By: Maria Libera Vallone
When I think about my love for horses it always reminds me of my cousin Michael. Encouraged to be a jockey at an early age, he went to a farm in Ocala, FL and learned the business from the ground up and went to the race track in South Florida. The farm touched his life more than he expected and it became his dream to have his own farm. After a brief career as a jockey, he found Tradewinds Farm, a 42-acre slice of Paradise in Chiefland, FL and his goal of having his own farm came to fruition. Thus Tradewinds Farm was born where he now develops and breeds young thoroughbreds and trains them to be racehorses. Michael’s day begins about 5am when his exercise rider, Alfredo, begins to train and exercise the horses on his 1⁄2 mile track. Becky, his groomer and farmhand, is busy bathing the horses, cleaning the stalls and tending to the brushing and grooming of the horses . She also feeds the horses twice a day…first at 4:30 in the morning and then at 4:30 in the afternoon. In the year 2008, the Kentucky Derby winner, Big Brown, had belonged to a client of Michael’s who fulfilled a life-long dream of Michael’s to go to the Kentucky Derby. That was truly on the top of Michael’s bucket list. He was able to pluck a rose from the horse’s victory blanket of roses and enter the winner’s circle!
As the years passed, Tradewinds Farm evolved into a center of family gatherings, partly due to Michael’s mom, my Aunt Nancy, and partly due to the tranquilly of waking up and interacting with the horses and their foals in such an idyllic setting. The birth of a foal was a spectacle to witness. Many holidays and summer vacations were spent together here. Michael shares his knowledge with the local 4-H groups who come for private tours of the farm. The children range from 10-12 years old and enjoy a day of touring the farm and meeting the animals. Over the years Michael’s farm has expanded from 12 to 50 stalls. He has added a European style exercise machine, built new fences and continually improved the training center in numerous other ways to accommodate and better train his young racing prospects. For me, arriving at Tradewinds Farm is entering a very special utopia. When I pass through those gates I feel I’ve set foot into another world, one free of noise and daily life in the city. I have come to relax in a beautiful setting with gallant animals who are a part of a beautiful environment that Michael has created.
Do any of you share this passion and love for horses? Please write to me and include stories and photos of your favorite horse. Time to gallop on!!! Waiting to hear from you.
Have a wonderful weekend.
See you next Tuesday!