communicate very well, but they still know this is special," said Liz Calder of the NPRFD. "My daughter who is a rider as well knows it's fun, but it's important for her to have people she knows see her in a different way. Usually she sits in a wheelchair; there she sits on top of a horse and had the reins in her hands."
"It's important for them socially and physically," Calder added. "It gives them confidence that they can do this when others maybe can't. You see them come in and get on the horse and they come out with big smiles."
The horse show is an important wrap-up event for the disabled riders who have been practicing hard all winter. It's where they'll be recognized for all their hard work and get to do it in front of a crowd.
"They like to have people clap and cheer them on. It's very special," Calder explained. "Their favourite part is probably getting a medal at the end. All of our riders probably are competitive. My daughter plays bocce so she's competitive that way, but everybody has a bit of a competitive streak in them, so to win something makes everyone feel good."
"In our group, everyone's a winner so they get a medal at the end of the ride to honour their presence and their effort."
The Ride for the Disabled is in its 29th year. While it has been a big year for fundraising, Calder says there are still groups in the community who do not know about the program's existence.
"This year has been a really good year for us in terms of fundraising," she said. "We've had lots of community support. We're also trying to do things to get our names out there."
"Just having our name out there's important. Just any little thing to get us known, and there are more and more disabled people all the time, and until you have someone you know who's disabled you don't really pay attention to these things."
Events like the horse show help the program get its name out in the community. The Ride also sells chocolates at Totem Mall on weekends and partners up with a variety of companies to run parking or help out with 50/50 sales to raise a little extra money.
Saturday's horse show is another opportunity for the Ride to raise some money through a raffle and donations, as well as to create more public awareness. More importantly, however, it's a day for the riders to step into the spotlight.
"We're always talking about community connections, and this is just another way of seeing people with disabilities in a different light," Calder said. "Lots of people go in front of crowds and compete, but this segment of the population doesn't have that opportunity.
"This is their moment in the sun. It's their time to shine."
The North Peace Ride for the Disabled horse show runs from 1 to 3 p.m. at the North Peace Light Horse Arena.
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