Sisters Katie and Jewel Keca were gaga over horses when they were younger.
Now, at 18 and 23 years old, their love affair with horses has only grown, and soon they'll embark on an adventure inspired by a shared childhood dream: to ride their horses across Canada.
The sisters from Grimsby Ont., are expected to leave Mahone Bay, N.S., on Thursday en route to B.C. along with their horses, Lux and Ora.
Katie was in Grade 3 when she first came up with the idea. But as she got older and began a university education, the dream faded. Though she had given up on any plans to do the trip, her younger sister had hung on to the idea.
In November, Jewel gave Katie a special early Christmas gift.
"She saved up a little bit of money and she bought Lux off the internet for $500 for me for Christmas," said Katie, who learned of the surprise while FaceTiming with family from her apartment in Montreal.
During their chat, Katie was told to check her Facebook.
"And there's a picture of Lux with a Christmas bow on him," Katie recalled.
Trek also a fundraiser
Katie said the trek has evolved into something a lot bigger than a childhood dream. She now sees it as a journey for the two sisters to strengthen their relationship.
"We'll be living in a lot of discomfort and a lot of challenges and a lot of unknown," she said.
"So I think it will be a lot of learning who we are and how we handle those situations."
As well as being a special journey for the sisters, it's become a fundraising opportunity for a cause that's close to Jewel's heart.
She fosters guide dog puppies and she's using this adventure to raise money for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, an organization that provides guide dogs at no cost to people with mental or physical disabilities.
Horses are the No. 1 priority
The sisters say the horses' well-being is their No. 1 priority. They'll be carrying grain, collapsible buckets, rain jackets and a first-aid kit for the horses.
They will do their best to ride on the Trans Canada Trail and avoid highways and fast roads.
"A lot of the planning is going to be what is happening that day, like, where is the grass? Where's the barn today? Where is the water?" said Katie.
The Kecas say they will only go as far as the horses can go in good health.
They plan to cross Canada at a walking pace rather than trotting or cantering.
"We don't want anyone getting hurt or too stressed out," Katie said. "The goal is B.C., but ... it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. And so our goal is to make the trip as fun as possible."
They also think the trek will deepen their connection to Canada because they'll be travelling slowly through different communities.
"We're prepared to camp every night, but we're open to a bed," said Katie.
Katie said she feels fortunate to live in a country where she feels that it's safe to do this.
The sisters invite anyone to join them along the way either on horseback, by bicycle, or just walking along with them.