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Meet The Newtown Bridle Lands Association’s New President



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Tracy Van Buskirk took over as president of the Newtown Bridle Lands Association (NBLA) on November 2. Here is a question-and-answer overview with Van Buskirk:

Q: How long have you been involved with NBLA and what are some examples of the duties you have had?

A: I bought my horse in 2013 and joined the NBLA soon after. Trail riding has always been my favorite horse activity and having access to trails was important to me. After participating in rides and attending other activities, I joined the Board in May 2019 and volunteered to coordinate PR for the organization. Another Board member, Stephanie Lennon, suggested that I write a regular column for the Newtown Bee. The Bee agreed and I started writing Trail Notes in October of 2019. It is a monthly column about horse-related topics and NBLA activities.

Q: How excited are you to take on this new role?

A: I was apprehensive at first! Our former president, Dee Davis, has done such an extraordinary job over the years of leading activities, coordinating the annual Frost on the Pumpkin Hunter Pace, and building connections in the community, that the position felt daunting. For personal reasons, Dee had to pull back from her leadership and we agreed to be co-presidents earlier this year. That gave me sort of a training period, where we worked together. After more than 20 years of being involved in the NBLA, Dee has decided to give herself a much deserved rest, but will stay involved as an advisor. Now that I am starting to coordinate events and reach out to the community, I’m feeling pretty excited about the future.

Q: What are some of your plans for the upcoming year?

A: I’d like to see the NBLA grow our visibility with the non-horse community in Newtown. Most horse owners and stable managers know about us and our work to keep trails open, but there is so much more. Horses are a very important part of Newtown’s history. People that move to Newtown are looking for a rural vibe paired with the conveniences of good schools, shopping, and employment. I think residents like to see horses grazing behind white fencing, or a few friends riding their horses down the road. I’d like to get horses visiting non-traditional places like schools, the Community Center, or the Senior Center, so that residents can get up close and personal.

The Board and I definitely want to continue our educational seminars and demonstrations that we offer to members, Show and Go trail rides where we show members certain areas they can ride in, and increase our collaboration with the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard. We are looking forward to an NBLA-Horse Guard joint Jingle Bell ride in Newtown on December 12.

Q: What did your predecessor, Dee Davis, bring to the table (or what has been in place for years) that you want to continue?

A: Everything! Dee has accomplished so much. She worked with the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary to create the Trail of Angels, a beautiful trail on the grounds of the sanctuary. She has succeeded in getting horse access to certain town properties, and works with homeowners to allow our members to ride their properties. All these initiatives will continue. We have a very hardworking board and each member has skills, whether it is trail maintenance, PR, finance, or event management. I am extremely lucky to be working with them.

Q: How important is NBLA to the community?

A: I believe we are important in both tangible and intangible ways. Maintaining trails helps preserve the rural characteristic of our town. Horses help humans not only in physical ways, but also mentally and emotionally. A tangible benefit is the economic impact. Horse ownership supports many small businesses such as stables, trainers, farriers, and veterinarians. Although studies have not been done recently, a 2006 study by UConn found that there are approximately 550 horse-related businesses in Connecticut.

Q: What will be your biggest challenges?

A: The biggest challenge to our group is to keep trails open for riding and other passive recreation even as development encroaches. Actual trail maintenance is also a challenge. Most of our trails are in the woods and it is expensive to clear the trails after storms which are inevitable here in New England. We have other trails that are not being actively used and we need to figure out how to encourage riders to access them.

Q: Do you have favorite NBLA events you are looking forward to seeing continue?

A: My favorite event by far is the Frost on the Pumpkin Hunter Pace. It has taken place in late October since 1978. Riders from all over dress up in costumes to ride our course. This year we had more than 160 riders participate. It is very special.

Tracy Van Buskirk, with her horse Little Bear, is the new NBLA president.
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