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Court orders equestrian center to close

LISBON — An injunction and restraining order was issued in Common Pleas Court on Wednesday closing Treharne’s Training Center, an equestrian center in St. Clair Township, which has continued to hold events despite the Stay Safe Ohio order from the office of Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton.

The order came following a special meeting of the Columbiana County Board of Health on Wednesday morning. At the request of Health Commissioner Wes Vins and Environmental Director Lori Barnes, the board voted unanimously to give Vins the authority to go forward with obtaining the injunction.

Barnes told the board the big indoor equestrian center on Fredericktown-Clarkson Road south of Negley has continued to hold barrel racing events, including at least two that the health department is aware of since receiving a complaint about the business in mid-April. Since that time, she said, they have tried to address the issue with the owner of the business, Dave Treharne. However, Barnes said Treharne has been unwilling to cooperate, stating “he’s going to do what he’s going to do.”

Additionally, a county sheriff’s office report from Tuesday indicates a sheriff’s deputy went to the property to speak with Treharne and warned him that if he continued to holds these events despite the governor’s orders, he could be shut down and charged. Treharne reportedly told the deputy he still intended to hold his upcoming events.

“It’s not that we’re trying to be defiant,” Treharne said Wednesday evening. “We’re trying to make it work.”

He contends he has lost $125,000 since the health orders began closing everything down and a business involving animals cannot just close. The horses still need to be fed and he said his feed bills are $15,000 a month with another $12,000 to pay the employees who feed the animals, clean the stalls and turn the horses out for exercise. Then he still has electricity and insurance to pay.

The five stables of racehorses he trains cannot run races because the racetracks are closed. Even a circus they usually host on the property in the spring had to be canceled this year. Treharne claims he had 18 trucks and trailers there at the last show and people were being respectful of the social distancing aspect. He made enough to cover this week’s payroll.

Vins told the health board about 300 people reportedly attend the indoor arena events including people from both out of state and Ohioans. The Facebook page for the business noted there were upcoming events planned at the arena on both Wednesday night and Saturday, May 9. These events included several classes of horse barrel racing and pole racing for children and adults.

The local health department is responsible for compliance of the Stay Safe Ohio order, which has maintained operation of recreational facilities remains prohibited, as does holding gatherings of more 10 people. Vins told the health board that while the area’s residents are working hard to successfully slow the spread of COVID-19, what Treharne’s Training Center is doing is contrary to all their hard work, creating a public health nuisance.

“I simply find it reprehensible that he would continue to conduct himself in such a way that puts his customers and the people of Columbiana County in danger,” Vins said.

Barnes said Treharne argues with her that he has 200 to 300 horses to feed, which are boarded on the property. However, she believes while 150 of the horses are his, he collects border fees for the other horses, which should cover the cost of their food.

Treharne said he spoke with Barnes, who basically told him it was not her problem if his horses starve because she is doing her job. He said he understands the health department’s perspective, but he must do what he can to stay in business and keep his animals from starving. He has taken in horses rescued by the humane officers in the past and he does not want his horses in that position.

“If I have to go to jail and everybody else can keep going, then so be it,” Treharne said.

Following Wednesday morning’s special meeting Vins took the board order to county prosecutor’s office, where Assistant County Prosecutor Krista Peddicord filed a civil case requesting an emergency preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order in Common Pleas Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Judge Scott Washam signed the order against Treharne, who reportedly has a land installment contract to operate Treharne Training Center on the property, which is owned by the Kaleidoscope Project Inc. Treharne was ordered to immediately close the business to the public and to post the cancellation on the business’ Facebook page to notify the public. A telephone conference on the injunction was scheduled through the court for May 13, when the judge will determine if the business must continue to remain closed.

Sheriff Ray Stone said when he got the signed order, deputies from the sheriff’s office and St. Clair Township police were going to serve the order at Treharne’s property to make certain he was aware that Wednesday night’s event was stopped.

According to Treharne’s Training Center Facebook page, the business already had canceled the jackpot for Wednesday and the barrel racing event for Saturday with both announcements made at some point during the day on Wednesday.

Treharne said there were 10 police cruiser there basically to serve him with a set of papers, which was unnecessary because they had already canceled everything. He knows many of the officers and they are great people, but he questions why they do not come out when he calls them for other things.

“I hate to be the guy in the spotlight,” Treharne said. “We can’t keep going on like this. How do we pay our bills?”

djohnson@mojonews.com

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