How we began
Saddle Up! began in the late 1980s as an idea conceived by four people who were then involved with an existing therapeutic riding program. These visionaries saw a need in the community for wider service to more challenged riders, and decided to develop a new riding program. The founders were Alton Kelley, Nancy Wennberg, Charles Crafton and Lynne Evans.
In November of 1989, a core group of volunteers and the founders met and voted to begin a new program. The name, "Saddle Up!", was proposed and adopted for their dream. Kelley’s family provided a contribution which made it possible to get Saddle Up! off the ground. The donation paid for incorporation and insurance through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA). The NARHA rules and regulations were complied with, in order to appropriately launch the program.
The founders then searched for property where the program could be operated and approached Helen Winter of Schandwin Farm. Helen was thrilled to let Saddle Up! call Schandwin home, even donating her horses and tack. The program thus began with ten riders in May of 1990.
At Schandwin Farm, Saddle Up! was able to instruct students one night a week for twelve weeks during the summer. Ten students quickly grew to 30, and the core group of volunteers expanded to near 100. Since lesson night became very hectic with a number of students and volunteers trying to work in a busy commercial barn, the Board of Directors began discussing the next step on their wish list - renting their own barn. With its own barn, the program could operate several nights a week, for an extended period of time.
Following two years at Schandwin Farm, Saddle Up! leased a barn on Highway 96 West. Since they now had room for their own horses, it quickly went from no horses, to two horses, then to six in a period of just a year and ahalf. The number of riders also steadily increased, from the original ten to 50, and lessons were given four days per week.
In the fall of 1995, Saddle Up! moved once again to a beautiful 30-acre farm in Leipers Fork. At first, jazz musician, Chester Thompson, who used the house on the property as a studio, generously donated the use of the barn and land. Thirty acres of pasture enabled the students to take small trail rides, and the flat front pasture contained an arena for equitation lessons. In February of 1997, Saddle Up! purchased the farm from the previous owner. In March of 1999 the program retired the loan on the farm.
In January 2001, Saddle Up!’s visionary board began action on a five year strategic plan to accommodate thestudents waiting to get into the program. An Executive Director was hired to direct the expansion and plans developed for the long dreamed of indoor facility.
As the plans neared final stages on paper, a generous benefactor donated a sum of money large enough to elevate the only uncertainty expressed by the arena committee, worry about being so far from the major cities where our volunteers and riders reside.
Saddle Up! purchased a farm closer to Nashville. The beautiful Leipers Creek farm sold quickly and the program moved to River Run Farm, directly across the street from the Old Schandwin Farm where we began in 1990!