At 1 a.m. on the morning of the pony hunter breeding at Devon, Elizabeth Lubrano was up in the dark, bathing ponies and packing. She hit the road with the truck and trailer before dawn, and spent the morning putting the last touches of polish on three ponies’ coats. When she went to pack up the trailer for the ride home, she had some prizes to put in the trunk—the Best Young Pony title for her charge Orchard Hills Dragonflyy.
It’s a far cry from Lubrano’s Devon experiences eight or nine years ago as a junior. Then, she rode with Stacia Madden at Beacon Hill Farm, showed up to step onto her perfectly groomed horses, and depended on her generous parents to foot the bills, as many junior riders do. Lubrano’s junior career included ribbons at top shows in the hunters, equitation and jumpers. She was second in the 2007 ASPCA Maclay Final. In her college years at Penn State, she rode on the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association team and earned ribbons at ISHA Nationals.
The Winning Pony
At Devon, Lubrano turned over Orchard Hills
Cynthia Diebert, a mutual friend, put them in
“Without Cindy putting all of the pieces together
McCormick bred Orchard Hills Dragonflyy, or
Dragonflyy showed on the line in 2013 with
“He is a bundle of personality,” Lubrano said.
at stud rather than pursue a performance career for him.
But that all changed when Lubrano, 24, graduated from college in 2012. “My parents pretty much said that if this is what you want to do, you are going to have to figure out a way to do it on your own,” she said. Lubrano knew she wanted to stay in the horse business. But she would have to find a way to fund herself.
So, when she gets done working at her full-time day job as a financial advisor at Axa Advisors LLC, Lubrano heads to the family farm, Horizon Hill, in Glenmoore, Pa., and puts in at least five more hours of grooming, training and conditioning. She’s got a full barn of young horses and ponies and while barn staff does the routine care such as stalls and turn-out since trainer Denise O’Connor runs her Banbury Cross business out of the facility, Lubrano is the only one to groom and train her charges. She has eight in her care.
It all started when she bought a 6-month-old filly in 2012—she showed that mare, Femineste at Devon in 2013 and hopes she’ll eventually be a performance horse for her. Then Lubrano gave up her amateur status at the beginning of the year and started accepting young horses for training. “I’m doing it for the learning experience. It’s nice to make money, and I need to do that, but I’m really in this because I love horses and I want to learn. These are pieces to my education that I haven’t been able to get and what better way to get it them than to just dive right in and do it,” she said.
Lubrano laughs when she describes how surprised some people are when they see her currying and polishing feet. “When you’re just starting you can’t pay help. It doesn’t work like that,” she said.
“Eventually I would like to do something where maybe this is my full-time job, but for now I am just enjoying the experience and learning. I am a very open person and if anyone can teach me anything I am all ears, because being well rounded is very important to me.”
Right now, riding isn’t Lubrano’s focus. “The biggest thing for me is money. I don’t have the support that I did as a junior. Even if I had a horse I could show, I couldn’t afford to horse show. I can get back on a horse still after a year and it is right there. I love it, I really do. That's my goal, but for me to stay in this, this is what I do,” she said.
She showed two Orchard Hills-bred ponies at Devon (Oliver Brown handled Orchard Hills Dragonflyy in the ring for her) and has two horses entered to show on the horse breeding day on June 1.
Lubrano has also earned her U.S. Equestrian Federation judge’s card. “That is an avenue I want to go down as well. I want to learn from all sides and be well rounded,” she said.
While she hopes to someday be back in the saddle at Devon, Lubrano is thoroughly enjoying learning about the in-hand showing. And she’s enormously grateful to McCormick forgiving a young professional a chance.
“I am really happy that she has given me the opportunity, because not a lot of people would give a 24-year-old an opportunity to take a winning pony and get it ready for Devon and trust them,” Lubrano said. “Sara has done a fantastic job with that breeding program. I can't give her enough compliments.”
But for now, Lubrano’s stuck riding just the tractor, bush-hogging the fields at the farm. “I am on the mower, I am on the tractor dragging the ring,” she said. “When I first learned to do that I ran into so much! But it’s been great. Wearing all of the different hats is not easy, but it’s part of the process.”
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