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 afterwards.
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!
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