Equestrian centre ordered out of Truro exhibition grounds

An equestrian business in Truro, N.S., has been ordered to leave its barn at the Provincial Exhibition grounds because the province says there are safety risks. But the company insists the site is safe.

Forever Memories Equestrian Centre has operated out of the barn since 2012

Forever Memories Equestrian Centre received an injunction that will allow them to continue operating in the barn for another week. (Submitted by Shelby Gatti)

An equestrian business in Truro, N.S., has been ordered to leave its barn at the Provincial Exhibition grounds because the province says there are safety risks. But the company insists the site is safe.

Forever Memories Equestrian Centre has been operating out of the site in Truro since 2012.

The women who run the business offer western riding lessons, including therapeutic riding, kids' camps and birthday parties on the site, as well as house a mobile petting farm.

Shelby Gatti, the business's owner, said the province sent her a letter last week telling her to pack up the animals and vacate the barn by March 12 because the barn was condemned.

The provincial Department of Agriculture said in a statement to CBC News it took action after "a serious safety issue was identified" on the property.

Spokesperson Chrissy Matheson said the department took steps to ensure the safety of the public and the animals on the grounds.

She would not say specifically what the safety issue is or if it was the barn itself.

"We understand that this is an unfortunate and frustrating situation for the leaseholder; however, safety is our main priority," the statement said.

Spring break camps continuing

Gatti disputes the province's assertion the structure is unsafe.

"It is not in disrepair and unsafe for horses to be in. I would not put my horses in that danger — or anybody," she told CBC's Maritime Noon.

Gatti had planned to hold spring break camps for 30 kids this week. On Monday, she rented the Truro Horsemen's Club so the kids would have a spot to go.

"Their parents are working … if we had to cancel the camp, it's unreasonable for them to have to find more care for their kids," she said.

Gatti applied for an injunction and said she's now able to stay in the barn for another week. 

In a second statement provided Tuesday afternoon, the Agriculture Department said it continues "to work with the leaseholder" to address their needs.

"That includes willingness to provide short-term financial support that would allow them to find a solution for housing their animals," Matheson said. "The department is willing to entertain offers of help that would make that possible."

The centre offers learn-to-ride programs for people of all ages and uses the arena at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition's MacMillan Show Centre (Forever Memories Equestrian Centre/Facebook)

Currently, there are 27 horses, a handful of goats, guinea pigs, rabbits and a llama housed in the barn, one of several on the exhibition grounds. Gatti hopes she can continue working out of another one.

The company's riders use the Provincial Exhibition's MacMillan Show Centre's arena, which they would no longer have access to if they moved to another barn. 

"Instead of trying to take the legs out from underneath of me and disrupting the business by me having nowheres to go, I would hope they would work with me and find me a safe place to go on this property," she said.

Gatti said she would "continue to fight this battle" and is concerned the uncertainty will affect her students.

"It's extremely upsetting. For anybody who ever works with anybody with autism, you need structure. This is totally disrupting structure," she said.

With files from Maritime Noon