Women In Business Blog Series: Therapeutic Riding

Ashley Sudds, Executive Director at KTRA

Ashley Sudds was born and raised in the lower mainland and started riding at the age of 13. After working in customer service/sales for over 10 years, she took a leap of faith and changed her career path. Passionate about riding, she researched how she could work with horses as a career instead of a hobby. She found CanTRA, the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, and decided to become a certified therapeutic riding instructor!

Ashley didn’t hesitate to take the reins, teaching at Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities in Langley, before moving to Kamloops in 2014 to work at the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association (KTRA). She started as the session coordinator, and over the following two to three years, moved up into the Executive Director role. She is a certified CTRBI CanTRA Basic Instructor and a certified PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor.

Big and Small buddies at KTRA

KTRA is a not-for-profit registered charity managed by Ashley and governed by a board of directors. It started in 1988 with a mission to ‘create opportunities for personal growth, healing and connection through a shared experience with horses’.  The organization aims to act as an inclusive community where all people can find a place to experience joy, empowerment and personal growth. The biggest challenges are finding enough funding to cover all expenses including wages for certified/experienced staff to keep riders fees as low as possible. The whole operation takes a lot of work, and Ashley manages it all, from finding funds to picking up horse puckies:

“A typical day begins at 8am with feeding the horses (we have 20 of them) hay and grain. Next, we start to clean paddocks which get cleaned daily. The average horse poops around 12 times per day. 20 horses is 240 piles of manure and we pick up every single pile every single day. Depending on the riding session then, we are either getting horses ready for lessons and/or teaching lessons, trying to fit some office time in, and doing any other outside repairs and maintenance required for our 10 acre leased property. Dinner feed starts at 3pm, and trust me, the horses know when it is after 3pm and dinner hasn’t started yet, lol.

If everything goes perfectly, usually the day ends around 4-4:30pm if lessons are not happening. If lessons are happening and if there are any injuries etc. to deal with, sometimes the day doesn’t end until 6-6:30pm. I am also the 24 hour emergency contact. Challenges would be getting into the office to answer emails and write grants. We have limited staff at the moment with the pandemic so there are only two of us that do all the barn work and teach lessons five days a week at the moment.”

Training on a gorgeous day at KTRA

For Ashley and her small but mighty team, the future goal for KTRA is to continue to increase the quality of the lessons they provide. They have a strategic plan in place that is based on four pillars of excellence: 

Organizational excellence is focused on our governance structure, policies, HR structure and processes, legal and compliance issues, and membership and strategic direction. Community engagement  includes assessing our community profile, maintenance and expansion of partnerships, increasing the success of our grant submissions and giving back to the community. Making a difference includes making improvements to our programs, and client, parent and volunteer enrichment. Sustainability is key to the ongoing success of the KTRA programs  and includes assessing our mix of social enterprise activities and our core programs to ensure our plans are achieved and funding uncertainty is well mitigated.”

Ashley is a star example of a hard working, dynamic woman in business! She is married and has two cats and four horses. Her favorite part of KTRA is the smile that horses bring to their riders’ faces. It is important to Ashley to find the positive in the negative. 

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