British Columbia·Photos

Shut down by coronavirus, this Surrey riding ranch is back in the saddle — online

A&T Equestrian Centre is geting creative to weather their closure: they've started "Adopt-a-Pony," a program to give kids their "horse fix" with updates, photos and videos of their favourite ponies.

'We wanted to create something that lets [the kids] still have their horse fix,' ranch owner says

Katelyn Macar leads a horse at the A&T Equestrian in Surrey. The ranch has started an 'Adopt-a-Pony' program to help make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the business to close. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Kat Naud said normally, there would be a stampede of horse enthusiasts coming to her Surrey ranch to ride, gallop and jump with their beloved steeds.

But now, they've been stuck at home for weeks so far to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That has her business, A&T Equestrian Centre, tied to a hitching post and going nowhere.

With 56 horses and ponies to feed and maintain — costing a total of about $25,000 each month — she knew she was in for a rough ride.

"We just kind of had a day of [being] sad and, oh my gosh, what are we going to do?" Naud said of how she and her staff processed the new reality.

Tanis Collins, co-owner of A&T Equestrian is pictured at the ranch's stables in Surrey. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We let ourselves have one day, then we just got down to work and we got creative."

Getting creative led to an idea: "Adopt-a-Pony," a virtual pony sponsorship and education program to help make ends meet.

Kids who used to come to the ranch to ride ponies for real now pay to get photos and videos of their favourite four-legged friend, plus updates on how they're faring while the shutdown drags on.

Katelyn Macar, left, is pictured with Lain and Rebeckah Hassam is pictured with Buttercup at A&T Equestrian in Surrey. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We have these heartbroken kids stuck at home who were climbing the walls," Naud said. "We wanted to create something that let them still have their horse fix."

Naud said that as of Tuesday evening, about 25 participants in the program, paying $20 to $35 per month.

Those who pay more get virtual stable management lessons: how to brush and tack horses, for instance, taught over video. At the highest price point, Naud teaches riding lessons over video.

A&T Equestrian at their stables in Surrey. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Naud and her mother started A&T 20 years ago. This year, she said, is the first time they've ever had to shut down.

Naud said human safety has to come first during the pandemic but it has been scary to think about what could become of her livelihood.

Her hope is Adopt-a-Pony will keep her afloat and give kids something to tide them over until they can saddle up again, for real.

Katelyn Macar leads a horse at the A & T Equestrian. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

With files from Yvette Brend

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