Therapeutic horse-riding facility faces funding concerns during pandemic
LONDON, ON -- SARI, a therapeutic horse-riding facility that offers specialized adaptive horseback riding and other equine programs for people with special needs in the London community, is feeling a COVID-19 crunch.
The charitable, volunteer-based organization was founded in 1978 and runs year-round.
But after COVID-19 halted its riding program and cancelled spring training season, SARI Executive Director Janine Langley says the funds to maintain the horses are becoming more and more of a concern.
"We’ve lost pretty much all of our lesson revenue. Right now we are really not sure about summer camp either...it’s all up in the air," says Langley.
Twenty horses live on-site full-time and 137 participants visited the farm each week, prior to COVID-19.
Langley says without the riding program revenue the horses have become the biggest expense every month.
"To take care of our 20 horses every month it's about $5,000. So it works out to $250 a horse."
Donations from the community make up a third of their annual revenue. SARI accepts donations online to adopt horses, but the facility also holds events like their popular golf tournament, to raise funds.
The events have all been postponed due to COVID-19.
"We have had to delay two of our major fundraisers and ultimately [the horses'] futures are uncertain because of this…we aren’t sure if or how they will be affected little bit later in the year," says Langley.
The facility has been forced to rely on financial savings and online donations from their website.
Langley says their 'Help the Horses Campaign' has raised enough money, along with their savings, to keep the farm going for a couple of months.
"Our goal is to keep [the horses] absolutely, they are really the backbone of our program and because they are so carefully selected it would be a last ditch effort to let any of them go."
Every horse is carefully selected and trained through a screening process for their therapeutic programs to support people with disabilities. The minimum age to ride is four years old and the eldest rider is approaching 70.
Langley is still waiting on developments from the government before lifting any restrictions to allow summer sessions to run; but says she misses the participants most.
"We have 137 of them every week and we are missing them as much as they are missing us and we just really want things to go back to normal as soon as possible," she says.
Through the 'Adopt a Pony' program, a person or group can donate $3,000 that will care for a pony or horse for up to a year.