The NVIHA—local riders with unique ways to have fun on a horse.




People from all ages and walks of life are drawn to horses. I think it’s because horses seem to be able to touch our very souls. As Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

The Comox Valley has always had a love of horses. Plenty of families have a horse or two in the backyard, and, over the years, local equine enthusiasts have pooled their skills and knowledge to create various clubs and groups. There’s a local chapter of Back Country Horsemen of BC, who enjoy building and riding trails in the Valley and throughout our beautiful province. The Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society provides horse-related therapy designed to enhance physical and cognitive abilities of individuals with varying abilities and unique challenges. The Comox Valley Pony Club, for youth aged 6 to 25, teaches responsibility, sportsmanship, and education about caring for horses and ponies.

Each of these clubs offers a different way to connect with horses, and some riders are involved with more than one group.

One of the original local horse groups is the North Vancouver Island Horse Association (NVIHA). It formed in 1966 with the mandate to promote education, sport development, and equine welfare. Decades ago, group members partnered with the Comox Valley Regional District to build a barn and riding arenas on the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds. Today, the barn is used solely by the Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society, but the grounds and arenas continue to be used by other groups and come alive with the sound of galloping hooves and excited spectators throughout the year.

The NVIHA contributes much of the action, with distinct divisions devoted to three equine pursuits: Cow Horse Sport, English, and Western Games/Gymkhana, all of which are great fun to watch—and even more fun to participate in.

CVC Vol34 10 Equine Gallery

Cow Horse Sport tests horse and rider teams for their ability to work cattle. It is fascinating to watch the athleticism, cow sense, courage, and finesse of these finely tuned equine athletes. One event is herd work, where a horse and rider must separate a single cow from a group of cattle and prevent it from returning to the herd. The pair must have catlike reflexes to react to the cow as it dodges and weaves in its attempt to get around them. The cows seem to enjoy the game and do their best to keep it going.

Another event is team sorting, where two horse-and-rider combinations square off with a herd of calves. Each calf is numbered zero to nine. A judge arbitrarily calls out a number and the riders work together to separate the calf with that number from the herd and move it from one end of the arena to the other. Once that has been accomplished, the riders repeat that with the next sequentially numbered calf until all calves have been moved. And it all happens within a set time!

In English competition, horse-and-rider teams must navigate a series of colourful jumps without making any faults (errors) that reduce their score.
Within the English division, there are two styles: Hunter and Jumper. Hunter style demands that the pair look relaxed and elegant; horse and rider are judged by their overall appearance and by how graceful and effortless they look while making the jumps.

In Jumper style, teams are judged on how quickly they complete a course. If the horse-and-rider make it through without any faults (knocking off a bar), they move on to compete against other pairs without faults. The team that jumps the last course the fastest, with the least number of faults, wins.

Western Games and Gymkhana are guaranteed crowd-pleasers featuring timed speed events that require agility, precision, and balance. Horse and rider combinations defy gravity as they race around barrels, weave through a set of upright poles, or gallop up to a traffic cone and attempt to drop a golf ball into the top of the cone.

The NVIHA welcomes anyone with a love of horses, whether you enjoy a relaxing trail ride with your horse, seek out the thrill of competition, or just admire these beautiful, powerful creatures. Spectators are always welcome at competitions, so the next time you pass the Exhibition Grounds during an event, stop in and watch these incredible animals and their dedicated riders. Who knows, we might be watching you gallop around the next time.