By Lisa Peterson
By Lisa Peterson
Huntfield Farm, a thriving full-service show barn on Poverty Hollow Road, is growing and moving in the right direction, according to owner and trainer Stephen Heinecke.
With the addition of assistant trainer and road manager, Jennifer Badala, and barn manager Marielle Baker, Heinecke says his business is helping to realize goals not only for himself, but for his clients and their 24 horses as well.Â
âThe changes have been logical and in keeping with my goals that I set up for myself five years ago when I started back in the horse business,â said Heinecke, a Newtown resident. âI have more Grand Prix and jumper prospects now and do more Grand Prix riding, which was a personal goal for me.â
A top junior rider, Heinecke left the horse industry to get a college degree and try his hand in the âreal worldâ of big business. He said it wasnât for him. He missed the riding, so he left and headed back to Newtown where, as a child, his parents owned and operated Open Gate Farm. He signed on as trainer at Norfield Farm, where he rode as a junior to win the ASPCA Maclay equitation finals at Madison Square Garden. He got his foot back in the barn so to speak and has never looked back.
âWe have upgraded our stock over the last five years and now it reflects more show clients than when I first started. We have higher maintenance horses in terms of riding and training, and thatâs where Jen (Badala) comes in,â Heinecke said recently in his antique appointed office at Huntfield. About 60 percent of his clients show on a regular basis at the top level A-circuit horse shows around the country. Heinecke recalled that when he started he did all the riding himself and sometimes even tacked up the full service horses for his clients.
Badala, 29, of North Salem, NY comes to Huntfield with over 20 years of riding and teaching experience. Her duties include riding horses and teaching clients.
âWhen Steveâs away, I do all the teaching and take the students to the local one-day shows, â Badala said. This past summer Badala helped bring Huntfield students to the New England and Connecticut Medal finals. She is also the road manager for the bigger shows where 10 to 14 horses travel as far away as Florida.
Badala got her start riding as a 9-year-old in Florida where, for the next 10 years, she showed hunters, jumpers and in the equitation divisions earned a win in the South Florida Fair Horsemanship Series. Her first horse, âMagicâ at 30 years of age, still lives with her father in Texas.Â Â Â
She has worked with professionals Peter Lutz, Carl Dennis and Sue Vassiloff grooming, teaching, riding, and as road manager. For six years she taught the lesson program at Acadia Farm in Bedford, NY.Â In fact, that is where she first met Baker, who was the barn manager.
Baker, 32, of Danbury, also began riding at 9-years-old. She trained as a child with Martha Gale at Wind Crest Farm in Hebron and did lots of teaching there while in high school. She said her preference is for horse care rather than teaching. Her other credits include part-time instructor and barn manager at Ridgefield Equestrian Center, Sugar Hill Farm in Bedford Hills and Kelsey Farm in Greenwich. For a while Baker worked in an office setting, which helps with the organizational end of being a barn manager, she said.
âJen and Marielle do a wonderful job keeping everything at a very high level of professionalism,â Heinecke said. âThey are a great part of âthe teamâ and offer support when and where itâs needed.â
Next month Heinecke, Badala, Huntfield students and 14 horses head to the Winter Equestrian Festival in West Palm Beach, Florida from January to March for showing on the A-circuit.