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Paul Nicholls rides horse across Canada to change perceptions of veterans

01/15/2015 02:37 EST | Updated 03/17/2015 05:59 EDT
A Canadian Army veteran is planning to ride a horse across Canada to get Canadians to rethink their image of veterans.

"We still have the vision that our veterans are only the 90 year-old men that stormed the beaches at Normandy," said Paul Nicholls.

His cross-country ride will start at the B.C. Legislature in April, and he hopes to arrive in St. John's, NL before winter hits. Along the way, he plans to meet about 700 veterans.

Nicholls was in the army for eight years, first as a reservist and then serving in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s.

He struggled with the transition from soldier to civilian when he moved back to his hometown of Quesnel, B.C.

"That's when I realized that when you leave the brotherhood, you leave the military family, the contemporary veteran is invisible," said Nicholls.

Nicholls thinks that transition may have been easier in the past, when soldiers were deployed alongside family and friends and would return to their communities with shared experiences.

The journey

Nicholls now runs a therapeutic riding centre with his wife. He hopes to offer veterans a chance to ride along his journey, which will be taken on his 17 year-old mare Zoe.

"She's not an ideal candidate," said Nicholls. "She's got a little bit of age on her but she's been with me from the beginning of my personal journey, so I owe her the chance to get me across the country."

He will mostly be taking trails and secondary roads, but he'll also be riding on the highway and through Toronto and Montreal.

The city of Quesnel recently offered to help Nicholls with the paperwork needed to get through each city and town along the way.

To listen to the full interview from Radio West, click on the audio labelled: Veteran rides horse across Canada

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