Friday, September 21, 2007

Bright's Grove, ON

September 4, 2007
Bright's Grove, ON

David and Casey returned to school today. We will all need some time to digest and internalize the events of the Great FASD Horseback Ride Across Canada.

A significant part of the physical journey was accomplished on horseback, but we suffered the loss of Brandi, Errin Weigel's Arabian mare. We continued on with our little plastic horse on the roof of the van and 215 horses under the hood. The journey covered some 22,000 km round trip, involved hundreds of people, shared knowledge among hundreds of people and made thousands of people more aware of FASD. There were many organized public and private events and hundreds of teaching moments on the trek. It was not an immediate financial success but it was a practical and moral success.

My descriptions in this Blog have been more of a travelogue nature than in-depth FASD story sharing. Those will come. We returned home with more than 2,700 digital still photo images and 7 1/2 hours of video. These have been transferred to my office computer and presentations are a work in progress. There is much to add to the material we collected, much to digest and many more stories to compile into the finished works. Obviously that volume of material cannot be gelled into a 60 minute presentation. It will be broken into many short sessions that will serve various parts of the country and various constituencies.

I have omitted many names in the blog for brevity and because it is impossible to remember the names of all the people we have met on the journey. However, as I sort through the Ride Registry and the business cards, those names will be included in the presentations.

I will also be transferring the names of the eligible riders on the registry to a database to produce the draw tickets for Errin Weigel's foal. Please be patient. I am also catching up on shipping of CD's and T-shirts for those who made on-line donations. I am one person doing this job. "My Kingdom for a horse"? Nae. My kingdom for a good secretary. :-)

For those we have met on the journey, if you have photos, video or personal stories you want included in our final works, please send them to me at:

Bruce Ritchie
2448 Hamilton Road
Bright's Grove, Ontario
N0N 1C0

Thanks to all those who have been so kind and generous to us across this incredible land. The Great FASD Horseback Ride Across Canada has accomplished much and is only resting. It has not ended. We have touched many communities along the main routes of the country, but many remain to be seen. We have discovered lessons on the journey which also need to be shared with those we saw earlier in our travels. We also have some ideas for 2008 that can continue what was started in 2007.

A special thank you to McDonald's Restaurants. Near the beginning of our journey we were told by a McDonald's manager to always talk to the manager first before we order a meal and let them know about the ride. They may want to contribute the meal to the Ride. I am delighted to say that all across Canada, McDonald's have in every case provided our meals when we have visited their restaurants. In every case it was an individual decision by the manager. As a long time entrepreneur (35+ years) I am extremely impressed at their corporate culture of community support and the willingness of the individual managers to support our cause. Well done McDonald's. Once again, Miigwetch. Thank You.

I extend thanks to Steve Thomas our lead rider who inspired the Great FASD Ride. Although he could not be physically with us on the journey after Brandi died, he still wants to make the entire trek, step-by-step.

I also extend thanks to Claudia Julien, our Ride Coordinator. She dedicated hundreds of hours to contacting people across Canada in the FASD community and the horse communities. Dozens of events would not have taken place without her efforts.

And I thank my son, David, and his best friend, Casey Newby, for their help, work and dedication for the summer break. They were excellent travel companions and extremely helpful at events and the camps. We all climbed mountains - on the landscape and within ourselves. A summer to remember.

I am available to present at workshops and can be contacted at the above address or by phone at:
Landline (519) 869-8026
Cellular: (519) 331-6408
Stay tuned. Miigwetch. Thank you.
Bruce Ritchie

The Journey Home

August 28-31, 2007
The journey home.

We decided to get home as soon as possible. For several reasons we took the longer Canadian route rather than a short-cut through the USA. As neither of the boys has a driver's license, I have driven the entire distance. We drove and then slept for a few hours in the van, then drove some more. On Friday, August 31st, 4 days and 2900 km later, we arrived home in Bright's Grove.

Maple Creek, SK

August 27-28, 2007
Maple Creek, SK

We arrived in Maple Creek in mid-afternoon. Nettie Coderre is an absolute gem. She is a grandmother raising two boys with FASD and manages the Cypress Hills Motor Inn in Maple Creek. Population is about 2300. Nettie provided us with 2 rooms.

Our event for Maple Creek was planned to be August 30th. As I was in some discomfort with my new hernia, Nettie suggested we could skip the event and I could continue on home to arange for surgery. I really did not want to cancel the event but quipped about moving it up sooner. Nettie got on the phone and began calling, to make the event that evening at 7:30 PM.

Three hours later, the coffee shop in the hotel was packed. In the audience were Chief Alice Pahtayken (Nekaneet First Nation), two RCMP officers, the head of the Salvation Army Branch, teachers and families. It was a lively evening with a great discussion and refreshments. Wow!!! All this on three hours notice. And big cities like Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary can't get their act together even with substantial notice.

Nettie, you showed the power of positive thinking and positive action. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you again.

Lethbridge, AB

August 27, 2007
Lethbridge, AB

Breakfast with Const. Mark Waage of the Lethbridge Regional Police, FASD Program. The work he is doing is extraordinary and I would love to clone him for every police department in Canada. Stay tuned.

Off to Maple Creek, SK.

Banff National Park, AB

August 23-26, 2007
Banff National Park, AB - Protection Mountain Campground

The campground is on the Bow Valley Parkway. Unlike on the long holiday weekend at the beginning of August (all campgrounds were full), at this time there were very few campers, even on the weekend.

Lake Louise is 1536 meters (5039 feet) above sea level. Mornings can be cool, and we did have frost on the vegetation. The scenery in Banff National Park is breathtaking. It is hard to turn a corner without saying "WOW!"

It's almost impossible, upon first seeing Lake Louise, not to gasp. The beautiful, milky blue lake rests at the foot of Victoria Glacier, which rises majestically behind it, capped by snow and ice year-round. First sighted by Europeans in 1882, the lake has become one of Canada's best-loved and most-visited resorts. Set on the lake itself, the Château Lake Louise was built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. At the dock we were entertained by a gentleman in traditional Swiss Alpine garb playing the trumpet, bell and Alpenhorn.

A visit to Moraine Lake is also mandatory. The boys climbed the moraine that keeps the lake intact. Again it is some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada.

While I was taking photos of the lake, a young lady, Gwen, approached me and asked if I would use her camera to take her picture by the lake. Of course I agreed. As we chatted she asked what brought me to Moraine Lake. When I told her, she said she was a nurse in Vancouver and she had done her graduate paper on FASD. I asked where she got her information and she replied, "FASlink". What a small world!

The Bow Valley Parkway runs roughly parallel to the Trans Canada Highway, but is a much more leisurely route. We came across a tree that had fallen onto the roadway and stopped to remove it. Wildlife was rather scarce but we did come across two eight point deer near the road. Frankly, it was very disappointing to see more wildlife outside our national parks than within them. Perhaps in an over-zealous desire to avoid human - animal interaction (road kill, camp scrounging), reporting the presence of bear, cougars, etc. is likely to have them trapped and moved to the interior away from people. But it is the wildlife that I want to see in the national and provincial parks. I have been camping since childhood and simple education can keep tragedies from happening. Then there is the Darwin Principle ..... :-)

On the third day in Banff awaiting for the Calgary event scheduled for August 28th, I received a call from the event organizer for the Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network Committee. In spite of four months notice, time to prepare the event, and a population of 1,000,000+, they were unable to hold an event, but would send a donation to FASlink. Still waiting. Another Victoria type fiasco.

It rained that day and was depressing, so we packed up. In the process, I carried a very heavy bin containing our canned food to the trailer, and popped an inguinal hernia. I had had one surgically repaired when I was 12 years-old and knew the feeling. I am quite a bit older now and the discomfort was significant. We drove to Lethbridge, AB. At this point I was not a happy camper.

Revelstoke, BC

August 22-23, 2007
Revelstoke, BC

The boys set up a tent in the public park at the edge of town. I stayed in the van. At 5 AM I awoke and took Duchess for a walk. When I returned I noticed a couple of in-ground lawn sprinklers watering the lawn about 100 feet away. I realized that could be a problem and rushed to wake the boys. They were too slow, and the next set of sprinklers were right beside their tent. Up popped the sprinkler heads and one shot a large stream of water under the tent fly into the tent interior, soaking the boys. They scrambled out of the tent, grabbed it by the corners and moved it to the parking lot. It was a comic scene, punctuated by deleted expletives.

We packed the tent, had breakfast and moved on to Donald Station. Steve was not home but we chatted with Jeff for a bit, then moving on to Banff National Park. We were provided with a campsite for 4 nights, 3 gratis. Time to see Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and the Town of Banff.

Kelowna, BC

August 22, 2007
Kelowna, BC

The night before the Kelowna event, we camped on the beach beside the beautiful lake at Oyama.

The Kelowna event was held at the Kelowna Metis Association offices and included a wonderful assortment of refreshments and goodies. Again, a delightful and warm group of people, including event organizer Maria Laboucan.

At 3 pm we were on the road again, arriving in Revelstoke after dark.

Victoria, BC - A huge disappointment

August 20, 2007
Victoria, BC

We drove to Victoria and the appointed location where the FASD Community Circle - Victoria was planning an event, arriving on time before 12:30 PM. The organizer had sent notices out to their extensive list of FASD related contacts on the island. We were met by ................ NOBODY. Nada, niet, zip. Nobody showed up, including the media.

We were told that media won't cover a subject area such as FASD more than once every 6 months. It seems that our arrival might interfere with the media covering the September 9th International FASD Day event locally.

This was particularly disturbing and disappointing as this was the end of the East to West, Atlantic to Pacific, trek for Fetal Alcohol awareness. It was ironic that International FASD Day began on FASlink and in Victoria we were snubbed because of it. It certainly left a very bad taste in our mouths for Victoria and after taking our photos and video at the Pacific shore, we took the ferry (another $100+) back to the mainland. We had to simply lick our wounds, and wounded bank account, and continue on. Exhaustion was setting in.

Duncan, BC

August 19-20, 2007
Duncan, BC

In Duncan we were hosted by Marjorie Wilson and her group at the Cowichan Valley FASD Action Team Society. Delighful people and a delicious breakfast. As we had to be in Victoria for a 12:30 PM event at Mile O of the Trans Canada Highway, we had to leave Duncan by 11:00 am. Otherwise we would have stayed longer.

Nanaimo, BC - Vancouver Island

August 15 to 19, 2007
Nanaimo, BC

In Nanaimo we were provided a campsite by Oceanside RV Park. It is a beautiful location and exceptionally well appointed, serviced and maintained, including beach and nature areas.

We had a few days to wait for our next event. The boys spent some time at the library while I arranged for an additional line of signage to be added to the van on each side. SignAge was most gracious and contributed the sign to the cause.

We attended the Vancouver Island Exhibition and enjoyed the horse events and variety of exhibits. Duchess turned on her charm and Shar-Kare Feeds and Pet Supplies donated two bags of her favourite Nutros Senior dog food and large dog biscuits. Thank you.

Unfortunately, the Nanaimo group were unable to meet with us but we did throughly enjoy lunch with Danielle Wittmyer and her delightful daughter.

On our way to Duncan, BC we stopped in at Chemainus, a delightful village focused on artisans and a huge collection of building wall murals. It is well worth the stop.

Vancouver, BC

August 14, 2007
Vancouver, BC

Nobody in Vancouver had offered to plan an event. We continued on to Vancouver by way of Maple Ridge. We had hoped to see the Assante FASD Clinic on the way but arrived after business hours. We continued on to Vancouver, arriving after dark. Vancouver had been enduring a garbage collectors' strike. I wanted to show Stanley Park at night to the boys.

Our GPS took us down Hastings Street. It was a nighmarish scene out of a Hollywood movie. Crowds of homeless standing and sitting on the sidewalks in groups, dealing drugs, sleeping, spaced out, with garbage strewn about and papers blowing around. It was also a dangerous place. The scene was stunning and left a lasting impression on David and Casey. The boys made sure the van doors were locked and wanted out of there as soon as possible.

We drove to Stanley Park and took night photos of the harbour. We then drove to Spanish Shores and slept overnight in the van in a church parking lot.

At sunrise, I drove the van to he beach and took Duchess for a walk while the boys slept. It was another beautiful day. We had lunch with an old friend and caught up on our respective lives. After lunch we drove to West Vancouver and took the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. $100.00+.

Hope, BC

August 13, 2007
Hope, BC

We arrived in Hope after dark. From our van, I called several hotels for a possible complementary room for the FASD Ride and was offered accommodation at the Colonial 900 Motel. It had recently been purchased from the former owner, a retired RCMP officer. The new owner was most gracious and provided a beautiful, well appointed room at no charge.

While on the phone a young woman approached the van, crying. David immediately got out of the van to see what was the problem. She had seen the little horse on the roof of our van and then read the window lettering. She told us she was an alcoholic with two daughters with FAS. Although she worked at fish cleaning, she was homeless and carried all her possessions with her. She thanked us for what we were doing. She wanted to introduce her 16 year-old daughter to David. :-) We talked for some time and then bid farewell. More on this meeting later.

Our stay in Hope was very comfortable, including provision of our dinner by the McDonald's Restaurant.

Kamloops, BC

August 12 and 13, 2007
Kamloops, BC

The terrain changes dramatically as we approach Kamloops. The region is rather arid with much sage and almost treeless hills. Yet there is a real beauty in the valley. The morning of August 13th we gathered at the municipal parking lot downtown to enjoy coffee and donuts while assembling the parade. Korena Douglas (Insight Support Services Inc.) and The Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association provided riders and a horse for me, and the city police provided escort and traffic control. The parade went through the downtown to the city park. Several people spoke of the issues of those with FASD and other disabilities. The media attended and reported on the well attended event. The T-shirts again proved to be an excellent fundraiser. My hat is off to the participants in Kamloops. They made us feel not only welcome but part of the family.

We headed out toward Merritt in hopes of seeing the huge copper mining operation nearby. Unfortunately, the last time I was there was about 25 years ago on business and the distance from Merritt would not permit us to see the operation during business hours. We continued on to Hope, BC.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

July 19 to August 12, 2007

July 19 to 22, 2007
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, SK

While at St. Norbert Behavioural Health Foundation in Winnipeg, we were asked to visit Sioux Valley Dakota Nation after our Brandon event. Bob Bone, Director of Health, invited us to stay for a few days and we camped beside the Sioux valley Recreation and Health Centres.

We met the two FASD workers and shared research, experiences and ideas. The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Powwow was held that weekend with people attending from hundreds of miles around. The events were spectacular with hundreds of dancers participating. As at all powwows, the food was abundant and delicious. We particularly enjoyed the bison burgers on bannock buns, several times.

The community is spread over a fairly large area with a very small, and costly, store and gas station, and VLT casino located near the band office, rec/health centre, police station. The nearest significant grocery store is about 40 km away.

The people talked openly about the issues on FASD on reserve and their concerns and efforts. As in most communities, the rate of change is slow but at least they are actively working for change. It is interesting that the First Nations are more willing to recognize the issues of alcohol and FASD than the non-native community and yet the incidence of FASD in the non-native community is just as high, or higher than in the native communities. The highest risk group is actually middle to upper middle income white females.

The perception that alcohol and FASD are primarily native issues may well stem from "official" government studies that are 10, 15, 20, 22 and 25 years old. All were of tiny remote First Nations communities and in each case the authors stated that the statistics were not to be applied outside those communities. Health Canada has not done equivalent studies in non-native communities, as if white folks don't drink. The studies were also done before the Canadian diagnostic criteria were set.

These studies play into the official attitude that First Nations have a higher than normal drinking problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Health Canada states that the incidence of FASD is 1%, and is based entirely on those 5 studies. The reality is that Statistics Canada's Canadian Health Survey and birth statistics show that 37% of Canadian children are prenatally exposed to binge drinking and another 42% are exposed to multiple bouts of 1 to 4 drinks per occasion, with a 95% confidence level. All will be affected to varying degrees. Almost 80% of children are prenatally exposed to high levels of a known teratogen and mutagen - alcohol. The study published at clearly indicates the rate of FASD is likely well over 10% and is likely about 15%, at a minimum. About 20% of children are receiving Special Education, the vast majority for conditions of types known to be caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol.

While about 20% of children are receiving Special Education, there are many who have not been officially "identified" and who tend to fall through the cracks. Only a small percentage of Spec Ed students can be eliminated from the list because of genetic causes. Yet even many of those excluded for genetic causes should be included because prenatal alcohol is a known mutagen.
These children are at high risk of ongoing problems throughout their life.
It is also an ongoing truth that the First Nations are the most generous and financially supportive of our mission.

July 22 to 24, 2007
Regina, SK

We were accommodated at the Ramada Inn in downtown Regina the night prior to the event. It is a lovely hotel with a negative attitude toward dogs. As we went to check out, they attempted to charge an extra $12 for Dutchess. After a pointed discussion they waived the fee. This is the first hotel that has tried to charge extra for a dog. This will be remembered.

We were hosted in Regina by David and Crystal Forsyth. They are birth, adoptive and foster parents to quite a brood of children with FASD issues. A wonderful family. Dave works as a corrections officer in a half-way house and is always on-call.

The event began with a Smudge Ceremony performed by an Elder. As part of the ceremony, several of us, inluding the RCMP representatives, built a ceremonial tree with tobacco tied into the corners of cloth squares of red, white, yellow, black and green, and the pieces attached to a tree branch. The small tree is to accompany us throughout our journey and be present at each event. We then shared a peace pipe. The ceremony was quite extensive and very moving. The elder had previously participated in a First Nations walk across North America from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The two RCMP officers, dressed in the original red coat uniforms with white pith helmets, then led us through the park to the Legislature. Saskatchewan Energy provided the BBQ in the park across from the Legislature and the Minister of Health Promotion was among the guest speakers. The temperature was in the mid-thirties celsius but in spite of the heat, a great time was had by all.

July 25 to 26, 2007
North Battleford, SK

We drove to North Battleford and met Coleen Sabraw. She showed us the event site beside the old fort. The North Battleford Early Childhood Intervention group hosted us overnight in a lovely motel on the edge of town.

That evening a mother skunk visited our doorstep looking for food. She was quite relaxed as she browsed around the walkway and cars - her tail was down. Even the presence of other people did not particularly bother her and nobody became confrontational. :-) Apparently she has a small brood and the hotel has contracted a company to catch and release them. They have caught 3 babies so far but mom continues to elude them.

The event on the 26th included a walk from the Old Fort through the downtown area and back to the Fort for a BBQ, again hosted by Saskatchewan Energy. More speaches and again a great time was had by all.

July 26 to 27, 2007
Saskatoon, SK

On our drive back to Saskatoon we encounted the First Nations "Missing Sisters Walk" on the Trans Canada. The walk is to raise awareness of the number of First Nations girls and women who have disappeared and the lack of concerted official efforts to find them, compared to efforts made when a white woman goes missing. Saskatoon had a terrible reputation under the previous police chief and has replaced him with the former Chief from the Regina Police. Young natives were driven by police officers to remote areas in the outskirts of the city in sub-zero temperatures and dumped. Some died.

The native runners took turns carrying a symbolic staff. David and Casey ran with them while I used our van as a safety shield from traffic. They took several breaks but in all covered a significant distance with them on the ground. We joined them at their lunch break and talked about the issues. The father and sister of one of the missing girls were there. Their sister was a university student when she disappeared three years ago. We pledged our mutual support and as we were leaving they presented us with T-shirts of their walk.

We drove back to Saskatoon and stayed at Motel 6 as guests of the FASD Support Network of Saskatchewan. Lovely accommodations with an indoor salt water swimming pool.

Beverly Palabroda of the FASD Network was our host. The event was held on the 27th at the Saskatoon Zoo and Forestry Farm. On arrival we discovered that dogs were not permitted on the grounds. However, after a bit of fancy footwork and persuasion, (we were the guests of honour at an event that also included the Minister of Health Promotion) we were allowed to enter. The chosen location was in a hedged area known as the gazebo. As always, Dutchess was no problem and stuck close to us.

There were a number of guest speakers, including the Minister of Health Promotion and the Chief of Police for the City of Saskatoon. As he was leaving, the Chief of Police presented a Saskatoon Police ball cap to David. David wears it proudly. His next event was to meet with the Missing Sisters runners. I am certain he will be the change the runners are seeking.

The Minister of Health Promotion talked about a number of FASD initiatives they are supporting. I do hope some of their work makes it into Ontario.

As part of the events, we were presented with the Mentor Handbook: Working with Persons with FASD and other Cognitive Disabilities. It is a Saskatoon Supported Housing Project in Conjunction with the FASD Support Network of Saskatchewan. It was funded by the Saskatchewan Cognitive Disabilities Strategy, Province of Saskatchewan.

I was presented with the Métis sash and their blue and white flag by the Métis Nation. The Métis people are known for their finger woven sashes. The sash holds cultural distinction and pride. The sash does not only hold sentimental and cultural value to the Métis. It also served as a tumpline (scarf that holds heavy objects to the back), first aid kit, rope, clothing, wash cloth and towel, saddle blanket and the ends of the sash would also serve as an emergency sewing kit on trips. The flag with a white infinity symbol on a blue background, was flown on June 19th, 1816 at the Battle of Seven Oaks, under the leadership of Cuthbert Grant, who led a Métis brigade on the Assiniboine River and seized the company post at Brandon House. The yellow colour, which has been removed from the Manitoba sash, may appear in exceptional situations. Representing gold, it can be woven onto both sides of a sasha presented by the Métis community to an individual it wishes to honour. (The same system is being contemplated by the Métis National Council and if adopted would be known as the National Order of the Métis Sash.)

The sash presented to me includes the yellow colour. I am deeply honoured to have received it.

The black added to the new sash, represents the dark period after 1870 during which time the Metis were suppressed and dispossessed of their land by Canada. In the years that followed, Métis were beaten or shot on the streets of Winnipeg, and bounties placed on those who had collaborated with Louis Riel. Many Métis people moved west, north, east or south. Those who stayed behind were forced of their land and became squatters, living mostly on road allowances.

"Green signifies fertility, growth and prosperity for the Métis Nation. It means we must move forward and reclaim our rightful place in Canadian History."

Both the Eagle Feathers presented at Winnipeg and the Métis Sash presented at Saskatoon show the importance placed on this mission by both the First Nations and by the Métis peoples.

July 27 to 29, 2007
Thorsby, AB

Todd and Joyce Brown and their 4 children invited us to stay with them at their farm about 45 minutes southwest of Edmonton. When the Ride was originally scheduled to use horses on the route, Todd planned to join us for a few days. However, even without the horses we were welcomed guests and enjoyed our time with them. Todd took us raspberry picking in the bushes where he grazes his horses, while Joyce drove to town to pick up some freezies. Delicious. Todd's favourite horse is a Tennessee Walker. It has a very unusual gait and is extremely smooth to ride.

I also enjoyed an outing in Todd's horse wagon as he was training a new horse beside her experienced mother. We drove around several sections of land and as we returned the weather threatened to turn ugly. A large cloud had formed resembling three saucers vertically with a green core in the upper saucer - a tornado warning sign. Todd put away the horses while I watched the cloud for changes. They do have an underground tornado shelter. We had torrential rains but fortunately no tornado.

Todd is a firearms instructor and we thoroughly enjoyed discussing everything from FASD to politics, firearms legislation, etc. Our stay with the Browns was wonderful, relaxing and educational.

Todd also put me in touch with Const. Mark Wage of the Lethbridge Regional Police FASD Unit. We will be seeing him on our return trip through Lethbridge after the Calgary event.

July 31 to Aug 1, 2007
Edmonton, AB

Unknown to me until we arrived in Edmonton, both Casey and David had been corresponding on MSN with girls from Edmonton. They wanted to meet the girls face to face. Unfortunately, Erika, the girl David had been writing, was visiting New Zealand at the time. We did arrange for Casey and David meet Aidan at Aidan's home. They had a wonderful time and we arranged to take Aidan to the Royal Alberta Museum the second day. Casey and Aidan have totally fallen for each other. On our third and last day in Edmonton, the boys sneaked away from the event which was being held a few blocks from Aidan's home and spent the day at her home, with her parents. As they had not told me they were going (they thought I might say "no") I was concerned and annoyed when they finally showed up. They have both continued to drive me crazy trying to get me to change the itinerary so they can go back through Edmonton. Can't happen. Casey is glued to his cell phone in MSN conversations with Aidan and his other friends. Hmmm. I thought the trip would pry the boys loose from their electronics. :-)

With the change in our schedule from August 20th to August 1st in Edmonton, we were invited to share an already planned BBQ to thank workers and volunteers working with individuals with FASD. It was not an event planned for us. Beverly Allard and Magdelena Soric of the Bissell Centre, Well Community - Well Families, hosted us at Borden Park for lunch. It was a good afternoon with good food and great company. Many of the adults with FASD received awards for their progress, important symbols of success too often denied to those with FASD.

Aug 2 to Aug 4, 2007
Calgary, AB

We stayed in Calgary with old friends from Bright's Grove, Ontario - Emily and Jim Brown and their sons, William and Christopher. It was wonderful to renew and update. Emily and I had been Scouting leaders in Bright's Grove. She was a Beaver leader and I was a Cub and a Scout leader. Jim is the Kyoto/Environmental representative for Shell Oil. Emily also started the Therapy Dog program in Sarnia with their retriever, Duncan. I plan to have Dutchess participate in the program on our return to Sarnia.

Calgary has grown dramatically since I was last there. It is literally bursting at the seams but every company is having trouble finding enough people to work for them. There is a severe labour shortage. We hiked through Griffith's Woods Park along the Elbow River beside the Tsuu T'ina First Nation.

William was working in a new job at a department store and caught a shoplifter.

Jim and Emily took us to Calgary's Heritage Park, an operating reconstructed village from the late 1800's / early 1900's. What an extraordinary asset for a city. Emily, David and Casey bought the ride passes and took full advantage of them. The three days passed too quickly. The Calgary event is scheduled for our return trip on August 28th. I do hope representatives from Hobbema FN, Siksika FN, Tsuu T'ina and other local FN's will be able to attend too.

Aug 4 to 7, 2007
Donald Station, BC - Home to Steve Thomas, instigator of the Ride.

We drove through Banff and Lake Louise, AB on the long weekend. Both towns were packed with tourists and the campsites were full. We decided to see both places on our return trip when they might be less busy. We continued on through Field and Golden to Donald Station. Donald is about 20 km west of Golden. It has a post office but no stores.

We stayed with Steve and his house guest, Jeff, for several days. As always, Steve was a gourment cook. The boys were each taken on a trail ride through rugged mountain terrain and learned a great deal about horses. We also enjoyed an evening wagon ride through the fields with Steve's Belgian horses. Steve provides wagon rides in the winter at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

While driving on a country road at dusk, a white tail deer ran across the road, barely missing the van. In spite of watching carefully for deer and driving slowly, it happened without warning and in an instant. Another night my spotlight picked up two deer grazing in a field beside the road. The boys went for a walk with Jeff along the mountain trail and encountered more deer and a mother Black bear with two cubs. The cubs scampered up a tree and everybody kept a healthy distance.

It is unfortunate that money and circumstances have prevented Steve from continuing the Ride in BC. After all, the Ride happened because of Steve. It was his vision and determination that made it happen in the first place. We will be visiting again on our return trip.

Aug 7 to Aug 9, 2007
Glacier National Park, BC

We climbed through the Rockies to the Rogers Pass where a sign claims the elevation is 1330 metres above sea level. Our GPS shows the elevation to be 1343 metres based on 12 satelites. Fuel at the Rogers Pass station was $1.31/litre compared to $1.11 in Revelstoke.
At the Glacier National Park Welcome Centre at the height of the Rogers Pass, we were provided a campsite at no charge, again because of the importance they place on our mission. We spent two delightful days camped beside a glacier fed creek at Illecillewaet's Brooks Loop campsite. It is a historic site with the remains of huge stone pillars that were used to hold railway tracks that ran in a figure eight loop to help trains climb the Rogers Pass. The surrounding trails were beautiful.

On the first morning a vehicle accident to the west of us had knocked out the power for the entire park. We drove to Revelstoke to get supplies and look around. On August 9th we drove to Mount Revelstoke National Park and took the 26 km road toward the summit. The final path is a 1 or 2 km climb to the fire tower lookout (a choice of paths depending on your physical abilities). We climbed through alpine meadows and passed small lakes and pools. The view from the fire tower was truly magnificent in all directions.

Aug 9 to 12, 2007
Sicamous, BC

Prior to the beginning of the journey, I was contacted by Rob Himmelspach, owner of Hill Billy Jack's in Sicamous, BC and offered a generous donation of T-shirts for the Ride. I sent a package of our transfers to be printed onto the shirts.

When I called to arrange to pick up the T-shirts on the way through, Rob invited us to stay on their Cedarview Acres farm, in their bunkhouse until our next event in Kamloops. In addition to caring for their own horses, they provide board for many other local horses. What a beautiful setting and a wonderful family. Rob and Peggy along with their children Jolene and Billy and Australian shepherd Hawkeye have made us at home. The bunkhouse is beside a paddock where we are welcomed in the morning by their horses. It is truly an idylic location.

In the morning, Rob and I went to his shop where he runs both his T-shirt printing and embroidery business and Blue Rock Electric. He has been in the electrician business for many years. His expansion into the graphics production business has been fun and rewarding. He sells through the Internet as well as to many corporate clients he has done electrical business with over the years.

One evening after dinner Rob took us to the mountain lookout overlooking Sicamous. Again the scenery is magnificent. Much photography. Peggy took the kids swimming and the next day we went to play miniature golf and test the D Dutchmen Dairy Ice Cream outlet and zoo. Sicamous has a small year-around population that swells dramatically in the summer. Alberta oil money has driven property prices through the roof.

As I write, it is August 12th and we must move on to Kamloops for our event tomorrow.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Winnipeg, Manitoba

July 8 to 11, 2007

Winnipeg, Manitoba

We were hosted by the St. Norbert Behavioural Health Centre and the Manitoba Horse Council. Our accommodations were the Traditional Building and the Art Centre with meals in the main building. The centre was a monastery and is now an incredible addictions recovery centre. There were 101 resident when we were there, including men and women and their children. Many have FASD.

Events were planned for July 10th. The Manitoba Horse Council's Pat Ferguson made the arrangements, including a horse for me and riders to accompany me along with demonstration horses and riders from hunter / jumpers to dessage and an Arabian in full blue and gold flowing robes. BBQ and speaches, including the Minister of Health Promotion.

We met many of the residents and shared some very good conversations with them.

Bev Eastcott and Val Surbey were wonderfully helpful and their children are delightful. Their kids sure are lucky to have these women as their parents.

Eagle Feathers

I was completely stunned the evening before we left when the Elder instructed the Sundancer to present me with two Eagle Feathers, the highest honour I have ever received. One is to be worn in my hat and the other is to be used for smudge ceremonies. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. This honour carries with it a great responsibilty to continue the journey regardless of obstacles we face. It will be so.

July 12 - 13, 2007

Brandon, Manitoba

We are guests of Turtle Crossing Campgrounds (formerly Curran Park). It is a beautiful wooded facility on the outskirts of the city with lots of activities such as baseball and a large manmade lake/swimming pool. They too have friends and family touched by Fetal Alcohol issues.

We were guests at noon at A-Channel's Brandon station, CKX TV. Host Heather Steele interviewed Joey Pattle and me for a 7 minute spot on the noon hour news program.

Events are planned for St. George's Anglican Church hall Friday, July 13th at 1 PM.

Internet Communications

Please be patient with us as we continue to catch up on details of the Ride and plan future events. Internet communications have been much more difficult than anticipated, including trying to get useable access to E-mail. I receive hundreds of letters daily, including junk mail. If is use browser mail, I can only see it while actively online. All libraries set time limits for access and it simply is not enough to download the backlog of mail, sort through the junk mail, and reply to the important stuff. If you need to reach me, please call my cell phone at 519-331-6408.

If I use my Eudora or Outlook, I can download the mail and prepare replies. However, sending the main means it goes through the local ISP, then to my ISP and then to the clients. However, that is called "Relay" and is blocked because it is a system often used by spammers. Sigh!!
I am still trying to find a work-around.

I hope to be able to upload some photos over the next day or two.


Fundraising is absolutely critical. It is the generosity of previous communities that have allowed us to come to where we are. We can only continue to the next communities if we have your financial support. Fuel, food, some accommodations, repairs and other costs are real and have to be paid immediately when incurred. Your help is needed.

Thank you. Miigwetch.

Bruce Ritchie, Moderator, FASlink

Thunder Bay, Dryden and Kenora

July 5, 2007

Thunder Bay, Ontario

Local riders from Kakabeka Falls provided the mounted escort from the Terry Fox Memorial on the Trans Canada Highway to a park in downtown Thunder Bay. Very well attended event with FASD groups and politicians represented. BBQ. A very successful day with many new friendships begun.

July 6, 2007

Dryden, Ontario

The Dryden events were held at the Eagle Lake First Nation at their community centre. Local horse people provided rides to all who wanted them. BBQ and speaches and the beginnings of new friendships. Ruth Bird was the driving force that made it all happen. She also presented David, Casey and me with deer bone necklaces intricately carved by her husband, along with some diamond willow walking sticks. It was a great honour for us.

After the events, we continued on our way by way of Kakabeka Falls. They are a magnificent sight and were presented as a Provincial Park.

July 7, 2007

Kenora, Ontario

A group of riders, pony cart and walkers accompanied by the Kenora Police traveled the main roads about 7 km from the outskirts of the city to the Harbourfront Park. Events began with ceremonies by elders, including a presentation on the FASD sacred staff from Serpent River First Nation. Speaches by local dignitaries including the Grand Chief of Treat 3 who is also Chief of the Eagle Lake First Nation. Special ceremonies to honour the purpose of our ride. A full day of activities with games, face painting, and pony rides. WOW!!!

North Bay, Ontario

June 29 to July 2, 2007

We were guests at Beaucage Park campground, just west of North Bay. It is a beautiful waterfront location on Lake Nipissing on the Nipissing First Nation land. We thoroughly enjoyed the camp and visiting North Bay. I had the wonderful opportunity to renew my friendship with Joseph Cloutier, a young man with FASD from Sudbury. He is very active in spreading the word about FASD. I had met Joseph 4 years earlier at a conference hosted by the Missiway Health Centre in Timmins, Ontario.

The North Bay event was held July 2nd with a traditional indoor powwow at the North Bay Indian Friendship Centre. It was well attended, refreshments served and a rewarding experience.

No specific events had been planned for Sudbury so we headed for Blind River.

July 3, 2007

The planned ride at Blind River had to be cancelled because our local rider had broken her collarbone in an endurance ride. The horse was OK but the rider suffered. We continued on to Wawa.

We camped overnight on the shore of the lake at Wawa and awakened in the morning to a beautiful sunrise over the glassy waters of the lake. Packed up and continued to Thunder Bay.

On the way, we encounted two Black Bears alongside the highway. Dutchess was very protective of us when we stopped to photograph and would have gone nose to nose with the bears if given the chance. Not necessary. Mostly the bears ignored us.

Did not see any moose in spite of many warning signs. Did see a doe and her fawn beside the highway.

The trip North of Lake Superior is incredible scenery. Every Canadian should have the opportunity to see it. We drove past Marathon and the rock cut beside the highway where Canada's richest gold dicovery was made. It was missed by the engineers and workers who built the highway but discovered by a local prospector years later. The gold was under our noses all the time. Hmmm.


June 15, 2007

While we were preparing to move on, Brandi, Errin Weigel's Arabian, tangled in her teather and panicked. We were there in an instant and released her. However, she had a rope burn to her rear ankle. She was seen immediately by experienced horsemen and treated and penicillin begun.

Over the next several days, she was treated by very experienced horse people. Eventually, the veterinarian found she had severed her tendon and the sheath was leaking sinovial fluid. On the recommendation of the veterinarian and after discussions with Brandi's owner, the decision was made to euthanize her. She was in pain and there was virtually no probability of recovery. The end came peacefully on June 20, 2007. She is buried beside another famous Arabian on a beautiful farm near Orillia. She was a beautiful mare with a long mane that fell over her eyes. We loved her dearly and the loss of her was terrible.

During the course of these events, Claudia returned to her home in New Brunswick.

June 20, 2007

Subsequently, Dutchess, Steve's Black Lab/Hound mix, became very ill and required costly veterinary care in Toronto and Sarnia.

The decision was made to end the horse portion of the ride and Steve returned to Golden, BC and I went to Sarnia. I inherited Dutchess. She recovered and remains in excellent health today.

I contacted many of the event organizers across Canada and asked their advice. The response was consistent. The Ride is about Fetal Alcohol Awareness, not an endurance challenge for horses. We would continue on without our own horses but work with local riders for upcoming events.

June 22, 2007

I packed up my son, David, and his best friend, Casey Newby, and set off to continue the journey. Our first camp was in Burford Ontario to be able to serve the Hamilton and London events.

June 23, 2007

David, Casey and I participated in the Grand Entry at the National Aboriginal Day events in Gage Park, Hamilton. Another wonderful experience, supported by a picture perfect local rider. In the evening, Martha and Rick Bradford hosted a BBQ at their home in Stoney Creek, attended by the Fetal Alcohol Support Network members. A wonderfully successful day.

June 25, 2007

London followed with a gathering, sponsored by the Southwestern Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre and local FASN groups, at The Covent Garden Farmers Market and a walk through downtown to the Western Fairgrounds. Events included a BBQ and speaches. Also very successful.

June 26, 2007

My daughter, Jessica and her friend Craig, joined us for the Owen Sound and North Bay events.

On the way to Owen Sound, a stone ricochetted off the front of our trailer and blew out the rear window of the van. In the midst of calling CAA for advice as to where we could get the window fixed, Virgin Mobile decided my cell phone useage was more than normal (my only means of communications on the trip) and arbitrarily cut off my conversation even though there was still lots of money in the account. This was now leading into the long July 1st weekend. After days of fighting to get everything straightened out, I switched to Bell Mobility. The window had been repaired using my $300 deductible insurance. The annoying part is that if I had been prepared to pay $350, Apple Autoglass would have replaced the window for that cost alone. Because I put it through my insurance, they billed $650 and the insurance company also had to pay $350 on top of the $300 I paid. No wonder our insurance premiums are so riddiculous.

June 28, 2007

The Owen Sound event was hosted at the farm home of Margaret Sprenger and sponsored by the local FASN group and Margaret's church. Representatives of all levels of government spoke at the gathering. The Children were treated to pony rides. Very successful and a great time was had by all, and hopefully the attending politicians learned more about FASD.

Ottawa, Parliament, Wabano and Strawberry Tea with the British High Commissioner

June 12 - 15, 2007

Steve rode the TransCanada Trail in Ottawa and rode in the Byward Market.

The scheduled events in Ottawa on June 13 were very successful. Steve was accompanied by two RCMP mounted officers, Claudia in the van, and the Ottawa Police, along Wellington Street to Parliament. Our horse was not allowed to enter the Parliament grounds but stayed at the gate. Members of the Ottawa area FASD community met us at the gate. The Ottawa Police then escorted the parade through downtown Ottawa to raise our profile.

The National Capital Commission forbids horses on their property (including the Ottawa portion of the Trans Canada Trail) and will fine a rider $95. They seem to be trying to override federal legislation that considers horses to be livestock giving them right of way over the horseless carriage. However, the Ottawa Police consider horses to be safer than skateboards and gave permission to ride on any Ottawa street.

On June 14, I met with senior Public Health Agency of Canada staff responsible for the FASD portfolio. We discussed their old studies that they used to estimate the incidence of FASD for the 33 million people in Canada. All five studies were old (before the FASD criteria had been finally set) and all were of remote First Nations communities, as if white people don't drink. In each case the authors had cautioned against using the statistics outside those specific communities. They are simply not valid when applied to the general population.

We discussed my study publish at February 2, 2007 and they will submit the papers to further peer review. The statistics used in the FASlink study are from Statistics Canada's Canadian Health Survey (including drinking behaviours) and matched with birth and population stats for the same period. Statistics Canada has a 95% confidence level in their drinking behaviour numbers for all of Canada. The paper also compiles the known medical and cascade conditions caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol and the Special Education criteria for Ontario and data from 28,000 students in the Lambton Kent District School Board (urban, rural and First Nations mix). It is probable that between 10% and 15% of students require Special Education because of prenatal exposure to alcohol.

Hopefully, PHAC and Health Canada will recognize the report as establishing the true incidence of these issues in Canada.

On June 15th we were treated to lunch at Wabano Aboriginal Health Access Centre. What a wonderful group of people. They invited us to join them at a fundraiser Strawberry Tea to be held at the home of the British High Commissioner and his wife. Wonderful native drumming, singing, hoop dancing, jingle dancing and Metis jigs. A very successful day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

May 30 to June 12, 2007

June 12, 2007

Contacted local Ottawa people to confirm our arrival and the event tomorrow.
More frustration trying to update the Blog at the Ottawa Public Library. Security so tight I can't download my E-mail or update the Blog from my wireless laptop.

I was finally able to get access to update my Blog through the library's hard wired computers, using a thumb drive. Cannot connect my own laptop to their system.

June 11, 2007

Ottawa, ON

RCMP Barracks.

Trans Canada Trail from RCMP Barracks to downtown Ottawa. Permission granted by Ottawa Police but they don't control the National Capital Commission lands. Almost received a $95 ticket by RCMP for riding a horse on NCC property.

Rode around downtown. The Hon. Bill Graham (Liberal - Former Interim Leader and PM) made a significant donation to the Ride.

Stayed overnight at Rideau Carleton Raceway. Brandy tangled in rope. Rope burn to LR ankle. She is OK but will be given time to heal before riding again. Seen by local trainer who referred us to the local co-op for penicillin, antibiotic cream and wraps.
June 10, 2007

Ottawa, ON

Happy Birthday to Bruce.

Left St. Remi, QC and traveled through Kanawake Reserve and to Hawksbury, ON. The horses were quite a hit in the village. Debated about overnight. Called Rideau Carleton Raceway south of Ottawa and they agreed to put us up again.

Downtown Ottawa. Byward Market. Listened to street musician Francis Wang playing the Chinese Dulcimer tuned to the chromatic scale. Incredible. He played with the Shanghai Symphony in China before immigrating to Toronto. Birthday present of one of his CD's. His compositions are magnificent.

Many people have heard about FASD but have very limited knowledge.
June 9, 2007

Montreal, QC

Visited Old Montreal and Notre Dame Basilica. Beautiful. Took the horses to ride on Mount Royal at Montreal Police Mounted Division. Not permitted. Fed and watered the horses. Visited Claudia's son, Francis and his girlfriend. Quebec has a very bad attitude about horses, unless they are collecting $2000 per horse per year to pull a carriage.

To St. Remi to stay with friends of Steve's girlfriend. Daniel and Teresa Soucy have a large dairy farm and two delightful children. Wonderful meals and conversation. Teresa is from BC and Daniel has traveled extensively across Canada. Teresa is starting a business making specialty jams and preserves to sell over the Internet. Delicious samples. The dairy farming business is tough and demanding at the best of time. Cows don't take vacations or weekends off. The World Trade Organization rules have just made it much tougher.

June 8, 2007

Quebec City, QC

Visited Old Quebec and the Citadel and Legislature. Very restrictive with horses. Charge $2000 for a license.

Had dinner and left town. Camped overnight near highway off-ramp. On to Montreal.

June 7, 2007

St. Andre, QC

Camped at a horse farm in St. Andre.

Levi's situation at home on the Oromocto Reserve at Fredericton becoming a problem and he and Ryan had to leave. The Band elections are about to start and Levi will run for Council. The current Chief encouraged Levi to do the ride and then laid him off, cutting his income off. Betrayal. Levi will assist in the election campaign of a friend to remove the current Chief.

Horses banned from Trans Canada Trail. Not able to ride. Drove through the small towns where we had planned to ride. One rider rode the Trans Canada Trail through his own farm and was fined for doing so. Bad bureaucratic attitude about horses in Quebec. Strange.


June 6, 2007

Steve and Levi rode beside the secondary highway through numerous villages. We entered Quebec and stayed with Marcel Ouelette near the Quebec/NB line.

June 5, 2007

Stayed at Madawaska Maliseet Reserve for the day.

Levi and Ryan provided rides for children at the local gas bar. Steve rode on the Reserve and in Edmundston, talking to people on his route.

Bruce was having difficulty getting wireless Internet to connect and had the problem solved at a local computer store.

The problem of getting lost on unmarked rural roads has also been resolved with the purchase of Microsoft "Streets & Trips with GPS Locator". It works extremely well and pointpoints our location within a few metres and plots directions to our destination. Very impressive. We can now upload detailed maps to the Ride website, soon.

The rain let up for awhile but returned with a vengeance of lightning and hail. It is passing. Levi and Ryan went to the local gym working out. Levi won 3rd place in the Atlantic Body Building competition in May, two years after having a heart attack and a quadruple coronary bypass.

Steve cooked a gourmet salmon dinner with salad and boil potatoes.

We are eating well and staying in excellent, if varied, accomodations. Being away from junk food and being physically active has helped Bruce lose weight put on during years in front of a computer. Stiff muscles have also disappeared.

Regie Oulette from NB Trails met us at the Rec Centre. Tomorrow we leave for Lac Baker.
June 4, 2007

Tobique Maliseet First Nation

Met many of the tribal counsellors at the home of Chief Bear. Bruce and Claudia presented at the Wellness Centre. They were very generous in their donations and encouraged our journey. More rides provided to the children.

Left Tobique Maliseet First Nation with full fuel tanks and headed to Edmunston. It began to rain.

Called Chief Joanna Bernard of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation to confirm our arrival. She provided stable and pasture for the horses and the modern community Recreation Centre for our accommodations. There is a Day Care centre in the basement but we had the main floor with kitchen for our own use. Laundry done.

June 3, 2007

Met many of the reserve residents and enjoyed lunch with Chief Gerald Bernard's family. Horseback rides were provided to many of the community children at the local ball field.
Steve and Levi worked on their trailers. Steve's electric trailer brakes stopped working. Now fixed. Corroded wiring.

Bruce had a long conversation with Chief Bear about the issues on the Reserve and his plans. He was elected in October. He is obviously most capable and as an experienced businessman, is well on the way to putting the reserve back on a sound financial footing. He also owns the local radio station.

They are involved in a land claims issue where some 12,000 acres of land were stolen from them, leaving them only 5,000 acres for the entire reserve. Even former Prime Minister Mulroney admitted on a TV program that their land had been stolen. It is too bad it hasn't been dealt with before now. There will be an interesting event in July. Watch for it.

Steve, Levi and Ryan stayed with the horses in town while Claudia and Bruce stayed with the Chief and his family at their home. Bruce video taped some comments by the Chief and the Chief will send in additional video to be added to the Ride documentary.

The Chief's wife, Tina, is a teacher by profession but expressed her frustration with trying to get help for students who have been abused at home.

Chief Bear called Chief Joanna Bernard of the Madawaska Reserve at St. Basil beside Edmunston. She invited us to stay on the Reserve.

May 31, 2007

Spent the day at St. Mary's Reserve at the Mall and the ball field. They filled our vehicles with fuel for the trip and provided moose burgers and roast. Levi and Ryan decided to join us for the trip to Six Nations to participate in the June 23rd Grand Entry for their Powwow.

May 30, 2007

Claudia and Bruce met Premier Shawn Graham and were invited to sit in the House with the Members and were introduced to the New Brunswick Legislature by the Minister of Health. He was concerned that the FASD funds were not reaching the grassroots level but being absorbed by the bureaucracy. Grassroots organizations can get $100 worth of work from a $1 investment while bureaucrats and get $1 worth of work from a $100 investment.

Steve, Levi and Ryan rode from the Oromocto Reserve to the St. Thomas University Campus. Paul Jorgensen of the NB Trails Association joined the riders in Lincoln.

Fredericton Mayor, Brad Woodside, and John Howard Society representative, Ann Wagner, welcomed the riders and spoke at the gathering at St. Thomas University. Mayor Woodside read the Proclamation. A number of local riders joined us on campus. The riders then rode through Fredericton and across the old rail bridge to St. Mary's Reserve, stopping to chat with the public along the way.

We spent the night on the David and Shelly Dumphy farm beside the St. Johns River near Taymouth. Delightful couple. Fine food. Comfortable accommodations.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Moncton, NB to Oromocto, NB

May 29, 2007

While Steve, Levi and Robert rode in the Oromocto area, Bruce and Claudia attended to preparing for the events at the NB Legislature and St. Thomas University. Tried to get Internet access to update the website, Blog and download thousands of backlogged E- mails. Frederickton has installed a wireless cloud covering much of the downtown area. Signal a bit too weak where we were but finally went to Future Shop where we could access a very strong wireless signal and get the majority of the access we needed.


May 28, 2007
Rain in middle of the night. Steve put horses in trailer. Flint got tangled up and started kicking the trailer. Big bangs. Steve yelled and they settled down, for a few minutes. Then the kicking began again. Steve got up and tied the horses to separate trees about 40 feet apart. Silence. Heavy rain over night.

Hot camp coffee under the tarp for breakfast. Ate hemp and cashew chocolate bar. Rain let up and we broke camp. Drove to Oromocto/Gagetown Military Base.

Rain cleared about noon and we packed and left. Shoveled up the horse dung and hay and fertilized the woods.

Met Levi at Oromocto Mall. Steve put horses into pasture. We stayed with Levi Sabatis and Melissa Goddard on the Oromocto Reserve. Moose steak and deer chops for dinner. Delicious. Laundry.

Have permission to go to the Oromocto Mall on Tuesday for ride about. We will check out Community Access Centre to get Internet access and update the Blog and website. Hair cut. Got mattress air pump at Canadian Tire.

May 27, 2007
Rode from Sussex about 35 km. Beautiful sunny day. Over several mountains. Bought some emu jerky at Silver Shoes Emu Farm.

Stayed on Grand Lake in Lakeside Campground. Privatized former Provincial Park. No charge. Happy to help the ride any way possible. Rain warning overnight so strung the huge white tarp and placed the tents under. Steve made salmon casserole. Very good.

May 26, 2007
Sussex, NB

Stayed at Sussex PLP Show Centre. Stables, tent. Western reigning training in progress. Reporter Atlantic Horse Country magazine. Shots at covered bridge, the "Kissing Bridge", built in 1908. Local youth trained their horses to ride through the bridge without stopping during the day. However, they also trained them to stop in the middle at night to steal a kiss from their beau/belle. The bridge is also known as Kennebecasis # 7.5, Salmon 1908.


May 25, 2007

Moncton, NB,

Centennial Park event. Best Start joined us. Many families brought their children for rides.

Joined by Mel Cormier. Mel has been instrumental in many contacts in New Brunswick. She is a very active and experienced horse trainer. She has been participating in event from Moncton to Fredericton and will re-join the ride in Saskatchewan.

Truro, NS to Dorchester, NB

May 24, 2007

Chandler House in Dorchester, NB was built in 1831.

Steve and little girl at Pain du College Bakery at Memramcook, NB.

Stayed overnight at Five Elms Riding Stable. Hosts Guy and Cheryl Gosselin. Slept in bunkhouse for summer students.


May 23, 2007

Met Paul Jorgensen of the New Brunswick Trails Association in the marsh before Sackville, NB. Steve and Paul rode through the covered bridge.

Paul Jorgenson, Executive Director, New Brunswick Trails Association.

Paul and Steve riding toward the covered bridge and downtown Sackville.

Steve’s horse, Dash, drinking from the antique horse trough in Sackville, NB.

Deputy Mayor and counselor, people from NB Trails Association, and media.

Global TV reporter, Jennifer, had her first ride on a horse.

River at Sackville is a deep tidal inlet from the Bay of Fundy.


May 22, 2007
Rode with Lucy Gallant’s students into Amherst, NS to be greeted by the Mayor, counselors, members of the NB Trails Association and the media. Steve met the father of an old friend from BC. He is a lawyer in Amherst.

Stayed overnight with Drs. Gillian and Tony Lawrence on their farm outside Amherst. Dr. Gil Lawrence is a GP and runs a therapeutic riding program for children. Dr. Tony Lawrence retired from General Surgery 12 years ago.

The farm was established in 1798 with a log cabin. When the present house was built, the owners tried to move the log cabin across the river to use as a bunkhouse. It broke through the ice and was lost.

The main barn contains a large arena. There were more than a dozen horses milling about with two vying for dominance. Steve ran into the arena and charged at the most aggressive horse, chasing it into a corner and trapping it as he would a cow from a herd. He established himself as the leader of the herd and the aggressive horse sulked in a corner while the rest of the herd followed Steve like a pack of puppies. It was quite amazing.

Wonderful meal and great conversation.

May 21, 2007

Ev and Sharon Miller, Wentworth Centre, NS. They have franchised the Needs Stores in Wentowrth Centre and Amherst. Invited us to stay with them at their home. Steve and the horses stayed with Boyd Little.

Sharon and Ev rescued a newborn fawn when they saw it fall from a bridge. Bucket thrived in their care while waiting to be released back to the wild. They they discovered the buck was a she, so renamed her Buckette. Buckette still visits their home on a regular basis but is free to roam the woods.

Sharon should be a stand-up comedian.



May 20, 2007
Arlene and Tony Miller, Bible Hill / Truro NS

Tony and Arlene Miller have a lovely farm on top of Bible Hill on Old Coach Road. Dogs Finnigan and Mini. Donkey Eeor. Parrots. One parrot keeps plucking out his feathers. Very talkative bird. Says "Hello"when he wants attention.

We finally have Internet access and are able to start the Blog. Can't get access to the FASlink website. Need WS-FTP and IP number. Re-activate the FASlink membership ID so I can get browser E-mail. However, I still need to get access for my laptop to use Eudora to download the regular mail.

Tony and Arlene are wonderful hosts, providing a full dinner and large country breakfast.
When Steve was riding through torrential rain to Wentworth Centre, Tony and Arlene brought dinner to the Needs Store in Wentworth Centre.

Arlene and Tony Miller

Sunday, May 20, 2007


May 19th we hauled Steve and Dash back to Milford to continue the next leg of the Ride. A Nor'easter was howling with fog and an incredible amount of rain. Pure misery. It poured all day while they rode along Highway 2 with Claudia driving the van behind with flashing lights and our large purple and white flag flying from the trailer. 44 km later Steve rode into the center of Truro and we loaded Dash into the trailer at the Truro Curling Club Tuliip Festival.

Arlene and Tony Miller are our hosts in Truro at their horse farm on the mountain at Bible Hill. Wonderful people. A chance to get properly cleaned up and showered and laundry done.

The Beginning - Launching the Great Ride

May 17th was rainy, cold and blustery. The launch was to start at 11 AM and although we got lost once, we arrived at 10:30 to set up. We strung a large tarp to an ice cream stand, plugged in our PA system and began. Noel Knockwood, a Micmac Spiritual Leader and Elder, began with a prayer in Migma and English while performing a Sweetgrass ceremony. The Rev. Glenn McLean of St. James United Church followed with a prayer. The Minister of Health Promotion for the Nova Scotia government, Hon. Chris Barnett, spoke about his government's concern for FASD. Deputy Chief of Police, Chris McNeil, spoke of his department's concern for FASD and their support of our Ride objectives. Dawn Sloane, Halifax City Counsellor, read the Proclamation.

Donna Scaglione sang O Canada as Steve rode Dash across the beach into the Atlantic. The Ride was officially started.

The Halifax City Mounted Unit escorted Steve and rider Scott Barker on a tour of downtown Halifax, ending at the Halifax Shopping Mall. Scott works at Hatfield Farm and is an actor, often performing the bad sheriff and acting with Tom Sellick.

In spite of the weather, many people turned out to watch from their cars and provide support. APTN filmed the proceedings. The launch was widely reported in the news papers and on radio.

May 18th we bid farewell to Brian Hatfield and his staff at Hatfield Farms.

At Enfield we stopped for lunch and the Irving Truck Stop Restaurant Manager announced our presence. People were most generous and encouraging. Steve rode Dash along the side of the Trans Canada. At a bridge, the road shoulder was too narrow to safely cross so he went down the embankment to cross a small river by some train tracks. While he was checking out the stream depth, a high speed passenger train suddenly appeared and went screaming by overhead. Dash was startled but they quickly recovered. Guessing there would not be another train immediately behind the first, Steve rode Dash quickly across the tressle. Back onto the Trans Canada, we picked up Steve at Milford, NS.

We drove to Truro and stayed overnight at the Truro Raceway in their new paddock barn. We visited the Horseman`s Club. One of the members, age 74, had been a hockey player in his younger days in Sudbury and played with Tow Blake. He mentioned another name and Steve immediately recognized is as an old friend he had worked with in Golden. The background was the same and they made contact. It is a very small world.

May 19th we hauled Steve and Dash back to Milford to continue the next leg of the Ride. A Nor'easter was howling with fog and an incredible amount of rain. Pure misery. It poured all day while they rode along Highway 2 with Claudia driving the van behind with flashing lights and our large purple and white flag flying from the trailer. 44 km later Steve rode into the center of Truro and we loaded Dash into the trailer at the Truro Curling Club Tuliip Festival.

Arlene and Tony Miller are our hosts in Truro at their horse farm on the mountain at Bible Hill. Wonderful people. A chance to get properly cleaned up and showered and laundry done.

May 20th Today we will go back the the Tulip Festival but riding will be limited. Large country breakfast. Steve is working the horses. Heavy rain this morning but some lightening of the skies in the afternoon.

Before the Beginning

The Great FASD Horseback Ride Across Canada began with a phone call to Bruce Ritchie in Bright's Grove, ON at FASlink from Steve Thomas, a cowboy from Golden, BC. Steve had a dream to cross Canada on horseback to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

After several sometimes heated discussions on the FASlink Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society listserv, the decision was made to support the adventure. Preparations began. The Ride would leave Halifax, NS on May 17, 2007 and arrive in Victoria, BC on September 10, 2007. International FAS Day would be observed in Nanaimo, BC.

Steve left Golden BC on May 5th, with his Black Labrador Retriever, Dutch, in the cab of his Cummins deisel powered 1988 Dodge pickup truck hauling a 5th-wheel 4 horse trailer with his quarter horse, Dash, on board. He stopped along the way to pick up supplies and three more horses. Errin Weigel of Prairie Majik Arabians sent two of her young prized Arabians for Steve to train and use on the Ride. Brandy and Flint will make excellent endurance mounts. Errin also sent another Arabian with Steve to be delivered to our contact rider in Blind River. Errin has also donated an Arabian foal to be drawn by a rider who rides with us.

Along the way, Steve gave a ride to a young man from Calgary to Regina and a girl travelling to St. John, NB. On May 10th, Steve left Blind River, ON, heading to Ottawa. Bruce Ritchie left Sarnia, ON to meet Steve in Ottawa. The rendezvous was successful and we were accommodated by the Rideau Carleton Raceway overnight.

May 11th we headed for New Brunswick. On the autoroute in Quebec we were pulled over by an officer so he could check out the truck and trailer. He was satisfied with its condition and we proceeded to Edmunston, NB where again we were generously accommodated by dairy farmer Luc Lavoie and his wife and family. The horses were delighted to be in an open paddock rather than confined to a trailer or stall.

Luc and his brother jointly own and manage 110 head of dairy cattle, a 7 day/week job. They get 1 day off every 14 days. That takes dedication. Luc and his wife treated us to a huge farm breakfast and we were on our way.

May 12th, we headed for Fredericton, NB and met Poul Jorgenson and his wife for lunch. Poul is with the NB Trails Association.

Horsewoman and trainer, Mel Cormier, met us at the Irving Big Stop to return unsold Ride T-shirts and meet us in preparation for our return and her participation. The horses were taken out of the trailer for some exercise and Steve put on a training demo. Christine said her goodbye's and headed out for St. John, NB.

After lunch, we headed for Moncton to meet up with the third member of our team, Ride Coordinator Claudia Julien, and her Golden Lab, Tobby. After dinner with Claudia's son Robert, a fine young man, we headed out to Halifax.

We arrived at Hatfield's Farm outside Halifax after dark and set up overnight camp. In the morning we were greeted by a staff member and taken to "the Fort", a rustic pioneer village in the forest. WOW!!!! It may be rustic on the surface, but this is a serious business enterprise. From its small beginnings in 1961, it has grown to more than 1200 acres of forest, lakes, trails and fun. The Fort buildings are heated by a central wood furnace. 8 fire pits can accommodate a large number of guests for trail rides, sleigh rides, corporate functions and cruise ship passengers. It is very much the model of what was envisioned in FASlink's TRIUMF Project at .

The next few days were spent training the horses, contacting media and agencies, police, etc. and checking out the Ride launch location at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. Aliant Telephone provided $500 in Long Distance Phone Cards to help defray our communications costs. Scotia Signs in Sackville lettered the side windows of the van at a generous discount.