Lynda Tennessen Wins National Horse Health and Welfare Stewardship Award

TennessenEdmonton…Lynda Tennessen, WELCA Herd & Lessons Manager, has won Equine Canada’s First-Ever Horse Health and Welfare Stewardship Award.  The Award recognizes an individual who has on a single occasion or multiple occasions demonstrated exceptional compassion for a horse at a grass-roots level.

In nominating Mrs. Tennessen, Valerie Wilson, a warmblood breeder and long-time supporter of WELCA, said, “Results speak for themselves in Lynda’s ability to extend the useful working life of horses well into their 30s.  She has taken on horses with emotional or physical issues, nursed them back into useful lives and maintained them in a healthy retirement.”

“WELCA’s horses are specially trained for the wheelchair lifts and quiet work necessary for the Little Bits Therapeutic Riding Association,” continues Ms Wilson.  “Lynda is very conscious of the number of hours a horse works and she ensures they receive at least one day off per week and a minimum of three weeks vacation during the year.  This contributes to their mental health as well as their physical well being.”

In addition to hands-on horse care, Mrs. Tennessen sets an example for the 350+ students who take riding lessons at WELCA each year.  People of all ages learn from Lynda about horse care, herd health and end of life care.  She has made an in-house video on safe horse handling for her students and staff to imitate.

“Choosing the award winner was very difficult for our committee as all the candidates gave us great hope for the future of horse welfare in Canada, but Lynda’s particular combination of hands-on care and infectious stewardship clearly set an award-deserving example for all of us,” said John McNie, DVM & Co-Chair of Equine Canada Health & Welfare Committee.

Mrs. Tennessen has worked at the Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association (WELCA) for over 20 years as a riding instructor, therapeutic riding instructor and for the last 6 years, as Manager of Herd & Programs.  WELCA has seventy horses on site, 35 belong to the Association and 35 are privately boarded.

WELCA is a non-profit community organization. It offers a variety of riding and non-riding programs for people ages six to 65. Its programs benefit many Edmontonians including high-risk youth, aboriginal youth, war veterans, the physically and mentally disabled, and the elderly.  95% of participants do not own a horse. 35% have special needs.

View Lynda’s interview with Alberta Primetime.

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It’s a great start to the week…

Mares on Monday morning

Mares on Monday morning

The goats are soaking up the sun too.

The goats are soaking up the sun too.

The sun is shining at WELCA this Monday morning which is putting a spring in everyone’s step after a week of rain.  We welcomed 18 Grade 7 students from S Bruce Simpson School for a field trip as well as a preschool class from Elmwood School for a tour.

Then it was on to private lessons for some young riders who got to take advantage of the sunshine and go for a ride around the stable yard!

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Patches has a new home

patchesPatches left last night. With little fanfare, he quietly stepped onto the trailer that would take him to his new home.

Ten months or so ago, my co-manager, Lynda, passed me in the office and said, “We need to talk about Patches.” Of course, it was several days before we actually got a chance to have that talk. In the meantime, another employee was doing an inventory of medications and analysing costs. Coincidently, it turned out that Patches had the highest medication cost per month in the herd.

By the time we did get to talk about Patches, Lynda had collected even more information – along with her observations, she had heard from Little Bits instructors, WELCA instructors, barn staff and TAs, as well as some of his regular student riders. Patches was giving everyone clear signals that he was no longer enjoying his work:

  • He was increasingly agitated by things like water dripping from the arena roof, cyclists on the trail, dark corners, etc.
  • His body was no longer keeping up with his mind – he wanted to jump and canter but was too old to do so safely.
  • He no longer approached his tasks with the same enthusiasm – he preferred to stay in his pen.
  • He whispered to Lynda that he was done.

Working in lessons and therapeutic riding is not for every horse. It takes a special combination of mind, soul and body to be able to do the job well – to make riders of all abilities feel safe in the saddle, to patiently stand through numerous groomings, to walk with a leader and sidewalkers, to discern which commands the inexperienced rider really means and yet be able to readily respond to the needs of a more experienced one. For every student who rides him (and that can be tens of riders in a year, hundreds even thousands in a career), a lesson horse must have the ability to be any combination of therapist, teacher, teammate, friend, coach and cheerleader.

Patches came to us on full lease in July, 2007. He had a successful career as a jumper and had even competed at Spruce Meadows. He immediately went to work in WELCA’s lesson program in the beginner and intermediate levels. That fall, he was evaluated for working in the therapeutic riding program and was accepted. Patches soon became one of Little Bits most popular & reliable horses.

Rachel O’Dowd wrote to say, “I owned Patches (Black Tie Affair) for six years. He was my first pony and the best pony a little girl could ask for. Spunkiest little jumper pony around and cute as a button. He taught me to be tough and fearless. We jumped five feet once! (after he first attempted to go underneath the jump and I was left hanging on to the top rail) I’ll never forget beating out a bunch of adults in a Dressage class because of his unreal extended trot. On every trail ride we went on, as soon as he was in an open field he would bolt! To a ten year old, he seemed to run faster than Secretariat. I liked that. He was patient and steady when allowing me to do all my girly fussing over him. I would make him wear flower crowns, give him awful haircuts, glitter hooves and i once colored the white parts of his mane rainbow for a Hawaiian themed show. When I got my second horse we leased Patchy Boy to a family friend. He got to moonlight as a real cow pony! He went on a pack trip to the mountains. When the cowboys were sleeping round the campfire, he decided he would become a wild mustang and run away deep into the Rocky Mountains. Patches lived wild in the mountains for a month and a half until some natives found him drinking from a river, happy and healthy as could be. After that he went on to another little girl and then to Whitemud Equine. Thanks for the memories patchy pony, you made this girl’s childhood. Happy Retirement!! Xoxoxo”

As happens so many times at WELCA, we knew we had to make a decision about Patches but it was not urgent. We cut back on his hours and gave him time to just be a horse. And we waited.

Then, this spring, one of the long-time volunteers with Little Bits approached Lynda with a request. Could she adopt Patches and take him to a farm for his retirement? We got in touch with the person who leased him to us and gave her the opportunity to take him back. She declined and said that she trusted us to do what was best for Patches.

So we talked it over with everyone who knew and loved Patches as well as people who knew and trusted the volunteer. Ultimately, we all agreed that it was a good match. And so, Patches has a new home – one where he can just be a horse and enjoy the love of a very generous and good person.

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