BIBLE HILL, N.S.
Crystal Cholmondeley has a very special birthday party planned for her autistic daughter’s 10th birthday party on Sunday.
But she’s dreading the thought that it may have to be cancelled.
Her daughter Abigail takes part in the therapeutic riding program at Forever Memories Equestrian Centre, the business that was recently told it had to leave the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition grounds.
“It will be a year in May since she started riding there, and she loves it so I decided to have her birthday party there this year,” said Crystal. “She’ll be devastated if we have to tell her we can’t have it there.”
Abigail, who is autistic and extremely visually impaired, travels to Bible Hill from her home in Thorburn once a week to take part in the therapeutic riding program.
“They’ve been a godsend,” said Crystal. “When she started, I noticed a difference in her right away.
“The horses calm her and she’s gained so much confidence. She’s a different child when we have her there.”
Abigail was born three months premature and had a brain bleed that left her right side weak, but when she’s on the back of her favourite horse, Slice, she uses her right arm.
Taking part in the program has enabled her to be comfortable around livestock. In the past, she would run out of a barn and cover her ears if she heard a sound from a large animal. Now she spends about an hour at the barn after her lesson ends, petting horses and goats, and even helping feed animals.
“She’s learned to care for something,” said Crystal. “Slice comes right up to her and they hug. It’s heart wrenching to think this could be taken away from her.”
She said a lot of people don’t understand how beneficial the program is and how much it would be missed.
“It’s such a needed program,” she added. “Abigail starts asking at the first of the week about going riding. It would be a loss, not just for our family, but for so many others.”
Shelby Gatti, owner of Forever Memories Equestrian Centre, has been notified she must vacate the barn on the NSPE grounds, which houses her horses and other animals and serves as the focus point for her business.
The Nova Scotia Ministry of Agriculture had informed her the structure represents “a serious safety issue,” and the barn is being cleared for the sake of public safety.
Gatti continues to look for solutions but has said the short notice would create significant hardship, both in terms of housing her animals, and continuing to operate her business.
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