Natasha Halliwell, Cochrane, AB – Sonja Burton English Rider Bursary Recipient
Natasha Halliwell started riding in England at seven years of age, intermittently taking part in a lesson program. When she turned 12 years old, Natasha asked the stable manager if she could exchange chores for riding privileges. This gave her the experience she needed to begin her British Horse Society (BHS) examinations.
Natasha eventually made the move to Alberta and, at the age of 40, purchased her very first horse. Her desire to become the best owner possible for her new mare prompted her to pursue rider level examinations. In 2019, Natasha successfully completed the Equestrian Canada (EC) Learn to Ride English program, earning her level eight certificate and badge.
Throughout this process, Natasha realized she also desired to become a certified NCCP Equestrian coach. Natasha says “The more people that we can have involved in the education of horses and equestrians in Alberta (that have proven their knowledge through certification), the more we will be able to allow for a safer and more knowledgeable environment for all equestrians – whether it be at a competition, simply schooling their horses at home, or trail riding. Knowledge and education is the key to safety for all.” In addition to this, Natasha also says, “Being an AEF member has given me the opportunity to be part of a team that is working towards continually improving the knowledge of equestrians; providing many different resources to do so, from equine oriented courses to certification and clinics. The English Learn to Ride program has taught me so many aspects in regards to not only riding, but also horse care. This knowledge is invaluable whether you are using it simply just for your own personal use or whether you wish to go on to teach people. Being taught by someone who is certified gives people the confidence that they are being taught by one of the best kinds of coaches out there.”
Natasha plans to use the bursary funds to attend future clinics with her daughter, to help them continue to learn within the Alberta equine community. In her spare time, Natasha volunteers at the local pony club in Delacour, AB and at small shows held at the barn where she boards. She looks forward to pursuing her own coach certification later this year.
Martha Wolf, La Crete, AB – Charlene Baker Western Rider Bursary Recipient
Martha Wolf grew up on a farm near a remote hamlet in northern Alberta in the 1980`s where there were few opportunities to compete or grow as an equestrian. She had always wanted to learn more about horse handling and yearned for more riding experience. Although she was not able to participate in groups such as 4-H, Martha’s family owned horses and the children were taught basic horse handling at home by their father, and she learned from her mistakes. As a child and well into adulthood, Martha continued to be drawn to horses. She and her husband purchased an acreage and started their family – she decided to give up horses for several years.
In 2010, Martha connected with an NCCP Equestrian Canada (EC) certified coach in Valleyview, AB where she purchased 2 horses. This coach generously gave her a free one-hour lesson on each horse at the time of purchase, and Martha was amazed at the coach’s ability to help her. This inspired her find a coach in her area, enroll in a lesson program, and work through the EC Western Learn to Ride levels.
In 2019, Martha successfully completed the EC Western Learn to Ride level four exam. She states, “The Western Learn to Ride program has helped me grow as a rider and confirmed a belief in me in which the care, health and welfare of the horse comes first. I have always enjoyed riding and caring for horses but now with the basic skills I have learned, I can fully enjoy it more because I can now understand what I can expect from my horse. Training with a certified instructor/coach has helped me learn to evaluate my horse’s physical fitness, my physical fitness, his knowledge, my knowledge, his temperament, conformation and training, then determine what we are able to do, how, why and for how long. This newfound knowledge and understanding has changed how I ride any horse and how I help others ride their horses.”
Martha is passionate and believes that equestrian education, as well as rider and athlete development, can be advanced in Alberta by reaching into remote towns and small hamlets and setting up workshops and day camps for beginners. She states, “We need more coaches in the north. When certified coaches teach at clinics, it gives us direction and a path with a program to follow. These programs encourage others to become coaches and to pass on the knowledge which is taught in the program. I feel the hands-on teaching, together with the books and programs one can purchase and follow, is what drew me to the NCCP equestrian programming. In addition to this, being a member of AEF has benefited me by making me feel like I am part of a group of equestrians of all disciplines even though I do not live in an area where there are seasonal shows and countless clinics to choose from.”
Martha’s future plans include becoming an NCCP Equestrian Canada certified coach and building a school for beginners to learn to ride at her barn.
To learn more about Bursaries, Scholarships, and Funding available to AEF community members, please visit our website.