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Horse riding club seeing a decline in members

Southlands' established riding club is saying new residents don't have the same level of engagement with the horses as long-term residents

The Southlands Riding Club still has dedicated members. Photo by William Crosby
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Reported by William Crosby

New homeowners do not always make new horse riders in Vancouver’s Dunbar Southlands neighbourhood, much to the dismay of a local riding club.

Equestrianism, a sport that has been a part of the neighbourhood’s culture since the forties, is not attracting the attention of new residents according to Southlands Riding Club instructor Margot Vilvang.

“There are people buying who aren’t necessarily living here, they just own the houses, which we call dark holes because we don’t know who they are and they don’t have horses and we never see them and they don’t get involved in the community,” Vilvang said.

300 empty homes

According to city census data, Southland’s demographics remained stable from the late 1990s until 2011. Since then there has been a comparatively steep nine per cent increase of a residents whose first language is not English and five per cent, or around 300 homes in the area are registered as Empty Homes.

Long-time Southlands resident Tanya Rosen said that some new homeowners do not share the strong sense of community and dedication to equestrianism that more established residents hold dear.

“When we came down here a long time ago it was all for the horse and now it’s all for the land. Land value is so huge in Vancouver right now that [property buyers] have lacked in thinking about the horse.” Rosen said.

Some community members remain dedicated

Club coordinator Dani Craig said the club is still supported by 400 members. Some come from families that have lived in the area since the forties and continue to show dedication to the sport, while others no longer live in the community but continue to fund the club.

Craig said equestrian education could bridge the gap between old and new residents. “I think we’re doing our best as a club to engage those people who may not know so much about the sport.”

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