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Thank you for Keith Loria's article on Oct. 11 about riding opportunities for Fairfax County residents. We appreciate information such as this since many people enjoy horseback riding and are searching for places to ride. Yes, there are opportunities in the County, but it is somewhat misleading to say there are "Plenty of options", since the six mentioned in the article are spread across the length and breadth of Fairfax County, which has over a million residents.

The number of equestrian facilities in Fairfax County providing boarding, lessons and other activities such as therapeutic riding has declined considerably over the past decade, as equestrian centers have succumbed to the pressures of commercial and residential development. The few remaining facilities have long waiting lists, and many would-be riders give up after searching unsuccessfully for a suitable situation. Trips to outlying areas are not feasible for many families, who face the requirements of busy work and school days, not to mention traffic. Two large lesson facilities which together provided over 1,000 riding lesson hours per week have closed and have not been replaced. As a result of the diminishing number of lesson facilities, most Fairfax County residents must now travel to neighboring Virginia and Maryland counties in order to take lessons. The stables in the article certainly provide opportunities, but the demand for affordable, accessible riding still far outstrips the supply and this is likely to get worse as more stables are lost in the County.

I appreciate your mentioning the Laurel Hill Equestrian Center, which will provide additional riding opportunities for residents in the southern part of the county. We at Fairfax4Horses are working closely with the Fairfax County Park Authority to establish a facility that will offer lessons, after school programs, therapeutic riding, programs for at-risk youths, and also provide exposure to an important part of Virginia history. The Center is located at the site of the old Lorton Prison Dairy Barn. Trails are in place that can be used today, and an outdoor riding ring and improved parking are under construction. Full plans include pastures, an indoor arena, a stable, and facilities for therapeutic riding.

Again, thank you for making Fairfax County residents aware of available riding facilities.

Beverly Dickerson

President, Fairfax4Horses