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Fundraiser launched to support horse owners in need during winter

The Alberta Equestrian Federation has launched Alberta Equine Partners for the Herd to support province's equestrian community through the colder months with donations of money and supplies.

Costs for horse care and upkeep grow in winter, says Alberta Equestrian Federation

Snow covered horses graze a pasture near Cremona, Alta., in this file photo. The Alberta Equestrian Foundation is raising funds to help feed and care for Alberta's equine population this winter as many horse-owners face difficult financial situations. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Business shutdowns, reduced hours, layoffs and sparse patronage due to the pandemic have made 2020 a tough fiscal year for many Albertans — and come winter, that fiscal year could impact Alberta's horses, too. 

But the Alberta Equestrian Federation has a plan to try to offset the costs during COVID-19, and it involves an ambitious fundraiser to assist horse-owners in need.

The federation has launched Alberta Equine Partners for the Herd to support the province's equestrian community — which the federation says is comprised of 18,000 members — through the coldest months with donations of money and supplies.

"We see so many [horses] in Alberta, and we drive by them in the field and think, 'Wow, wouldn't that be easy, to have a horse,'" federation president-elect Sandy Bell said on the Thursday edition of The Homestretch.

"But there are certain expenses, of course, to keeping them healthy, and … we have a bit of concern with horse welfare over the winter."

Winter presents increased costs for horse owners

According to the federation, there are 320,000 horses in Alberta.

That figure represents approximately 33 per cent of Canada's horse population, and an entire industry that is built upon horse racing, breeding, boarding, tourism and ranching. 

But feeding, boarding and veterinary expenses make owning horses an expensive hobby, Bell said.

And in winter, when horses need to be fed specialized diets that include hay, and sometimes need to be boarded, those expenses swell.

Survey reflects concern from equestrian community

Bell said the pandemic prompted the federation to survey Alberta's equestrian community to gauge concern about the expense of keeping horses healthy through winter.

Seventy-two per cent of respondents said they will require assistance for hay or veterinary care, while 52 per cent they had three months in savings or less to provide basic care for their animals.

"It is true that there are people involved in show jumping [that] have the jobs behind them to support it," Bell said.

"But we have a whole level of amateur athletes who have their horses at home or in a small boarding facility, who are affected by unemployment and all the other stresses of living through COVID that the rest of us are."

Money, hay and straw

The survey results led the federation to start the fundraiser, which is accessible through its website.

People can donate money or supplies, including hay and straw, and proceeds from masks and apparel also go toward the fund.

Horse owners in need will then be able to apply for assistance from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30.

"It may be important to note here that the fundraising isn't really for the horse-owner; it's for the horses," Bell said. 

"Everything we're supporting goes directly to the horse. But we're worried some people might be forced to make some tough choices about their horses, like letting them go."

The goal for the federation is to raise $250,000 — but Bell said she is hoping for a lot more.

"My dream would be that we could get 100,000 Albertans to donate $5 each," she said. "That's $500,000."


With files from The Homestretch.

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