Hoofbeats Relocating To Co-Founder's Farm

Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center has found a new home. The equestrian program that provides riding instruction for people with special needs has moved out of the Virginia Horse Center and onto a 12-acre farm near Timber Ridge.

Carole Branscome, director of Hoofbeats since co-founding it 25 years ago, said she’s relocating the program to her farm at 662 Mount Atlas Road because her long-time assistant director, Maria Pennine, is ill and has had to step away from her duties. Branscome explained that “physically, I can’t run a program by myself that’s this big in this space.”

So, during the off-season winter months, when Branscome ordinarily devotes her attention to grant writing, she’s been relocating the program from the Vecellio Community Center at the horse center to her farm off of Mount Atlas Road.

Hoofbeats provides accredited therapeutic horseback riding services to adults and children with mental, physical or emotional disabilities, or who have chronic illness or have suffered trauma. Its guiding principle, according to a statement found on its website, is “horses helping people.”

“We loved our space at the Virginia Horse Center,” noted Branscome. “We were so blessed to have such a gorgeous facility. Plus, we were able to use their trails. … I’m sad about leaving the horse center but I’m excited about running something that’s smaller and more intimate. We’re back where we once were.”

Before coming to the horse center 13 years ago, Hoofbeats was at Branscome’s farm. The program was founded 25 years ago at the Natural Bridge farm of co-founder Trish Cunningham, who remains a strong supporter.

Back at her farm, Branscome said, “We’ll have drill teams and dinner theater. We’ll be developing a sensory trail but probably not until next year.”

From April to November of last year, Hoofbeats served 84 riders ages 4 to 84. Volunteers and staff provided more than 1,000 hours of instruction. The center has six horses.

As it has in the past, Hoofbeats this year will be offering three riding sessions – one each in the spring, summer and fall. Volunteers will be reporting to her farm in March to begin preparations for the spring session. Riders will return the second week of April.

Rider and volunteer applications for 2020 are available online at www.hoof-beats.com. More information about Hoofbeats can also be found on Facebook.

“This is a place for people to heal,” said Branscome. “It’s where they can find a soft landing.”

The News-Gazette

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