August 8, 2020
Carlisle Charitable Foundation’s roots go back to 1998 when the program was first established as the Equest Therapeutic Riding Center, co-founded by Nick and Sarah Armentrout on their farm in Lyman, Maine. For twelve years, the program served the community with first-rate equine-assisted activities and therapies, providing services to hundreds of children and adults with emotional, intellectual, and physical disabilities. In 2011 a new business model was adopted. Carlisle Academy Integrative Equine Therapy & Sports, LLC was launched, building upon the success of Equest while expanding into new areas of training and leadership and integrating traditional and para-equestrian education. Today, Carlisle Academy continues to be an industry leader, providing exceptional programming, innovative curricula, and sustainable business practices.
At the time of this transition, the Carlisle Charitable Foundation was also formed, maintaining the original 501(c)(3) non-profit status and assuming the responsibility of philanthropic fundraising for families in need. The mission carries on today. Through tuition-supporting scholarships which provide access to the Academy’s valued services, CCF continues to impact quality of life through the healing power of horses.
Before COVID, the Foundation established a horse stewardship fund focused on the therapy horses that provide charitable and educational program services. The fund ensures that daily care of Carlisle Academy horses is properly supported with dedicated staff and uninterrupted services (veterinarian, farrier, dentistry, health supplements), despite the undulations of seasonal enrollment. Since COVID, Carlisle Academy needed the horse stewardship even more as they were not able to run their spring programs. Some riders have returned this summer and they hope for 30-40% more riders this Fall.
Diane Conley got involved with the organization serendipitously as a sidewalker. Riders need support to make sure they're safe, and to help with movements. Each rider is paired with a horse handler, occupational therapist and two sidewalkers. Diane spent a year volunteering before joining the board and eventually becoming board president. Her dedication and passion have helped the organization reduce its overhead expenses, as she and the other Board members now handle administrative tasks from home.
“It’s important to stay connected to the work we’re doing,” Diane said, “and the most rewarding thing is seeing how much progress children and adults make.” Diane continued to comment about how amazed she is by how Carlisle is constantly evolving to meet needs in the community. Each time they do something different, it opens up relationships with other people who can help. They just developed a retreat for health care workers which will be similar to retreats they’ve done with veterans. They also just finished fixing up extra space in the barns to offer yoga and more wellness experiences.
“Personally, I hope we continue to have an engaged and excited board,” Diane said, “and we’re able to bring in new people and new energy. I’m enjoying everything, continuing to be efficient and fundraise as much as we can.”