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Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long, Shining Horizons executive director Richard DeLange, and board chair Kent Grass. Image: Government of Canada

Horseback riding therapy organization upgrades energy efficiency

By Scott Pettigrew Jul 6, 2023 | 10:45 AM

A therapeutic horseback riding facility has received more than $80,000 in federal funding to help expand the existing building and improve its energy efficiency and long-term sustainability.

“We’re trying to become net zero,” says Richard DeLange, executive director of the Shining Horizons Therapeutic Riding Association in Saint John.

The organization, which offers therapeutic horseback riding programs geared towards people with disabilities, will use some of the $82,160 it received through ACOA’s Canada Community Revitalization Fund to add solar panels to its facility.

“If you look at our operations you would think that a barn like ours wouldn’t use a lot of energy,” DeLange says. “But because we are steaming our hay for eight hours a day, seven days a week…that takes a lot of energy. That brings our bills up quite a bit. So with the solar panels, we can reduce these costs.”

He explains that the facility steams the hay it feeds the horses to keep the animals healthy.

“We do that because we would like to get the spores and the bacteria out [of the hay],” DeLange explains. “Just imagine if you have to feed eight horses. We soak our hay and steam the hay bale for about an hour. It takes a lot of time and consumes a lot of energy.”

DeLange says these measures improve the quality of the hay and prevent illness in the animals, letting them live long, happy lives. And it’s working.

In a presentation earlier this summer to the charitable giving organization 100 Women Who Care, Shining Horizons board member Kent Grass gave the audience an update on the service horse the organization purchased thanks to a 2016 donation from 100 Women.

“His name is Dusty, and yes, he is still with us – I’m happy to say – at the age of 34,” Grass told the crowd at the Delta Hotel. “He’s bar none the best ambassador we have.”

“We have participants that come out that are wheelchair bound just to take him for a walk around the arena.”

Keeping the horses in top shape for program participants isn’t the only place the new money will go. The investment is also supporting the addition of a second floor to Shining Horizon’s building to serve as a mental health treatment area.

“We’re in the middle of extending our service delivery and that means that we need more office space,” DeLange says.

Like many other charities, COVID-19 shutdowns took a toll on operations as horses continued to need care even while people weren’t able to access Shining Horizons’ services, a particularly difficult combination when so much of the operating budget comes from donations.

“We rely on grants and donations for about 70 per cent of our operations, from the donor base itself,” explains DeLange of the importance of the ACOA funding.  “Every bit that helps reduce our costs is very welcome.”

Creating a more sustainable operation is not only beneficial to running Shining Horizons from a financial perspective but also from an ethical perspective DeLange says.

“Our program is geared towards helping our participants heal, mentally and physically through interaction with animals and interaction with nature,” he says.

“[The investment] helps us become green, and helps the environment we are in and are living off of. I think that’s a great goal.”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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