By JENNIFER MEIER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
MIDDLEBURY — For as long as anyone can remember, staff at LoveWay therapeutic equestrian center has been mending fences — literally.
“It’s been held together with zip ties, odds and ends, baler twine, boards and hog fencing, which is not proper horse fence,” said instructor and program manager Maggie Korenstra. “The gates are falling apart and a lot of the posts are loose and leaning.”
That’s all changing as the equestrian center makes use of a $50,000 grant from the Elkhart Community Foundation.
From now until Sept. 9 (the first day of fall semester), 10,000 feet of fencing reconfiguring the center’s 13 pastures into 15 more usable pastures is going up.
“We applied for the grant in June, and while we were waiting to hear, we got bids, marked fences, and had plans drawn up,” said instructor and development associate Shelley Becker. “And at the same time we knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t get the grant. There are so many other great organizations out there.”
When the news came last month that LoveWay was to be awarded the grant money, Korenstra said she was almost in shock.
“We were trying not to get too excited about the possibility of getting the money,” Korenstra said. “But we wanted it so badly, so it was incredibly exciting when we found out.”
The news was also a relief for Korenstra, who had just spent part of a weekend corralling a horse that had pushed through fencing and had terrorized and ultimately injured three other horses.
Unfortunately poor fencing had caused several similar instances and other injuries over the years.
“We separate them for a reason,” Korenstra said. “They’re not all best friends.”
An injured horse means not only a vet call, but a horse that is unable to do its job.
“That puts a heavier workload on the other horses,” Becker said.
Both Becker and Korenstra said they never knew what they would find when they went out to check on the horses.
“They can certainly injure themselves on the fencing,” Korenstra said. “They can get wrapped up in or wounded by the broken fencing.
New high-tensile, white vinyl-wrapped wire fencing, being installed by Yoder and Sons Fencing out of Middlebury, is both sturdy and safe for the 16 horses and ponies kept at LoveWay.
The new equine-friendly fencing also surrounds two new pastures for the horses.
“This will give us a chance to rotate pastures, which allows the grass to grow up and fill in,” Becker said. “And we will be able to have dry lots — lots without grass. Some of the horse can’t have a lot of grass.
A newly reconfigured area will allow horses new to LoveWay to spend their trial period in a larger pasture and not in the current smaller-sized pen.
Grant money has also allowed staff to purchase an automatic continuous-flow horse watering system.
“The trough only holds about 5 gallons of water and continuously refills itself as the horses drink,” Korenstra said. “And it does it without using electricity — it’s geothermal. That’s great for us country folk when we lose power!”
The new watering system is also easy to clean.
“With the old troughs it took about one hour to do a quick clean,” Korenstra said. “First you had to scoop out all the water and the trough was huge. This is so much better and now our volunteers can work on other projects that need attention.”
Korenstra and Becker are grateful to locally owned businesses — Wingard’s Custom Plastics for the help with watering systems and C&L Well and Pump Service.
“We are really blessed,” Becker said. “C&L Well has been very helpful moving pastures and the horse water, as well as running and installing new water lines.”
Marbach, Brady and Weaver Inc. donated survey work for the fencing project, Niblock Excavating inc., employees donated their time to complete excavation work and Wallace Electric marked all the electric lines before the project began.
“We also want to thank Dogwood Hills Tree Farm for moving a tulip tree donated in memory of one of our volunteers,” Becker said. “That was an awesome job.”
Both agree that the grant has done more than just give LoveWay new fencing.
“It’s life-changing for us,” Korenstra said. “There’s no more worry and now we can spend time doing more important things than mending fences.”
Not only will the new fencing be up in time for the beginning of the center’s fall semester, it will also be finished in time for LoveWay’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the 19th annual Ride-A-Thon.
The Oct. 13 fundraiser includes a trail ride, pancake breakfast, family fun fair, pony rides, bake sale and carnival food. For more information visit www.lovewayinc.org.