Competitors Coming to Home Turf

Published Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Maple Ridge has always been well represented at the BC Disability Games by the members of the North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association. During next July’s Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows BC Disability Games members of NFTRA look forward to welcoming competitors to their home turf.

Dylan Allen, a local rider, has been riding since his parents first put him on a horse at the age of three, fourteen years ago. Dylan has Spastic Cerebral Palsy and visual impairments. The muscles of a person with Spastic CP act differently and block effective movement. The muscles tend to be tense and rigid which can limit the range of movement in the joints and which cause movements to be slow, difficult, stiff and jerky.

Riding is therapeutic for people with Cerebral Palsy because it improves their fine motor skills, muscle tone, posture, and physical stamina. Drew Allen, Dylan’s dad, explains “a horse really works all of the muscles of the body. It is several therapies at once.”

Next year will be Dylan’s fifth year competing at the BC Disability Games and his first year of competition as an adult. Dylan is competitive and mentions that if he receives anything less than a first it “motivates me to push. When I come in third I know I need to work.”

While the main focus of the BCDG is competition Dylan also enjoys the many activities and social events that happen. “I get to lighten up and have fun at the BCDG and then I get into game mode.” Drew adds that “game mode is serious and means no more smiling.”

During the games Dylan has competed in Dressage, Equitation, Pole Bending, and Obstacle Course.

Dressage tests the partnership between horse and rider as they perform a series of maneuvers in a ring while being judged on pace, submission, and form.

Equitation tests a rider’s ability to ride correctly with a strong, supple position while demonstrating control of the horse.

Pole Bending is a timed event in which horse and rider must weave in and out of a line of poles.

Obstacle Course is when the riders steer their horse through a series of set obstacles which include poles, bridges, passageways, and quick turns.

Dylan recently won 1st place in Pole Bending at the Faye Collins Invitational in Langley. Pole Bending is Dlyan’s favourite event as he says it is all about speed and “the faster I go, the happier I am.” Dylan also won 1st place for having the highest points overall for a rider. “When I got the big trophy I was bouncing off the wall.”

Even when not training Dylan’s time is spent on interests that advance his passion for riding. Dylan swims, and competes, with the Haney Seahorses which he started at the suggestion of a NFTRA instructor who said that swimming works the same muscles as riding. He also enjoys working out to improve his strength for when he is back on the horse. Even when working at Jabula Coffee Company in Pitt Meadows he is talking of riding and there are newspaper clippings tacked up about fellow NFTRA rider Jennifer McKenzie’s role on the Canadian Paralympic team. Dylan states that the only bad part about riding is “getting off the horse.”

Both Dylan and his dad credit a large part of his passion to the hard work and commitment of the dedicated NFTRA volunteers and instructors he has experienced over the years. Fionna Christensen, the head instructor of NFTRA was named as the winner of the 2007/2008 Andrea Gillies Award for Outstanding CanTRA (Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association) Instructor.

For more information about NFTRA phone 604.462.7786 or visit their web site at