Healthy as a horse? Ban on riding lessons has coaches feeling ill at ease
MONTREAL -- Across the province, Quebecers may soon be able to watch a western in a movie theatre, but actually riding a horse is still out and equine enthusiasts aren't happy.
For months, horseback riding coaches like Leslie Beaulac have had their feet firmly on the ground and not in the stirrups. Her classes have not been permitted under the province's strict pandemic rules.
“Riding without a coach, without lessons, is equivalent to swimming without a lifeguard,” she said.
For many stables, lessons are a major source of revenue. Instructors say they can easily follow regulations such as wearing a mask and staying six feet apart.
“I'm allowed to provide supervised rides. I'm allowed to stand in the corner and watch, but I'm not permitted to give any instruction or educate my riders in any way, shape or form,” said Beaulac.
Owners are still allowed to come ride and care for their animals. But under normal conditions, this time of year would be a busy one, where riders would be training hard with their coaches.
“During the second half of the off-season we get ready for show season,” said rider Sophia Jefferson. “But this is the second half and we're not having lessons. This would be the time we're upping everything. Getting ready, getting more confident, jumping higher and everything.”
Michelle Gauthier, who runs a horseback riding company, said she lost $45,000 in revenue in 2020. Now she's selling three of her horses just to stay open.
“Without having that lesson income, we're finding it difficult to afford to be able to maintain them, to feed them, their health, to exercise them,” she said. “It's really hurting the business as well as the animals well-being.”
Quebec Public Health and Cheval Quebec did not respond to requests for comment.