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Usually a busy place in the summer, the entrance to the Academy Riding Stables was quiet Aug. 13. The 80-year-old business has been closed since the end of July, but is to reopen.
Westside Pioneer photo

Academy Stables won't close, says ownership member who's back in town

      
Shown in 2005, the last year he was actively involved, George Armstrong is a co-owner of the family-owned Academy Riding Stables. He's returned to get the business going again.
Westside Pioneer file photo
The Academy Riding Stables will not close permanently, according to one of its owners, who is moving back to Colorado Springs to make sure it doesn't.
       George Armstrong, a co-owner of the family-run business at 4 El Paso Blvd. for 30 years, said Aug. 14 he hopes to have it open again to horse rides before the end of August, or even sooner.
       The current situation - in which the phone number was disconnected, the website shut down and employees let go - was the result of a family matter that Armstrong declined to discuss in detail.
       Retired, he had lived in Arizona since late 2005, he summarized in a phone call Aug. 14, and only heard about the stables' potential closure two weeks ago.
       One of his brothers, Bruce, had taken over the business in '05; Bruce's wife Shirley had been in charge since he died five years ago.
       Another Armstrong brother, Tom, still lives in Colorado Springs. He is not involved in the current management, but has been in the past and is now acting as a “consultant,” George explained.
       “I'm doing everything possible to get it reopened,” he said. “I'm in the process of cleaning up things, getting it ready to roll before too long. I hope within a week.”
       Offering one-to-two-hour walking rides year-round on trails in the Garden of the Gods, the business started about 80 years ago. The Armstrong brothers got together to buy it in 1987.
       The 4.5-acre location - half in Manitou, half in Colorado Springs - is one of just three area riding stables, according to the Colorado Springs Visitor Information Center. The city charges a fee per rider that's used for trail maintenance in the Garden, which the city owns.
       One plus for Academy is that it still has 25 horses from the string that's been providing the rides. That's about half as many as in previous years - for example, 2000, when the business had more than 21,000 customers - and Armstrong hopes to add more horses over time.
       “But we'll have to get through winter before we can do too much,” he cautioned.
       An immediate priority is hiring wranglers to lead the rides again. “Anybody who's interested, I'd love to talk to them,” Armstrong said.
       The Academy phone number is 633-5667. It was a non-working number Aug. 14, but Armstrong said he plans to have it reconnected by mid-week.
       Walter Hampel, who had been Academy's general manager for the past 10 years but was let go during the recent turmoil, said he doesn't expect to return. He now manages the horse-boarding at the Norris-Penrose Event Center stables.
       Academy has also boarded privately owned horses in the past; Armstrong said he's trying to increase those numbers too.
       Asked about his motivation to take over the stables again and revive the operation, Armstrong said, “It's been around for 80 years, and it would kill me to see it go.” Also, “you meet great people,” he said. “My heart has always been here since we started.”

Westside Pioneer/press release
(Posted 8/14/17; Business: Changes)

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