The "Magic" of Love
Horse people know the feeling they get from being around these powerful creatures. They can’t always put it into words, but some go as far as using “magical” to describe the overwhelming sense they get when riding and working with horses. But could you say, that like Cupid, it’s even love inspiring? At the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP), the answer is a resounding “YES!”
Over the years, on average more than 100 weekly volunteers come to the farm to assist with lessons, take care of the horses and help with barn chores. Developing friendships as you share stories about your favorite horses while mucking stalls, or the excitement of watching a client you have been working with for months master a riding skill can certainly be a catalyst for taking that relationship to the next level. And at NVTRP that didn’t happen just once, but THREE times!
Bobby Geize was an instructor-in-training at NVTRP and a volunteer day coordinator (a lead volunteer who runs the daily barn shifts) in the summer of 2009 when he met Christine Hunter, a fellow volunteer.
“Christine and I were close in age and I found her to be easy to talk to. So, to 'Wow' her I'd make numerous jokes about our favorite horse, Chet, because I knew I wasn't going to 'Wow' her with my skinny butt in riding breeches,” he shared with a laugh.
After spending the summer getting to know each other, the two officially exchanged emails in the fall and went on their first date that October. “For our second date, we went to see Lipizzaner Stallions at the Patriot Center and have been together ever since.”
NVTRP represented such a special part in their relationship that when the time came to propose, Bobby knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“In the summer of 2010, Christine and I took riding lessons from Linda Aikey at NVTRP on Friday afternoons. I had coordinated a plan to propose to Christine on horseback with the help of two of our fellow students: Elizabeth Pearson and Christina Knott-Wilson,” Bobby said. “I planned to give the engagement ring to Christina earlier in the week and then when Friday, September 3rd came around, she would attach the ring to Chet's bridle, the horse I would be riding that day. At some point towards the end of the lesson, the other students would ride back to the barn and leave Christine and I alone in the field. After that, I would feign that I dropped something, dismount Chet and then move over to Christine.”
His plan went off without a hitch and soon he was on one knee proposing in the front pasture at O’Shaughnessy Farm (then, Little Full Cry Farm). Christine said 'Yes'.
But Bobby may not have been quite as secretive as he hoped. “It was a super hot summer day when he proposed and I had a feeling he would – It was the tuxedo shirt he was wearing that tipped me off,” said Christine with a smirk. “We came back to a party that some of the NVTRP staff had organized in the backyard with the help of some of our friends. This was the biggest surprise.”
The happy couple recently celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary - having tied the knot on September 24, 2011.
For Katie and Kyle McDaniel, their love affair with NVTRP is more like a storybook fairy tale.
Katie started volunteering at NVTRP in 2011 after she graduated from Virginia Tech. Looking for a “horse fix”, she soon became a horse leader and day coordinator...and even a tenant, renting the apartment space above the main office.
At the time, NVTRP was in the early stages of planning for an indoor riding arena and working closely with the office of Supervisor Pat Herrity. Little did she know, this is where Katie would soon meet her future husband, Kyle.
Before their wedding in 2015, Katie and Kyle spent a lot of time caring for the horses at NVTRP and fell in love with one particular Appaloosa... Happy! Katie recalls spending a couple of polar vortex night checks warming her hands under Happy’s heavy blanket. Happy was more than happy to oblige.
After fulfilling a lifelong dream of purchasing a home in an equestrian community, Katie knew she wanted a companion for her geldings, Prince and Rio. Once Happy retired from the program, they knew she was the missing piece to their growing family.
Happy settled into her new home in the fall of 2020 with her two big four-legged brothers and little sister (and future best friend), Alice. The McDaniels recently welcomed another addition to their family, daughter Charlotte, in the fall of 2021.
Marc and Jessica Cherry first met during their initial training at NVTRP in 2001 when the barn was located on Chapel Road. The running joke became that they were the first couple that emerged from NVTRP’s Dating Program.
The two didn't speak on that initial training day but later volunteered on the same night of the week as sidewalkers.
“It can get unexpectedly cold when the sun goes down and Marc would let me borrow his gloves,” shared Jessica. And the rest is history.
The couple married in 2003, outside in the snow by Lake Tahoe and recently celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary. They now have four children: Mishaela (12), Arielle (10), Robert (6), and Carissa (1).
This Valentine’s Day, as we shower our loved ones with candy, flowers and gifts, at NVTRP we know that true love doesn’t come from a shooting arrow but from the magic of four legs, a mane and tail.