My Weekend at Hilltop Farm

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By Margaret Stocum

In the beginning of May, I was going through my Facebook feed when I saw a link to a USDF program called “Life on a Breeding Farm”. At the time, I was not a USDF member, but I was intrigued to find out more about the program. As I started to investigate the list of things this program would cover, I realized how perfect the timing of it would be. This year, I delivered my first foal out of my Dutch Warmblood mare, and I was thrilled to find out that the program would cover a little bit of everything about breeding, from the reproduction side to conformation and movement, to training in-hand and under saddle with different aged horses. There was no better time to get involved, become a USDF member, and sign up for the program, since it was focused for young breeders like myself!

The USDF Sport Horse Youth Breeder Seminar “Life on a Breeding Farm” was held at Hilltop Farm in Colora, MD. Hilltop Farm is a state of the art facility and a perfect place to host the program. The two day seminar was a flood of valuable information.

Learning about the basics of conformation and movement.
Photo by Michaela Tolman

We started the morning by going over some basics of conformation and movement, with Kristi Wysocki. Kristi was a fabulous presenter and played a major role throughout the whole weekend. Her wealth of knowledge was evident through all of her presentations, and her priority was helping all of the participants learn. After Kristi’s presentation, the group split into two. One group went to see the mare and foal barn, while the other, myself included, went to the stallion barn to learn more about the collection process. Hilltop Farm allowed us to observe the semen collection from one of their stallions, and see how it is processed. I was glad this was in the day’s schedule because it gave me a new appreciation for the work involved before you receive your stallion order. The rest of the afternoon was spent in Hilltop’s beautiful indoor arena with head trainer Michael Bragdell, discussing the way he trains and handles the foals, young horses, and stallions. We were able to watch his daily routine as he rode variously aged horses. With each horse, we evaluated their gait and Kristi gave examples of their strengths and weaknesses. I found it beneficial because I could see the horse in person as she pointed things out.

Sunday started with Kristi again, discussing development of the foal to adulthood and their characteristics that you can predict as they age. Afterwards, we headed back into the arena to observe Michael ride more horses. It was great to listen to him give details of his training philosophy and then see it in action with a variety of horses. It was not only informative, but inspiring. Later on, my group got their turn in the mare and foal barn. What fun it was to walk into a barn full of babies! We were able to talk to Hilltop’s veterinarian about breeding, and got to watch a few ultrasounds. It truly is a miracle what goes into getting a foal on the ground!

Hilltop stallion Qredit and head trainer Michael Bragdell.

I left Hilltop Farm that weekend, having learned so many new things and meeting a great group of people. Kristi Wysocki, Natalie DiBerardinis, Michael Bragdell, and all the other presenters and staff made the weekend a valuable, educational experience. I plan on applying the new knowledge I obtained to the everyday handling and training of my new colt. Thank you USDF, for organizing an incredible event!

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