Senior at Abernethy Laurels is Back in the Saddle

October 6, 2015

Barbara Taylor, a resident at Abernethy Laurels, had dreams of riding a horse again. With the help of a nearby farm, the retirement community turned her dreams into reality on Tuesday.

Taylor grew up in Haywood County, located in western North Carolina. Her love for horses started when she was a young girl. Although today her memory may not be as sharp as it once was, Taylor often shares stories about her childhood horse named "Baby." She enjoys telling others about growing up with a family that rode horses instead of using an automobile. "Any time we needed to go to town, we just hopped on our horses and went," recalls Taylor.

While discussing her love of horses one afternoon with staff members at Abernethy Laurels, Taylor told them about her dream of riding a horse again and the fact that it had been more than 20 years since she last rode. Amy Carter, Activities Director at Abernethy Laurels, submitted the request to the organization's "Grant a Dream" program and Taylor was selected. A phone call to Rising Hope Farms, a local therapeutic riding center, turned out to offer the perfect accommodations.

"We were honored to get the call about Barbara coming to ride at our center. If there is a group of people who understands the desire and passion to ride horses, it is our dedicated volunteers," stated Gail Wartner, owner and operator of Rising Hope Farms in Claremont, NC.

Dressed in denim from head to toe, Taylor saddled up on "Gideon," a 22-year-old Appaloosa with brown spots, and never missed a beat. After the hour-long ride, Wartner handed Taylor an equine grooming kit and a bucket of treats to feed the horse. "The rain poured and the skies were gray, but Barbara had a smile that could light up the darkest of days," said Shaylyn Ladd, Public Relations Director at Abernethy Laurels.

Therapeutic riding can benefit individuals of any age with a wide range of challenges, be it cognitive, physical, emotional, and social or a combination. But perhaps one of the most significant impacts of the program is the unmistakable joy its riders receive.

"I never thought I'd have the opportunity to do something like this again," said Taylor. "Being on that horse brought back so many good memories. Words can't describe how special this made me feel."

Barbara Taylor's dream to ride a horse again was made possible by Grant-a-Dream, a program through United Church Homes and Services that renews and celebrates the passion while creating joy within the hearts of seniors within their communities.

Abernethy Laurels, a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community in Newton, NC takes pride in its history and tradition of excellence. For more information, visit