Horses are a big business around
here! After all, every Amish family owns
a few, and there are over 6,000 Amish households in this settlement
(Elkhart/Lagrange/Noble Counties in Indiana).
Therefore, there’s a need for all kinds of horse-related services. And outside our local community, there are
many “English” horse aficionados out there, and I’m learning that they are very
serious about their animals!
My Amish friend “Emmon,” who has
an amazing dog kennel, also works at Pleasant Ridge Equine—he likes to keep
busy! I took a walk around there a few
weeks ago, and here’s my report.
Pleasant Ridge is located near
Goshen, Indiana. Their main business is
horse breeding and foaling out mares (helping them give birth)—and they have a
lot of amazing and valuable mares and stallions there. The animals are usually not owned by Pleasant
Ridge, but instead, are owned by investors.
Some of the mares are valued at very high dollar amounts. I asked Emmon why, and he said, “Mainly because
of their pedigree.”
There are 80 or 90 mares boarded
here full-time, and they are typically bred once a year. I was told that the typical mare who boards
here is worth over $20,000—wow! An
ultrasound guy comes around three times a week to check on the mares.
In addition, there are quite a few
mares who come to Pleasant Ridge to be bred and then are returned home
Many of the stallions are quite
valuable, too. Most are owned by investors and boarded here for a monthly fee, but
for some of them, Pleasant Ridge owns a share.
The stud service season runs from
February to June. Semen samples are
gathered from the stud horses on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, assisted by
a pummel-horse-looking apparatus that I nicknamed “Dolores.” One draw can produce up to 5 saleable vials
of semen. (Microscopes are on site in
the lab to check semen count and make this determination.)
The samples are shipped out in
refrigerated packaging to the buyers.
None of the stallions are mated in the old-fashioned way… when a stud is
worth that much money, no chance is taken of injuring a stud horse who gets a
little too enthusiastic about his job! A
mare typically has one foal, after a gestation period of eleven months.
Most stud horses are between three
and twelve years old, although one stud horse is 28 years old! Most are Standardbred horses, although a few
are trotting race ponies. What are the
prices for a sample? Ponies start at
about $400, with some stud horses fetching up to $4,000 per sample. So as you can see, this is big business, and
very serious business.
Horseshoeing is done on site too,
in this room. Horseshoes come in
different sizes, and are hand-customized for each animal.
Lots of feed is needed for all
these animals, and hay is stored indoors in this room. This kitty helps keep the pests away.
Another valuable service Pleasant
Ridge offers is “Sale Prep.” If you have
good horse to sell, and you want to get top dollar, you hire someone to do the
sale prep so the horse makes as good an impression as possible. This involves exercise (arena or treadmill),
training, grooming, and anything else that will help a horse put their very
best foot forward for the sale.
The same kind of prep might be
done on the stallions who board at Pleasant Ridge, before a “stallion
presentation.” This is a type of sales
event where stallions are shown in the ring in order for potential stud service
buyers to see them in action and then order semen for artificial insemination
with their mares at their own stables.
This service isn’t cheap, but a
top-quality stud horse will improve the bloodlines of any mare.
A little backstory: Lloyd Yoder started Pleasant Ridge on his
30-acre farm in 2008, after previously owning a business called Pleasant
Creek Belgians. His young son Owen, who
was a teenager at the time, loved horses just like his dad, and started his own
business, First Start Acres, with a Standardbred stallion named Rex. After Owen grew up, married, and moved to his
own place three years ago, he continued First Start Acres, but after two years,
his dad built a dawdi haus on the home farm for himself and his wife, and Owen
moved his family back home, and the two businesses merged. Things were cramped
in year one, but in year two, the stallion count went from four to fourteen,
enabling the construction of a fine new facility. Now in year three, the business continues to
grow and thrive.
These days, Lloyd (and my friend
Emmon) mainly handle the administrative duties, while Owen handles the training
and prep for shows and sales. Several other
employees complete the team—including Sadie, who is essentially a equine
beautician! She braids the long manes
and tails of some of the horses, between stallion presentations, to keep it
untangled. This horse is a special breed
called a “Gypsy Vanner.”
Most of us will never have the
need for Pleasant Ridge’s services, but I love learning about new local
businesses, especially those that help the Amish community thrive and do what
they do best. Thanks, Emmon, for the
tour and the interview!