By Susan Friedman
Equest, an award-winning nonprofit that has been providing equine assisted activities and therapies to children and adults with disabilities for 38 years, has officially begun construction of a new state-of-the-art arena funded by the late businessman and philanthropist, Al Hill, Jr. Dignitaries gathered at the Texas Horse Park for a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 12 to celebrate the Al Hill, Jr. Family Arena.
Equest CEO Lili Kellogg said: “There are over 800,000 people in Dallas living with a disability. Equest’s equine facilitated programs have proven to be a unique and effective way to provide hope and healing through the human horse connection for those with disabilities and challenges. With the much-needed arena, we will be able to help more people.”
Currently, Equest improves the lives of more than 2,000 served annually, and there is waiting list. The Al Hill, Jr. Family Arena will increase opportunities for Equest to serve more clients and amplify outreach programming with the Dallas Independent School District, U.S. veterans and their families, Dallas Police Activities League and additional audiences and organizations.
Explained Heather Washburne, daughter of Al Hill, Jr., “My father suffered from a spinal cord injury in 2003, so the arena was one of the most exciting projects for my dad. He always loved horses and wanted to give others hope and support and believed in Equest’s mission. People always say that my dad was an investor in businesses, but he was also an investor in people, to make their lives better, and it makes me happy to know how many people will be supported by the new Al Hill, Jr. Family Arena.”
Designed by Brownstone Crown Architecture and constructed by ML Gray Partnership, the beautiful, energy-efficient covered arena will be 125 feet by 218 feet, including a fenced and lighted riding area. It will feature large industrial fans, high tech audio capabilities, arena footing that is specific for equine facilitated therapeutic activities, windscreens, and a platform for announcers and judges.
There will also be ring-side handicapped parking access. This first phase of construction is expected to be completed by early January 2020. A second phase of the arena includes an “Achievement Center” multi-purpose classroom, bathroom and storage facility.
Equest resides at Texas Horse Park, a city-owned 304-acre site located in the heart of the Great Trinity Forest in southern Dallas.