As many of us horse people are all too aware, a slew of riding schools across the country have and continue to struggle. First came the shut-down when lessons had to be cancelled, causing a lot of stress about how to pay for the care and feed of the lesson horses, known affectionately as “schoolies.” Even with the reopening, there are still debts to be paid and continued care to think of as stables everywhere try to play catch-up financially.

Various efforts have been made to help raise much needed funds, including the Ontario Equestrian Federation’s #FortheHerd campaign, which has currently raised 40% of its $500,000 goal, and some individual riding establishments have created their own fundraisers on social media platforms like Facebook.

An Oakville mother and her daughter, Rachael, have taken a unique approach to fundraising. In return for donations, Rachael reads horse stories on Rachael’s YouTube channel.

So far, Rachael has raised $2,680 raised of her $50,000 goal.

Rachael and her mother, Suzanne McMillan, have also started a GoFundMe page accepting donations. McMillan says they got the idea because they simply both love horses. And they started to hear about the need from friends and relatives. “My mother-in-law rides at a lesson barn and had described the concerns from that barn, and also a friend of mine owns Cornerstone Equestrian Centre and he was posting on Instagram that he needed help supporting his horses through the pandemic,” McMillan explains. “With Rachael learning from home, it made sense for us to work on something together that would help raise money to help, while also nurturing her love of reading which she had enjoyed learning the most in her first year of school in Junior Kindergarten.”

Rachael is planning on taking lessons when she turns six this winter. The little girl has been riding her mother’s older mare since she was a baby. “We own an older horse who is 29 that I purchased 22 years ago from a camp that I went to in the summer,” McMillan says. “I also grew up learning to ride at a lesson barn and worked as a camp counsellor.”

So far, through the help of supportive friends and family, Rachael and her mom have raised over $2,500. But there’s more…

“We recently found out from RBC that they were going to match what we had currently raised as part of their Random Acts of Canadian campaign,” McMillan tells me. “So far, we have helped six local barns including Meadowlarke Stables, Laughton Training Stables, Cornerstone Equestrian Centre, Bayview Equestrian, Iron Horse Performance Horses, and Old Orchard Farms.”

Naturally, McMillan is incredibly proud of Rachael. “I have purchased all kinds of horse and pony books for her to read, including several series such as Spirit and My Little Pony.” She adds that the local Indigo bookstore has kindly provided a discount on the books. “Reading for Rachael Reads to save the School Horses has been something she looks forward to every day.”

Please donate to Rachael Reads to Save the School Horses here.