Belchertown stable recognized as Horse Farm of Distinction – again

  • Sal Amedeo, a 69-year-old Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran, leads a donkey out to the paddocks at Green Acres Equestrian Center. He says working with horses can be therapeutic for veterans with PTSD. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Amanda Hodgen, 31, and her son, David, 3, lead one of their favorite horses, Ava, back to the barn for grooming.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Amanda Hodgen, 31, puts her horse Ava on the cross-ties for a grooming session. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Norma Bellerose poses with her horse Gypsy at Green Acres Equestrian Center. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Amanda Hodgen poses with Ava, one of 12 horses she owns and leases out at Green Acres Equestrian Center. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Growing up on a horse farm, 3-year old David Hodgen started learning how to care for horses at a young age.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Norma Bellerose boards her horse Gypsy at the Green Acres Equestrian Center. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • David Hodgen, 3, helps his mother, Amanda, care for horses at the Green Acres Equestrian Center. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • The Green Acres Equestrian Center is located at 51 Ware Road in Belchertown.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

Staff Writer
Friday, January 05, 2018

BELCHERTOWN — For the sixth consecutive year, Green Acres Equestrian Center has won recognition as a Horse Farm of Distinction from the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation.

Amanda Hodgen, 31, runs the barn and gives riding lessons to dozens of young students. Some of them lease horses and volunteer at the stable, helping with the daily routine of feeding horses, turning them out into paddocks and cleaning stalls.

“Some who come here are super shy,” Hodgen said of her students. “Seeing them blossom into confident little adults — I love it.”

It’s a path Hodgen took herself. She began riding when she was 5 years old. After graduating from Belchertown High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in equine science from Morrisville State College in 2007. While she was in college, her father and brother purchased a barn on a plot of land in Belchertown to open a landscaping company. Hodgen started keeping her horses there, the family built more stalls and friends eventually began asking her to board their horses there, too. Then, according to Hodgen, things just “spiraled out of control.”

But only in a manner of speaking. The stable was one of just 32 in the state deemed a 2018 Horse Farm of Distinction. Judges score farms on animal health, farm management, cleanliness and compliance with public standards and licensing.

Hodgen has taught riding for over 15 years and currently takes care of 32 horses, 12 of which she owns. Above all, she said, all that time managing a farm, its students and its horses have taught her to be patient with both her two- and four-legged wards.

Most students start taking lessons as children, and go on to compete in shows, competitions and, perhaps, run stables of their own. “I have some girls who come here super quiet and insecure and not confident,” Hodgen said. Referring to one of them, Hodgen added, “Now, being here for six years, she could run the place.”

Sal Amedeo, a 69-year-old Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran, volunteers at the barn. “I just come up here and help because I like to,” he said. “It feels good.”

A therapy group sponsor with Friends of the Springfield Vet Center, Amedeo said working with the horses can be therapeutic for people with PTSD. It takes patience and care to learn how to communicate with the horses, he noted.

“When 1,000 pounds comes at you frightened, you are not much,” said Norma Bellerose, a friend of Hodgen’s who also helps at the stable. “You have to be aware of what is going on around you.”

Most of the farm’s horse shows and competitions take place in the summer, but on Jan. 6, Green Acres will host a versatility clinic in partnership with Philip Whitmore of Crimson Acres in Orange. Students and their mounts will navigate obstacle courses that will include seesaws and flaming jumps.

Next spring, Hodgen said, the family plans to clear new fields to make room for more horses. She can’t see herself doing anything else, she said, and she hopes one day to pass on the family business to her children. Her 3-year-old son, David, has already started riding. Her 9-month-old daughter, Lauren, might have to learn to walk first.

Green Acres is located at 51 Ware Road in Belchertown.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com