Veteran Paul Nichols is riding across Canada on horseback to challenge the public’s perception on what a veteran really is.

“When we transition out of the military into a community that thinks of a veteran as an old man then we can struggle and if one of our troops has got some demons then they will show up when they are alone,” said Nichols at a stop in Fredericton.

Nichols is collecting veteran’s stories along the way that will be the basis of a book he plans on publishing once the ride’s over.

He met with veteran Zandra Rubinger in Fredericton on Saturday.

“I thought, ‘wow, this is amazing,’” said Rubinger. “Somebody is doing what needs to be done instead of just complaining about it. They are saying, ‘I have a belief and I have a faith in the Canadian public and I want to do something for our veterans and I think we can do it with horses.’”

Nichols’ journey began in Victoria, B.C. in April.

“I have had about 300 veterans join me. My wife Terry is a therapeutic riding instructor. She puts our veterans through a quick riding lesson and then once they are through her program they come and join me, two to three at a time, and they add their voice to my voice,” said Nichols.

But Nichols says those voices will only be heard if Canadians have a deeper understanding of what a veteran looks like.

He says they need support when they return home from combat.

“During that time of transition, we need support from community,” he said. “In order to support them, they need to know who we are, and so often we think of a veteran as an old man, like one of the old boys who stormed the beaches of Normandy. The truth is we have three generations who have done a hard job for our country since the end of the Second World War.”

“We need to acknowledge them and look after them, as well.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s David Bell.