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The Aegis
Harford County

Ground broken for new Harford therapeutic riding center

Ground was broken Thursday for a new county government funded facility to provide therapeutic horseback riding activities for children and adults with special needs, disadvantaged and at-risk young people and elderly citizens.

The Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation has teamed up with Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding to create a permanent home for the Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding Program at Oakington Farm along the Chesapeake Bay near Havre de Grace.

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"This is a wonderful partnership to help serve the citizens of Harford County. Teaming up with Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding will make a big difference in the county," Harford County Executive David R. Craig said in a statement.

Craig and his wife, Melinda, joined Parks and Recreation Director Arden McClune and CTP founder and executive director Cathleen Schmidt for the groundbreaking, which was followed by a reception a nearby Swan Harbor Farm.

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Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation that is based in Fallston and provides riding activities at a farm in Abingdon, is dedicated to providing a fun and unique healing experience for individuals and groups, the county government and CTR said in a joint statement.

"CTR's riders and families find hope, growth and compassion through the kindness of benefactors, volunteers and horses," the statement continues. "CTR and Parks and Recreation want to provide the best encounter in a healing and loving environment."

"Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding at Oakington will have the capacity to serve more vulnerable people in our community," Schmidt said. "We will have the facilities to expand and implement new ideas. Thank you Harford County for investing in the health and well-being of people with special needs, disadvantaged youth and the elderly."

CTR has raised $75,000, half of the $150,000, which the county executive challenged them to raise for the project, the statement notes.

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The county has moved forward with Phase 1 of the project with this contribution in hand. The cost of $420,000 for this phase includes design, demolition of dilapidated structures, construction of driveways and parking areas and the creation of future fenced pasturelands. The county Board of Estimates approved a contract for the first phase construction last month.

The riding facility will be the first significant public development on the Oakington Farm property, part of the former Sen. Millard E. Tydings estate, that the county acquired two decades ago.

The non-profit Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding will relocate to the new facility and operate it, McClune explained in an earlier interview.

Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding was advised to become a recreation council, so it could get county funding and a permanent home on Oakington Farm, Parks and Recreation Director Arden McClune said.

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Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding offers children and adults with disabilities or other special needs, including brain injuries or mental health issues, specialized horseback riding lessons and other activities, according to its website.

Eventually, the county plans to repurpose and expand the existing barns on the property to house an indoor riding ring and other activities. The building is expected to cost between $800,000 and $1 million, McClune said.

The county already has $900,000 in available funding for the project, which includes adapting the large existing French-style barn and other structures at the site and constructing an indoor riding area, according to the FY14 capital budget. There is budget authority to pursue about $1 million more, McClune said.


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