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Foothills Equestrian Nature Center

[Fig. 25(10)] Tucked between the rolling countryside of the Piedmont region and the edge of the Blue Ridge province, the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) is a year-round private refuge devoted to the preservation, study, and enjoyment of the foothills. Thousands of people each year are attracted to programs and activities at this 220-acre learning and recreation center.

FENCE sits in the heart of North Carolina horse country, where stables, riding schools, and horse farms are a long-standing tradition. FENCE's award-winning equestrian facilities are showcased in nearly 20 horse shows each year. Some of the hunter/jumper and dressage shows and driving rallies are produced by FENCE, others by outside riding clubs. The Tryon Riding and Hunt Club's Steeplechase has been a spring tradition in the area for more than 50 years.

Each year, more than 2,000 schoolchildren from surrounding counties participate in the outdoor programming. A 5-mile system of nature trails, hummingbird and culinary herb gardens, and a wildlife pond provide a variety of hands-on learning settings. The pond and surrounding natural marsh are home to nesting birds as well as herons, kingfishers, and occasionally ducks. And members of an active beaver population often work on trees nearby.

Individual visitors are welcome, too. An indoor exhibit space hosts permanent displays of rocks, gems, and birds of prey, along with changing exhibits including live animals that are briefly held and then released into their natural habitats. An indoor classroom and workshop space in a restored 1860s log cabin house seasonal programming and demonstrations on everything from herbs to mushrooms.

The staff conducts regular flower and bird walks.

In addition to its on-site programming, FENCE sponsors bird walks in nearby communities and natural history trips around the world. Recent excursions have taken participants to Scotland, England, and Peru.

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