Farm Tour Features Barns, Horses and Alpacas
Sunday, Oct. 15, is the date to save for the annual Southern Pines Area Horse Farm Tour. Presented by Prancing Horse Center for Therapeutic Riding, the leisurely 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.
Stops will be at six farms and barns, whose attractions will include Warmblood, Hafflinger and Friesian Horses, as well as beloved family pet horses, equine demonstrations, a wide ranging collection of carriages, and even another fascinating farm animal, the alpaca.
Barns range in size from enormous to just right for the owners of two or three horses. All of them were planned with the utmost emphasis on the safety and needs of the horses as well as for the owner's convenience.
The tour will wind its way through the roads and lanes traversing the delightful pine-studded pastures surrounding the Walthour-Moss Foundation.
Many people may not be aware that in addition to the 2,500-acre main part of the Moss Foundation within the circle of Youngs Road, May Street and U.S. 1, the North Country Moss Foundation area now encompasses a sizable 1,535 acres, an incredible asset to the Sandhills horse community.
This area north of Youngs Road and on both sides of Furr Road reaches to Aiken Road and beyond; many horse farms abut these wooded lands preserved for equestrian use only.
The first of these North Country tracts was Maxwell Forest, purchased in 1985, west of Furr Road; it gave access to the Foundation for landowners in Hunt County Properties. Developed by the late Virginia Moss, Hunt Country was one of the first planned equestrian communities in the region. Two of the farms in Hunt Country are featured on the tour.
BellaVista farm's owners, Wayne and Fran Gertz moved here from Virginia Beach in 1994 after his retirement from the Navy and had a home and small stable built of warm antique orange brick by Daniel Adams Construction Co. The house stands on a rise overlooking a scenic pond in the back and pastures to the front and sides. Surrounded by mature and colorful landscaping, it is home to the Gertzes, their son Ryan, a N.C. State University student and their weekend farm help plus the three inside dogs -- a No. 1 "queen of the roost" Jack Russell terrier and two very-happy-to-be-rescued ones.
The horses at BellaVista, mother-and-son Dutch warmbloods, are housed in an attractive and workmanlike four-stall and wash-rack barn with an art studio for Fran and a cozy upstairs apartment. Like so many other horse farm owners they lived in the apartment while the house was being built.
Coming from Florida, Fran incorporated a technique from down there for keeping flies at bay by hanging panels of shade cloth over the outside stall doors. These are easily navigated by the horses who also have a wide roofed area at the end of the barn to provide a dry and shady place for outside shelter and feeding.
Fran is an artist, currently teaching art at Pinecrest High School and UNC Pembroke, her high school students recently won the Pinehurst Business Guild's Dog Days of Summer contest with their creatively decorated "Top Cats."
Wayne teaches agriculture and horticulture at Union Pines and was just getting settled into this second career, when not long after moving to their dream horse farm Fran read about alpacas. After researching these gentle and intelligent animals on the Internet, they visited a few North Carolina alpaca farms and decided that BellaVista Farm could easily house another enterprise which Wayne would operate. Soon after, they purchased nine animals and thus began an intriguing new enterprise which not only provides a hobby-like interest but actually earns an income.
The current 25 alpacas have their own male and female pastures, pens and sheds and two magnificent Great Pyrenees guardian dogs to live with the herd and protect them from predators, just as this dog breed was bred to do with the sheep herds in the Pyrenees Mountains of their native Spain.
During the tour, Wayne will educate tourgoers about these gentle camelid family natives of the high Andes Mountains of South America. Only recently imported into the United States in the last 20 years, they are prized for the cash crop of their fine wool. Their expressive wide-eyed faces and individual personalities make them an addicting, fun and profitable animal for their owners.
Across the road, Rendezvous Farm sits on a small ridge with its pastures surrounded by woods. Below the house and barn is a regulation-sized dressage ring, complete with the long rider-height mirror that allows the serious student of dressage to see as well as feel the posture and movements of horse and rider.
While Rendezvous Farm may look like a recent addition to the Moore County horse community, it is actually a farm long in the making. H.G. "Thom" and Vicky Thomas met at nearby Fort Bragg and were married in 1985. Vicky remembers their first visit to the Sandhills, "It was clearly a very horse-friendly community and it left a lasting, fond memory."
Although the Army had since assigned them to Fort Rucker, Ala., they decided to purchase a timbered lot in Hunt Country in 1989. The opportunity to return to the Sandhills came in 2000 when Vicky was assigned back again to Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg. Thom had already retired from the Army and was working for Computer Sciences Corporation which allowed him to keep his same job and work from Fayetteville.
Thom and Vicky both ride. Initially involved in eventing, they later switched to dressage as a sport.
"We call ourselves "pleasure dressage" riders," she says. "We are amateur riders who love our horses and enjoy the process of learning dressage. We also enjoy trail riding and training the horses."
Vicky and Thom have two riding horses, Cossino and Alex, and two young horses that will be their future riding partners. The horses are warmblood breeds of various types: Oldenburg, Bavarian, and Westfalen. The youngsters were born at Rendezvous Farm.
Once back in North Carolina, they partially cleared the timbered lot and asked Rod Lynch to establish the pasture. They then decided it was time to put down some deep roots of another kind, too; it was time to settle into one community for a very long time.
They visited the homes of their newest neighbors, saw the skilled construction work of Campbell Welly Construction, and asked them to build their home. Both agree that this was a wonderful building experience. Their cottage-style grey brick home is patterned after the Southern Living Brookgreen Cottage home.
Their neighbor, Gail Scott of Lotus Designs, developed the landscape plan that frames the home, and incorporates a backyard perennial garden and brick wall.
They moved into their home in July 2002, and their five-stall Barnmaster barn was assembled soon after. They had seen Barnmaster barns in their military travels and felt it was the best choice for their new farm. They chose it because they liked the safety, low-maintenance, and fireproof nature of the materials, along with the ability to custom design the space.
Vicky retired from the Army in 2003 and Thom began working at Fort Bragg in 2005. This summer marks their fourth year at the farm; for Vicky it is the longest she has lived at one address since leaving home for college long ago in 1977.
"We love our farm and our community, and we feel blessed to live here. We are happy to open our farm for the purpose of promoting the great work of the Prancing Horse Therapeutic Riding Center," says Vicky.
Headquarters for the Southern Pines Area Horse Farm Tour will be at N.C. State University's College of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Health Center where the expanding list of services the center offers the horse community will be showcased.
Equine demonstrations on several farms are planned as well as sponsor exhibits and a wonderful selection of door prizes. Box lunches from Panera Bread will be available for purchase at one of the farms along with the super hot dogs from Prancing Horse's Feed Bag. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the Equine Center opening at 10:30 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m.
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 Bookshop, 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 the Prancing Horse Web site www.prancinghorsecenter. 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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