What began as a collective twinkle in the eyes of Island horse lovers has grown in a few short years to a bustling, thriving center for Island kids who want to get involved with horses.

Today the Martha’s Vineyard Community Horse Center hosts a full schedule of after school and summer sessions, workshops and events.

Next month the facility will change its name to Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center. The facility recently merged with Rising Tide, a long-established Island therapeutic equestrian center. The new name reflects a broader mission and vision for Misty Meadows.

“Between the continued growth of our existing programs, which have been growing each session, and then adding the Rising Tide piece, it feels like the past six months has been a really big jump start for us,” said executive director Sarah McKay.

Adding and integrating new programs at the nonprofit horse center comes with challenges, including the ongoing need for funding. — Maria Thibodeau

But while the horse center may be hitting its stride, integrating new programs and adding more kids is not an easy process.

“Growing is hard, growing in terms of our organizational structure, in terms of the support that we need,” Ms. McKay said. “We’ve been very blessed, and there are so many great people on this Island who want to help, but that’s a continual process of reaching out and training and recruiting new people to help us. Then just the challenges of finding the financial support, longer term, to help us deliver these programs.”

To help raise funds and visibility, the farm will stage a two-day fundraising event on Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23. The Friday evening event will feature food, dancing and music with Johny Hoy and the Bluefish. The following day, visitors will get to see the farm in action.

“We have all sorts of activities happening that really showcase what we see as the vision for this place to be longer term,” Ms. McKay said. “There will be things like photography, painting, yoga, all happening with the horses in some manner.”

On a recent afternoon, a riding class was just finishing, as kids from the Island Autism Group waited patiently for their turn in the ring. One child walked tentatively toward a horse. A volunteer helped her slip a toe into a stirrup and swing the other leg over the saddle.

“Horseback riding has been really great,” said Luke Bettencourt, program director for the autism group. “It’s tough to entertain some kids. When you have them interacting with such a large horse, it’s great to see how locked in they get. They make a connection with the horses. If they were scared at all, the second day they rode the horse and realize how much of a gentle giant it was, they start giving the commands as the instructors tell them, it’s really their favorite thing to do. It is a special connection for sure.”

Moments of connection like that are no surprise to Ms. McKay and the rest of the staff and volunteers at the horse center. The horses seem to sense when a kid needs an extra share of gentleness.

“That happens literally every moment of every day,” Ms. McKay said. “Whether it’s the people who work here, the people who volunteer here, just the impact that being around horses has on everyone at every level. Learning is happening all the time. We’re just using the horse as a teacher in all the different ways that we can.”

The staff and volunteers, with the help of the horses, aim to impart lessons that last long past the riding ring.

“It goes way beyond that, because they take that home and they carry that with them,” Ms. McKay said. “They have those stories, they have those memories.”