Horses, riders, left in limbo as equestrian centre closes its doors

Horses, riders, left in limbo as equestrian centre closes its doors
WatchMore than 100 clients are in limbo after a Victoria-based equestrian said it's closing its doors next month. Oli Herrera has more.

Those within the horse-riding industry say the sport is gaining popularity, but the amount of facilities that board, train, and let riders compete is dwindling within the Greater Victoria Area. It’s turning into a housing crisis affecting people and horses according to some.

After three years in operation, Oaklands Equestrian is closing its doors in June.

Owner Diana Lewall says her lease has run out which is affecting more than 100 clients.

Currently, Lewall houses 25 horses — 12 of which are hers — and is on the hunt for a new facility to house her animals, but with time running out she’s had to begin the process of selling them. Now, horse owners have to find suitable facilities to house their animals. After years of coaching and hosting young athletes, families, and horses, she’s upset that the relationships she’s created are now ending.

“They were all very sad because a lot of them are having to leave me as a coach and find a new place to keep their horses and a lot of them won’t be able to continue riding,” said Lewall.

Lewall is on the hunt for a new facility but it has been difficult. She says running an operation like hers is costly but finding a suitable location is the hardest task.

“There’s just not places to find. I’m looking now to downsize somewhere I could get six to eight stalls, maybe a few more and there’s just not places out there,” said Lewall.

Those within the industry say it’s not an isolated incident.

Barn Manager Tomi Galbraith — who works for Lewall — has teamed up to find a new facility. She says submitted multiple applications on behalf of Oaklands Equestrians with references and financial statements. She’s currently on multiple waitlists, one of which where she says there are 45 interested buyers ahead of her.

“I’m going to have to find a place for my horse cause he’s at this facility. Luckily, friends within this industry do have a position for one animal…but…both of my jobs are gone,” said Galbraith.

A new facility isn’t the only concern for her. Galbraith has spent years coaching new and returning riders and is worried that they may not return to the sport.

“It’s one of my student’s first-ever show. I’ve worked with her for two years. She’s adorable, it’s going to be amazing, but this might the last run I get to coach her at and that really breaks my heart,” said Galbraith.

Equestrian can be a costly sport to get involved in. Oaklands Equestrians allowed riders to lease horses to reduce the strain of owning and maintaining horses, but now fears are growing that the sport will only attract athletes that can financially afford it.

“I hope that she can find a new facility because it’s just going to be sad to see children not be able to get into a sport like this without having a lot of money,” said Laura Foxgord, Coach with Equine Canada.

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Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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