A paradise for horse loversJun 01, 2016 08:54AM ● By Richard Gaw
Juliana Hutchings and Ian Sebring with Circulate, a former race horse who is used for lessons.
By John Chambless
Juliana Hutchings has a snapshot of herself as a young girl, with a too-large riding helmet covering her eyes and a beaming smile that shows how proud she is to be sitting astride a small horse. The photo was taken at Appleton Stables. Today, Hutchings has taken over running the facility.
“I bought my first horse here,” Hutchings said during a tour of the business, now called Appleton Equestrian, on Appleton Road in Elkton. “This was the common ground where Cecil County people learned to ride, and where horse shows were held. This was where my first horse show was, when I was 4.”
In late October of last year, Hutchings and her boyfriend, Ian Sebring, who are both 26, with funding from her father, bought the 20-acre property from its previous owner.
“She bought it and ran it for 30-plus years,” Hutchings said. “This was on the market for quite a while. The reason she sold to us was that she had known me. She wanted the farm to go to someone who was going to do teaching and shows. She loved kids, and she wanted somebody to carry on her dream, which is exactly what I wanted to do.”
Hutchings grew up in Landenberg. Her love of horses began, she said, “literally before I could walk. I was an infant. I don't remember it, but there are photos of me sitting on a horse while someone holds me. My dad's horse, Hubert, was the first horse I ever rode.”
Her childhood and teen years were spent competing, and she dreamed of someday making a career out of riding. During college in Columbia, S.C., in 2011, she met Sebring, who had dreamed of someday owning his own farm. After college, Hutchings tried working in life insurance, as a graphic designer and a property manager, “but I kept coming back to horses,” she said.
She knew Appleton was up for sale, but never considered buying it until her mother mentioned that she should ask her father to fund the purchase. “My dad's a CPA, he's always been a very realistic, money-focused person,” she said. “He always said, 'You can't make a living off of horses.' But he finally came around. Buying this was pretty much his idea. We came up with a business plan to pitch to my dad. We worked it out so we pay rent to him, and we're slowly working it off.”
She and Sebring live in the large home near the barns, and they've been busy over the winter and spring. Sebring built new fencing and a tack room in the barn, and cleared out the overgrown property. They've begun restoring the pool behind the house and tending to the 17 horses that live at Appleton, seven of which are used for riding instruction. Sebring works at Tractor Supply in Elkton. But getting a revamped business up and running is pretty much a full-time job for them both.
“I love teaching, and imparting my knowledge to others,” Hutchings said. “I love competing and the challenge of it. I love to ride to achieve something, so I like to work toward a goal. It's inspiring to see my students improve.
“We started an eventing team here for three-day eventing,” Hutchings said. “That's my favorite sport. I have 11 riders on the team now. We go around and compete. Although I'm not competing right now, I'm putting it all into my riders. I want to build up the farm first, before I go back to competing.”
The main barn has 10 stalls. There are two smaller barns, with 10 more stalls. The labor of keeping them clean and caring for the horses is shared with students, who work off the fees for their lessons by working on the farm. “It's essentially the two of us, with an occasional student,” Hutchings said.
Walking around the sprawling property, Sebring and Hutchings pointed out the chickens exploring their pen in the back yard. “They pretty much have the life of Riley,” Hutchings said. “We also have two ducks and a peacock, named Appleton. And five cats. The farm came with nine cats, but my dad did not like us feeding nine cats. So four went to other barn homes.”
Among the horses on site, Verbina, 25, is ideal as a trainer, Hutchings said. “She's what we call our dressage schoolmaster. She is basically good at everything, and can teach a rider who knows nothing about dressage and make them feel like they're ready for the Olympics.” For the youngest riders, Checkers, a pony, “teaches all the beginners,” Hutchings said.
As a side project, Hutchings is also an author. She wrote “A Horse to Remember” when she was 14, based on a game that she and her sister used to play with their toy Breyer horses. The book, published when she was 17, has been followed with a sequel that Hutchings wrote and self-published after she finished college. “It's a girl and horse story, in a lesson barn setting, so it's kind of like my life now,” she said.
Appleton Equestrian has lessons for adults and children, hosts shows, and offers an “EquiShare” program in which participants can pay a monthly fee and get as many weekly rides as they want on horses that live at the farm. The facility is across the road from 5,600 acres of pristine open land in Fair Hill's park that riders are welcome to use.
“We'd like to bring back horse shows, we've had an interest in Western shows, like barrel racing, and we want to serve the community for quality riding instruction,” Hutchings said. “We want to meet the needs of upper-level riders who don't necessarily want to ride with the Olympians, but are looking for somebody who knows what they're talking about.”
Someday, Hutchings and Sebring envision adding an indoor arena to the property, but that's at least $100,000 away. For now, “this is a dream come true,” Hutchings said with a wide smile. “We'd like to raise a family here someday. This is really the best place for us.”
For more information, visit www.appletonequestrian.com.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email [email protected].