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Bridle Lands Group Hopes To Revitalize Newtown As A Horse Town



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Bridle Lands Group Hopes To Revitalize Newtown As A Horse Town

By Nancy K. Crevier

The new board of the Newtown Bridle Lands Association (NBLA) is galloping full speed ahead with an agenda that they hope will reconnect the horse community with the community at large, increase membership, and debunk the myth that it is an “elitist” organization.

NBLA President Sally Feuerberg, Vice President Lucy Prybylski, and Treasurer Bob Feuerberg said that they, along with other 2011 board members Doreen Chiccarello, Alisa Stollman, Andrea Brosnan, Gail Bunovsky, Stephanie Lennon, Anita Lucsky, Sue Newbury, and Jamison Wallace are focused on reenergizing the club.

“One of our roles in the NBLA is to have the horse be more present in the community, to educate the community to have an interest in them, and to provide opportunities for more people to be exposed to horses,” said Ms Prybylski, “which are an important part of our history.”

The NBLA was formed in 1978 by riders interested in maintaining trails laid out three decades earlier by the Fairfield County Hounds foxhunting club, and making them accessible to all horseback riders and others interested in recreation opportunities provided by the trail system. Today, the organization boasts approximately 100 members holding memberships through either the stable, family, or individual plans.

The club supports the efforts of the Connecticut Horse Council, and was instrumental in having all of Newtown designated as a greenway, defined by the Department of Environmental Protection, said Ms Feuerberg, as “a corridor of open space that may protect natural resources, preserve scenic landscapes and historical resources, or offer opportunities for recreation or nonmotorized transportation.”

Originally organized as Newtown Bridle Lanes Association, the name was changed to Newtown Bridle Lands Association after the formation of the NBLA land trust in 1988, said Mr Feuerberg, who has been an on and off member since the early 1980s.

“The land trust was formed to help us work with developers to preserve the trails. We are fortunate to have trails on public lands and blessed that we have many private landowners who allow us to pass over their lands,” said Mr Feuerberg.

“If is wasn’t for the cooperation of private landowners,” added Ms Feuerberg, “we couldn’t ride the trails or pull off the annual Frost on the Pumpkin Hunter Pace.”

Despite the success in working with developers, said Mr Feuerberg, many links in the NBLA trail system have been lost. As farmland has been lost to housing developments, there has been trail shrinkage.

“A long time ago, we were able to ride from Newtown into Huntington Park, and on into Redding, with no problem,” Ms Feuerberg said.

The greatest problem now, said Ms Prybylski, is that interrupted trails mean that riders must be on surface roads more than they were in the past. “There are many more safety concerns today in doing that. Drivers now don’t have the horse knowledge they did 15 or 20 years ago. They don’t realize that some horses will be spooked by a speeding car, or if they beep,” she said.

“The NBLA wants to be more active in building a relationship with new people, especially, coming into Newtown, on whose land we have easements,” Ms Feuerberg said.

One of the greatest concerns private landowners have concerning the easements, Ms Prybylski said, is that of liability. “There is legal protection for homeowners, though, in regard to equestrians. Really, there is no liability to the homeowner,” she said.

Along with retaining and maintaining the nearly 100 miles of trails that make up the NBLA trail system, the group hopes to reclaim some trails that have been neglected over the years. “We hope people will give us a heads-up when an easement or trail is at risk, to help us develop, preserve, and protect open space and trails,” said Ms Feuerberg.

The NBLA trails benefit not only riders, but hikers, dog walkers, and bird watchers, as well, pointed out Ms Prybylski. That is why membership in the NBLA is not restricted to horse owners. Anyone interested in conservation and the preservation of open space is welcome to join. With the harsh winter, the club anticipates that there will be a lot of upkeep to the trails. “We will be doing a spring trail cleaning,” she said, “and hard workers are welcome.”

The new board is also hoping to increase membership by squelching the idea that the NBLA is an exclusive club. “We want to put forth a more welcoming face. We’re trying to reach out to all horse people, especially backyard horse owners who may not have thought our club was for them. We welcome everyone from the backyard pony owners to the hunter/jumper groups; from the casual rider to the competitive rider. We are open to all riding disciplines, whether Western or dressage. We want anyone interested in learning how to handle our trail systems, learn about horse nutrition, and to be part of our network of support,” Ms Feuerberg said. “A lot of backyard horse owners don’t have access to the same information they would get if they stabled their horses,” she said.

“The NBLA serves as a sort of ‘clearinghouse’ for information and for support,” Mr Feuerberg said.

The club plans to make a reappearance in the Newtown Labor Day Parade this coming September, after a two-year hiatus. “It’s another way of getting ourselves out there and publicizing our club,” said Mr Feuerberg.

Benefits Of Belonging

NBLA membership benefits include the opportunity to learn the trail network by riding with other members, or taking part in a Show & Go Ride, during which riders are acquainted with a particular section of the trail by a member familiar with it. Membership also includes guest speakers, discount registration fees at the Hunter Pace, a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, free or discounted demonstrations and clinics, discounts at area merchants, and an annual Christmas party.

The Hunter Pace is a particularly popular event sponsored by the NBLA, said Ms Feuerberg, and draws people and horses from all over Connecticut and the surrounding states. “The Newtown Hunter Pace is known as a ‘backyard pace,’” she explained. “Everyone is welcome, and it is not a particularly challenging pace. It’s a fun sort of event, and we even have a Costume Class, since it falls near Halloween. People dress up, and they dress up their horses,” Ms Feuerberg said.

The other event that draws not only riders, but spectators, too, is the Annual Fun Day, held in June, at the Bethel Cooperative Extension on Route 6, she said.

Past clinics have included topics on equine insurance, health, equine law, and even animal communication. Programs on trail safety, saddle fitting and centered riding have provided members with useful information.

The newly revamped newsletter is another perk of membership, said Ms Feuerberg. “We have expanded our content and are very proud of it,” she said. The newsletter lists both NBLA-sponsored and local events, features on horse-related topics, Pace updates, classified ads, and color photography.

The membership is ready to take on the challenge of preserving, maintaining, and developing trails and open space with a renewed energy, said the Feuerbergs and Ms Prybylski. “And we want to preserve the position of the horse in our culture. There is a lack of exposure to horse in our modern lives. It is important that we keep people receptive to horses in our community,” Ms Prybylski stressed.

“The board this year is made up of some new faces, with new energy, and new ideas. Those of us who have been there before think of things in a new way,” said Mr Feuerberg.

The NBLA welcomes the public to its annual membership drive meeting, Tuesday, April 19, at 7:30, in the Newtown Meeting House on Main Street.

“This year we have new leadership and we are sharing the same ideas. This board is amazing,” said Ms Feuerberg. “Everyone on our board brings something special, whether horse related or business related. It’s an exciting time for us.”

For more information on the NBLA, visit www.NBLACT.org, or call 203-791-4853.

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