Halifax’s iconic downtown horse stable has opened its doors for the first time in nearly three months.
The Junior Bengal Lancers stable has been under quarantine since May, after a highly infectious virus called Strangles was discovered in three horses.
The virus, which can spread quickly between horses but is not harmful to humans, causes swelling in horses’ necks and breathing problems.
The stable celebrated a clean bill of health Monday with a grand reopening and ribbon-cutting event for staff and students, who lamented the long period of uncertainty and inactivity.
“We weren’t allowed in the barn, and we weren’t allowed to touch any of the horses, or ride, or go to any horse shows,” said 10-year-old Elsa Holt.
“I was scared that I wasn’t going to see the horses for a long time,” said 12-year-old Lucie MacDonald.
Now that all 27 horses have been declared healthy, the stable is rushing to make the most of what is left of its normally busy summer season.
The Junior Bengal Lancers held a grand ‘reopening’ on Monday, marking the first time the stables have been open to the public in 11 weeks. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)
Angie Holt, manager and head coach, said the long period of inactivity and isolation has been a struggle.
“One of the hardest things about it was having no children here for that amount of time. I don’t think the horses have ever gone through that before. They like having kids around,” she said. “I noticed even the horses missing the kids.”
Unfortunately, the stable had to keep its doors shuttered, even after the horses had recovered.
“They can remain contagious for many weeks after they’ve finished showing symptoms, that’s why we had to stay closed for as long as we did,” she said.
While it took an emotional toll on both horses and humans, the closure also meant financial losses for the not-for-profit.
The quarantine meant a full stop on the barn’s busy summer schedule, including lessons, summer camps, and therapeutic programs.
Holt says while it will take time to financially recover from the loss of that revenue, the stable has been helped by the outpouring of support, including private donations and fundraising efforts that brought in almost $30,000 to offset costs such as vet bills.
Angie Holt, the manager and head coach for the Junior Bengal Lancers, says the stable suffered significant financial loss due to the closure during their busiest season. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)
Holt says programs will resume immediately, with a long-awaited kids summer camp starting up this week.
“It’s fantastic. The stress has been lifted quite a bit. And I’m just so happy to have people here again. It’s been really lonely without them,” she said.
This is the first time in the stable’s 83-year history it has had to shut down because of health concerns.
Programs will resume immediately at the stables, including summer camps and lessons. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)