Tuesday, 10 October 2017 03:48

Dunmore Equestrian Center built on generosity and philanthropy

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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Tremendous volunteer efforts, work in kind and general financial support has contributed to the establishment of the Dunmore Equestrian Center in the small community just north of the city of Medicine Hat and the executive of five people still has lofty goals to achieve.

Last August the grand opening of the outdoor arena was held with area political officials in attendance and this year saw numerous activities held at the facility for the first time.
The establishment of equestrian facilities in Dunmore was the dream of Blair Reid, and NHL hockey scout who has always wanted to give back to the area by creating a facility where western equine heritage could be celebrated and preserved, explains Cathy Schnell, treasurer for the group, who also brings a love and knowledge for equine therapy.
The Dunmore Equestrian Center was first organized in August 2014, with Reid at its helm as president, and quickly funding was sought and received and the outdoor arena created.
"The Medicine Hat Accommodation Association gave us $150,000 just to start," says Schnell, adding there were no strings attached to that funding in terms of how it was to be used.
Along with seeking out grant and corporate funding, the group also started up a fundraising live and silent auction and dinner event which in its first year raised about $44,000. This year that same event, hosted at Ralph's Texas Bar and Steakhouse Ltd. in Medicine Hat, was just held the end of September with close to 300 people in attendance. About 150 people chose to purchase VIP tickets at $100 each and while officials were still tallying up the funds, early results were indicating this year's event was set to raise nearly $60,000 to be put back into the organization and facilities.
Generosity has been the advantage for the group since its start. The Cavan Ranch family donated five acres of land, in Dunmore, just north of the Trans-Canada Highway with an agreement for the group to lease to own an additional 20 acres.
That gave volunteers the space to build an outdoor arena as well as paddocks that can be rented out to help generate funds. Added to the site is a two-storey heated and air conditioned announcer’s booth.
With usable facilities in place, the Happy Hooves Western Days were hosted by the center this summer. One event had youth from the Miywasin Society enjoy wagon rides and learn some basic horsemanship skills, while another time there were about 22 residents from the Good Samaritans seniors' home who also enjoyed the experience of riding in horse-drawn wagons. Two therapy horses are put to work for these kinds of events.
This year was the first season where the arena could be rented out by interested groups. The first event was a two-day dressage competition held May long weekend. Roping competitions have been held on a regular basis and the center hosts Alberta Barrel Racing Association sanctioned jackpots.
A Little Britches Rodeo was hosted by the center early in September, including a queen contest called the Dunmore Equestrian Centre Little Britches Rodeo Sweetheart. At the rodeo, 99 youths entered more than 300 events, coming from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan to take part.
One of the main goals of those with a vested interest in the facility is that the Dunmore Equestrian Center can be a home for 4-H.
"There's not really a public facility for the kids to use," says Schnell. "Our facility is free to 4-H clubs, but the kids are expected to give back in some way in terms of labour or volunteer work."
Two more barrel racing jackpots were scheduled still for October before the season winds down for the year. The ultimate goal is to build indoor facilities so activities can run year-round.
So far in just three years the group has raised a million dollars. They have applied for a $1 million Community Facility Enhancement Grant to help push the next stage of development and naming opportunities have been offered to some corporations. For a limited time, interested individuals can purchase a $1,000 lifetime membership which would give users access to both the outdoor and eventual indoor arenas.
Schnell says a three-phase plan will see a 110 by 220-foot indoor therapy barn and arena erected. Then a 175 by 300-foot arena would be attached to that building, which would include bleachers for spectators and office space. The third phase would see an old-town type street around the outside of the building, which could include space for artisans to sell their wares and western equine heritage and history to be on display.
"We want rural and urban families to get the opportunity to experience western heritage," adds Schnell.
A facility that offers a top-notch experience on the back of a horse has been a nice additional benefit. Schnell says the outdoor space is gaining a reputation with barrel racers as so far with hundreds of girls and women taking a turn around the barrels, there have been no complaints about horses' footings.
That reputation is something in which every volunteer and member can take pride.
More information about the Dunmore Equestrian Center is available online at: www.dunmoreequestriancenter.com or on Facebook.

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