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Owner of Pine Bridge Farm in Southampton, New Jersey, and competitive horseback rider, Kelly Ross wears many hats, but her primary role in life is animal caregiver. Kelly has been riding for over 25 years, and spends most of her days tending to the stable and maintaining her 60 acre farm.
We had the opportunity to chat with Kelly about her early introduction to horseback riding, long workdays on the farm, and lifelong passion for horses.
PetPlace: How long have you owned Pine Bridge Farm and how did you choose the location?
Kelly Ross: We have owned the farm since 2005. I grew up in the area and this area was home for us, so we wanted to come back to it after having moved to Pennsylvania for a few years. The farm was very run down, so when we looked at it, I laughed at the thought that we could ever get it back into shape enough that we could actually run a business here. It has been a lot of work, but in the end, it is something that we are proud of today.
PP: Is it a family business? Have you always been a horse person?
KR: Yes, it is a family business. My mom, Paulette, dreamed of riding horses growing up, but never had the opportunity. When she was old enough, she opted to buy a horse in place of a fancy car. She bought a beat-up car with a hole in the floor that ran well enough to get her to and from the barn each day. She rode until we were born (Kelly and her brothers Brian and Matt). Once we were around, she didn’t ride and it wasn’t until we moved to New Jersey that an interest in horses came about. When I moved here in 3rd grade, everyone in my class took horseback riding lessons. So, I went home and asked my mom if I could take horseback riding lessons and the next day, a lesson was scheduled. My love for horses sparked from there and we haven’t turned back. It was never really a plan to own and run a farm like this, but the opportunity fell into our laps, so we took it and now there is no turning back.
PP: What is the typical day on the farm?
KR: On a typical day, horses are fed at 7am and turned out to pasture from about 8am – 3pm. Weather dependent, of course. The summer days start a lot earlier. We have about 25 – 30 horses here. Our staff will clean all the stalls and do all the maintenance work around the farm, including grooming the riding arenas. Owners will arrive throughout the day to ride their horses. Lessons and training sessions are conducted throughout the day for all different levels of horses and riders. The horses come in from turnout by 4pm each day and they get dinner and have time to relax in their stalls. There is an additional check between 8pm – 10pm to ensure that everyone is comfortable, water is checked, and additional hay is provided for each horse.
PP: What do you love most about the farm?
KR: I love being able to provide a place where the horses can be comfortable and happy. Horses thrive when they are comfortable, and the goal here is making sure all the horses in our care are getting everything they need to achieve this.
PP: Do you have a favorite horse?
KR: Galiana. Galiana was a Grand Prix jumper who came to us to lay-up from an injury. Once healed, she went back to work as my horse to show and learn the ropes in some of the bigger classes. She taught us all so much though, and was perfect in so many ways, but she made the calls about how she wanted to be cared for. She decided how long she would turnout or what weather was acceptable to turnout in, and she would remind us when it was dinner time, and make sure we weren’t late. Galiana could be hard to handle or easy, it all depended on her mood that day. She had a confidence about her that let us know she was a little smarter than us and she would nicely make sure everyone knew it.
PP: What is the hardest part about being a barn owner?
KR: There is never down time. You have to be on-call 24/7, as you never know when something is going to come up that needs your attention. There are no days off. There is ALWAYS work that needs to be done, no matter how many employees you have.
PP: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to have their own barn?
KR: I would say you have to approach it as a labor of love, because you will work harder and earn less than what you’re thinking going into it. If you love the work, it is worth it, but if you are in it for the money, don’t do it.