For Park Siding resident Rick Fillmore, earning the Horse Council of BC’s Sherman Olson Lifetime Achievement Award came out of left field.
“It was a surprise to me, when the women phoned me I thought it was a hoax, because there’s always guys pulling pranks,” said Fillmore. “I said, ‘Are you sure about this?’ and ‘Isn’t there someone else who deserves it more than me?’”
Ask anyone who knows him, Fillmore has done more than enough volunteer work with wildlife and horseman groups to span two or three life times, and the honour richly deserved by the reluctant recipient.
“When you do volunteer work you don’t expect it,” said Fillmore. “But it’s nice to get a pat on the back once in a while.”
For Deborah Watson of Fruitvale, Fillmore has been a friend and mentor since she first moved to the area 15 years ago and boarded her horse at Fillmore’s Park Siding ranch.
“He makes everybody feel welcome in the horse community, and he has a real knack for that,” said Watson. “I can’t explain how wonderful it was for me when I first moved here and I didn’t know anybody. He made me feel totally welcome and a part of his friends and community, and he just does that with everyone.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award is considered the premier award of Horse Council BC and is not given lightly, or annually. The recipient must be deserving and their contributions significant, whether through education, mentoring or leadership.
For Fillmore, it’s all of the above, as his lifetime of commitment and dedication brought vital contributions and growth to the equine industry.
Over several decades, Fillmore’s tireless work with the West Kootenay Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen, Trail Horsemen’s Society, the Fort Shepherd Wild Life Conservatory, and the Trail Wildlife Association, to name a few, garnered him the Exceptional Volunteer Award for his efforts to conserve and enhance wildlife.
The 73-year-old continues to run his own ranch that for the past 35 years has bordered up to 65 horses at any one time. He ran a Quarter-horse breeding program for a number of years, built a place where horsemen gather for clinics, rides and bonfires, and still finds time to work part-time at a local lumber mill, teach clinics, and volunteer on the numerous societies and associations.
Fillmore also donated tons of hay to the Fort McMurray wildfire victims, helps rescue-horses find homes, and donates time and money to horse-rescue organizations.
“Since I was 14-years-of age I was involved,” said Fillmore. “You just do it, there’s no thinking about it, you just go do it. I’ve done it all my life just go, go, go. There’s no down time, but that’s just the way it is.”
Fillmore’s affinity for horses and his in depth study and training in ‘natural horsemanship’ have proven a gift to horsemen in the Kootenays.
“If it wasn’t for the horse, they teach you so many things, it’s all about the horse, it’s not about me,” he explained. “I’ve never ever charged anybody and I just wanted to help people out. I’ve been to a lot of the best clinicians all over North America and I think I have quite a bit of knowledge, so it’s just nice to share it with people.”
Fillmore follows in the footsteps of Fruitvale’s George and Fran Bloor, who were honoured with the Award in 2006. The Bloors helped create the Trail Horsemen’s Society and, along with Fillmore, were pioneers in the growth of the society and interest in horsemanship in the West Kootenay.
More recently, Fillmore has been a driving force in raising over $20,000 to build a mountain-trail course at Trail Horsemen’s Grounds, as well as develop riding trails along the Columbia River.
Fillmore is humbled by the honour, and was pleased to share the moment with his family. Yet, the stoic horseman is not ready to stop riding or teaching others how to stand tall in the saddle.
“There’s always something going on,” added Fillmore. “It’s interesting stuff I like, and these horse people are really good people. You never have any problems with people volunteering or when you’re on a work party, they all show up – it’s a good bunch.”
The Horse Council of BC president Liz Saunders presented the Sherman Olson Lifetime Achievement Award to Fillmore in front of family and friends at a Back Country Horsemen’s meeting in Castlegar last week.