The Hall County Planning Commission on Monday, June 4, recommended approval of an equestrian center on Davis Bridge Road in Gainesville that would be used for a faith-based nonprofit that will pair children with a mentor and a horse to boost confidence and teach life skills.
The proposal now goes to the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which will hold a public hearing at its June 28 meeting.
Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, June 28
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
Kevin and Brenda Bater submitted the request on behalf of their organization, New Hope Youth Ranch. The nonprofit, at 3434 Davis Bridge Road, would provide 90-minute sessions where children between the ages of 5 and 18 can learn about caring for a horse, go fishing, do arts and crafts, take a walk around the property and help out around the ranch.
The nonprofit would work with children who have experienced abuse or traumatic events, and the Baters hope that going to the ranch and interacting with horses and a mentor will make the participants more confident.
“It’s really just getting these kids to work with the horses and maybe for the first time in a long time, or in some cases for the first time ever, really understand what a relationship means,” Kevin Bater said.
The organization would be funded mainly through donations, Kevin Bater said. The Baters previously volunteered for five years at a similar ranch in Kentucky, which inspired them to start their own, he said.
The Baters hope that working with rescue horses would help the children who come to the ranch.
“The first few sessions, they might brush the horse and ask about its story, and then usually you notice within a few weeks’ time they’re sharing how they relate to that and just being able to open up,” Brenda Bater said on Monday.
Kevin Bater said he saw children bond with the horses at the ranch where they previously worked.
“There is something that is picked up between the horse and the child when they just connect because of what they’ve been through,” he said.
Kevin Bater said that they are considering getting other animals such as pigs or goats for children who may not want to meet with a horse.
The children who come to the ranch would not have to pay for the sessions. While the ranch may occasionally host events such as picnics for the children and volunteers, those events would not be open to the public, and the barn would not be rented for events. The commission approved the request under that condition.
Don Smallwood, chairman of the planning commission, praised the Baters’ efforts on Monday.
“I commend you on what you’re trying to do … you’re taking on a big job. I hope it works out for you,” Smallwood said.
Anyone interested in donating or helping with the ranch can email firstname.lastname@example.org.