ACTRA's History

It was January 27, 1980 when a group of people with the common interest of competitive distance riding met at the home of Deiter Helmsmuller of Sussex, New Brunswick. With some initial plans in place, the first regular meeting of the Atlantic Canada Trail Riding Association occurred on March 2. By then interest had increased enough that 35 people attended this first meeting at the Brookdale Community Hall in Nova Scotia.

The first order of business was to elect a board of directors. In these early stages, much emphasis was placed on having equal representation throughout the Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Regions were mapped out with Nova Scotia divided into 3 zones. New Brunswick would have 2 zones and Prince Edward Island became one zone. While there was not any one present from Newfoundland, it too would be considered as a region.

There are quite a few people who we can thank for starting the seeds of distance riding in Atlantic Canada. The first board of directors consisted of Hayden Bowles, Robin Burke, Elizabeth Burton, Garnet Gallant, Deiter Helmsmueller, Ellen von Kintzel, Larry McKim, Dr. Tom Miller, Charlene Nelson, Jerry Randall and Jack Watson. Others volunteered to serve on committees, such as Mark Boon and Julie Watson.

While organization is important, lets not forget that most of these people were interested in the actual riding. The first organized ACTRA ride dates were planned for May 10 at Frolic N’ Acres in Amherst; August 23 or 24, Town & Country Ride in Kentville or Wolfville; September 27, Mount Pisgah in Sussex; October 11, Frolic N’ Acres in Amherst; and October 18, Bonshaw, Prince Edward Island.

To get the riders prepared for these upcoming rides a clinic was planned for April 26 & 27, to be given by Louise Leister, an experienced competitive trail rider from Maine. Several of these distance riding enthusiasts made plans of attending a clinic in Vermont on April 5, to be presented by Dr. Mathew McKay-Smith. He was, and still is, a highly respected expert on distance riding.

In this first year the ACTRA directors held no less than 6 meetings. Today, we have the luxury of depending on the ground work these early ACTRA members accomplished and we can usually take acre of club business with one general meeting and 2 director’s meetings.

The 1980 directors held an April meeting in Sussex to take care of the establishment of many of the club rules that we can now take for granted. A system of horse registration and record keeping was set up that our statistician still uses. The directors present at this 6-hour marathon planning meeting must be commended for their show of endurance. Much was accomplished most notably the adoption of the club’s first set of rules, regulations and guidelines for ACTRA sanctioned rides. Even in the first year of existence ACTRA directors had plans for an Awards Banquet.

ACTRA’s second general meeting was held on April 26, again at the Brookdale Community Hall near Amherst, Nova Scotia. Business accomplished was the adoption of a crest and a review of items covered at the meeting held in March. The words “lively discussion” appear quite often in the minutes of these early ACTRA meetings. Which leads one to imagine that the meetings were much more interesting than the diplomatic secretary allowed to be saved on paper.

By May of 1980, there were 44 individual members and 22 family memberships. An individual membership cost $10. We certainly can’t complain about an excessive increase in membership costs because in 2012 the membership is just $17.50.

ACTRA’s first annual meeting and awards banquet was held on November 8, 1980 in Amherst, Nova Scotia. It was fitting that the 21st annual meeting was also  held in Amherst, during our 20th anniversary year.

c)2001 by Karen Murray. All rights reserved.
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