BRISTOL – City Hall has been helping to support Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center activities with a $10,000 Community Development Block Grant.
According to city officials, the center received the grant to assist programming for the West Bristol Extended Learning Program for horsemanship skill lessons weekly and to further encourage the social and emotional health of youth interacting with the center’s animals. Through further funding from the CARES Act, another $20,000 was also added to support outdoor experiences for area residents.
The center has had 500 visits supported by the CDBG and CARES Act funding and 2,000 overall visits in the last year. Agencies who have supported the center’s outdoor mission include the Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services Department, Bristol Senior Center, first responders, day and residential treatment programs and at-risk youth. Families and private citizens also participated ranging in age from four to over 70 years-old. From low to moderate income homes.
“Over the years, Shepard Meadows has enabled children with special needs and other residents to benefit from their interactions with the horses, and the City has been supportive of their work through the CDBG grant program,” said Bristol Grands Administrator Dawn Leger. “With the Covid funds we received from the CARES Act, we were able to help Shepard Meadows extend their services to first responders and others in our community who were adversely impacted by the isolation and stress of the pandemic. Their programs have reached many more people because of the CDBG funding, and that is a positive for everyone in Bristol.”
Vice Chair of the Bristol Economic and Community Development Board of Commissioners lauded the work being done at Shepard Meadows.
“I was overwhelmed by what I saw and heard on my visit to Shepard Meadows – from the facility to the horses to the wonderful staff – Shepard Meadows is a hidden gem in Bristol! Being located on the ‘top of the mountain’ in such an idyllic location just adds to the therapeutic work being done by these folks. I was so impressed and proud that the City of Bristol, through the CDGB program, has been in a position to support this valuable program in Bristol,” he said.
City officials said that equine-assisted therapy improves mental health for those engaging in it and offers outdoor activities in monitored and safe environments as a means of relieving the negative parts of stress and isolation in the pandemic.
“Horses live in the moment; they don’t judge, and they are completely honest. As sentient beings, they know exactly how we are feeling, even if we lack awareness or complete understanding ourselves. They are natural, thoughtful and reflective teachers, who are willing, open-hearted, patient, instinctively nonjudgmental and responsive. They are honest communicators, living in the moment, and can provide wisdom and natural healing,” said Executive Director of Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center Shelly Whitlock-Pope.
The Veterans Horsemanship program is a new one offered at Shepard Meadows and comes at no cost to veterans or their families. It goes on for up to 24 weeks with eight of those in the spring, then four in summer, eight in fall and four to finish the year in winter. The center seeks to provide those who engage in their programs with mounted or unmounted horsemanship programs that enrich their participants' emotional, social, recreational, physical and educational lives.
For more information, visit the center’s website.