Story By Jessica Brighenti | Photo by Georgie Hammond
Wellington is known for its renowned equestrians, close proximity to beaches and beautiful weather. But it is also home to some of the rarest and endangered animals in the world, serving as educational ambassadors for a foundation with a mission of conservation, preservation, inspiration and education.
The Moorcroft Conservation Foundation, founded by accomplished equestrian and trainer Charlie Moorcroft, and his personal collection of rare animals, introduces children and adults to important conservation, rescue and rehabilitation issues while inspiring them to make a difference. The foundation raises funds to support collaborative organizations around the country while also bringing awareness to the local community and beyond.
Born and raised in Connecticut, Moorcroft spent much of his time outdoors riding horses, fishing and spending time in nature. Growing up in a large family with a schoolteacher as his mother, Moorcroft learned early on the importance of giving back, communicating and educating.
Throughout his life, Moorcroft tried his hand at many different careers, but was always drawn back to what was intertwined in his DNA — equestrian sports, nature and being around animals.
He made the move down to Wellington about 17 years ago for the horses and to continue his passion for educating the sport’s youth.
Moorcroft is renowned for his exceptional ability to teach children not only how to ride and care for an animal, but how to be confident, independent and communicative in life outside of the arena.
“I tell my students, there’s always someone more experienced than you, and there’s always someone who needs to look up to you or wants to look up to you,” Moorcroft explained. “I try to impress that upon my students. We inspire kids to help kids. I want kids to know that they are role models, and they are inspiring the next group. I want the kids coming up to know that we were once them.”
Riding lessons with Moorcroft are far from conventional. He brings students out to a track around a 15-acre body of water, where riders get to learn about and see everything from alligators, to fish and birds, butterflies, turtles and snakes. “I use that as a real teaching opportunity to talk about life and nature,” Moorcroft said. “The journey it takes these riders on is fascinating to me. It leads to a lot of great conversation.”
Besides his genuine passion and appreciation for horses and teaching the younger generation, Moorcroft heads up an even bigger passion project, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation.
Following his involvement in the United States Hunter Jumper Association Foundation, he was inspired to do something more than just house special pets. He wanted to tell an educational story. In November 2020, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation was born.
“We started the foundation just as a way to bring awareness and real-life experiences to people within and beyond our niche community,” Moorcroft said. “Our goal is really to bridge the gap between kids and education, and also bring funds to other organizations that we trust, so that they can also provide opportunities for kids to be involved at a local, national and global level.”
On the foundation, Moorcroft is assisted by notable equestrian Geoff Teall as executive director, and a board of directors that includes Louise Serio, Holly Caristo, Abby Blakenship and Susan Gordon. They look forward to continuing to share the foundation’s passion and initiatives while inspiring others in the Wellington community and beyond.
“The Moorcroft Conservation Foundation has been instrumental in introducing many people from the Wellington area, both young and old, to the importance of conservation issues,” Teall said. “This has included members of the equestrian community, as well as many year-round Wellington residents.”
Gordon said that the foundation offers an amazing experience to the groups of school children who visit.
“Having this hands-on learning opportunity with endangered animals right here in Wellington is surely an experience they remember for years to come,” Gordon said. “What a great way to inspire the next generation of conversation ambassadors!”
Blankenship has been impressed by Moorcroft’s ability to reach students on topics as varied as equestrian training and conservation.
“Everyone in the horse community knows about Charlie’s amazing gift of teaching children to ride,” she said. “With the foundation, the opportunity is available for people outside of the horse world to also experience his gift and his knowledge of conservation. Charlie’s charismatic method of teaching inspires people to want to learn more and do more. Wellington is fortunate to have a place like the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation. It’s a big museum education in a quaint and personal setting.”
Moorcroft also feels strongly about raising money for smaller, lesser-known, organizations, and he carefully vets and researches the ones his foundation gives to.
“I have a lot of crazy friends and a lot of crazy access to amazing ‘mom and pop’ sanctuaries and rescues that do rehabilitation, and a lot of organizations all over the country and the world that give back to animals in need on a real conservation and preservation level,” he explained.
Moorcroft’s own personal collection of animals is just a small piece of the puzzle to help drive the conversation about these unique species and the importance of conservation and preservation. “The animals and the foundation are very separate to me,” Moorcroft explained. “The animals themselves are owned, supported [and] taken care of by me.”
Although not a public facility, Moorcroft encourages people to come and visit, talk about and meet the animals, and understand conservation and the importance of helping these animals.
“I really enjoy merging my worlds by having some of my dear friends and even equestrian acquaintances come over to learn more,” Moorcroft said. “We do accept donations for the foundation and other organizations that we work closely with, but whenever possible, we love having people over to meet the animals and create conversation.”
Since its inception, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation has supported organizations such as Feline Conservation, the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center, the Turtle & Tortoise Preservation Group and McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, to name a few.
“I am excited to see what the future holds and what we can do for organizations around the world,” Moorcroft said.
To learn more about the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation, or to get involved, visit them on the web at www.moorcroftconservationfoundation.org.