Our History

The Southlands Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit, tax exempt educational organization Section 501 c (3) dedicated to providing for and understanding of the environment and its creatures through outdoor recreational activities, particularly in the instruction of horsemanship, horsemastership and husbandry to people of all ages. This not-for-profit status distinguishes the Foundation from others because it enables us to focus on the quality of education rather than satisfying the investment expectations of its members or shareholders. Governed by a Board of Trustees, not compensated for its services, the Foundation benefits from the guidance of its Board Members and Advisors who represent the equestrian field as well as the professional and educational community.

The Southlands Foundation encompasses nearly 200 acres overlooking the Hudson River. Its unique history spans three hundred years. The property dates back to the original King’s grant to the Livingston and Beekman families from which Deborah Dows, our founder, is a descendant. She inherited the “south land” of Foxhollow from her father Tracy Dows. Combining her understanding of land, animals, and people, with her teaching interest, Mrs. Dows opened the riding school in the late 30’s. Her aim was to utilize horsemanship as a means to teach all ages respect and love for the land and its animals, both wild and tame. It was through this dedication to teaching students horsemanship and knowledge and love of the land that she built strong character, leadership, responsibility and confidence in her students.

In an excerpt from a letter written by Deborah Dows to the charter members of The Southlands Foundation in 1988, she writes: “A month does not go by in which I do not receive letters from former students telling me what Southlands meant to them when they were here as children. Some tell of their riding, but more tell about learning to love the land and the creatures on it – to understand growing things – to learn to live and let live – and how their time spent on Southlands helped them cope better with the problems in their individual lives.”

Mrs. Dows’ varied career included a remarkable list of accomplishments: one of the few women students accepted at the Spanish Riding School; study with General George Patton, then a major; trainer of many riders, horses, and ponies; founding member of the Landsman Trail Association; and founder of the Southlands Pony Club, and The Southlands Foundation. The scope and versatility of her accomplishments are the basis for the philosophy and continuing programs of The Southlands Foundation.