Taking down barriers

The maiden voyage of the HPED TrailRider

Ian SherringtonMount Royal University | Posted: October 13, 2023

The maiden voyage of the HPED TrailRider.

This was the maiden voyage of the HPED TrailRider.

The TrailRider is an incredible piece of adapted activity equipment recently acquired by the Department of Health and Physical Education (HPED). It allows those experiencing mobility challenges to be included in hikes to places traditionally only accessible by able-bodied individuals. Essentially a single-wheeled seat, it requires a team of at least three to four people to operate, and, on longer or more vigorous hikes, the more the better. This can be quite physically challenging, but as we were to find out, extremely rewarding for all involved.

The TrailRider was ordered for the HPED Department back in February of this year. It arrived on campus during the week of September and was unpacked on Friday, Sept. 22. The following Monday, out of the blue, I received an email from an outdoor education teacher who I have known for a number of years, asking if I knew of anywhere in Calgary to rent or borrow a TrailRider. He shared with me that he was trying to organize a field trip with a class of elementary school students to go out into nature with their classmate while the weather was still reasonable and the fall colours still vibrant on the landscape. The other pressing matter, as he explained, was that the student in question is mobility challenged due to her ongoing battle with cancer. I immediately telephoned the teacher and we were able to quickly decide a day to make this experience happen. I was then able to recruit four senior ecotourism and outdoor leadership (ETOL) students to facilitate the event on short notice. A final key piece to this experience falling into place was yet another ETOL student stepping forward to provide invaluable training on the use of the TrailRider equipment. Tom Stoesz, having worked extensively taking clients out on adventures with TrailRiders, was able to pass along his expertise.

The morning of Oct. 2 dawned a perfect clear, crisp, and fall-like day. We met the class, three teachers, and the student and her family at the Sandy McNabb trailhead west of Turner Valley. It is hard to express how magical this day was. The golden leaves, the laughter of children and the skilful guided discovery woven into the experience by their outdoor ed teacher.  Also, the way the class rallied around their classmate to bring her natural treasures to show and share. Their enthusiasm to take turns providing the energy to pull the TrailRider along, like Santa's reindeer pulling the sleigh, was touching to see. Finally, the heartfelt appreciation expressed by her parents for the opportunity to share this experience with their child, and the unadulterated joy etched on the face of the student. Thanks to the vision, creativity, and work put in by so many, she was able to experience this wonderful day.

The morning of Oct. 2 dawned a perfect clear, crisp, and fall-like day.

The morning of Oct. 2 dawned a perfect clear, crisp, and fall-like day.

This was the maiden voyage of the HPED TrailRider. This now opens up a variety of conversations to discuss how this remarkable piece of equipment can be incorporated into our programming to heighten students' understanding and appreciation for adapted physical activity and literally change lives.

A huge thanks to the four ETOL students who facilitated this event: Emily Penzo, Robbie Kuhnlein, Kendra Baxter, and Fisher Stephenson, and, also, to Tom Stoesz for providing the TrailRider training.

Parent's testimonial

"I wanted to reach out and say thank you for allowing us to be your guinea pigs with the TrailRider today. It means a lot to me and seeing how happy and excited my daughter was to participate in the hike with her class was amazing. Please also extend my appreciation to your wonderful students who were excellent guides and operators!"