Owning a Horse Boarding Barn and Raising 5 Children
Many people have taken on the challenge of owning a horse boarding barn, but add raising five kids into the mix - and it can get a little crazy.
Ashley Roberts is the owner of Windemere Farm, the mother of five children, six dogs, and runs a successful Instagram account, @windemerefarm, with over two thousand followers that documents her everyday life. We at GoHorse.com interviewed Roberts so we could learn more about her life and how she is impacting the horse world and how the horse world is impacting her.
How do you balance being a mom of five and being a horse boarding barn owner, what is an average day like?
Well, it is a total zoo. I think the saving grace for me is that our horse boarding barn is right across the street from where we live. I can go over there easily whenever I need to. For us, a typical day during the school year consists of me dropping off the kids at school and heading straight to the barn. Especially in Texas, it gets so hot so if you don't go in the morning it is miserable. When I'm at the barn I handle everything from all feed orders to just managing everything overall. We have a full-time groom, and he's been with us from the start so that is a huge help. We also have a trainer who lives on site but he manages his own business, with his own clients. But all of his clients are my boarders so he only handles the training part of it. After all of the barn stuff I go and pick up my kids and then, of course, there are after-school activities. Two of my girls ride horses and they ride three or four times per week. That makes it easy so they just can come with me back to the barn right after school. My boys all do sports so they have a ton of afterschool activities. I don't really know how the balance works, but we seem to find it. On not so typical days we are on the road because we show too; it can be crazy.
One thing that is a huge help is that we have my parents and sister (who also has five kids) who live on the same property as us. Two of my sister's girls did ride and show at our barn, but they just graduated and now they are on the horsemanship team at Texas A&M. So before they left they really helped out with driving and different things like that. So this coming year may be more of a challenge. It definitely takes a village, but I have a lot of help from family. Like anything in life, it doesn't happen overnight. I didn't wake up with five kids, it was a gradual progression that is always moving and changing. Things happen slowly, and you have time to figure things out on the way.
How did you meet your trainer, and how did that relationship develop?
I have known Duke Williams for about seven years now. Right when we met him we had just adopted two of our five children, and since they were from Ethiopia, they were obviously not English speaking and they were a little older than when we brought our first son home. So that required me to stay home for about 6 months to stay at home and get them caught up and adjusted so they could go to school and easily join in. At the time we had horses and my nieces were showing and I was basically the only person hauling them back and forth shows. I was just overwhelmed so I decided we have to make a change. I had to bring the horses to a full-time trainer and that is how I met Duke.
He was working with an AQHA trainer named Brad Jewett and they were in San Antonio, which is close to us, so we called them up and brought the horses there. At the time Brad was traveling a ton so Duke was basically the only trainer there. We just started working together and we really hit it off. I had two yearlings that I brought there for a while and we really developed a great relationship. As time progressed and things settled down in my life, it made sense to build a barn and get something closer. The property we built on was a place that had a pasture board when I was around twelve years old when I had my own horse. We always had our eye on this property and it was supposed to go to a big development, and that fell through and we were able to purchase it. It all fell together and Duke was ready to go on his own, after working for this other trainer for about five years. And that is when I invited him to come and start a business. Duke is just an honest guy, great with the horses. His customers don’t leave, it is a family. And now we have got partner horses, we do breeding, and he runs his sole business out of the barn as well.
Tell me more about your two older daughters who show at your barn, what is their relationship like?
It is interesting because I never grew up showing at the level that they do, they travel all over the United States, where I always did it a lot more locally. I really couldn't trade it for the world for them to get to travel around and get all of those experiences and do it together makes it that much more fun. It is actually really similar to my sister's girls because one of them is from Ukraine and one is biological, and they also showed together, which just creates a really strong bond for sure.
One of the things with my Instagram is that I want to show their true bond and how close my girls are. Instagram is a balance of putting out your best life but also being a true depiction of your life, and that is what I try to do with what I post. My photos are a true depiction of my girls and how much they love their horses, which is really great to see. It just makes it all worthwhile because it is a very expensive sport, so I love showing others how much they enjoy it.
You recently got back from Italy, tell me more about that experience and how you managed your barn while you were away.
Yes, we just spent fifteen days in Italy, it was supposed to be fourteen days but our flight got canceled so it was extended. Three of our kids went with us, and our two boys went to sports camp. It was a trip of a lifetime for sure, but about four days too long - we definitely got homesick. As far as preparation I basically just lined everything out. I had over ample supplies and everything organized and I have a groom that lives on site that's been there for two years and he knows all the ends and out. He handled all of that. And the on-site trainer was there in case everything went awry. You know the rule of thumb every time you leave everything falls apart - but luckily that did not happen for us. It all went smoothly! But you know in this day in age you have phones and they could reach me if they needed to.
How did you get started with Instagram?
I was never a big Instagrammer, in fact, I’m not a huge social media person in general. But a friend of mine was telling me that I have to get into Instagram. So I looked into it. Jasmine star started as a photographer and back before when I was a mom of two and I didn't run a horse barn I did photography and weddings and that's how I got introduced to Jasmine. She has gone from photographer to a huge social media guru and she travels around the world talking about how to use IG and Facebook to build small businesses, anyway so I started watching her stuff and got into Instagram. I don't even know how many clients I have gotten through Instagram. It is such an easy platform to use and it reaches so many different people. I have gotten someone from Texas and two ladies from California through Instagram. So I have been really pleased with it. It is easy to use and with my photography background, it has really worked well for me.
So I noticed you definitely have a theme to the photos you post, what is the motive behind posting those kinds of images?
I think I tend to just go in that direction anyway. I mean when I did photography that was how I did most of my work, and I love Kirstie Marie, she comes down and like i said we do performance horses to so we have clients in the barn who show, and my daughters show, so she comes down frequently and does a lot of our photographs and stuff like that and I take some of the two so it is a conglomeration, so yes looking at it I like using light colors and I only use outdoors photos. I use show photos sometimes, but those are indoors and sometimes I do not like those as much, so it can be tricky. But I really don't have a plan or color scheme I just kind of go towards what I like.
So, what's next for your family?
Well, another big element of our life is our dogs, and we currently have six of them. We recently got into dog breeding and it all started a few years ago when we were at a horse show with some good friends of ours, and they had a pregnant poodle. My girls started talking to them about breeding and found out how much they can make for each puppy. They are actually little entrepreneurs and it can get a little out of hand sometimes. So, my oldest daughter at the time was selling baked goods at a horse show to raise money to buy this dog, and she wound up buying a Bernedoodle which is a Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle combined. It is this new hot breed since they don't shed and are ridiculously cute. My other daughter then decides that she wants just a Bernese Mountain Dog, so she saves up her money and buys one as well. They convinced me that we are going to get a male poodle and get into dog breeding. So, I am a sucker and now we are business partners in dog breeding. We are expecting our first litter of first generation Bernedoodle's and another litter of second generation Bernedoodle's that are expected to come by the end of July. It is all fun and games unless we can't sell these puppies, so ask me in a couple months if I think this is a good idea! Overall, I have actually loved the experience because it is teaching my kids a ton of responsibility. Actually right before we went to Italy one of the female pregnant dogs got into some kind of poisonous plant and broke out all over her neck. So she has to be washed and treated with this medicine twice a day, and my daughter gets to do that
What would you want people to know about you and your business?
When it comes to our barn, care is our number one thing. So many people in our industry get caught up on if a horse is not a performance horse then they are not important, they can get thrown out to the pasture with poor nutrition. At our barn, we have a huge mix, including retired and non-retired horses. We stress to make it that every horse is taken care of just as well as our performance horses. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable in our barn, it isn't snooty, it is a place where people can just enjoy their horses. We really want to take it back to the level of people just loving their horses.
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