Thunder Bay

Therapuetic Riding Association 'fantastically excited' to receive Hillcrest colt mascot

The nearly 700 kilogram, 5 metre-high, stainless steel iconic statue that once sat atop the old Hillcrest High School now has a new home at the Thunder Bay Therapeutic Riding Association.

The metal mascot was donated to the association

Barn manager, Maureen Downey, said the association had inquired about getting the old Hillcrest High School mascot for several years. (Chris Artist Photography)

The nearly 700 kilogram, 5 metre-high, stainless steel iconic statue that once sat atop the old Hillcrest High School now has a new home at the Thunder Bay Therapeutic Riding Association.

Al Cheetham and Maureen Downey said they had been eyeing on the school's iconic horse statue for the past several years, before there were plans to turn the school into a condo, and had sent letters inquiring about it almost six years ago.

"A lady called Norma Gibson ... thought that it would be a really good idea if we got the horse and auction it off and then we would get funds from it," Downey, who is the association's barn manager, explained.

"Then as we talked about it, we thought it would be fun to have it here."

For over 20 years, the Thunder Bay Therapeutic Riding Association has been offering equine therapy to youth and adults with various special needs to improve their physical and mental health.

The statue, which was expected to be delivered as soon as it was taken down from the school, was brought to the association's ranch in late November after having gone missing for some time.

"It's been months and months," Downey said, "We finally decided that it was the case of the lost horse because we didn't know where it was," adding that she had to call several people to finally locate it.

"Apparently, the reason that it didn't arrive ... is because the base that it sat on, when they took it down, broke. So they were busy building a new base for it."

"Fantastically excited about it"

Downey said when they found out that the old school would be turned into a condo and the statue would be auctioned off, they never imagined that the individual the statue was auctioned off to would donate it to them.

"We tried hard over the years," Downey said. "I thought it was going to go to somebody that had a lot of money and they would put it on their land."

"It was a vision years ago from Norma and we never had any inkling that it would it be here," Therapeutic Riding Association president, Al Cheetham said. "We are just fantastically excited about."

Downey said the association is excited to have the Hillcrest High School colt as "autistic children like things ... that are tactile." (Chris Artist Photography)

The pair lost hope when they found out that the horse would be auctioned off, and they only found out that they were the recipients of the large donation when neighbours nearby heard it through the local media.

"It was on the radio and the TV," Downey said, "Then people started calling me saying, 'you know, you're getting the horse?'"

With the statue now at its new home, Downey said they won't wait until the weather warms up to display the gift.

"Ever since the school closed, the horse should have been here," Downey said. "We're going to put it on our lawn, right by the barn. I think the kids are going to be really shocked when they see it."

She said they also plan to hold a barbecue and invite everyone who attended the former Hillcrest High School to come check out the statue's new home.

"In the spring, what we want to do is invite the teachers and all the kids that worked on it, plus anybody that went to Hillcrest to come out and we'll have a big, fun, barbecue."