If you spend any time at the Virginia Horse Center (VHC), you're bound to come across Gardy Bloemers. She may be competing in the dressage arena, advising the management on a fundraiser or helping sell raffle tickets, but one way or another she is sure to be engaged in an activity that benefits the center.

For her it's all a labor of love - and a major facet of her commitment to spearheading efforts to grow and revitalize Western and Central Virginia, and in particular the Virginia Horse Center. Her focus is to share her high-caliber expertise in business development with the horse center in Lexington and with organizations in the Charlottesville area (which is her home base except for winters, when she competes on the dressage circuit in Wellington, Florida).

Bloemers immediately fell in love with the horse center when she went there to watch a Lipizzaner performance upon her return from living, working and riding in Europe for 20 years. "I was amazed by the place and said to myself that I'd love to be on the board some day," she said. And the rest is history.

John Nicholson, VHC executive director, said Bloemers ranks among the most ardent and effective supporters of the facility. "Gardy has been remarkably dedicated to the Virginia Horse Center," he said. "She has uncommon intelligence and extraordinary judgment. She has certainly been a key member of the team that has overseen the resurgence of the horse center."

Her strong professional background in marketing and sales, said Bloemers, "usually translates in the nonprofit world as 'fundraising,' from whatever the source: individual philanthropy or dollars from corporate advertising and sponsorships." While her work spans those realms, Bloemers is far more innovative in her efforts. When most people think of investing in a cause, it translates to writing a check. But she has put a new twist on investing by adding elbow grease to the equation and leading by example.

The accomplished upper-level dressage rider (U.S. Dressage Federation bronze and silver medalist), a longtime board member and current secretary of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation, Inc., is an enthusiastic advocate and hands-on supporter of the center. This summer season she is campaigning her 8-year-old Dutch warmblood, Crusedor, at both third and fourth levels.

"My focus has been to serve as a voice for the dressage community to management and my fellow board members and to serve as a contact and spokesman for the Virginia Horse Center when I'm in the dressage community," said Bloemers. "As an active competitor and volunteer with the Virginia Dressage Association and our local chapter (VADA-Charlottesville), I'm able to have my ear to the ground."

As a member of the horse center's executive committee since early last year, Bloemers and her colleagues have actively participated in the turnaround of the facility, together with key managers. She remains dedicated to improving and elevating the VHC, as well as supporting dressage competitions there. Bloemers is a regular participant in and sponsor of events such as Lexington Spring Dressage and Dressage at Lexington, and one of the fall championships (the USDF Regional Dressage Championship or the Col. Bengt Ljungquist Memorial Championships (CBLM).

In addition to her support of equestrian-related causes, she champions other causes about which she feels passionate. She sponsored a prestigious award this year on behalf of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, on which she has served as a board member for the last three years. She presented the award to Apex Clean Energy, which won for being the tech company that created the most new jobs.

"Gardy is a devoted and enthusiastic advocate for entrepreneurs and innovation-based businesses," said Tracey Greene,executive director of the CBIC. "She has an exceptional talent for securing resources and bringing knowledge to improve outcomes of any project, initiative, or company. Her strategic outlook, combined with her in-the-trenches efforts, has significantly strengthened the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council. I am personally grateful for Gardy's dedication and loyalty."