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‘Freedom Ride’ raring to go

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Seventeen riders are gathering pledges this week as the Northwestern Ontario Therapeutic Riding Association gears up for its third-annual “Freedom Ride” on Saturday.

The ride is slated to start at 1 p.m. (or at the same time Sunday if it’s raining). But instead of making the trip to Wasaw Lake as originally planned, the group will hit the trails around Trail’s End Riding Stable and ride up to four hours.

Organizer Joyce Young said that way, they wouldn’t have to worry about the younger riders being able to make the five-hour trek to Wasaw Lake and back.

“Wasaw was too far for the younger kids,” she admitted, noting it probably would take the group two-and-a-half hours just to get up there.

So the younger riders will be part of the first trail ride. Then they’ll return to the stables for games while the older riders continue on a second trail.

First-time participant Jessica Munn is looking forward to riding with so many others, saying she’s never been on the trails with that many people before.

But she added she wasn’t nervous about it.

“[I’m] more excited than anything else,” she said yesterday, noting she’s collected “a lot” in pledges.

The rider pulling in the most pledges will win a saddle, with the runner-up taking home a bridle.

Young is hoping to raise $3,000 this year, which will help cover the expenses to keep the therapeutic riding program running in the district, such a subsidizing special-needs riders for their sessions and feeding the horses.

Riders who can afford it make a donation up to $10 for each riding session. And while most are able to contribute financially, Young noted four riders this year--one adult and three children with special needs--who weren’t able to help out.

Funds raised during the “Freedom Ride” will cover their costs, Young said, adding the money also goes toward insurance, which runs $11 per rider each year.

More than 20 riders are signed up this year, prompting Young to offer sessions twice a week.

Three Dryden residents also drove down for one of the Wednesday sessions, with hopes of starting a similar therapeutic riding program up there.

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