During the pandemic, many horse experience related activities, such as riding schools, trail ride operations, and horse camps have been unable to operate. The disruption of these activities is causing challenges for horse experience operators in caring for their animals this winter.
The Equine Hardship Program, launching on January 18, 2021, will provide individual businesses offering horse related experiences up to $2,500 per horse up to a maximum of $20,000 in financial support to help cover direct costs for feed, water, veterinary care and farrier services to maintain their horses’ health and well-being.
Horse experience businesses will be eligible for funding if they earned at least 50 per cent of their revenue in 2019 from horse experience activities, their 2020 revenue was less than half of what was earned in 2019 due to the pandemic, and they attest they are facing hardship as a result to COVID-19 that will make it difficult to care for the horses.
The Equine Hardship Program was specifically designed for horse experience businesses that are not eligible for other agriculture related programs that help farmers manage risk, such as the Risk Management Program and AgriStability.
The funding is in addition to the government initiatives launched this year to assist the agriculture sector in meeting challenges related to the COVID-19 outbreak, including:
The $25.5 million Agri-food Prevention and Control Innovation Program to help reduce disruptions in business operations and risks of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace;
The launch of a portal to connect farms and other agri-food sector business with labour needs to job seekers;
The creation of a $26.6 million Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program in partnership with the federal government;
The investment of an additional $50 million into the Risk Management Program for 2020, one year earlier than originally promised.
There are approximately 150 horse experience businesses in Ontario, including more than 50 horse camp or trail ride operations, at least 15 carriage operators, at least 14 therapeutic riding centres and many riding schools. These businesses also include horse drawn carriage or sleigh rides.
Under the Equine Hardship Program, costs incurred between March 17, 2020 and February 28, 2021 will be eligible. Enrolment and claim forms will be accepted until March 12, 2021, or while program funding remains available, whichever comes first.
Eligible business owners may be provided up to $20,000 (total) to maintain horses used to provide these experiences. A cap of $2,500 per eligible animal will be applied.
Doug Downey is the Member of Provincial Parliament for Barrie - Springwater - Oro-Medonte. He can be reached at email@example.com.