Our story began over 30 years ago when Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr. and the Commission of the Industry of Agriculture commissioned a study about the Commonwealth’s horse industry, focusing on ways to stimulate its growth. After visiting the Rockbridge site on June 6, 1984, the joint legislative subcommittee voted on June 8, 1984 to locate the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington. On March 22, 1985, Governor Charles S. Robb signed the Virginia Horse Center into law. Then on August 13, 1986, Governor Gerald L. Baliles hosted the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new Virginia Horse Center which would be owned and operated by a 501(c) (3) Foundation.
For twenty-one years, the Virginia Horse Center existed as a public-private partnership with the state of Virginia much like the horse parks in Kentucky and North Carolina. A publicly appointed board oversaw operations while a private board envisioned how the center could grow, and located philanthropic dollars to make such projects possible. Along the years, an Olympic caliber cross country-course was added, the coliseum improved and expanded, four barns grew to eight, more indoor and outdoor rings were added, and a therapeutic riding center was constructed.
In 2007, the partnership between the state of Virginia and the VHCF was dissolved and the Foundation board was awarded the land through a United States Department of Agriculture loan. The VHC became wholly private yet was still committed to serving its participants and the state of Virginia with a standard of excellence seen at state supported facilities. Of the change, board president Stephen C. McBroom said, “In the 20-plus years of our history, February 15, 2007 will perhaps stand as one of the most important days in the life of the Virginia Horse Center. It is the day that every horse and every horseman who has or will share the beauty and excellence of this facility assumed ownership of what is fast becoming the finest equestrian venue in the world. The Virginia Horse Center has a new owner- you and your equine partner! Our sincerest congratulations to you both.”
The Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary on October 8, 2011 with deep satisfaction about the progress and endurance of the VHCF and great optimism for the next twenty-five years.