David Smeltzer, President and CEO of Heritage Ministries, announced on Dec. 8 that Homestead Stables, the new $3 million dollar equestrian center on the campus of The Homestead in Gerry, proudly celebrated its grand opening.

Smeltzer said the equestrian center will be “a lot of things to a lot of people,” providing community and therapeutic programming outreach for Heritage while redefining their identity. He credited Chief Financial Officer Randall Gerig with the idea to embrace the rural nature of Heritage’s location by creating a location that would offer Heritage residents unique ways to maintain an active lifestyle through training, boarding and lessons. “We offer what no other retirement community in the region can — the ability to experience life in a vibrant and growing community with the opportunity to watch horse shows and events from a heated viewing area, board horses, and learn how to ride through professional lessons from fulltime staff.”

Homestead Stables is not only a world class equestrian center which provides excellence in care and boarding of horses, but a place where ministry can be expanded to include lessons and programs for children, teens and intergenerational activities. In addition to equine educational events and programs, Homestead Stables also offers opportunities to provide therapeutic riding programs for individuals suffering from PTSD or other emotional or physical disabilities.

“We’re certainly unique in our area,” Smeltzer said. “What started as the idea to create an experience for our residents has grown into a much larger vision since its inception. We realize we are truly only beginning to scratch the surface of all that our facility will be able to provide. What was intended to be a facility that would help us grow the Homestead Campus is now so much more. It is providing us with a whole new way to serve our community and the surrounding counties while continue to further our mission of serving others through Christ-centered ministries which promote ‘Hope, Dignity, and Purposeful Living.’”

Lisa Haglund, Heritage Vice President of Marketing and Development, stated. “We are confident that our improvements will position our not-for-profit to meet future needs of seniors in our community. We remain as committed today to aligning the operational strength of Heritage with activities, programming and services that benefit the lives of seniors and in this case our entire community by offering intergenerational activities.”

The center itself features 41 stalls. A 112-foot wide by 219-foot long riding arena will give horses room to trot and interact with trainers and guests. Movable fences can also make the riding area smaller or bigger to accommodate different events.

Those who only want to watch the horses in action have a large viewing area with windows extending from the floor to look through. The space features bathrooms and a kitchenette. Bleachers on the first floor and balcony seating are available for those who want to view horses outside of the viewing area. Stalls are 10 feet wide by 12 feet deep and outfitted with automatic waterers and clean air. A 60-by-80-foot pen is also available for additional training, especially for younger horses.

Groups can set up appointments to visit the Homestead Stables. Those who board horses have 24/7 access to their animals and the stable amenities.

Heather Payne oversees operations at Homestead Stables as the stable manager and head trainer. Payne graduated from the University of Findlay in Ohio with a degree in equine science. She has also owned Payne Show Horses for the past 15 years and will continue to operate her business while working at the stable full-time.

“I am thrilled to be managing such a unique facility to Western New York, which has been designed with every amenity. Our customers can enjoy all of the services we have to offer on such a beautiful and convenient property. I look forward to this new journey, as I embark on my management of this exceptional equine facility,” stated Payne.

State Representative Andrew Goodell and State Senator Cathy Young both expressed their excitement for Heritage as they celebrated the opening with over 1,100 residents and members of the public in attendance, noting the value of the organization’s contributions to the entire region with the opening of Homestead Stables.

“I am so proud to congratulate Heritage on the completion of such a significant project. The services they offer both their residents and the public truly indicate that level of care and dedication that Heritage is committed to in Chautauqua County. Programs that will serve multiple communities, including veterans and seniors, through their therapeutic work and lessons are truly an accomplishment and add tremendous value to the region which should be celebrated,” said Young.

Goodell added, “Homestead Stables will be a much welcomed addition to Chautauqua County. Heritage is a valuable asset to our community and the services they will offer to all ages though the outreach of Homestead Stables is to be celebrated.”

Smeltzer thanked the local officials and community for their support of the project. “With our location here in Gerry, NY, ‘The Rodeo Capital of the East,’ we are excited to be able to support the Gerry community by providing a venue for horse shows and clinics. We are proud to be a part of the community,” he said.

This story was originally published in the Dunkirk Observer Today on December 30, 2018.