In this season of gratitude, I give thanks for so many blessings and am grateful for wonderful parents and our loving community, Stewart Home & School, that shaped me. I am Cathy Stewart Brown, one of Milly Stewart and the late Dr. John Stewart’s four children. I was blessed to grow up on campus and now realize what I thought was a normal childhood was a very extraordinary and loving one. I had the most kind and supportive parents and then was enveloped by the love of our outgoing and friendly students where hugs are a natural part of everyday.
I am an outdoorsy person, love animals, especially horses, and started riding as soon as I could walk to the barn. Mary Mac Lancaster was the Equestrian Program Director at the School then. She was the pied piper and taught me how to ride and to care for horses. Some of our fine steeds back then were a Tennessee walking horse Blue Boy and ponies White Socks and Diamonds. Recreational riding has tremendous benefits for our students to increase physical skills, social skills and communication skills. Students develop muscle strength, balance and coordination during riding. The thrill of riding a horse is an immeasurable accomplishment in and of itself.
I carried my love of horses and individuals with special needs to Nashville, where I now live with my family. Twenty years ago, I got involved with Saddle Up!, a therapeutic horse back riding program near Franklin, TN, for children and youth with disabilities. Over the years, we helped the program find a permanent farm and build its current indoor facility. When the barn at SH&S tragically burned to the ground, the silver lining in this devastating fire was the opportunity to rebuild SH&S’s program and move it from the top of the hill to a site more integral to the campus. I will never forget bringing my Dad to see Saddle Up! and was thrilled when he and Barry made the commitment to build a beautiful indoor facility and an 11 stable barn with all of the amenities. We borrowed design elements from Saddle Up! such as the garage doors which help with circulation in the summer and keep out the cold wind in the winter and a large heated tack room that could be a classroom for educational classes about horse care in the cold weather. It warms my heart to see our Equine Director Betsy Grewe and Equine Assistant Jessica Hagan giving lessons to our students and watch the magnificent team of draft horses, Allie and Belle, pull that beautiful carriage full of students around campus.