Southern Quarters, Ravenbrook Farm on Upcoming Horse Barn Tour
Sunday, Oct. 15, is the day to set aside for the Southern Pines Area Horse Farm Tour.
Presented by Prancing Horse Center for Therapeutic Riding, the self-guided tour will start from the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Health Center on U.S. 1 just north of Southern Pines. Included are six farms, equine demonstrations, and an open house at the Equine Center.
Driving is a big part of the Southern Pines equine scene. The sandy soil, temperate climate and miles of trails suitable for carriages around and through the 4,000 acres of Walthour-Moss Foundation lands attract more and more of the driving fraternity every year. The Moore County Driving Club is over 200 strong.
"We are fortunate to have many top-winning drivers and trainers in the area, and this year's Horse Farm Tour is will showcase three of their farms," says the spokesman.
One of the loveliest of the lanes leading off of Young's Road is Tremont. As visitors approach Cross Country Lane, their eyes are drawn to a huge American flag scaled to fit the powerful lines of the massive "hunt box" topping the hill. One hundred and twenty feet long and 60 feet wide, but still technically a "hunt box' -- a barn with the owner's living quarters above.
Just before the winding drive up to the barn, a life-sized metal sculpture of a Friesian Horse by Esther Benedict of Dallas announces the owners' breed and the accompanying life-sized fiberglass wolf statues, with the help of two plastic floating swans, help discourage geese from the pond below.
Barry and Gail Solomon's Southern Quarters Friesians Farm, the state-of-the-art wood and brick barn was the location for the hunting sequence in the 1983 movie "Brainstorm" with Natalie Wood who stayed at the farm during the filming just before her 1981 death held up completion of the movie.
Built in 1963, it was previously owned by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Tober and Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Odell, who offered its use for the Yellowframe Farm Combined Driving Events held from 1990 to 2000.
Since 2000, the Solomons have improved the fencing and gates to the 10 paddocks, adding run-in sheds and automatic watering. They restored and modernized their second-floor home, whose high-peaked living room windows look out over a deck and command a sweeping view of pastures and woods.
The barn below, with its wide center aisle and oversized stalls, underwent major changes and restoration including refurbishing stall doors and the upgrading of the first floor apartment, tack room, and office. It has a bay with a laundry and wash stall roomy enough for the huge Friesians. The ceiling-mounted water hose and powerful hair dryers contribute to the beautifully kept long manes and fetlocks of the glossy black horses.
Barry and Gail look after their animals with a minimum of outside help. They consider their six cats, two Rottweiler dogs and seven Friesian horses to be members of their family and caring for them to be part of the pleasure of country life.
At Southern Quarters, major emphasis is placed on the conditioning of these equine athletes and they have the latest computerized version of the old-fashioned "hot walker," a device that enables riderless horses to be exercised within a circle. It is called a "hot walker" because originally it was used to cool down sweaty and overheated horses after exercising or racing. This imported Dutch one is individually programmed and tailored to the needs of each horse. Mechanically moving in speeds for intervals of walking and trotting, it rotates the horses in both directions for even body conditioning. Set for warming up and cooling down; everything is carefully recorded.
A carriage horse needs to be in tip-top shape for driving competition, a prime interest of Barry's since he caught the horse bug, 15 years ago. Semi-retired from a chemical distributorship in Massachusetts, he learned to ride, then to drive and at his Dutch trainer's advice flew to Holland to look for a driving horse. He saw the magnificent black Friesians, bought two, went back for four more, and has been learning, enjoying and competing ever since.
As members of the Four-in-Hand Club, he and Gail host a Four-in-Hand Driving Event for a few days each April when many of us have been lucky enough to see the stylish Four-in-Hands promenading through Southern Pines and Pinehurst as well as on our country lanes.
During the tour Barry Soloman will demonstrate harnessing a pair of his horses to their carriage and then will present a dressage demonstration showcasing their versatility and responsiveness.
Southern Quarters is also this year's tour luncheon stop. Prancing Horse Feed Bag's "World Famous Hot Dogs" and Panera Bread's sandwich box lunches will be available for purchase, and there will be plenty of room to sit, eat, and enjoy the lovely view.
Another tour stop will be Ravenbrook Farm. Just down Youngs Road from Southern Pines, it is the home of Willard and Claire Rhodes and was named for their previous farm in Middleboro, Mass., which had a stream named Raven running through it.
Willard is one of the area's oldest and most widely renowned horse people. Six years ago Denny Emerson wrote, "I've met a lot of people in a lifetime of horse activity but none of them have had a career that matches that of Willard Rhodes in breadth, scope, or variety.
"It's a long and uniquely American journey from driving logging horses during the depths of the Great Depression for $1.50 a day in wages, to winning the elegant North American Four-In-Hand Championships six decades later. In between, Willard has been a teamster at the country fairs, a polo player, a competitive trail rider, a Thoroughbred Eclipse Award breeder and owner, a major Quarter Horse breeder and competitor, and a leading Standardbred owner."
As an astute businessman, Willard Rhodes has earned a special thank-you from local horse owners for being willing to buy up prime horse country property and see that it is set up with proper restrictions and easements before being sold to horse people.
He divided up Yellowframe, the center of which is now Southern Quarters, but is best known for saving for horse farm use the old Mickey Walsh Farm, Stoneybrook, home of the Stoneybrook Steeplechase for 49 years.
One of the Stoneybrook hilltops he reserved for himself, and he and Claire built a six-stall, cream-stucco center-aisle barn; roomy and workman-like with resilient black rubber flooring and crisp white walls. An automatic fly spray system and hard-wired, wall-mounted three-speed fans in each stall keep the horses comfortable and pest-free.
The farm now houses his current winning pair of imported black Dutch warmbloods, Nappa and Lodic, along with the famous retired imported grey Dutch warmbloods Gullet and Kimba as well as Gus, the young grey Dutch warmblood being competed by Farm Manager Jen Ozley. The barn also houses Claire's two riding quarterhorses and Rion, a most appealing, blue-eyed, Boxer mix.
The greys were well-known winners as a pair and were part of the Four-in-Hand team that for three years won the North American Four-in-Hand Championships for Willard.
The blacks have continued the winning tradition. They were Grand Pair Champions at Pinehurst's Carriage Classic in the Pines this May as well as being named reserve champions in the Park Division as well as the Pair Division at the prestigious Walnut Hill Carriage Driving Competition in Pittsford, N. Y. this August. Willard also earned the Reinsmanship Award for the Pair Horse Division.
Willard, who will be 87 on Oct. 18, still trains his horses three times a week and gets a sparkle in his eyes thinking of upcoming competitions.
Tour visitors will have a chance to see his training carriages as well as admire his 1920 antique Stanhope Mail Phaeton competition carriage.
Farms will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the Tour Headquarters tent at the Equine Center opening at 10:30 a.m. for visitors to pick up tour maps, see the sponsor exhibits and view and choose among the wonderful selection of door prizes. It will remain open until 5 p.m. for delicious "Sundaes on Sunday" and the door prize and raffle drawings.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the tour. There is a military discount and children under 12 are free.
Tickets are available at The Country Book Shop, Southern Pines Feed & Supply, Cabin Branch Tack Shop and the Cook's Choice in Southern Pines, as well as at the Given Book Shop in Olmsted Village, Pinehurst, and at Not Just Linens, 5496 U.S. 1, Vass, or from www.prancinghorsecen ter.org. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the tour at the Equine Center or at each of the farms.
For more information, call 245-3220.
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