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Riding into the future at West Wind Stables

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There’s room to grow at West Wind Stables near Oak Bluff, and that’s what owners Shawn Charriere and Chris Dolinski are hoping to do.

The facility, located on Road 4E between Highway 2 and the Perimeter Highway, opened in November 2009.

Charriere said he and Dolinski looked at various locations on the outskirts of Winnipeg and were determined to find one that would be handy for Winnipeggers who board their horses and take riding lessons.

"We really wanted to stay as close to the south side of the city as possible," he said.

After buying the 160 acres of land and negotiating with the RM of Macdonald, construction began on the 41,600-sq. ft. building in April 2009. The building includes a large lobby, upstairs lounge with a kitchen, rooms for classroom instruction, storage areas for tack, feed and equipment, a 240 by 80-foot indoor arena and a stable area with 40 stalls. Charriere is in the process of building another 18 stalls.

"We are the largest equestrian centre in Manitoba," he said.

What’s surprising about the facility is that Charriere and Dolinski designed it themselves.

Charriere has experience in constructing pre-engineered steel buildings and Dolinski worked in her family’s equestrian centre for years. They knew what they wanted to include in their new building and the kind of atmosphere they wanted to create.

"We got some ideas of how you can make a comfortable, cozy facility," Charriere said. "My goal was to create a big, bright, airy atmosphere for horses and clients."

He drew up the first set of plans, and then worked with an architect and engineer to ensure that the structure was properly designed and built.

One of the building’s main features is a floor made from fir lumber in the stable area. Charriere said some of the people who board their horses were initially concerned the floor would be slippery for the horses, but time has proven otherwise. He said it’s actually safer because if an animal happens to stumble, the fir is softer to land on.

Another difference between West Wind and many other equestrian centres is the lack of a horse smell upon entering the lobby. Charriere said the relatives of some riding students have allergies and they wanted to keep the public area as free of dust and smell as possible. Outdoor air is drawn through the building, helping to keep the facility smelling fresh.

The couple worked with the Manitoba Riding for the Disabled Association before opening West Wind, and they made a point of including features for the non-profit organization’s riders and volunteers in the building plan. A room off the main lobby has storage space for the MRDA’s equipment. The area is where riders, aged eight to 12, and volunteers prepare for riding. A special ramp in the arena allows children to more easily mount the horses.

MRDA executive director Peter Manastyrsky said Charriere and Dolinski have been extremely supportive of the organization and in accommodating the needs of participants.

Susan Ploughman boards her daughter’s horse at West Wind and said it offers a comfortable area for parents to watch their children riding in the arena.

The couple are already preparing to add another indoor arena and improve the outdoor arena to allow riders to better prepare their horses for competition. They also host equestrian skills clinics and are aiming to become the biggest equestrian centre in the province.

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