But it is possible if you work hard, stay relevant, and find a niche.
That’s what Sarah Armentrout is doing at Carlisle Academy, a business she runs with her husband, Nick Armentrout, in Lyman, Maine.
Sarah, daughter of Kate and Tom Chappell of Tom’s of Maine, has built Carlisle (formerly
called Equest Therapeutic Riding Center) into a facility visited by over a hundred students each week. It’s a three-tiered venture including sports and education, therapy and adaptive programs, as well as training and leadership elements.
Sarah grew up riding and continued at Trinity College, where she competed in hunter/jumper events on the Intercollege Horse Show Association circuit. She captained the team during her junior and senior years. Read about an IHSA competitor from West Bath.
After graduating, Armentrout headed west. She volunteered at the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy, in Woodside, California, and worked with equestrian Peggy Cummings in Sun Valley, Idaho.
How to blend her love of horses with making a living? That’s what she contemplated.
“I did want to do human services, but I wanted to put it together with my passion for horses,” said the 44-year old, who majored in religion at Trinity.
The couple landed back in Maine and founded Equest, a non-profit facility, in 1998. A decade later, however, “my life had become writing grants,” said Armentrout. “I didn’t want to be a slave to fund raising.”
With help from outside consultation, Equest was reshaped as Carlisle Academy, LLC (limited liability company), where true costs and full tuition are in place. Sixty-five percent of the therapy students qualify for financial support, she said.
It’s a busy place.
Last month, they hosted a para-dressage and training camp for seven riders, seven drivers, and four coaches from as far away as Guatemala.
Para dressage is a relatively new event for international competition. It’s the only equestrian sport in the Paralympics, where riders are classified by physical disability.
Serving an incredibly broad spectrum of clients, from a 2-year old girls with cerebral palsy, to women inmates on prerelease programs, to jumping and driving competitors, the Armentrouts manage by dividing their duties, “like the separation of church and state,” laughed Sarah, who is responsible for programs and staff. Nick acts as barn manager, taking care of the facilities (which include two indoor arenas and two outdoor arenas) and horses.
By all accounts, they’re working hard, staying relevant, and, as more and more people recognize the benefits of horse time, they’ve certainly found a niche.