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Couple achieves dream of creating equine center

By KBell
March 29, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated March 29, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.

Nicole Beard socializes with Sandi, one of two mares used in a program in a new arena where she and her husband plan to launch Lighthouse 2911.

Nicole Beard socializes with Sandi, one of two mares used in a program in a new arena where she and her husband plan to launch Lighthouse 2911.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

Tied up to a newly-constructed, unweathered round pen, two brown beasts whipped their black tails as a storm loomed on the horizon.

These are the horses that could soon be sending kids to college.

Peter and Nicole Beard, who recently moved into The Double B Ranch just outside of Edna, plan on breeding the young mares as part of a scholarship program backed by the nonprofit organization, Lighthouse 2911.

"We've been dreaming of this forever and trying to put it together for three or four years," Peter, 28, said. "It's snowballing into bigger and bigger ideas."

The Beards, it seems, are a perfectly matched couple, together equipped to realize their stallion-sized dream: To build an equine center that serves at-risk and special needs youth.

She's a special education teacher at Edna Junior High, who also has a degree in equine management. He blew his first chunk of savings on a horse at the age of 16.

She has an older sister with autism, and he used to work at a camp for kids with special needs.

"We collided together and took off from there," Peter said.

The newlyweds have been married almost a year, but only in the past two months has their vision for the equine center taken off.

People throughout the Crossroads have shown their support for the idea through donations, like supplies sold at-cost, an anonymous matching donation of up to $10,000, and the two mares provided by Buster Lindemann at the Coe Valley Ranch near Gonzales.

"We're pretty demanding people. Nikki and I have just been bull-heading it," Peter said, laughing.

For as far as they've come - the mares, the round pin, new stables - they have dreams as vast as their 50-acre ranch.

The next step is to build an arena and, eventually, a horse barn to provide affordable boarding and riding for kids whose families don't have land - like Peter's didn't - for a horse.

They plan on creating a dynamic community in their backyard, one that invites youth to explore how horses can instill respect, trust, communication and teamwork skills.

"Horses are completely honest. They're not going to lie to you . I think that helps reciprocate trust," Nicole, 25, said. "And it teaches responsibility. It's a living, breathing animal."

Eventually, the Beards hope kids will help raise the foals bred on their ranch. That means teaching them everything from saddling and breaking to riding and fundamental care of the horse.

Hugo Cruces, 17, is the resident ranch hand. The Beards are teaching him about horses, and as a teenager, Hugo said the project is something that would benefit his peers.

"I think this is a great thing. It will probably take their mind off of everything that goes on," he said. "They can just come out and forget about everything and have fun."

As thunder rolled in the distance, Peter guided Hugo on some handling techniques. Seven other horses roamed the property, and three dogs pattered about the round pen.

The Beards' bustling backyard was just getting started, as Peter peered at the horizon and envisioned the future.

"Hopefully, there will just be a ton of kids running around," he said.

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