Whisper Wind Equestrian Center is Nothing to Whisper About
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
There is nothing simple about developing and maintaining a successful equestrian boarding and training business, as many of us know first hand. The hours are long and the work hard, but hopefully at the end of the day, it is truly rewarding.
To find out what is involved in running an equestrian center we spoke with veteran trainer and barn owner Valerie McCloskey and discussed her Whisper Wind Equestrian Center, located in Rome, New York.
The center was built eleven years ago and offers sixty acres of grass turnout with paddocks that are an average of at least five acres in size. The main barn has 12x12 matted stalls and a smaller barn offer ten 9x10 stalls. It also boasts a large indoor arena with sand rubber mix footing, a large outdoor jumping arena, and a regulation outdoor dressage arena. While the amenities for the horses are first class, so are the amenities for the human contingent with a large heated viewing lounge (with a full kitchen), and a bathroom with a washer/dryer and shower. The center is also an approved U.S. Pony Club facility.
Valerie has an extensive background in the horse world and explained how she arrived at building and developing Whisper Wind.
I have been in business for over 30 years. I was working out of other stables until my farm was built. I had a very large clientele of both training and lesson students and there was a not a place for everyone to be in at the same time. I also wanted certain things at my facility that I was not able to find elsewhere, so I decided to build Whisper Wind. I wanted a facility that was open to all disciplines and all breeds of horses and that offered a very consistent program for the education of horses and riders; [a program] based in classical principles and balanced seat riding to develop happy athletes both human and equine. My background in horses is extensive. I started riding at age 4. I have ridden and shown Western Pleasure, Hunters, Equitation and Dressage through FEI as well as Western Dressage. I am a CHA Master Instructor in both Western and English/Dressage as well as Assistant Clinic Instructor.
The mission for Whisper Wind is to offer a training/learning center to foster and encourage learning and growth for the horses and their owners. Valerie welcomes and encourages all disciplines and breeds:
We strive to offer a very friendly and supportive environment where everyone helps and encourages each other. Whisper Wind has truly become a family. Our clients enjoy the close bonds with their horses and other owners, due to our philosophy. My vision has not really changed, and I am very grateful that Whisper Wind is truly fulfilling its mission as a premier riding/ learning academy for equestrian art and not limited to dressage but open to all disciplines.
As with any business, there have been highs and lows along the way. The greatest obstacle Valerie has found is the finding time to get away and explained that even if she is able to get away for a few days, she always has to be available in case someone needs her and that it can be difficult to never truly have a break from the business.
The best piece of advice I could give someone wanting to open their own facility would be, make sure you are willing to eat, sleep, drink, dream horses 24/7, twelve months a year and 12-14 hours a day. If you want to travel, have time off and enjoy life outside your farm, then this may not be for you. You have to be willing to make huge sacrifices both personal and financial to be successful. If you hope to be financially wealthy, then owning a farm is not your best route. I think you will find most owners do because they have an intense passion for all things equine. You have a vacation planned and now you have a sick horse or your help quit, this means you are now staying home taking care of the farm, and that may mean no vacation at all that year. If you don't want [a] life outside the farm, then it can be very rewarding. I find great joy in caring for the horses [and] getting to know them personally. I enjoy the daily handling and interaction with them. I especially enjoy my barn family, a group of outstanding people that I get to see everyday.
The greatest high for Valerie in establishing the farm has been being able to see her students and horses flourish under her training and care program and watching her business develop successfully. Most of her students have been with her for over fifteen years, before the center was even built.
Valerie is a huge proponent of continued education and feels this a valuable piece of the puzzle in developing your horse business into a viable operation.
I can not stress enough how important it is to keep learning. I seek out every opportunity to learn more about nutrition, I look for stable management ideas. I read attend webinars and lectures for this. I also have the nutritionist in regularly to help with our feeding program. On a personal level for both my riding and teaching, I attend clinics as often as possible and this may mean trailering my horses five hours away to work with one of my coaches /mentors monthly. If I am unable to ride, I try to audit. All of this of course is only if I can get away from the farm.
In line with this philosophy of education, Whisper Wind offers a monthly clinic series. They offer clinics in almost everything from jumping, rider biomechanics, both dressage and western dressage, problem solving, Raindrop Therapy, in-hand work, and so much more. Their events are posted on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/Whisper-Wind-Equestrian-Center-211945566757.
Valerie has a busy schedule with two of her own horses currently schooling Grand Prix dressage and takes their training very seriously.
I believe in taking my time to make sure the horses are confident in their work before I bring them out to show. I do not put a timeline on them- they will let me know when they are ready. I have many very talented young horses coming along, some of which will be offered for sale. I have also acquired two phenomenal potential breeding stallion prospects, so I will see how they progress.
And if all this doesn’t keep Valerie busy enough, she is also available for off-site clinics and recently graduated with honors from the dressage judges ‘L’ program.
I am spending a lot of time working in my judging and hopefully advancing as I truly enjoy judging and hope to make it a much bigger part of my career.
If you would like to take a lesson, audit, ride in a clinic, or board your horse and enjoy some training time, please visit http://whisperwindequestrian.com/