Kristen Kuhn, of Longport, boards her horse Silvie at the Atlantic Riding Center for Health in Egg Harbor Township, which is up for sale and may be closing soon.

Staff photo by Danny Drake

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Atlantic Riding Center for Health, a therapeutic horseback riding program for the disabled, has put its Asbury Avenue facility up for sale.

Robert Reilert, ARCH’s board attorney, confirmed that the nonprofit center’s facility in the English Creek section of Egg Harbor Township had been put up for sale but declined to comment further. Several other board members also declined to comment.

“ARCH is functioning the way it normally functions,” Reilert said. “There is no change to the way it operated last week or the week before.”

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Betty Morgan, 46, of the Elwood section of Mullica Township, worries about the future of the ARCH.

Morgan teaches therapeutic lessons to 15 pupils, and she has watched as most of the old instructors and their pupils left. Most of the horses have already been sold, she said, and some instructors were told they would need to clear out by the end of August.

The 13-acre facility, which includes an aluminum building with offices and an indoor arena, was listed with Keller Williams for $410,000. The property is assessed at $385,500, municipal tax records show.

ARCH’s most recent available IRS Form 990 tax return from 2010 showed the nonprofit had a total revenue of $250,000 and expenditures of $260,000. Its net assets were worth $641,000. More than 100 handicapped individuals participated in its program that year. The Press was unable to obtain copies of the 990 form for 2011 Wednesday.

The center was founded in 1988 to help clients of all ages improve concentration, mobility and self-esteem through horseback riding lessons.

MaryAnn Wagner, who serves as both a board member and the property’s real estate agent, said it was her job to “get the highest and best price for the property.” She declined to comment further.

Cher Smith, communications coordinator for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, or PATH International, the accreditation organization of which ARCH is a member, said at least one grievance has been filed against ARCH. She would not comment on specifics of that case.

“That right now is in the process,” she said. “I don’t know where in the process it is or what the results will be.”

Even if that grievance proves valid, Smith said, there’s little PATH International can do. While complaints can stop a riding program from receiving accreditation, there are no direct consequences for accredited programs.

“The problem is we’re not a policing organization, we are a membership organization,” she said. “We do what we can to make sure people are meeting our standards.”

Judith and Charles “Skip” Weiner, of Margate, sent a letter to ARCH’s board in advance of a Thursday meeting, asking the board to hand over responsibilities to a group of instructors and riders.

They have also requested copies of financial documents from the scholarship they set up with ARCH following the death of their son Nicholas Ricciotti, a volunteer who died in 2007 at age 28.

“Skip” Weiner, 62, said only three scholarships, each of them worth $500, have been disbursed to help young volunteers. He said more money, as much as $8,000, was left in the fund, but ARCH has been slow to disclose financial records.

But the survival of the center is more important than the funds, he said.

“We’ve been involved with it since Day 1, and we’ve loved this (program),” he said. “Money was always tight, but we were able to get by.”

Judith Weiner, 60, said she can’t believe the center is going to close.

“My husband and I, we helped lay tile in the bathroom, we put insulation under the office and the classroom and the waiting room,” she said. “I could go on and on. We did it because this place was so important.”

Morgan said even though the environment has deteriorated in the past two years, it pains her to think the ARCH will close for good.

“The thought of it closing and not being there anymore really breaks my heart — that it might really be the end,” she said.

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