Serendipity Equine, an Amissville-based nonprofit organization, is dedicated to enriching “the lives of individuals” through its program offerings. The Mental Health Association of Fauquier County (MHAFC), a nonprofit serving Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties, met with Jess Lanham, Executive Director of Serendipity Equine, to learn more about its services.
Serendipity Equine opened in 2020 and offers a total of 73 acres. “Serendipity Equine strives to develop educational and equine-assisted learning programs and to meet a growing need for rescue and rehabilitation services. We partner youth and their families, veterans, first-responders and their families with rehabilitated equines.” she detailed.
Currently, Serendipity Equine provides 58 lessons per week and offers an indoor and outdoor arena. The program is all about empowering the participants and that is due to Jess’ own childhood experience. She grew up in California and has lived-experience as an at-risk youth. When she was a child, a woman reached out to her and began mentoring her and sharing her love and passion for horses with her. This positive experience was part of her life’s journey that led to her founding Serendipity. “I want to give back because I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the help I received,” Jess shared.
With her diverse background, which includes a psychology degree, therapeutic riding certification, and experience as a veterinary technician, she has developed programs that are focused on positive reinforcement and inclusivity. Jess acknowledged that it is of utmost importance that Serendipity Equine programs are offered to the community regardless of social or economic standing. Her focus is creating an “inclusive community equestrian center where integration, not segregation, of individuals at-risk or those with disabilities is the rule.”
Individuals with disabilities aren’t the only ones helped by the programs. “Veterans tend to come here looking for a mission. Serendipity provides a mission for them to connect with and a community that needs and supports them,” she explained.
“Any and all connection with equines helps with mental health. Horses are able to read emotions of their human counterparts so we use all disciplines from horsemanship to riding to increase capacity for empathy, self esteem, social interaction and other interpersonal behaviors in adults and children with emotional or cognitive disorders, aggressive behavior and social maladjustment,” Jess described. It is important to note that the equine rescues they help often experience trauma. The equine services allow for the horses to heal while providing an environment to nurture program participants.
Next year, Serendipity Equine hopes to offer a new program that will pair up first responders and veterans with at-risk youth. Participants will be instructed on how to care for horses and ultimately how to ride one. The adults involved in the program will be trained in horses and how to work with kids. Jess believes this initiative will help break through stereotypes and allow people to really see one another for who they are.
In October, Serendipity will host its annual Spooktacular event, which allows students to showcase their riding skills, horsemanship and participate in fun activities such as relay races and costume contests. Additionally, Serendipity’s horse archery team will engage in a horse archery competition. “We are currently working on obtaining certification for our on property outdoor archery course. Students will also be challenged in an indoor arena course in November,” she shared. “This is a fledgling team and the archers are looking forward to the first competition.”
For a full list of events and more information, visit serendipityequine.com. If you have questions, or are interested in volunteering, please email Jess at email@example.com. Jess shared that volunteers are always needed and “the horses are waiting.”