To provide a safe environment for the enhancement of physical, emotional, educational and social development through therapeutic riding, equine assisted learning and psychotherapy and horsemanship within the Annapolis Valley.
We work with people of all ages, exceptionalities and individuals who present with mental health concerns. We seek to fulfill our mandate in partnership with the medical, psychological profession, community services, rehabilitation specialists, the equestrian community and others who support our mandate
We are known as the Free Spirit Therapeutic Riding Association or “FSTRA” located in the Annapolis Valley, operating out of our host facility, Rohan Wood Stables. We are a registered charity and believe in providing opportunities and removing barriers for our community. Since our inception in 2012 where we ran a pilot program for 12 participants, we are now currently serving over 120 unique individuals on an annual basis through our traditional therapeutic riding and other programming options.
We are an accredited centre through the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association also known as “CanTRA” which is the only national governing body providing certifications, trainings and accreditations to centres like ours across Canada. We are currently the only accredited CanTRA centre in Nova Scotia. This means there are certain standards set by CanTRA, required hours for professional development on an annual basis, trainings and policies we must uphold not only to ensure the safety for our participants but to also implement best practices and maintain our accreditation.
We offer both traditional therapeutic riding lessons through our certified instructors as well as alternative programming for our local schools.
We exist to be one of the leaders of positive development and overall wellness through innovative and inclusive programming
Our values play a critical role through informing our daily programming, interactions and direction:
Fostering a safe space of community and engagement
Supporting families and friendships through networking and engagement
Transforming our community through education, physical literacy and mental wellness
Raising awareness around equine therapies and being recognized as a centre of excellence
Advocating for a place of acceptance, diversity and empathy
To be a barrier free, family focused and forward thinking organization
Since our inception in 2012, it has become apparent for the need for inclusive and accessible programming for the Annapolis Valley. Our Board of Directors and staff are now in the process of re-writing our strategic plan to provide vision for the next 10 years in how we, as a registered charity, and the only certified Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association accredited centre in Nova Scotia can begin to address the need, fill the gaps and provide further support to our families and surrounding communities. This process has already begun as we have partnered with Clannad Counselling and Consulting in Kentville to offer Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, as well provide programming addressing systemic issues facing our youth today.
Rohan Wood Stables was established in 2005 as a business and is located in Aylesford Nova Scotia. They graciously rent us ring space and rent us horses (specially trained for therapeutic riding) to be used in our daily programming. With over 50 horses on property and 4 full time staff, there are multiple programs and opportunities to get involved. For more information about RWS’ programs, boarding, training horses, breeding and competitions, stop in and see the facility and meet the horses, or visit RWS’ website
Our facility is accessible! Although the driveway is gravel, thanks to the Rick Hansen Barrier Buster Project, there is a paved sidewalk leading from the driveway into the barn (which is all paved) as well as into the indoor riding ring. Additionally, there is a barrier free public washroom thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous donor. The accessible washroom is attached to our office that has a wheelchair ramp into the building. Our riding ring is also equipped with a wheelchair ramp and a wheelchair lift to assist our clients in mounting and dismounting our equine heroes for those who need extra assistance.
Meet our Board of Directors
Stephanie Townsend MA, RCT-C, CCC-Q is a Registered Counselling Therapist, a Canadian Certified Counsellor and has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Free Spirit Therapeutic Riding Association since December 2015 and a volunteer in their program since 2016. With a passion for horses and human connection, her private clinical practice at Clannad Counselling & Consulting has partnered with FSTRA and Rohan Wood Stables to provide clinical treatment services in the form of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy aimed at reducing barriers to accessing mental health treatment in the Annapolis Valley, NS
Amanda Brulé is a Valley girl through and through. She lives in Welsford with her husband, son and fur kids; and stays active with horseback riding, ringette, soccer and running. She is Vice-President – Sales & Residential Projects for Kentville based company Nova Solar Capital, and has a keen interest in social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Amanda joined our board in the Spring of 2016 and has been a huge asset to our team in providing direction and support for our organization.
We are thrilled to announce that Annalisa has just recently joined our board of directors. In addition to spending many hours in the barn supporting her daughter’s equestrian career, Annalisa brings a wealth of knowledge through her many years of nursing and working as a paramedic. She currently completing her Masters of Gerontology and is passionate about supporting local causes in her community. Annalisa participates in Horsemasters in her spare time and also serves on the board of directors for the Evangeline Pony Club. Annalisa lives in the Annapolis Valley with her daughter and furry friends.
Kelly Holleman has worked in the education system for over 25 years in the Annapolis Valley. She joined the Board of Directors after volunteering with the program and seeing the incredible impact FSTRA has on both the rider and volunteers. She is also a proud “Barn Mom” spending countless hours at RWS watching lessons, clinics, shows and even participating in the Horsemasters Program through Canadian Pony Club. Kelly’s background in education and having experienced the program first hand is what drives her passion to support the FSTRA program.
Nina has served on the FSTRA board for the past 6 years. Working currently for Service Canada, Nina has also attained her Bachelor of Education and is a certified CanTRA Basic Instructor (CTRBI). She has always been involved with horses through breeding, training and showing in both Germany and Canada. Nina is passionate about therapeutic riding and spends her spare time teaching both her daughter and son, ages 8 & 6, how to love and care for their “hoofy” friends. Nina has been an active member in building and providing direction to FSTRA, while also helping to teach some of our therapeutic riding lessons over the years.
Julie Gould joined our board in 2014 to serve as our Treasurer. After developing a horse addiction from an early age Julie pursued her Canadian Pony Club level “A” and represented CPC at a Show Jumping competition in South Africa, (although her real passion is in 3 Day Eventing). After graduating Mount Allison University, Julie spent some time living and competing in the States, working and travelling internationally alongside some elite equestrian professionals. When Julie is not busy providing accounting services to small business or volunteering, you can find her running her own farming operation and enjoying time with her husband and two daughters.