In 2007, Hoofbeats became an integral partner to the Virginia Horse Center, a jewel of the local economy and community.
Nestled beneath the scenic blue peaks of Rockbridge County, the Horse Center spreads across 600 acres of rolling green hills. Every year, it pumps an estimated $37 million into the local economy, serving over 500,000 people and 100,000 animals in its world-class coliseum and show grounds.
Founded by the state in 1984, it operated as a publicly funded institution for twenty years; but over time, support in the legislature began to fade. To continue serving its Rockbridge community, the future of the Horse Center came to depend on its ability to become an entirely private, non-profit organization.
In 2007, the Horse Center had a chance to win a United States Department of Agriculture grant that would make this possible. Part of the stipulations on the money was that there had to be a direct community service component. This was how a perfect partnership between two not-for-profit community organizations was born.
During this time, Carol Branscome, Hoofbeats director, was teaching lessons in her backyard. The program was somewhat between homes and had downscaled considerably since moving out of its original Natural Bridge facility. Determined to continue serving riders who had come to rely on the therapy, Branscome had continued teaching out of her private home with her own horses.
One day, John Scott, executive director of the Virginia Horse Center (VHC) at the time, rolled unannounced into Branscome’s driveway as she was teaching a lesson. “I want to talk to you about an interesting combination between the two of us,” he told her and explained the VHC’s chance at winning this grant. Then he asked if Hoofbeats would be interested in coming on as the community service component.
It was the ideal situation. The VHC received the grant and was able to build Hoofbeats a fully outfitted therapy center on its property, forging a partnership that opened a way for both organizations to continue serving their communities to full capacity.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic relationship,” said Debbie Work, current Hoofbeats board member and former Director of Special Events and IT at the Horse Center. The VHC team lends a helping hand whenever they can, maintaining the ring, moving feed and equipment, and hosting fundraiser and therapeutic horse shows every year.
“Anything we can do to help,” said Leigh Anne Claywell, current Chief Operating Officer at the Horse Center. “We’d be a diminished center without them.”
With the Horse Center’s support, Hoofbeats served 100 riders last year, rippling positive impact to families and communities across the state.
Learn more about the Virginia Horse Center here.