Central West equine centre forced to sell horses to cover drought-related expenses

DROUGHT DAYS: Curtis Heggs is riding Jess and Shaniah Ind is riding Zipper across a very dry looking Ruby Hill Equine Centre property.
DROUGHT DAYS: Curtis Heggs is riding Jess and Shaniah Ind is riding Zipper across a very dry looking Ruby Hill Equine Centre property.

IT is not only farmers that are being hit by drought conditions, with a Central West equine centre being among the latest impacted. 

The Ruby Hill Equine Centre, near Orange is being forced to sell several of its horses to pay for drought-related expenses, in addition to putting its agistment prices up 30 per cent.

The centre’s owner Donna Ind said as well as offering a number of horses at a fraction of what they’re worth, she’s had to give away horses she couldn’t afford to properly care for.

“Definitely sad to see our long-term favourite horses go, but we have to so higher-cost feed can be purchased,” she said.

Ms Ind is selling horses from 4-12 years old, priced between $3000 and $10,000.

She said the money will be used to buy hay to see the centre through winter and for a shed to store the hay it will be forced to buy in bulk.

“Our locally sourced hay supplies have run out, affecting their incomes too,” Ms Ind said.

Ms Ind said the centre is not alone in feeling the pinch, with drought the main topic of conversation between breeders, farmers and trainers.

“Morale is greatly affected,” she said.

“Many breeders are selling all stock and will have to completely start again, cutting their losses rather than letting animals suffer.”

The NSW Government has announced  $20,000 low-interest loans to help farmers pay freight costs for fodder, water, or to move stock to agistment.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said: “We know that more than a third of the state is struggling with drought or condition approaching drought.”

He said the Central West is among the areas of particular concern.

Ms Ind said to turn things around her property required regular rainfall long before April. “As it cools the grass doesn’t grow so it is nearly too late to get any growth. But rain now will still fill dams.”

A new hi-tech system for assessing seasonal conditions across NSW has described 7.5 per cent of the Central West as being in drought. Another 54.4 per cent is in the “drought onset” category.