A Winter Glimpse Inside Wild Turkey Farm

You know you’re a horse person when you can’t get through a family vacation…. not even Christmas…. without squeezing in a horse-related side trip.

Luckily, I’m blessed with a tolerant family who understands that the close proximity of a well-known sporthorse farm to my brother’s home in Portland Oregon is a happy coincidence. And naturally, they chose not to argue when this coincidence necessitated a diversion from family vacation time during a recent trip to Portland.

Barbara Ellison finished building Wild Turkey Farm in early 2011 after ten years of searching for, planning and finally constructing her dream farm from the ground up. Originally an amateur/owner rider in Woodside, CA, she purchased several successful stallions in the 1990s, and her small breeding operation has since grown into a nationally and internationally recognized program.

Wild Turkey’s new and permanent home in Wilsonville, OR only adds to that recognition. As a freelance writer, I’d written about the farm multiple times without ever seeing it, so I couldn’t resist cashing in on my invitation to visit anytime when I was in the area. And even though it was just after Christmas day, Barb was an extremely gracious and welcoming host.

The day was typical of a Portland winter – chilly and grey with the skies spitting rain. But in any weather, Wild Turkey Farm is simply jaw dropping. Professional photos, and certainly not my iPhone ones can’t begin to do the 200-acre farm justice. A 22-stall training barn, competition size indoor arena, outdoor arena, 24-stall broodmare barn, 12 stall stallion barn and 15-stall retirement barn dot a rolling landscape filled in only by fenced pastures.

Wild Turkey is a rarity on the West Coast for several reasons, but the chief one among them can be summed up in one word: space. The sheer amount of space available for horses is impressive; every horse spends time in pasture, the young horses live out in groups, and walking from barn to barn takes awhile.

Inside the cavernous barns with raised ceilings and shining pine walls, the theme of spaciousness continues. Spotless breeding lab, crossties, barn aisle, et al makes an impression that is more Kentucky than Oregon, but where the horses are concerned, it definitely works. My father, who is a contractor and very talented home remodeler (I'm not biased at all) was more than happy to accompany me to the farm; the architectural aspect of the farm design and building materials had him entertained while I sought out the main attractions - the horses!

It was slightly surprising but very refreshing to meet the Wild Turkey stallions, (again horses I’d written about more than actually seen) happily sporting thick winter coats and long manes. There’s nothing better than seeing a horse enjoying just being a horse, even more so when that horse is a big important grand prix jumper. From Wild Turkey foundation stallion Liocalyon, to retired jumper Lavita, to the stallion Chesapeake that is still in competition, the whole barn was clearly enjoying down time.

I was told that a few of them were days away from a bodyclipping in preparation for Thermal, but still…

Does this farm have a downside? If it did, I didn’t find it. Many of the Wild Turkey Horses are now en route to or competing at Thermal, which is a nice facility in itself, but if horses can get homesick, it’s a pretty sure bet that they’re looking forward to returning home to their own personal utopia.

The main barn is buffered from the driveway by this bronze statue of foundation stallion Liocalyon.

Each of the four barns blend into the Oregon landscape beautifully, and unobtrusively.

Cavernous.

Barb designed the entire facility to be form functional, and usuable in any weather condition. 

The indoor is used almost year round to escape from the constant Oregon rain.

Liocalyon enjoying his retirement. 

All of the horses have paddocks attached to their spacious box stalls.