Horses and riders arrive at the Prince County Exhibition groups in Alberton Monday after a 20 kilometer ride from St. Felix. The Trailblazers have another 125 kilometers to go before they complete their expedition on Thursday.
From left are Rose McFadden, Emma Gallant, Ashlyn Cormier, Jolynn Graham and Ashley Crombie. They are riding, respectively, Fancy, Prize Dawson, Arrow and Image.
Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
ALBERTON – Green Cart day in Alberton proved to be the biggest challenge Monday for some of the young riders on the first leg of their 145-kilometre horseback riders. Five Trailblazers with the Handibear Hills Horse Sanctuary Youth Club are using the ride to help fulfill the requirements of their Duke of Edinburgh Challenge Program.
They left St. Felix shortly before 10 a.m. Monday and arrived at the Prince County Exhibition Fair Grounds in Alberton just after 2 p.m., travelling mostly cross-country and on dirt roads where possible. The horses were being stabled at the fairgrounds Monday night and their riders were staying with them.
Today, Tuesday, the group will ride to Port Hill, travelling mostly along Highway 12.
Big transfer trucks are a concern admitted Ashley Crombie, 22, who was riding Image, 15.
“You have to talk to them,” she said of the need to keep their horse calm. “I just say, ‘easy girl.’”
Crombie said of her steady-on-the-reins approach.
Yogi Gamester, who runs the Handibear Hills Horse Sanctuary, currently with 20 rescue horses, said the participants organized the Duke of Edinburgh Challenge themselves, right down to planning the food, supplies and on-site lodging for the four-day, three night expedition.
Although the girls were hungry and tired at the end of their first-day ride, she watched as they went through their routine of caring for their horses.
“When you do an expedition like this with the horses the first major concern is the health of the horses,” she stressed.
“Their first job is to make the horses comfortable before they get to eat; nobody gets to eat until the horses are comfortable.”
Three of the riders were working on their Duke of Edinburgh gold challenge and two novice riders were hoping to earn their bronze challenge.
“My horse is scared of garbage cans,” observed Fancy’s rider, Rose McFadden. “It seems like it’s garbage day for Alberton.”
She said traffic wasn’t so much of an issue with her horse. “It is a bit nerve-racking when vehicles don’t slow down,” she said, but added, “We made it through.”
Most drivers, though were courteous.
Gamester said a driver of a Midland truck even stopped at the top of a hill and then rode slowly past the riders.
Day One was already the longest expedition Emma Gallant has ever been on. She said she was confident setting out she could do it and the first day didn’t alter that.
Seventeen year-old Jolynn Graham, rider of Arrow, suggestd the completion of the ride will be an achievement to look back on with pride. She was also looking forward to camping out with the other riders and cooking their own meals over an outdoor fire.
The most special part of the first day for Ashlynn Cormier was seeing people at their windows and waving to the riders. Although her horse, Dawson, was strong and a bit of a challenge, Cormier said she was enjoying the experience.