Developing the Next Generation with Stone Columns Stables
Developing the Next Generation with Stone Columns Stables
Developing the next generation of horses is dependent on successful breeding and young horse programs. Stone Columns Stables in Lexington, Kentucky is a full-service facility that is helping develop the next generation, in addition to the equine retirement services they offer.
Melanie Peterson-Ramey and her husband, Jeff Ramey, own and operate the two facilities that comprise Stone Columns Stables and feature 160 stalls combined, ample pastures, and a hay farm, all on around 900 acres of the best Bluegrass. The facilities are at Elmendorf and Rosemont, both historic farms, and are setting a standard of excellence in care, retirement, breeding, and young horse development.
Enjoying time with the herd at Stone Columns Stables in Kentucky. Photo: Brandi Chase
Breeding the Next Generation
Breeding and young horse development are natural extensions to the work at Stone Columns Stables and brings Melanie and Jeff full circle in their equestrian journey. “In 2020, we bought an upper-level dressage mare for me to compete,” Melanie says. “I started to think about breeding her as she has had so much success up to the FEI levels.” She worked with her trainer, Ellesse Gundersen, and sent the mare’s pedigree to Anna van Olst, who chose the stallion Everdale.
“Little did we know that Everdale would be an Olympic Silver medal winning horse in Tokyo,” Melanie shares. “In 2021, I decided to take a chance on Secret, a stallion that was making some noise here in the USA.”
The breeding journey at Stone Columns Stables was shared with friends and clients, and Melanie discovered that many were interested in breeding their own horses but unsure of where to start. “So, I began to facilitate those mares to breed to the stallions that my friends and clients wanted in order to fulfill their dreams of their next big horse. We are breeding top level dressage, show jumpers, and hunters. We had 17 foals this year and will have around 35 in 2023.”
Mares and foals live relaxed and happy lives at Stone Column Stables. Photo: Brandi Chase
Stone Columns Stables has a yearling filly by Everdale who has already proven herself in the breed classes, a weanling filly by Everdale, and a weanling colt by Secret in 2022. Melanie purchased her own recipient mares for this endeavor and now leases them to her clients when not using them herself. They have sport horse foals for clients by Tinka’s Boy, Cunningham, Halifax, and Antidote de Mars. 2023 will bring foals by Cardento, Emerald, Carrera and many more.
Breeding program goals are to improve the mare if possible; and it all starts with having good mares. Clients work with professionals who know the stallions personally and have ridden their offspring. The role of Stone Columns Stables is facilitating the process and supporting all involved, while handling the specifics. Breeding can be a lot of preparation and paperwork, so Melanie and Jeff like to help their clients by handling all of that for them.
“I believe we have a very unique opportunity in this country to use mares that have been imported for sport as broodmares for the next generation,” Melanie says. “We can acquire semen readily from top sires of each discipline and with the help of modern medicine we can produce top foals in the USA. We are so fortunate in Lexington, Kentucky to have the best vets, best farriers, best soil, best infrastructure for breeding and raising horses. We can do it here on the same scale and for a similar cost as Europe. We are at an exciting time for North American breeding of sport horses.”
Stone Columns Stables is also breeding Thoroughbreds to sell as weanlings. Jeff developed a passion for this, and they have 10 mares this year who have produced top foals that they are prepping for the November sale. Melanie and Jeff will purchase some mares this fall for themselves and clients who are interested in this part of their business. “We are so fortunate to have some of the most incredible Thoroughbred stallions on neighboring farms, so it makes this process easy. We have bred to stallions such as Daredevil, Known Agenda, Volatile, and Mitole, among others,” Melanie says.
Melanie, Jeff, and their team are dedicated to individualized care at Stone Columns Stables, and this applies to their young horse program as well. All horses, from broodmares to retirees, receive the highest quality of individualized care and training.
Photo: Brandi Chase
The Young Horse Program
“The young horse program is an extension of my past as I trained young horses for many years in Florida for all disciplines,” Melanie shares. “It was a passion of mine, and I am excited to be back again facilitating the development of the future of our sport in the USA. We have an incredible team that is dedicated to the education of these horses from our people in the foaling complex who handle them from the beginning to the team in our training barn who are putting that foundation on them so they can be successful in any arena.”
Stone Columns Stables built a permanent jump chute this year which is a game changer for developing jumpers. It allows the team to evaluate and train their horses at liberty, which creates confidence and a willingness that no other set up can.
2023 will be a busy year at the farms. Young horse programs are individualized for each horse and client. They have around ten two-year-olds in the spring starting their foundation work, five three-year-olds to continue their education, and the four-year-olds are preparing for Wellington.
“The horse always sets the timeline, as some need more time than others,” Melanie adds. “We don’t believe in skipping steps, it will always come up later in the training or in the arena. We are sending well rounded individuals back to their owners with a solid foundation for success.”
The Training Plan
The most important thing that ensures success with young horses is having a plan and working that plan. You must have patience and take the time necessary with each individual for them to be successful within each objective before they move on to the next. Instilling confidence in the horse throughout the entire process, from foaling to training, is also one of the key components to ensuring a well-rounded individual who will do great things in their life and is a cornerstone of the individualized training plans offered by Stone Columns Stables.
Each young horse at Stone Column Stables has an individualized program that helps them develop to their full potential. Photo: Brandi Chase
From the start, even as foals, Stone Columns Stables is laying a foundation to build upon as the horse grows. They like them to be horses and live in herds, all the while knowing that when horses are handled, there is an expectation of how they are to behave while being trimmed by the farrier or worked on by the vet or grooms.
By their two-year old spring, Stone Columns Stables starts utilizing the round pen to add to the foundation and teach the groundwork basic building blocks of the training for about 30 days. Then they go back out in a herd for the summer. The two-year old fall is a refresher of the spring objectives to solidify any of that and give confidence in the training. Then they go back out in the herd for the winter.
Their three-year old spring is when the Stone Columns Stables team will bit and back them, of course only if the growth plates have closed. This is a continuation of the foundation training into intermediate objectives that will set horses up for a rider on their back. Then they go back out for the summer. The three-year old fall again is a refresher and filling in any gaps from spring to set them up for a successful four-year old year.
In the spring of their four-year old year the horses come into the barn for full time training with the objective of being ready for Florida in the fall with their owners and/or trainer. By the time they leave Stone Columns Stables, horses have a solid walk, trot, canter, lead change, and jump, if appropriate. They have trailered off property to the Kentucky Horse Park and worked there, all horses hack out and go in the arena. They are well adjusted and willing to learn and work.
Melanie, Jeff, and their team are very proud of the horses they have produced. “My favorite part is seeing our clients riding their own horses and enjoying them. I also enjoy the entire process and being there for those lightbulb moments when things click. That is so much fun.”
A foal rests while it’s mother grazes nearby. Photo: Brandi Chase