Who We Are... How We Got Here... What We Do... and What We Believe.
It's just me and my husband, Frank, here on this farm.
We do it all... from breeding to foaling, and anything else in between. We don't hire other people to come and take care of our horses so we don't have to get our hands dirty... our hands are ALWAYS dirty! But in doing so, we have become a part of this land, and have a deep connection to it.
The same also applies to each of our horses...
... and orphaned baby ducks,
which started out as orphaned baby duck EGGS,
...all 18 of them!
... and giant broken-hearted Mastiffs whose families left them behind...
.... and a wayward pigeon with an attitude...
... and another lost pigeon with a MUCH better attitude than the first one...
... and a baby Fox Squirrel...
... and just about anything else that happens across our path and into our hearts.
Back to horses...
To wipe the
wetness off a newborn foal and to watch it grow from a wobbly, uncertain
little being into a graceful, powerful equine...
Well, in each of our
horses is a part of us... and within our hearts there is a special place
reserved for each of them.
We have been raising American Saddlebred horses for almost two decades now.
Every foal that is born always takes us back to the first one... excitement, fear, and especially joy when they arrive safe and sound into the world.
Each foal that grows into an adult is very much an individual. As we watch them grow, their playfulness, their willingness to please, their endearing personalities, and above all... their desire to be a part of our lives, are all the things that make the American Saddlebred the wonderful breed that it is.
We're On a Road to Somewhere...
Our initial journey did not begin with the American Saddlebred.
It began with a rascally mix-breed gelding named "Tomcat," whose bony skeleton was overshadowed by the gentle kindness in his dark brown eyes.
I had no idea how badly Tomcat looked until I took this picture shortly after what we now know was a "Purchase/Rescue."
All I saw was the tremendous heart inside a neglected, and abused body.
After gaining almost another "horse" in weight, Tomcat
took me anywhere I wanted to go.
He never balked or shied.
He was small,
but mighty. He gave me back the confidence I thought I had lost... in
more ways than one.
Then along came Magic, a beautiful black Tennessee Walking Horse that we... again... purchase/rescued from a seedy "livestock" auction.
the lessons that Tomcat taught me about confidence in my head and
balance in my seat were in preparation for the arrival of Magic, whose
main objective was to do the complete opposite of what I asked...
without question... every single time.
Shortly after that, Sunny arrived... a
beautiful palomino QH gelding whose quiet and unquestioning nature made
it easy to "just throw on a saddle and go..."
At that time, I
did not know that such a thing as "natural horsemanship" existed.
had those three horses as my teachers... and three VERY different
teachers, at that.
After a while, we decided that we needed to move our horses closer to where we lived, so we began to look at nearby boarding facilities.
A friend told us about a small farm only a few miles down the road that was owned by a gentleman by the name of Arthur Borden. We immediately jumped in our truck and headed over to Borden Stables.
When we pulled onto the gravel driveway, a large old barn sat at the very end.
Large oak trees flanked its sides, and a large arena was nestled beside it. I wondered what kind of horses lived here.
It wasn't long before I found out.
Inside the barn was a long, wide hallway with stalls on
either side. I peered inside one of the stalls and saw what I thought
was a giraffe.
Upon closer inspection, to my surprise, it was actually a horse. The horse looked at me with dark, friendly eyes and nickered softly.
"What kind of horse IS that?" I asked Mr. Borden.
"That, my dear... is an American Saddlebred..." he replied.
From that point forward, were hooked....
And so the journey began...
We bought our first Saddlebred and never looked back.
Our path took us down many different roads, to many different barns, and introduced us to people that had many different ways of thinking.
Were it not for those whom we met along the way, and the horses that taught us the lessons of kindness and compassion, we would have not arrived where we are today.
Sometimes it is not how fast you get to where you want to go, but what you encounter on the way that matters most...
Times, They are A-Changin'...
After several years of touring the show circuits, it became clear to us that "showing" our horses wasn't as important as simply getting to know them.
It also became important for us to understand what the horse was "about"... what the horse was thinking... why it reacted the way it did...
Wanting to know "Why?" proved to be a deeper question that we realized.
A lot of people laughed at us for believing that a deeper connection could be achieved between the horse and rider with very little "mechanical" effort. Which was fine...
It certainly wouldn't be the first time... or the last... that would happen.
We just knew in our hearts that there had to be something more to riding a horse than "just kick 'em to go"... and "pull 'em to stop."
Through trial and error, we found ourselves deep in the studies of notable
horsemen such as Monty Roberts, John Lyons, Dennis Reiss, and most
of all... Pat Parelli.
Though their techniques were varied,
their messages were all the same...
"It's not about the horse."
Once we came to understand the profound meaning of that
simple phrase, the relationship between us and our horses were forever
We gravitated away from building a big barn to "house" our horses in, and found ourselves reverting back to a more natural approach to their care... both physically and mentally.
Instead of small stalls to stand around in, we chose open green pastures with spring fed ponds, shade trees, with lots of space to move around.
Instead of grain, we improved our pastures... importing different grasses to allow year-round grazing. When hay was necessary, we made sure that it was the appropriate type for the condition and activity levels of each of our horses.
People tell us that what we do is a lot of work "just for a horse..."
But these horses are not "just horses" to us...
They are family...
And so are the people that bring our horses into their lives.
( Lisa Davis, Me, Gunner, Suzy Schmitz, and Stephanie O'Neill at Biltmore Estates Equestrian Center in Asheville, NC for the Jane Savoy Dressage Clinic )
Nothin' Worse Than Bad Press...
Unfortunately, the American Saddlebred has an undeserved reputation of being nervous, "hard to handle," and high strung. That is completely untrue.
Experience has taught us that a horse... any horse... is only as confident and brave as a person allows them to be.
Because horses are natural-born claustrophobic's and panic-a-holic's, it doesn't take much to bring those reactions to the surface with training methods that utilize fear, intimidation, and painful mechanical restraints and devices.
Sadly, what most people see and remember is the end result of all that... a high-stepping, high-strung, bug-eyed, "crazy" horse.
Well, you might be that way too, if every time you trotted by minding your own business, someone threw baby-powder in your face, cracked a whip behind you, and tossed firecrackers at your feet... at the same time.
Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, there are still people out there in the world that "don't buy it" regarding our methods. Rather than understand that there are a LOT of different ways to accomplish a goal, those individuals would rather come to our farm with the single-minded pursuit of insulting our intelligence, our methods, and even our horses... before first even trying to have an open mind.
One of the most profound comments that I heard Jane Savoie, "Queen of Dressage," say at one of her riding clinics was: "There is a profound overlap between Natural Horsemanship and GOOD Horsemanship. The greatest disservice that you can do with a horse is assume that you know it all... and that they know nothing."
At Renaissance Winds Farm, our training methods work for us. Whatever we can do to preserve the horse's dignity and instill trust... NOT destroy it... well, that is what we do. We encourage people to come with an open mind, ask questions, and enjoy... if only for a day... what it's like to get a glimpse into the beautiful mind of the horse.
Four Basic Principles...
There are four important things that a horse lives by...
Safety. Comfort. Play. Food.
And they occur in that exact order. If a horse is afraid... whether it is of people, places, or things... their instincts tell them that it is not safe to eat, drink... or even be merry.
All of these "necessities" for our horses to live a
happy life are provided here at our farm to help our horses be the best partners they can be.
We feel that our hard work shows
in the sparkle in their eyes and the spring in their steps... as well
as their overwhelming desire to become a part of our everyday lives.
When many people go out to "catch" their horses, they
usually take along a bucket full of grain... and carry a halter hidden
behind their backs. They creep out into the field like a coyote
sneaking up onto a deer... and then wonder why their horse runs in the
opposite direction without so much as a backwards glance.
Well, we don't "catch" our horses here... they "catch" us... no carrots, no apples, and definitely no buckets of grain.
Ok... maybe there IS a peppermint or three to be had on occasion, but the reward is more about getting all the good itchy-spots scratched, or getting ears rubbed.
Our horses are taught from the moment they are born that only good things come from humans... so naturally, they can't WAIT for us to show up!
Using the basic principles of Natural Horsemanship, our goal is to allow our horses to become calm, confident companions that we hope will become as dear to your hearts as each of these beautiful, gentle creatures is as dear to ours.
Our horses are happy to be around other horses as well
their "herd" of people... as evidenced by their willingness to please...
as well as to play... with us.
Maintaining a social "herd" environment is extremely important to a horse's mental and physical well-being.
We work hard to make sure that every horse here has a buddy or a group so that their natural instincts to socialize are a daily part of their lives.
We've also learned that horses who play together...
Another Road Less Traveled ...
In addition to the American Saddlebred, we have also developed a
deep love for the Andalusian horse of Spain. The bloodlines of these
beautiful Spanish horses have influenced many of today's breeds.
Like the Saddlebred, the Andalusian movement and temperament is phenomenal.
Saddlebreds are mostly happy-go-lucky extroverts and will let you know exactly what they are thinking... even when you don't want to.
The Andalusian, however, is a bit more introverted. They don't wear their emotions on their sleeve. They demand respect, and you have to earn theirs... but once you gain their trust, you will never find a more gentle, loyal, and courageous partner.
It is also very important to know what you are looking for
"in" a horse instead of just "picking" a breed... or a color... or a size.
If you want an
exuberant, outgoing, extremely friendly, "take you there" kind of
horse... then a Saddlebred is for you.
The Saddlebred is a natural at any discipline... whether dressage, western pleasure, jumping, or trail riding. Their fine-haired coat and athletic build allows them to maintain their body temperature without getting too hot or too cold, making them wonderful endurance horses, as well.
The American Saddlebred's adventuresome spirit will always keep them wanting to know what is around the next corner, and their keen intellect makes them extremely easy to train.
( Trainer Stephanie O'Neill of Carolina Creekside Equestrian Center, with Gunner )
On the other hand,
you prefer a horse that operates in a "lower gear," wants to be
connected in more of a subtle way, and is undeniably loyal... then
you need to meet an Andalusian.
Andalusians are "deep-thinkers." They take their time making a decision, and will never put themselves into an uncertain or dangerous situation.
This might be a bit aggravating to some that just want to "get on and ride"... and get there quickly. But when you have the loyalty and devotion of an Andalusian as a partner, they will look out for you just the same as they will themselves... and you won't care how long it takes you to get where you're going.
Here are Renaissance Winds Farm, we believe in “BIG”...
Big feet. Big ankles. Big legs. Big HEARTS. Big Personalities.
Big. Big. Big...
So... don't come here if you're looking for neat, clean horses standing in perfectly-kept stalls... or a Saddlebred under 15H that looks like an Arabian on steroids.
We are not your "normal" Saddlebred farm... so come on over and find out for yourself!