Not so easy riding: physical distancing means cancelled lessons, lost income at horse stables

Quebec horse stables are anything but as riding lessons and training sessions have been cancelled due to COVID-19 physical distancing measures.

“All the barn owners know when you have a riding school, that's what brings the income to the barn,” said Letizia Chiminazzo of St-Lazare's Centre Equestre L'Integrite.

Chiminazzo said the centre is currently making money by boarding horses but that income may also be in jeopardy as the province's economic problems force people to make budget cuts.

“They have a family, they have mortgages, they have a house, they have their own personal expenses like groceries and all those expenses that you're going to have on the daily,” said Sabrina Gariepy-Fortin, a trainer at the centre. “The horses are going to come way down the list.”

Staff said clients are mostly still making their payments, but should that change, the centre could be forced to make sacrifices such as selling or giving away a horse.

“People won't be able to afford their horses anymore and the other problem we're facing is, yes there are rescues but those rescues can only do so much,” said Gariepy-Fortin. “Once they're full and they have their hands full, they can't care for more horses.”

Veterinarian Jacques Morin said the worst case situation would be a horse being put down.

“For us veterinarians, we always try to find other situations,” he said. “For us to put a horse down that's healthy doesn't make sense and that's not the reason why I went to school.”

Gariepy-Fortin said she believes physical distancing could be respected while giving lessons.

“It would be very easy to go back to those regular activities in order to keep us afloat,” she said.  

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