Over the past 6 years so much has happened here at PRF. We have had heartbreaks and tragedies, we have had soaring accomplishments and made humiliating mistakes, we have changed, and grown in so many ways I could have never predicted.
When I bought Pleasant Ridge Farm, I thought I would board a few horses, perhaps break even with my expensive habit, and get to spend more time riding and getting better at this sport. I knew, to really be both a good horsewoman and rider, I had to be fully immersed in it, and there was nothing I wanted more than to spend every day in the barn. It was what my childhood dreams were made of.
I bought PRF in March of 2011. It wasn't much. The old barn was dark and dirty. The stalls had dirt floors with large craters in them from horses pawing over the years, and relentless pitch fork scrapping. It had a tiny, dark dingy indoor. There was one small "pasture" which I still don't understand, since the barn had a total of 23 stalls. The indoor arena was small, and the ceiling joists were so low that anyone posting on a 16 hand TB on the rail would swear their helmet was just missing the beams. You could only jump down the center line where the peak of the roof was and the arena filled with water when it rained hard. It certainly wasn't anything special, but it was something!
I still had a 35+ hour a week job, and started the process of trying to clean up and make things more orderly, horse friendly and somewhat presentable. I knew it would take a long time to bring it along, but I didn't care. I loved every minute of planning and improving what I could on a limited budget. I plugged away at things. I built my own fences, I leveled and put matts in the stalls, I repaired what I could, I fed, I turned out, I mucked stalls, everything. Since then we have had professional fencing put in, I have a full time staff, and I no longer have all the much to fix. Incredible to think about where we started. Some of this was my hard work, and some came out of tragedy.
In January of 2012, PRF had the unthinkable happen. The thing that every horse person fears, and at the same time never thinks will happen to them, a fire. It took the entire barn, 9 horses, and 2 pigs as well as the barn cat and a few chickens. It was devastating. It still wrenches my stomach and my eyes swell with tears when I think about it. The heartbreak of losing your personal animals is severely traumatizing, but add in that I had others cherished animals in my care and it opens up level upon level of guilt and grief. It is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I know I was in some kind of hazey comma after that happened. I don't remember a whole lot, except feeling frozen. I guess its a good thing that there were all of these responsibility components I couldn't avoid. Insurance paperwork, fire marshalls, police reports. Stuff you don't want to do on a normal day, let alone when you are exhausted from grief, but i had to, and they probably kept me from going to the loony bin. My father was hugely influential at this time. When all i wanted to do was sit and cry he sat me down and started sketching out new barn plans. I wasn't particularly excited about what was in front of me but we dug in.
Rebecca Greene and I also made the decision to get horses right away. Becky had lost her beloved Prelim level event horse, Scooby Who, in the fire. She had spent years buying and training horses off the track to finally find the one with the talent and ability to go upper levels. For her, the fire and loosing Scooby was intensely tragic as she lost all her hard work and ambitions with him, so going to look at other horses wasn't exactly a joyous occasion. We both found horses on the Canter PA website (Thank you Canter and Sue Smith!) at barns not too far from each other near Penn National, and picked up both her new horse, Eboy, who became Phoenix and my new horse, Martini Please (Kirin), the same day. We had no barn, we had no run in shed, we had no saddles even, and it was February. But we both had horses to start to try and fill the hole.
So our newer facility came about through this event. It took little less than a year of planning and building. I always say, I would give it back in a heart beat to not go through that again.
I think in business you might start with an idea of what you are going to do, but you soon realize that the business is like a creature of its own. It grows and changes and takes turns you didn't initially think it would take. You can't force things you think MUST be and you definitely can't be rigid in your plans or you miss opportunities. Im not saying im great at this, but I do try and see what might be presenting itself that wasn't what I initially thought I wanted and go with it. Generally it proves to be something positive. I've gone through phases of staring at the ceiling all night stressing out, wanting to quite and sell it all. Phases of loving every minute and feeling confident, and learning curves of complete embarrassment realizing how green and inexperienced I was when I started. Through it all, a person has no choice but to get tough, and grow.
Becky Greene had been giving lessons here for a couple years, and we started building a reputation as a place to learn to ride and more people started calling for lessons. At one point she looked at me and said, "Why don't you take them? You know more than you think you know Bri" I was like, NO WAY am I going to teach. I would never feel comfortable doing that. But business doesn't care if your ready or not. And I certainly didn't want to turn clients away, most of whom hadn't every really ridden at all. So I started teaching beginner riders. I am pretty lucky my early students were patient. Almost everyone that ever started with me in lessons has stayed and have become great riders. These days I love instructing. I love watching students improve, I love the challenge of finding new ways to help them or exercises to build their coordination or position. It has also improved my riding and problem solving while training immensely.
So here we are, starting 2018, 6 years after rebuilding and PRF is in full swing. With a barn at full boarding capacity on a consistent basis, a large lesson program with four of us instructing, summers filled with camps and show outings, things have certainly changed. 2018 is already shaping up to be another landmark year of growth for us. Devoucoux Saddlery recently sponsored us, we just put together a summer show team, we welcomed event rider and instructor Maia Jensen to our team, an IEA team is coming together and I am personally excited about starting to compete a little further into the Area II region at some bigger venues. So, I will let the inevitable changes happen and take them in stride knowing that the path isnt always what I thought it might be, but usually the strange turns it takes work out for the best.
Onward and upward...