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Owner says her horse was evicted after an autistic boy was allowed to ride at equestrian center

By Tracey Leong, tleong@krcrtv.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:45:13 AM CST
Updated On: Sep 10 2013 02:07:26 AM CDT
Woman says she is being targeted for allowing an autistic boy to ride her horse
LAKE CALIFORNIA, Calif. -

A Lake California woman has been told that her horse needs to leave the equestrian center in her community, and she believes it’s because she let an autistic boy ride the mare. 

The Lake California Board told the horse's owner she violated the equestrian center's rules. However, the horse owner, Shannon Burke says it is untrue and she is being discriminated against.

In early August, Burke says Daniel Stanhope and his mother approached her asking if they could pet her mare Mia. Soon a special bond was formed between 10-year-old Daniel and 5-year-old Mia. Daniel has autism, and the condition makes it difficult for him to interact with other people. Burke says Mia was gentle with Daniel and immediately grew attached to him.

“She’s not that careful with me, and she has been tender with him,” said Burke.

Since Daniel met Mia, his mother Rebecca Stanhope says she has noticed a positive change in him. He is more social, retains information better and is happier, all because of Mia.

“We tell him you can go see Mia if you try harder in school, and he has tried harder, and now that's getting stripped away,” said Stanhope.

On Wednesday, the Lake California's Board sent a letter to Burke, evicting Mia. The letter stated she had until the end of September to find a new place for Mia to stay.

 “What was stated in the letter was that we are a nuisance, we conducted unlawful activity and created a hazardous situation,” said Burke.

 Both Burke and Stanhope believe Daniel is being discriminated against.

“He’s the only kid down here riding with a disability, now they are complaining so I am just wondering, is that why,” said Stanhope.

We reached out to the board Thursday, but they didn't return our calls. However, when we spoke with an equestrian committee member, she couldn't understand the letter and completely disagreed with the decision.

“She was only trying to help this little autistic boy and for that she’s being punished and that's wrong,” said Betty Stewart, an Equestrian Center Committee Member.

Others in the community are also outraged, folks even started a petition to appeal the eviction, and dozens have signed.

Board members scheduled a meeting Thursday night to discuss the decision, but it was canceled because of all the negative attention from the story. Burke plans to appeal the decision at a meeting set for September 17th.

The lawyer for Lake California's Board says they are currently working on a statement regarding their decision. They say Shannon Burke's accusations about the eviction are untrue. Stay with KRCR as we work to bring you the latest developments on this story.