(This article first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Luxury Living Magazine- a subdivision of Newsday Media Group)
The connection between horse and rider runs deep
THE WILD EAST
When envisioning the traditional American cowboy, the Wild West is sure to come to mind. However, factually speaking, it’s the “Wild East” that birthed the concept—Montauk, to be exact. Deep Hollow Ranch, established in the 1600s, holds claim as the first cattle ranch in the United States, and it’s still running today.
Fast forward, and the equine lifestyle on Long Island proves to be not only historic but also diverse. Horse races at Belmont, polo in Old Westbury and equestrian jumping in Bridgehampton are all held to be part of a lifestyle for the privileged. For a pastime that relies so heavily on an animal, though, without the vibrant community surrounding these events, it might all be as simple as bareback riding (with women perhaps riding side saddle).
George Fox, an equine enthusiast living in New York City, began taking weekly polo lessons in 2016. As living in a metropolitan area isn’t normally conducive to an equine lifestyle, Fox leases a horse named Bubbles from Country Farms in Medford, where it’s cared for throughout the year.
“I like being around things that are sophisticated; it’s an elegant type of activity,” Fox explains. “Everything about the equestrian lifestyle is interesting to me. It’s an open community where everyone is engaging and wants to have you involved.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Robert C. Ceparano is the owner of several equine corporations, but most locals likely associate him with Meadowbrook Polo in Old Westbury and also Country Farms, which is a camp, equestrian center and year-round polo facility. Like many in this circle, Ceparano comes from a long line of equine professionals. His grandfather was a horseman, as were his uncles, who taught him.
“I look at the families that have longevity in horses and that were able to make money. I learned a lot from my uncles and their business model and formed my own business model,” Ceparano states. “I really think that when my son gets in charge of this, he’s going to come in with a level of knowledge that I don’t even know about. I really believe he’ll be able to do it.”
Robert Ceparano, Jr., has become his father’s right-hand man for these multiple enterprises, as the guy who can fix anything, learning from the time he was 8 years old. Unlike other industries, being in the equine field is a round-the-clock commitment. It is not just about the horse itself but also the maintenance of equipment, programs and people. It’s only through sustainable resources, hard work and passion that an equine organization succeeds.
Having grown up in a family that surrounded themselves with horses, Juan Vasquez’s titles range from “farrier to the stars” to polo referee, with new roles emerging every few years. “I consider us [his family] the most fortunate guys in the world…I go to golf courses that I’d otherwise never be able to touch, but because I’m a friend, a farrier, because of my clients,” he confides, “I see things I’d never be able to see in my life.”
This Venezuelan native began his own farrier business 20 years ago. With time split between Wellington, Florida, and Long Island, Vasquez’s company is a new kind of B2B, a “barn to barn.” Working from his truck and trailer, he can be found horseshoeing for undisclosed celebrities and equine owners alike.
NO HORSING AROUND
Business aside, Vasquez is also a board member of HorseAbility. The not-for-profit organization was founded in 1993 by Kathleen Kilcommons McGowan and dedicates itself to providing therapeutic programs to individuals and families with special needs. HorseAbility, on the grounds of SUNY Old Westbury, is the only organization in Nassau County honored as a Premier Accredited Center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
On the East End, Amaryllis Farm, located in Bridgehampton, is a not-for-profit equine rescue center. Established in 1989, Amaryllis is Long Island’s first horse sanctuary and largest rescue center. Granting sanctuary to former service horses who are unable to adapt to a new home or were scheduled to be put down, it is dedicated to these horses, while teaching the community the value of caring.
Mixing sanctuary with sipping, Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard in Calverton is also a horse rescue center and sanctuary on the same property where the proprietors grow wine. Co-founded by Sharon Rubin Levine and Richard Rubin in 2007, 100% of profits from a selection of wines support their cause.
Matthew Donohue is a professional photographer who became enamored of horses while horseback riding in Cambodia in 2009. In 2015 he began snapping everything from barn stills to polo thrills and says it’s all about respect. “It’s fun, it’s thrilling,” he admits, “but I’m always fully aware of my surroundings when I approach a horse.”
Like any successful relationship, the codependence between man and horse requires dedication and trust. The equine lifestyle is more than the polo matches and horse shows; it’s the connection to a majestic being and building a beautiful community around it.