It was an eerie sight for A & T Equestrian Centre owner Kat Naud: The parking lot of the usually bustling facility, which normally welcomes over 200 students per week, sitting empty on a recent Saturday.

“It was such a sad in your heart feeling,” Naud told CTV News Vancouver. “All of these people who (have) become part of our family - our barn is like a big family - are stuck at home and we don’t get to see them, and the horses don’t get to see them.”

Naud said they made the decision to temporarily close the centre two weeks ago, to keep clients and staff safe during the pandemic. It’s the first time the centre has closed its doors like this in over two decades of operation.

“That’s the hardest part, is not knowing how long this is going to last for,” Naud said. In the meantime, the centre still has 56 horses to care for, without money coming in.

“It’s about $25,000 a month in just expenses to cover their basic care, food, their teeth, their feet, their sawdust being changed and the staff that’s required to do those things for them,” Naud said.

To try and bridge the gap, the centre has now launched a sponsor-a-horse campaign online. People can choose a horse by purchasing different membership packages starting at $19.95 a month, and then receive updates, photos and videos. There are also options for virtual lessons on riding and stable management.

“It keeps you in that moment and still able to see the horse and have that time, even if you can’t come,” Naud said, and added people don’t need to have a horse or any knowledge of horses to take part.

Along with the postponement of riding lessons, camps and special events, Naud said the centre’s launch of an equine assistance program, which will involve horse therapy for issues such as anxiety and PTSD, is also on hold until things get back to normal.