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Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association looking ahead to rebuild

Posted on January 6, 2015 by Sunny South News

Last month, at a Lethbridge County council meeting the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association (LTRA) introduced the agency, outlined their goals and provided information regarding the benefits therapeutic riding provides to their clientele and the potential of requiring assistance in 2015.

Rick Austin, executive director, delivered a presentation to council for future funding consideration. Cecile McCleary, president of the association, was also part of the delegation presenting to council. According to Austin, the presentation was made, due to the recent collapse of the association’s arena in November, due to snow.

LTRA, according to a report submitted to council, serves individuals with physical or emotional and behavioural disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Attention Deficit Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, Autism, paralysis or brain injuries and stroke victims.

Accomplishments with clients, stated in the report to council, include improved balance and co-ordination, muscle strengthening, an increase of self-esteem, promotes independence, improves social integration and provides access to recreation, sport and competition.

Issues currently affecting the facility due to the arena collapse, Austin said, includes the cancellation of classes, the time and cost to rebuild, the loss of clients and loss of income.

“It started in 1976. We moved to the current location in 1989. It’s 44 acres and we happen to own it — free and clear,” said Austin.

Austin said to council, he’s sure councillors are aware of the issues out at the facility.

“As of Nov. 1, we had about 65 clients booked for our fall session and of course we had to cancel all of those,” said Austin, adding the facility before the arena collapse also offered summer riding camps for able-bodied clients. McCleary added when the building came down on Nov. 2, life as LTRA knew it ended that day.

“But, I think the biggest heartbreak was knowing that the therapy for our clients would be interrupted,” said McCleary.

According to the president, the association has looked at temporary arenas to rent or to use but other facilities do not meet the needs or standards of the association.

“It’s not as simple as you might think to just move our classes to another arena. Also, it’s very expensive when you think of moving our horses or boarding our horses off-site,” she noted.

As it sits, McCleary said without clients utilizing the facility there is no income for operations.

“Where we are now — we’re just waiting for the insurance company to give us their final scope on how they can compensate us,” said McCleary, adding clean up of the site is now ongoing. The board, McCleary added, is now in the process of thinking ahead to figure out what will happen now and in the future.

“We’re in a planning stage, as best as we can be, without knowing how much money we’re going to have. When we look at this planning, we’re not very interested in just putting up another building as a temporary thing because I don’t think in the long run that will benefit our clients to rush into it,” said McCleary, adding a new facility would hopefully meet 2015 standards and not the 1960s standards, as the previous building was 47 years old.

McCleary stated to councillors, the LTRA paid a visit to council  in hopes of finding out about any financial assistance available from the county for replacement of the arena and to get it up and operating as soon as possible.

“A long-term hope we would really like to see is the county collaborate with the city in a long-term funding arrangement that would include operating costs and infrastructure money,” said McCleary, adding 70 per cent of LTRA clients come from the county from county schools and 30 per cent come from Lethbridge.

Currently, the LTRA doesn’t receive any guaranteed government money from any level.

“We operate on grants, which we’ve been fairly fortunate in receiving but they’re all project oriented, pretty much for infrastructure, not operating. Obviously, when you have staff and horses, we have a large operating budget. We do fundraising events,” said McCleary.

At this stage, Austin added, the LTRA wanted to raise awareness and bring light to the situation the association is in need of financial help to replace the previous facility.

Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey said he knows the programs offered at the facility benefit the community. “There’s no disputing that,” said Hickey, adding the county could perhaps write a letter of support to the government.

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