For the horses and the kids
Standing by the sign at the intersection of Efland Cedar Grove and Carr Store roads, in the nostalgic rural community of Cedar Grove, Suzanne Finley is a few years away from her life on a dairy farm.
“I worked hard, man,” says Suzanne. She is amongst her daughters, Gracie and Kellie, three horses and her horse trainer, Darlene Vaughn, and two dogs that are more focused on tickling each other. Suzanne waves to the passing traffic – she knows most all of them – and she is smiling.
“It’s crazy to get all of this (the animals and kids) organized, but I love it,” Finley says.
She speaks of the first horse she purchased, from saved tobacco money she earned while working when she was a young teenager. “I had to negotiate to put it in the pasture where the dairy farm was, they thought the horse would chase the cows away,” says Finley. And so a horse farmer and lover, and eventual horse rescuer, was born or, perhaps, groomed.
Today Finley, along with her husband of 20 years, Stephen, is taking a cantering step forward with establishing a summer horse camp to compliment other offerings at Finley Farm.
“The camp is the idea of my trainer and together we want to expose kids to horses in a safe and educational manner,” says Finley. This coming summer, Finley Farms will host the first group of attendees the week of June 17 with additional weeks depending upon interest and enrollment. “The kids will do light farm duties, work with horses, learn to groom them, learn about safety aspects, do crafts, and enjoy a cow-hand style lunch or snacks, depending on the session,” says Finley.
On their farm, the Finleys raise and sell hay, and they also pasture-board horses and will consider boarding, if requested. “I have a soft heart for rescuing horses, too,” says Finley. Beyond the barn and the riding rings, horses play and act as horses do and the sounds of children laughing and nature singing and the sound of silence are both refreshing and equally rehabilitative to horses and people.
The Finleys are stewards of the land and harvesters and growers, too. Yet, they are also woven fabrics of this close-knit community and it is not uncommon for one of them to drop what they are doing all in the name of helping another.
“We are both volunteers for the Cedar Grove Fire Department,” says Finley. Stephen has volunteered for more than 20 years and Suzanne recently obtained her paramedic certificate and works on a part-time basis in Person County.
“We give back to our community and we enjoy the opportunity to give back to the place we live,” says Suzanne.
From her chair, Suzanne keeps a watchful eye over the two boys on horses in the ring. She offers words of suggestion to her daughters as they lead horses and for a moment Suzanne pauses to absorb the happiness of the moment.
“What I really want to do, eventually, is to provide a therapeutic riding place and work with kids and horses. It is in my blood and I just want to act on my goals,” says Suzanne.
Speaking of her own experiences and what she has seen with her daughters, Finley knows and believes there is something greater learned from raising and working with horses. “The most important quality learned from working with horses is that it teaches a child to manage a relationship. You cannot be too quick or give-up and you have to work to keep the horse and human relationship positive and respectful for both. And, there is also the responsibility that comes from taking care of a horse, too,” says Finley.
As there are many horse farms and camps throughout the area, Finley says that her horse camp and horse farm is not one that leans heavily on show horses. “We ride these horses all over Cedar Grove and at Hill Forest in Durham and Duke Forest and we really enjoy getting them out on the trails and letting them be happy and free,” says Finley.
Certainly, Suzanne Finley is committed to seeing this growing part of the farm become a safe and rewarding environment for kids to learn about horses and a place where other horses can be boarded and roam these pastures. Yet, more centered to the idea behind Finley Farms is to imagine someone that was so committed to the idea of owning a horse that she pulled her time in the tobacco fields of Cedar Grove, negotiated with a dairy farmer, and before she knew the value in work ethic she knew the importance of building a relationship with a horse.
On the walk back to her farm, Finley follows the horses and follows the dogs and she follows the kids, too. As she goes forward with this summer camp and whatever the future may be for Finley Farms, one can see that Suzanne Finley is also following her dreams.
Do you have a feature story idea? Contact Jason Hawkins at email@example.com.
For Finley Farm horse boarding or summer camp information, contact Suzanne Finley at 919-644-1235 or 919-943-9548. Additional weeks of Horse Camp may be offered depending upon interest. Horse Camp this summer is June 17-21 with a fun day on June 23.