At the age of 5, Helen Messenger decided to run away. It wasn't the lure of Hollywood stardom or the call of the big city that drew her: it was the gentle demeanor of a horse pulling a wagon full of goods for sale. After that first encounter, Messenger's passion for horses melded with her eventual career as a pediatric nurse working with children and adults with special needs. As the president and founder of Mesa Vista Therapeutics (MVT), she introduces people of all ages and abilities to the joys of horseback riding. Messenger has partnered with veterinarian Dr. Courtney Belden, equine enthusiast Caitlin Woolwine, and massage therapy and acupuncture practitioners who cater to the needs of both horses and humans.
At MVT's SAS Center—a riding facility with an outdoor arena, indoor ring, 20 stalls, and two viewing areas—instructors train people with and without conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, and spinal-cord injuries in the basics of riding. Therapeutic lessons help to improve riders' range of motion, muscle tone, balance, and self-confidence. The MVT program has participated in Special Olympics Virginia and Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia horse shows, and is a North American Riding for the Handicapped Association–certified center.
The team also offers advanced instruction in hunter-seat, dressage, and Western riding, as well as boarding services for horses or motorcycles with active imaginations. As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the compassionate team relies upon the generosity of volunteers and community donors.
River City Referrals assists homeowners and tool-tinkerers looking for the appropriate contractor for a home-improvement project. Clients describe their project to River City Referrals, who then search its database of trusted contractors to produce a skilled, qualified handyman. These jacks-of-all-trades assist in a multitude of services ranging from painting and landscaping to window installation. After that, rates vary by contractor and project, but past projects have included washing-machine repair (about $250), ceiling patch and medallion installation ($275), and a lighting repair ($125).
Cross Creek Nursery helps shoppers spruce up gardens of all shapes and sizes with 10 acres’ worth of locally grown plants, trees, and garden décor. Three-gallon shrubs ($18.95) present a plethora of landscaping opportunities, and locally grown perennials ($6.49) provide dependable stability for backyards struggling with trust issues. Twenty-five-pound bags of Kentucky 31 grass seed ($39.95) or one-yard slices of sod ($4.95 each) create a lush swath of lawn for bare feet. Meanwhile, truckloads of mulch ($28/yd.) provide a soft basis for flowerbeds or serve as a handy alternative to living-room carpeting. Hostas ($8–$12), mums ($7–$20), and pansies ($3.49) infuse gardens and porches with splashes of color and provide a scenic backdrop for stone figures ($20+) depicting animals and Nobel laureates. A team of experienced horticulturists stands by to answer questions and polish faded green thumbs.
For more than three decades, Beaver Tree & Lawn Service’s fertilizer programs, pest control, and landscaping services have defended verdant turf and topiary against feeble growth and invasive critters. Keep backyard grasslands thriving and lawn-mower ownership justified with a fertilization procedure ($50) that employs one of eight seasonally targeted lawn applications or spray down a front yard’s foundation trees with insecticide ($55) to ward off shrub-bungling bugs through summertime. A perimeter pest control ($50) staves off sieges from ants, crickets, and miniaturized Achaeans, and a grub-control ($100) or flea-and-tick ($100) yard treatment targets specific species of creepy-crawly.
Campbell Springs Farm’s expansive facilities were designed to help humans and horses collaborate in jumping, hunting, and the Olympic sport of eventing. Half-hour lessons, taught by an experienced and safety-conscious staff, emphasize the english saddle and its requirement for harmony between wearer and sitter. Beginners will walk and trot a horse around a ring, and intermediates can master the canter and get a go at jumping cross rails. Riders with experience and horse sense can gallop across the farm’s scenic course, cultivate skills such as dressage and jumping for advanced competitions, or practice the tricky transition from horse-led carriage to horse-led pumpkin. Students are welcome to bring their budding Seabiscuit for a joint learning experience, or ride a trusty steed from the farm’s ample stable.
Locally owned and operated for 38 years, Pine Hollow Nurseries attracts green thumbs with a seasonal selection of locally grown plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers, as well as gardening and landscaping necessities. The neatly manicured outdoor space houses a plethora of vegetation carefully selected for climate compatibility, such as weeping cherry trees, holly shrubs ($24.99+), and gold-cypress shrubs. Pine Hollow's new greenhouse provides ample shade to plant varieties that forgot to bring sunscreen. Surprise a garden-gnome nephew with brightly colored annual flowers ($1.20+) or browse Pine Hollow's decorative stone ornaments for one's own pad. The nurseries also stock tools and products needed to spruce up neglected garden beds and lackluster lawns, including mulch, weed killer, cement fixtures, and pesticides.