Community members are fighting to keep the Anaheim Equestrian Center – which often serves as an evacuation center for horses during fires – from being demolished and turned in a parking lot.
The 7-acre equestrian center sits next to the Santa Ana River along the 57 Freeway. But the property will be demolished next year and turned into an overflow parking for a mega-development surrounding the Honda Center as part of a project called “OC Vibe.”
“It’s heartbreaking. This is my home away from home,” says Wendy Fuire, who has been a trainer at the center for 26 years.
The 115-acre entertainment, office and resident development is the work of Anaheim Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli. Developers say the project would create 3,300 jobs, but long-time tenants of the stables don’t see why they can’t be a part of it.
“This stable can help the community. You see kids the riding, taking lessons,” Fuire said. “Horses do amazing things for people.”
Judi Reiprecht, who is fighting to keep the center open, echoed the sentiment.
“They want to make this OC Vibe as a sports, entertainment center. Equestrian is a sport,” Reiprecht said. “We do dressage, we have competitions.”
The center also serves as an emergency evacuation location for horses during fires.
“I’ve been here five years and this is about the third time we’ve had to take on horses,” Reiprecht said.
They say they’ve taken in 70 horses this week alone from the Orange County fires, and have seen an increase in area fires over the past few years.
Many in the equestrian community say they wonder where the horses will go in an emergency situation once the center shuts down.
“There’s not a lot of places for people to go anymore in Orange County. A lot of the places have closed down,” Fuire said.
Reiprecht started an online petition to ask Anaheim city officials and the project developers to open the door for communication.
“Just asking for alternative plans. What can be done [so] that we can keep this?” she said.
KTLA reached out to officials from the Honda Center but had not heard back Wednesday night.
“We’re going to fight to keep it open. It would be a shame to lose this,” Fuire said.