2007 Alumni

Northwest Young Entrepreneur

Teri Treftlin

Teri Treftlin Geraldton’s Teri Treftlin was fortunate enough to find her life’s calling early on.

Propped up on a saddle as a toddler, she was bawling at being taken off a horse, rather than being intimidated by the powerful, yet docile animal.

There, the fascination with horses began. Though she’s been bucked off and kicked by horses, and fought off cancerous tumours in her shoulder, Treftlin has always dusted herself off and followed her dream.

Her first ride came at age nine in the pony ring at the Calgary Stampede. Her steed was an ex-race horse. Sensing a small jockey-like body perched on the saddle, the horse immediately kicked it into gear, much to the dismay of her appalled grandmother.

“I just remember seeing my nana being very upset and yelling at the men running the pony ride to get in there and grab the horse. My grandfather just watched and applauded me for staying on.

“When they finally got the horse stopped and pulled me off the saddle, I was upset because I wanted to get back on and go again.”

Treftlin was hardly spooked by the experience. “Are you kidding? That was the best ride of my life.”

The farm manager of North Winds Farm and a Geraldton high school teacher has been called by one nominator “an inspiring example” of success, achieved only by combining hard work and dedication in following one’s dreams.

Raised in Fort Frances and Atikokan, the Lakehead University grad took her first posting at Geraldton Composite High School in the fall of 1996. And there she remains.

Small town life means everyone pitches in many ways and spirited newcomers can make their own distinctive mark.

“People tend to be more accepting of someone who has more of an adventuresome side to them,” says Treftlin. “I very much have been my own person growing up and being in a small town, I feel more tied to the community and the people I work with on a daily basis.

“You do have more opportunity for that kind of lifestyle in a smaller community.”

Located in the rugged hills and swamps of the Canadian Shield, Geraldton is better suited for skidders and diamond drill rigs, than horses.

But her passion for everything equine both as a competitive rider and riding instructor, gave her the ambition to start her own business, a stable on a 20-acre property with husband Jason Napper, where she teaches recreational and competitive riding. Her horse rides are always a staple at local festivals and fundraisers.

“As soon as I bought my first two horses, the neighbourhood kids were coming around hanging off the fence and asking to ride.”

A typical day for Treftlin begins when her eyes open at 6 a.m. until she’s ready for bed at 10 that night.

As a woman wearing many hats, she also runs a dog-boarding kennel and helps coach high school cross-country, track and karate, where she cultivates her abundant energy.

“For me to be a happy person I have to be busy. I believe strongly in family and community involvement. As much as I can give back to the community, I do.”

Her love for horses meant a tough day in January 2000, soon after receiving her leather jacket as a member of the Geraldton Volunteer Fire Deparment.

Her first fire call was responding to a traffic accident where two box trailers loaded with sheep and horses collided on the highway.

The 39 horses aboard one trailer were headed overseas to be served as a restaurant fare for Japanese diners. Most of the animals were fatally injured, but Treftlin quickly contacted the insurance company holding the rights to two surviving horses.

She convinced a friend to buy one horse and kept the other, a feisty filly named Nicky who’s often grazing in Trefltin’s back field. “She’s one lucky little girl, that’s for sure.”

Working with kids is also a passion.

Many area kids often don’t finish high school, so Treftlin is starting a 4-H horse club teaching at-risk youth to be stable hands.

It’s inspired two high school students to pursue Veterinary Technician diplomas specializing in large animals and she has trained apprentices to become horse groomers, a recognized trade in Ontario.

Some of her biggest thrills is watching her students excel at competition. Seeing their success is a touch stone for her efforts to improve her coaching and riding technique.

In following a mantra of life-long learning, she’s added to her qualifications as a Level 3 Riding Instructor by graduating with honours with an Equine Science Certificate from the University of Guelph.

Treftlin and Napper plan on diversifying and expanding their farm by adding market hogs and spring lambs.

But her most ambitious project is for a recently-purchased 160-acre farm property in O’Connor Township outside Thunder Bay. There she has plans to convert her hay field into northwestern’s Ontario’s first equine event centre.

This summer, a course designer will walk the property as she begins building jumps. “We’re hoping to hold our first events there in August.”

She credits mentor Dave Barritt, a competitive rider himself for giving her the encouragement and injecting her with the enthusiasm to follow through on her plans.

Treftlin accompanied him to a Chicago event as a groomer for an Olympic team trials selection where she saw competitive riding at a world-class level.

It’s opened her eyes to what’s out there and what can be accomplished in northwestern Ontario.

Barritt, a Thunder Bay electrical engineer has an equally strong love of horses with his Morgan breeding farm.

“His energy has helped with struggles through some business issues we’ve had here because of our small location.

“He’s a very strong willing person, very bold with his riding technique and that’s affected my riding and I’m hoping I’m passing some of that along to my riding students.”