Dale Paulette Stone of Rocking Horse Ranch stands with one of her rescued horses, Hope. (CBC)

A safe haven for abused and unwanted horses in Cape Breton is struggling to keep its doors open this summer after its liability insurance swelled by $1 million.

Dale Paulette Stone has been running Rocking Horse Ranch in Baddeck Forks for 15 years, surviving on the revenue from the ranch's trail rides.

She said she was surprised when her liability coverage increased from $1.5 million to $2.5 million, putting the payments out of her price range.

"I've never had an incident here in the 14 years I've been doing them, ever. You'd think it'd go down," said Stone.

Stone said the trail rides made up about 80 per cent of her income and covered the cost of hay to feed the animals, which can grow to $10,000 a year.

For Stone, the ranch is more than just a job. She nursed her first horse back to health after leaving an abusive relationship, and says she’s been hooked ever since.

She said she’ll give the petting zoo a try for a few years, but if it doesn't take off, she'll have to close down the ranch.

That will be a big disappointment for Madelyn Chaisson from Lunenburg. She visits family in Cape Breton every summer, always squeezing in a visit with the horses.

"That's what I look forward to when I come here, and look forward to when I come to Cape Breton," she said. "So it's definitely a place that I love."