Last ride at Mountin’ Hopes original Mars Hill farm. Photo by Nancy MacDonald/courtesy of Mountin’ Hopes.
Facing a tough economic climate, Mountin’ Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center in Western North Carolina sold its farm in October and has been reorganizing to carry forward, according to a recently filed report from the group’s Nov. 28 board meeting.
At the meeting, the activities for the current year and strategic plans for the future were reviewed, including the recent sale of the Mountin’ Hopes property in Mars Hill, which left the financially-strapped nonprofit with $239,000, which could be used to purchase or secure a long-term lease on a smaller farm.
“We got an offer quickly and sold the farm,” said Executive Director Laura Nelson. “The people of Mountin’ Hopes look at this as a great opportunity to move forward in a much more stable financial position,” she added.
Mountin’ Hopes provides “horseback riding to people of all ages with physical, neurological and cognitive differences.” It was started in 1996 by Madison County residents Kathryn Graeter and Pat Magnus. In 2000, the group bought the 50-acre farm in Madison that it sold this year.
Dwindling ridership, a depleted scholarship fund, the ongoing expense of keeping horses and a large mortgage had been jeopardizing the non-profit’s operations. Under the current plan, the group is now leasing horses and riding facilities in Mars Hill and Mills River, and hopes to raise $50,000-70,000 annual operating funds.
The board of directors acknowledged that about two-thirds of all Mountin’ Hopes revenue needs to come from outside sources, including grants, donations and fundraisers. The group works with a large number of riders on scholarship and it hopes to continue this service.
The board agreed on a strategy for 2012 that includes:
* Offering spring and summer riding sessions in Marshall and Mills River
* Increasing the number of riders, volunteers and instructors
* The board of directors focusing on fundraising and recruiting new board members
* The Planning committee looking into options for buying a smaller farm, taking advantage of long-term lease options or expanding to other locations.
* Having Laura Nelson as the executive director (part-time)