The Barns that Built Me
*Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a review of Skyrock Farm but is merely a recount of my memories of riding there as a kid, many years ago.
When I think about AA Hunter/Jumper barns, I don’t think about Skyrock Farm. Not because they weren’t that, but because when I think about Skyrock Farm the first image that comes to mind is the china cabinet in the lounge filled with carousel horses. They were beautiful.
The barn owners had a huge collection and periodically the ones on display in the china cabinet would be switched out. Once, I was asked to help the working student Ashely take some of the Christmas theme statues back to the shed. I remember it so vividly because it was early spring and in Minnesota that means ice. I was so afraid that I would slip on the ice and break the delicate figurine. It was only 100 feet from the barn to the shed but Ashley and I carefully made our way across the icy drive. She was carrying three of them and I held one. Somehow I made it without falling though the going had been treacherous and there was more than one moment that I thought for sure I was going down. When we finally got there, I was stunned. There were hundreds of carousel horses of all different sizes; even some life size actual carousel horses.
Skyrock Farm wasn’t the most glamorous set up, mostly because they needed about ten more acres to have beautiful green pastures, but it was functional and it was full of expensive and beautiful horses. The barn was an L shaped layout with the indoor arena tucked in the open part of the L. Down the long side were mostly school horses, the schoolie tack room and the heated lounge area for parents that sat just above the kickboards. The boarders’ horses and their private tack room/viewing area were on the short side. There was a huge outdoor arena just down the hill from the barn but I only got to ride in it a handful of times.
Like every beginner in the history of Skyrock, I started on an old appaloosa (I believe) gelding named Palm Beach. He was already an old man by the time I started riding and he probably passed on a long time ago at this point, but I prefer to imagine that he is still packing around young girls in the first lessons. He taught me how to canter and took me over my first jumps. A few months down the road I had learned enough from Palm Beach to try some of the other school horses. In the end, I mostly ended up riding a dun mare named Georgio and a chestnut Percheron x TB mix named Pro. I was the only one in my lesson group who liked Pro so he ended up being my go-to mount while Georgio was famous for adding strides before jumps, even when they were not needed. Between the pair of them, I learned quite a bit about the basics of jumping and equitation.
The lesson trainer at the time was a woman named Jimmy. To me, Jimmy was god. I think it’s a trait of all young horse girls to see at least one of their trainers as the most knowledgeable person they have ever met. I see it with JLE’s young students. Their mom will tell them to use a certain blanket but they don’t consider it correct until the directions come from JLE. That was Jimmy for me.
I have so many little, but good, memories from riding at Skyrock. The horses were a big part of it. But I also remember what a joy it was riding. I remember a lesson I had just a month after starting and I was asked if I wanted to start cantering or jumping first. I picked jumping. (Of course, jumping meant going over trot poles… but still.) There were equitation lessons where we played Ride-A-Buck and the last one with their dollar got to keep it and buy a pop from the vending machine. The day I got to learn how to put polo wraps on was such a big milestone for me. I finally felt like a grownup jumper! Of course the very next lesson I had to ask Ashley for help…
Eventually, I outgrew what I could learn at Skyrock Farm without my own horse. I don’t blame them for restricting jumping higher than 2’6” to people with their own horses but I couldn’t afford to keep a horse in the required program. Lesson prices were rising and I wanted to find more opportunities to ride. My mom and I looked around at leases and other lesson programs and finally found one that would work but I was still sad to leave the first barn I had ever thought of as home.