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Therapeutic Horse Riding Program Has New Home

  • Kandace Culver, left, a High Horses volunteer, and Amanda Lamoureux, horse and facility manager at High Horses, walk past the horses they had brought to the therapeutic riding programs new facility in Sharon, Vt., on Aug. 19, 2016. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At Brookside Farm in Wilder, Vt., Amanda Lamoureux, the horse and facility manager at High Horses, brushes Buddy before he is loaded on the trailer to go to the new farm that High Horses has purchased in Sharon, Vt. Waiting is another High Horses horse, Little Joe. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • After taking horses Xena and Buddy off a trailer, Amanda Lamoureux, the horse and facility manager for High Horses, thanks Henry Hazen, of Wilder, Vt., on Aug. 19, 2016. High Horses has moved from Brookside Farm owned by Hazen to their own farm in Sharon, Vt. Hazen helped transport four horses to the new location. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At the new High Horses facility in Sharon, Vt., volunteer Kandace Culver hands a saddle to riding instructor Aileen Reney for the therapeutic riding program on Aug. 19, 2016. Staff and volunteers moved horses and equipment to the new location for High Horses. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Henry Hazen, owner of Brookside Farm in Wilder Vt., prepares to load four horses in a trailer to take to the new High Horses site in Sharon, Vt., on Aug. 19, 2016. High Horses has been located at Brookside Farm since 1999. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, August 26, 2016

Wilder — As a horse trailer idled at Brookside Farm last Friday morning, Buddy, a light brown gelding, and Xena, a red roan mare, shifted uneasily in their paddocks, letting out an occasional whicker.

“They know something’s not right,” Amanda Lamoureux, herd coordinator at the therapeutic riding nonprofit High Horses, said. “They can count, and they know they’ve worked four days already. They’re like, ‘Wait a minute — I’m supposed to have this day off.’ ”

Instead, for the first time in nearly two decades, Buddy, Xena and the rest of the herd at High Horses were about to change homes.

High Horses, whose horses were until recently boarders at the Wilder farm, has provided services to a wide range of clients, including children with autism and survivors of domestic violence, since 1993.

According to the program’s website, it joined up with the Brookside Farm in 1999.

“Henry” — Henry Hazen, owner of Brookside — “has been fabulous to us, he’s been amazing, but he’s got a business, too,” Lamoureux said last week. “We both were getting too big to share.”

The Hazen family has owned the farm since 1771, Henry Hazen said in a Wednesday interview. That makes him the seventh generation to run the business, and his son, representing the eighth, is waiting in the wings.

The decision to part ways was mutual, he added, since the two institutions had become so large as to compete for space on the two-barn farm.

“It’s good when both of you are growing so much it’s become an issue,” he said.

Hazen said he planned to keep his horse boarding business going and replace High Horses with other customers.

For now, with his largest boarder absent, he said, “It’s strange — it’s quiet.”

Over the last few weeks, High Horses completed a move to a new, and much larger, property off Fay Brook Road in Sharon, as part of an expansion that its leadership hopes will continue for decades to come.

Although the horse handlers on Friday feared a fuss from their charges, getting them on the trailer at Brookside Farm proved easier than expected — perhaps thanks to the therapy animals’ day work, which requires a temperament even enough to deal with humans undergoing emotional upheaval.

Led by Lamoureux, Buddy sauntered up to the vehicle and, with a clunk, placed one large hoof in the metal compartment. He clambered up, and after him, with no more difficulty, came Xena and two others.

As the trailer headed down the driveway toward Route 5, Little Joe, a chestnut gelding left alone in the paddock, whinnied goodbye.

Not half an hour later, the horses were secure in their new enclosures, nestled in the green hills of Sharon, munching without a care on long grass dotted with white flowers.

“They all think they’ve died and gone to heaven,” Lamoureux said.

High Horses bought the 38-acre property at 138 Horse Farm Road from former owner Barbara Lynne Rogers for $800,000 cash, town records show. The sale closed on July 28.

Along with the land, that sum bought High Horses two large, airy stables; a farmhouse; three riding enclosures, plus another indoor arena; a complex of grazing paddocks; and several substantial pieces of farm equipment.

“It was a really good deal,” Executive Director Nicole Jorgensen said in an interview on Tuesday. “I couldn’t help thinking, up until the closing, this is too good to be true.”

The nonprofit could afford the move, she said, in part because of help from “very generous donors,” including the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation; Mark and Paula Schleicher; and High Horses’ own board of directors, who contributed about $125,000.

Over Labor Day weekend, High Horses will launch the public phase of a $2 million capital campaign with an open house at the Sharon farm.

Jorgensen said the organization had raised $1.19 million so far and was looking to help finance upgrades and capital purchases at the new location with public donations.

Even though the facilities are so spacious, Jorgensen and Lamoureux said High Horses did not plan to bring in other organizations for now.

Tax rules for nonprofits rule out co-locating with a for-profit business, they said. And the work required to take care of boarders makes that infeasible as well, according to Lamoureux.

Instead, the plan is to grow into that space, Jorgensen said.

The herd, which High Horses’ website lists at seven active horses, could grow to as many as 20 in coming years, Jorgensen said.

The organization also will pursue more partnerships in the community, including with Safeline, a domestic and sexual violence center in Chelsea; and the Sharon Academy.

Jorgensen said she hoped to maintain High Horses’ current relationships — such as with the professional schools at Dartmouth College — and expand others, including with the White River Junction VA Medical Center.

On Tuesday, Deb Fisk, an endurance rider who runs her own small horse farm atop a nearby hill, said she was pleased to hear that High Horses would soon be her neighbor.

“We can sure use this in the area and (it) wouldn’t surprise me that Sharon Academy would have students get involved ... ” she wrote in an email. “Great for our little town, aren’t we lucky!”

The open house in Sharon will run from Friday, Sept. 2, until Sunday, Sept. 4, and involve raffles, self-guided tours and riding demonstrations, according to Jorgensen.

The Sept. 2 festivities begin at 5 p.m. and close at 8 p.m.; Sept. 3 activities last from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Sept. 4 events are from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.