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.
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”.
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!
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!