Business Monday: WindWalkers set to secure future with Missouri Height ranch purchase

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Turner Fautsko, on horseback, with Beth Gusick, program director and
Courtesy photo

Riding arena renovations and new classroom space to support expanded programming are now the focus for the WindWalkers equine-assisted therapy center near Carbondale, as the organization is set to take a big step toward securing its future.

WindWalkers, now in its 15th year, announced earlier this month that it is set to close in February on the purchase of its now-leased 15-acre ranch in Missouri Heights.

“The opportunity came quickly, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, in the middle of our year-end campaign. But we couldn’t pass it up,” said Gabrielle Greeves, executive director for the operation.

A group of anonymous donors put up the money to allow WindWalkers to proceed with the down payment on the $1.45 million purchase.

“We are so pleased to announce that WindWalkers will now have a secure permanent home that will allow us to grow and thrive for years to come — a place we hope you will continue to be a part of and dream with us about what it can become,” according to a statement announcing the purchase plans.

With the decision, WindWalkers is also launching a new capital campaign — “Hearts and Hooves Make the Difference” — to secure the remainder of the funds for the purchase and begin a three-year renovation plan.

Another $1.7 million is needed to complete the campaign.

WindWalkers has had an option to purchase the ranch for the past four years since the ranch, located on Garfield County Road 102, was put on the market.

When two other offers came forth late last year, WindWalkers had to make a decision, Greeves said.

The deal actually comes in under the listing price, and will allow the organization to trade its monthly lease for a slightly smaller mortgage, she said.

The ranch purchase means they can also proceed with some capital improvements on the property, Greeves said.

In addition to updating the insulation in the indoor riding arena and adding new heaters, WindWalkers plans to build a new heated classroom.

“This will allow us to do more year-round programs and camps,” she said, adding the organization is expanding to offer services geared toward behavioral and social-emotional health using the equine approach.

“We’re not just a therapeutic riding facility. We are branching into more social/behavioral health support,” Greeves said. “That focus has grown for us throughout the years.”

WindWalkers, which has an annual budget of $600,000, now serves over 75 clients per week during the warmer months, using 15 to 18 equine therapy horses.

A successful annual campaign will also allow WindWalkers to add some staff to support the new programming, she said.

Currently, WindWalkers has a staff of seven people, including three full-time staff, plus a herd of 18 horses to feed and take care of. Some hay is grown on the ranch, but most is purchased, which is a significant expense that needs to be maintained.

Most of the horses are older and have been retrained as therapy horses.

“These are animals that are getting second and third lives, and it’s a huge offering to the community for us to be able to do that,” Greeves said.

The regular routine of therapy sessions is set to start back up next week, after a reprieve during the colder winter stretch.

More information about the capital campaign, as well as the annual campaign and WindWalkers’ horse and rider sponsorship programs, can be found on its website.