For Milton stable, uncertain times
MILTON — Lora Brugnaro travels to Milton on an MBTA minibus three times a week to ride her horse, Bart, at Horseplay Stables, nestled on the edge of the Blue Hills.
The activity provides routine physical and emotional therapy to the 43-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and navigates with the help of a walker.
“It keeps me going,” she said.
But the future of Horseplay Stables has become uncertain, a situation Brugnaro says is “too upsetting to think about.”
The stable, on 4 acres off Randolph Avenue, is owned by Milton native Terri Hoy, who has rented the location since 2004. The facility, one of three public stables in Milton, according to the Board of Health, isn’t fancy, consisting of a large barn, a network of paddocks, and an outdoor ring. Riders can also take a dirt road to trails in the Blue Hills Reservation.
Shaw’s Supermarket owned the property when Hoy first signed the lease, but Milton businessman Gregory Zazula bought it in 2009. Hoy said Zazula assured her she could stay.
“He told me I would have use of it for at least 10 years and to treat it like I owned it,” she recalled in a recent interview. Hoy continued paying the same rent she had paid to Shaw’s, $750 per month.
Hoy, 47, has spent her career running stables. She rescues and owns horses, breeds and boards them, and offers riding lessons. She cares for 28 horses at Horseplay and has attracted a loyal following of more than 50 riders. She said since she was told she could stay, she has added 10 horses and spent thousands of dollars on new fencing.
But several months ago, she said, Hoy heard rumors Zazula planned to sell the property to a developer who wanted to put up an assisted-living complex. Soon, she said, she received a letter telling her to clear out by July 31.
Hoy, who has continued to operate Horseplay on the property, said she has now been served with notice of an eviction hearing set for Aug. 23 in Quincy District Court.
Zazula declined comment, referring questions to his attorney, David Ceruolo.
Ceruolo said his client had “no written lease” with Hoy and her monthly rent was “far below market value.”
Hoy said Zazula tried to impose a $2,500 monthly rent increase, an amount she couldn’t meet.
“Things just didn’t work out between the two of them,” Ceruolo said. “My client owns the property and has the right to move on.”
Hoy has hired a lawyer and hopes to buy some time while she searches for a new location. Milton has nothing to offer, she said, and for now Middleborough appears to be her best option.
As might be expected, Brugnaro, who lives in Boston’s West End, is concerned about the impending upheaval. Hoy, she said, was the only stable owner she found who could accommodate her needs. She has been riding for six years.
“It was about two years before I could ride by myself, but Terri gave me her consistent support,” Brugnaro said. “I’ve gone from being completely dependent on the girls there to being almost independent.”
Brugnaro said fellow riders have assured her she can travel with them from Milton to the new location, but she fears the journey may be too demanding.
“I’m worried about managing it,” she said. “We all have different schedules, and with my disability I get very tired after I ride.”
Retired teacher Marjorie Farrell, who says she has made a “wonderful group of friends” since returning to riding seven years ago, said the stable’s departure will be a loss for Milton.
“People could look and say it’s just a stable, but it’s the community of people and horses,” said Farrell, a Milton resident. “There’s something very special about it. It’s a joy to be there. It’s a joy to watch the kids. I’ve seen them grow up and train their own horses.”
Farrell said she will continue to board her horse with Hoy, even though the distance will add expense. “It’s very rare to find someone who cares about horses the way Terri does,” she said.
The move will also affect many young horse fans. Thirteen-year-old Samantha Bruha of Easton learned to ride under Hoy’s direction and now wins championships on her Arabian horse, Bear, one of Hoy’s rescue horses.
When Bruha’s not riding, she’s helping around the stables. “I spend a lot more time here than at school,” she said. “All my friends are here. I don’t know what I’d do without this place.”
Bruha’s mother, Stacey, said she’ll continue to take her daughter to Horseplay Stables, wherever its new location is.
Hanover resident Dianne Ratti, whose 10-year-old son, Anthony, has been riding for six years and now wins blue ribbons, said she will follow, too. “Other barns just aren’t the same,” she said.
Hoy worries about riders and horse owners who won’t be able to travel to her new location. “Some will probably have to sell their horses,” she said.
She said she is trying to stay positive about the forced move. She said she plans to buy her next stable rather than lease as she has previously done.
“It will be nice to have our own place and know I can stay there forever,” she said.
Christine Legere can be reached at email@example.com.