Emma Penner loves horses and the three weeks she spent on the Communities for Veterans/The Ride Across Canada (CFV/TRAC) were, in her words “amazing.”
As a neighbour of Pen-y-Bryn Farm south of Quesnel, she often brought her own horse to the therapeutic riding facility and would pitch in and help around the place.
When Paul and Terry Nichols began discussions of their CFV/TRAC, Emma was part of those discussions, where they went as far to invite her to participate on a leg of the journey somewhere across the continent.
Emma was excited.
The best place for her connect with the ride was between Regina and Winnipeg where the Penners have relatives. Her first leg of the journey was riding into Regina with Paul and seven other riders.
“It was crazy, Regina hadn’t seen rain in about three months but during our ride we had a torrential downpour,” Emma said.
“The vets had to get off their horses and walk there was so much rain.”
Over the next three weeks, Emma fell into the daily routine of life on the road with CFV/TRAC. Every Thursday she’d ride with Paul and on the other days she’d help look after horses beginning with a 5:30 a.m. rising to tend to the horses, then back to bed for a couple of hours before it was time to tack up the horses for that day’s ride.
“There was never a moment to relax, there was always something to do,” she said.
However, she loved every minute of it.
Exercising the horses that weren’t being ridden, Emma worked closely with one horse named Pepsi.
“She taught me so much. Working with a personality like Pepsi I really learned a lot about ground and saddle work. Unfortunately, Pepsi wasn’t experienced enough and had to be sent back.”
Sleeping arrangements were sometimes pretty haphazard and moving the camp every few days became a real learning experience for Emma but she’s young and adaptable and was loving the whole adventure.
“I met so many great people including veterans,” she said.
“You figure these vets do what they do and rarely get thanked. I was riding with a vet in a small town where kids help up a big thank you sign. The vet began to cry and admitted that was the first time he’d ever been thanked.”
All the experiences were on the road on the back of a horse.
Emma remembered spending time on a Hutterite settlement where they opened their communal arms to Paul, Terry and the entire CFV/TRAC crew.
“We also spent four nights at Keystone, a luxury farm with an amazing barn,” she said.
“There was a miniature pony show on at the time.”
One experience that had a profound effect on Emma was at another huge barn where Emma discovered a newborn batch of kittens. The next day, as they were getting ready to leave, Emma found only one kitten still alive. They decided to take the kitten with them and try and save it. At the next stop, Sage Hills, the owner, a veterinarian, helped them doctor the kitten but it unfortunately also died.
“There was a native woman who took the kitten to a stone circle and said special prayers and ceremonies to send it to it’s afterlife. I learned from the vet not only what to do when trying to save animals, but I also learned about the aboriginal culture and it’s importance.”
When asked about her favourite moment in her three weeks on the road, Emma thought for a moment and said it was a night in just another of the many small towns they stopped in.
“We were in an arena and we let the horses loose, then began doing natural horsemanship which is responding to the horses, leaping over the horses and just being in tune with them. It reminded me of being at home. We were working with the horses without ropes or tack, just our body language and natural communication.”
Now that she’s back home in Quesnel, Emma is a strong supporter of the ongoing CFV/TRAC and if possible, should they do another ride, she’d love to be there from start to finish.