10.2012, by Kim Miller for Horse Sport InternationalMy Kingdom, Mi Casa...Barb Ellison's Wild Turkey Farm
There were a lot of complicated questions to ask in the 10-year process of developing 215 acres of hazelnut trees into a 100-horse breeding, training and retirement facility. But for Barb Ellison, the answer to most questions was pretty simple: "What's best for the horses?"
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Surrounded by verdant green pastures that stretch to the horizon, with wide-open skies sprawling overhead, one has a palpable sense of the “terroir” that inspired Barbara Ellison in the design and construction of her new Wild Turkey Farm facility in the Willamette Valley wine country town of Wilsonville, Oregon.
The farm’s 215 rolling acres of former Filbert orchard are flanked to the south by a lazy stretch of the Willamette River and straddle the main artery of Oregon’s horse country, Wilsonville Road, with Rich Fellers Stables and other premiere equestrian facilities located just a few miles down the road.
Ellison, a native of the Pacific Northwest, had always maintained fond memories of a childhood riding with Wheylan Meyers and Jay and Claudia Campf, and later, working as a trail guide on Oregon’s beaches. As Wild Turkey Farm, and specifically the stallion operation, began to outgrow its farm in Woodside, California, a return to Oregon, with its tranquility and pristine farmland so close to the “big city” of Portland, made perfect sense.
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2.2012, by Erin Gilmore for ProEquest.com A Winter Glimpse Inside Wild Turkey Farm
You know you’re a horse person when you can’t get through a family vacation…. not even Christmas…. without squeezing in a horse-related side trip.
Luckily, I’m blessed with a tolerant family who understands that the close proximity of a well-known sporthorse farm to my brother’s home in Portland Oregon is a happy coincidence. And naturally, they chose not to argue when this coincidence necessitated a diversion from family vacation time during a recent trip to Portland.
Barbara Ellison finished building Wild Turkey Farm in early 2011 after ten years of searching for, planning and finally constructing her dream farm from the ground up. Originally an amateur/owner rider in Woodside, CA, she purchased several successful stallions in the 1990s, and her small breeding operation has since grown into a nationally and internationally recognized program.
Wild Turkey’s new and permanent home in Wilsonville, OR only adds to that recognition. As a freelance writer, I’d written about the farm multiple times without ever seeing it, so I couldn’t resist cashing in on my invitation to visit anytime when I was in the area. And even though it was just after Christmas day, Barb was an extremely gracious and welcoming host.
The day was typical of a Portland winter – chilly and grey with the skies spitting rain. But in any weather, Wild Turkey Farm is simply jaw dropping. Professional photos, and certainly not my iPhone ones can’t begin to do the 200-acre farm justice. A 22-stall training barn, competition size indoor arena, outdoor arena, 24-stall broodmare barn, 12 stall stallion barn and 15-stall retirement barn dot a rolling landscape filled in only by fenced pastures.
Wild Turkey is a rarity on the West Coast for several reasons, but the chief one among them can be summed up in one word: space. The sheer amount of space available for horses is impressive; every horse spends time in pasture, the young horses live out in groups, and walking from barn to barn takes awhile.
Inside the cavernous barns with raised ceilings and shining pine walls, the theme of spaciousness continues. Spotless breeding lab, crossties, barn aisle, et al makes an impression that is more Kentucky than Oregon, but where the horses are concerned, it definitely works. My father, who is a contractor and very talented home remodeler (I'm not biased at all) was more than happy to accompany me to the farm; the architectural aspect of the farm design and building materials had him entertained while I sought out the main attractions - the horses!
It was slightly surprising but very refreshing to meet the Wild Turkey stallions, (again horses I’d written about more than actually seen) happily sporting thick winter coats and long manes. There’s nothing better than seeing a horse enjoying just being a horse, even more so when that horse is a big important grand prix jumper. From Wild Turkey foundation stallion Liocalyon, to retired jumper Lavita, to the stallion Chesapeake that is still in competition, the whole barn was clearly enjoying down time.
I was told that a few of them were days away from a bodyclipping in preparation for Thermal, but still…
Does this farm have a downside? If it did, I didn’t find it. Many of the Wild Turkey Horses are now en route to or competing at Thermal, which is a nice facility in itself, but if horses can get homesick, it’s a pretty sure bet that they’re looking forward to returning home to their own personal utopia.
8.22.2011, by Keith Súileabháin for Horse ShowBiz Magazine Living the Dream: Barbara Ellison and Wild Turkey Farms are Creating Future Champions
Barbara Ellison has had a dream since she was a little girl. That dream was to someday own a horse farm. Sometimes dreams do come true, and this one did in the form of Wild Turkey Farm, Wilsonville, Oregon, a top-notch breeding facility a decade in the making.
Following the guidance of her parents, one that measures true enthusiasm as opposed to a fleeting fancy in an activity, she helped fund her own riding. She combined her passion for horses with earning money during her summers in Oregon - leading trail rides on the beach for up to twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Later, as a working student at a horse facility, always working hard, and always thinking of the future.
College and Beyond
The enthusiasm for horses was put on hold while Barbara attended Stanford, ultimately earning a degree with an English Literature major. Using that major in the business world, however, was problematic. The first job out of college was for a real estate investment trust, where she was involved with both the sales and financial aspects of the business. At a subsequent job, she became the tenth employee at Relational Software, Inc., which later changed its name to Oracle Corporation.
Rediscovering her passion for horses after marrying, and the eventual birth of her first child, she started riding with Jan Pearce, at first just once a week, then in short order, every day. Over the years, she has ridden with many top trainers including Butch and Lu Thomas, Carleton Brooks, Mandy Porter, and now Soehnke Theymann. Some years after riding with Butch and Lu, they sent her a video of a five year old stallion named LioCalyon. Impressed with his jumping form, Barbara purchased him immediately upon viewing the tape. After acquiring a couple of stallions and a number of broodmares, she decided that her 11 acre Woodside, California farm was not sufficient for what was becoming a growing horse operation.
Labor of Love
It took a decade of work, from the initial acquisition of land, through the design and building of the facilities, to become a fully-operational horse breeding farm and realize her dream facility, but the results are quite stunning. Following the model established by the famous Oregon WPA project of the 1930’s, the Timberline Lodge, she not only chose to use local builders and craftsmen, but utilized local materials and architecture to blend with the surrounding environment.
Wild Turkey’s original stock of broodmares consisted of successful, but retired show horses, including Barbara’s horse, Summer, a two-time participant in the World Cup finals. Broodmares are now selected primarily for their conformation, with additional consideration given to their performance abilities and mental attributes, with an eye towards blending those characteristics with the six stallions currently standing at the farm. Barbara considers the most satisfying aspects of the farm as being present for the birth of every foal, being able to watch the progress, and recognize the distinct personalities of the foals and young horses.
Parade of Champions
The foundation of the Wild Turkey stallions is unequivocally LioCalyon. Lio is quite the character, with a sweet tooth for peppermints and is certainly the unabashed showoff in front of the mares, as he does the forelock flip when they saunter by. Barbara’s daughter, Megan, rode this stallion as her FEI North American Young Rider’s horse, competing successfully throughout the West Coast and at Spruce Meadows in Canada.
LioCalyon’s offspring have started to come of age now, and are amassing impressive records. He was ranked 41st in the USEF’s ranking of leading jumper sires in 2009, and 15th in 2010. Two of his top foals are Dunstan Delphi and Peterbilt, both of which competed in the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky. Dunstan Delphi, recently sold to a Saudi Arabian syndicate for a reported multi-million dollar price, was previously owned and ridden by New Zealander Katie McVean, and piloted to success all over the world, including equaling New Zealand records in the World Cup finals and the World Equestrian Games. Fellow New Zealander Guy Thomas, based out of California, has won numerous Grand Prix and World Cup competitions on Peterbilt, including the Cargill Cup at Spruce Meadows in Canada, and the $150,000 Northern California Triple Crown of Show Jumping.
Hooray for Hollywood
According to Barbara, having children was a life changing event for her and one that she credits with making her considerably more tolerant, flexible, and able to conduct herself successfully through the other various challenges of life. Her children, David and Megan, both rode when they were young, David until he was 13, and Megan though the Young Riders competitions; however both eventually moved on to other interests, namely acrobatic flying and mountain climbing, respectfully. She indentifies her children as the most important part of her life.
Both David and Megan, who share a passion for movies, independently started their own production companies. David’s company recently produced True Grit, the second highest grossing Western of all time, and is producing the soon-to-be released Mission Impossible 4; while Megan, who was also involved with the production of True Grit, has generally opted for high quality independent, and intellectual cinema productions.
While family and horses are Barbara’s primary focus, she is also well known on the West Coast for her photographic skills. Her interest in photography started with a camera her father gave her while she was in high school. She was the only female taking sports action photos at the time – photos that bought her recognition for their composition and creativity. For the last few years, you often see her at horse shows or around the farm taking photos. She regards her photography as an escape, and a chance to express her creativity.
It’s the End Results that Count
The real measure of a person is not how they navigate the easy times, but rather how they manage difficult and challenging circumstances. The caring, nurturing, and patient personae of Barbara Ellison has yielded impressive results with both her children and her horses, each of which need that nurturing, patience and guidance for them to succeed.
Entertainment industry writers are calling David “smart, polite, earnest and disciplined,” while Megan has been noted as having “flawless taste” and being regarded as the “savior of high quality intellectual cinema.” Observers credit Barbara for her children’s sound upbringing, which has ultimately resulted in their emergence as well-regarded entertainment industry players. Barbara is understandably proud of their accomplishments.
Bringing up children takes years of patience and good decisions. Building and establishing a top-notch horse breeding facility also takes years of planning, patience and well reasoned decisions. An idyllic location was found for Wild Turkey farm, and well-planned, efficient and architecturally integrated facilities were established. The farm’s stallions and their offspring are succeeding nationally and internationally. Barbara Ellison is truly living the dream.
Barb Ellison is an intriguingly simple, but complex, mix of energy and Polly Anna enthusiasm. After all the years in the horse business, it is interesting to hear her talk. “The most glorious time of the day for me,” she says, “is just at dusk as it drifts into twilight. I wander down to the fields and the barns and walk among the foals. They are quiet finally, from their day romping and playing. The mares are softly munching hay and give me free rein with their babies as I stand and wait while foals wander up to me so I can scratch their ears; I know them each by heart. I inevitably find a place to sit for a bit and watch them as the sun sets. It is at this time I feel the closest to them, it is at this time all seems at peace. I am so fortunate to have these marvelous creatures in my life. Actually in a way, they are my life. I am blessed!”
Wild Turkey Farm’s flagship stallion Lio Calyon is the 2010 winner of the USEF South Pacific Award, presented to the leading U.S.-based sire of show jumpers. Lio Calyon’s ranking is due in a large part to his grand prix son, Peterbilt (Lio Calyon-Jeribos, by Concorde) owned by Peterbilt LLC. During 2010, Peterbilt and Guy Thomas won 4 grand prix events, including the $30K Jennifer Marlborough Memorial GP, $25K Capital City Classic GP, $25K Prix de Pickwick, $25K HITS Grand Prix, and placed 2nd in the $300K Grand Prix of the Desert. The highlight of the season however, was when Peterbilt and team mate Delphi (also by Lio Calyon) were chosen to represent New Zealand at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY. Peterbilt began his career by winning the International Jumper Futurity at 4, followed by wins in the Young Jumper Championships at 5 and 6. The South Pacific award is sponsored by Joan Irvine Smith and The Oaks in memory of South Pacific, who won the award twice- in 2006 and 2009.
Past Winners of the South Pacific Award include:
- 2010 – Lio Calyon
- 2009 – South Pacific
- 2008 – Quick Star
- 2007 – Guilty Conscience
- 2006 – South Pacific
- 2005 – Ocean II
- 2004 – Consul
What defines a successful breeder? Patience, skill, careful management and a wealth of knowledge are a given, but combining all those factors into a winning formula is an art.
We talked to two West Coast breeders who made it a point to prove that some of the very best sporthorses don’t have to fly over from Europe. Certainly not backyard operations, these ladies built names for themselves and their horses on the backs of their successful breeding programs.
Allotting for the fact that tastes vary – from fashion to wine and well-bred horses - Tish Quirk and Barbara Ellison may skew in slightly different directions, however they both possess an uncanny mix of the finesse, patience, know-how and planning that “breeds” success.
Four Sensational Generations: Lucky Lines
When a horse named Best of Luck (Lucky Boy x Ilonka) arrived at the sale barn that Tish Quirk ran with husband John in San Diego over 30 years ago, she never could have predicted the path that this fabulous horse would lead her down.
“Everyone who saw him wanted to buy him,” remembers Tish. “Every time we imported a horse by Lucky Boy, Best of Luck’s sire, it sold immediately. They were the exact right horses for our market, and it just made sense to continue the bloodline right here.”
Best of Luck, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 28, became an indelible foundation stallion. Throughout his career, he was a phenomenon in the show ring, and he passed his most dominant traits on to his sons, Just the Best and More than Luck. Tish is now showing the third generation offspring, and has the fourth generation on the ground. Best of Luck sired FEI dressage horses, international grand prix jumping stars, excellent hunters and top-level eventers. And in this age of rapidly advancing science, Tish has more than Google searches to back up her knowledge. She began her education while she was still an agent buying horses in Europe. It was then when she learned to study “the angle of the whole horse and what made him what he was,” she explains. “Bloodlines are interesting but are not the end all of the horse. What’s more accurate for me is to know the horses.”
Working with top breeders in Europe who knew the bloodlines for four generations back, Tish learned that ingrained perspective. “What’s on paper, results and such, is deeply affected by who owns the horse and how much they compete,” she continues. “The heart of horses is not the papers, and it’s not on the Internet.”
Along that vein, for the last 30 years Tish has spent seven days of the week out in the barn, putting her hands on the Best of Luck progeny, knowing each horse from her daily interactions. “I certainly have help, but I do most of the work myself,” remarks Tish, who not only runs her own breeding operation but also oversees many mares when they foal. As the time of birth draws near, she stays in the barn bedroom she’s furnished and watches the mare’s every move on the monitoring system.
With accomplishments are too long to list that include champions at every national show in the country, from Devon to Del Mar, Tish has certainly illustrated that the proof is in the progeny.
Dreams Come True: Wild Turkeys Can Jump
In just 15 years, Barbara Ellison’s Wild Turkey Farm’s Holsteiner stallions have made an unmistakable mark on the sporthorse scene.
As an amateur rider in Northern California’s Woodside, Barbara juggled horses and raising children throughout the ‘90s. But as she collected a stable of stallions and her kids grew up, her goals began to shift. Purchasing her first stallion, Wizard, in 1995, then trainers Butch and Lu Thomas sent her a tape of Holsteiner stallion Liocalyon and things started to pick up speed. The stallions Admiral Z and La Vita quickly followed, and one day she thought, “I should start breeding these boys!” Six years later, she officially began marketing Wild Turkey Farms with a bold ad campaign that has since become a trademark.
Top notch rider Mandy Porter put the Wild Turkey jumpers on the map, most notably with the (recently retired) mare Summer, a two-time World Cup Final competitor and 2006 Pacific Coast Horse Association Horse of the Year. She continues to campaign Wild Turkey stallions on the West Coast grand prix circuit, winning two events this summer, the Sonoma Horse Park $30,000 Grand Meadows Grand Prix and the Blenheim EquiSport’s $30,000 Copa De Amistad Grand Prix with LaMarque.
Barb also had a hand in the breeding of New Zealand rider Guy Thomas’ powerhouse stallion Peterbilt (Liocalyon X Jeribos). As the World Equestrian Games approach it is impressive to note that both Peterbilt and fellow Kiwi rider Katie McVean’s mount Dunstan Delphi are both by Liocalyon – and both horses will represent New Zealand in show jumping at WEG.
The success of her jumpers is one goal realized, and now Barbara is on the precipice of another. Ten years ago, she set in motion the dream of owning a horse farm. A native of Portland, Oregon, she’s always wanted to return to her hometown, and as her involvement with breeding deepened, she made plans to build her dream facility on 200 acres outside Portland. The new Wild Turkey Farms is now complete, and Barbara plans to be fully moved in by early next year. Among its many benefits, the new facility will have space – lots of it. Barbara looks forward to completing the move and having all of her horses in one facility, where she’ll have more time to be hands on every day.
She counts her mentors as the fellow breeders that she has built working relationships with: Hilda Baisel, DVM, Anke Magnussen at Royal Oaks and Matt Davis at Crooked Willow.
“I really believe that we can breed good horses in this country. We have the quality right here,” Barbara says. “In Europe people can go to a concentrated area and look at tons of horses. I’m hoping that as I get going, people will see that we have a lot of very nice horses, and they’ll shop on the West Coast.”
The Beat of Breeding Continues
By combining the elements of patience, skill, a good eye and extensive knowledge with a true love of horses, Tish and Barbara can rightly be upheld as examples of sporthorse breeding programs gone right. Whether active for 30 years, or half that long, these West Coast women are masters at breeding superb sporthorses.
6.29.2010, www.Phelpssports.comMandy Porter and LaMarque are Remarkable in the $30,000 Copa De Amistad Grand Prix
San Juan Capistrano, CA – June 27, 2010 – Today’s $30,000 Copa de Amistad Grand Prix, presented by EquiFit, inc. included green and seasoned horses, but the victory gallop was led by the 8-year-old LaMarque with Mandy Porter aboard. Even though it was only the second grand prix of the young Wild Turkey Farm stallion’s career, he has already proven his prowess. Only he and one other horse-rider pair managed to go double clear.
The starting field of twenty-four was whittled down to seven, and the faults were evenly dispersed in Canadian Peter Holmes’ course. Time allowed wasn’t a pressing issue, but the thirteen numbered efforts posed challenges such as two combinations, a red plank with flat jump cups, and an open water obstacle. The final off-the-eye bending line going away from the gate and towards the VIP tent also prevented teams from advancing to the jump off more than once.
“Some [horse and riders] are certainly very seasoned,” Holmes commented, of the entries in the class. “Then, there's some people moving into it, having a go, so it'll be up to them if they're on form and how they handle it. But it's also challenging if you're on form, it flows and happens perfectly and you have a little glitch then all of a sudden it can be 'oops, oops, oops!' it's a very difficult sport to be perfect.”
The usual suspects had clear rounds in the first course. For the jump off, Porter was in the company of the grand prix winners from the past two weeks of this Blenheim June Classic series, Mike Endicott and Susie Hutchison. The consistent combo of Joie Gatlin and Camaron Hills Quick Dollar returned, as well as Leslie Steele, and Lauren Hester. Porter’s other mount, Chesapeake, another stallion owned by Wild Turkey Farm, also came back to jump off.
A shortened course of eight efforts proved a test for even the most seasoned riders. Hutchison and Cantano, who have placed either first or second in the past three grand prix events they have entered, had an unfortunate refusal but still managed to finish under the time allowed. Next to challenge were Porter and Chesapeake with a tidy track that shaved off time, but they left the ring with eight jumping faults.
Another horse making his way up to grand prix ranks, Leslie Steele’s Oh My Goodness, had 12 jumping faults, what Steele called a valuable learning experience for her 8-year-old horse.
“Every time he goes in the ring, he learns something and he always tries,” Steele said, adding that this was only the third grand prix attempt for Oh My Goodness. “From day one, even though he was a little wild man, he’s always tried to be a top horse, a top competitor.”
Following Steele was Joie Gatlin and her World Cup horse, Camaron Hills Quick Dollar. The crowd was quiet and tense after three top riders had bobbles in their jump off trips. Gatlin was conservative and efficient, especially to jump number nine, which she took care to study after the previous riders had trouble with the roll back turn to the vertical. Her trip resulted in four jumping faults as the second-to-last jump came down, but that score with a time of 39.98 took over the lead.
As Gatlin exited, 22-year-old Lauren Hester entered with her mount, Cracky Z. She also took a careful approach to fence number nine as their strategy seemed to be slow and clear to win the top check. They would come close, but fence twelve tumbled, and they ended with one of the slower four-fault scores.
Mandy Porter knew the door was still open for first place as she came in the ring with her second mount, LaMarque. Finally, the crowd had a reason to cheer when Porter crossed the timers executing a tidy track with all the jumps standing.
The last competitor to give it a whirl, noteworthy for being the only male rider in the jump off, was Mike Endicott and Fred Bauer’s Zico 13. Bauer and wife Karen Healey stood ringside as Endicott, too, had a clear round. Bauer and Healey were all smiles while Endicott was still mid-air over the last oxer, keeping all the jumps intact, but stopping the timers a 2/10ths of a second over Porter.
After leading the victory gallop, Porter commented on the Holsteiner stallion, “This is only the second grand prix he’s done. He’s a trier, he’s learning every step of the way, but he’s a really talented horse.”
Not only did Porter give credit to her young horse, but to Royal Oaks Farm owner Anke Magnussen, who predicted she would win. Magnussen, originally from Germany, walked up to congratulate Porter with a hug.
“You were right!” Porter said while embracing Magnussen. “I said to [Magnussen] today ‘oh, are you happy that Germany beat England in the World Cup?’ and she said ‘yeah, but I’ll be more happy because you’re going to win the grand prix.’”
Next week, Blenheim EquiSports competition will resume at Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park for the Blenheim Red, White & Blue Classic. The final grand prix event of the June Series is $25,000 Red, White & Blue Grand Prix on Saturday, July 3rd.
6.28.2010, Blenheim EquiSports Press ReleasePorter and Wild Turkey Farm’s LaMarque Make Their Mark in the $30,000 Copa de Amistad Grand Prix
San Juan Capistrano, CA – June 28, 2010 – The $30,000 Copa de Amistad Grand Prix presented by EquiFit, inc. welcomed twenty-four horse and rider teams onto the Peter Holmes designed course at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. With seven riders, six of them women, earning spots in the jump-off, it was the second to last duo of Mandy Porter and Wild Turkey Farm’s young stallion LaMarque who led the victory gallop.
Porter also qualified her other mount, Chesapeake (Wild Turkey Farm, owner), joining Susan Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano, Leslie Steele and Oh My Goodness, Joie Gatlin aboard Camaron Hills Quick Dollar (Camaron Hills Farm, owner), and Lauren Hester riding Cracky Z (Hester Equestrian Inc., owner) for the jump-off. Riding LaMarque, Porter was the last woman to leave the all of the fences up in the first round, followed by Michael Endicott and Fred Bauer’s Zico 13, the only male to join the jump-off group.
Hutchison and Cantano were first to return. The excellently matched pair and winner of the previous week’s grand prix had an uncharacteristic run-out at the second fence. Otherwise quick and clean, the pair didn’t accrue any time faults, finishing with just four in 53.83 for a fifth place finish. Next in the ring was Porter on the nine-year-old Holsteiner stallion Chesapeake. Lowering the height of two jumps in a time of 38.24, they ended up sixth. Riding her own Oh My Goodness, Steele sailed around the second round course in a time of 42.66 but unfortunately lowered the height of three fences along the way for twelve faults, finishing seventh. Always the competitor, fourth to jump-off Gatlin, riding Camaron Hills Quick Dollar, turned in a great time of 39.98 but regrettably brushed the top rail of the second to last fence for four faults and third place. Twenty-two-year-old Hester and her mount, Cracky Z, returned to the grass next and only lowered one jump in a time of 45.73 for fourth. Enter LaMarque and Porter who conservatively galloped around the shortened course in a time of 42.15, giving spectators the fault-free performance they were looking for. Last to go, Endicott, aboard Zico 13, entered the ring knowing he had to be fast and clean. They accomplished the goal, clean in 42.27 but falling short of the lead by just two-tenths of a second and collecting second place honors.
Riders earning eighth through twelfth place honors all lowered the height of one jump in round one. Fastest of the four fault rides in 76.40 and good enough for eighth place was Michelle Parker and Socrates de Midos (Cross Creek Farms Inc., owner). Twenty-four-year-old Lane Clarke and McLord’s First John (Mickey Hayden, owner) collected four faults in 78.30 and ended up ninth. New Zealander, Maurice Beatson and his own, Apollo Van Evendael, dislodged fence three and stopped the clock in 80.02 for tenth. Eleventh place finisher Rusty Stewart and his talented eight-year-old mount, Bristol (Kandi Stewart, owner), heartbreakingly brushed the top rail of the last fence on course, just keeping them out of the jump-off with four faults in a time 80.20. Veronica Tracy on her own Muscadet de la Saveriere rounded out the top twelve finishers by lowering a fence early in the first round for four faults and a time of 81.06.
When Barb Ellison was a child she took riding lessons in Wilsonville, Oregon and thought someday she would live there. The same feeling returned when she was attending Stanford University and riding her bike through the town of Woodside… she thought I’m going to live here. As luck would have it she is living out both of her dreams albeit in reverse order.
An avid rider of both hunters and jumpers, Barb was looking for jumper to ride in 1996, when her trainer showed her a video of Liocalyon “I saw Leo on the tape and thought I have to have him! Back then I didn’t know that much about bloodlines, but I started to learn”. A quick study, Ellison poured over the day sheet when she was showing at Spruce Meadows, looking at each horse’s breeding, and paying particular attention to stallions whose names appeared often. “That’s when I really got interested in breeding. In the U.S. you’re not brought up to be aware of lineage” says Ellison.
In the next few years Wild Turkey Farm’s stallion roster grew with the addition of Admiral Z, a Zangersheide stallion, and Lavita, then Anke Magnussen from Royal Oaks Farm, sent Ellison a tape of 3 year old Chesapeake… add one more to the roster. In 2007, Ellison, along with her assistant Kelli Johnston, Magnussen, and Porter headed to Germany where they found LaMarque.
Realizing that she needed more space to house Wild Turkey Farm’s expanding breeding operation; Ellison began her quest for the perfect parcel of land, little did she know that it would take over ten years to find. Finally, in 2001, when she was at the Country Classic Horse Show in Wilsonville, Oregon, Jim Cutler said “The property next door to me is not officially on the market, but might be for sale...” Ellison didn’t waste any time calling a real estate agent. “I walked the property and said to myself this is it! This is where I’m going to live.”
Ellison painstakingly spent the next two years planning every single detail of the new home for her Wild Turkey Farm. Breaking ground in 2003 on what was once 220 acres of Filbert trees; the first phase included a 15 stall/paddock retirement barn, manager's home and a shop which sit on 40 riverside acres. The retirement barn is currently in use, as is a European exerciser for the “old guys” as Ellison calls them.
Across Wilsonville Road nestled within 180 acres, 15 of which are wooded, is the business side of the property. This will be home to three more barns, a 22 stall training barn with an aquaciser and the second 6-horse European exerciser, a 6 stall stallion barn with a breeding shed and a lab, and a broodmare barn with 12 convertible foaling stalls and its own 4-horse exerciser. Ellison feels strongly that both the broodmares and her retiree’s need to stretch their legs beyond the daily turnouts in huge lush grass pastures.
In addition to the beautiful cedar and stone buildings that will ultimately be home to the current roster of 6 stallions and 20 broodmares, other outstanding features of the new farm include a rehab center, veterinary and farrier facilities, a jump chute, a 120’ x 220’ indoor arena with viewing area and soaring 36 foot tall ceiling complete with skylights, a 150’ x 300’ outdoor arena, a grass derby jumping field and a track around the perimeter of the property.
What does the future hold for the Wild Turkey Farm breeding operation? “We’re now at the point where we plan to breed stallions versus buying them. I have 3 young stallions I’m excited about now LillixWT, a Liocalyon baby, Ca-Pow!WT, a Chesapeake baby, and Levioso WT, a Lavita baby” replies Ellison.
“I’m moving more toward the Holsteiner. Z and Rex, I love those two boys. From now on I’m going to do Holstein. For Summer (Ellison’s recently retiredWorld Cup mare), I got her approved Holstein, and I think I’ll breed her to Chesapeake. I want to concentrate on one breed, and I love the Holsteiners, I think they’re athletic, they’re good horses, they’re goodminded horses, and that’s what I want to concentrate on.”
“When I move to Oregon, I will be so happy to take my camera, sit out in the field with one of my dogs, and watch the babies. You can tell so much about their personalities just from watching them in the field. Will I want to go to the horse shows? Yes, because I want to see how the babies do. I’ll never forget watching Beezie Madden win one of the big classes at Spruce Meadows Masters on a homegrown that she bred, and in the victory gallop she said to the crowd, this is a homegrown! You could just see the pride. She bred this one, and she won on it, that’s what I want. I want to be able to have Mandy ride one of the young horses that I’ve bred into a big class at Spruce, and be able to say this is a homegrown.”
DEL MAR — After a decorated show-jumping career, Summer, a gray 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, entered the show ring for the last time Aug. 29 for her retirement ceremony. Summer and her long-time rider, Mandy Porter of Encinitas, Calif., have won numerous Grand Prix events, and competed at prestigious events, such as the 2007 and 2008 FEI World Cup Jumping Finals. Summer was also honored as the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association 2006 Horse of the Year.
Summer’s retirement was held at Blenheim EquiSport’s All Seasons Summer Tournament at Del Mar Horsepark, prior to the $50,000 Grand Prix of Showpark, the first in a series of World Cup Qualifiers for the 2010 FEI World Cup Jumping Finals. The evening of Summer’s retirement marked the end to her Grand Prix and World Cup career, but it was the start of competition for next year’s World Cup hopefuls.
The partnership between Summer and Porter began in 2004 when Summer, then 9, was purchased at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada, from Norman Dello Joio by Barb Ellison’s Wild Turkey Farm in Woodside, Calif.
Ellison remembers the day well, as they were trying Summer for Ellison to ride. “After about two jumps, I knew she wasn’t for me, but I asked Mandy if she felt like she could be a Grand Prix horse,” Ellison said. “We started putting the jumps up and up and up, and she won our hearts. How could she not? She was this lovely big mare who tried so hard for you each and every time.”
Within their first year together, Summer and Porter won the Del Mar International Grand Prix. It didn’t take long for Porter to figure out the 16.3-hand, Belgian Warmblood mare (by Capitol x Melissa x Lys de Darmen) loved to be the center of attention, and thrived on being treated like the diva she is. Summer would “cuddle” on her own terms, sometimes squealing if you touch her when it wasn’t her idea. A true diva, she travels with an entourage–a stuffed pig, Porter said.
Cece Ratz, Summer’s groom, loved bringing the big gray mare to the ring. “When she was all braided up and looked so pretty, she knew that she was special,” Ratz said. “She knew it was a big important class; she knew when she did well; and she knew how you felt, too.”
The star treatment worked and in 2005, Porter and Summer were the ones to watch winning back-to-back $75,000 Desert Circuit Grand Prix at HITS Indio, and a total of four Grand Prix wins for the year. In 2006, the pair’s win streak continued at numerous events, such as a repeat victory at the Del Mar International Grand Prix, and capped with Summer being named the PCHA Grand Prix Horse of the Year.
Summer knew when to turn it on for the crowds and they loved it. “When the stakes were high, Summer would give it her all–the more difficult or technical the better,” Porter said. “We make each other work hard. Once we step into the ring, she is all business; ready to play the game and she knows what she is suppose to do.”
It was also fitting for Summer to retire in Del Mar since crowds there have been known to give loud cheers and applause to Summer’s performances and jumping rounds. “She absolutely loves Del Mar,” Porter. “That sort of atmosphere helps spark her, with all the people and the lights. What might sometimes intimidate another horse, it makes her better. She has quite a bit of fight in her when it comes to competing.”
In 2007, Summer and Porter placed third in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada, and then represented the United States at the FEI World Cup Finals in 2007 Las Vegas, and again in 2008 Gothenburg, Sweden.
Porter and Ellison both agree there wasn’t a single win that was most important to them, but cherish Summer’s consistency and the reward of watching the partnership that developed between horse and rider.
There is a consistent thread among those who have watched Porter and Summer reach their high level of success, and that is the bond between the two. Their fans have spoken of how they will miss seeing the pair together; they are not referred to individually, but as “Summer and Mandy.”
“She’s the horse I’ve had the most success with here in California and she got me to where I am,” Porter said. “I have to thank Barb Ellison and Wild Turkey Farm for the relationship that I have been able to have with her; she got me to two World Cup Finals and numerous Grand Prix wins. We’ve had a very good relationship; we might nearly be like sisters–we’re like family.”
At the retirement ceremony, “Summer and Mandy” entered Del Mar Horsepark’s covered arena and rode around the show ring to a standing ovation. Summer jumped her last fence and then Porter removed Summer’s saddle, while accompanied by Ellison and Ratz.
Summer will retire to lush paddocks, trail rides, and her new career of motherhood as a broodmare at Wild Turkey Farm in Woodside.
Barbara Ellison first realized she was suffering from an addiction to horses when she was just a little girl. She saved her money all year to ride along the beach aboard horses for hire during her family’s summer vacation to Oregon. Now, more than 25 years later, the owner and director of Wild Turkey Farm is spending her pennies on building a new state-of-the-art breeding farm in Northwestern Oregon.
Although Ellison has been riding since she was a teenager, she pointed out that it was only at the good will of others. “I’m one of four kids, so my parents didn’t have money to spend on my riding. I rode on the beach in Oregon and when I was old enough, I worked there.
“Well, if you could call it working,” she joked. “I took people out on trail rides for eight to 10 hours a day.”
She was first able to afford lessons when she was 12, riding once a week with Jay and Claudia Campf. A few years later she met Wheylan Meyers, who offered to let her ride at her barn a few times a week.
“I was only able to ride because of Wheylan,” said Ellison. “She was such a nice person and realized how much I loved it and let me exercise her horses. Other than that, I never would have been able to ride as much.”
Ellison gave up riding when she went to college and wasn’t able to pick it back up again until 1986, when her son was 18 months old and she started working with Jan Pearce.
“I started taking lessons once a week, which went to twice a week and then seven days a week,” said Ellison. Shortly thereafter, Ellison purchased her first stallion, Wizard.
She met the Hanoverian—who would go on to start her breeding farm—while she was riding with Butch and Lu Thomas at Willow Tree Farm, Woodside, Calif.
Ellison and her husband Larry (they’re now divorced) were living on her small farm in Woodside, named for the road they lived on, Wild Turkey Lane, when she bought Wizard and brought him home.
At the time, Ellison didn’t think of breeding Wizard and said the fact that he was a stallion had nothing to do with why she purchased him. “I just thought he would be a great horse for Lu to ride. He is a fantastic jumper, and I was really impressed by him, so I bought him.”
Soon after, Ellison moved to ride with Carleton Brooks, but when she made the switch, she sent Wizard back to Hap Hansen, who had partnered with the horse before she purchased him. “I told Carleton he could ride the hunters and my other jumpers, but Wizard needed to go to Hap,” said Ellison.
She felt that the pair made a great team, and she wanted Wizard to have the best career possible. And she was right about their partnership—Wizard and Hansen went on to win the first $100,000 grand prix offered in California.
Love At First “Site”
A few years later, Ellison was busy raising her kids and taking care of the farm when she received a phone call from the Thomases. She wasn’t riding much then and had been out of the show ring for a while. Although she kept a few horses at her home, she didn’t have any plans to start a larger business.
Lu and Butch mailed her a videotape of a 5-year-old Holsteiner stallion named Liocalyon. A scopey jumper and all-around superb horse, Ellison knew that she had to have him. She purchased him off the tape and never looked back. After that, more stallions followed, one at a time, and slowly she started collecting broodmares, although she never actively searched for them.
“I had a couple of stallions at that point, and people started calling me, asking me if I needed any nice mares. They had a broken down competition mare and they needed to place her somewhere and thought she might work for the program,” said Ellison.
Pretty soon, Ellison realized she needed more than just her 11-acre Woodside farm. She wanted to keep moving forward with her breeding program, and the location just wasn’t right.
“I’m pretty sure my neighbors would have a heart attack if I bred the stallions here,” joked Ellison. “This is kind of a residential area, so we have to haul the stallions two hours away up to Oregon whenever we breed them. That gets really expensive.”
She’d been looking for property for seven or eight years when, in 2001, she found her dream farm.
“I was at a horse show in Oregon when my friend who ran the show told me about the property next door to him,” explained Ellison. “He told me it wasn’t for sale but that I should look at it anyway.”
Ellison took one look at the 215 acres of hazelnut trees and fell in love. She bought the property that year and started the plans for her new facility. She knew she wanted a few different barns, one for stallions, one for broodmares and one for horses in training, along with large pastures and a house for herself.
“The facility is truly going to be top-notch,” said Mandy Porter, “She’s putting a lot into it, and it will be incredible.” Porter, San Diego, Calif., has been training Ellison for nine years and campaigns her stallions and young horses on the show circuit. In 2004, she coached Ellison’s daughter, Megan, as well as the rest of the USEF Zone 10 team, at the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships.
Ellison also saved 40 acres for her retired horses, of which she has quite a few. Most of the horses who pass through Ellison’s farm doors never leave, and so she’s built them their own barn and hired a girl whose sole job is to care for them.
“If you’ve done a good job by me,” said Ellison, referring to her horses, “I will never sell you. You have a home for life.”
The retired-horse barn is the only building on the property that is completely finished.
“Barb is so good to her retired horses. The barn she built for them is outstanding,” said Porter. “If I could retire like that I’d be happy.”
Ellison noted, “I built that one first because the retired ones are old and need to be out of the weather. They couldn’t just be in the pasture,” said Ellison.
It’s this kind of attitude that keeps Ellison’s horses happy and winning. She makes sure each one has the best care possible and that they’re never pushed too hard.
When the foals are born they spend their first two years being babies, running around the field with their paddock-mates. When they’re almost 3, they’re sent away to Colts Unlimited in Wyoming, run by Charlie and Hilary Carrel. There, the youngsters spend a year learning ground manners and being started under saddle.
None of Ellison’s horses begin jumping until they are 5.
“I’d rather have a horse who’s a long-time performer who lasts past his 6-year-old year than one who competes and works hard too early and is done when they’re still young,” said Ellison. “They break down if they’re started too young.”
After the horses return from Wyoming, Ellison and her barn manager, Kelli Johnston, begin riding them lightly under saddle. “They go to Charlie to get some ground work done. He makes sure that when they come back to us, Kelli and I can get on and continue their training and it will be safe.”
Once the horses are old enough to start competing, they are usually sent to Porter.
“They usually don’t come to me until they’re at least ready to show in the 5-year-old classes,” Porter said. “They’re not made up horses already, but they’re ready to step into the show ring. Barb and Kelli do a great job of getting them ready.”
Currently, Porter has Chesapeake and LaMarque, two of Ellison’s newest stallions, as well as two of her young sale horses.
Porter also pilots Summer, an 11-year-old gray Belgian Warmblood mare that Ellison and Porter found a few years ago. Norman Dello Joio had the mare and told Ellison he thought she would be great as an amateur horse for Ellison.
After watching Porter ride the mare, Ellison quickly realized she wasn’t for her.
“I can’t ride horses with a lot of kick because I broke my back,” said Ellison. “But Mandy rode her great, and so I asked her, ‘Do you think she has it?’ And she looked down at me and said, ‘Yeah, Barb, she’s got it.’ ”
Porter said that buying Summer is one of her favorite memories from the years she’s spent working for Ellison. “We hadn’t planned on buying a horse like that, and it just kind of happened,” she said.
“Barbara was watching her and even when she knew she didn’t want to ride her, she told me to keep going. She could see the potential that she had and she just had this feeling that we’d be great partners,” added Porter. “She’s got a great eye.”
Summer has been with Porter ever since, and the pair has been picking up top ribbons in grand prix events all over the country. “Summer will always be with Mandy as long as she’s going,” said Ellison. “She’s made that horse into what she is, and when Summer is done showing she won’t ever be sold. She’ll come back here to me to be retired.”
Looking To The Future
These days, Ellison splits her time between the barn and her office, where she keeps busy writing stallion reports and speaking to people about breeding their mares. Last year she had 25 breedings, but she’s hoping the business will grow when she makes the permanent move to Oregon in 2010.
Ellison’s goal is to breed her stallions to more mares from the East Coast. “The country is so big, and being in California, and even though we’re known on the West Coast, it’s sometimes difficult to get the East Coast mares.” Currently, Ellison has six breeding stallions, two of which are campaigning with Mandy, along with five youngsters and a small band of broodmares.
She visits the property in Oregon often to make sure things are progressing as they should and travels to horse shows, where she and Johnston compete in the jumpers—Ellison in the low-amateur-owners and Johnston in the 1.30-meter and 1.40-meter classes.
She usually meets Porter at the shows, but when Porter can’t be there Buddy Brown helps Ellison and Johnston.
“You know,” said Ellison, “I kind of did this backwards. I should have had the property first and then the stallions.
“But there’s no book out there that really tells you how to start a business like this. I talked to a lot of people and made mistakes along the way,” added Ellison. “And now we’re building the property in Oregon and hopefully the business will move forward successfully!”
- 10.2012 - My Kingdom, Mi Casa...Barb Ellison's Wild Turkey Farm
- 5.2012 - Wild Turkey Farm Spreads Its Wings
- 2.2012 - A Winter Glimpse Inside Wild Turkey Farm
- 12.17.2010 - Liocalyon Wins Prestigious South Pacific Award from USEF
- 8.2010 - Breeding Masters: Tish Quirk and Barb Ellison
- 6.29.2010 - Mandy Porter and LaMarque are Remarkable in the $30,000 Copa De Amistad Grand Prix
- 6.28.2010 - Porter and Wild Turkey Farm’s LaMarque Make Their Mark in the $30,000 Copa de Amistad Grand Prix
- 1.2010 - Wild Turkey Farm: From Woodside to Wilsonville