Why Horses Matter – They Bring Out the Best in Us

Why Horses Matter – They Bring Out the Best in Us

By Elyse Knight, East Coast Editor Riding Catherine Hubbard riding Whisper

“One year before she died she had started riding. She loved caring for the horses even more than riding them. She would show up early to pet all the horses.” – From a speech given by Jenny Hubbard, who’s 6 year old daughter, Catherine Violet Hubbard, was lost to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.   Catherine was an unusually compassionate little girl, and wise beyond her years. With the Newtown community still reeling from the loss of so many young lives, Catherine’s family responded by requesting that, in lieu of sending flowers, people make donations in her name to The Animal Center of Newtown, a rescue organization. They felt this would be the best way to honor her memory. Catherine loved animals; every kind of animal and creature that flies or crawls. She would sit transfixed with a butterfly perched on her finger, having figured out how to gently catch them without using a net. “Once, a butterfly landed on Catherine’s finger, and before releasing it, she spoke to it, saying: “Tell all your friends that I am kind.”

As a result of their request, The Animal Center received over $100,000 in her honor in the first two weeks. This tremendous outpouring of generosity led to a conversation between Monica Roberto, President of the Animal Center, and Catherine’s parents. When deciding how best to help animals with the funds that had come in, it was soon very clear that the best way to honor Catherine would be to create an animal sanctuary in Newtown – a safe haven and place of serenity for those in need of healing support; a place of peace where animals, children and the community could heal together.  During this meeting with Ms. Roberto, Jenny Hubbard had her ‘Aha!’ moment: To build a sanctuary for animals in Catherine’s name. Photo Art Works-02 Photo courtesy of Marleen Cafarelli

Pat Llodra, the first selectman of Newtown, along with her staff, worked with Animal Center of Newtown to identify different parcels of State-owned land that could be donated to build the sanctuary. When the 34-acre site was chosen, the Senate and the legislature unanimously voted to donate the land. The architectural firm of P H Architects volunteered to design the facility, and from there the project has taken on a life of it’s own, fueled by the love inspired by Catherine’s love for animals, and a desire to turn tragedy into a place where compassion and kindness can grow. The sanctuary will find adoptive homes for abandoned, neglected and abused animals, refuge and sanctuary for farm animals, wildlife rehabilitation and release, and community outreach programming to teach kindness and compassion. This past March, world-renowned primatologist and activist Jane Goodall reached out to the Hubbards in support. Ms. Goodall had offered support for the refuge early on and now is going to help launch a “roots and shoots” program at the Sanctuary. And the list of supporters keeps growing. On Sunday, June 8, Catherine was given a “Butterfly” birthday party. It was a fundraiser to help build the Sanctuary, hosted by Wendy and Jeffrey Waldron, at their beautiful home, set among rolling green hills and riding rings in North Salem, New York. Photo Art Works-114 Wendy Waldron devoted wife, mother, and equestrian; known for doing good things for people and animals.  Photo courtesy of Marleen Cafarelli

Catherine’s beloved butterflies ruled the day. There were butterflies on each table, a butterfly tattoo station, and Ms. Waldron’s clever animal-themed soundtrack, including     “Hound Dog,” “Stray Cat Strut,” “Who let the Dogs Out?” and “Horse with No Name,” enhanced the animal-friendly vibe. Later, country singer and former “American Idol” contestant Ayla Brown took the stage and sang a fine selection of country rock tunes with her band, inviting guests to join her onstage.  – IMG_0079 Almost everyone was wearing Violet. Next to the huge party tent, 3 gorgeous, friendly horses rested contentedly in the stalls of the meticulously maintained barn, poking their noses over their gates to greet children (and adults) who came to visit them. One of the horses, “ Baby,” (a retired hunter owned by ASPCA board member Arianna Boardman) gave sloppy kisses, just like a big lapdog, to anyone who reached out to touch his plush muzzle.  – L1110107 A very affectionate fellow named “Baby” (an ASPCA rescue) loving on trainer Becky Adler Fagan.

Among those in attendance were, in addition to the Hubbard family, (Jenny, Matthew, and Freddy) Harmony Verna, Vice President of the Animal Center in Newtown, Matthew Bershadker, President of the ASPCA, Chris Smith, from the office of Dannel Malloy, Governor of Connecticut, veterinary staff from Dunbarton Equine Center, and Quarry Ridge Animal Hospital, Olympic rider Michael Page and his wife Georgette, and Becky Adler Fagan, popular local horse trainer. The event was a beautiful celebration of Catherine and the love she inspires in all of us. Her sweet life may have ended too soon, but she is clearly doing what she was put on this earth to do: to take care of the animals, and those who cherish her memory. IMG_0058 “We are all Catherine’s butterflies….” Jenny Hubbard  For more information about the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary or to donate, please go to http://cvhfoundation.org  or


Author: Elyse

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