Facility closure. Wildfire evacuations. Poor air quality. New COVID-19 restrictions.
It was all too much to overcome for the popular North Okanagan Therapeutic Riding Association (NOTRA), which announced on social media and its webpage that it would be cancelling its 2021 fall session.
“We will reopen again in the spring of 2022 and come back stronger,” said NOTRA program director Alycia Butler. “The health and safety of all involved with NOTRA is of utmost importance to us.”
The move came after an emergency board meeting was called and the decision to cancel was unanimous.
NOTRA is based at Spallumcheen’s Historic O’Keefe Ranch, where lessons are provided. The ranch is under evacuation alert and, as Butler said, on the edge of being put back on evacuation order due to the White Rock Lake wildfire. The ranch doors are closed to the public and that includes NOTRA, and they w8ll not open until all evacuation alerts have been rescinded.
On a positive note, though, all of NOTRA’s horses and the ranch animals were evacuated safely.
Butler said air quality from the wildfire smoke is not safe for the program’s participants, volunteers, instructors, and horses to be working in.
Discussion among the board was held about possibly delaying the start of the fall session and offering a condensed program. NOTRA could assess the situation at the ranch Sept. 20 and start a short program Sept. 27.
“However, if things don’t get reopened at O’Keefe Ranch due to being on an evacuation alert still, or if the air quality is still not good, we would then make the decision to cancel the fall session,” said Butler. “It then makes it too late for you, our participants, to register yourselves into other programs for the fall. We would be limiting your opportunities, and this is not something we want to take a chance on.
“So for our participants to be able to register themselves into other programs in our community and to have a definitive answer from us now instead of you staying in limbo for a month, we are cancelling the fall session.”
The cancellation will put NOTRA in a tight financial situation. To recover funds lost due to not having a fall session, the organization will hold a fall Tack Fundraising Sale with a 50/50 draw.
As a very early heads up, NOTRA spring session dates have been confirmed for April 19 until June 6, 2022.