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Shutdown Shuts Out Local Equestrians From Rock Creek Horse Center

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The Rock Creek Horse Center is temporarily closed due to the government shutdown.
Lauren Ober
The Rock Creek Horse Center is temporarily closed due to the government shutdown.

By now, the large-scale ramifications of the partial government shutdown are known — lost wages, shuttered offices and a general downtrodden feeling in Washington. But there are smaller ripples being felt all around the region in places you'd never expect.

In the middle of Rock Creek Park, there's the Rock Creek Horse Center. About 50 horses make their home there. Half are owned by the company that manages the center for the National Park Service. And half are privately owned horses being boarded at the facility.

Because of the shutdown, the center is closed to the general public. For people like Lisa Priebe, who regularly ride in the park and are now not allowed to, the impact of the closure has been huge. Priebe, who lives in Springfield, Va., and has been riding since she was a young child, is already feeling the effects of the stable's closure.

On how she started riding at Rock Creek Horse Center: "I started riding here three or four years ago. I've been a rider my whole life and I just couldn't bear to be away form the horses any longer. This was the only place in the area that would allow the public to come and ride. I started with just an hour walk along the trails. You get to a point where if you're really a horse person, that's not enough."

On the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding: "I have chronic fatigue syndrome and this has been a big factor in bringing me back and increasing my stamina and my drive to get well. I had noticed with the twice a week riding that I was really starting to improve a lot. Having chronic fatigue syndrome is a rough disease. This was my therapy. It's very relaxing. It centers me."

On how she felt learning of the shutdown: "Driving in it really made me sad because I saw the barriers, and it reminded me that I can't come in here and take a ride. That's hard because I've been coming in here for four years and getting my horse fix."

On how the shutdown is affecting her: The shutdown is affecting me emotionally because I can't come out here and ride anymore. That was a real lift to my day. I don't have a lot of extra stuff in my life, so the horses were really important, and I was noticing a huge difference."

On scope of the shutdown: "I think it's really pretty ridiculous that we're being shut out of our land, our parks. It just doesn't seem like national parks, national monuments should be part of the shutdown. But I just want them to get their stuff together so I can get back out here and we can all get back to doing what we love."

[Music: "The Horse and the Tree" by Drums & Tuba from Vinyl Killer]

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