The story of my farm is not typical which should give hope to horse lovers young and old.
At the age of eleven, I fell in love with horses and wanted one of my own. I was given riding lessons as a birthday gift instead. I fell even more in love with riding, with horses, and with anything to do with horses. My parents were not wealthy, were not horse people and I had five siblings. Owning a horse as a child was a dream, but never a reality. I spent every Saturday at the barn learning all that I could, in the rain, in the sun, and in the freezing cold. Then at 19 I went off to college, graduated, moved to California, got married, and had a son. For 7 years I did very little with horses.
At the age of 26, I returned to riding and was offered a summer job teaching beginners at Endolane Farm in Little Compton, RI. As a single mother and a Special Education teacher during the school year, I needed to work year round to make ends meet. This seemingly small opportunity combined my passion for teaching with my passion for horses and began what was to be my life’s journey.
Marion Vendituoli, Endolane’s owner, and primary instructor lent me the book Centered Riding by Sally Swift. Contrary to how I had been taught, the “why” of how we rode was explained. The entire method was gentler and kinder to the horse and to the rider. I fell in love with teaching, and teaching using the Centered Riding Technique. For four years, I continued to teach school in the winter and teach riding in the summer.
At the age of 30, I met and married my husband, Peter Derbyshire. The following year I left all of my teaching jobs to raise our children Lily and Myles. When Lily was 3 and Myles 9 years old, we purchased our home in Adamsville which sat on just over 2 acres of land. Two acres of fields! I thought to myself, “Maybe I can buy a horse someday, maybe in ten years.” The October of that very year 1995, one thing led to another and I purchased my very first horse, Topaz. I was 35, she was 17. She was an energetic mare, very head shy at first, but very well trained and she loved to jump! Peter built me half a barn: one large stall and one small for tack and grain. It all seemed like such a dream. I remember sitting with Lily, then 3, on the framework of the barn saying, “Remember this day Lil, this is a dream mommy has had since she was a little girl, and it is now coming true.”
Well, horses are herd animals so I needed to get another horse to keep Topaz company and so my children could ride with me. The following spring, in 1996, we came across a 26-year-old, large pony mare, Yo Yo, whose family had outgrown her. We had Yo Yo for two years until she passed on in March of 1998. Less than a month later a woman contacted me wanting to find a nice home for her 21-year-old gelding quarter horse. Her children were small and she just didn’t have time for Beau. Beau entered our lives and became our daughter Lily's horse.
At this point, I had not started teaching again. I felt that my two horses Topaz and Beau would not be suitable for lessons. Then in 2000, a good friend of mine Nancy Fontaine insisted that I teach her children to ride. Tricia and Chelsea Fontaine became my first riding students. Beau took to lessons like an old pro. Topaz was for the more advanced students or the horse that I rode when I took a student on a trail ride. Every time I would step into the ring I felt like this is where I needed to be. This is my classroom!
Well, we now have a whole herd of horses & minis, I teach young children and adults. During the summer months and vacations, I conduct riding camps. My dream as an eleven-year-old has become something that I could never have imagined.