By Christine Ross – CanTRA Vice President 

Operating a therapeutic riding program involves many different skills which, when blended, create excellent programs. Each CanTRA Centre around the country has the opportunity to submit their candidates for the Annual CanTRA Awards at the beginning of each year. The goal of this program is to recognize the people and horses who work together to provide riding for those with special needs.

The 2022 awards are detailed here and the written information about each candidate was submitted from the CanTRA centre with the application for the awards. We salute these individuals for their wonderful service. 

Rhonda Davies Award: Outstanding Volunteer

Sponsor: John and Donna Davies 

ED STACY — Mount View Special Riding Association, Olds, AB. 

“Ed Stacy has been volunteering with Mount View Special Riding (MVSRA) of Olds, Alberta for some 15 years. Every Tuesday through spring and fall sessions, Ed has dutifully brought his gentle Fjord ponies Sensible, Sven, Lucky Surprise, and Skoki Lodge, the 50-plus kilometers from just outside Bergen to Olds for use by the club’s saddled riders. 

“A year or two into his stint with MVSRA and sensing a need and opportunity, Ed custom-built a cart to accommodate riders who use wheelchairs. They gleefully take the loose ends of his reins, playing games and ‘driving’ through the pylons along with him. Ed, a modest and compassionate man, says that little in his life brings the satisfaction he gains from helping our riders. Ed truly has been a rare gift to all he impacted.” 

Marian Chartley Award: Outstanding Administrator

Sponsor: JoAnn Thompson Franklin

MEL GALLANT — The Joyriders Therapeutic Riding Association of PEI 

Mel Gallant receiving the Marian Chartley Award for Outstanding Administrator. L-R: Daphne Davey, Mel Gallant, Jim McQuaid. Photo: The Joyriders

“Mel Gallant is so deserving of recognition for his many contributions to the Joyriders. He has been a true friend, volunteer, and administrator for 15 years, serving on the board of directors, especially as treasurer and fundraiser. He made important contacts for us, including with an international artist whom he persuaded to design and donate our logo and donate artwork for fundraising. To our benefit, he also shared his own award-winning talent as a photographer. His administration skills and organizing abilities were above reproach, and his caring, compassionate, and outgoing personality — imparted with a great sense of humour — have placed us very much in his debt.”

Andrea Gillies Award: Outstanding Instructor 

Sponsor: Gay Wood

ERIN O’RIELLY — Rainbow Riders Therapeutic Riding Centre, St John’s, NL. 

Mel Gallant receiving the Marian Chartley Award for Outstanding Administrator. L-R: Daphne Davey, Mel Gallant, Jim McQuaid. Photo: The Joyriders

“Erin O’Rielly first got involved with Rainbow Riders as a young equestrian volunteering her time with our lesson program and, many years later, has become Program Director and Head Instructor. Her tireless enthusiasm carries our team through busy program semesters, recruitment, training, and certification of new instructors, and the day-to-day chaotic wonderfulness of a busy therapeutic riding barn.

“This passionate young woman grew Rainbow’s lesson program through the struggles of a global pandemic, kick-started a long-defunct Competition Team, and even learned American Sign Language to facilitate weekly lessons for a school group of hearing-impaired children. They say it takes a team, it takes a village, but it also takes a spark — and that’s what Erin is to her team at Rainbow Riders.” 

CanTRA Therapy Horse of the Year for 2022

Sponsor: Manning Equine Vet Services 

COWBOY — EquineAbility Therapeutic Riding Centre, Niagara, ON

Cowboy, the CanTRA Therapy Horse of the Year. Photo: Angie Ruigrok

Cowboy, the CanTRA Therapy Horse of the Year. Photo: Angie Ruigrok

“Cowboy would like to be known as a horse in a pony’s body. Standing a mighty 13 hands, Cowboy has been an integral part of EquineAbility since its inception in 2010. He is the horse the new volunteers first work with, the quiet mount for a variety of riders, and the first horse for individuals to transition off the lead-line. As Cowboy approaches retirement in his mid-30s, we will struggle to find a single horse to fill his shoes.”

cantra - canadian therapeutic riding association

Main Photo: Ed Stacy receiving the Rhonda Davies Award for Outstanding Volunteer. L-R: Burt Hunt, Kathleen and Ed Stacy, Diane Luxen. Credit: Shelene Williams