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Our History

1971:

Pony Farm (named after founder Boo McDaniel's favorite book by author Paul Brown) summer residential camp begins with eight girl campers.

1975:

Gene and Boo purchase Sign of the Dove Farm from Boo's parents, Gene & Bella Martin. Riding lessons are offered in addition to the camp, and Sign of the Dove Retreat Center is opened in the farm house, serving youth and adult retreat groups. Peg Viglione joins as the first staff member.

1977

: Sign of the Dove Retreat Center opens in the current lodge and Pony Farm camp expands to 25 campers (Boo and Gene start their family and spread out in the newly-spacious farm house!). Fidelity Investments and other loyal supporters contribute money to sustain the farm and Alice Custard joins as the first-ever Sign of the Dove employee.

1985:

"Outside Barn" constructed to provide 24 additional stalls, allowing expansion of the lesson program and summer camp (30 students). Construction begins on additional classrooms and offices.

1986:

New riding arena is created with generously donated fencing.

1987:

Boo dreams of starting a therapeutic riding program after visiting Marj Kittredge's Windrush Farm and attending the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association's (NARHA) National Conference. She begins graduate school at Antioch New England with that goal in mind. She and Mac purchase Sign of the Dove Retreat Center, which becomes Stepping Stone Lodge.

1988:

Horse Power pilot programs are conducted with Brookside Psychiatric Hospital, Lucas Community and Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center. Skipper Skelly becomes first official Horse Power staff member.

1989:

Horse Power's founding Board of Directors is formed. Sally Swift (creator of Centered Riding) is named honorable chair and Rev. James Haddix, President. Nancy Cook, Pam Parter-Elliot, Carrie Keese and Boo McDaniel are founding instructors. A volunteer program is initiated.

1990:

Horse Power becomes a NARHA accredited center and receives IRS 501(c)(3) status. The program grows quickly, even necessitating several 'downsizing' actions to maintain quality and individual attention.

1991:

"Horses and Healing" Conference held, the first known gathering of people interested in horses and mental health.

1995:

Funding is secured for a full time Program Director position. The first meeting to organize founding of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association is held during the now-annual 'Horses and Healing' conference.

1996:

Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA) is officially recognized by NARHA—Barbara Rector and Boo become co-Presidents.

1997:

"Tag Ring", dedicated in memory of a favorite Horse Power horse Tag Along, is refurbished with the help of many. Horse Power services are expanded upon installation of a new specialty ramp.

1999:

Eagle Scout Shawn O'Connell builds the new "Penrose Ring" with donated materials and a ribbon cutting ceremony takes place.

2000:

Boo dreams of a therapeutic riding instructor training school, and the process of attaining accreditation as a NARHA Training Site begins. Meanwhile, an indoor arena is built and dedicated, a wheelchair lift is donated by Fleet Bank and Boo becomes a NARHA Master Instructor.

2001:

Ritu Esbojn attends Horse Power Instructor Training School's three month pilot program.

2002:

Funding donated for promotion and staffing of Horse Power Instructor Training School.

2003:

Horse Power Instructor Training School fulfills all curriculum, faculty, program and facility requirements to become a NARHA Approved Training Center with an equine facilitated mental health emphasis.

2005:

Horse Power Driving Club is founded with specially trained horses and instructors, offering therapeutic driving.

2006:

A pilot program is held for the Horse Power 10 Day Intensive Course. New Hampshire Corporate Fund and New Hampshire Charitable Trust generously support hiring a Business Manager, fund raising training and a board development initiative.

2007:

The Farm Animal and Gardening Education Program is dedicated. A partnership with Americorps Volunteers, the Monadnock Worksource and Gardensmith establishes new herb, flower and vegetable gardens on the farm. Barns are relocated and refurbished to house rabbits, guinea pigs, pigs, bantams, laying hens, goats, miniature horses, a donkey and white doves. 'Equine Bodywork' pilot program to be initiated with Nashua Community College in the fall.

Please see the founders blog for further updates.