Warmland Vaulting Club member Ava Morgan shows off with Grady the Giant. (submitted)

Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association’s $20K grant will help kids keep riding

Approximately 85-90 per cent of CTRA’s clients are children under the age of 18.

The Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association has scored a $20,000 grant.

This fall, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and the Canadian Paralympic Committee partnered to award 28 organizations from across Canada with funding through the 2018 Parasport Jumpstart Fund — a granting program focused on enhancing opportunities for sport and play among children with disabilities. The CTRA was one of the organizations selected for support.

CTRA is a Duncan-based charity dedicated to providing equine-based therapeutic services and inclusive equestrian activities for persons with disabilities. CTRA’s program provides a range of therapeutic interventions and adapted/inclusive sport opportunities that include therapeutic horsemanship and adapted equestrian agility; therapeutic riding and para-equestrian training; and most recently, inclusive equestrian vaulting (a team-based discipline that combines dance and gymnastics aboard a moving horse).

Approximately 85-90 per cent of CTRA’s clients are children under the age of 18. While most of the youth participating in CTRA’s program are children referred to the program with physical disabilities and/or psycho-social challenges (e.g. anxiety, PTSD, bullying), a limited number of “community riders” are integrated into the vaulting program and spring/summer horse camps when space allows. In 2018, CTRA will serve a total of 180 participants, 155 of who will be children, and of these, 134 have special needs. In recent years, CTRA’s program has grown incrementally to accommodate the rising number of vulnerable children in the Cowichan Valley. Each year, approximately 20-25 per cent of program participants are children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder while 60-70 per cent are youth facing mental health and/or social disorders. Both of these demographics are on the rise.

CTRA’s program receives no contract funding from provincial or federal governments, which means that the charity must rely on community-level support (volunteers, grants, donations, sponsorships, and fundraising initiatives) to sustain operations. Moreover, equine-based therapeutic services are not covered by the provincial medical service plan (nor private insurance programs), meaning that most families accessing CTRA’s program must pay out of pocket for most if not all of their services.

“This Parasport grant is this kind of major funding that enables our association to keep our program accessible for families facing multiple barriers,” says Anne Muir, CTRA’s executive director. “Without the support of community partners like Jumpstart and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, our program would not be able to serve the same number or scope of children with special needs in the Cowichan Valley.”

CTRA will use the $20,000 grant to offset registration costs, thereby maintaining non-prohibitive user fees.

“At Jumpstart, we are committed to removing financial and accessibility barriers to sport and play so that all kids have the opportunity to get in the game,” says Scott Fraser, president of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. “Through our partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, the Parasport Jumpstart Fund allows us to expand our reach, help more kids, and work together to create a more accessible and inclusive Canada.”

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