“Last year, 2012, started out rocky. But in the end, it was the biggest blessing for Magical Meadows that could have happened. It challenged us to come to a new place, to restructure and to grow,” said Tammy Stackhouse, executive director and founder of The Magical Meadows.
Last year saw the beginning of big changes at the therapeutic horseback riding facility for children and adults with special needs located just south of Oswego. Founded in 2007 by Stackhouse with her horse, Magic, and one autistic rider, The Magical Meadows has grown to serve 90 individuals in the special needs community.
That growth, however, almost didn’t happen. Last winter, the facility was forced to relocate from Stackhouse’s family farm due to divorce proceedings.
Packing up the horses and the outdoor riding arena, The Magical Meadows moved to a 7-acre plot of land at 3386 E. 525 N., Warsaw, in May. The facility relocated in time to begin the riding season one month later than usual, but rather than remaining Stackhouse’s not-for-profit alone, The Magical Meadows transformed into its own 501c3 non-profit and is now manned by a 7-member board.
“It’s not just me running Magical Meadows anymore. What we learned from all this was we wanted this facility to be here forever,” said Stackhouse. “The board and the community looked past my personal situation and continued to see the vision of The Magical Meadows. This transition couldn’t have happened without their support.”
This past fall, ground was broken to build a new, indoor riding arena. During the last two years, funds have been raised and donated to The Magical Meadows’ building campaign in order to begin building a new, indoor facility. Stookey Construction began work on the building last month. The goal is to finish it this spring.
A new 70- by 120-foot riding arena plus horse stalls, office and community space will allow therapeutic horseback riding to take place all year long, rain or shine. The additional space will enable The Magical Meadows to take on more riders, hold more horseback riding classes and host additional programs for the special needs community.
“With only ever having an outdoor arena, we couldn’t ride in the winter or in the rain,” explained Stackhouse. “This was so sad for our riders. This is often the only activity they can do. Some of these kids are wheelchair bound or don’t speak a word, but when they’re with their horse, they are having whole conversations.”
A dozen stalls are being built to comfortably house the horses while pasture will be available for grazing. An activity center will hold art classes, a computer lab, library and other resources while an office, gift shop and reception area will be the first sights visitors see when entering the new building. Stackhouse will be the facility’s and horses’ full-time, live-in caretaker, having an apartment on the second floor of the building.
“The goal is to create a special space for the special needs community,” said Stackhouse. “We had 90 riders this past summer and expect to have 125 to 150 this summer. We’ve not yet worked with the emotional component of the disability spectrum, so we’d like to open up Magical Meadows for those and other at-risk kids, too, working with the local school and places like the Bowen Center.
“Life is tough and there’s nothing like connecting to a horse,” she said.
Additional plans for the property call for an outdoor riding arena, horse pastures, a memorial garden donated by the Warsaw Community High School class of 1979 and an outdoor training trail developed by local boy scouts. The trail will be designed with trees, plants, birdhouses and more that riders can identify as they ride.
Another exciting addition to The Magical Meadows will be a new foal, expected to be born around the same time the building is expected to be finished this spring. All of the Magical Meadows’ horses are currently being housed at the original Magical Meadows’ farm, which has indoor stalls and plenty of pasture, and reverted back to Stackhouse’s father after her divorce was finalized.
“My original horse, Magic, passed away of cancer in June and some folks thought I needed a new baby,” said Stackhouse. “The new baby goes with the whole vision we have for Magical Meadows in 2013: to keep moving forward into the new and exciting, and finish our dream.”
To learn more about riding at The Magical Meadows or becoming a volunteer at the facility, call Stackhouse at (574) 265-3085 or go to.themagicalmeadows.org.