The horse-riding community in Parksville Qualicum Beach is mourning the loss of one of its staunchest supporters, Liz Sahlstrom.
The Errington woman with a deep passion for horses died on May 14, after her brave battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Horses were a significant part of Sahlstrom’s life. She played a major role in forming the Silver Spur Riding Club, which has established horse trails in Errington, Coombs, French Creek, Whiskey Creek, Parksville and Qualicum Beach.
One of the longest-serving members of the club, Barbara Smith, said Sahlstrom always supported the group and had served in different capacities as coach, organizer, secretary, and president in the last 30 years.
“She was involved in a number of things,” said Smith. “She was always a judge at fairs. A very popular judge with the 4-H Club. She was always there to help out.”
Sahlstrom also helped establish one of the club’s major fundraiser, the Vancouver Island Memorial Trail Ride Against Cancer, formerly known as the Bob Preuss Memorial Trail Ride.
“We would get up to 60 to 70 riders and she would be one of the main organizers for that,” said Smith. “That was something that we did every year and we raised a great deal of money for cancer research.”
Sahlstrom was also involved with the Silver Spur’s toy run for the Society of Organized Services.
“We were saddened to hear of Liz’s passing, and are very grateful for all of her enthusiastic support over the years at the Silver Spur Toy Ride,” said Susanna Newton, SOS executive director. “The Silver Spur Riding Club and their annual Toy Ride in support of the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program has made Christmas brighter for so many local families in need. Our condolences to her family and friends.”
Aside from her love for horses, Sahlstrom also volunteered her time with the Arrowmsith Search and Rescue for 12 years. She acted as command radio operator and was also instructor for Adventure Smart, an outdoor wilderness training program. She conducted numerous presentations for more than 2,000 adults and children in the area about being safe outdoors and what to do if they got lost. She was also in charge of ASAR’s mounted team, one of the few specialized equine search and rescue units in the province.
“It’s a pretty sad day,” said Ken Neden, ASAR manager. “She was very valuable to the group having worked on the equine team and also Adventure Smart. She was recognized by Adventure Smart BC for her presentations on outdoor safety.”
Neden said the ASAR is grateful for Sahlstrom, who last year after being forced to sell her horse and trailer when she no longer could ride due to her deteriorating health, for donating $5,000 to help the group’s fundraiser for its new operations centre that’s currently in construction at the Qualicum Beach Airport.
“It was really, really good of her to donate that money for our new building,” said Neden. “She really thought of other people a lot.”
Sahlstrom was diagnosed with progressive bulbar palsy, a motor neuron disease, two-and-a-half years ago.
“It was a horrible disease especially for someone who is vibrant and athletic as Liz was,” said Smith.
In 2019, Sahlstrom participated in the Mid-Island Walk to End ALS riding on her horse Breeze and raised more than $2,400. Neden said they’ve always supported her ride and helped her raise funds.
Smith said due to COVID-19, they are not able to hold a celebration of life for Sahlstrom. But close friends have been dedicating their rides to Sahlstrom sporting the colour purple, her favourite. Some have honoured her memory by scattering irish flowers on Sahlstrom’s favourite stomping grounds.
If you would like to honour Sahlstrom and her contributions to the community, you can donate to the Mid-Island Walk for ALS by visiting her website at https://bit.ly/3oveMQj