In 1991, Jo Anne Miller and her family bought a farm in Bedford County located in the Bellevue Historic District . The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They needed to add some grazing animals to the property in order to be taxed as a farm. Over dinner one evening, Jo’s veterinarian introduced the idea of taking on lame horses for rehabilitation and sanctuary. She responded, “What, take in lame horses, are you crazy?”
In 2001, Brook Hill Retirement Center for Horses was officially founded. Her vet, Dr. Ron Fessler, and eventually she herself, recognized the need of the thousands of lame horses desperate for a place to recover. With her background in corporate management and equine science, and her vet’s expertise of dealing with lameness issues, they established the rehabilitation and educational programs leading to the farm’s success.
During Brook Hill’s early years, as the horse numbers grew, there was a need to have help caring for the rescue horses. Jo Anne brought in youth to help. She was amazed at how these rescue horses healed with the help of staff, volunteers and youth. She noticed that many of the youth were failing school, so she set up a tutoring program that the youth had to participate in, in order to work with the horses. She was amazed that all of the youth had improved their grades!
The horses were able to go on and lead productive lives, and the children involved grew into strong, confident, caring adults and graduated from high school. In 2010 the rescue joined PATH International and became a therapeutic riding center, combining horse rescue, therapeutic riding and academics, creating a win-win for both horses and people.