First Lady of Virginia Praises ‘Vision’ of Horse Therapy Center

Blue Mountain Therapy co-founder Clint Waddell introduces members of his staff to Virginia first lady Pamela Northam before touring the new location. Northam was visiting students and child care providers in Southwest Virginia.
  • David Crigger | Bristol Herald Courier
Blue Mountain Therapy co-founder Clint Waddell gives Virginia first lady Pamela Northam a tour of their new location in the former Dixie Pottery retail location. Pictured, Northam looks over a fly fishing boat used by the therapy group. Northam was visiting students and child care providers in Southwest Virginia.

The following appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier.

Joe Tennis

ABINGDON, Va. — Virginia first lady Pamela Northam on Wednesday praised the innovation of the staff at Blue Mountain Therapy in Abingdon, especially their plans to use horses to communicate with children who have special needs.

The recently relocated therapy center now occupies the former Dixie Pottery building along Lee Highway, just off Interstate 81’s Exit 13.

Earlier this summer, it was granted a special-exception permit from the Washington County Board of Supervisors to host horses on the property for equine therapy — a concept Northam, a former therapist, says she relishes.

“I’m very excited about that. I grew up riding horses in central Texas. And I know what working with animals like that can mean to your average young person,” Northam said. “But also those with special needs, we’ve seen tremendous gains in therapy.”

She added that she considers horses “a wonderful tool” that can be used “to really engage students who have communication disorders.”

Northam is slated to continue touring schools and facilities Thursday with stops at Grundy and Richlands.

“It’s good to see all the efforts that the people are putting into early childhood education, especially,” Northam said. “If we can get service to children with special needs in early years, we know that they will prosper when they enter into school.

Blue Mountain Therapy helps children with emotional and physical needs, said owner Clint Waddell.

Following a tour of the facility, Northam said, “The vision of the folks here is astounding.”

The United Way of Southwest Virginia coordinated the tour “because we work with all of the publicly funded programs,” said Susan Patrick, the United Way’s director of childhood success.

“We know how valuable the children of Southwest Virginia are,” Patrick said. “We know they are the workforce of tomorrow, the citizens of tomorrow.”

The United Way is interested in supporting Blue Mountain’s efforts, she said.

“Putting our time and energy and resources into places like Blue Mountain as they’re trying to get this service of children off the ground and bring this service of child care to the community is something that we can get behind.”