One veteran will be riding all the way across the country. His name is Paul Nichols and his horse is Zoe. Paul will give Zoe a rest and ride Cowboy, Shakes or Skip some days… but Paul’s journey back into civilian life revolved a lot around finding a horse that was in search of him just as much as he was in search of her. Paul’s story will unfold as the ride continues across the country and he discovers more about himself on this epic journey to raise awareness for himself and his fellow veteran brothers and sisters who have worked hard for this country for the past three generations.
Terry has known Paul Nichols for over 25 years. She was his high school sweetheart, she saw him off to battle and she was there when he returned. After 25 years of marriage, Terry has became a mother of two who is trying to find her way through years of undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder issues bleeding into her home life; not to mention her own battle back after a life threatening accident with her horse. When you meet Terry, you immediately sense that she is not the type of woman to give up. She didn’t give up on her love when he returned a different person from war and she didn’t give up on herself when she had to use a walker to get back on her horse for the first time. Terry is the type of person who when the first signs of spring came around after her accident, she threw herself out of her wheelchair to plant the seedlings that would help lift her spirits, herself back into the saddle, and eventually back to walking again on her own two feet. Now Terry is on this journey across Canada as a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and it is her job to give the lessons to the veterans who wish to be a part of the ride. She has the honour of being a very integral part of The Ride Across Canada as it is up to Terry to take beginner riders to a safe level and to ensure the safety of both veteran and horse throughout the ride.
At age eight, Kirsten decided she didn’t want to go to school. So her military Dad said, “Fine. If you don’t go to school, you dig.” And he didn’t mean the ol’ seventies saying… “ya, dig?” He meant he would stand over top of his daughter for seven hours in the bitter cold of a Quesnel April day as she scraped away the surface of a clay hole about four feet square in the back of their farm. Kirsten dug… and she dug… and she dug. Through bouts of determination and retaliation, she persevered. After the day was done and she and her father sat down to rest, Paul said, “Kirsten, you know why I made you dig, right? If you don’t go to school, that’s the type of job you will have.” Kirsten never missed another day of school. On The Ride Across Canada, Kirsten gets up the earliest every day to feed the horses, muck the stalls, tack up the horses and exercise them to get them ready for lessons. She helps prepare meals for the crew and tosses in a hand keeping watch of the Crew Kids when they need it.
The crew member that isn’t a crew member. Jerry is a Swiss carpenter, driver, musician and wonderful human. Learning about Paul’s ride during a farm stay last year, Jerry asked Paul and Terry if he could go back to Switzerland and then return to join them on The Ride Across Canada. Jerry was instrumental in the organization of The Ride in the beginning by building the mobile tack room and he continues to keep himself busy setting up and taking down the Administration Camp, keeping water, propane, gas, groceries and all of the other supplies stocked up. He is learning logistics very quickly as he races around with a truck and trailer picking up riders and horses and getting everyone to the beginning and home from the end of The Ride each day. In the evenings, you can be sure to hear his yodeling as he prepares risotto for the team and around the fire at the very end of the night, his talents really shine as he breaks into song with his accordion. Terry joins him on the flute and sometimes on the guitar and the team finally relaxes to the mixed sounds of popular music with a oompa pa twist.
A lover of horses from the very beginning and the Editor of a local newspaper on Vancouver Island, Lindsay has a multitude of skills that fit in from the very beginning. She has been known to be seen helping muck out stalls with her phone hanging off her ear busy scheduling interviews! She quietly busies herself around the camp, scheduling riders, conducting interviews, gathering stories and all the while making sure everyone is keeping their head on straight by bringing food to another crew member that forgets to eat.
“Go big or go home” has been Cathleen’s motto since getting her first tattoo back in 1997. So joining in with Paul and Terry and their big idea to change the face of Canadian veterans was a simple decision. Using her experience and knowledge from over two decades in the music industry, she transformed from getting musicians across the country to horses… not much of a difference. They take the road less traveled, the scenery is always changing and there is a lot to clean up after every event. Her capacity to handle details and make quick informed decisions made her a perfect fit to field all the scheduling, logistics and day to day management of operations for The Ride Across Canada. Ask her anything! Except the names of the riders… that’s Lindsay’s department.
Every rider that joins The Ride Across Canada is a veteran. Our goal to help Canada recognize contemporary veterans means that we are putting as many veterans of today in the saddle and riding them throughout their own communities. We take their picture and gather their story to give Canada over 700 examples of who veterans are, what their stories are like and how they transitioned back into civilian life. Guest riders range in age, rank and service from 93 and serving in World War II to 23 and serving in Afghanistan. Take the time to read through their stories and the stories of serving members, war survivors, war widows, surviving parents and the children of our service men and women.