Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024

Free Rein With: Taylor Flury

PUBLISHED
WORDS BY

ADVERTISEMENT

As far back as Taylor Flury can remember, her mother, Janet Bali, encouraged her daughter’s love of horses and desire to work in the industry. But there was always one caveat: Bali pushed Flury to look beyond her personal aspirations to see the bigger picture and consider her purpose. 

“When I was younger, and I was like, ‘I want to be a horse professional,’ she was like, ‘Well, what are you actually going to do with your life? Because you’re not just going to be a rider [because then] you’re not doing anything to give back or build the industry,’ ” Flury remembered. 

By age 14, Flury had made her first attempt at breeding. With the advice of her trainers, she bred her children’s jumper Viva La Rose to the famous hunter stallion Popeye K, and that cross resulted in Circus Circus ABF. 

“The paddock farrier for Arlington racetrack [Illinois], he was an old family friend who lived on our farm, and he kind of would raise my sister and I when my mom was out of town working,” Flury said. “He was a bit of an old cowboy. So, the very first foal that I had—I think she was born in 2004—he kind of taught me how to start her. I was 14, and so we started her together. He taught me the basics, and you learn more and more with every horse.” 

“I realized that if I ever wanted top horses, I was going to have to make them,” said Montana-based breeder and trainer Taylor Flury. Erin Gilmore Photography Photo

The following year, Flury was diagnosed with a Type II Chiari malformation, a condition in which brain tissue is pushed down into the spinal canal. At 15, she had brain surgery—and then a second one when she contracted a central nervous system staph infection after the first. She dove into breeding history to pass the time. A family friend, Alex Korompis, who had worked and managed renowned stud farm Zangersheide in Belgium for 28 years, encouraged her with books and articles. 

“Zangersheide was like my Holy Grail when I was a kid,” Flury said. “I love Zangersheide horses. I love Léon Melchior; that’s the guy that founded Zangersheide. And so, Alex Korompis, he kind of got me involved in breeding. He’d always answer my questions or give me helpful tips and whatnot. 

“When I had those surgeries, I just started to do more and more research,” she added. “I realized that if I ever wanted top horses, I was going to have to make them.” 

In 2010, using the money she earned after selling her two junior jumpers, Flury purchased three fillies and three colts to launch her breeding operation at Aliboo Farm, Inc., then based in Minooka, Illinois. 

“Those first six that I had, two of those became FEI horses,” Flury said. “My stallion [Carrasca Z] we showed in Belgium at the World Championships for Young Horses. So, we’ve kind of gone all the way.” 

Aliboo Farm has since moved to West Glacier, Montana, where Flury, 33, breeds and starts horses. Her focus is the young jumpers, but she’s also developed horses, such as her stallion Carrasca Z (Asca Z—Carraleena, Calato), all the way to the grand prix level. She currently serves on the USHJA Young Jumper Task Force. Heeding her mother’s advice, she’s found her greater purpose in the horse industry. 

“I like developing horses because that’s more than just [riding],” Flury said. “My contribution to the industry is hopefully breeding and developing quality horses.” 

Was there a specific stallion or mare that piqued your interest in breeding?

I would say Zangersheide in general. I loved Zangersheide horses and just started there. I loved Carthago [Z] growing up, and then Asca [Z] was my first favorite stallion. Asca is the sire of my Carrasca horse. 

You’re not just breeding horses; you’re also starting them, developing them, and taking some of them from their first shows to the grand prix ring. What is that like? 

It’s really rewarding to me. I sometimes like the process more than the results. I’ve always said, I’m never going to be like a Kent Farrington or McLain Ward. I like to be home to do the homework part of it, and I like the developing, and it is two different things. You’ll be like, “Oh my gosh this horse, I just rode it for the first time, and now we’re jumping a grand prix.” So that is really rewarding. Every horse is unique, so I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten older to let the horses tell me what they’re ready for. Sometimes [you need] to go slow to go fast. 

Roughly how many foals do you have per year? 

We try to be smaller because I do it all myself. I sit on them all myself for the first time. I’m the one that does everything. So, I try to not have more than like three or four a year. 

I want my horses to be good members of society. They need to learn how to clip and stand there. They need to learn how to stand on the trailer. I don’t want it to be a factory. 

If you could pick any sire and dam—dead or alive— who would you cross?

My dream mare would be Qerly Chin crossed with Dobel’s Cento. He was used a bit less than most common stallions as his semen quality was lower, but I do love what he has produced. 

When did you move to Montana? 

ADVERTISEMENT

I grew up in Chicago, and then my mom and dad moved to Montana about eight years ago. They’re still pretty supportive with the breeding aspect of the business. And so my mom’s [owned] the farm in Montana for a number of years. And then last year in August we sold the [Chicago] farm. It was totally unexpected; it wasn’t even on the market anymore. This summer, after Florida, I moved to Montana. I’m based out of there now. 

We started to move young horses out here three years ago, and so I wanted to be out here with them because it is easier to be hands-on with them. 

What is it like developing show horses in Montana? You’re pretty far away from the horse show hubs.

I was terrified for several years of going to Montana—and terrified of all those things because it’s a totally different world. But I’ve had a few years to get used to it, and I actually really am appreciating it. This summer, the first time I drove to a horse show, I drove to Portland. It was 12 hours, and I cried when I got there. I was like, “Oh my God, this is the new reality of my life: driving several hours to a horse show that’s not Calgary.” Calgary is close to us, but that’s not a year-round thing. But the horses are way more relaxed. I don’t know what it is—if it’s because the farm is so quiet or something. But all my show horses live outside at night now, and they love it. 

I’m getting some new lessons from the western side of the world a little bit. It’s funny because I called Dylan [Gamble] the other day, and I was like, “Well, I just loaded a horse on a trailer with a flag, so I guess I’m officially in the West.” 

“We all can keep learning. It’s a never-ending process.” 

It gives you alternate paths. I’ve never been the typical, “Get on the horse with draw reins. Longe them for hours and get on them.” That’s never been me. I’ve always been a little bit more on the natural side of things. Being out here I’ve gotten to learn from some different types of horse people who have taught me additional lessons that I can add to my toolbox. 

What’s an example of something you’ve learned, and how have you applied it to the English world?

The lessons I have learned here have reinforced or given me a new viewpoint on asking the horse to release their hind ends and be more supple in their body. I had never worked with a flag before this summer, and, from a lack of knowledge, I didn’t really respect it. But having worked with it more now, it really can help a horse be more in front of the leg through exercises on the ground and be more settled as they feel more secure and confident with boundaries. For instance, I had a young mare that is super sensitive and wary and did not want to get on the trailer for the first time. I worked for 15 minutes with the flag just moving her around, and then she walked right on and was totally chill about getting on and standing on the trailer. It took away her fear of the situation and made her more settled. 

What is one item you believe is critical to surviving a Montana winter?

I should say heated barn, but probably my heated jacket would be my No. 1 thing right now. Along with my heated jacket, it would probably be studded tires because we are in the mountains. 

What was your first “Welcome to Montana” moment? 

We have a building that stores all of our grain, and my mom is like a dictator about making sure the door is locked. I’m always like, “OK, whatever, Mom.” And she’s like, “There are animals here.” The grain building got left unlocked one day, and we had a giant grizzly bear that opened the door and took out a bag of grain and ate it in the front yard. 

What are three things you will always have in your refrigerator?

Avocados, cheese and ramen noodles—that’s a pantry thing. Culinary skills are not my skills. 

What quality do you most value in a person?

Integrity. That’s so cliché, but to me, especially in this sport, it’s sometimes so lacking. I can pass a lot of things, but not somebody who doesn’t have integrity. 

For a horse? 

The No. 1 thing I always say as a young breeder and starter [is] that I look for a horse with self-preservation. Horses with self-preservation, they think, and they’re usually wanting to work with you. Heart or self-preservation, I think it all is one a little bit. You can take a horse with all the talent in the world, and if they don’t have self-preservation, they don’t care if they hurt you or themselves. 

Do you have hobbies outside of horses? 

I’m a workaholic, so if I’m not working on my riding, then I’m working on the breeding or the sales. So those are my hobbies, but I love to read. 

ADVERTISEMENT

One of my hobbies this summer was building Legos. I built my first in May, and this summer, my project was building the Titanic Lego, the third largest Lego they make. I found that it was very mentally therapeutic. 

I had two bad accidents this winter with concussions, so this was my summer to mentally recover and heal. I do neurofeedback therapy, and it has changed my life after having so many concussions. 

What’s neurofeedback therapy? 

They do a brain mapping with questions, interview and electrodes on your head connected to a computer. After they get the results to that, they hook me up to a computer with electrodes on my head and then “rewire” my brain waves over a series of treatments. 

What is a go-to book for you that brings you comfort if you’re having a bad day?

I do love a lot of the sports psychology books. If you’re saying guilty book to read, it would have to be like “Fifty Shades Of Grey” or Harry Potter. 

What is your horse world pet peeve? 

One thing that just kills me a bit is—probably an industry thing as a whole—but you see people that breed or develop young horses, and they don’t really have the knowledge or the experience to back it up. We all can keep learning. It’s a never-ending process. But what peeves me a little bit is people who don’t try for the horse; they don’t try to find the knowledge to help the horse. 

Along those lines, the people that, instead of looking for the answers through the struggle, they just ruin the horse or get rid of it—blame it and then get rid of it. That kills me a little bit because doing what I do, there are for sure some horses that are not my style that I end up with because I breed. You do breed your style, but it’s not always going to happen. And so, I’ve had to go out—and my mom will say I’m a little relentless in anything I want—and you find the answers that you need. You can’t say, “Well, I don’t know what I’m doing with this horse, so give it away.” 

So, I would say the people who give up on the horse or blame the horse without trying to find the answers. 

If you had more hours in the day (and energy), what is something you’re curious about and would love to pursue? 

I would travel more. 

Where are some places you want to go?

I love beaches, so anywhere with those. It’s always been a bucket list/dream to go to Africa on a safari and explore more of Europe. 

What is at the top of your bucket list? 

My main goal in my life is to go back to Lanaken [Belgium] one day and get a medal there at the World Championships for Young Horses. The first year I went, I had 1 time fault, so I didn’t make the final. The next year I went, I made the final. I was 17th out of 200, and they only took the top 30. I fell off in the first round, so I would love to one day go back there and get on the podium. 

I’ve had goals along the way that I’ve met. I’ve sold some of my foals back to Europe. “Hank,” my stallion, is the only U.S.-bred stallion approved with Zangersheide. We’ve done different goals, and I would love to see one or two that I’ve bred or developed end up at the five-star level with somebody, me or somebody else. 

What is something you think people don’t necessarily know about you?

They don’t know how introverted and shy I actually am. People will be like, “Well, you love talking to people; you love selling horses and stuff.” It’s actually painful for me, but I’ve had to become that because it’s part of the business. 


This article originally appeared in the Dec. 18-25, 2023, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. You can subscribe and get online access to a digital version and then enjoy a year of The Chronicle of the Horse and our lifestyle publication, Untacked. If you’re just following COTH online, you’re missing so much great unique content. Each print issue of the Chronicle is full of in-depth competition news, fascinating features, probing looks at issues within the sports of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning photography.

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse