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Ribbon cutting ceremony with equine instructors with scissors cutting a ribbon while surrounded by trustees and congressional representatives.

Ribbon cutting held for therapeutic riding arena  

By: Mike Gavin
Published: September 26, 2023

SPINDALE (Sept 26, 2023) – A critical addition to Isothermal Community College’s agribusiness and human services programming opened this week.  

Officials cut the ribbon on a new 13,068-square-foot covered instructional riding arena on Tuesday. The facility is part of the Isothermal Agribusiness Center on Oakland Road and is located nearby the instructional barn and greenhouse.  

It will support the college’s Animal-Assisted Interactions program, which teaches students how to use horses and other animals to provide therapy for people including veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and those with developmental disabilities.  

The arena will also provide space for Equine Studies and other related classes, as well as for community activities that call for such space.  

“This is a great day to celebrate partnerships and passion for creating opportunities and investing in our community,” said Dr. Margaret Annunziata, president of Isothermal. “I am grateful to all who made this possible, most especially our faculty and staff and our funding partners who believe in the work that we do!”   

The facility was designed by LS3P Architects and was built by Wilkie Construction of Lenoir. The cost was $785,388. Of the combined resources, $50,000 of that came from the college’s Rutherford County capital reserve fund. Construction started in January.  

College trustees, faculty, and staff were joined at the ceremony by community members and representatives from the many agencies who provided funding for the project. These include the Appalachian Regional Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Golden LEAF Foundation, the Cannon Foundation, and the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners. Representatives from Rutherford and Polk counties federal and state legislative delegations were also in attendance including N.C. Rep. Jake Johnson, R-Polk.  

“We are excited about the outcomes this facility will have,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF president and chief executive officer. “Certifications related to these programs will help fill 345 full-time certified therapeutic instructor positions across the state.”  

Reginald Speight, state director of USDA Rural Development, echoed Hamilton’s sentiment. 

“I am sold on the value and mission of community colleges,” he said. “The students who learn at this facility will go out and meet the world prepared.” 

David McRae, assistant program director for the Appalachian Regional Commission, thanked the U.S. Congress for its support of ARC's mission of creating economic opportunity and workforce development in rural areas.

"We certainly wish the students the best as they progress through these programs and look forward to continued support of Isothermal and surrounding communities."

Also at the ceremony, Annunziata signed an agreement with Tracie Hanson from the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) in Tryon to enhance the college's partnership with Therapeutic Riding of Tryon (TROT).

For information on enrolling in these programs, contact Kimberly Snyder at or Kim Wawzysko at