Newmarket equestrian facility picking up the pieces
At one of Ontario's premier equestrian facilities, people are sweeping up broken glass, picking up shattered lumber and thanking God that no people or horses were injured in Thursday's storm.
"That's a chainsaw you can hear (cutting) down a beautiful old tree," Donna Grosser, who boards her horse at the Royal Canadian Riding Academy in Newmarket, told ctvtoronto.ca by cellphone on Friday.
"Every two-legged and four-legged creature is okay, but there's just unbelievable devastation to the farm."
According to its website, the academy has three indoor areas, four outdoor sand rings and permanent stabling for 150 horses.
Its main show arena can hold about 2,000 people in its permanent bleachers.
About 400 people were at the facility on Thursday for an event when the storm struck shortly before 6 p.m.
Three teenage girls tried to seek shelter in a horse trailer.
"And it started to shake, and we started to see all this debris spinning, and it was black," Celidh Gowans told CTV Toronto on Thursday night. "And this trailer started to shake and phoop!" she said with a nervous giggle, creating an overturning motion with her hands.
The trailer overturned, but the girls weren't seriously hurt.
Grosser said it's a good thing the equestrian season is winding down, because it will probably take until the start of the 2010 season to repair all the damage and enable competitions to take place again.
Two of the indoor arenas are generally okay, but the middle one lost about one-quarter of its roof.
The outdoor show-jumping and dressage areas are destroyed, she said. "They were beautiful jumps and now they're just matchsticks."
But 13 metres away, another area is intact, she said.
What especially hurts Grosser is the history of the facility. Anyone who has competed for Canada at the international level in equestrian sports has either trained or competed at the academy.
The academy hosted the 1986 World Dressage Championships, along with Olympic qualifiers and World Cup matches. Had Toronto ever won its Olympic bids, the site would have probably been a contender to host the equestrian events.
"It's more than just the physical devastation," she said. "It's sort of a grand old dame."
But like any community, people in the horse set are rallying around the academy to start the rebuilding process, Grosser said.