White Lake farm to host events, provide equestrian therapy.
Howard and Robin Schwartz had big goals when they purchased their White Lake farm in April 2021.
The 110-acre site, a 50-year-old structure that originally operated as a European dressage farm, was full of history, but needed a lot of work to get it ready for the plans the Schwartzes had in store, which include equestrian therapy and community events.
River Forest Farm at Horseradish Acres, located at 1050 Oxbow Lake Road, was originally known as the Tristan Manor Farm. Nestled along the Huron River, it includes 23 stalls for horses, two apartments, a residence on the river, 80 acres of wooded horse trails, a 7-acre engineered polo field, a 9,000-square-foot indoor riding arena, two outdoor riding arenas and an observation room, among numerous other features.
Therefore, there was a lot to do with the property, both now and in the future.
Promoting Emotional Growth Via Horses
With four horses onsite and two horses being boarded, the Schwartzes knew equestrian therapy was something they wanted to offer to the Metro Detroit community. “We were introduced to the practice in California,” says Howard Schwartz, whose wife, Robin Schwartz, runs River Forest Farm and has ridden horses since age 12.
In California, Robin volunteered at a rescue farm program for children, which included equestrian therapy. Equestrian therapy, or equine-assisted therapy, is a form of therapy where horses are used to promote emotional growth. It can be helpful for anxiety or stress, neurological disorders, trauma and/or a range of behavioral issues.
Through equestrian therapy, people who participate have a chance to engage directly with horses. They feed them, take care of them and learn how to both train and ride.
“Horses have such a healing component to them,” Robin says. “They just embody wellness and allow a person who is going through any kind of emotional trauma or problems to be brought to a state of homeostasis.”
With horses helping humans since what Schwartz believes was ancient times, the longtime rider says it was important to her and her husband to help facilitate that kind of connection. Now, they’re building out a staff of therapists and volunteers to run the equestrian therapy program, which will be the core base of the farm’s operations.
Once the equestrian therapy program is up and running, Howard, who is affiliated with Chabad Jewish Center of Commerce/Walled Lake and The Shul in West Bloomfield, plans to extend its services to the Metro Detroit Jewish community.
He and his wife are committed to working with local organizations like Friendship Circle to offer equestrian therapy to kids who have special needs, providing a safe and fun activity that’s only a short 20-minute drive from the West Bloomfield area.
Building a Community Hub
Yet the farm’s offerings don’t stop and end with equestrian therapy. Howard, who owns a successful commercial real estate business, wants to transform River Forest Farm into a full-scale retreat center for people of all ages.
The Schwartzes will be working closely with Chabad Jewish Center of Commerce/Walled Lake on programming, which launched with a Lag b’Omer event at the farm on May 19. Through other partnerships and their own events, they’ll also offer car shows, children’s game days, animal connection activities, pie-eating contests and workshops.
“It’s nine miles from West Bloomfield,” Howard says of River Forest Farm. “You could be at the farm and be in West Bloomfield in 30 minutes. You can go there, come back for lunch and go back again. That makes it accessible to a lot of people.”
As they continue renovating the property, the Schwartzes plan to get even more buildings and amenities up and running in the near future. Howard is currently in the process of renovating the onsite apartments, which he wants to transform into residential units.
“I’m also planning on building three air-conditioned treehouses in the woods,” he adds.
Eventually, they’d like to offer team-building programs on their property that incorporate horses, helping business teams connect and boost their relationships. At the end of the day, however, the Schwartzes simply want River Forest Farm to be a community hub.
“It was a 50-year-old farm,” Howard Schwartz says, “and we made a lot of capital improvements. We have an equestrian poetry workshop scheduled for the summer, and we’ll probably do an outdoor movie theater for our neighborhood this summer.”