Our Featured Volunteer of the Month is Heather Collins

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This April we are pleased to announce Heather Collins as our volunteer of the month. You might have seen Heather at last week’s Wine Tasting and Silent Auction Fundraiser as she was on the planning committee for the event. Heather’s daughter Lilly is in ride 6; she started at summer camp four years ago, completed the junior beginner course, and has been at Lancers ever since. Over that time, Heather has helped out with shavings and hay deliveries and this year she decided step up her volunteering through the fundraising event. Of the event, Heather noted, “This was the first year that we teamed up with Bishop’s Cellar to offer tastings of 12 handpicked types of wines from all over the world. We couldn’t have done it without all the amazing contributions that various Lancer families and local businesses brought in for us to auction or without the other committee members that worked hard planning the decor and getting the venue ready for the evening”. The event was a huge success so stay tuned to another post about that! Heather is a great example of how our fundraising events are a great way for parents to contribute to Lancers, especially if their work schedules are changing or they feel their strengths are in non-horsie tasks.

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Heather is from Hants County and her neighbour had a horse that she rode a bit for fun while growing up. While Heather never took riding lessons, it was Lilly’s love of horses that brought them to Lancers. Heather’s favourite Lancer horse is always whichever one Lilly loves at that moment although Jake will always be one of Heather’s favourites. Lilly is currently soul searching for a new love and we know a new horse pal will soon be on the horizon for her. As a parent of a junior rider, Heather enjoys Lancers because everyone is dedicated to helping others and caring for the horses. “It’s a great environment for kids to grow up in”, she added. Heather also enjoys watching the Musical Ride because it reminds her of watching the RCMP Musical Ride when she was a child.

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Heather is a flight attendant so her schedule is always different from week to week. At work, she has also volunteered to operate the “Search for Santa” flights that Jazz Aviation does for deserving children in the community. She explained, “we take a flight full of kids up in the air to look for Santa. For many of the kids it’s the first time on an airplane and seeing the excitement on their faces when Santa comes into the cabin is amazing”. When she isn’t flying, she loves to stay active by doing regular boot camps at Evolve Fitness and cooking is her hobby. She loves having a dinner table full of friends and family and lots of food! Of course, Heather is also deeply involved in her children’s other sports. As both of her daughters are on swim teams, Heather has done training to become a Level 2 official with Swim Nova Scotia. This allows her the best seat in the house on the pool deck to watch them swim. Volunteering keeps Heather involved in her children’s experiences and she noted that she hopes to continue to support her kids for many years by volunteering with the clubs and activities that they love. 


Heather, we are incredibly thankful for the time, energy, and valuable contribution you made to this year’s Wine Tasting and Silent Auction fundraiser.
 

Our Featured Junior Rider of the Month is Bella Morgan

 Bella standing on the right! 

Bella standing on the right! 

Bella has been riding at Lancers for almost three years now. She started riding at age eleven which is a bit older than many of our junior riders who start at age eight. Bella used this as a strength and has moved up to ride five. In those few short years, Bella has enjoyed her riding lessons and has also been a member of the Junior Executive and has completed in some of our training shows in the 18” and cross rail divisions (with Punkin and Ben respectively). One thing that is striking about Bella is that she knows her job and does it and always offers to help before she is asked. This is especially true when she is doing chores before and after her rides and she helps with hay and shavings deliveries too. This willingness to help is extended to Open Houses as Bella always volunteers to be a tour guide. She has also proudly stood as an Honour Guard for the past two years. A highlight of last year’s season for Bella was performing an Honour Guard at the Halifax Public Gardens 150th birthday party!  

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When asked what she enjoys most about Lancers, Bella said that she was lucky she can walk to the barn in just ten minutes and that she likes all the instructors at Lancers. Most all, for Bella, the best part of Lancers is the people. She noted, “I felt so welcomed when I came here. I felt so happy”. It is so evident that this positive experience has stayed with Bella. She is always helpful and welcoming to new riders and gives reassurance to younger riders in a highly empathetic way. In a similar vein, one of Bella’s favourite memories of Lancers was her first day when the kids took her upstairs to show her the shavings loft and all the forts they had made up there. For Bella, another great thing about Lancers which has produced many favourite rides is the ability to ride outside. She loves breathing in the fresh air and looking at all the people pass by Citadel Hill, especially in the summer.  

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It is little surprise that Bella’s favourite horse is…Bella! She is very happy that she has the chance to ride Bella often. She likes Bella’s personality and she thought they had an instant spark when she heard her name! It is clear that Bella’s love of horses extends to all of her time spent at Lancers. While she used to play Ringette since the age of four, she stopped playing and decided to focus on riding because she liked it more. Now Bella comes for her lessons on Tuesdays and Saturdays and stays for a long time. She likes to help out with the younger riders and do chores! In the future, Bella wants to make sure she will ride until she can’t anymore! She noted, “I can’t explain why I love riding. The joy that I get from it is a joy that I can get from nothing else. I have always loved horses and animals my entire life”. Upon this reflection, Bella added, “Even though I had a late start at riding, there were many things that I thought I could never do but now I can. It is crazy to think back; I have learned so much and I am so grateful for all the instructors who put time and effort into helping me grow as a rider”. Equally, we thank you Bella for going that extra mile and being a great Lancer!  

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Our Featured Horse of the Month is Ben!

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Ben is, without a doubt, such an incredibly special horse. He is twelve-years-old and his show name is “Purely Gold”. He lives up to this name every single day. Not only is he a golden palomino colour but he has a heart of gold too. He is one of our favourite horses in the adult and junior beginner courses, beginner summer camp as well as our therapeutic riding program. He performs in our Musical Ride and even competes in horse shows! He is an incredible pony who inspires trust in even the most nervous riders, and he is one of the best teachers for which we could ever ask. The day Ben became a Lancer horse our instructors’ jobs became a little bit easier.

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Ben has also been nick-named “Gentle Ben” in the therapeutic riding program and this name describes him perfectly too. He is gentle, patient, and of course, is cute to boot! While he spends most of his time being amazingly patient with beginners, he is still a coveted mount amongst our more experienced riders as well. He is known for being quite slow with beginners (and slow equals safe) but there is a fire in him that awakens at times. A perfect example of this was last summer when he was the Champion in our jumper division at our Downtown Horse Show! He also surprised us with great speed and agility the first time he went to a Prince Philip Games competition with our pony club in the spring. Even at our rural Salmon River sleep-away camp, he is just as reliable on the trails as he is in the ring at home.

Even the most patient animals have their limits and Ben’s include having his ears clipped and getting de-wormed. His objections to these are so strong it’s hard to believe he is the same pony. While we do make sure he gets his deworming as needed, we have decided that he deserves to keep his ears fuzzy. For all his character and daily service, there are many Ben fans out there! Whether you see him outside during turn out or in his stall or have the fortune of riding him, know you are in the company on one special pony! We are thankful to have Ben as part of our Lancer team!

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Our Featured Staff Member of the Month is Sophia Andriopoulos!

From our perspective, one of the most rewarding parts of being at Lancers is watching young junior riders become not only strong riders but confident, independent, and active young adults. Sophia Andriopoulos is a shining example of this. While only sixteen, she has the sense of responsibility well beyond her years. Sophia started in summer camp and the junior beginner course when she was eight and is now in Ride 1. She also competes and is a proud rider in the Musical Ride. We are featuring her as our staff member of the month for her work as a stable hand and barn monitor and for the positive approach, she takes to her work. She is just one of the numerous casual stable hands and for years, she has often trudged through some of the worst snow storms to get to the barn and look after the horses on snow days when our regular stable hand has been unable to make it into the city.

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Most of Sophia’s Saturdays (and some Sundays) are spent working as a stable hand. While we have two stable hands who work during the week, on the weekends, riders are employed for the task. Sophia explained that as a weekend stable hand, she is in charge of taking care of the twenty-seven horses for the day which includes feeding, cleaning stalls, turning the horses out, as well as ensuring they receive proper care. On Monday and every second Wednesday nights, Sophia works as a barn monitor. She explained her role by saying, “I am here to make sure that the riders are doing their chores, getting ready for their lessons, and that everything in the barn is running smoothly and safely. I ensure that all the horses are taken care of and all riders have the correct tack and safety equipment. In a way, I am second in command after the instructor. From the moment riders walk through the door until they leave after their lesson, I help and keep watch”. As a teenager helping youth and adult riders, this can be a slightly unusual circumstance but Sophia assists and provides advice without, as one person described, “making anyone feel stupid”. She is a good communicator and gets the job done (and uses her humour too). In the summer at Lancer’s sleep away rural Salmon River camp, Sophia works at a Leader-in-Training. In this role, she helps lead activities, ensures all chores are done, and takes responsibility in leading groups on trail rides.

Anyone who steps into the stables knows that Sophia’s favourite horse is Rupert, also known as “King Rupert” (yes, he even has his own Instagram account). It is inspiring to see how much her love of Rupert and riding motivate Sophia. She has been riding him for two years but this September she started leasing him. This means she rides in the 3x program, rides him in her lessons, has a Sunday non-lesson ride on him, and takes more responsibility for him. Leasing also means she has first right of refusal for taking him to off-property shows. Leasing is a huge step for riders as it requires much more time commitment but also allows them to focus on and work with one particular horse. It also comes with an added financial requirement. Before being allowed to lease, Sophia had to pull up her grades at school and then, her parents agreed to pay for her lessons but decided that she would have to pay for her lease fee and for all her show fees. Sophia is sixteen years old and she has taken on this financial requirement and every day that she walks into the stables for a shift, she knows she is working on her goals.

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We caught up with Andrea, Sophia’s mother (and Oct 2017 featured Lancer volunteer), to get her perspective of how working at Lancers has influenced Sophia. Andrea noted that “Lancers has completely changed her life. She used to be shy!” While Sophia ever being shy is hard to imagine, it is easy to see that Andrea and Dimitri are supportive of their daughter’s dedication and hard work, even if it means bringing carrots and moving hay bales just so they can be in the same building as her. Furthermore, Andrea noted how much this experience, and particularly leasing has made Sophia learn to pay bills on time and to manage her time and money. We can attest to this when the other day Sophia’s crop accidentally broke and she exclaimed, “that has to come out of the budget now!” Andrea further noted that “the lesson that Lancers is teaching her now will help her throughout the rest of her life. She appreciated every minute at Lancers and she understands the value of the dollar. Rupert is also part of our lives because she has made it that way!”

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We always ask our featured staff members how working at Lancers compares to other jobs they have had. For Sophia, this was easy as Lancers is the first and only place she has worked. In fact, for so many of our junior riders, Lancers provides their first work experience. According to Sophia, it is a first great job and it is made better by the fact that she was already comfortable with the environment. She added, “having horse knowledge out of the saddle has made me a better rider and horse person”. When Sophia was too young to stable hand, she would often still find her way to the barn on Sundays to help and this also helped her pick up horse knowledge. In the future, Sophia is working towards becoming an NCCP qualified instructor and starting to teach at Lancers. If she stays in Halifax for university, she would love to keep working at Lancers.

It is clear that for Sophia, Lancers isn’t just a job. She explained, “I like how it is a second family for me. I have been friends with everyone for so long. The relationships I have with everyone…well, I can’t even describe it. It is such a good bond. We are all family. It also makes me very happy that my school is across the street. If I’m having a bad day at school, I can leave during a break and just come to the barn. Where I eat my lunch, I can look across at the horses and it just brightens my day”. As you might have guessed, that means Sophia is at the barn every day of the week. She joked, “I can’t think of the last day I wasn’t here besides going on vacation – which was really hard to be away from the horses”. With a laugh, she added, “I spend the majority of my life here and my parents say they never see me or they say they have to come to the barn to see me”. Above all, Sophia summed it up when she said, “it is a never-ending love. I still love it…even after all these years”.

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We also asked Sophia about a favourite memory of Lancers and she was quick to recall last year’s Salmon River camp. She was there for two weeks and said that she had never had an experience like it. “Living with the horses, sleeping in tents, spending time with all these people and being outside”, she added, “I have memories that I will never forget”. When we asked about a fun fact about Lancers that most people would not know, Sophia also brought up a theme of friendship. She explained, “for me, when I was in junior high, I was really close with all the older junior riders at high school and it was a unique relationship. I was thirteen and they were seventeen and that isn’t usually a friendship dynamic but Lancers is the space where that can happen”. Sophia further explained, “it is unique about Lancers and it has been a big part of me. The age doesn’t seem to matter and it always gives us people to look up to. Now, I know that there are some younger riders who I have clicked with, especially at Salmon River we really bonded”. And so, the circle continues.

Sophia, on behalf of the horses and all the junior and adult riders you assist in your two roles at Lancers, thank you! We thank you for feeling that being a Lancer comes with a badge of honour and for being a contributing member of our community. We know that you will continue to do so wherever your bright future takes you.

#FeatureFriday

Our Featured Adult Rider of the Month is Terry Arnason

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In March 1993, Terry walked through our doors on Bell road and has continued to do so for the past twenty-five years. We are exceedingly excited to celebrate Terry’s “Silver Jubilee” (or quadranscentennial) as a Lancer and feature her as our adult rider for March! Her true love and adoration for the horses are so apparent, she acts as attentive custodian of our barn cats (of course, they get spoiled with treats), and she contributes to Lancers as well through volunteering and sponsoring events like the Downtown Horse Show.

Terry grew up on a mixed farm (dairy and grain) in Saskatchewan where her family had a pony and four Percherons. Thinking back, she likely started riding when she was three or four years old but bareback, of course. Her dad would throw her sister and her up on the Percherons and “let them go”. This mostly resulted in the girls sitting on the large horses while they meandered around eating no matter how hard they tried to get them moving! After those early days, Terry had four more horses in her life. She belonged to the local 4-H horse club in her early teens and the last horse she owned was a Standardbred when she lived in New Glasgow. There she attended the occasional English clinic plus took Western lessons at Herb Best’s barn.

From 1981-1993, the only time she rode was when she went home to Saskatchewan. Many of the farmers around had horses in their pastures and were happy to let her ride them. Most of the horses were green and crazy but back then it just added to the fun. In March 1993, now living in Halifax, friends asked her if she wanted to join them in riding lessons at Lancers. Terry noted, “I didn’t know what or where the Lancers was but happily I said yes and the rest is history”. Terry has now been a Lancer for twenty-five years and currently rides in A1.

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When asked what she enjoys most about Lancers, she explained that it was being in the presence of the horses. “I feel so privileged to be able to step into our stable in the middle of the city and smell, hear, and touch our beautiful horses”, she explained. “We (the Lancer family) should be so thankful for this every single day. I call it my ‘therapy’”, she added. For Terry, the best part of Lancers is all the people she has met here and the friendships she has formed. Lancers has kept her going through so much and it has impacted me wholly. Terry particularly enjoys watching the children and the beginner adults come in uncertain and maybe a bit nervous and through their programs, become accomplished, responsible horse people. On this, she noted, “I do not like when the kids grow up and leave us after grade 12, although some of them return as adult riders and I am so happy to see them”. You can imagine that Terry will have now seen two generations of juniors in the beginner program at age eight who ride at Lancers until they go off to university.

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Terry loves her lessons and has had many awesome instructors who continue to persevere despite her “lack of ability and thick skull”. She joked, “how many times can someone tell you to sit up, heels down, the other ‘left’ before wanting to give up!? So, thank you, instructors!” While she might be a bit hard on herself, we agree with her sentiment about thanking instructors! Terry is equally appreciative of all the horses who have captured her heart over the past quarter-century. She has had particular soft spots for Zero, Bucky, Joey, Norman, Freddy and Digger.

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It is clear that Terry deeply enjoys being a part of the Lancer community and the life of the stables. She loves cleaning stalls and is a dedicated night hay volunteer. She has also helped with fundraising, summer clean-up days and renovations, horse shows, and open houses. For Terry, there are just too many great memories of Lancers to mention all of them. One of them is when the horses and their riders come out at the start of the Musical Ride. “My heart almost explodes”, she added. Although Terry hasn’t quite become used to the new Musical Ride music, she knows that will come and she will enjoy all the performances this year.

When not at the stables, Terry stays active by going to fitness classes and Tai Chi. She loves to travel, read, and garden. In the future, Terry hopes to continue as a Lancer for many more years. She again joked, “they may have to drag me out kicking and screaming when the time comes. I won’t go easily!!” Don’t worry Terry we won’t ever drag you out. Terry ended her interview with the powerful statement: “if it wasn’t for Lancers, I would likely be back in Saskatchewan now but I can’t leave our horses”. Thank you, Terry, for choosing to spend so much of your life with us at Lancers and for sharing your passion for horses. With you in our midst, we will never forget that the love of horses is at the root of all we do and all we believe in. #featureFriday

Our Featured Volunteer of the Month is Renée Lutwick!

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Our featured volunteer for March is Renée Lutwick who is an adult rider and a Lancer mum! She rides in our A2 and the Tuesday morning adult group (and is really happy when she can sneak in a third ride in a week when she can do a private lesson). It is hard not to always sense Renée’s enthusiasm for Lancers and she always makes a point of volunteering her time and effort whenever she can! We are very lucky to have her.

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Renée started riding in September 2015 in our adult beginner course (at the tender age of 55, she notes). Her daughter Elise had been riding at Lancers since 2013 and she just couldn’t hold back any longer! Over those years, Renée became more involved and volunteered at Lancers gradually. She started by contributing to the donations and sponsorships from her workplace to helping with the Christmas party dinner and events that needed food such as canteens at our horse shows or other aspects of Lancers that did not require “horse knowledge”. Renée almost always single-handedly supplies our potlucks with the best food! She added, “I did more as I got to know more about Lancers and horses”. She has helped with hay deliveries, selling Chase the Ace tickets, and has been a chaperone for Pony Club events (and has driven many kids to off-property events and horse shows). Last year she even volunteered as one of our medical Doctors on site for the Downtown Horse Show and this year is also becoming more involved with fundraising and our Musical Ride! Renée is always willing to volunteer and does so despite being so busy in with her professional career. Simply put, she fits in so much for us!

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For Renée, volunteering at Lancers is unique, of course, because her other volunteer opportunities are missing the horses! She explained, “there is something very special about being around and working with these big beautiful animals. For me, it is also more time spent and involvement with something my daughter is passionate about and soon my youngest will be involved as well.” Being involved in something her daughter loves is easier but it also makes it more fun when everyone is involved! “There are lots of sports out there”, Renée added, “but Lancers is a great place to come and you just feel like hanging out. It is also wonderful that Lancers brings in extra things and opportunities like groundwork clinics”! In that vein, she enjoys (besides the horses, of course) that the stables are a very relaxed, warm, and welcoming atmosphere. There is also something special too about the peer-mentorship at Lancers too. She explained, “I remember feeling so impressed with how the teen riders helped the little ones when my daughter started at eight years old and they helped me out too once I started riding”!

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When she isn’t volunteering or riding (or being active in her other activities like sprint canoe/kayak), it is fair to say that Renée can be found watching over her favourite horse, Mato. Her love for our recent arrival was even reflected in her long-term goal when we asked her about her riding future. She joked that she would aspire to be the oldest person at the Olympics but was serious about becoming a stronger rider so she could ride Mato in a few years. She loves his appearance and that he is a baby. That being said, she also has fun riding Heidi and Bella. This year, Renée is even going to do her rider level three (with the jumping course too)! Speaking of favourites, we asked Renée about her favourite memory of Lancers. Seeing her daughter Elise in her show attire for the first time and at barely 60lbs, going over jumps with this creature that is twenty times her size, was a definite wonderful memory! The first time she saw the Musical Ride also stands out in her mind. She explained, “the Musical Ride is really awesome. It almost chokes you up and brings tears to the eyes”.

 A family trip in Iceland!

A family trip in Iceland!

Well, Renée, we just can’t wait to see all the other great things you shall bring to Lancers. We just love your enthusiasm, and for that matter, the enthusiasm that your whole family shares for horses and Lancers. Thank you for being a dedicated volunteer and thinking of Lancers for so much. #featurefriday

Our Featured Junior Rider for March is Trinity McRiner!

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For over the past ten years, Trinity McRiner has been a proud Lancer. As she is graduating high school this year, many green pastures are beckoning her. We decided that we should use this chance to say thank you to her for being a part of our community and celebrate her time as a Lancer.

The love of horses was first sparked for Trinity when as a young child, her mother bought her a “my little pony”; from then on it’s been all horses! While she had some riding experience elsewhere, Trinity started riding at Lancers after her mother had heard amazing things about Lancers and the community that surrounded it. It was about 2007 when she first stepped into the barn. Although she was still young and much shorter at the time, she vividly remembers her first steps into the barn to drop off her first riding fees. Seeing on cross ties what she thought at the time were the biggest horses in the world, she immediately asked her mom if they had ponies and sure enough we did and Trinity was soon falling in love with her (now old friend) Jake. When Lancers switched management three years ago, Trinity took the opportunity to explore other stables in the area but she couldn’t stay away for long and we were so happy to have her back and she entered into Ride 2! While she is too tall to ride Jake anymore, Trinity now rides a variety of horses.

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It was understandably hard for Trinity to choose just one favourite horse from her decade at Lancers as she has had many favourites. In the past, she adored Cash, an old Appaloosa gelding, and Jake (of course) but a friendship she will never forget was with Lucas who taught her so much about riding, horsemanship, and never giving up. Footnote: we can attest to Trinity’s love of Lucas as this year someone uncovered a brush with his name carved into it and it was Trinity’s mission to acquire said brush at Christmas silent auction! Last year, she fell in love with Valour the police horse who she still brings bananas to as they she discovered they are his favourite treat. Currently Bella has completely stolen Trinity’s heart. According to Trinity, Bella’s easy going manner, patience, and her willingness to try are some of her best qualities. Bella and Trinity have steadily progressed together since they started working together last March. This year they participated in the Erin MacQuarrie Dressage Clinic at Lancers and Trinity found it one of the most helpful and fun things they have done as a team. She cannot wait to see how this show season turns out as she is so excited to have Bella in the ring!

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Beyond the horses, Trinity’s favourite thing about Lancers is the friendships that she has made with her fellow riders. She explained, “the community that surrounds Lancers is so amazing and supportive of all its riders and I’ve yet to come across a barn quite like it. The Lancers horses, the ability to ride and experience so many different amazing horses, and their teachings, have constantly been there for me to build my confidence and teach me patience and skills that I would not have developed otherwise.” Trinity added, “I also have a deep love for the history behind our barn and have spent hours, especially as a young Lancer, in the Michelle Room just staring at the pictures on the walls or looking up and reading about the barn’s long history.”

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Trinity was proud to join the Musical Ride team and her best memories of Lancers have come recently from being a part of the 2017 Musical Ride. “It was so amazing to be involved in such a unique experience and do it alongside so many friends was great”, she explained. Elaborating on this, Trinity noted, “practicing on and performing on the Garrison Grounds was unlike anything I’ve ever done before and I was very thankful to have my trusted partner Bella go through the whole thing with me as it was both of our first times in the Musical Ride”. Although Trinity has aged out of the Musical Ride for this year, she is excited to see who Bella’s partner is this year and hopes to volunteer with the 2018 Musical Ride. Some of Trinity’s other favourite memories stem from the many training shows she has participated in and the very fun experience of riding the horses bareback through the sprinklers on the hot summer days!

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When not riding, Trinity loves to ski when our winters co-operate as it is an activity she has done with family and friends since she was young. Riding, school, and her part-time job take up all of her waking hours! Trinity exemplifies such dedication as she has been working very hard from a young age and pays for her own riding lessons. It is exciting to see that Trinity is exploring the world around her and searching for her true passion in life. When she graduates in June, she has many opportunities at her doorstep. While staying at home to work and continue to ride at Lancers would make her more than happy, she may decide to go further afield! Wherever she goes, she knows that she will always continue riding.  

Well, Trinity, while we’ll love to keep you, part of the job of Lancers is to prepare young people for the future, whether it is in the saddle or more broadly in the lessons that riding and being a Lancer have instilled in you. We thank you for being a part of our community for so long and we are confident that you will flourish wherever you go! …If you do leave…we’ll definitely also miss your Rapunzel hair!

Our Featured Horse of the Month is Tootsie!

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When Tootsie came to us almost exactly two years ago, we felt that we had acquired our very own Thelwell pony. She was just as round and hairy and full of character as any one of the famous cartoon ponies from the 1950s. While she has since lost a lot of weight and a lot of hair and looking very smart, she has retained all of her character. While she is not supposed to have favourites, everybody knows that Tootsie is Angie’s teachers’ pet. She travelled here to us from New Brunswick where she was a 4-H pony extraordinaire and transitioned very quickly into being an English riding school pony.

She is 13 hands high, turned 16 this year and is a Newfoundland Pony cross. We have used her in our summer camps, she has already been in the musical ride, she participated in Prince Philip Games and she also goes to many horse shows. Her show name is Tootsie Roll because she kind of looks like one! Her affectionate nickname is Tuzo (in a British accent)! When receiving a body clip, Tootsie often has a heart left on her bum. This year she will have an ace because she is our official mascot for our Chase the Ace fundraiser!

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Typically, Tootsie has a little too much confidence in herself as she tries to out power her riders but luckily, because of her small size, this teaches riders how to handle a strong horse. When it comes to jumping, however, which was a relatively new skill for her at Lancers, her confidence was quite low. After much trial and error and lessons in patience, Tootsie has since learned that jumping is a regular part of her job and she has even come to love it. She is a favourite at Salmon River camp because she is so much fun on the trails! For a chubby little pony, she is full of energy! There’s nothing like a spunky little pony to teach kids all the tough lessons on horsemanship. She has so much to offer, we hope she stays just as spirited for many years to come! #featurefriday #HOM

Our Featured Adult Rider of the Month is Sandra Chaisson!

 Sandra and Chevy! 

Sandra and Chevy! 

Almost exactly a year ago to the day, here at the Lancer office we received an email from Sandra asking about adult lessons. It was fortunate that we had a space open in our adult membership for an experienced rider, and Sandra joined us in our Tuesday morning adult ride. At that time, little did we know about Sandra’s riding back story nor of course, did we know how great she is! It has been great getting to know Sandra over the past year and it has been rewarding to see how much she has become an active part of the Lancer community. Spoiler alert: we’re never letting her go!

 Sandra and Mikey 

Sandra and Mikey 

Sandra has been riding for as long as she can remember and says that she can’t remember not having horses in her life! While born in Halifax, her family moved to New Brunswick and it was there that her father had a big black ex-RCMP musical ride horse! Riding was always in her blood. In 1977, her and her family moved back to Halifax and she actually rode at Lancers (1977-1982 ish)! Sandra thought she started in about Ride 5 and then moved up into Ride 1B (back then, there was Ride 1A and 1B). As she got older, she was able to buy her own horse, a sweet quarter horse named Sunny. Her next horse was a year-and-a-half old thoroughbred called Sum special. Finally, she found her way to her another dark bay thoroughbred. Mikey, whose show name was Perfect Gentleman, was a well-known hunter horse and with Sandra, they found their way into the dressage ring. Sandra worked with great coaches like Sue Fraser and Peter Edwards and then, when she and her husband moved to Ontario, she moved Mikey and worked with him at York Equestrian and Joker’s Hill. They moved back to Halifax in 1998 and Mikey went to Woodhaven and they had wonderful time together until heartbreaking circumstances caused Mikey to go to Greener pastures (2002). Sandra packed up and didn’t ride for many years. Her heart just simply wasn’t in it. That is, until one day she woke up and said to her husband, “I think I want to ride again” to which he replied, “I knew this day would come”.

 Sandra in the Musical Ride in 1980!

Sandra in the Musical Ride in 1980!

Thinking that she would start close to home, Sandra emailed our office and we replied to her so quickly that there was no changing her mind. So after thirty-five years away, Sandra walked back through those Lancer stable doors on Bell Road! She soon fell in love with Chevy who, she says, she will ride until she gets suspension from him (…the dressage background is coming through).  On top of his sweet disposition, she likes that Chevy is challenging, smart, and very rideable. Over the past year, she has had the opportunity to work with Chevy and was even the very first to rush to the barn to sign up for the Erin MacQuarrie Dressage clinic we had in January. Sandra has also made sure to help out over the past year, particularly with the Spring Spruce up the Barn Day and assisting Jessica in the office for the Downtown Horse Show! One highlight was going for a trail ride when the horses were on their summer break at Salmon River. She added, “it was fun - it is very freeing to be on a horse and going through the woods! Chevy is such a good boy; you don’t worry about falling off or spooking. I think he had as much fun as I did!”

 Sandra at Lancers!

Sandra at Lancers!

One very important aspect of Lancers that Sandra commented on is the very high standard of teaching. Yet, Lancers, she noted, is more than just the teaching as it is about “the community and the positive energy here”. She continued, “I think the kids here are really sweet. I also love the ladies that I ride with. I love their stories. Everybody has a story and everyone has a reason why they ride and I love it. I could smile for the rest of the day when I leave here.” Sandra even joked that when she returns to work (as a real estate agent) after her morning ride every Tuesday everyone in the office askes her, “how was Chevy today?!” It has been great to see that Sandra is enjoying being a Lancer once again and that she has felt compelled to jump straight in to recently become a member of the Lancers Board of Directors. We appreciate her commitment to Lancers and are confident that she will make a strong contribution to our present and future.

 Mikey!

Mikey!

As we do with all features, we asked Sandra about her favourite memory of Lancers. Thinking of her past, she said that her time a junior rider and riding in the Musical Ride (and showing) was a highlight. She said with a change in tone, as a big smile came across her face, “I was a Lancer”! We just had to ask how she found the barn to change over all those years. She agreed that the smell was the same but that the stables look differently. The offices were upstairs and the horses were in straight stalls so she was pleased to see all the horses in box stalls now.             

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Thinking of her future, Sandra said that she would like to keep riding and developing her skills. She added, “I would like to spread the dressage love around the barn even more. It gives people a good foundation. It is the basics of all riding and it is great to see Angie always teaching the basics of dressage in her lessons. Sandra’s desire to constantly learn and fine tune her riding is evident in that every night before her ride, she always watches YouTube videos. “There is so much info on YouTube” she pointed out, “I always enter my lesson with a purpose”.

 Sandra and her dressage boy, Chevy! 

Sandra and her dressage boy, Chevy! 

Sandra, you have many valuable perspectives to keep sharing and we are proud that you have chosen to return to Lancers to do so. While you may have “gotten away” in 1982, we’re never going to let you go again!

Sandra, you have many valuable perspectives to keep sharing and we are proud that you have chosen to return to Lancers to do so. While you may have “gotten away” in 1982, we’re never going to let you go again!

Our Featured Volunteer of the Month is Richard Withington!

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We are pleased that our featured volunteer for February is Richard Withington, someone who has not only given much as a Lancer parent but also as a member of the Board. Some Lancers will know Richard as the father of Amy who rode at Lancers as a junior rider for ten years and last year, worked as a Lancer instructor and camp assistant. The Withington family were originally introduced to Lancers while living in Toronto. They would come to visit Halifax and Amy’s cousin rode at Lancers so they would come to watch her ride! When the Withingtons moved to Halifax, Amy was able to enroll in the Lancer beginner course and rode until Ride 1. In 2017, Amy embarked on her studies at McGill University (but we can’t wait to welcome her back in the summer)! Despite Amy not currently riding here, Richard has continued his dedication to serving on the Board and continuing the betterment and success of Lancers. For this, we are exceedingly grateful!

Richard’s involvement with Lancers began like many others. Over the past ten years, he would help out with shavings and hay deliveries, lend a hand during August barn repairs, and make the famously delicious Bengal Breakfast Burgers at show canteens! He may have to take an allergy pill before he comes to help out at the barn but that has never stopped him before! This past August, you could find Richard with other members of the building committee repairing and upgrading all the stall doors! Two years ago Richard was Secretary on the Board and last year he was Vice-President. Although he comes from a finance background, he has been able to participate on the Board and help out wherever needed rather than being pigeonholed into being the “finance person!” According to Richard, the Board needs and benefits from people with a variety of backgrounds, including individuals who are not necessarily invested in the day-to-day running of Lancers as this is something that traditionally hasn’t happened. While Lancers certainly benefits from Richard’s input and expertise at the Board level, it seems that he too enjoys his involvement. He noted, “I enjoy the variety of opportunities to directly lend a hand here. In some of the other volunteer work I’ve done, there is more of a disconnect between what you’re doing and the results for the end beneficiaries. Besides, where else could you help out and get to be around horses!”

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Despite all of the time Richard has spent at Lancers over the past decade, he has, as he said, “never had the good fortune to ride with the Lancers adults, but never say never!” In the 1980s however, Richard did have time in the saddle while living in England and being able to ride through Richmond Park in London with his then-roommate! Richard may not ride at Lancers but he certainly could easily choose a favourite horse. “Reese”, he answered and jokingly added that because Reese is Amy’s favourite horse, “I wouldn’t be welcome at home if I chose anyone else”. On that note, when asked about a favourite Lancer memory, Richard drew to mind Amy’s first outdoor training show because “all the first-timers were grinning like they’d just beaten Ian Millar in a Grand Prix”. While Lancers provides lots of opportunities for riders to grow and have fun, the part that Richard enjoys is that “Lancers acts as a “happy place” for the riders. No matter what is going on in the rest of their lives, kids (and adults!) can show up at the barn and know they can hang with the horses and be appreciated unconditionally. They are not always smiling when they come into the barn but they are when they leave!”

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While Richard doesn’t ride horses anymore, he does like to ride his bike. He feels “it is a great way to see a lot of the province and see the neighbourhoods like a local when we’re on vacation”. For the future, Richard looks forward to implementing the five-year strategic vision the Board and community are working on to bring Lancers forward. Richard summed it up perfectly when he said, “It’s a good, place special place and it needs to thrive”.

With all the hard work from you, your fellow board members, and all the riders and parents, we are certain that Lancers will continue to thrive! So for all of your dedication to Lancers over the past ten years (and maybe a few more?), we thank you!

Our Featured Junior Rider of the Month is Charlotte Harper!

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Our featured junior rider for February is Charlotte Harper and it is without a doubt that everyone will know her for her love of Willow! Charlotte started riding three years ago. She came to a Lancers summer camp and simply fell in love with horses. At nine-years-old, she was able to enroll in the beginner junior course and then joined as a junior member! She has been at Lancers ever since and is now in ride 7. Charlotte told us that she remembered that her first ride was on Bud and she just loved him. We can’t blame her there as Bud is a gentle giant and is the crème de la crème of horses! Everyone at Lancers now knows that by far, Charlotte’s favourite horse is Willow. Her love for Willow never waivers and Charlotte even diligently showed up at the stables to welcome Willow home when the horses returned from their August summer vacation in the countryside.

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This just goes to illustrate that Lancers is quite a unique place where riders, without owning or leasing, can develop a strong bond with a horse. Charlotte is fortunate to have the opportunity to ride Willow in nearly every lesson and show! The duo will be making another appearance at our Dead of Winter training show next weekend. But Charlotte doesn’t only see Willow on the days she rides; we’re certain Willow is getting spoiled with treats on days when Charlotte comes to Lancers just to visit her special pal!

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One of Charlotte’s favourite Lancer memories was her very first training show. She rode Chevy that day but he was being a bit cheeky! After the last jump of the course, he decided to go towards all the other participants who were lined up at the end of the arena. “I have improved a lot since that show”, she added. While she might chuckle about this memory, it is a nice reminder of how much progress riders make and that all the fun Lancer extra-curriculars are a big value-add!

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Beyond her twice-weekly riding lessons and participating in training shows and Lancers’ Pony Club and fun events like the Halloween Fun Show, she also tries to help out. Charlotte noted that “besides being at the barn for weekly rides, I like to help the younger rides and do extra chores during the week. My mom and dad say that Lancers is my second home.” Charlotte can often be seen helping riders in the Junior Beginner Course picking out their horses’ hooves or getting tacked up. It was inspiring to see that even at such a young age, Charlotte is genuinely embodying the Lancer spirit of trying to help and mentor younger riders. Think, just three short years ago, it was Charlotte who had an older Lancer helping her… and now she has gained the inherent responsibility and most importantly, the genuine desire to share her horse knowledge with others. Perhaps in the next five or seven years, she will work towards becoming a barn monitor or even a Lancer camp counselor! With her evident love of Lancers and the horses, last year she even volunteered as an Honour Guard and a tour guide at our June Open House.

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Charlotte’s favourite part of Lancers is definitely the horses but she also loves the people here. “I have made many good friends at Lancers”, she pointed out. Many Lancers will know Charlotte for her strong friendship with Megan, another R7 rider. It has been nice to see their friendship develop over the years and during much of their time spent at the stables now has them joined at the hip!

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It is clear that a love of horses is in Charlotte’s veins and she now wants to be a veterinarian and always be with horses. She added, “I want to be a competitive jumper and own my own horse one day”. We just love that sense of aspiration. Without it, we would never come close to reaching our goals! When not at Lancers, Charlotte enjoys singing, taking vocal lessons, and being involved in school musicals and recitals. She also stays active by playing intramural sports and she particularly likes hockey! 
#featurefriday

Our Featured Horse for February is Inga!

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Can you believe it?! While we celebrate Inga as our featured horse of the month, we also get to celebrate our one year anniversary of publishing weekly features! We hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as we have enjoyed writing them. Maybe we should dub them Friday feel-good features!

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It is only natural that we celebrate our year of features by thinking of Inga and her great and varied service to Lancers over the past years. Inga has to be one of our most notable horses. From her striking looks to her stubborn character she is as unique as they come. She is a 15.2hh Norwegian Fjord cross. Her colour is called “grulla” and is part of the Dun family of colours. She is a mousey-grey with a dorsal stripe along her back and zebra stripes on her legs! She also has a big beautiful white snip on her nose.

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Anyone who got their start at Lancers since Inga’s arrival almost seven years ago has had a turn on Inga. This is because Inga is safe, quiet, and unfazed by even the most unbalanced rider. She is the star of our summer camps and beginner courses, and especially for our Therapeutic lessons with H.A.L.T.R. She is very stocky and can handle even our Tallest adult riders, but is not so tall as to intimidate small children.

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Inga’s character truly comes out when ridden in our more advanced rides though. While she happily will walk along the end of a lead rope with any number of different riders on her back, it’s a whole different story when we ask her to really work or exercise. She is a very clever horse, and no amount of force or even proper technique can make Inga move if she’s not motivated. Luckily we have plenty of riders who have bonded with Inga and who she will happily work hard for. Inga picks her favorite people and makes them feel like a star, because for others she refuses to even try. If Inga has not yet chosen you as one of “her people” and you find yourself riding her, be prepared to work harder than she does.

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Inga is also fabulous when we introduce vaulting to our riders. Vaulting is essentially like gymnastics on the horse’s back, and while it’s not a core part of our programs, every camp kid gets a chance to give it a try! Most kids will get a chance to practice on occasion throughout the year as well, as it can be a great confidence builder and improve a rider’s balance.

Inga is a part of our Musical Ride, has been to many shows and spends a couple of hours every year giving pony rides to the public at our open house in October. For a stubborn horse she certainly has endless amounts of patience, particularly with young children. She may give us grief at times, but all the love that she inspires is well worth it. #featurefriday

Our Featured Adult Rider for January is Jacqueline Hartigan!

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It is time for another feature and for January, Jacqueline Hartigan is our adult rider of the month! Although Jacqueline is our featured adult rider of the month, she has actually been at Lancers since she was a child. She is a great example of riders who get their start at Lancers and continue with us well into their university and adult years. Jacqueline has been riding, on and off for about 18 years. Her aunt always had horses so she had many pony rides as a child and then started taking lessons at another barn when she was seven. Luckily, a spot opened up in the junior beginner course when she turned out and she became a Lancer. Jacqueline then “moved through the ranks” and up into our highest junior rides and then when she entered university, joined our J-ride! J-riders always ride in our latest time slot (8:30pm) so sometimes junior riders don’t get to see enough of them but Jacqueline will be known because she always participates in training shows and the Downtown Horse Show (and always makes sure her horses are perfectly turned out). She always sets a good example.

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Throughout the years, Jacqueline’s involvement at the barn evolved. When she was younger (and had more time!) she was involved in everything she could be! She used to stablehand on Sundays to make some extra money, a job she really liked because of the peacefulness of being one of the only people at the barn. With a love of competing, Jacqueline showed in the hunters and loved grooming for others at horse shows. She added, “there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a shiny horse and a tidy rider that you helped prep trot into a show ring!” The Musical Ride also captured Jacqueline’s heart and she started to groom for riders who were older than her; she got to learn the ropes and eventually began riding in it herself! She has also taken advantage of all the “extra-curricular” activities Lancers has on offer including clinics with fantastic coaches, riding in parades, summer camp - you name it, she’s done it! On this, Jacqueline elaborated: “Lancers offers so many opportunities and I’m thankful I was able to be involved in most of them over the years. Now that I’m older and life has gotten in the way a bit, I’ve had to step back. I was lucky enough to lease Rainy last year and got to do a lot of shows and clinics with her. This year I’m mostly just riding twice a week but it’s what gets me through some tough weeks at school!”

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For Jacqueline, it has always been the love of horses that fuels her passion for the sport. When she was a child, her parents really wanted to put her in a sport, any sport. When they asked her what she wanted to do, she would only ever reply “I want to ride horses”. She explained, “soccer, hockey, skiing, gymnastics… nope. I only wanted to ride. So to this day, riding is the only sport I’ve really gotten in to. I love hiking and reading in my spare time but for me, the number one passion has always been horses”. That passion might explain why Jacqueline had a hard time choosing a favourite Lancer horse (to quote her directly, she actually said: “Can I say all of them? Because that is the truth”.) Over the years, she has had some pretty strong attachments to particular ones. Kelly, Dudley, Babe, Shooter, Joey, Peter, Wonky and Bucky were some of the horses she grew up loving. Right now she would have to say she is “pretty obsessed” with Rainy and Shay. She was able to lease Rainy last year and was Jacqueline’s “rock”.

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She added, “Rainy is the sweetest mare I have ever met, she will very rarely show any attitude or typical “mare-isms”. She is always going to try her hardest for you but she has a lot of lessons to teach (it took me months to learn how to properly turn her)! I took a few years off before coming back to ride as an adult and my confidence was lower than it was as a teenager, she really built that back up for me so she’s got a permanent place in my heart. Shay is a new love for me and I’m still learning about her but I think she is very smart. I’ve been really excited to come to the barn and see her lately. She can be a bit more mareish than Rainy though as she’ll tell you when she isn’t impressed with you. She loves being groomed and really appreciates a good scratch. She’ll curl her lip up if you find the right spot; it always manages to crack me up”. 

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Jacqueline definitely also had some thoughts on what she likes most about Lancers. Her quote just perfectly sums it all up: “Number one would have to be the horses, I fell in love with this sport because of the animals! Next would have to be the community, I have never met a more welcoming and warm group of people!! Everyone is so supportive of each other and no matter what kind of day I have had outside of the barn, the moment I’m around the horses and the amazing people here, all of that fades away. I have met some of my best friends at this barn (Charlotte and I are practically attached at the hip as some may have noticed). Friendships outside of the barn have come and gone but the ones from Lancers have remained strong over the years because of that shared love for the horses. I also love all the skills I have learned at Lancers that translate to “the outside world”. This barn has taught me about hard work, determination, following your passion and a host of other things that most people don’t think about when you tell them you take riding lessons, you’re never getting JUST a riding lesson when you’re at this barn.”

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In a similar vein, Jacqueline’s wonderful experiences at Lancers over the years are clear to see as her response to our question about some of her favourite Lancer memories was met with, “How do I narrow that down?! There have been so many over the years”. Again, her answers are too great to splice so here they are in full!: “Some memories that I hold dear to my heart have only become really special to me as I’ve gotten older and thought about them. One would have to be my dad being “the horse show dad” for a bit when I was a teenager. He isn’t really a horse guy (likes them, will pet them but doesn’t want to ride or handle them). He wanted to come see me ride and help out around the barn so for a couple summers, we had him driving the horse trailer to and from the horse show. It was really special for me to get that time riding in a truck with my dad towing horses to shows. Some of my close friends have hilarious memories of my dad driving the trailer too and I love that.

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Along the same lines, my mom watched every single one of my rides for my first few years at Lancers. We didn’t have a nice heated viewing room back then so she would have to sit in the cold ring to watch during the winter. It’s one of those things you don’t appreciate as a kid but upon looking back at it, I realized she was never sitting there because she liked horses as much as me. Lancers is very special to my family in that sense, we still laugh and talk about times we’ve shared at the barn even though my parents were never “official” members of Lancers. Another major one would have to be performing the musical ride at the Fall Fair for Ian Millar; he gave us a standing ovation at the end. It was the coolest feelings ever to be sitting on a horse and looking up at my hero who was clapping for us. A lot of riders were graduating that year too so it was going to be their last time in the musical ride. It was such an emotional night, from the stress and chaos of trying to get ready to pulling off that near-perfect performance. You could really feel how everyone in that ride came together as a team and made it work, it felt amazing!”

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It is always such great fun to hear stories of good times in the past. For Jacqueline, we know that are also many bright things in her future. She is currently halfway through her first year of law school (Dalhousie) so we will get to keep for her at least the next 2 and a half years! While she will see where her career path takes her, she would like to stay in Halifax. In terms of “horse future”, Jacqueline would very much like to purchase her own horse after graduation. While she has leased horses over the year, she has never owned one and the accomplishment of purchasing her own will be, for Jacqueline, “the best feeling ever”!

Well, Jacqueline, we are so happy that throughout your life, you have chosen to make Lancers your second home. We are excited to see you take your next steps into your new career and are glad that Lancers can play a role in all of your success! Footnote: we also think that your love for Rainy makes a lot of sense because just like her, you are the sweetest!

MaryGwen Stackhouse is our Featured Volunteer of the Month!

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At Lancers, we are very fortunate to have not only devoted riders but dedicated parents who see how much their child enjoys riding and how much Lancers gives to their child and are consequently motivated to actively volunteer in the community. MaryGwen Stackhouse could not epitomise this more. MaryGwen has clearly fostered and encouraged her daughter Gracie’s passion for horses and in doing so, has chosen to participate in many volunteer activities. Gracie has been riding at Lancers for 8-9 years (see Gracie’s feature below) so MaryGwen has had the chance for her volunteer contributions to evolve as her daughter developed as a rider, starting at our beginner camp and moving up in rides. Early days included doing night hay, helping with hay and shavings deliveries, clean-up days, and even sponsoring the Downtown Horse Show. In more recent years, MaryGwen has also contributed by helping with Junior Executive fundraising, taking on the role of Parent Advisor for the Junior Executive, and a Musical Ride parent. Gracie and MaryGwen have even subsumed Lancers into their holiday tradition as they always volunteer to feed the horses early on Christmas morning! Going forward, MaryGwen will soon start her role as assistant to the Lancers’ Pony Club secretary and is excited to continue her role as a Musical Ride parent. (Don’t worry, MaryGwen hasn’t been able to sneak away from hay/shavings deliveries or night hay quite yet). In 2016, MaryGwen was even the recipient of our Bill Henry Award which is given to our top volunteer of the year.

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MaryGwen took some riding lessons as a child but is admittedly not a rider. That has never dissuaded her from getting involved in Lancers. For MaryGwen, Lancers is a worthwhile place to spend her (non-working) time because it has such a great community. She noted that she greatly values “the respect that all the riders all have for one another and their willingness to help each other”. In terms of volunteer roles, it is fair to say that MaryGwen adores the Musical Ride! She recalled seeing the Musical Ride before Gracie was involved and being so impressed. Now getting a first-hand glimpse on the inside, MaryGwen added, “it is amazing to see the hard work that the junior riders put into it. Sometimes practices don’t go well but when they put on that red jacket for the performance, it all just comes together”. “It is a huge commitment for the girls to put in…on top of everything else”, she added; “performance days are long and they start on foot practices in April. The whole thing is such a wonderful spectacle. With 16 of them on big horses actually performing to music, it is a routine. As Musical Ride parent (a task shared with another parent volunteer), she was in charge of sound and music, for fitting the girls with their uniforms, and making sure they stay on task and have everything they need.

As we do for all our features, we asked MaryGwen who her favourite horse is and she easily replied, “Sarge!” She did add that it is very hard to have a favourite horse because they are all great horses but she has a great connection with Sarge: “it is just the way he recognises me when I come in…he knows he is always going to get a treat and as soon as he sees me, he makes a noise and raises his head”. We also asked MaryGwen about a favourite memory she has of Lancers. Her parental pride expectantly shone through as she chose the day that Gracie won first on Oliver in a show and the first time she saw her at the gorgeous property in Chester (Coveside) and all the shows as the riders are all so supportive of each other. While she noted that “seeing [Gracie] with a smile on her face when she is in her element” is always a highlight, MaryGwen explained that “the atmosphere and the community at Lancers have flourished in recent years”. Of Lancers she described, “this is the place that has the friendships that last for a lifetime. This is the place…and to have it so close to home...it is so nice!”

Now, we know that MaryGwen does a lot at Lancers but would prefer to quietly work behind the scenes (so she had some hesitations about being so publicly featured). But we think it is important to recognise that she comes to Lancers (she also watches each of Gracie’s lessons we might add) and will do whatever she needs to do. She likes being with horses and is committed to learning more about them. She is even working on all the horse terminology and is starting to recognise flying lead changes and leg yields! We’re sure she is going to be quite the expert by the time Gracie graduates high school next year. MaryGwen plans to continue to be a committed Lancer volunteer as it is a rewarding place, especially because of the people because, as she said, “everyone has a smile on their face, they are friendly and it is a happy place”. Until then, we are lucky to continue having MaryGwen as a dedicated Lancer volunteer.

When MaryGwen isn’t spending time at Lancers, she enjoys walking her dogs, spending time with her family, and continuing her community dedication on a broader scale in the form of Charity Challenges. In August 2015, she was part of a group of 60 Royal LePage real estate agents, brokers and family members from across Canada that took part in a once-in-a-lifetime charity experience...trekking to Machu Picchu. Together, they raised close to $500,000 in support of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, with proceeds to benefit women’s shelters that provide safety and hope to women and children fleeing domestic violence. The funds that MaryGwen raised went to Alice Housing. She had to raise at least $5000 to participate and pay for the trip and costs associated with the trip yourself. She was unable to participate in the Iceland Trek this summer but hopes the challenge in 2019 is on the cards!

MaryGwen, we are always happy to see you come through those front doors (much like Sarge is!) or be sitting in the viewing room on rail side. We appreciate your hard work at Lancers and how you set a great example of giving so much and contributing to causes but never asking or expecting recognition.

 

Featured Junior Rider of the Month is Sara Whittaker! 

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The first thing that stands out about Sara is her partnership with Chevy. He has been her favourite horse for years and years and she has been a committed Chevy riders from the get-go. All the hard work she has put into him has certainly paid off. It is hard to picture Sara on any other horse and equally, it is hard to think of Chevy without Sara. We are happy to have Sara as our featured junior rider of the month for February as it gave us a good chance to reflect on her years at Lancers as she will be moving on to university away from Nova Scotia in September.

Sara is another great example of how many of our riders start their riding careers in the Junior Beginner course and stay at Lancers until they graduate high school. Sara started riding when she was 8 or 9. She came to the Lancers summer camp and the joined the waitlist for the Junior Beginner course. After a year’s wait, she received a Christmas present to start riding at Lancers (it was evidently and perhaps expectantly a very, very long-term Christmas present)! While Sara has now been riding at Lancers for ten years, she has spent the past five riding Chevy. This year Sara even worked three jobs this summer (and still works one) so she could lease Chevy! This means that Sara gets to enjoy four rides a week with Chevy (in Ride 1 and 3x).

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Over the years, Sara has participated in many of the “extra-curriculars” offered at Lancers. She has done training shows and off-property shows (competing in the 2’6” hunters), she has participated in clinics and has worked as a stablehand too. Sara is always a great help for shavings and hay deliveries and she is well known for her role in the Musical Ride! While learning so much about riding and horses, for Sara, Lancers has also been a great way to meet people – people from different schools, or people of different ages. Lancers has fostered many great friendships. In fact, Sara says that the part she enjoys most about Lancers (of course, in addition to the horses) is the people. She said, “I like that you can continue to ride with the same people and can get really close with people who you started riding with”. Sara mentioned that she started the beginner course with Caroline and still rides with her in Ride 1. She also emphasised the fact that Lancers is great because “we do everything here for the horses. We groom our horses, we clean their tack, we care for them, and we do it for the love of horses”.

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Sara is certainly known for her awesome sense of humour. She can be sarcastic and sly when she jokes (even if you aren’t always sure she is joking)! This certainly comes out when she is hanging out at the stables with her fellow Lancers. One of the best parts of Sara’s day is when she and her fellow riders walk over from school and the whole locker room fills with chatter and laughter! For Sara, Lancers is definitely a mood changer. She elaborated: “if I’m having a bad day, I come to the barn and it is all good”. It also reminds her of all the times that they used to sit on the heater and just chat for hours. Another great memory that flooded in was when Sara used to ride Pumba when she was much younger. Sara recounted that he used to try to step on her feet so she would get Barb to sit on a stool in front of him until she was finished grooming!  

As Sara begins to think about her next adventure, she thought about how Lancers has influenced her life over the years. In a practical way, according to Sara, Lancers has made her a much more social person and it has been a wonderful chance to meet new people in other rides and to have a lot of wonderful mentors – from instructors, to barn monitors, to other riders. “Overall”, Sara said, “it makes me a happier person”. Sara is such a great example of how “all that time spent at the barn” really proves to be so good for the soul, especially young ones who can have something to keep them focused and grounded (and keeps everyone out of trouble too!). Sara also likes that Lancers “is such an old organisation with so many alumni. I have a family friend who used to ride here and she told me about how she used to Pony Club here. It isn’t a new place and it has a lot of history with Halifax”. She noted that Lancers has taught her great time management skills, responsibility, and perseverance. She could not have summed it up any better when she said, “Lancers taught me that you have to work for what you get. It changed my life”. Sara went further to say that it was important to her many people have great respect for Lancers. “It is a humbling place to be”, she said, “I am proud to be a Lancer”.

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 Well Sara, you must remember that even as you head off to university in September, “once a Lancer, always a Lancer”. We wish you all the best as you embark on your sciences degree (fingers crossed for the University of Guelph)! We feel thankful that we were able to see your love of horses develop into the long-term goal of working with animals, either as a veterinarian or as an animal physiotherapist. We know that you will miss Chevy (and us, right?!) but we can’t wait to hear all about your successes and we look forward to welcoming you back for the Christmas Alumni Ride 2018!

Our Featured Horse of the Month is Punkin!

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Punkin came to us in 2003 and she is an adorable roan QH/Appaloosa pony. She has a stout body and short, skinny little legs and some of our young riders say “it looks like she has orange spots on her”. Her show name is Point Taken. While Punkin spent many years in her youth being one of our top show ponies, she now spends her days taking care of beginner riders. Both kids and adults enjoy riding Punkin and she is much beloved in our camp program and our beginner courses. She is best known for her extremely smooth trot and a speedy canter and there’s always a fight over Punkin for a bareback class at a training show. She always ends up with some of the most elaborate Halloween costumes because of her unflappable nature! There are few things that even in her later years that Punkin continues to get excited about. One of them is anytime she gets to spend time on trails, like during our Salmon River camp, as well as when it is time to canter in the Musical Ride. Punkin is one of our most valued HALTR horses and has helped many people over the years with special needs improve their strength, co-ordination, and confidence. She acts as a reminder to everybody that even the safest of horses can occasionally nip their riders! We have been very fortunate to have Punkin in our Lancer team for so many years!

Our Featured Staff Member of the Month is Saskia Felderhof!

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Saskia is one of our stablehand extraordinaires and we have been fortunate to have Saskia as part of the Lancers team for over a year. Saskia starts her day at the barn at 6:30am and as a morning person, she finds this early start easy. This also means that her job is done by the time most riders get to the stables each day. Even though riders might not see her on a daily basis, we hope that the whole Lancer community is very aware of Saskia's presence, not only because she takes such great care of the horses but because she is a wonderful person who genuinely believes in the uniqueness of the Lancer community.

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Saskia is a very experienced horseperson and we never doubt that our horses are in the best of hands. Not only did Saskia used to have her own horses (she owned three horses in her past riding career), but she also competed in the low hunters and started and trained her last horse who was pretty green. Her other jobs in the horse industry have included an A-circuit groom and jobs managing barns. Managing one barn with over forty hours came with tones of responsibility, especially as a show barn, she had to work to keep both the horses and their owners happy. "That's why I am such a perfectionist", she explained. At Lancers, Saskia gets to focus on the overall horse care. This includes cleaning stalls, giving the horses fresh water, hay, and grain, and also administering any medications when necessary and caring for injuries and wounds. She ensures the horses get turn out time and ensures the stables has all the necessary supplies including hay, shavings, medicine, and medical products. In all, Saskia is tasked with keeping all the Lancer horses going and keeping them in tip-top spirt and health!

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When asked she enjoys most about Lancers, Saskia was quick to proclaim that she is very happy to be partnered with such a great co-worker (Elizabeth) and that they work really well as a team. She definitely also enjoys working with the horses. If she *really* had to choose a favourite horse it would be Reese because he is so sweet. She elaborated, "he tries to be such a good horse. He is very different from other horses as he just wants to please. He is very polite and when he has been feel sick, he is the perfect patient and he is always just so gentle". While all her jobs have involved horses, Saskia noted that those jobs have been about working with horses in rural areas. Being downtown in a historic building with so many traditions is a very unique working experience according to Saskia. On this, Saskia explained that Lancers is so different from other places in the way that the Lancer community all pulls together to run it: "there are so many hands involved to make this place work and that's because it is a non-profit rather than a privately owned stable". Something else that Saskia notices about Lancers is that people start riding here and stay for a long, long time. She is amazed by some of the adult riders who have been here for 15-20 years which says a lot about the organisation. She also finds it endearing that junior riders who start in the beginner course stay on and then move up into the J-rides when they reach university. That longevity is something very special to Lancers.

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Since Saskia is always the first person at the barn on weekdays, we just had to ask her about fun facts about Lancers that many people wouldn't know. According to her, the best time is in the morning when all the horses are fed their breakfast and they are all happily munching on their hay and grain by 7am. "I really like that alone time in the morning with them", she added. The horses evidently love their morning time with Saskia too. In fact, Saskia has noticed that Sarge always listens for her to get out of her car in the morning. He whinnies and then the moment she opens the barn door she is greeted by 26 other whinnies and neighs! "It is a nice greeting party every morning", she quipped! (Feeding oneself or breakfast to a family everyday by 7am can be enough for most of us let alone 27 big mouths)! One morning Saskia came into stables (which were pitch black without the lights on) and when she flicked on the lights who did she see but Sarge standing right in front of Jakey's stall! Sarge is such a big horse and is very clever so if you don't double clip his door, he knows how to open it himself! The sight was quite a surprise to Saskia as Sarge lives on the other side of the stables but it also led her to wonder...what other mischief do they get up to at night? Hay throwing? Bucket knocking? Late night chats? It is an endearing reminder that our Lancer horses sure do have their own personalities and our community would simply not exist without them!

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When Saskia isn't taking care of our lovely Lancer horses, you can find her taking lots of walks and hikes with her dog Melly. Saskia is quite artsy and also loves photography and refurbishing or "upcycling" furniture! We hope that everyone knows Saskia and has the chance to thank her for all of her hard work and dedication to Lancers and the horses. She is a great source of expertise and information which she is happy to share and this is fundamental to the Lancer spirit of helping others to develop their horsemanship. We are so very lucky to have Saskia and she truly is a member of the Lancer Team. (To read more on Saskia, check out her website profile here: ) 

 

Our Featured Adult Rider of the Month is Paul LaFleche

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For the month of December, we are featuring Paul LaFleche as our adult rider of the month. Paul rides in A2 on Thursday nights and has been riding with us for three years! Although he rode at the National Equestrian Park in Ottawa when he was 30, Paul enrolled in the adult beginner course a few years ago and then joined our membership. Anyone at the stables on Thursday nights knows that Paul’s favourite horse is Bud! According to Paul, Bud is the best because he is very experienced, has a good speed and canter, is calm, and takes care of every rider. This year, Paul achieved his NSEF rider level 2 and he hopes to complete level three next year and hopes to eventually get back to jumping which he used to do years ago!

 Paul and Bud!

Paul and Bud!

Many people will know Paul because he is always enthusiastically helping out around the barn, particularly with hay and shavings deliveries, barn clean-up days, and giving tours at our Open House days. You may also know Paul because he can often be seen cycling (or rollerblading) home from the stables all year round. He says there is nothing better than cycling home after a ride because it is so relaxing and you can think and see the world around you. He lives in a heritage home in the Hydrostone so it is a good fair hike too! One of the reasons Paul likes riding is because it requires very different muscles and discipline from any other sport and it trains you in a different way. Paul would know because he also plays ice hockey once or twice a week – balance is key to both though!

 A younger Paul! 

A younger Paul! 

Paul has a PhD in electro-magnetic wave propagation (…huh?...) and currently works for the provincial government. He is also the proud father of twelve-year-old twin girls who have both ridden at Lancers. One of his favourite memories from Lancers is when his daughter Ruth was in a fun-show and rode in the $5 bareback class. She won the class and won the $5 from all the other riders for a total of $35! For Paul, the Lancer’s sense of comradery is also important; he enjoys the fact that riders help each other out. He also enjoys those nice days of riding outside and having people walking along looking at the horses. He likes the way that the horses are integrated into the life of the city. He added, “it is very rare that you would have a riding ring in the centre of a city and people can drive or walk by and see riding. It is a valuable thing and people take it for granted”.

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One of Paul’s memories of Lancers (before he was a Lancer) was when we had the riding ring across the road where Citadel High School now stands. He said that so many Haligonians have memories of the traffic stopping on Bell road so the Lancers could cross the street. “You rarely see people riding in the city or grazing a horse near a provincial museum. It is a completely different experience”, he added. We really appreciated hearing Paul’s insight as sometimes we forget how unusual it is to have horses in the centre of the city. Paul would know because he has moved across Canada for work (in the government, academia, and the private sector) including Ottawa and Toronto (Ontario), Montreal (Quebec), Churchill (Manitoba), Uranium City (Saskatchewan), Tuktoyaktuk (Northwest Territories), and Nanisivik (Nunavut). He liked working in the North when he was young but he moved to Middleton, Nova Scotia in 1994 and to Halifax in 1999. When Paul isn’t riding, cycling, or working you can find him doing puzzles…perhaps a big horse puzzle would be a nice holiday gift J Thanks, Paul, for all that you bring to Lancers!

 

Our Featured Volunteer of the Month is Melissa Trenbirth!

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Melissa contributes so much to Lancers and does it in such a humble way. She often works behind the scenes and so this month, we are paying her the credit she is certainly due! Melissa is one of our longstanding riders (27 years to be exact) as she has been at Lancers since 1990! She started riding as a child in New York and her family moved to Nova Scotia when she was around 10. One summer in NS, she even had her own horse! Like many other riders, she took a break from riding throughout university. When she graduated from her teaching degree in 1989, she was substitute teaching in Halifax and decided to get back into riding. She had always wanted to return to the saddle but was just too busy. Since she hadn’t ridden for so long, Melissa decided to enroll in the adult beginner course in 1990. From there, she went straight into our adult ride and has been riding at Lancers ever since. Remarkably, she has only had three breaks from riding, two for when she was pregnant with both her children (they were born in the winter and she returned to riding the following Septembers), and the other from an injury! Melissa noted she rode Freddie early on in both of her pregnancies because he took care of her.

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Over these many years, Melissa has served Lancers in many different capacities. She has served as a Board member, she used to do publicity for Lancers, and would help with the Downtown Horse Show. She also readily participated in more day-to-day (but hugely important tasks!) like helping with fundraisers, canteens, clean-up days, BBQs, night hay, painting, Musical Ride, and many random jobs at horse shows and events. She has even done the odd snowstorm feed and she most certainly recommends Christmas night hay to anyone. “There’s something so special about it”, she added. Most recently, Melissa organised this year’s Christmas party silent auction and will be also doing so for our upcoming Wine and Cheese event. For Melissa, volunteering at Lancers is so special because there is such a huge reward in immediately seeing how your contributions support the organisation. She elaborated that while with other volunteer efforts you can’t always see the difference it makes, “at Lancers you can paint something and walk past often or when you feed the horses, you can see that importance. You are supporting both the riders and the animals. You can see where your efforts go and you can see the connectedness of Lancers”.

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We are very fortunate that Melissa has chosen to spend much of her time at Lancers. Over the last ten years she has certainly spent a lot of time at the stables as her daughter Claire also became a rider at Lancers (and is currently in Ride 1 and is an instructor). It is so clear to see the magic as both mother and daughter share the same love of riding (and the same horse, Maggie - but we’ll get back to that). Melissa fondly recalled the times when she used to bring Claire down to the stables: “I used to bring her down in her little snowsuit and would carry her around and show her the horses as she got older.” As a child, Claire soon indicated that she wanted to ride and while Melissa told her that she didn’t have to ride “just because Mummy does”. Claire was steadfast in her decision and look at her now!

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When asked what she enjoys most about Lancers, Melissa easily answered, “Lancers is about the love of horses and it shows. Our horses’ well-being is the top priority and as a small organisation, it is a community where people know each other and there is a comfort in working and socialising together”. Her favourite memories of Lancers include those very proud moments of watching her daughter and so many talented young riders in Musical Ride, competitions, and lessons develop their skills and confidence. Melissa herself has certainly been continuing to hone her skills. Melissa and Claire have had Maggie for a year now and Melissa has enjoyed the learning experience of riding a young horse and the challenge of getting to know a horse so well. While Claire is off to university next year, Melissa will keep riding Maggie at Lancers. When we asked where Melissa sees herself going in the future she quipped “the Olympics!” and then quickly added the softer, less joking thought that “maybe far, far down the road, [she’ll] be bringing a grandchild to the barn”. Until then, Melissa will continue her professional life and perhaps sneak in a trip back to Greece. She also intends to continue her other hobbies of “jogging – slowly” and her love/hate relationship with home renovation. Well, Melissa, we hope you keep volunteering at Lancers on that list because we truly do benefit from all of your skills and enthusiasm. We are fortunate to have you as a Lancer and we can’t wait for another twenty-seven years!

Our Featured Junior Rider of the Month is Caroline Fernandez!

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Just as one might expect to see at a school, there can historically be a sense that the youngest riders are timid around the eldest riders but Caroline exhibits the complete opposite. All the young riders at Lancers adore Caroline and she helps bridge any gap between younger and older riders by helping the young riders feel welcome and strongly connected to the Lancer family. Caroline rarely comes home from a horse show without significant winnings and has steadily moved up in the ranks over the years. Despite her success in the show ring, she knows how difficult this sport is and continues to work hard, is humble about her success, and encourages others around her to work hard too. Even with being involved in so many things at Lancers, Caroline is really strongly focused on becoming a more accomplished rider. She regularly takes private lessons and clinics and it’s an honour to take her to horse shows in the rest of the province where she can represent Lancers’ training so well being our top competitor. She even shares her horse with her Mum who rides him numerous times a week!

 Caroline in the Junior Beginner Course

Caroline in the Junior Beginner Course

Caroline has been riding for eight years. She began the Beginner Junior Course at the age of nine and has been riding at Lancers ever since. Caroline has been in ride 1 for the past two-and-a-half years and she was just granted the Kenny Irving award for the top junior rider at Lancers - for the second year in a row! From her start until the beginner course until now, Caroline has developed and grown as a rider but also in terms of her well-rounded horsemanship skills. This year she even joined the Lancers team as an NCCP certified instructor. Since September she has been teaching rides 5, 10, and the junior beginner course on Saturday mornings.

Caroline’s many years of involvement in “extra-curricular” activities at Lancers certainly contributed to her strengths. She has worked as a stablehand, a barn monitor, and a full-time Lancers March Break and summer camp counsellor. This summer she was also a Leader-in-Training at our “sleep-away” rural camp, Salmon River and is the current Junior Executive President. She has volunteered her time in many activities at Lancers including hay and shavings deliveries, night hay, canteens, and clean-up days. Caroline joined the recently reopened Lancer Pony Club, has completed rider levels, and rode in the Musical Ride for six years, two of which she was the 1-1 leader.

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At Lancers, Caroline also got her start in showing. She began in on-property training shows and then progressed to showing all the Lancer ponies including Buddy, Punkin, Owen, and Tootsie! Tootsie, Caroline proclaimed, is her favourite Lancer horse because she likes her pony sassiness. The Caroline-Tootsie team made their revival this summer at the Downtown Horse Show (photographic evidence below). While Tootsie is Caroline’s favourite Lancer horse, her favourite horse of all time is her own, Jakey. Caroline was fortunate to purchase Jakey three years ago and bring him to Lancers. She now competes with Jakey in the jumper ring with numerous championships in the 1.15 division.

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As Caroline heads off to university next autumn, she hopes to be able to bring Jakey with her (we’re just not sure if she’ll have space in her dorm room). She would love to continue riding and has the goal of qualifying for 1.20 junior jumpers at the Royal Winter Fair next year and the CET Medal. She hopes to achieve her rider level 8 this year. While her time at Lancers as a junior rider may be coming to a close, we know Caroline will become a dedicated Lancer alumna and will be back next year for her Christmas alumni ride on Tootsie!

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When asked what she enjoys most about Lancers, Caroline was quick to note that she loves how much of a family it is and that everyone is connected even though people are of different ages. “The horses are really amazing here and it’s a really great place for learning everything that goes along with riding and taking care of horses”, Caroline added. She has valued the opportunity to gain a level of responsibility of taking care of horses. Although Caroline says she probably won’t miss the stack of red polo shirts in her drawer, she will miss Lancers when she graduates. She will miss the Lancer horses, all her friends, teaching the youngest riders, being able to walk from home to see her horse, and most definitely, sitting on the ledge and cuddling Jakey as he puts his head on her lap.

As Caroline soaks up her last year at Lancers, she can already see how her time here has shaped her life. On one hand, she said that she doesn’t know if she would have ever been able to be as involved with horses if she hadn’t had Lancers. On the other hand, Caroline’s love of biology and her experiences with horse healthcare has inspired her to pursue a university education in sciences for the long-term goal of entering into pre-med or pre-vet. Whether Caroline ultimately ends up working with human or horse patients, we know that she will bring the same caring compassion in which she currently shows at Lancers with both the horses, her students, and her fellow riders.