Thanks to the wonderful staff, Brook Hill Farm is able to provide rehabilitation focused services and safe haven for unwanted horses, while maintaining a unique opportunity for personal growth and equine education for area youth and adults. Brook Hill Farm currently has six full-time staff members, one part-time staff member, and many wonderful team members who volunteer their time and talents to Brook Hill and its mission.
Jo Anne Miller Executive Director
Eighteen years ago Jo Anne Miller and her family bought a farm in Bedford County. 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. “What, take in lame horses, are you crazy?” Jo exclaimed, incredulously. Yet two years later, Brook Hill Retirement Center for Horses was officially founded. Her vet, 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 dealing with lameness issues, Jo Anne and her vet established the rehabilitation and educational programs leading to the farm’s success.
During Brook Hill’s early years Jo Anne was amazed at how these rescue horses healed with the help of staff, volunteers and youth. The horses were able to go on and lead productive lives, and the children involved grew into strong, confident, caring adults. Combining rescue and therapeutic riding created a win-win situation for both horses and people. In 2011, Jo Anne joined with PATH International and became a Registered Riding Instructor and an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, allowing Brook Hill to grow its educational and therapeutic programs. Jo Anne has spoken at many national and international industry conferences and provided webinars in both Equine Welfare and Equine Assisted Therapies. She has spoken at the Homes for Horses Coalition Conference, and has presented her research at the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations conference, the Horses in Therapy and Education in Dublin, Ireland, and at PATH International regional and international conferences. She has also served on many national committees, including the Equine Welfare Committee for PATH International, and co-founded the Virginia Alliance for Equine Rescue Organizations. Today, in keeping with the farm’s mission of education, Jo Anne teaches two college courses in conjunction with Randolph College, serves on the Virginia Tech Equine Education Advisory Board, and the Virginia Horse Central District Horse Council. And, each year, she coaches at least one of the at-risk youth to qualify for the United States Pony Club Championships in Show Jumping!
Growing up on a farm, Tracy is a natural fit for the Assistant Director. A horse enthusiast with a BA in business administration, Tracy has been an important part of this organization since its beginning. She is in charge of the day to day operation of the farm, facilitating the Rockin’ Riders program, maintaining the website, creating databases, and assisting the staff where needed. She has her certification from PATH International as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, and helps Brook Hill by handling the administration work for the Brook Hill Farm 4-H Horse and Pony Club and is a Center Administrator for the Brook Hill United States Pony Club Center. The staff could not function without her!
Tracy Russler Assistant Director
Maria Muller Barn Assistant
Maria joined the Brook Hill Family in order to care for the horses and the barn. She is actively working toward her PATH certification as a Traditional Riding Instructor in order to help with the youth in the Rockin’ Riders program. Because of her hard work and dedication, Brook Hill’s horses are well fed and cared for, allowing Brook Hill to be fully accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Amy is a Virginia native who graduated from Liberty University in 2015 with a degree in Education. She holds PATH Intl. certifications as a Registered Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. She has been working with horses since she was 10 years old and took many lessons as a kid, both English and Western. She participated in a few competitive trail rides during college and has worked at multiple summer camps teaching kids and adults how to ride. Amy is a fabulous addition to the staff, using her degree in education, allowing us to collaborate with our local school system, running many of the educational programs. Amy is the organizer – the staff relies on her for so much!
Amy Swortzel Educator
Anna Baucum Horses and Youth
Anna comes to Brook Hill from Alabama and started working with horses early in her childhood. She worked at another stable prior to joining our staff, and has a retired mare who lives back in her home state. Anna earned her degree in Psychology with a focus in counseling, and serves as Brook Hill Farm’s youth support during their riding lessons and in the classroom. She also works closely with the veterinarian and is in charge of all medical treatments at the farm. None of us could do our jobs without this wonderful asset to our staff, as we rely on her in so many places!
Veronika comes to Brook Hill with several years of volunteering experience. She began as a Bonner through the University of Lynchburg, and then as an intern this past spring. She has now graduated with a BS in Exercise Physiology, which is a great asset to so many of our programs. She will be working on creating exercise programs for our Rockin’ Riders, giving them a more enjoyable riding experience. Veronika is currently working towards her PATH certification as a Traditional Therapeutic Riding Instructor, and hopes to continue her University education in order to become a Hippotherapist!
Veronika Williams Exercise Physiology/Volunteers
June Buracher Office Assistant
June has the most important job at the farm, welcoming the public, both on the phone and in person. She comes to Brook Hill with 57 years of horse experience. She is a PATH certified Traditional Registered Instructor, and also has her Nurse’s Aid certification. June has been caring for horses since she was 11 years old and possesses a wealth of hands-on experience. Her knowledge is a tremendous asset to us at Brook Hill Farm! June hails from New England, and currently owns a Tennessee Walker and miniature horse. In her youth, June participated in competitive trail riding, going on 30-mile treks!
Doctor Fessler is one of the main reasons for the success of Brook Hill Farm’s rehabilitation program. He is a graduate from Iowa State and has been a part of Brook Hill Farm from the beginning. He is a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the Virginia Association of Equine Practitioners. In 2018, he was awarded the top AAEP/Merck Animal Health Award in recognition of his involvement with the unwanted horse, a program that has been in existence over fifteen years. Every horse that has come through the program owes their recovery to the brilliance of this man!
Dr. Ronald Fessler Veterinarian
Dr. Martha Moses Veterinarian
Dr. Moses has been a valuable part of the team since its inception. A graduate of Virginia Tech, she brings her veterinary, acupuncture and chiropractic skills to help in healing the horses. Of course, a visit from Martha is not complete without her canine companion Charlie.
Richard joins the team bringing consistent, quality hoof care to the horses. He is a graduate of the Eastern School of Farriery, and he did his internship with the best – Bud Caudy. He started his own business in 1994, and has been a reputable farrier in the Lynchburg area ever since.
Richard Nunnaly Farrier
Shawn Thacker Equine Dentist
Shawn joins Brook Hill Farm with his dental expertise. He completed his training at the American School of Equine Dentistry in Purcellville, Virginia. He is both a dentist and a farrier, and is a valuable part of the team.
With his wife in charge of the program, it naturally has become Jay’s job to look after the property and fields. He also assists in the general care of the horses. We cannot thank him enough for helping with all of the work that he does during his retirement!
Jay Miller Farm Support
We have so many other dedicated volunteers that help us every day. A special thank you to these individuals for helping make Brook Hill run smoothly!
In Memory of Bud Caudy
Bud Caudy was a part of Brook Hill Farm since its inception. Bud completed his training at the Oklahoma Farriers College and had been a farrier for over 35 years. He was a member of the American Farriers Association and the Brotherhood of Farriers. The old saying no-hoof no-horse rings true – but with Bud on our staff, even the worst case foot scenarios would improve! Our horses and staff miss him terribly!