Riding center sees flooding

Published 12:20 pm Friday, September 9, 2011

Rain from Tropical Storm Lee caused high waters on the FairRiver Sunday and Monday and flooded the stalls and office ofFreedom Reins, a non-profit therapeutic horse riding center.

“(Hurricane) Katrina didn’t even do this,” said Charles Lofton,a Freedom Reins riding instructor. “It came up so fast.”

Based on water lines, Lofton said the water came up in thestalls about four feet. An office near the stalls saw similarlevels of water. At a cabin on site situated further down inelevation from the stalls water came in up to six feet.

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No horses kept at the center were injured, but “they got anunexpected belly wash when it came up into the stalls,” Loftonsaid.

Around $300 of hay was destroyed in the stalls as well as feed.A number of saddles in the stalls were under water during theflooding, and Lofton does not know yet whether they can besalvaged.

“If the wood in the saddles warps or distorts any, they will notfit the horses right,” Lofton said.

The saddles would cost a minimum of $500 each to replace, Loftonsaid. Some of the saddles had been donated to the center.

Most of the furniture and appliances in the cabin were alsodestroyed.

Lofton estimates the total damage from $6,000 to $7,000 and saidlosses could easily go over $10,000 if a tractor and othermechanical equipment cannot be salvaged.

The road leading to the barn was also washed out significantly,which Lofton will have to build back up.

Lofton and other leaders at the riding center were keeping aneye on river levels through the weekend, but did not expect thekind of flooding they received.

Steve Green, who works with the center, was at the site all daySunday. When he left at about 10:30 p.m., the river had only comeup a few feet, he said. When he returned Monday morning, the waterhad risen into the center’s facilities and was already starting torecede.

“I’ve seen two floods here in 10 years, but not anything likethis,” Green said.

Lofton said about five or more feet of bank was washed out bythe high waters.

Freedom Reins is a non-profit organization that providestherapeutic horseback riding for special needs persons. The centercannot accommodate riding lessons this week, but Lofton hopes hecan schedule lessons again starting next week.

The center averages about 14 riders a week, but Lofton said thatthe Brookhaven School District brings in students from theirspecial education program during the fall and spring for ridinglessons. King’s Daughters Medical Center also uses thefacility.

There is a lot of work to be done before the group canaccommodate the groups, Lofton said.

The center relies on donations for about 80 percent of itsbudget, so Lofton is afraid some hard times may be ahead for thecenter.

“Like most non-profits we operate on a shoe string budget,” hesaid. “Replacing all this will be difficult.”