Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

A Love Of Horses Brought Them Together

As a tribute to Valentine’s Day, here's an inside look at some of our industry's successful relationships.

Amidst an e-mail inbox stuffed with horse show results, interview requests and press releases, an interesting message pulled my attention away from the pile of work stacked at my elbow.
   

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As a tribute to Valentine’s Day, here’s an inside look at some of our industry’s successful relationships.

Amidst an e-mail inbox stuffed with horse show results, interview requests and press releases, an interesting message pulled my attention away from the pile of work stacked at my elbow.
   
Attached to a polite inquiry about cover art was a charming story about Gerry and Alicia Purdy. They were high school sweethearts, dating from January of 1960 to the fall of 1961. She was a hunter rider and he was a track star. “He was a state champion javelin thrower,” said Alicia. “So when we’d go to horse shows he’d bring his jogging clothes and his javelin, though I don’t know where he threw it!”

When they headed to college, distance and lack of communication ended their courtship. “I call it running out of touch,” said Gerry of their gradual break-up. Their last date was a dance in late 1961, and when they parted they didn’t see each other again for 45 years.
   
A high school reunion brought them together again in 2006, and before long Gerry realized that he was falling back in love with Alicia. They arranged to meet over Labor Day weekend in Florida and on Oct. 4, 2008 were married.
   
While Gerry won’t be bringing his javelin or jogging outfits to the horse shows anymore, there’s no doubt he’ll be right beside his wife while she competes in the amateur hunter divisions. “Sure, I’m biased, but she’s a very special person,” he said with a smile. “I’m her biggest fan.”
   
The Purdy’s story has inspired us at the Chronicle to take a closer look at five couples in our sport horse world. They come from different backgrounds and disciplines and together have created successful careers but, more importantly, partnerships.


Yvonne and Kim Barteau

Even though Yvonne and Kim Barteau no longer work for the Arabian Nights Dinner Theater in Orlando, Fla., they still honor their roots by performing exhibitions all over the country.
   
“We know that a lot of interest in the horse business is stimulated by what people see in public,” said Kim. “Horsemanship and showmanship combined is an art they can appreciate.”
   
The couple’s first meeting occurred before one of their performances. “We went to lunch to talk shop and had lunch every day after that,” said Kim. Through these lunches, they discovered they both shared a similar dream, to go into full-time competition dressage training and instruction. They hatched a plan to relocate to Maple Park, Ill., following the rise of a growing dressage industry in the upper Midwest. They were married in 1995.
   
Kim and Yvonne share the planning and rule enforcement duties around their farm, and they each have their own students and projects. While Kim focuses on the fundamentals, Yvonne excels at teaching show readiness and presentation.
   
“I make sure the students have the tools to do what Yvonne wants them to,” said Kim. “They know how to produce what Yvonne wants.”
    
Kim also said that they divide the students between them based on each particular student’s learning style and comfort zone. “Yvonne is much more dynamic and intuitive. She just gets on and does it, and it’s so beautiful. I’m more mechanical. It’s the same tools and techniques but with different delivery and approach.”
    
“We very rarely get any time off together,” added Kim about the challenging aspects of the Barteau business. “We have to really try to chisel out family time, which often means dropping everything or playing hooky at the barn to go to dinner or the movies. We have to be creative to make family work and enjoy our down time as long and as much as we can.”

The Barteau family, which includes Jamie, 25, Jessica, 23, Kassie, 20, and Kayla, 13, has a lot to look forward to this year, with many promising young horses, seasoned competitors and students in the wings. They also still perform in shows and do exhibitions and have some new acts to show off.

“Having fun is a huge part of the horse business,” said Kim. “If people forget about that, then they are in trouble.”

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Donna Richardson and Stephen Borders

“He started on the longe line, and pretty soon he wanted to ride on his own,” said Donna Richardson of husband Stephen Borders’ introduction to riding. “Then he was trotting on his own and cantering. When he wanted to jump I knew he was husband material.”

But the first time Richardson took Borders to the barn, he was afraid of the horse’s teeth. “The horse wanted something to eat,” said Borders. “I had never been around horses so I didn’t know what to do.”
   
They were married on Feb. 1, 1975 and have been together ever since. “We have to be one of the oldest living couples in California,” Richardson said with a laugh. “Everyone gets divorced here.”
   
They both have other careers, but they owned their own equestrian facility for about 20 years. Richardson is an FEI-level dressage rider who won a team gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games (Canada), and Borders is an established amateur hunter rider.
   
When it comes to the farm, Borders has taken a hand in the financial and business aspect. “He makes sure I get paid,” said Richardson. “Otherwise I’d probably do everything for free.”
   
Richardson primarily teaches the lessons and does the training and has several students as well as young prospects, including three Lusitanos from Brazil.
   
“The only hunters in the barn are mine,” said Borders. “I just go down to work them, and I ride around the dressage horses. I work them on the flat mostly, since they jump enough during the show season.”
   
Occasionally, Richardson will flat her husband’s horses, and he will do the same for her, but she said that she gave up trying to teach him a long time ago. “He’s got a great eye on the ground and knows what a good dressage horse should look like,” she said. “It’s a joke around the hunter circuit that he has the most well-broke horses because all they do is dressage at home.”
   
On the road, the couple tries to support each other the best they can, traveling to the East Coast together in the fall.

“The combination of our disciplines actually works out great,” said Borders, who is often asked why he doesn’t do dressage. “It’s a ton of work, and there’s no way I’m going to compete against my wife!”


Jennifer and Jonathan Holling

“We’ve lived together since the first day we met,” said Jennifer Holling about her husband of eight years, Jonathan. “We did meet once before that at a horse show, but he doesn’t remember. I remind him of that occasionally.”

The couple was brought together by a position working with eventer Peter Gray in Florida, where they shared a house. “We’ve lived together longer than we’ve been together,” said Jonathan.
   
The pair was married in 2000 and established their Willow Run Farm in Ocala, Fla., the same year. They share a unique dynamic at the farm, due to their similar personalities. “We’re both Type A,” said Jonathan. “When we first got together we shared the same barn, and it drove our staff crazy.”
   
“It’s tough on the staff to have two bosses,” echoed Jennifer. “Having two barns has been very successful.”
   
Though they have their own barns and strings of horses, they do assist each other in the training and riding on occasion. “The horses tend to sort themselves out for each of us,” said Jonathan. “We both learned from the same program, so it’s really about the personality of the horses.”

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Jonathan said it’s also beneficial to have another professional set of eyes on the ground, making things like jump schooling or working with a tricky horse easier.
    
After Jonathan had a disappointing run at the 2006 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Hollings decided to start a family. “Caiden sat on his first pony at the Ocala Horse Trials, but his lower leg needs work and his heels weren’t deep enough,” said Jonathan with a laugh.
    
Jennifer took a break from riding during her pregnancy and after Caiden’s birth, but she’s back in the saddle and looking forward to competing again soon.
    
“The eventing community is so supportive,” said Jennifer. “Everyone wants to help and hold him at the horse shows. Rolex has a great family area, and I’m trying to encourage other events to do the same. Having a baby is a lot like running a horse farm. If the baby is colicky, you lose sleep!”
    
“This is just a game we play,” added Jennifer in regard to the horses. “The world doesn’t change if you only make it to fence 6 at Rolex. The world does change if you don’t spend time with your family.”


Terri Miller and Axel Steiner

“We had known each other for 20 years,” said photographer Terri Miller of her husband, dressage judge and clinician Axel Steiner.

“We were nodding acquaintances,” he said with a laugh.
   
They both moved to San Diego, Calif., about 10 years ago and discovered that fact at a horse show in Saratoga, N.Y.
   
“I was shooting and Axel was judging,” said Miller. “I was giving him rides on my golf cart back and forth across the show grounds, and the rumors flew!”
   
In September of 2000, the couple tied the knot at a dressage-themed wedding. Letters were placed in the aisle, and Steiner happily “read” the test of the day: Enter at A, halt and salute at X, proceed to C, get married! “There was lots of dancing at our wedding,” said Miller. “And we’re still dancing now.”
   
Although Miller and Steiner have very separate careers, Miller, a professional artist and photographer, and Steiner, an accomplished clinician and O-rated international dressage judge, have found a happy medium in their busy lives.
   
“Together time is hard,” said Miller. “But we really try to sit down to dinner or go hiking with the dog or play tennis.”
    
We try to keep our career and personal lives separate,” added Steiner. “You have to keep your individual identities but harmonize it as well.”
    
A benefit of Steiner judging on the international front is that Miller often accompanies him. She said they both travel all over the world to work, but that they go to the “good” places, like New Zealand, Australia and France, together.
    
“We didn’t have to learn a new group of friends when we got married,” said Miller. “It was fun because we knew all the same people, and his references were easy to check out!”
    
Although the couple’s lives are submersed in horses, they don’t currently own or ride. “It wouldn’t be fair to the horses,” said Steiner. “I ride planes more than anything else. Plus, I can’t ride to my own standards anymore! As long as I get to pat a nose once a week or more then it’s fine.”
    
“Our life is a series of funny moments,” added Miller. “We laugh a great deal together, and if we didn’t, it wouldn’t be the same.”


Tim and Susan Dutta

Tim and Susan Dutta first met after Susan switched from eventing to dressage and imported a horse she purchased through his equine transportation company. “We hit it off right away,” said Tim, owner of The Dutta Corporation. “We shared the same passion; horses brought us together.”
    
“He was already planning my career for me before we were married,” said Susan. “My husband drives me. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I am a more day-to-day person. I don’t always see the long term, but he’s always dreaming and setting goals.”
    
The Duttas were married in November 1994 and haven’t looked back since. Based out of Loxahatchee, Fla., Tim’s main office is in New York. He normally flies home to Florida for the weekends. “Some people drive to work, but I fly,” he said. “We’ve been married long enough to make it work. We’re best friends.”

Susan added, “He loves to buy me horses. It’s an honor and a dream for him to own such good horses because growing up in India he didn’t have any. When I ride down centerline, there’s more than one person riding with me.”
    
The Duttas, including a 7-year-old son, Timmy, have developed into quite the team, with Tim attending as many shows as he can, and Susan supporting his company. “We discuss things a lot,” she said. “We’re always running things by each other. He’s like an eagle eye. He notices things like soreness or improvement in a horse because he doesn’t see them every day. He’s always overseeing things and communicating. I’ve finally learned that my husband is always right, and that’s OK!”
   
In their downtime, Susan and Tim enjoy going to the horse shows as spectators. “We love to watch good riding,” said Susan. “We can sit there all day and watch show jumping, dressage or polo.”
   
“Our horses are family members and like kids to us,” finished Susan. “We love our life and wouldn’t do anything different. I’m so lucky to be married to someone as passionate as I am.”

Coree Reuter

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