June 22nd, 2024

Joanne Perlich Ride for Dreams remembers namesake

By Dale Woodard on September 22, 2021.

Jeanne White, at right, daughter of Joanne Perlich, gets ready to lead the ride at the 38th Annual Joanne Perlich Ride for Dreams Saturday afternoon at Pavan Park.

There was something extra to ride for as the 38th annual Joanne Perlich Ride for Dreams hit the trails.
Members of the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association gathered for the annual fundraising ride Saturday at Pavan Park.
After bearing Perlich’s name for the past six years, Saturday’s Ride For Dreams was also the first in memory of the ride’s namesake, who passed away in December.
Perlich’s daughter, Jeanne White said it was special to ride this year in honour of her mother.
“It feels more like a memorial ride this year. We’ve definitely had more family and friends reach out to sponsor my daughter and I’s ride with thoughts of mom this year. I think she’d be very pleased.”
Perlich’s work with horses and people planted the seeds for the LTRA back in the 1970s.
“Back in the mid-to-late 70s mom was a stay-at-home mom at that point supporting my dad with the auction market business,” said White. “But she made time in her life to work with other women, mostly, to get this program started. I remember them using our horses and setting the ramp up outdoors at our place and helping the riders right there. As the program grew, they moved to different facilities until they could eventually buy their own.”
The Ride For Dreams was originally called the Ride-A-Thon.
“We would loop the race track on a cold November day and get pledged per lap,” said White. “So the longer you rode the more money you would make. Thirty-eight years ago people might pledge you a dollar or two dollars per lap. So you would ride and ride and try to make as much money for the organization.”
Thirty-eight years after hitting the trails, the Annual Joanne Perlich Ride For Dreams continues to raise funds for equine therapy for both the physically and mentally disabled.
“The last few have been really good, we’ve raised anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000,” said Terry Sheen, board of directors for the LTRA.
That money goes directly into LTRA’s programs, said Sheen.
“We do some able-bodies classes, but we’ve worked with people who have a lot of physical disabilities or they might have intellectual disabilities (such) as Down Syndrome or ADHD. We also have a program Alberta Health Services is sponsoring right now where some of their mental health patients come out and that has been very impressive.”
For people with physical disabilities, the movement of the horse helps them, said Sheen.
“It loosens up their muscles and makes them a bit more flexible and it gives them a lot of confidence because you’re controlling a 1,200 pound animal.”
With mental health patients, Sheen said just being around horses is beneficial.
“I always knew horses had a calming effect on me because I’ve had my own horses for a long time, but to watch some of these people, the first session we had, they came in and their body language was closed, they were anxious. But by the end of the session they were laughing, it was just incredible.”
Among the riders on the windy Saturday ride was Emilee Vallely, who took a summer camp with the LTRA 10 years ago.
“I did lessons for a lot of years and I got my own horse and I’ve been riding ever since,” she said. “I needed to do something in the summer, so I registered for a summer camp with one of my friends and I’ve stuck with it all that time. The community is a lot of it. Everybody is really nice out there. Everyone is helpful.”
Now, Vallely and her quarter-horse, Marley, are on the competitive circuit.
“We ride every week and I barrel race now,” she said. “It was a good summer. We just went to Ponoka a couple weekends ago. I was in Sundre and a lot of local stuff like Stirling and places like that.”
Debbie Roslinksky and her horse, Abby, took part in their first Joanne Perlich Ride for Dreams last year.
It was an award-winning venture for the duo, who won a halter with “Ride 4 Dreams” inscribed on it for the amount of money they raised.
“It was our first year in the ride and it was awesome,” said Roslinksky, who boards at the LTRA. “I’ve been looking at it for quite a number of years, but the type of riding I was doing didn’t match trail riding. I was a dressage rider. I got hurt and started doing trails and at that point we decided it was time to start riding for Ride for Dreams. It’s such a good cause.
Abby, a 13-year-old Arab quarter-horse, has a connection with children and special needs people, said Roslinksky.
“She doesn’t like people touching her face, but a child or a special needs person can walk up to her and she will hold her head still for them. Horses really have a really good connection with special needs people.”
White said therapeutic riding is far more known now than it was back in the day.
“We can reach a wider clientele base now. There is more research on all the different needs that equine connection can help with. We’re still going strong, but still definitely need to have fundraisers.”
And her family is on board, including White’s 15-year-old daughter, Lauren.
“She has done this ride many times,” said White. “She also likes to share our older horses with cousins and friends. We have a little cousin joining us this year as well, borrowing one of our horses. All my kids and my nephews have all won the buckle for the youth who has raised the most money. So now we have some little cousins trying for that award.”

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