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South Niagara horse-riding charity getting kicked by COVID-19

EquineAbility had big plans for 2020.

The therapeutic horse-riding facility near the Port Colborne-Fort Erie border is celebrating its 10th year.

It was supposed to take the lead on a show at the Niagara Regional Exhibition in Welland in June, had a car show and silent auction marked on the calendar, and expected dozens of riders to flock to its farm on Neff Road for lessons.

Last summer, programs served 30 to 40 riders a week, many of them people of all ages with disabilities.

But like many others, the registered charity has been impacted by a lack of funds coming in through local events and other national and provincial fundraisers that support horse-related causes, said lead instructor and property owner Angie Ruigrok.

“You’re still paying to feed the animals in absence of an income coming in,” she said, adding the summer is spent working on projects and upgrades.

There are six horses stabled at her farm, one of them owned by the EquineAbility program, and the others owned by Ruigrok.

Dogs, cats, a pig, a miniature cow and donkey, goats and sheep are all part of the family as well.

Ruigrok works full-time with Niagara Health and can afford to care for the horses in her backyard out of her own pocket.

But with so much on the agenda for 2020, Ruigrok said it was supposed to be a great year.

“All of our plans going forward didn’t materialize.”

She is saddened that her farm isn’t welcoming people, as it decided to cancel riding lessons due to physical distancing not being possible.

“For some of our riders, this was their only recreational activity,” she said. “This was their solace.”

Site near Fort Erie-Port Colborne border receives significant donation