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The Balance of Life with Horses, Home and a Horse Business

Like any business your horse business will change over time. If you are doing things right it should constantly evolve and grow. And, just like any other endeavor in your life, there are times when a critical evaluation is a good idea. An opportunity is thus created to re-balance life and responsibilities.

For hubbie and I, we have had a busy time with the horse industry over the years. Both of us have trained both horses and students to the Grand Prix level, and helped train many horses for colleagues, especially those in the breeding world that need polish put on their horses for sale. We have worked extensively to learn more about dressage and enjoyed time spent with iconic names such as Herbert Rehbein, Gabriella Grillo, the Eilberg family, Ewe Shulten-Baumer, the Kemmers ( both Swiss and German sides of the family), George Theodorescu, Wolgang Niggli, Gen. Jack Burton, Raul de Leon, Jim Belman (who also taught Dane Rawlins and Paul Alvin-Smith at the start of their careers),and many more..

For myself, I have been freelance writing since the 1980's in the equestrian world. Life has been full with horse breeding and importing horses. My writing began as 'How to' style pieces and journalistic work for Dressage and CT, The Chronicle of the Horse, The Pedlar, Spur plus many others and marketing work for corporations. 

Today I have been published in over 200 different magazines and ghostwritten for many different businesses and personalities, and produced too many flyers, catalogue, white papers and promotional/marketing materials to keep count.

My writing was almost strictly PR/marketing in the late 90's and early 2000's, but I did find time to do event coverage for The Chronicle of The Horse, write a bit for Horse and Hound and Reiter, while I worked for a successful international freight forwarding company handling import, export and every conceivable type of freight. Chartered aircrafts headed to Saudi Arabia loaded with time and temperature sensitive chicks, multi million wafer machines (high tech clean room machines used in the computer industry for clients such as Micron, IBM, Hewlett Packard), worked with all the major cotton mills down South to handle their exports worldwide and exported every piece of airfreight from the USA that was bound for major London stores such as Harrods and John Lewis. During that time I founded an Equine Division for the same corporation. 

Somehow in there we found time to compete in Europe and spent much time with Greta Kemmer at her base in Lausanne, Switzerland. France, Italy and Switzerland were our favorite places to show with the WVH International Team.

Writing and marketing encompassed the development of our burgeoning breeding farm, Willowview Hill Farm, in Iberian and Hanoverian horses. We were breeding Iberian lines in Portugal and Spain, and competing them in Europe, long before Interagro or other Iberian breeders popped up in the USA.

While my writing continued in the background, and I did some ghostwriting and article writing, I found myself being in front of the camera or writer being interviewed on everything from how we successfully competed our FEI horses barefoot, to advice for the USA Equestrian team on international horse transport.

While all this was going on hubbie and I also enjoyed a life full of competing, training, coaching and clinic giving in Europe and here in the USA and of course raised a family. More on that later in this blog.

After 9/11 freight forwarders were cast into turmoil with the advent of some overbearing rules Al Gore panicked and put into place that took and already unlevel playing field in the forwarding industry and turned it into a a David and Goliath ordeal for the smaller freight forwarding and medium freight forwarding companies. The onerous and impractical requirements packed many companies off to retirement while the big boys (namely UPS and Federal Express) enjoyed an exception to those same requirements. While later it was rectified slightly, it marked the end of an era for companies like ours. I love Al Gore but not for this knee jerk reaction and lawmaking.

Hubbie and I have raised three children of whom we are extremely proud, currently have two grandchildren. My two parents are still bobbing along in their mid and late eighties back home in the U.K., although as I write this my father is battling along more than bobbing. It is an emotional time but we pray he will turn the corner and weather the storm.

Hubbie lost his Mom to cancer and I lost my kid brother to that awful disease also. I still have my elder brother and his family kicking on strong in the U.K. The dark days are always hard to get through but the sun does shine again, and time while it doesn't heal does teach all of us how to live without those we love while keeping them alive in our hearts.

When hubbie's Mom was ill, I was in my book writing phase, and authored three books that were historical and contemporary romance genres with only a smattering of equine coverage between the pages. Even then, I could not stop writing about horses somewhere! I think this was some sort of remedial therapy.

Together hubbie and I have built two horses farms. The first in the Hudson Valley was smaller and the house was already standing. A lovely 1928 custom built farmhouse that we lovingly restored. We added several barns and an arena and paddocks over the years, deck and swimming pool for the kids etc. Life was hectic.

Obviously that wasn't enough because we bought another property and built from scratch. While the indoor was outsourced for the build and so was the shell of the barn, we finished the interior of the barn ourselves. We put in all the fencing and built run-in sheds. 

The house - well that was a different story. We had the basement excavated by a contractor, but we built all the forms, poured and pulled all the concrete foundations, and literally with our own fair hands hubbie and I built the house. The only outsourced item on the house was the installation of the chimneys and the installation of the sheathing and shingle on the roof. 

Somehow we manage to also find time to cut and harvest our own organic hay with no outside help. The kids are adults now and went off to follow their own dreams over ten years ago, and just the two of us put up over 10,000 bales of hay each year. We sell the overage from what we don't use for our horses.

When you have a horse breeding operation, however small, the need to be constantly present is a necessity. From inception and the AI program through to delivery, foal care and development and handling daily of young horses life is busy. When you add in travel for clinics and coaching, both here in the USA and abroad the juggling starts to get interesting.

Hubbie and I have also made several of our own horses to Grand Prix from scratch along the way, as well as developing horses for clients to the top levels in dressage. Business grew to encompass many different programs for our students including a Pick Up a Dressage Lesson Program where we barn hop in different regions, a Goldstar training program where we give intensive training programs on our own FEI horses and horse training to select clients on site. 

Such blessings life has bestowed on our family throughout the many years and time for reflection and re-evaluation has arrived.

 Yes. We're tired!! On my freelance writing side I have a bevy of lovely clients. A mix of manufacturers and service industries, B list movie celebrities, and magazines worldwide including equestrian, travel and lifestyle titles. I am currently under contract for my book " Road Map to Grand Prix Dressage," which is due out this year. Yes, a horse book or two was always inevitable.

Our international and national clinic schedule (Paul and I give clinics together, which makes for an unusual dynamic with the input of two different trainers but after all our work together over the years, our approach is highly synchronized and seems to be very popular),plus haymaking, and family abroad with whom we'd like to spend more time, it is time to re-evaluate and re-balance our lives.

So, we are dispersing our breeding herd and have three mares for sale right now. All sired by the world class dashing black beauty of a horse, Gambol. Dutch warmblood lines, GOV registered and Canadian Team horse under Ashley Holzer, this stallion has put a lovely stamp on our ladies.

Additionally we are retiring our Pick Up a Dressage Lesson program, though folks will be welcome to trailer-in to us for lessons in good weather, and to attend our clinics wherever they are offered. 

Photo: Gambol's Middernacht - available for sale

We are also discontinuing our Goldstar program. Our herd will be downsized to keep our two elderly Grand Prix geldings that we trained from start to finish, and our recent colt Extravaganza WVH, a Lusitano lad out of our Gambol's Georgy Girl mare. I cannot believe this youngster was a year old yesterday. 
We are also fully booked through 2019 and will not be offering any training board outside of what is already slated.
Charrington WVH with Paul, aka Charlie. My blue eyed Grand Prix lads.

Our clinic program is very busy and we continue to offer both public clinics and private invite only clinics which include our FEI4ontheFloor Program with Swiss international coach Greta Kemmer and FEI trainer Tina Hammond together with hubbie and myself. We will also still host our annual Ride with an Olympian private clinic, where we bring in different clinicians each year to provide an additional fresh insight into dressage for us and our students.

With heartfelt gratitude to all that have supported us. I'd particularly like to thank all our clients that have bought horses from our breeding program and imported collections, and invited us into their barns on our Pick Up a Dressage Lesson program in the NE region.

Meantime, if you want to host us for a clinic please let me know. We can offer weekdays as well as weekends. We thank our regular hosts for their continued support.


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