Ryker Johnny of Tl’etinqox competes in the barrel racing event at the Tl’etinqox Horse Program Gymkhana. (Pearl Petal photo)

New Tsilhqot’in horse program reconnects youth with horses

“A long time ago, everyone on reserves grew up on horses. That is all everyone did was just ride.”

A new program aimed at strengthening the connection between Indigenous youth and horses wrapped up with the 1st Annual Tl’etinqox Gymkhana recently.

Hosted by the Horse Program, the gymkhana took place at the Petal’s Rodeo Grounds on Sept. 29 and showcased the horsemanship of many youth from each of the six Tsilhqot’in communities who participated in the program throughout the summer this year.

“A long time ago, everyone on reserves grew up on horses. That is all everyone did was just ride,” said Pearl Petal, whose family ranch was used for the site of the gymkhana. “If they weren’t riding, they were in wagons pulled by teams of horses. That was their only transportation. Everyone grew up happy. I just hope these youth keep up with the riding.”

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The Horse Program is a selection of riding, recreation, fun and horsemanship and is available for youth owning or having access to horses, and even those who don’t have access to horses. Petal said she was very impressed with the horsemanship skills shown by the youth, many of whom had never ridden before.

“Horseback riding provides an outdoor sports fitness for physical, personal and emotional development, including confidence building.“

For more information on this Horse Program and Gymkhana, contact Pamela Alphonse at Tl’etinqox Band Office at 250-394-4212.

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