For as many barns as I’ve visited, I’m slightly amazed at how each one has it’s own personality. Yes, they’re all hunter/jumper facilities, but somehow each remains unique. Fairfield County Hunt Club indeed has its own character. It’s filled typically … Continue reading
The horse business is always a labor of love, but even more so for Liz and Scott Tarter. Had they not been drawn into the crazy world of horses their paths may not have crossed. Their first encounter drew sparks – and I don’t mean that in a good way.
I won’t go into the details, but very few pleasant words passed between them. Their paths continued to cross and somewhere along the way happenstance took over and from the original fiery sparks evolved a different kind of flame. Two kids and a dog later they now, together run Twin Lakes Farm.
Scott Tarter is passionate about his work. He’s a bear of a man. He talks a mile a minute and he’s pure enthusiasm. Scott knows his horses. At 14 he started as a groom and including his college career never left the horse world.
He can fix a thrown shoe or scope a sick horse as easily as he can plan his excel spread sheets to manage his 90 horses. Yes – that’s correct. There are 90 horses on the properties – 40 of which are boarders and the rest, school horses and Scott knows each one.
Overseeing all the lesson programs is Liz Tarter; a redhead with an equally bright personality. Liz had a successful junior career and continued riding through college. She came to the big city with the hopes of working in theatre and supplemented her income working at Claremont Stables. But it’s hard to leave the equine world behind and the money from horses eventually was easier to come by than work on Broadway.
Twin Lakes Farm covers two separate six acre lots divided by Twin Lakes Park. Its situated in prime real estate right in the middle of Westchester County and a mere 30 minutes from New York City. In the beginning the Tarters ran only one stable, but an opportunity presented itself to take over the nearby farm – its not more than a quarter mile up the road – and thus began the much needed work on the second facility.
Scott’s plan for the stable, as any construction type work, seems challenging, but he is not fazed in the least. He rattles off a check-list of projects in the works and based on what he’s accomplished thus far, the amount of work need not seem daunting.
A brand new indoor on the newly acquired property was just completed last December. Before the point of completion, horses were shipped back and forth from one barn to the other. Now with the two facilities up and running there is a natural divide in who goes where. Boarders and the show team (which travels to A rated shows including HITS, Vermont and Ocala) are in the original barn and “The Academy” is in the new facility and houses the lesson program, IEA and drill team.
There are over 300 riders and 40 boarders that come through the barns in any given week. Between programs like IEA, drill team, after school programs, camp and a show team, there’s something for everyone. Most of the “everyone” falls in a youngish age bracket. Percentage of children to adults is about 80/20. But – there are a few incentives for adults to ride at Twin Lakes – my favorite being “Wednesday Ladies Lunch” which includes riding, lunch and drinks. Need I say more?
The lesson program at Twin Lakes is all about getting the rider comfortable. There are seven trainers that work under Liz’s supervision. They bring along students with their own series of schooling shows that create a relaxed fun environment. No one leaves a class without a ribbon and the themed shows let every kid leave happy. From the lesson program there’s a natural progression to either IEA or drill team.
For those who really want to test the waters of having their own horse, the Tarters have come up with a brilliant idea to ease kids – well actually parents – into the world of owning a horse – most importantly the kind of responsibility and costs involved.
The School Break Leasing Program was created so that during winter, summer and spring vacations kids (actually adults can do this as well) can lease their favorite school horse. It runs $600 a week and includes two lessons per week, hack time, tack, farrier, vet and an opportunity to generally fuss over their own pony or horse.
There are seven grooms that keep the property immaculate. During my visit it was mid-day and mid-week with school in session and little activity. But the barns were all swept and every one of the 110 stalls looked like they’d been mucked. Honestly – impressive.
Turnout is rotated with care noted to which horse and pony gets along with another. Scott really does use an excel sheet to keep track of all this and I can’t imagine how else to do it. There is a weekly meeting to see where the problems are and how and where to work out the kinks.
Scott and Liz realize there is always a learning curve as they grow. They seem ready to acknowledge where things have gone wrong and are quick to make changes. It’s a work in progress and as some 300 kids come and go each week, there is always tweaking. It’s a combination of playing child psychologist while assessing riding ability. It’s a mixed bag of children from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, but the goal is to leave all that at the barn door and ensure that everyone who walks into the ring is on equal footing.
JUST THE FACTS:
Twin Lakes Farm / 960 Bronxville, NY 10708 / (914) 961-2192 / twinlakesfarm.com
- 4 outdoor rings / 2 with lights for night riding / sand and rubber mix footing
- 2 indoors – South Barn 160×70 / New North barn 80×190
- 119 stalls
- 14 paddocks
- Grain – Purina / SmartPak when required
- No restrictions on vet, farrier or dentist once approved by management
- Hours – 8am to 10pm weekdays / 8am to 6pm weekends
- Free WIFI at both barns
- 2 horse vans and 2 pick-ups with trailers
- Staff live on property / night check
- Fire sprinklers and alarm system
- Lesson cost: $55 half hour private / $55 1 hour group
- Basic Board: $1,000 / Groom and turnout – $300 / Training – $400
How nice would it be if John and Jamie Seldorff adopted me! These parents of 2 precocious girls not only supported them in their riding, but also literally bought them the farm. And a beautiful farm it is. The Seldorffs transformed a local stable in slight disrepair into an elegant show barn. It is hardly recognizable from its former self. Where to begin…..
Stonehorse is down a steep driveway off route 202 near the Bantam-Litchfied border (repaving the driveway was one of the first things the Seldorffs tackled when they arrived).
As you walk into the barn on the left there is a wood paneled tack room with a chandelier and large table and upholstered chairs. Throughout the barn are framed pictures – mostly of the Seldorff girls – all with matching frames.
To the right is a lounge with a full kitchen and a bathroom, equally as lovely.
Then another door takes you to the stalls. Most of the 50 stalls have been redone with black iron, cedar boards and fitted with brass finial. Inside they are deeply bedded. There’s a heated, well-lit wash stall and pavers covering the floors.
After the driveway, one of the first projects the owners took on was transforming a tiny indoor and doubling it in size. It’s still not huge, but quite ride-able.
Next the footing in the indoor and outdoor ring was replaced with polytrac. A brand new additional barn was built with more stalls and an apartment above. All of it was done in good taste and high quality.
Riders at Stonehorse either lease or own nice horses and all can afford the cost, which starts at $1,250 for basic board. It’s not the kind of place you go and expect to ride school horses, although there are plenty of options for a lease or sale horse.
The grooms at Stonehorse are well schooled in the care of horses. The Seldorffs are pretty demanding when it comes to their expectations of how the barn should be presented and run. Ramon, the head groom/barn manager lives on the property and has been there since the beginning. You can feel pretty comfortable with the care he gives the horses. And if you are inclined to have a groom tack up for you (another level of board that puts you at the $2K mark), he knows what he’s doing.
The Seldorff’s own 15 of the 27 horses that are boarded at Stonehorse and even with 50 stalls, that takes up some space that could be occupied by paying boarders. With the Seldorff girls both off to college and not competing during the winter months, one could speculate that there will be more of a push to sell off some of their horses. But even though the barn is still only a little more than half filled, according to the current trainer, “they’re at a good place” with more than enough horses to manage.
There have been quite a few trainers who’ve tested the waters at Stonehorse, but none seem to stay afloat for much more than a year – even with the nice apartment. Since its inception just over five years ago, Stonehorse has had four trainers.
The current head trainer is Jimmy Fairclough II. He’s worked for Candice King, the Chapots, and Anne Kursinski. But his claim to fame is his stint on the History Channels Full Medal Jousting. Kind of cool. He’s enthusiastic about his upcoming plans for Stonehorse. He’s already made his mark by having the Seldorffs upgrade the exhaust system and has bought some huge, fancy new jumps designed to replicate the jumps from the Seoul Olympics.
All in all – Stonehorse seems to look at itself as a show barn and the immediate Seldorff family had done exactly that. Now, without the full time presence of the Seldorff girls, it’s heading into slightly uncharted territory. But with Jimmy’s presence and upgraded facilities beautifully maintained, it remains an attractive prospect for the right riders. And if John and Jamie ever want to expand their family, I’d make myself available for adoptions, Hey – just putting it out there.
stonehorsefarmct.com / 1231 Bantam Road, Bantam, CT 06750 / 860 686-0203
Walk into Fox Crossing, especially on a summer morning, you know you’re in a kid-friendly world. Fox Crossing has had a number of transformations over the years but seems to be currently at its happiest. Every weekend and after school during the week, the barn is filled with children of various ages.
Owner Cindy Italiaander’s path to Fox Crossing may have been a bit circuitous. A New Jersey suburban girl who became a NY city woman with a career in the fashion industry is now a country gal surrounded with barn life – mud, manure and frequent mayhem associated with horses. Cindy takes it all in stride. Her competitive nature has served her well and she’s created a successful business at Fox Crossing.
Cindy set her sights on creating a family friendly atmosphere and clearly she has succeeded. Young girls who learned walk/trot at Fox Crossing continue on into their teens to nurture the new kids and their ponies. This is a family kind of barn with local kids participating in local shows and school horses that can march kids around without too many worries from parents. There is little or no divide between boarders and lesson folk. Cindy told me she “caters to people not worried about what they wear.” Goodbye fashion career for good! Yet even with all this down home ambience– don’t be mistaken – the kids that ride at Fox Crossing are a big presence in the show ring and are starting to branch out beyond the CHJA boundaries.
In the five years that Fox Crossing Equestrian has been in existence they’ve tackled quite a few upgrades and renovations. The roof has been redone, new cupolas were built, rubber pavers now line the aisle between the stalls, a new outdoor dressage ring was added, the footing was replaced in the indoor, the barn was painted, dutch windows were installed and new fencing and paddocks were added and upgraded.
The facility itself is comfortable with Cindy always adding some decorative touches. Christmas is especially festive with a tree, big-boxed presents and lights decorating the area near the indoor. A boarder’s lounge with a comfy couch and chairs is situated with a big glass window that looks into the indoor ring. Pictures of Fox Crossing clients are proudly displayed on its walls. It’s a place of reprieve in the winter. A small kitchen area that includes a sink, fridge and microwave is available for boarders. There’s also an upstairs viewing room for lesson clients and their siblings that is well heated. Cindy goes out of her way to keep the lounges and bathrooms clean – a challenge, but one she manages to conquer.
The indoor ring is a decent size ring with some nice jumps. Some riders arrange to board there for only a few months just to have access to the ring during the winter. As a result, as the weather gets colder, it can get a bit crowded in the indoor. Cindy does her best to keep people abreast of the schedule. Lessons are given priority. But it’s a congenial atmosphere and things have a way of working out.
The outdoor is a good size ring. It’s a sand footing with long-term plans for an upgrade. Also on the list for future work is landscaping. The current surroundings are pleasant, with grassy areas for parents to watch. The ring is up the hill from a somewhat busy road. Traffic can be an occasional distraction. Also – a neighbor is in close proximity and their cat has been known to wander over to the ring with the occasional horse acting out with much more drama than the situation warrants. The lesson horses – there are 12 school horses – are pretty much immune to any of this though. And other than when the Bethlehem Fair is going on (at which point everyone’s at the fair anyway) the distractions are few and far between. 25 acres surround the barn allowing for some trail rides behind the paddocks.
The dressage ring is regulation size. Since there’s a separate dressage ring, there’s an understanding of who belongs where. Many of the dressage riders are ship-ins, and are equally welcomed. Liz Braverman trains the dressage riders. She’s charming, kind and competent. She seems equally able and willing to work with adults and children.
Cheryl Weller-Lemoine trains hunter/jumpers and as a mother of two girls who are prominent fixtures at the barn, has found her niche training kids from grade school up. She’s created a strong IEA team and those that don’t compete in IEA are often at CHJA shows on the weekends. She is a down to business type of trainer and doesn’t seem to engage in any of the gossip and drama that sometimes goes along with barn life. This also makes her seem aloof, but the kids figure out pretty quickly that she’s truly caring and kind and she understands them as only moms do.
Cheryl and Liz often school the horses in tandem to make sure the horses are well rounded on the flat as well as over fences.
Katie Sutton-Eagleston is the barn manager, and without her the barn would not run. She lives on the property and knows each horse often better than even the owners. Katie has been there from the inception of Fox Crossing and has helped shape the barn into what it is today. Katie graduated from Post University with a BS in Equine Management. Since then she’s managed barns, taught lessons, run camps… she’s pretty much done it all. An extra plus – her husband is a state trooper. You feel pretty safe at Fox Crossing knowing they live on the property. To round out the staff there’s a groom and 2 part time help to do stalls.
The stalls are an ample 10×12 and are bedded well enough. There is all day turnout and the horses are hayed four times a day. The horses are fed Poulin grain unless specified and of course SmarPaks are included when requested.
You can’t beat the price of board at Fox Crossing – $875. Probably the best bang for your buck in Litchfield County– but beware of extra charges. If your horse needs any special care, i.e. handwalks, wrapping, wound care, handling for the vet – it’s an add-on.
Fox Crossing is a busy place and as summer approaches (oh please, please. It can’t come soon enough) a new crop of young riders will appear, ready for camp and the cycle begins yet again.
White Bridge Farm
White Bridge has quite an interesting history – in an infamous kind of way. I personally feel connected to White Bridge because I bought my first horse, Zeus, from a trainer there when the barn was known as Thunder Ridge. The back-story to Thunder Ridge includes a broken family, a murdered son, finances gone awry, and a shoot out on the property ending with the suicide of the owner. Okay – definitely worthy of another blog. But not today AND that’s old history; a lot has changed since then. So lets get to what’s new.
The new owners, Susi Stone and Russ Barton are a solid, smart, savvy couple. They’re approaching the renovation and upgrades to the barn, which had been left on its own for several years, in a practical manner, focusing on assuring a safe and structurally sound facility first and foremost. Also at the top of their priorities is taking super good care of the most important commodity – the horses.
Russ has a background in property development so he knows a thing or two about construction, rebuilding and reworking a facility. Susi works in marketing and has been riding her entire life. She has four horses of her own which she rides daily. Both Susi and Russ are a constant presence at the barn. They make a sound team with a good combination of knowledge of the horses and knowledge of the structural workings of the barn. They live on the property and keep a close eye on things. Russ typically does night check and for someone who didn’t grow up riding show horses as Susi did, has quickly picked up on all the nuances involved in taking care of these giant creatures. He is charming in his approach, showing a great deal of care and personal pride in getting to know each horse and their personalities.
It’s hard not to notice the grounds at White Bridge. They are simply put, stunning. There are five outdoor rings of various size; some grass, some sand, all beautifully bordered by perfectly trimmed hedges or whitewashed fencing. With this many rings you never need to negotiate a crowded ring.
There are also a few perks not seen at most barns. The facility includes tennis courts, a pool with a waterfall, an outdoor patio, a basketball court and a play area with jungle gym. It’s all there for use to boarders and their families. I know the focus is on the horses, but really – its kind of awesome. During the summer months it’s easy to feel like you’re at a country club. Some repairs, updates and upgrades are part of the owners’ long-range plans as some of the grounds look a little worn due to previous owners neglect. But everything is up and running and there for the taking.
Oh – and back to the horses, there is over 100 acres of property with beautiful trails through much of it. Some areas include open fields with natural jumps thrown in to make your trail ride a bit more interesting. A pond with a lovely white bridge (hence the name) is one of the first things you see when you drive into the property. There are plenty of paddocks of various sizes – all with new fencing. Most seem to be fairly dry, but even so, there are more than enough to rotate your horse into should any get too wet.
The surroundings are for the most part quiet, although White Bridge is on a residential road. Cars will zip by and an occasional neighbor will walk their dog down the street.
The indoor ring at White Bridge is one of the biggest in Connecticut. Trust me, it’s huge! It makes winter riding a lot easier. The indoor isn’t heated, but the size makes up for the cold and its insulation keeps the temperature bearable. The footing has been upgraded and as part of the on-going plan will be completely replaced. The barn caters to mostly to hunter/jumpers and dressage. There are the occasional times when the ring is set up for dressage, but even then the ring is big enough to be able to include an outside line of jumps beyond the dressage border. Most of the time though the dressage riders’ work easily around whatever jumps are set up. And for some of the more timid dressage riders, the trainers do their best to set up lessons to avoid conflicts. The jumps aren’t fancy, but functional.
The first thing I noticed about the stalls is the bedding. There’s enough in there to make you want to lie down in it. Horses at White Bridge look happy and healthy. The skylights have all been replaced allowing for plenty of natural light and a new roof has taken care of any leaks. All the stalls in the main barn allow for ample room – 12’x 12’ and a lower barn with 8 stalls and has been completely refurbished.
The staff /grooms are more than competent – some of the best I’ve seen – and keeps a constant eye on things. They seem to be busy pretty much all the time. And they all know horses. All four are proficient riders. Dana, the barn manager, grew-up riding at her families barn and assistant barn manager Katie was an Equine studies major at Post and helps school the horses. Adrian and Andrew both ride and are well schooled in nurturing the horses. It’s the little things that set this group apart, like how they always pick each horses hooves when brought in from the paddocks, the care they take to adjust blanketing throughout the day or how they’re often spotted nuzzling the horses on their down time.
Every horse is turned out and blanketed in the winter according to owner/trainer instructions. Horses are fed three times a day. You don’t see that at barns that often, but certainly a plus for the horses. White Bridge uses primarily Poulin grain with a horse nutritionist visiting regularly, but will use different feed at owner requests. Smartpak and supplements are added as needed.
The vibe at White Bridge is grown-up. That’s not to say kids aren’t welcome. But the stalls are filled mostly with horses and just a handful of ponies. The riders at WBF are serious about their sport and as you go from stall to stall what you’ll find is an array of some truly gorgeous horses. What you won’t find are school horses. This is a barn where if you want to go to an A show – you’ll have enthusiastic riders and trainers working to get you there. Yet – for a show barn, it has a super friendly and inclusive atmosphere, even with the celebrity riders that board there.
The trainers, Katja Eilers and Cara Hasenstab, each have their own distinct focus. Katja is an FEI dressage trainer with accolades galore and Cara has worked with hunter/jumpers clients guiding them to wins at shows along the east coast. In addition Jennifer Rossire will be joining the fold. Jennifer is a former AGA Rider on the CA tour. The expectation is to see riders at WBF attending shows throughout the year – both dressage and hunter/jumpers. The future includes hosting A shows on the White Bridge Farm grounds and with five out door rings this is a realistic endeavor.
As for the creature comforts, there are quite a few amenities (beyond the outdoor play-land). While White Bridge is still a diamond in the rough, work has begun on refurbishing the lounges, warming rooms and viewing rooms. Two bathrooms will be renovated by spring and the new owners, Russ and Susi, can be seen measuring and planning for all the upgrades in White Bridge Farm’s future. A kitchen is available for boarder’s use as well as a washer / dryer. Honestly – don’t you hate washing saddle pads at home in the same w/d you use for clothes – so a nice bonus at no charge.
There are ambitious plans in place at White Bridge Farm and if what has been done thus far is any indications – they are well on there way.
JUST THE FACTS
White Bridge Farm
231 Beach Street, Litchfiled, CT
Owners: Russ Barton & Susi Ston
- Grand Prix sand ring
- lower sand ring
- Grand Prix grass ring
- upper grass ring
- upper sand ring
Indoor Ring 120′ x 240′
- 35 matted stalls
- 8 stalls in private barn
- 30 new 40×80 paddocks
Cost of Board
- dry board / $400
- full board / $1050
- Katja Eilers
- Cara Hasenstab
WiFi – yes
No restrictions on use of blacksmite & vet
Honestly, I don’t know what happens when you start riding. And I’m not exactly sure at what point it does happen – but it doesn’t take long before your life becomes obsessed with all things horses. One minute you’re a normal person with a variety of interest and all of the sudden – you’re dreaming of being at the barn; at the barn in the cold, at the barn in the heat, at the barn on a perfect day where the temperature is mild and your horse is cooperative, at the barn and your horse, who you have mistakenly thought has turned a corner, only to find yourself covered in dirt from a ridiculous spill, dreaming of your horse nuzzling his nose against your shoulder, or sneaking a nip at your shoulder, dreaming of finding the right spot while you curry his withers and watching him stretch his neck to show his happiness and finally watching that lower lip relax to where he looks like a ridiculous animal instead of the noble athlete he truly is. Well if you’re reading this, you understand and know I could go on and on…
But that’s not the focus of this blog. Barns abound in the northeast. Its the heart of the hunter/jumper world. Many of the best riders in the world call this area home. Yet I’ve never seen a comprehensive list of hunter/jumper barns in our area. I’ve never seen a place where you can find which barn is perfect for YOU. A place that tells you “this is a super kid friendly place” or “really – kids are okay, but this has a grown-up vibe” or “we like to show a lot” or “we’re very low-key”. You get my drift.
So at The Stable Times I’ll do my best to help fill that void. If I can’t be at the barn, well, I might as well write about it. Just bear with me as I figure out this blog stuff and still make time to ride my horse.