In 1989, a few people in the Fraser Valley set out to form the Back Country Horsemen Society of British Columbia. A man named Jim McCrae was the driving force; he had experienced the collegiality and support of various Back-Country chapters in the USA while on a long horseback trek. The society received official status from Victoria on June 11, 1991. That year a small group including Peter Obstfeld, Pat Ellis, Frank and Pat Russell, and Isabel Pritchard got together in Kelowna to see if there was enough interest to start a chapter in the Okanagan. The Fraser Valley Chapter organized a meeting in Kamloops which laid the groundwork for BCHBC to be a province-wide organization. Four new chapters, plus the founding Fraser Valley chapter, were established: Yarrow, Kamloops, Okanagan and Kootenay. The Okanagan Chapter charter was registered in 1992 with Herb Schindelka as president.
Our chapter has members throughout the Okanagan Valley, predominantly in the central Okanagan, and farther afield in the province. In addition to hands-on projects (detailed below), we organize clinics and group rides, including a large inter-chapter ride near Merritt in 2019.
Benefiting from the strong motivation and leadership of committed members through the years, the chapter has undertaken a wide variety of trail and community projects in collaboration with BCHBC provincially, external organizations and other BCHBC chapters. In recent years, we’ve been involved in reconstruction of horse corrals at Lundbom Lake, constructing horse corrals at Kane Valley, and continued upkeep of trails and upgrading horse facilities at Little Trapping Creek off Hwy 33 near Beaverdell. This site features campsites and a trail network of more than 50 kilometers of trails.
Past projects include:
- Vernon area – reconstruction of riding facility bleachers at the historic O’Keefe Ranch
- Larch Hills above Enderby – purchase and installation of steel panel corrals
- Rose Swanson Mountain near Vernon – parking lot and access improvements
- Okanagan Mountain Park – several trail maintenance work parties
- Greystokes area – (multi-year) constructed horse corrals and cleaned up old sheep fencing which was hazardous to horses and wildlife
- Fintry Provincial Park – assisted with restorations of historic barns
- 201 FSR at the base of Moore Mountain – construction of a horse campsite
The Okanagan chapter meets the second Tuesday of each month except July and August. Our meetings are friendly and sociable, with a focus on education and information-sharing. We bring in a variety of speakers and clinicians to cover a diverse range of topics generated by our members.
Our members have a wide range of horse skills and experience – from those relatively new to horses to serious backcountry riders. We include former equitation, dressage and jumper riders to a few rodeo types with a quick hand on the ropes. The common denominator that brings us together is the simple pleasure of enjoying the trail with our human and equine companions.