Blue River Horse Center invites Summit County community to ‘Meet the Horses’ at May 11 open house |

Blue River Horse Center invites Summit County community to ‘Meet the Horses’ at May 11 open house

The main attractions will soon arrive at The Blue River Horse Center, a historic 300-acre ranch in the Lower Blue River Valley, as the group saddles up for another year of nonprofit work.

About 20 miles north of Silverthorne, the Blue River Horse Center houses rescued horses over the warmer months while the animals are put into play with a variety of programming offered to children and adults alike.

It’s a win-win scenario, said John Longhill, the center’s executive director and founder, who sees benefits not just for the people whose lives are improved through their relationships with horses, but for the horses, as well.

“Have you ever been out there?” asked Karen Johns, who’s volunteered with the center for over a year now. “It’s magical, truly, and I don’t use that term lightly.”

The way it all works is fairly simple and straightforward. The rescued horses are wrapped into the center’s programming, which is designed to teach children and adults new leadership and self-awareness skills, while at the same time the horses become more adoptable because of the training they receive through the center.

As the horses get much-needed training and a nice summer home in the mountains, they form the backbone for the nonprofit’s mission by demonstrating the educational, therapeutic and spiritual value loving relationships can have, even if those relationships are with a horse.

These types of programs have been shown to produce long-lasting impacts on people because of a horse’s positive effects on human thoughts and emotions, Longhill explained.

“We believe that success in the human arena depends on the thoughts, attitudes and actions that need to be present to support a happy and fulfilling life,” he said via email. “Horses can teach us communication, collaboration, kindness and unconditional love. There is something ‘magical’ that happens when a horse shows a child what they are thinking. … The horse ‘tells’ us when we are being successful or not, by being reflections for our behavior.”

After the winter break, the center’s work kicks up again on May 4 with a volunteer orientation and training. There will also be a Meet the Horses Day from 1-5 p.m. on May 11 so that anyone in the community can become more familiar with the center’s horses. For those who already know about the center, the day is simply a chance to reconnect with the nonprofit after the winter.

About 80 people attended last year’s open house, and Longhill hopes to see a few more this go-round, as the event comes with introductions of the center’s miniature and full-size horses, along with grooming, feeding, round-pen demonstrations and even riding lessons.

The Blue River Horse Center also has scheduled events with Summit High School and Summit Middle School students later in May.

For Johns, just seeing the adults and children, some of whom are at-risk, work with horses really brings home exactly what the nonprofit does.

For starters, she said, the ranch is simply breathtaking with a nice, consistent breeze, deep blue skies overhead and the Blue River running through the property.

More amazing, however, is seeing how horses pick up on the energy people put out and how those interactions can change lives for the better.

“The horses read people’s energy so well,” Johns said, adding that it’s like getting immediate feedback on your mood.

“If you’re angry or depressed, the horses just take off across the field,” Johns continued.

However, if someone is calm, at piece and feeling love and acceptance, the horses “will come straight up to you. You don’t even have to say a word … It really translates into a lot of areas of life with the energy you send out being received by other people.”

The center will also be partnering with Rocky Mountain Youth Core in June and Building Hope in May for leadership-awareness programs, said Longhill, adding that the center did a similar program last year with people suffering from PTSD and saw dramatic results.

“By the end of the day, it just seems like everyone is calm and in harmony with what’s going on around and treating the horses like part of the pack,” Johns said of her experience at the Blue River Horse Center.

“It’s just amazing for me to watch. I’ve been in awe of the way horses interact with people and how they have changed personalities for the better.”

The Blue River Horse Center relies on volunteers like Johns, who help with the center’s educational programs while also learning to evaluate, retrain and rehabilitate rescued horses so they may find forever homes.

The center offers free training for volunteers of all levels of experience. The first training session will be May 4 with subsequent sessions scheduled for May 25 and almost every other Saturday after that.

For more information about the center, its different programs or how to volunteer, go to

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