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Down on the Farm

Looking around this 16-acre Wildwood property, you might come across fruit trees planted in the 1800s, an old logging route running to St. Albans or, if you’re lucky, one of its equine inhabitants. Three miniature horses (and a donkey) call it home, but they are more than just pets. Under the name Blue Pumpkin Farm, homeowner Sue Butler offers equine therapy to the sick, disabled and elderly.

Have you always had horses?
We’ve lived in Wildwood for 20 years. We love having land and spending a lot of time outdoors, but this property is our first with a barn. I thought it would be neat to have some miniature horses. Turns out they’re kind of like potato chips; you can’t stop at just one. We decided not to buy from breeders and instead looked for owners who were trying to rehome their animals. All three of our minis were under a year old when we got them. There’s a big problem of people buying miniature horses because they are cute, but they don’t understand the care they need.

What are the horses’ names?
Bubba, Mr. Brown and Bubbles. We chose names that would be easy for children and people with speech disorders to say and remember. We also have a miniature donkey named Becky.

Do you know about the property’s history?
It was built as a farm homestead in the 1890s. There are lots of great historical touches, and we found a lot of crazy things in the walls while remodeling. There were little girls’ shoes, old newspapers and a business card from a tax assessor that somebody had drawn a big mustache and beard on—I guess even back then, people weren’t very fond of the taxman. Our property is part of 1,000 acres in Wildwood that was purchased in the 1850s to create a huge park with fruits trees, flowers and vineyards. A Russian prince even invested in the project, and you still can find grapevines and fruit trees growing out of seemingly nowhere. We’ve tried to honor that history and started a vineyard this year. An old logging route to St. Albans also runs through the property. It’s cool that something like that is still around.

How have you renovated the home?
Before we bought the property, it had already had two expansions. In the early 1900s, the back porch area was enclosed, and it’s now the living room. Then in the 1970s, the owners built another addition with more communal space and a master suite. We added a three-season room and the swimming pool. We also modernized and updated bathrooms and the kitchen, but we tried to keep that 19th-century feel intact.

Do you have a favorite room?
Our favorite place is the three-season room with the pool table. The barn doors can be pulled closed when it’s cold, and it’s a great space to enjoy the views, play a game of pool and hang out with friends and family. We are very much outdoor people.

Tell me about the outdoor spaces.
We have patios and the pool we put in. The fire pit also is very popular to gather around. You actually can see the new vineyard from there or watch the horse pasture. The backyard is a special place that we really enjoy.

How do you approach the home’s interior design?
Our decor really stays with the modern farmhouse aesthetic. The interior is clean with a casual, easy living feel.

Do the horses get to come inside the house?
Only for training. It’s important for therapy horses to be “bomb proof,” which means they won’t be startled by things that might happen in environments like nursing homes. I bring them in for short periods of time so they can get used to walking on carpet and hardwood, learn to maneuver in tight spaces, and practice things like going up and down stairs.

How did you decide to get involved with equine therapy?
My husband, Pat, and I have always been involved with the corporate world, and as we’ve gotten older, we’ve thought about what we could do to give back. I came up with the idea of therapy horses. I have a minivan with a wheelchair ramp that the horses and I bop around town in. It’s amazing to see the difference they can make in people’s days, even with just a short visit. It’s so rewarding. After we started doing therapy, everyone always was asking about the horses. That’s where Blue Pumpkin Farm started. I created an Instagram account to connect with people. We also have a website where we sell muffins, candles and lotions. The funds go toward maintaining our horses, and we also donate a percentage to Equine Assisted Therapy.