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Mill Creek 'ponies' up for future

    Carol Lind and Robert Bryan have turned their passion for horses into an 18,000- square-foot, state-of-the art facility for boarding horses and teaching horseback riding. The culmination of a 13 year journey, Mill Creek Ponies is home to a phenomenal facility in the very competitive world of Hunt seat horseback riding.

            "Since she was very, very young, our daughter Sara has wanted to ride horses," Carol Lind Bryan said. "My husband and I got into horses in 1994 when we began looking for a pony for Sara."

            "We were sent all over the place trying to find the perfect pony, and we were drawn to the Dartmoor ponies from England," she said. "We fell in love with those ponies. We imported a Dartmoor stallion from Europe and started breeding Dartmoor ponies. We started out with an old barn on our property, and then in 1999 we built a six stall traditional type barn with a hay loft for Sara's horses."

            Bryan said in addition to breeding, they began giving lessons on the property as well as equine assisted psycho therapy to students with mental illness. It was a year ago in North Carolina at a workshop on this type of psycho therapy, that Bryan saw the barn she wanted to build.

            "I fell in love with the facility there, so I came back and designed this and told my husband that if we ever build anything, this is what I want," she said. "It is just perfect."

            Bryan said she and her husband decided shortly thereafter to build it and focus on the training aspect of their business. Construction was recently completed on Mill Creek Ponies boarding and training facility.

            "My vision was to have a place where the kids could come after school and hang out and do their homework, and if parents have work to do they could sit in here and do that or watch the lesson, just a comfortable place to be," Bryan said.

            The training facility has a covered ring with a cooling system and crumb rubber footing for the horses to walk on. In addition, it has an indoor concession area, lounge, and work area.

            "I have built other horse barns, but nothing like this one," said James Brown, the builder who constructed the facility. "There were a pile of challenges, because we really didn't have any formal plans. I really don't think that there is anything else around that compares to this."

            Brown said the biggest challenge was constructing the horse riding ring.

            "The ceiling over the ring is almost three stories high with two 24 foot ceiling fans," he said. "It also had to be built with excellent drainage because there is an overhead sprinkler system installed which is used to keep the footing in the ring moist so it is not dusty."

            Ron Danto is a prominent horse trainer and riding instructor in Camden, South Carolina. Danto has been instructing Sara Bryan for the last several years.

            "To have that quality of a facility and quality of competitive horses must be a plus for the Statesboro area," Danto said. "I cannot imagine that there are many, if any, like that in your area. It is really unusual, particularly in this part of the country."

            "Their horses and ponies, and their daughter Sara compete at the very top levels, and there just aren't that many that do that," he said. "It is rarified air to be in."

            That may be surprising to some considering that Robert and Carol Lind Bryan have other jobs that are their primary focus. Robert Bryan is a medical doctor serving as the medical director for Pineland Mental Health, and Carol Lind Bryan oversees the four half-way houses for recovering addicts that the couple owns. Carol Lind Bryan is the daughter of Dr. John and Dot Mooney, the founders of Willingway Hospital in Statesboro.

            "I have two passions in life," Carol Lind Bryan said. "The first is to treat addiction and alcohol problems. I am a certified addiction and counselor and a lawyer. I want to help women that have these problems. My second is horses."

            The Bryans have hired a full time business manager, Diane Diver, to handle the business end of Mill Creek Ponies as well as the half-way houses. In addition to Diver, the horse farm has two other full-time employees with more expected to be hired.

            "We are in the process of interviewing for two trainer positions that we have open," Bryan said. "I feel like we will have two top notch trainers here within the next two weeks. We put the cart before the horse a little bit by building before getting the trainer situation settled, but I am confident that we will do that fairly soon."

            In addition to hiring new trainers, Bryan is in the midst of finalizing preparations to take her daughter Sara to compete in two of the most prestigious horse shows in the country.

            "We getting ready to leave for the Washington International Horse Show in Washington, D.C. that is being held at the Verizon Center," she said. "The following week we are going to the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg."

            Danto said Sara Bryan will be riding her nationally recognized pony, About Face, in both shows. "These are the very top horse shows. The Bryans have a wonderful horse operation. That's all there is to it."

            To learn more about Mill Creek Ponies visit their website at www.millcreekponies.com.

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