Hidden Acres breaks ground for indoor arena

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The Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center in Naugatuck held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon to celebrate the beginning of construction of an indoor riding arena. Pictured, from left, Mayoral Aide Ed Carter, Michelle Simons, Manly Simons, Althea Simons, Mayor Robert Mezzo, Mary Simons, Theron Simons, and Robin Stevens in the rear with horse Charmer. –LUKE MARSHALL
The Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center in Naugatuck held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon to celebrate the beginning of construction of an indoor riding arena. Pictured, from left, Mayoral Aide Ed Carter, Michelle Simons, Manly Simons, Althea Simons, Mayor Robert Mezzo, Mary Simons, Theron Simons, and Robin Stevens in the rear with horse Charmer. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The elements will no longer keep Hidden Acres Therapeutic Riding Center from fulfilling its mission of helping children and adults with special needs.

The 45-acre riding center, located at the end of Gabriel Drive, held a ground-breaking ceremony Monday to officially mark the beginning of construction of a new indoor arena.

“It’s been a desperate, desperate need for our program to have something out of the wind and out of the weather,” said Theron Simons, who co-owns Hidden Acres with his wife Mary.

The arena, which will cost anywhere from $65,000 to $75,000 and have a 60-foot diameter, will be built next to the barn and to the right of the front gate of the center. The money to build the arena came from fundraising and a grant.

The organization held a “Night of Caring” fundraiser and auction earlier this year which raised $60,000 for the new arena, and the remaining $15,000 was given as a grant from Naugatuck Savings Bank.

Simons explained the riding center also has approval to build a large indoor facility as well, but it does not have the funding to build it yet.

“As everyone knows, the economic times have fallen pretty hard on everybody. This is a much smaller piece that is totally doable and is an integral part of a working farm,” Simons said.

Simons said even though the riding center will build a larger indoor rink in the future, the smaller one will always remain an important and useful part of the farm.

The new arena is just one step in a building process that has been going on for years at Hidden Acres, beginning when Theron and Mary Simons decided to recreate the Simons family farm. Portions of the farm had been sold off throughout the years, but the couple was able to buy back 45 acres.

“When we made that commitment to build this place and move our horses here, we made the commitment to share this place, and that’s what started the move towards the therapeutic riding center,” Simons said.

Hidden Acres opened its door in 2008, received its non-profit status in 2010, and brought on a program director in 2011. Hidden Acres helps children and adults with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities through therapeutic horseback riding lessons.

“What we’ve discovered in doing this is that the need is overwhelming,” Simons said.

Currently Hidden Acres has 10 horses, seven of which are used as therapeutic riding horses and the other three are privately boarded.

Prior to becoming a riding center, the land where the center sits used to be part of a family farm, Althea Simons, Theron’s mother, said.

The farm was originally owned by Norio and Christine Gabriel, Althea’s parents, who bought the farm in approximately 1914. The Gabriel family, for whom the road is named, used it as a dairy farm.

Althea Simons remembered having to milk the cows in the morning when she was young. Now she gets up to help out with the horses every morning.

“I never thought I would be working in a barn again,” she joked.

For Theron Simons, breaking ground on a new indoor arena on what used to be the family farm is something he has been looking forward to for a long time. Construction of the arena is expected to start soon, he said.

“It’s been a big dream, and the dream is coming true,” Theron Simons said.