Victory Farms hopes to bring its program back to its roots near Lake Wylie.
Dory Pell, program director for Victory Farm Inc., started her therapeutic riding program helping riders with physical disabilities in 2011 on Victory Trail in Gaston County, off Rufus Ratchford Road, near Lake Wylie. The program was moved two years later to Meek Road in Gastonia.
Now, Pell wants to purchase 155 acres bordering South and North Carolina off S.C. 274.
“With that property, we’d be able to be self-sustaining,” Pell said.
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But the group with volunteers mostly from Gaston and York counties needs $118,000 for a down payment as soon as possible.
“We have a verbal commitment from a grant foundation to build a barn,” she said. “We’re looking for generous benefactor, and we are offering naming opportunity to whoever helps us get this property,”
Victory Farm held a Denim & Diamonds Gala last month with a live auction at Jon Walker Stables in Gastonia with about 200 people raising about $10,000, Pell said.
She said with this property, the nonprofit could offer public trail rides to raise money, pasture boarding, AKC service dog therapy programs and a horticultural center.
“All of these different activities would become self-sustaining and provide jobs for the disabled,” Pell said. “It’s a dream I’ve had for many years.”
Victory Farm is unique to other therapeutic riding centers, Pell said, because it’s individualized to the rider, for instance getting dressed by learning to work buckles and flaps on the horse tack.
“You’re grooming the horse, you’re warming up and creating a bond while using motor skills that carry over to their own self care,” Pell said. “They do all their own grooming and tacking, if possible, even from a wheelchair.”
The program goes beyond the ringside work, too.
“We do a whole lot of trail riding, where we walk with them but they ride independently,” Pell said.
Victory Farm has four horses. The 22 riders, some from York County including the Lake Wylie and Rock Hill areas, come weekly for up to two-hour intervals. Victory Farm, Pell said, aids in strengthening more than muscles and motor skills.
“Every minute they are told what they are going to do and never in charge of anyone else,” Pell said. “Now they are given a horse they are in charge of leading, and they decide where to go.”
Pell said the trail, which is designed like a road course, offers something special for people who don’t have the ability to drive car or bicycle independently.
“When a rider knows they are in charge, making their own decision on trail, it’s tremendously empowering,” she said. “Dignity goes a long way.”