Representatives from Forsyth Ranch Arena and Willowbend Equestrian spoke to Cypress County council about what the proposed Dunmore Equestrian Centre indoor riding arena would mean to private riding arenas on Oct. 16.
“It’s a significant threat to our livelihood,” said Christine Ziegenhagel of Willowbend Equestrian.
“How can we compete with a facility that is being publicly funded? Our horse boarding clients are wonderful people who make sacrifices to provide for their horses long-term. However, please consider this, if the Dunmore Equestrian Centre offers all types of equestrian activities on site such as clinics, school programs, 4-H clubs, horse clubs like they’ve been doing and offers year round boarding for similar fares to what we charge , will our clients not tire of trailing their horses back and forth from our barn to the centre and back?”
“Every dollar counts and for the average horse owner it would be much more efficient to board their horses where the activity is at. This is taking away from our revenues as a small business in Cypress County.”
She recommended for the indoor arena not to offer year round boarding and Willowbend’s compromise would be a daily rate or overnight board and weekend boarding for certain clinicians would be OK in their books.
“No long-term boarding to a maximum of one week,”she said.
“The loss of any of our boarding clients would have an immediate impact on our business. The first cutback we would have to make is to discontinue paying ourselves for our efforts.”
That would mean cutbacks to owners Ziegenhagel and her husband and Aaron and Amber Davidson.
The second impact would be to the full-time riding instructor and her programming.
“In order for our facility to be successful, we don’t constantly book our arena,” she said.
“We’ve had to say no to arena rentals. Our boarding clients need time in our indoor facility to use the facility at their leisure. They need to be able to look at our calendar and see there is space – open riding.”
Ziegenhagel says in speaking with other local private indoor riding arenas that they were all in agreement that their facilities are not full.
“It has been said that there’s been enough business for everyone and this is false,” she said.
“In order to pay our bills… we must have boarding clients. The riding lessons, introducing clients to the sport in a lifelong love and they pay the riding instructor for her time and experience. But they don’t provide a reliable income stream to our business.”
She questioned why these equine businesses weren’t asked by Sage Analytics when the feasibility process was ongoing.
“No one reached out to us,” she said.
“We were unable to attend the open house. We completed the online survey and wondered ‘Should our opinion as affected equestrian business owners weigh more than that of the general public?’ This feasibility study seemed to only ask those who would be in favour or those who don’t have much to lose as we do.”
Morley Forsyth of the Forsyth Ranch Arena says he is in the equine programming industry because he loves working with kids.
“I’ve put a lot of hard work and sweat into it,” said Forsyth.
“I’ve had to put money into it to keep it going and it’s finally taking off. The Dunmore Equestrian Centre with some of the stuff they’ve already done has taken some business from me.
“I have worked with them and I enjoy working with them. They’ve raised some horses from me on some therapy programs and have been successful.”
However, there is not much room for error for the Township Road 120 arena to stay open.
“I’m not making a whole lot of money,” he said.
“Thursday night, team sorting, I’ve been doing for four years. Now they have a program they’re doing Thursday night and some of my students were scared to go because they thought I would be mad. I’m happy they’re going. It’s professionals that are teaching them. But of all nights why did they do it on a Thursday night? That’s one of busiest nights for team sorting.”
County Reeve Dan Hamilton says it great to see another point of view.
“There (were a lot) of questions asked by councillors. I think it gave another perspective in how we are going to make our decision in the future,” said Hamilton.
“I know we’ve been stating that all along with the equestrian centre and the (Dunmore training facility) arena. This isn’t quick process. It’s a long process and we have a lot of information to digest and go through. If we don’t hear about it, we don’t think anything is going to go wrong.”
The Dunmore Equestrian Society has requested $2 million from Cypress County for their capital budget that will go towards the facility.