KENT, Ohio — Like a person, sometimes a farm just needs the chance to start over.
At New Beginning Stable in Kent, Ohio, Jason and Charlene Curtis are wiping the slate clean and breathing life into a farm that was once a black cloud over its community.
It’s barely been a month since the Curtis family took the reins of the Portage County horse boarding facility, but the calendar is already packed with appointments for training, lessons, sales and shows.
It’s been a whirlwind start for the stable, which officially opened June 21. But the friendly bustle that greets visitors today is a sharp contrast to events that occurred there earlier this year. In March, the previous tenant pleaded guilty to several charges of animal cruelty — a sad case of horses being neglected and starved, according to Charlene.
The charges and condition of the animals were widely broadcast, so when the Curtises decided to lease the farm from Walsh Construction, they were nervous about how their neighbors would perceive them.
They didn’t want to be associated with the property’s past and quickly began setting themselves apart from any negative details.
“That’s the thing we want people to know: This is a new beginning,” Charlene said.
As it turned out, good intentions and an open-door policy have helped win the hearts of community members. The couple said the stable has received a warm welcome from those in the area.
Originally from Maine, Charlene has worked with horses professionally since 1996, although she’s been involved with them for most of her life. She moved to Ohio in 2004 and spent several years training but, with no place to call her own, she found herself spending too much time on the road.
Like everyone else, she first heard about the Old Forge Road farm in the news. When she went to check it out, the previous resident’s neglect was still evident.
“We came and saw it and it was nasty, to say the least,” Charlene said.
But underneath the packed manure and other filth, the Curtises saw potential. They knew they could turn it around.
“It was everything that I needed, exactly where I needed it,” Charlene said.
The surviving neglected horses had been sent to foster homes and luckily, there were no disease problems on the farm. After a heavy-duty cleaning, the 22-acre farm was ready to start a new chapter.
Although Charlene has the experience to operate a high-end, expensive stable, that’s not the goal at New Beginning.
“I want this to be a place where families come,” Charlene said.
The Curtises want their stable to be affordable for average horse owners — people who simply enjoy horses and sometimes attend small, nearby shows.
They want to create “a nice place where people feel like their horses can be safe and in good hands,” Charlene said.
Besides the 20-stall boarding facility, New Beginning also offers trail riding, camps, clinics and basic therapeutic riding. The stable has an indoor riding arena and plans are in the works for an outdoor arena.
“We want to be someplace that no matter what you want to do, you can do it here,” Charlene said.
The trainer is accepting boarders and horses for training. The stable is almost full, but there are a few stalls still available, she said.
Those who want to take lessons can bring their own horse or borrow one from the farm. Charlene and other staff members will teach western, pleasure, hunt seat, saddle seat, beginner contesting, beginner jumping and dressage, trail and driving.
The farm is still a work in progress, according to Jason and Charlene, but they are focused on what’s ahead for their blossoming business.
And as they move forward, they keep in mind what motivated them to lease the farm in the first place: The farm’s past may belong to someone else, but future is theirs.