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The Government of Ontario announced today that it is investing up to $3 million through the Equine Hardship Program to help horse experience businesses cover animal maintenance costs incurred from COVID-19 disruptions.

According to a release issued by the office of Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, during the pandemic many horse experience activities, such as riding schools, trail ride operations, and horse camps have been unable to operate, which has put these businesses and their horses in jeopardy.

 "Our investment of $3 million will allow these businesses to keep up with the costs of animal care so they can maintain their horses and be ready for when activities can start up again," said Hardeman. 

The Equine Hardship Program, launching on January 18, 2021, will provide individual businesses offering horse related experiences up to $2,500 per horse up to a maximum of $20,000 in financial support to help cover direct costs for feed, water, veterinary care and farrier services needed to maintain horses.

"Ontario Equestrian would like to thank Minister Hardeman, and the Ontario government for their dedication and support of the equine sector over the past months," said Tracey McCague-McElrea, Executive Director of Ontario Equestrian. "This funding announcement will certainly provide much needed relief to our business owners and equine farmers who have fought to maintain their herds since the beginning of the pandemic and we look forward to on-going collaboration with the government to ensure sustainability and growth for the sector."

According to the release, horse experience businesses will be eligible for funding if they earned at least 50 per cent of their revenue in 2019 from horse experience activities, their 2020 revenue was less than half of what was earned in 2019 due to the pandemic, and they attest they are facing hardship as a result of COVID-19 that will make it difficult to care for the horses.

The Equine Hardship Program was specifically designed for horse experience businesses that are not eligible for other agriculture related programs that help farmers manage risk such as the Risk Management Program and AgriStability.