Joy was first introduced to therapeutic riding while working at a public riding stable near Minneapolis, MN through Special Olympics Minnesota. She became a certified Special Olympic Equestrian Coach in 2007 and was privileged to get to know some wonderful athletes for the three years she coached her team. During this time she also began teaching private lessons for a few students for whom the regular lesson program was not appropriate.
"One student will always stick out in my mind--my first equestrian 'miracle'. He was a very young boy who was told that due to his condition, he would never be able to flex his ankles past a 45 degree angle unless he had surgery. After about a month of lessons, he could drop his heels further than I can! His mother told me of the amazingly positive affect this had on his mobility--he could now navigate stairs well and was generally able to walk, run, and play more freely. She was amazed, and my fascination with therapeutic riding began."
Upon returning home to Canada in 2009, Joy was able to get involved with a therapeutic riding program in Vancouver, BC. Under the mentor-ship of Megan McDonald, she began to pursue her certification through CanTRA (Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association) in 2011, which she completed in 2013. She moved to Cochrane, AB in 2012, and began teaching at Opening Gaits in the Fall of 2013.
" I am continually amazed at what can be achieved through riding. I weekly see riders growing, improving, reaching, stretching, strengthening and (most importantly) SMILING THE ENTIRE TIME. I feel blessed and privileged to be a part of that."
"It humbles me to be a part of Opening Gaits. To be able to bring together two very different worlds, horse and human, I'm truly honored and blessed to be a part of this amazing connection. When a balance occurs between a horse and rider it will leave me speechless, for there are no words for the energy that comes from two spirits connected. For just one hour a week I get to be a part of this amazing group: horses, riders, and volunteers. I feel we have only begun to lay witness to what the equine world has to offer."
Vernon has been with Opening Gaits for many years. He started off as a volunteer, became an assistant instructor to Rick Maidman and after Rick retired from OG, he became our Monday night instructor. Vernon attended a PATH clinic in Nanton last summer and was credited with IRD (Instructors of Riders with Disabilities) Level One Certification and he is also a member of the Certified Horsemanship Association.
Vernon has been an invaluable asset to Opening Gaits. He is a kind and fun loving person who takes great pride in instructing and helping OG riders excel.
Opening Gaits is looking forward to working with Vernon for many more years to come!
"My childhood delight was riding our horses barefoot and bareback – I was barefoot, the horse was bareback. My love of horses has continued throughout the years as well as my education about them. I’ve volunteered with many organizations which have included travelling to other countries to give humanitarian aid to helping with ESL here in Canada. In the winter of 2011 I heard about Opening Gaits and quickly signed on as a volunteer. The combination of working with horses and people with special needs appealed to me. Opening Gaits quickly became a joy of mine! Our riders have won my heart and I love what our horses give to them. It’s a wonderful gift to have the opportunity to grow in understanding of both the riders and the horses as well as the amazing privilege of seeing them work together."
In September of 2015 Bridget became an assistant instructor and continues to improve her horsemanship along with the understanding of different disabilities so she can be of better service to our riders. From the riders, horses and volunteers to the staff, board and instructors, it’s a great team to be a part of!