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Local group begins equine association

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By John Barnhart

Bedford County has the fourth largest horse population in Virginia, according to Richard Toms. That was part of the inspiration to start a new organization that actually began in January with seven people and now has grown to 65.

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    According to Toms, the Bedford Equine Association, originated when he, Steve Stevick, Melissa Wade, Stormie Shelton-Hazen, Marshall Cofer, Dr. William McCabe and Jacque Battle got together and began planning.  He said that agriculture has always been strong in Bedford County and the county’s connection with horses has remained strong since the days when agriculture was horse-powered. The local horse                   community  has also  been strong.  It’s also  a  good  place  to keep horses.

    One of the group’s goals was to remember equine history in living form. One of the founding members, Marshall Cofer, breeds Percheron draft horses. These enormous horses, he has a couple that weigh a ton and have hooves the size of dinner plates, provided the muscle for transportation and work before powered machinery and trucks took their place.

    Another of the purposes is to serve as a hub for groups to promote their horse-related activities and events. They want it to be an information center for horse owners. Right now, they publish a newsletter that, among other things, lists Web sites that sell horse related items. Once they have their Web site up and running, they hope to list local, as well as national, providers.

    Local providers can be essential, such as when somebody has a sick or injured horse. Shelton-Hazen notes that some veterinary facilities, that take horses, specialize in different services. Toms said that Virginia Tech is particularly good for an after-hours emergency.

    Being an educational resource is another of the goals. Shelton-Hazen said they hope to be a resource to help people care for their animals by either providing the education or pointing people in the right direction.

    They also want to be a network for horse owners. Shelton-Hazen and Toms note that not everybody who has a horse necessarily has a truck and trailer handy to move the animal. They point to the wildland fire that took place in the mountains above Montvale in 2008. In a similar situation, the Equine Association could provide the network to help people evacuate a large animal and find a place to keep it until it’s safe to go home. The network could also provide local authorities with a resource in the case of a traffic accident that involves a horse trailer.

    One area where they have already stepped up to the plate is horse rescue, animals that have been neglected or abused. This year, for example, some members cared for some neglected horses confiscated by county animal control.

    So far, the Equine Association has established a visible presence. The association members held an Equine Day at Tractor Supply, just east of Bedford on U. S. 460. They also plan an entry in Bedford’s Christmas Parade.

    “We are going to have a horse drawn float,” said Toms.

    Marshall Cofer’s Percherons are going to pull it.

    They hope to promote other projects in the future.

    “What we would like to see happen is a county fairground,” said Toms. “I’d really like to see a fair come back to Bedford.”

    Toms said they would also like to see a multi-use center to promote agriculture in general.

    The Bedford Equine Association is open to anybody, whether they own a horse or not, whether they live in Bedford County or not. They normally meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month, although their next meeting, a small Christmas gathering, is slated for Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Bedford Presbyterian Community Center on Center Street in Bedford. Annual membership fees are $10 for an individual, with a $10 youth fee, or $25 for a family membership. Business memberships are $50. Memberships started now are good through Dec. 2010.

    The Web site is still a work in progress., but they do have a Facebook group under Bedford Equine Association.

    For more information, contact Richard Toms at rwt322@aol.com or Stormie Shelton-Hazen at Astridewithpride@aol.com.

   

    By the way, if you need some horse manure for organic gardening in the spring, these folks know where you can get some.