GREENFIELD — Since taking over as executive director of Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Therapy Center in September, Cara Pfaff has found herself surrounded by horses but no time to ride them.
But she’s not complaining.
After all, she said, the work she does for the nonprofit, coordinating dozens of volunteers and trainers to deliver lessons to the 50 riders who depend on her organization for physical and emotional well-being, is more than enough to make up for it.
Edelweiss, 531 W. County Road 100S, serves a wide array of riders with special needs, ranging in age from 5 to 80, Pfaff said. Whether it’s a child with a disability benefiting from the sense of freedom a ride atop a 1,000-plus pound horse can inspire or a military veteran looking to horseback-riding as a way to recover from the trauma of combat, the difference the organization makes is clear, said Pfaff, who was recently appointed as the agency’s new director.
Pfaff will oversee the organization’s roster of volunteers, which runs about 50 but fluctuates throughout the year, and the annual operating budget of $160,000.
It is working with the clients, though, that brings Pfaff the most joy.
“So many people think they’ll never be able to have certain experiences because of a disability, but the independence this can provide to them is huge,” Pfaff said. “It makes them say, ‘Hey, this won’t stop me from doing what I need to do.’ It’s the coolest thing to see.”
Pfaff began working part time for Edelweiss as volunteer coordinator last spring. But after the organization’s previous director, Tom Flanagan, stepped down after just nine months for personal reasons, Pfaff stood out as the natural replacement, said Chris Kelly, board president.
“Cara has proven herself in the work she’s done for us in the past,” Kelly said. “It’s no small task to get so many moving parts working together in unison to create an effective program, but she’s definitely up to the task.”
Pfaff’s daily duties, which range from grooming and caring for the horses to recruiting new trainers and volunteers, are a far cry from the work she did in her previous career as a military police officer in the U.S. Army National Guard.
But she’s applying the knowledge and skills she acquired from her nine-year military career to enhance Edelweiss’ offerings, she said.
In hopes of expanding enrollment of Edelweiss’ program for former military members, Pfaff recently established a partnership with the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs to gain more riders.
She said she’d like to see growth in all areas of the organization — riders, volunteers and trainers alike.
As programming winds down for the year, Pfaff is preparing for the organization’s annual fundraiser, Denim and Diamonds, scheduled for Feb. 20.
Pfaff said she would like to eventually have the funding to build an indoor arena, allowing the facility to offer lessons year round. Currently, Edelweiss’ programming ends in late September and picks up again in the spring, when the days grow longer and warmer, which better suit to the facility’s evening hours.
Those aspirations are part of what makes Pfaff a perfect fit for the position, said Mary Savides, a board member of the organization.
“She jumped in head first, and I know she’ll really grow into the role,” Savides said. “If there’s something she’s not familiar with, she’s not afraid to ask anyone for help. Then she’ll take that input and come up with a working plan. That’s how I know we’re in good hands.”