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A place to call their own

HOPE Equestrian Center has the land it needs and is closing in on its fundraising goal to build a new horse facility in Eagle Point
Angie Christiansen Ballard of HOPE Equestrian walks a horse named Seena near the new site for Hope Equestrian off Riley Road in Eagle Point. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Quincey Ballard walks Seena across Riley Road in Eagle Point to the new property of HOPE Equestrian. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

EAGLE POINT – Nearly four years after setting a goal to raise enough money to finally secure and develop a permanent home, HOPE Equestrian Center is well on its way to setting down permanent roots.

Executive Director Angie Ballard announced this week that the nonprofit, which provides equestrian therapy and riding experiences for children and adults with varying physical, emotional or learning disabilities, soon will break ground on a 63-acre parcel along Riley Road.

The property, purchased for $325,000 in 2020, is just across the road from the facility HOPE currently leases. Ballard said the property was the culmination of decades of hoping and planning. Founded in the late 1980s, the facility has survived and scraped along while occupying a series of borrowed and leased properties over the years.

A fundraising campaign began in earnest in 2018 but was slowed significantly by the pandemic.

With most HOPE riders recipients of scholarships for services at the facility, keeping them involved in their lessons and equestrian therapy during pandemic lockdowns was a top priority, Ballard said. A drop in donations — coupled with rising costs of materials and uncertainty in the economy and world overall — impacted HOPE’s efforts to develop its long-awaited parcel of land, she said.

“We have raised just over $700,000, which was our original goal. But a lot of things have changed, so we’ve been working on a revised budget, and we probably still have about $350,000 to raise to make this happen,” she said.

“We started the capital campaign in 2018 with a deadline of this year, though now we’re probably looking at finishing up by 2023. Costs have increased substantially because of the economy and the cost of everything.”

Ballard said organizers hope to break ground by this fall, completing most of the needed structures for the new facility sometime next year.

“The land is paid for, but we have no structures on it, so that’s the focus now,” she added.

“We hope to start building in the next couple months, and we’ll do what we have to do.”

With most of HOPE’s riders on scholarship, and some 400-450 riders served annually, Ballard said, much of the nonprofit’s budget is derived from donations, grants and its annual fundraiser, Denim and Diamonds.

Ballard said the move would accommodate future growth for the nonprofit, enabling even more riders to receive services. The current facility has been home for the past decade. They moved in with a five-year lease, followed by “one more five-year lease if we needed it,” said Ballard.

Ballard, who runs the nonprofit with help from volunteers and her 11-year-old son, Quincy, said a general contractor had been hired to help design the project and develop everything in phases.

“Right now, we’re working out the cost of all the buildings we need to put in. We know it will be over budget — by a lot — but we plan to build it anyway. We’ll have a loan, and we will fundraise annually or just pay as we go,” she said.

“This has been a long time coming, and we are going to just keep moving forward.”

Once built, the site will include a small house for a caretaker, a covered arena, stalls for horses, a therapy room, tack room, office, outdoor arena and hay barn.

“It’s going to really be exciting to finally have a place to call our own. It’s stressful, because of the cost of everything, but we’ve wanted this for so long,” said Ballard.

“We’ve been really lucky and grateful to stay for so long where we’re at, but we’ve grown so much that we’re at a point we need to be able to operate at our own hours, we need more space and we just really — finally — need a place to call our own.”

For more information or to donate, see hopeequestrian.com.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.