A pair of Saskatchewan residents from two different worlds are using their shared love of horses to bring people together.
Max Longman and Erin Fletcher have organized a Ride 4 Reconciliation.
Fletcher runs Serenity Farms north of Regina and offers her horses as therapy for kids with special needs.
Over the years, she has developed a friendship with Longman, who is from the George Gordon First Nation, about 90 kilometres northeast of Regina.
The two both love horses and want to share that with others. They hope the ride can begin a healing process for First Nations people and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Bringing back old traditions
Longman said he reintroduced trail rides in his community a few years ago to get young people involved with horses. He said many people his age grew up riding but later lost that tradition.
"So, throughout the last few years, we've been bringing it back and bringing it back strong," Longman said. "For myself, I grew up with horses all my life and I noticed it brought people together. And that's why we do this every year."
For elders, Longman said it often brings up memories of the past. He also invites classrooms and other community groups to go horseback riding or ride in his horse-drawn wagon. Longman said it's a great way for people in his community to connect with their history.
Fletcher partnered up with Longman on the ride after being asked to join in.
"I thought, well let's just take this a little bit farther and start to do an official ride for reconciliation and see if that's a tool to bring people together and to implement the truth and reconciliation recommendations," she said.
Ending racism through riding
Longman said he wanted everyone to be invited, including non-Indigenous people. He acknowledges that if he wants to see change, he needs to make the first move.
"I was brought up to love everybody and that's what this ride is all about to show that there is no hate amongst us towards the whites and hopefully it goes both ways here and we can have an understanding and get along with each other," Longman said.
The Ride 4 Reconciliation will begin Saturday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. Anyone with a horse can join the group at George Gordon First Nation. Those under 18 will be asked to wear a helmet. Food will be supplied and good conversation is expected.
According to Fletcher, the event is just a first step, but it's had a positive impact already.
"Bringing people together through our love of horses and their healing power is the way we can end racism and start to understand the true history of the colonization process by meeting and talking with people like Max, who've experienced this, and also learn the wonderful Indigenous culture, especially the horse culture aspect," Fletcher said.
"It's just mind-blowing and it's wonderful."