PARDS began in 1984 as the South Peace Therapeutic Riding Association, an organization operating on a part time basis consisting of borrowed horses and facilities, and driven entirely by kindhearted and dedicated volunteers.
In the beginning, we had 4 children riding twice each week. Within a year we were supplying lessons for approximately 25 riders and were expecting to expand every year as a result of the demand for our program and the generosity and support of our community.
On March 19th, 1985 we were incorporated as a Non-Profit Society and in 1988 we took the name Peace Area Riding for the Disabled Society and began using the acronym of PARDS.
After our incorporation we hired our first staff member, a Program Coordinator, and started down the road to becoming the full time facility we are today.
Throughout the remainder of the 80s, PARDS continued to grow and support from the community grew alongside us. By 1990, PARDS had about 120 volunteers, seven horses and was serving about 50 riders; in addition, plans were in the works to build a facility of our own.
In 1992, thanks to a donation of 20 acres of land by the Haberman family, and armed with a private donation of $100,000 along with $50,000 raised by the organization, PARDS started construction of a 100 by 110 foot building containing a barn, indoor arena, rider lounge and office area. The total cost of this new facility was approximately $250,000 with the remaining $100,000 supplied as Gifts in Kind and donated labour. This facility enabled PARDS to operate year round and meant that we had the capacity to serve double the then current 64 riders.
The new facility was completed and the first lesson was held in January of 1994. In June we held the first summer camp and began daytime lessons. Also under development were an 80 by 200 foot outdoor arena and fenced paddocks and pastures utilizing the entire 20 acre plot of land.
By the end of 1995, PARDS employed 2 full time and 2 part time instructors and had about 100 volunteers. We served over 70 riders from Grande Prairie and surrounding areas.
In 1998, we installed a lift system in the indoor arena thanks to a grant from the Alberta Paraplegic Foundation. This system facilitated mounting for riders with limited mobility.
In 1999 a hay storage shed was added to the property though the generous support of the Grande Prairie Rotary Club and volunteered labour. At this time PARDS had about 70 therapeutic riders and approximately 120 regular volunteers.
Throughout the next 6 years, PARDS client base increased by 174% due to the ability to increase program hours and partnerships with local schools. These schools recognized the benefit of including therapeutic horseback riding into the therapeutic curriculum of many of their students of all abilities.
In 2007 the County of Grande Prairie awarded PARDS with a long term lease on 55 acres of land adjacent to Evergreen Park and in the spring MC Pardell Contracting and Risely Equipment donated the clearing of part of the land for our future site.
2008 was a busy year, with PARDS serving over 350 riders in a year in lessons and inclusive summer camps. We utilized over 11,000 volunteer hours over the course of the year and employed 5 full time and 4 part time staff.
Following 2008, PARDS programs continued at full capacity. Efforts raising funds and strategizing the development of the new PARDS facility on the site next to Evergreen Park began to be a focus. We broke ground May 2013 and are looking forward to moving into the facility in 2016.
Our new home will triple PARDS’ capacity. The site includes an indoor riding arena which will accommodate simultaneous lessons, a fully functional barn for both program and public use, main floor and mezzanine level spectator seating, meeting and program rooms and outdoor riding arena and pastures. The facility was designed for efficiency, practicality and to meet the long term needs of the community. The design also incorporates increased capacity for revenue generating funding streams such as public horse boarding, arena rental and public riding programs to allow PARDS to take a proactive role in ensuring ongoing sustainable funding for our therapeutic programs.
Since inception, PARDS has relied on the generosity and support of the community in providing our programs and services.
To generate funding, PARDS has organized numerous fundraisers over the years as well as partnered with other local organizations and non-profits. Some of the fundraising events we have held include golf tournaments, The Mane Event, a Jousting Tournament, Rotary Club Lottery partnerships (Dream Home, Cash and Camping and Cars for Christmas) and many others. In support of our programs and operations we also hold our Annual Fund Ride which has been a major fundraiser for PARDS and, since 1997, our Annual Dine and Dance event.
We have also been the beneficiary of the fundraising efforts of many local individuals and organizations.
In 2005, Tom Brown, a long time PARDS supporter, rode a horse 1000 miles from Beaverlodge to Spokane, Washington to raise money for the proposed move to a new facility by Evergreen Park. His goal was to raise $25,000 but he, and his supporters, raised over $50,000 for the project. The money was donated in the memory of Laura Doucet, Tom’s daughter. Also in 2005, we were chosen to benefit from the Safeway ‘We Care’ program which generated over $22,000 for our programs and operations.
In 2007, Sunrise Rotary generously donated over $9,000 to our New Facility Fund and in 2008, we were chosen by the Pomeroy family to benefit from their Pomeroy Arabian Stables International Grande Opening Open House. This event was successful in raising over $100,000 in support of programming, operations and our New Facility Fund. Many other families and organizations have made gifts to PARDS through internal company fundraisers, bequests, memorial donations, rider sponsorships, horse sponsorships and unsolicited donations.
Throughout our history, PARDS has been committed to assisting our riders to excel as athletes as well as individuals. By 1986, PARDS had set up a Special Olympics program and sent our first four riders to a Horse Show in Calgary.
In the summer of 1995 one of our therapeutic riders, Karine Meador, who had been riding at PARDS for about 5 years, had progressed to participating in her first Canadian Dressage Championship in Ontario. She earned a silver medal in the Walk, Trot & Canter category and began training with the National Team and earned a spot to compete in the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1997 Karine won Gold at the CanTRA National Dressage Championships and went on to ride for Canada at the World Championships in Denmark in 1999.
In 2000, PARDS rider, Lori Christopher, competed in Calgary at a Special Olympics Horse Show. She took first place in level IV pole bending, keyhole and barrel racing competitions and second in the flags event.
Since 2012, PARDS has supported 28 riders to participate in the Equine Canada Sea-to-Sea and Coast-to-Coast Video Competitions. Each year, more and more of our riders are participating and enjoying the experience of competitive sport.
After 30 years of service to our community, PARDS remains committed to providing recreational and athletic opportunities to therapeutic clients, helping them reach their goals and their full potential. We are ever thankful for the generosity and support shown by the Peace Area community and look forward to the next 30 years and beyond of continuing to serve our community.
PARDS has over 350 clients and we are committed to their development. It is thanks to our wonderful volunteers and myriad government, business and individual sponsors that we’re able to do this. Let us know if you’d like to get involved. We hold several unique fundraising events every year. We’d love to see you there!
Join the PARDS family! Whether you’d like to take one of our programs, volunteer (free membership,) or just make your support known, we’d be glad to have you. Sign up here.