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.