For most of us, our riding career began on a school horse, or “schoolie” as they are known. Often an older horse that is wiser than we are and well-trained and good-tempered enough to put up with all the bouncing and pulling that beginner riders of all ages do. But as we’ve seen across scores of media outlets, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has causes a crisis for many riding schools who are struggling to feed and maintain the health of their school horses without the income from lessons.
In response to the pandemic, the Ontario Equestrian launched #ForTheHerd, an emergency fundraising initiative to support lesson horses and riding school facilities in Ontario. According to its dedicated webpage, “The reality of the situation is, without support these businesses will fold and equestrian sport becomes obsolete. Worse yet, these riding school facilities won’t have the means to support these animals’ lives, which in turn may result in selling off the horses or euthanasia.”
The original fundraising goal was set at $500,000, based on the number of horses that might require assistance. There was a survey of Ontario lesson facilities that arrived at this number. The average cost of keeping a school horse is approximately $500-$1000 per month. This includes hay, grain, routine farrier and vet bills. Of course, there is also the cost to pay staff to muck out and turn out horses as well, although many staff have been laid off due to lack of income at the riding schools.
According to the OEF, as of May 19, For the Herd has raised $121,190 in monetary donations. And as of this week, ninety-six riding facility owners have applied for funding. The OEF says they will have given out $89,350 by May 22.
While it’s great news that the Ontario government included horseback riding in its list of approved sports, it’s going to be a long way back for some of these riding schools. For more information or to donate to For the Herd, go to https://www.fortheherd.ca.