An Invaluable Mentor At Charlottesville Area Riding Therapy (CART)

By Brian Cohen

Every Saturday morning, from March through November, Ann Byford travels one hour from her home in Livingston to a stable in White Hall. It’s not for money, accolades, or the obvious pleasure of riding a horse through our Virginia countryside.

Ann is a volunteer for Charlottesville Area Riding Therapy (CART), a non-profit program that provides therapeutic horseback riding to children and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Established in 1999, CART strives to boost riders’ self-confidence and movement abilities. Ann has been a volunteer with CART since its inception.

Why does Ann—who works full-time, five days a week—sacrifice a Saturday morning sleep-in for eight months a year?

"Because I like to," replies Ann readily. "I like watching the kids. I like working with the kids. They get a lot out of it."

Ann has a long history of working with disabled children. She served in various volunteer programs with the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center(KCRC) in Charlottesville for almost eight years. About five years ago, she participated in a KCRC therapeutic riding program at Hardendale West, near Ivy. Ann was also an adaptive swimming volunteer at KCRC, teaching strokes one-on-one to children who were unable to participate in standard swim classes.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Ann—an invaluable mentor to kids horse lover is also a foster mom for dogs. This means Ann must again hit the road, because the Fluvanna COUNTY SPCA administers the canine program. She cares for dogs who are adoptable but do not fare as well as others in the shelter, or who need a home for a few weeks.

Although the mind conjures a scene of a home overrun by barking doggies, Ann says she’s got things under control.

"It’s just one at a time. But," she admits, "I have two of my own."

No surprise there.

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