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Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association reopens for business

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WATCH ABOVE: The Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Associations is back up and running, 14 months after the roof of its riding arena collapsed under heavy snow. Erik Mikkelsen reports. – Jan 14, 2016

LETHBRIDGE – Heavy, wet snow collapsed the roof of the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association 14 months ago, and after many long days of rebuilding, the facility is open once again.

“It’s been very difficult for our clients, it’s been difficult for our borders, it’s been extremely difficult for the people out there riding right now,” executive director Rick Austin said. “They’ve certainly missed it, and it’s really great to have it back.”

Fourteen-year-old Janessa Fife rides at the facility once a week and depends on the horse’s movements to help her own body.

“She is very tiny, she’s very skinny, her muscles are very very small,” Fife’s learning assistant, Laura Schneider, said. “It helps with that core stability, and she doesn’t walk, so her hips aren’t very strong and she can get a lot of pain.”

“The movement of the horse underneath her body helps the body move the way it’s supposed to when we walk.”

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The association said the previous facility was over 47 years old and it was ready for a revamp. It said this facility is ready for the new generation of riders.

“The nice thing about working here before is we knew the things that didn’t work. Almost anything that didn’t work we could plan to put in the new arena,” program coordinator Eilish Short said. “We have the sensory room and the really nice bathrooms and the ramp. Everything is so functional that it makes the program work that much better.”

The new facility cost over $900,000 dollars to build, $400,000 of which was raised by the community.

“We had insurance in the old building, of course, but it was nowhere near adequate for this new facility,” Austin said. “We had to go out to the public, and the public has been just fantastic. They have really come to the forefront.”

The people who need the facility the most, like Fife, are happy to be back.

“She comes out here, she has fun. She’s out in the public, she’s seeing her friends, she’s riding a horse–she loves it,” Schneider said.

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