The Upper Nicola Band recently hosted a Youth Horse Clinic, looking to foster connections between youth and an animal with vast cultural and historical significance to Indigenous people in the area. 

The UNB Youth Horse Clinic was the first ever official event of its kind put on by UNB, but plans are already in the works given the success of this year’s event. Over 20 youth and a number of adult volunteer instructors gathered at Raging River Riding Arena in Quilchena for the three day event. 

“They like to get the children and youth around horses to learn more about horses, how to ride them, how to care for them, how to handle them, and the safety around them,” said Diana Boston, communications officer for UNB.

The participants were given instruction on grooming, handling, and safety pertaining to horses by a number of volunteers and elders from the Upper Nicola community. The event included not only riding lessons and other equine education, but campfire storytelling, and a ladies sweat. 

“It was [youth] anywhere from four or five years old, up to teenagers, so that they could all learn around each other. I was there on day one, and they were taking their riding lessons around the arena, and learning safety tips about getting on and off of horses,” added Boston. 

Along with the instruction from volunteers with years of equine experience, younger children were paired with teens for a youth mentorship program during the clinic as well. Six horses were available for participants to learn from, also provided by a community member. 

Boston added that horses have significant value in Upper Nicola culture and every day life, with Sylix people developing a highly horse-based culture. Horses have been used by Sylix people throughout history as a means for transportation, farming, ranching, and sporting. 

“Sylix people are very much horse people, we use horses for everything, whether it be work, play, or just in general,” added Boston. “We even have wild horses.” 

For more information on future Youth Horse Clinics, and other events put on by UNB, visit the band’s Facebook page.