The Marvelous Mill Street Stables
by Nikki Alvin-Smith

The Marvelous Mill Street Stables 
by Nikki Alvin-Smith

In the quaint and equestrian friendly historic town of Gilbertsville, New York and its environs, you will find a wealth of horse history. The spacious Bostwick polo fields, notable horse farms both racing and breeding, plus the beautiful landscape of running streams, the bucolic Butternut Valley (formerly the bottom of a lake erstwhile dried out). So it is no surprise to find the " Marvelous Mill Street Stables " located in Gilbertsville available as an amazing resource for area riders interested in dressage, equitation, hunter/jumpers and eventing to come and train to their 'horse loving hearts delight'. There are also plenty of trails to explore.

Indoor ArenaThis thirty-two acre facility was established in 2013 by experienced hunter/jumper rider James McDonald and his cross country/event rider and architect wife, Christine Eronemok. The couple have already found this purchase to be a labor of love, as they have begun to put their stamp on the ten stall stable building. attached 72’ x 180’ indoor arena, wash stall with hot

Inside the Stablesand cold water, bath room, tack room/viewing room and ample turnouts arenas. While the facility is in good repair, James is working tirelessly to renovate the building to his very high standards, and with architect Christine's help it is clear to see they have a great vision. Arcadian windows light the stalls, well finished woodwork graces the interior, new drainage surrounds the entire barn, a

Stall Viewprofessionally and user friendly organized tack room, new outdoor and indoor arena footing, grading and drainage and the list goes on.

And this is not all the plans that are in the works. A new full size outdoor dressage arenaFront Arena (at the moment the outside jumping arena which has effective all-weather footing, does double duty as it is a full size dressage arena) and Derby Course are planned. A small water complex will be added, and natural cross country elements built to provide an all around educational opportunity for all riders.

With his MBA in hand from the University of Arizona, James joined the U.S. Military Service. As a former member of the U.S. Army James served as a 1st Lieutenant until 2013. As part of Mill Street Stables ongoing programs, he is keen to work with veterans and horses and so plans to develop a therapeutic riding program is in the works. Meantime, Mill Street Stables provided their facility as a venue for training for the local IEA group "The ABC Dream Team."The IEA is an organization that works similarly to the Intercollegiate Horse Scholastic Association program, except that this program is for High School age children.

James Competing at StockadeBoth James and Christine have excellent credentials for servicing the equestrian community. In addition to growing up on a Western ranch and learning a lot on starting horses from his father, it was James' mother that was the hunter/jumper rider. As a junior, James competed in the AHSA Junior Medal and USET classes under the guidance of top trainer Kay Love. As a developing professional James rode for Blue Cloud Farm in Longmont Colorado, Cross Creek Farm in Tucson Arizona and was a summer clinician for Ojai Valley School in California. James also had the great opportunity to study under longtime friend, Jim Hagman owner of Elvenstar and producer of many top equitation riders and horses. In 1998 James won the Sante Fe Grand Prix riding “Four Stars” an Argentine stallion.

Christine Riding at a Doug Payne ClinicChristine began riding with the local pony club at the age of ten and graduated with her “A” certification in horse management and “B” certification in riding. In 2007 Christine was chosen as one of four riders to represent the US Pony Club in  the Inter-Pacific Nations Cup hosted in Lexington, Kentucky. At this time she was riding with event rider, Heather Gillette who encouraged Christine’s enthusiasm for eventing. Christine received her Bachelors of Architecture from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and while in college she remained active with horses riding on the intercollegiate team. She then managed a forty stall boarding and training facility in Troy, NY.  After graduating, Christine embraced the opportunity to work with Peggy Sprague at Covertdale Farm and learn methods for starting young horses and re-schooling OTTB’s (Off The Track Thoroughbreds).  “Havoc” and “Michelle” are two of Peggy’s home-breds that Christine has had the pleasure of showing.

Mackie BrownServices that are available at Mill Street Stables include boarding ( 2 stalls are currently available), haul-ins for training, and lessons on Mill Street horses of various disciplines and levels. There are also plenty of clinic opportunities to be enjoyed all year around. James has worked with some seriously big names during his career, including George Morris, Anne Kursinski, Victor Hugo-Vidal and dressage trainers Paul Belasik and Paul Alvin-Smith.

Mill Street Stall"We have something to fit everyone's budget here and cover all the major English disciplines," explained Christine when I had a chance to sit down with her during a very busy recent clinic at Mill Street, " Whether you are jumping two foot six courses, need some help with your child, need overnight stabling or would just like to complete a short intensive course of equestrian education, we can help."

Private lessons start as low as $35/hour which is an incredibly reasonable rate and there are two scales of board. The very reasonable regular board includes four lessons a month and then there is training board for the serious competitor that is a bit more expensive but also very reasonable. You can lease, half lease or just lesson on the Mill Street horses. The horses I saw go at the clinic ( and I have a particularly trained eye on such matters I've will brag), looked sound, well turned out and happy in their work. The " Marvelous Mill Street Stables" also offer an A La Carte service menu that is also fairly priced for any service you could possibly need for your horse. All these prices and options are clearly laid out on their website at which in this author's opinion is very professional practice as I believe being up front with rates and options is very important for any business. Surveys of people shopping for options or boarding indicate that spelling out your rates in this way garners more clientele than going the " Call Us" option which simply puts people off.

Another huge advantage that I as a horse person see to the Mill Street Stables operation is that James and Christine are both very hands on, and as owners they are there 24/7 to be sure everything is properly taken care of. As a boarder/student you have access seven days a week. This is great for those that run crazy schedules and need to be able to pop in and ride when it works for them.

Burkley ColeThere are also plenty of opportunities to attend horse shows with the very active Mill Street Team. James can be found on the jumping circuit in Syracuse so if you see him out and about, don't be shy to say hello. Preferably after the class! Both James and Christine are very keen to introduce riders to all disciplines of riding, and as these are all available 'under one roof' it is a great opportunity for riders of all ages and all levels. Recent outings included showing at Hunters at Farmer's Museum Horse Show in Cooperstown, where student Burkley Cole placed first in the under saddle class with her horse 'Tony', and a visit to Great Vista Farm where students volunteered as fence judges and gained a valuable insight in to the running of the show. Team Mill Street then attended another Great Vista event and participated to good success, with all riders finishing the course with Christine and James competing on some young horses and many of the students starting off on course for the first time. All their planned events for 2014 are available on their website.

James Coaching at Great Vista

"It was a great time and everyone did well. We were very proud of them all," said Christine. As a mother of three and also trainer of horse folks of all ages, I can attest to Christine's innate ability to handle children with good leadership and ease. Regularly various children would politely pop by and wait respectfully to ask their questions during our interview. Their questions were answered openly, directly and with an eye to safety and not just convenience. During the clinic I audited where James was teaching, his style was patient and encouraging while still challenging the riders that needed it. Not every good rider can be a good instructor, but James has the talent to do both.

Hacking Back After Cross Country

Handily located between Oneonta and Norwich, and within two and a half hours of Syracuse, Saratoga and HITS Saugerties, Mill Street Stables is centered in the perfect triangle to access a myriad of shows.

"We picked Gilbertsville because we loved the facility and saw that it had so much potential. We liked the village and the location is great between three major equestrian competition destinations. That is important as both Christine and I love to compete and we want to share that experience with serious competition minded riders, " said James.
"We are also keen to bring equestrian opportunities to folks of all ages and levels in the area, and we welcome folks to give us a call, come say Hi and get introduced to our horses and see all we have to offer."

When I asked James what the very best thing was about the choice of this location to establish their new business James grinned widely and said with a twinkle in his eye that belied his Irish ancestry, " The grass. It is so nice after living out West with horses all my life to see the horses on grass. " With his name McDonald, and as an English woman myself, I could well appreciate his appreciation of the 'Green'.

For more information on The Marvelous Mill Street Stables please call 607 783 2227 or visit their website