From left: Jane James of CanTRA, Andrea Gillies Award for Outstanding Instructor award winner Helgi Sangret, and CTRA’s Jessie Fraser. (Bren Pickel photo)

From left: Jane James of CanTRA, Andrea Gillies Award for Outstanding Instructor award winner Helgi Sangret, and CTRA’s Jessie Fraser. (Bren Pickel photo)

Cowichan Therapeutic Riding instructor awarded national honour

Helgi Sangret has shown extensive dedication in all aspects of her role

A long-time Cowichan Therapeutic Riding instructor has received the recognition she deserves from the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association (CanTRA).

CanTRA, the country’s governing body for therapeutic riding and equine-assisted activities, has awarded Helgi Sangret national recognition for her efforts in this field of alternative wellness.

Sangret has worked as an instructor with CTRA since 2013 and has helped countless riders pursue equine-assisted activity.

The Andrea Gillies Award for Outstanding Instructor is given to “a certified therapeutic riding instructor who has shown extensive dedication in all aspects of their role to meet the needs of their community and to promote the horse as an agent of well-being.”

That description fits Sangret to a ‘T’.

“Having grown up in the beautiful Cowichan Valley, it means a lot to me to give back to this community in the same way. I was lucky enough to have access to amazing coaches, a local Pony Club chapter, a thriving show circuit, and an all-around fantastic horse community,” Sangret said. “To be using those experiences and to work at such a renowned therapeutic riding centre, seeing what the power of the horse-human connection can do every day, is truly a dream come true.”

Sangret is beyond qualified. She’s a certified competition coach with Equine Canada, a senior therapeutic riding instructor through CanTRA, and a provincial vaulting coach and trainer through the Equestrian Vaulting Association of B.C.

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Those qualifications allow her to meet a variety of program needs within the CTRA, including her passion project, the inclusive vaulting program at CTRA, which was pioneered and built under her guidance in 2016.

“A highlight of this vital stream of equine-assisted activity was a week-long vaulting camp for girls with anxiety, low self-esteem, and social barriers,” said a news release issued by the CTRA. “The ‘Fearless Fillies’ camp, developed and led by Helgi, made an incredible impact on each participant with both physical and relational benefits. These camps drew the attention of a physical health and wellness study from the University of Victoria and turned into a collaboration for on-going research.”

That’s nowhere near the end of Sangret’s work with the CTRA, however.

Partnering with The War Horse Foundation and a local staff sergeant in the RCMP, Helgi started leading equine-assisted team building sessions with first responders which then progressed into workshops focused on mental health and well-being. Many of these participants have enrolled as volunteers in CTRA programs.

“With the onset of a global pandemic in the spring of 2020, coinciding with the retirement of a long-time head instructor, Lisa Pink, Helgi stepped into the critical position of leading CTRA’s therapeutic riding program,” said the release. “Navigation of the unknown landscape of COVID-19 found her consulting multiple sources and governing bodies to put together the safest protocols for CTRA’s participants, volunteers, and staff which enabled the program to move forward.

“It is apparent that Helgi’s ever-cheerful attitude, careful understanding and passion for diversity, inclusion and equality are part of the strong foundation that drive her,” said the release. “With such a multiplicity of skills, interests and experiences, Helgi has chosen to invest herself in therapeutic riding and equine-assisted activities, and CTRA is so very thankful to have her!”

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