The decision to cancel all horse shows and boarding at the Del Mar Horsepark for 2021 due to toxic groundwater issues has some in the horse community worried the park could be lost for good.
For 15-year-old Sheridan Evarts, the Del Mar Horsepark is her happy place.
Before the age of 5, Evarts underwent multiple surgeries to relieve pressure and fluid on her brain. She still lives with the risk of dangerous seizures.
One of the things that have helped Evarts deal with her disability and other issues is riding horses.
“It helps me therapeutically with my illnesses, and bullying, and my parents’ divorce and basically my entire life in general. It’s a home away from home,” she said.
But in December, the North County teen and other people who board their horses at the park were told after March 31 they'd have to find somewhere else to stable their horses.
They were also alerted that all shows planned for the year at the 64-acre equestrian center have been canceled.
“I was really sad,” Evarts said.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the horse park and the fairgrounds, said pausing the shows at the park and moving them to the fairgrounds will give the Board of Directors the opportunity to, “evaluate the necessary investment required to meet water quality requirements for equestrian activities at Horsepark."
But the fairgrounds can't host shows year-round like the Horsepark, according to an online petition to stop its permanent closure.
More than 10,600 people have signed the document noting shows at the Horsepark this year would have generated $1.75 million dollars. It also says public notice wasn't given about their cancelation.
For Evarts, riding at Horsepark and boarding her horse at Horsepark has provided a sense of solace over the past ten years.
It’s a place where the young equestrian has won ribbons and built nurturing relationships.
“I’m not alone. And a lot of the girls that I've met over the years have also had the same, like, issues that I’ve had. Like divorces and special needs. So they understand and that’s why they ride and that’s why I ride," explained Evarts.
We reached out to the District Agricultural Association Board for comment but were told they wouldn't make any additional statements until their Tuesday meeting.