Veteran treks across Canada on horseback to raise awareness

Veteran treks across Canada on horseback to raise awareness

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, Paul Nichols will mount his horse Zoe on the steps of Victoria’s legislature and begin his first day riding across Canada.

Nichols, a retired Corporal who served with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, and his wife Terry, have created the “Ride Across Canada” campaign to bring to the fore issues surrounding veterans integrating back into civilian life, and to remind Canadians that the profile of veterans is changing from the old to the young.

“We are on a mission to change the face of the typically understood Canadian veteran,” says Terry Nichols.

“So when Canadians think of veterans, they will also think of women and young men. A veteran could be your car mechanic or a nurse at your hospital. You just can’t tell by looking at someone what their history is; so we want to show communities who these people are. We want to tell their stories, and we hope this will bring the Canadian people a deeper understanding of the military world.”

The duo will ride for eight months from Victoria to Newfoundland, and stop at communities along the way to pick up veterans and currently serving Forces members.

Over 700 veterans are expected to join the pair who has been working with a small crew for the past nine months to plan the adventure.

The couple has organized horse facility administration stations every 150 kilometres nationwide, which will remain stationary for about five days within the various communities. These stations are where people can meet the couple and the horses.  

Horses have been in Paul and Terry’s lives for over 20 years.

The couple’s farm, Pen-Y-Bryn, just outside of Quesnel, is certified by the British Columbia Therapeutic Riding Association and the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association to provide emotional and mental support to special needs individuals.

Horses, says Terry, helped Paul’s transition back into civilian life.

“Before he cleared out of the military in 1997, he was able to easily connect to others in the military community, but once we returned to small town Quesnel, that’s when the transition became more difficult.”

Part of the problem, Paul says, is that younger generations of veterans are not easily recognized.

“I think the Canadian people love their troops. There’s no question in my mind about that. But the problem is that sometimes they don’t know who we are. They might believe that veterans are all older men who swarmed the beaches at Normandy; but we have three generations of veterans who have been serving here, who clear out and sometimes end up losing their way as they transition.”

It was Paul’s navigation of this transition that prompted them to come up with this idea of riding across Canada.

This eventually led to the establishment of their non-profit Communities for Veterans Foundation.

“I had to lift my head up and notice that people are protecting our country on my behalf,” says Terry.

“That’s the piece I want to rally about in this campaign. And even though I’m this peaceful soul, I can only live this life because someone is doing that hard work for me.”

Those interested in participating can register at www.communitiesforveterans.com  No previous riding experience is necessary to join.

Rachel Lallouz
Staff Writer

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