Our History and Impact
From and for the community. For over 40 years.
From and for the community. For over 40 years.
Upon seeing the dramatic improvements that students living with special needs were making at a nearby equine-assisted activities and therapy facility, our founders sought advice on starting a therapeutic riding program in the community of Clifton, VA. After joining NARHA (now Path Intl.), purchasing insurance, and securing permission from the Park Authority to operate in South Run Park, the first students joined as the 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program.
In the early years everyone was a volunteer and there was barely enough money for dues to the national accrediting organization. Neighbors lent horses, time, and love, and the program grew over time. Some of the thoughtful and generous individuals that helped start and support us back at the beginning; folks like Dorothy Dowdy, Jacque Trefry, Theresa and Regina Meade, and Lynn Broadbent, to name a few. Some are still involved today!
In the early 90’s the program changed it’s name to the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP) until 2022 when it became Cloverleaf Equine Center.
Rita Dunn was a driving force behind the early development of NVTRP. The program was new and didn’t have any horses of its own, so neighbors and friends loaned horses and time to help get the program off the ground. Rita was one of these thoughtful individuals. She donated both her time and her horses from the early 1980’s when she worked with Jacque Trefry at the Fairfax 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program as a volunteer, until 2001.
In 1998, NVTRP officially became its own entity and was no longer a part of the Fairfax 4-H program. This was a huge step in realizing the future growth potential of the program. Later that year, NVTRP gained 501(c)(3) status, officially making it a not-for-profit entity. This status means that donations made to NVTRP are tax-deductible. Make your donation here.
As NVTRP’s success grew, the board of governors saw a need for someone to oversee the daily needs of the program and hired Breeana Borhorst as the sole full time staff member in June of 2001. Over the next ten years the program grew from a small operation with two horses, 15 riders, and limited volunteers to a thriving program with 14 horses, over 100 riders per week, and a database of over 700 volunteers who want to help. Since 2001, the staff has grown steadily over time and NVTRP now employs four full-time staff members, five part-time staff members, a team of amazing instructors, volunteers, therapists, and summer interns.
NVTRP started the Ride to Thrive Horse Show in 2005 so that local riders of all abilities would have the opportunity to compete in a horse show. It was the perfect way for NVTRP riders and riders from other local therapeutic riding programs to show off their skills in front of their friends and family!
The Barn Fire
On July 19th, 2007 NVTRP experienced a barn fire. Thankfully no people or horses were seriously injured, however, the barn and all of the riding equipment used for lessons was destroyed. The community rallied around NVTRP and donated the use of two “foster” barns in Clifton and also donated the use of equipment. Within six weeks of the fire the program was up and running again! There is always a silver lining to every cloud. The outpouring of generosity, hard work, love, and enthusiasm that the community demonstrated for NVTRP was overwhelming. NVTRP will always be grateful for the tremendous amount of support and kindness it was shown during this difficult time.
Little Full Cry Farm
At the end of 2007 Randy Dillon invited NVTRP to move to his farm, Little Full Cry Farm, in Clifton, VA. It became clear to everyone involved that this was a special place, and there started the dream and the drive to make it NVTRP’s permanent home. The dream became reality when NVTRP, with help and donations from the community, was able to purchase the farm in January 2012. The purchase marked the program’s first permanent operating home since its founding in 1980. Little Full Cry Farm was the former home of Junior Equitation School, the renowned equestrian program owned and operated by the late Jane M. Dillon.
In honor of her 30th birthday celebration in 2009, NVTRP made its beloved pony, Peachy Keen, a Community Ambassador. Peachy Keen, aka “Peaches,” has reached out to people of all ages while traveling to schools, festivals, and other fun events in the community to teach them about her job as a therapeutic riding pony and the many benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapy.
NVTRP celebrated 30 years of service working with individuals with disabilities on September 19, 2010. The Clifton Town Council designated this day as “Peachy Keen Day” to honor NVTRP’s Community Ambassador, Peachy Keen, who has been teaching therapeutic riding lessons in the Clifton community for over twenty years. Hundreds of riders have benefited from riding Peachy Keen, all while improving their balance, muscular strength, social skills, and confidence.
In January 2012, NVTRP was able to recognize a dream come true when it purchased Little Full Cry Farm, a 17-acre farm it had been operating out of since a barn fire displaced them from their previous home in 2007.
On October 20, NVTRP unveils a new sign to display the new name of the farm, O’Shaughnessy Farm, in honor of the O’Shaughnessy-Hurst Memorial Foundation, the largest donor to support the purchase of the property for NVTRP.
NVTRP has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1980. Its programs have touched the lives of thousands of individuals and families including riders, volunteers, instructors and interns. Motivated by the needs of its families, NVTRP has goals to build an indoor riding ring to provide year-round services, which will include a viewing area for parents and improved and expanded parking facilities. The building project will also include an accessible playground. These efforts will allow NVTRP to expand its offerings in therapeutic horsemanship and therapy using equines.
In late 2021, The Jean Edelman Indoor Riding Arena opened its door to the public — the culmination of years of planning and fundraising. The facility offers 17,000 square feet of indoor riding space for clients, the Harbitter Learning Center for trainings and other meetings, a client observation area offering comfortable space for family members, and restrooms—a volunteer and client favorite after 40+ years of port-a-potties! See the Jean Edelman Indoor Riding Arena here.
To celebrate the new modern riding facility and to signify a bright future of lives touched through our community, NVTRP announced a new name. As Cloverleaf Equine Center, we continue to expand our programs and services — reflecting on the many lives we have been fortunate to be able to touch and looking forward to many more
Units of Service provided to children and adults with disabilities, youth from marginalized communities and recovering military members
Total Volunteer Hours