Chester County equestrian center celebrates 50 years of enabling riders

MALVERN, Pa. (WPVI) -- For decades an equestrian center in Chester County has helped riders of all ages and abilities use their love of horses to improve their quality of life.

Christine Del Paggio of Conshohocken spends her favorite hour of her entire week at the Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern.

"Once a week I come here and I can walk. And I look so forward to it," she said.

We caught up with her as she was about to ride Maggie Mae, a beautiful horse who isn't the least bit shy.

Christine, a long-time horse enthusiast, can forget about her spinal cord injury and her paralysis and just ride.

"As soon as I get on my legs stretch. Being in the wheelchair, my legs don't stretch. I'm in it 24/7. And so when I got on the horse and the motion of his walking, it moves my hips along with him," she said.

This year marks fifty years since Thorncroft opened its doors to all riders, regardless of ability.

"It's unbelievable how much it's grown and that it's so well accepted by the people," said founder Saunders Dixon.

The non-profit center began in 1969 with one client, a blind woman who wanted to ride. Currently, they help people with an array of physical and mental disabilities, all through horseback riding.

"We all challenge them to be the best that we can be," said instructor Carole Laulis. "And our horses are tenfold the best teachers we have."

Even after some of the riders are done their lessons they'll hang around and volunteer here at the farm.

Things like cleaning stalls, cleaning tack, water and hay and of course, grooming the horses.

"I don't want to go home. I want to stay in the lobby and greet the visitors when they come in. I want to talk to them. They're my friends now," said Christine.

Thirty-four horses on 70 acres and folks at the center hope for at least 50 more years

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