Episode 40: Witnessing Miracles at Shepard Meadows
Today Coffee Hour at The Commons is on the road again, in Bristol, at Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center. It’s on land donated to the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to be used for ministry, which is an expression of God’s love, and that’s certainly what’s going on here. The vision for the use of the property and some of its buildings for a therapeutic riding center started in 2004 and the center officially opened a year later with two horses and a pilot program for three children with special needs.
Today it is a premiere accredited center, one of six in the state, accredited by PATH International, the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. It has seven horses in its herd, lots of volunteers, and a staff of five. Today we’ll be talking with its executive director, Shelly Whitlock-Pope, who’s also a PATH-certified instructor, and Dave Demarais, a long-time volunteer with the center, Vice-President of its Board of Directors, formerly on the staff of ECCT for property management. That was after retiring from serving as the Deputy Fire Chief of West Hartford. (Here’s a link to a story about Dave from when he retired from ECCT staff.)
Shelly was appointed to her position last August. She has degrees in health administration, elementary education, educational leadership, and administration and policy; a background in healthcare, finance, education, and programming, and has worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the NYC Department of Education, Pegasus Therapeutic Riding and Manhattanville College. In addition to being a PATH-certified therapeutic riding instructor, she is also an equine specialist in mental health and learning, a mentor and site evaluator, and Special Olympics Equestrian Coach. She was trained and rode English for years and even patrolled NYC’s Central Park with the Mounted Auxiliary but says her true loves are riding trails Western, and her two American Quarter horses.