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The Virginia Horse Center hosts hundreds of events a year.

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Virginia Horse Center Foundation Begins New Era With Phelps Media Group

Written by: Emily Riden
Client: Virginia Horse Center Foundation
Release Date: 2014-05-21

Lexington, VA – May 21, 2014 – The Virginia Horse Center is ushering in a new era with new board leadership, fresh management and most recently, the addition of Phelps Media Group to the Horse Center’s leadership team.  

Phelps Media Group’s expertise in public relations and marketing makes the company a trusted partner for the execution of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation’s (VHCF) short-term business plan, aimed at restructuring debt and working closely with local officials to increase lodging tax support in order to stabilize finances and enable the facility to continue to run smoothly throughout the year.

“Seven years ago when the Virginia Horse Center became a privately owned, not for profit organization (501c3), its purchase from the state was carried out through a loan to the facility from the USDA, and debt was created,” explained VCHF President Ernie Oare.

The Horse Center Foundation is strategically taking steps to alleviate that debt and further improve operations of the popular, 600-acre horse park that houses over 100 events each year.

“The Virginia Horse Center is an incredible asset to both the equestrian and local community,” Mason Phelps, president and founder of Phelps Media Group, said. “With the team that they have at the helm now, it should continue to not only be a vital asset but also to see improvements that benefit all those that utilize the facilities. We’re excited to be a part of this new period for the foundation and look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Leading the VHCF are Interim Executive Director Glenn Petty, the former director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, VHCF President Ernie Oare and Executive Committee members Gardy Bloemers, Tom Clarke, Buddy Derrick and Ken Wheeler, Jr.

The Horse Center recently welcomed John Nicholson, the former director of the Kentucky Horse Park, as a consultant to the Board. During his 17-year tenure, Nicholson spearheaded the Kentucky Horse Park to its greatest growth and garnered international recognition and acclaim for the facility. Nicholson and his firm Equine Facility Management (EFM) will now serve as valuable consultants to the VHCF. 

“The Virginia Horse Center is one of the leading facilities in the country,” Nicholson said. “They have high caliber leadership in place prepared to tackle any of the current obstacles, and I’m honored to be working with them.”

“A ‘dream team’ of experts has been activated, and that team is working closely with the full board to initiate our remodeled business plan,” Ernie Oare said.

The restructuring plan includes handling debt, making maintenance improvements to the horse center and working closely with community officials who understand the importance of the VCHF to the surrounding area and to the Commonwealth.

“Citizens of our State and of the Mid-Atlantic region should be proud of the quality of the facility and accordingly the quality of competitors, both equine and human, that it attracts,” Gardy Bloemers said. “We should be proud and grateful to have this economic engine in our neck of the woods. Increasingly, we see the benefits of agritourism across the state and equitourism is a key component of that important source of revenue.”

“The community has long been supportive as they fully realize what a tremendous economic impact the Center has had on the local economy over the years,” Glenn Petty added. “We look forward to identifying each constituency’s specific goals and managing the Horse Center well beyond everyone’s expectations in the immediate and distant future.”

Stay informed regarding the improvements, events and announcements from the Virginia Horse Center Foundation! LIKE the organization on Facebook here and visit the website at

About the Virginia Horse Center Foundation:

The Virginia Horse Center Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which owns and operates the Virginia Horse Center. The Foundation is proud to be a part of the Rockbridge community, an asset to the state's equine economy, and a resource to the East-Atlantic competition circuit. The Virginia Horse Center stands at the forefront of Virginia's $1.2B equine economy. Founded to promote all disciplines of equestrian sport, its 600 acres of picturesque grounds hold a 4,000 seat coliseum, eight barns to accommodate 1,200 horses, 19 show rings including two large indoor arenas, cross-country and combined carriage driving courses, campgrounds, and full catering and café services. The VHCF also hosts many non-equine events like dog shows, BMX, agriculture programs and the Rockbridge Regional Fair & Farm Show. 


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