Santa Barbara County is relocating Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center to make room for more debris should there be another mudflow in the Thomas Fire burn areas.
The center, located on county land, is moving just up the hill from its current location which has been deemed a prime spot for debris dumping. “After last year’s mudslides in Montecito and other surrounding areas, the need for space for clean fill grew exponentially,” says Susan Weber, the program director at Hearts. Though all of the debris from the Montecito mudslides has been trucked away, the county is preparing for more extreme weather events that may hit the front country next winter.
Though the move will require an involved permitting process for Hearts, it has turned out to benefit the center’s desire to expand operations. In the current location, Hearts has been constrained in the hours it can offer classes — ranging from horsemanship to therapeutic riding — because of its two arenas were so close together. As Weber explains, it’s nearly impossible to teach two different classes simultaneously because horses in one arena are impacted by horses in the other. In their new location, Hearts will be able to design the property in a way that meets their programmatic needs for the 100 clients they serve. “We are going to have one arena at the front of the property and one arena at the back of the property so we can accommodate more individuals that need our help in the community at the same time,” said Weber.
Hearts plans to start construction on the new property by late summer once its staff and volunteers raise the necessary funds. The initial cost of moving up the hill is projected to be around $750,000. By December, Hearts will be up and running in their new location, and the county will have an additional debris dump just in time for the rainy season.