Nancy Bidlack is a member of the Hoofbeats Advisory Board. She recently was named an EQUUS Foundation Champion and received a pair of Ariat Boots from Ariat International. You can read her story from the EQUUS Foundation newsletter below.
Nancy Bidlack remembers how she felt when Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center opened in 1994. “It was great news! My husband, Rich, and I were so happy to find a place where our disabled son, David, could get exercise, make friends – including shaggy ones – and have tons of fun. Hoofbeats was a godsend.”
Hoofbeats, now located on the Virginia Horse Center grounds, serves riders with a diverse range of physical, mental, and emotional needs “There is something incredibly special and empowering about earning the respect of an animal that weighs over ten times more than you, said Carol Branscome, Hoofbeats’ Director.
Over time, volunteering became a family affair. Nancy started out by writing press releases, then took on grant writing. Rich served on the board of directors, and son Christopher worked on Hoofbeats’ sensory trail for his Eagle Scout project.
“Hoofbeats was the answer to a prayer for our family,” said Nancy. “I volunteer because I know first-hand the joy Hoofbeats brings to disabled children and adults – and their families.”
“Okay, let’s see, I need to groom Harry and Blueberry, put out the western saddle and blue-green reins for Blueberry, and the Passier saddle with child’s stirrups and rainbow reins for Spirit, and….and I am to lead Blueberry for his first rider…got it.” So might begin a morning for me as a Hoofbeats volunteer. Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center, located on the grounds of the Virginia Horse Center here in Lexington, provides recreational therapeutic horseback riding for people of all ages with physical or mental disabilities. Most of my involvement happens during the lessons in the riding ring, where I serve either as a “horse leader” (one who leads the horse for a rider incapable of controlling the horse unassisted), or as a “sidewalker” (one who walks at the horse’s side to assist the rider in carrying out the instructor’s directions; sidewalkers may also provide added security by bracing a rider’s leg.) For capable riders who have mastered the basic skills sufficiently to ride independently, I might still be needed in the ring, but as a “spotter”, readily at hand, but prepared to interfere only in an emergency.
Please help one of our favorite therapy horses stay on his feet! Meet Blueberry. He is a therapy horse like no other. In fact, search for “Therapeutic Riding” and you’re bound to see this 14.3 hand Appaloosa gelding’s picture on the first page! Blueberry works at Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center in Lexington, Virginia, where his calm strength and playful personality charm everyone who meets him. He seems to have magical powers when it comes to helping his riders, and specializes in riders with ADHD and anger issues. He is also the instructors’ “go to” horse for a beginner’s first lesson, as he is so adept at helping timid students overcome their anxieties. He regularly takes his riders to the Equestrian Special Olympics, and is always game for whatever his riders and handlers throw at him. (Just for fun, here’s a video of Blueberry participating in a spooky musical number at the 2015 Virginia Therapeutic Horse Show!)
Recently, however, Blueberry was diagnosed with fast-growing tumors in the tissue of both front feet. While Blueberry’s incredible strength of will and personality have so far kept him on his feet despite the painful condition, he risks lameness or worse without immediate treatment. Due to the invasive nature and location of the growths, he will require specialist treatment and surgery under anesthesia, which is incredibly costly. Current estimates are that the surgery will cost 4-5 thousand dollars, and require months of aftercare and rehabilitation.
As Hoofbeats is a small non-profit with a very limited veterinary budget, we can’t make this work without help from our community–but for everyone who knows Blueberry, we know that we have to do everything we can give this miraculous horse a fighting chance, so he can keep working his magic with his riders, and bringing joy into every space he enters. Follow the YouCaring website for updates!
Hello all! Happy New Year! Hoofbeats is excited to kick off a new year and new opportunities. Here is a tentative (mind you, we said tentative) road map of the upcoming seasons.
Jan. 23 Rockbridge Hunt Pony Club Horse Management Clinic
Feb. 9 Board Meeting
Feb. 21 TRAV Education Day
March 7 Horses Come Back To HB
March 12 Volunteer Training Day
April 12 – June 4 First Session
May 10 Board Meeting
May 14 Dressage with a View Invitational Show Team
May 15 Hear the Beat Fund Raiser and Invitational Show Team
June 4 – Aug 5 Last Day of First Session
June 5 Hear the Beat Fund Raiser and Invitational Show Team
June 11 Dinner Theater Garden Party
June 14 Second Session
June 25 Hoofbeats Heroes Run Fund Raiser
August 5 Last Day of Second Session
August 6 Breakfast Club Fun Show
August 16-Oct. 15 Third Session
Sept. 3 Dressage with a View Invitational Show Team
Sept. 4 Hear the Beat Fund Raiser and Invitational Show Team
All good things must come to a close. We cannot believe it is already the end of the 2015 season. It has been so full of laughter, stories, learning, success, friendship, and development. Thank you to all of the volunteers, staff, horses, riders, and families who made it happen.
Some quick stats for you. In the 2015 season, there were:
50% of riders were adults and 50 % were children, 50% were male and 50% were female
10 Barn Rats
21% of riders received scholarships for their lessons
70% of rides met a mental health component
On October 7, Hoofbeats hosted is annual Awards Banquet at the center. Awards were given to a supportive Board of Directors, to riders for Horsemanship, to family members for going above and beyond, to Barn Rats for their dedication, and to volunteers for making this program happen.
In the Superlatives category: Becky Staton received the Volunteer of the Year award, Skyler Lipes received the Junior Volunteer of the Year award, and Alayna Staton received Rider of the Year award.
Thank you to the Virginia Horse Center and to all of our riders, volunteers, family members, staff, horses, and community and business partners. As Thanksgiving approaches, you all will certainly be on our hearts. We can’t wait to see you next season! Happy Holidays!
By Jinae Kennedy
Thank you to all of our riders and volunteers who made the annual Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia show such a success. Our riders took home a lot of blue ribbons. This has been a wonderful season full of growth and fun and friendship.
Hoofbeats is a community that seeks the well-being of the entire individual — mentally, physically, and emotionally — explained the announcer to a waiting audience at the Baroque Horse Show on Saturday. To open the show, we have a special treat: the Hoofbeats drill team! The double curtains at the end of the ring parted, through which a proud parade of children, adults, and ponies filed. They lined up on the ring master and and snapped a smart salute. Music floated across the arena and the team flowed into an elegantly choreographed pattern of circles and serpentines. As the riders exited to the audience’s pantomimed clapping (as not to spook the horses), their smiles shone and their hands fluttered through the air as they waved like royalty.
After the opening drill, the fairy tale show began, featuring beloved characters such as Snow White, Prince Charming, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and even Yoda and Chewbaca. One of the Hoofbeats riders was not finished playing his part in the show. After riding in the drill, Joseph had to grab his sword and change into the gold laced furs of his Prince Charming costume. Escorted by the Ferries of Merriment, he re-entered the ring with Snow White to dance his part. After this scene, Joseph also had the honor of picking the raffle tickets out of a hat for the winner of the prize Andalusian filly. “I’m so excited, it’s unbelievable,” Joseph said after dancing his part as Prince Charming. He looked every bit like royalty.
“I can’t imagine life without Hoofbeats,” said his mother, Lessley.
The 2015 Baroque horse show is a fundraiser for Hoofbeats. Thank you to all who participated and contributed!