by Stephanie Fellenstein

Hudson Monthly Editor

TWINSBURG TOWNSHIP -- Horses peek over their stall doors, silently watching as minister Dave Fedor begins another Cowboy Church service.

A new ministry in the area that combines prayer and people with horses, Cowboy Church meets the last Saturday of each month at Blair's Riding Stables, 8124 Stow Road in Twinsburg Township.

"We are using the horse to draw people in to lift up Christ," Fedor says. "We are not just teaching people to ride. We are helping them mend.

"God gave me a vision," says Fedor, also a trainer, instructor and blacksmith at the stables. "I had no idea how, where or when it was going to happen."

At roughly the same time Fedor was looking for a home for his Cowboy Church, others were trying to reestablish Blair's Riding Stables, which has a long tradition in riding instruction.

Jean Blair, who passed away in May 2006, taught lessons in the arena from the late 1960s through the mid-1990s. Her husband, Robert, passed away almost five years earlier in 2001.

Fedor soon met Betty Zanoskar, of Streetsboro, the barn manager at the stables.

Zanoskar suggested Fedor take a riding instructor position at Blair's Riding Stables where he met Terry McGarvey, the property manager, and Georgann Mirgliotta, a horse handler, the final two pieces of the Cowboy Church puzzle.

Together they sat down and talked about their vision for the farm and Cowboy Church, including developing a mission statement.

"The farm vision is to promote horsemanship and preserve the family farm, sharing the love and respect of horses and nature with people and groups in surrounding communities while continuing to honor the reputation and hard work of its founders," McGarvey says.

The riding stable was reopened in December 2006. Today students come from all over, including Hudson, Streetsboro, Ravenna, Macedonia, Sagamore Hills and Bedford Heights.

Jean and Robert's children have given their blessing to the plans.

Their son John still lives next to the family farm, while Chip lives in Sitka, Alaska; Rebecca in North Carolina and Tim in Cleveland.

"We're going forward with my mom and dad's dreams," says Becky Blair. "My mom touched a lot of people. We want to make sure the farm is available for everyone."

A cowboy-style service

Cowboy Church services take place after riding lessons have finished.

The group sets up hay bales, covered in blankets, around the ring within the barn.

"We start and pray," Fedor says. "I wait to hear from God and then try to respond correctly. There is no set format. We see this as a way to let the world go by for a day."

Fedor says he hopes those who attend Cowboy Church find a message of hope.

With the warm weather, the group hopes to add more fellowship to the Cowboy Church services. A Bible study, community garden and a cafe are just a few of the proposals for the future.

Blair, McGarvey, Fedor, Zanoskar and Mirgliotta also are working to make Blair's Riding Stables a self-supporting, non-profit entity.

"We are honoring [Jean] with the horse side of the business and [Robert] with the nature side," McGarvey says.

The group has big plans for the 60-acre site.

McGarvey says they hope to cut trails throughout the property, and Blair spoke of art classes, fly fishing and archery lessons as future uses for the farm.

Anyone is welcome to attend Cowboy Church, Fedor says.

"You don't have to be a cowboy or even like horses," he adds. "We have an open door to share your faith."

For more information on Cowboy Church or Blair's Riding Stables, call 330-425-RIDE.

E-mail: sfellenstein@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3163