Roebke's Run gearing up for FEI One Star rating, approved for 'Intermediate' summer horse trials
By Pat Schmidt
John Williams is a guy who knows his horses and who knows his courses. He competed as a team rider at the 2004 U.S. Olympics in Athens, the 2002 World Championships as lead rider in their gold medal effort and was also a member of the 1991 PanAm team. He's been around, to say the least.
For the past 30 years he has put all that "horse sense" and experience together to pursue what is now his primary vocation of course design and evaluation. His work takes him to over 20 venues annually and he estimates he has designed over 2,000 courses at all levels. Most of these courses are in the United States, but he has also worked in Columbia, Venezuela, Guatemala and five sites in Mexico — the most notable being the 2011 PanAm Games Course in Guadalajara.
His reputation as a nationally recognized designer of cross-country courses across America, brought him more recently to Roebke's Run cross-country course in Hector, Minnesota Oct. 16. He was there to design the course for a FEI One Star Event rating, which will be the final decision of a USEF committee. On October 17, Roebke's Run was given approval to run Intermediate in July/Oct. 2013.
The FEI One Star rating promotes young riders to compete on the course and ultimately compete in the FEI North America Junior and Young Rider Championships. The Intermediate ranking will bring in the more advanced riders.
"Putting together a course is actually like putting together a puzzle," said Williams. I have to come up with a track that feels the way the riders want — forward, open and galloping, not tight and twisty." He explained that an event can include as many as five other courses being run on the same day that intermingle with each other. At the most, maybe two jumps out of up to 32 would be shared per level.
"Bumping up to Intermediate and One Star level is a big deal, but relatively easy to accomplish here with the team that Roebke's Run has put together. The Intermediate level accreditation was awarded to Roebke's Run, but due to construction that doesn't mean it exists yet. A bulldozer was hard at work today digging a large new 100' x 170' water jump. There will be a total of three water complexes, a Weldon's Wall, two coffin ditches and pirate ship jumps at the new water complex, along with 32 treasured jumps to be added to the course as well.
"The Schweiss's have hit the ground running, making fast and good progress in order to run a popular and top-notch competition. In the short two years since I've been here, they've made many wonderful improvements to their overall facility and have purchased additional land for it to be all that it can be. The entire atmosphere of Roebke's Run is very appealing," noted Williams. "As a team effort, we have managed to make the most out of it in a relatively short period of time."
Cleon J. Wingard, a FEI/USEF licensed official concurs. "The entire course has made very good use of terrain. This course is one of the best courses I have seen. In my opinion, the event would be an excellent choice for a FEI One Star event. I do not think USEA/Area IV could have a better event to host an FEI One Star."
At this point in time, Roebke's Run coordinators, Julie Schweiss and Brook Mead are planning to conduct the Intermediate trials during the Roebke's Run events in July and October and to push back the FEI One Star event to the October Roebke's Run trials.
Next Summer, Roebke's Run Horse Trials are slated for July 12-13, 2013. For more information on Magister Equitum Stables or Roebke's Run Horse Trials, visit their website at: www.SchweissStables.com or visit them on Facebook.
Roebke's Run Horse Trials
Only in its second year, the annual fall series of Roebke's Run Horse Trials held Oct. 6-7, at Magister Equitum Stables in Hector, turned out to be a huge success, despite cold and windy conditions. Riders from the five-state area and Canada participated in cross-country dressage and jump events on a course that continues to be touted as one of the best privately-owned courses in the United States.
"I will say that I and the Ground Jury were very impressed. This is one of the best events I have ever officiated. Area IV and USEA need to give as much help as possible to expand and utilize the Schweiss events," noted Cleon J. Wingard, a FEI and USEF Licensed Official at the event.
"The entire course made very good use of terrain. This course is one of the best courses I have seen. Control, announcer and radio communication worked very well together. In my opinion, the event would be an excellent choice for a FEI One Star event. I do not think USEA/Area IV could have a better event to host an FEI One Star. added Wingard.
One of the highlights of this fall horse trial is the fun they put into it. Participants are encouraged to "Come Creepy and Win." This means they have an opportunity to win cash prizes for the Best Personal/ Group Costume Contest; and Best Haunted Stall Contest.
The coveted prize, however, came in the competition phase with the Grand Champion taking home $2,500. This prize is co-sponsored by Roebke's Run Horse Trials and Otter Creek Horse Trials and was won by Makenna Rold, riding her horse Badland's Echo.
John Williams, the nationally recognized designer of equestrian courses across America, predicted interesting, challenging, and exciting additions to the already intriguing Roebke's run layout.
"They've made so many wonderful improvements to their overall facility. I'm talking about their arenas, the cross country layout and other amenities of stabling and social perks," said Williams. "The entire atmosphere of Roebke's Run is very appealing. Because of what they offer, their entries will continue to rise over the next several years."
Next Summer, Roebke's Run Horse Trials are slated for July 12-13, 2013.
For more information on Magister Equitum Stables, visit their website at: www.magisterequitum.com
or visit them on Facebook or on the web at: www.SchweissStables.com
John Williams 2012 Course Designer
Character is what builds reputations
Riding and competing for a little over 30 years, John Williams, Lakeview, North Carolina is properly respected as an Eventing Cross Country Course Designer. He's now 47 and he's the guy who adds the special touches and the extra 'character' to Roebkes Run, the 2-year old cross country layout of Mike and Julie Schweiss, rural Fairfax, MN
With nearly 20 years as a professional course designer, he;s delighted with the 'design freedom' he was given for Roebke Run. "Considering this was a corn/soybean field with a patch of timber at the North end, what we have today is really rather amazing," notes Williams.
Indeed. With 92 jumps (not including jumps on the starter course), each of different dimensions and configurations, provide a tremendous variety of challenges to riders and their mounts. So too the transition into that 10-acre timber with tress now all 'properly manicured' so riders and horses aren't dodging low hanging branches. And in the southern end of this 40-acre layout a 150-foot diameter pond with jumps positioned so rider and horse are 'airborne' into this beautiful pond which even includes a 10' mallard duck figuratively greeting participants.
But why course design work? "To help pay for my expensive habit of riding and competing." chuckled Williams. He said even as a young guy he always enjoyed being a builder of things "...so this was an easy transition into the building of cross country jumps and courses. And from there it was also an easy transition into course design work/"
Times have changed, primarily rules and regulations that didn't used to be. So breaking into the world of cross country equestrian courses isn't so easy these days. Yet these actual regulations make the work both more challenging and rewarding he claims. "Figuring out the puzzle so all the pieces fit gets a bit difficult on some layouts, especially so if there is no money to spruce up the course."
His acquaintance with the Schweiss team occurred at Otter Creek, a topography challenging equestrian course north of Menominee, WS. "Getting to know the personalities of the people is perhaps vital to the design process. There's a bit of 'give and take' in everything you do in this work. Julie and her daughters have been a treat on this project," explained Williams who was doing some 'touch up' work on Roebke's Run in a June visit.
He indicated every job comes with a few surprises and Julie has a special knack for special landscaping items be that ornamentals, special trees, rock gardens with a variety of flowers. "These are will done and very beautiful so this course is indeed becoming a bit of an artistic delight. The Schweiss people have indeed turned this into a very special attractive property. The woodlot at the far end definitely adds another dimension to the total intrigue of Roebke's Run," said Williams.
He indicated the majority of cross country runs around the world are in the open country. "In my opinion any cross country course that doesn't have even a small woods to run through is missing a bit of character. I really like what this course offers."
So when does John Williams feel his work is completed? "When they quit writing checks to me," he chuckled but explained it's a matter of how do you define finished. In plain terms he said you're finished when the first horse for the first event is on course... at least for that week. But the reality is that as long as there are additional cross country events comping up, the course is never finished. "it is expected by all parties, especially competitors that the course changes at least a bit from one running to the next."
Some other thoughts on John's Course...
"John Williams is one of the few cross country course designers working today who can consistently improve both the way horses go and the way riders ride. Riding over one of his courses is a reward for horses." Jim Wofford, Author, Olympian, ANSA President Emeritus, Coach
"John's courses are the kind that when you finish them, your horse still feels positive, and even more important, your horse is better educated than it was before it went on the course." Denny Emerson, Rider, instructor, Former USET Member, USEA President Emeritus.
"As an event organizer, I have complete faith in John's ability to design a challenging yet safe and innovative course that keeps the competitors and their horses happy and coming back for more," Jane Cory, Organizer, Jersey Fresh, CCI**
"For the past nine years at Greenwood, John has designed very safe, but challenging and fun, cross country courses. His jump designs are excellent and he's available when you need him." Christie Tull, Greenwood Farms CIC
Magister Equitum Stables has been hosting Olympians to train possible future Olympians
Famous 2008 Olympian Becky Holder
By Pat Schmidt
If you want to be the best, it helps to learn from the best, and train and perform at the best. Over the past four years Magister Equitum Stables has provided a place where youth from the five-state area and beyond have been able to get top-ranked Dressage, Hunter/Jumper and Cross-Country instruction from former Olympians at this facility that is being lauded as one of the best.
Over 20 riders started arriving June 14 with their horses to spend the weekend under the tutelage of 2008 Olympian Becky Holder of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia who conducted a Junior Development Rider Program. She has done this across the United States for the past eight years for guys and girls in the 8-21 age group. Holder is currently a first alternate to the short list for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Three-time Olympian, silver medalist and six-time British Badminton Horse Trial winner Lucinda Green ran a clinic at Magister Equitum as did well known 4-Star veteran Ralph Hill, who will return again Sept. 8-9. Hill has competed in the Olympics and Rolex Kentucky competition since 1978 and was instrumental in starting the Minnesota Rider Development Program.
"The aspirations of these young riders vary," said Holder. "Some attend clinics to improve on their own with their own horse. Some seek higher goals such as gaining college equestrian program scholarships and others have visions of being an Olympic competitor. Many have gone on to teach and pay forward to younger riders. A college in Savannah, Georgia has an active equestrian circuit and offers it as a varsity sport."
When teaching, Holder breaks large groups into one and a half hour segments of four riders grouped into one of five levels of experience. That way she can spend more one-on-one time with them and their horses during the 8 a.m. to 4:30 classes she conducts. When she is not instructing them, she has them observe and learn during the other sessions. They also help set up fences and do other tasks. Safety is a major concern for her in a sport that can be dangerous. Riders need to take all safety precautions that include wearing air vest and helmets — everything to protect the rider.
"I compare this to other styles of coaching. I really enjoy the 'light bulb' and 'aha' moments when my students catch onto something I teach. It can be very rewarding," said Holder.
Horses have been her life since age 10 and have taken her many places. She said one of the highlights for her have been at several opening ceremonies at the Olympics. She looks for the United States to have a good showing in the team events and predicts some will earn individual medals at the upcoming Olympics in London. The elimination process for riders to compete starts with 81 horses, then it is whittled to the top 21 riders and horses and then down to 15. The top 10 eventually get to go. At the last Olympics the U.S. finished seventh and had one individual silver medalist.
How does Minnesota stack up in her horse world?
"Minnesota is extremely horsey. People here have a love of the outdoors, noted Holder. She has traveled the U.S. extensively, conducting clinics in Kansas, Wyoming, Phoenix, North Carolina, New York and other locations on the east coast. This is her eighth year of instruction in the Junior Development Rider Program.
Brook Mead and her mother, Julie Schweiss, have been instrumental in organizing these clinics and in the development and expansion of Magister Equitum. "We started researching different meanings of "Master of Horse," to come up with a name for our facility. This Latin version was the only one that we liked," said Mead.
Magister Equitum, located on a beautiful rural setting halfway between Fairfax and Hector, Minnesota, surely got accolades from Holder.
"This is a world-class facility with every advantage you can find in the United States. Nothing is held back in quality," noted Holder on her second visit here. "Having a clinic here is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these kids.
She said the local course has challenging terrain and compares it to a grad-school for the better and more experienced riders. The cross-country course is very likely one of the most athletic cross-country horse runs in America. The Schweiss facility can house up to 159 horses for a show and has an indoor heated arena.
Mead said the idea for Magister Equitum started when her family first began eventing. The closest event to attend was at Otter Creek, Wisconsin, a four-hour drive. After that, other events were only as close as seven to 15 hours away. That's a long time to sit in a truck just for a weekend show. Otter Creek, she said, is equivalent to Magister Equitum, but places like Queeny Park in St. Louis, which is a government-owned facility, is not able to make improvements on the scale of a privately owned facility. Government facilities have to deal with grants and board approvals and the like. There are quite a few government-owned facilities.
Eventing is an equestrian sport open to all ages. It is composed of three parts: Dressage, Cross-Country and Show Jumping.
Mead said they try to have two or three clinicians come in each year. "This has turned into a business. It's not just for the horses; we help the economy in surrounding communities for hotel stays, restaurants, etc. We have had 99 starts (horses) since the beginning of opening day for our October show." The community is always invited to attend the July and October closing shows following the clinics.
"I have noticed a great improvement in my riding since attending these clinics," said Mead. I used to be the type of rider that grabbed the horses reins and made the horse feel claustrophobic. Now, I do the opposite and give the horse its reins and am jumping better. What these clinics do is help you to bond with your horse and have your horse bond with you."
Holder's clinics start at a really young age and work up to older riders. She guides them all the way through. These riders bring many different breeds of horses with them varying from Connemara to Irish Sport, Arabians and Akhal-teke's, which are known for their loyalty, agility and endurance.
Horses aren't used for jumping until they are at least four years old. And then they are baby stepped from low jumps on up to four-foot jumps. Olympic competing horses may range from seven to 19 years old, still quite young considering many of these horses have a life span average of over 30 years, some horses even live to about 50 years old. Mostly older horses are competing at these higher levels. This avoids "burn out" on younger horses. Geldings, mares and stallions are all used for jumping events; it's a rider preference.
"That is to make sure they get their bones set and we are not damaging them," explained Mead. "You never want to overpower them in the jumping world, it will just ruin them."
Running and upkeep of an equestrian facility is a lot of work. It has been especially so at Magister Equitum because of the many improvements they have made to the course and addition of surrounding buildings. But for Brook, her mom, Julie, and her younger sister, Autumn Schweiss, an accomplished rider in her own right, it has also been fun and they take in clinics when they can. Autumn is a recent high school graduate, currently attending college in Florida. She plans to compete for a spot on the Two Star Young Riders Olympic Team in 2013. The lessons she has learned from attending various clinics and competition have given her an opportunity to also pay it forward by conducting her own clinic at the Schweiss newly started Roebke's Run Pony Club Challenge.
Keep following her career, someday you may see her walking behind or carrying the U.S. flag at an Olympic opening ceremony. That's what dreams are made of.
Minnesota's Newest Horse Run Glitters with Color and Challenges
Nationally Recognized Course Designer Eric Bull Gets Roebke's Run Ready for the 2011 July Show
Certainly the newest and very likely the most artistic Cross Country horse run in America is Roebke's Run, the deliciously beautiful course of Magister Equitum Stables, the fantastic riding academy of the Mike Schweiss family, rural Fairfax, MN. July 16/17 this newest course in America hosts its first USEA Eventing Horse Trial. Riders from the Upper Midwest will be competing. The public is invited.
Artistic specialist and chain saw sculptor of Roebke's Run is Eric Bull, Scottsville, Virginia with 15 years experience in doing the 'hands on' finishing touches for cross country horse runs across North America and Mexico.
"I grew up riding horses though was never good enough to be a serious 'point contender' in competitive events," relates Bull who said the need to earn some dough to pay for college got him involved as an summer horse riding instructor. "That combination of training others about the intricacies of being a good cross country rider got me totally involved in the construction challenges of creating intriguing cross country runs," said Bull who in late June was just putting the finishing touches to Roebke's Run Cross Country Course.
His assessment of Roebke's Run? "This will indeed be one of the more attractive runs in Minnesota, and the Upper Midwest. I will guess this will soon become the leading facility in Minnesota, if it now already has that honor.
"This course is as good, or better than any layout we have done across the country. We work the West Coast, the East Coast and we're doing the finishing touches for the Pan-American Games in Mexico this summer."
Bull has a 3-person crew assisting in most of his course work plus he uses local dirt movers and labor to 'help fill in the gaps' as needed.
So where do you start? Course designer for Roebke's Run was John Williams, Louisville, KY area who previewed the 80-acre layout last year; then did the 'blue print' creating the various jump areas (obstacle challenges for both horse and rider). He provided Bull with various 'jump sheets' for the entire course. A local contractor did the earth work in terms of special jumps, dug outs, etc. Than it is Bull's challenge working with a Bobcat skid loader, chain saw, shovel and a few other assorted tools "to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps."
And what a remarkable array of chain-saw sculpted pieces are part of these finishing touches. Some are strictly decorative; others are carefully positioned as jumping challenges. For example Roebke's Run is located in the middle of Corn Country so 4, huge ears of corn, each about 12' long are horizontally positioned around the edges of what is called a coffin area. "That's a horse jump, a ditch and then a jump out," explained bull.
You also see huge Mallard ducks, an oversized Raccoon chewing on a big fish, deer standing amongst the wooded portion of the run, another big Raccoon laid out in one of the water ponds, two very handsome but oversized wood benches and a 'full size' buckboard wagon are just a few of the chain-saw sculptured creatures inhabiting Roebke's Run. And since this 80-acre layout occupies a prime position within Renville County farm country, a 'full size' John Deere tractor complete with traditional green and yellow paint plus black tires wrapped around yellow rims is part of the decor. For an added country touch, an old 'rusted out' Minneapolis Moline combine sits at the north edge of the timber portion of the Run.
"Despite all these artistic items, course safety is uppermost when we build a cross country run," explains Bull. "So we start with first building horse jumps that are good, safe jumps. This means jumps that the horses will read correctly and be doable by both horse and rider. Then the bigger challenge is to fit inside this safety parameter something that is attractive. And that's where the art, the magic, and the science all come together.
"The shape and the size of each jump is science. The art and the magic are making these various sculptured items look like the real world, albeit a bit out of scale."
The huge duck (about 5' long, 6' tall) which Eric Bull rested against for this interview started with two big log-size pieces of wood. The horse recognizes this as just a big piece of wood. "Horses just see the log; we see the duck and it adds to the artistic appeal of the total layout."
Interviewed June 29, Bull was about wrapped up with his work at Roebke's Run. "Then the course is set to play meeting the legal requirements to host major competitive events. Still lots of decorations with flags, banners, special bunting, flowers, etc., but that's for Sky (brother to the Schweiss gals Brook, Autumn and Lark) and his crew to do."
Put this kind of money, and effort, and artistic design into this very special Minnesota project and the logical question: 'How long does a course last?' Ten to fifteen years said Bull; then do a refurbishing and you've got another 10 years.
Bull still rides and competes whenever possible, as does his wife. So does a course designer have an advantage? Bull chuckled, "Nope, I'm pretty bad when it comes to winning points."
Roebke's Run gets its first championship test July 16/17 when competitive riders from the Upper Midwest will be challenging themselves and their horses on Minnesota's newest Cross Country track. This event is called an USEA Eventing Horse Trial. The public is invited. For more info email:Brook@bifold.com
Grand Opening of Roebke's Run - July 2011
Neighbors swapping farmland likely dates back even to colonial days. And the
reasons would be endless but often simply because conditions had changed for
Farmer A or Farmer B since that original purchase. Such is the recent history
of a Renville County farm located between Fairfax and Hector, MN.
It started with the sale of 138 acres of cropland in the early 1980s to Bill Roebke, Hector area farmer. The seller was Mike Schweiss, a struggling dairy farmer at the time but a tinkerer with a remarkable penchant for 'creating' a variety of useful devices and equipment for his neighboring farmers. Part of that creative imagination was something called a "bi-fold" door, which eventually led to this farmer becoming a full-time door builder. In fact once the stanchions were ripped out the old barn became the initial cutting and welding area for these bi-fold doors.
For the past 28 years Bill Roebke has been reselling various parcels of his original 138-acre purchase, ironically to the same party he originally purchased the land from. That would be the Mike Schweiss family to 'make room' for the continually expanding Schweiss door business. And to provide space for a newly-built equestrian stable and training ground. Horses have become a huge new chapter in the lives of the Schweiss ladies.
"The Roebkes and the Schweiss families have been good neighbors since the beginning of time," related Roebke. "But when I bought the cropland from Mike in the 1980's, I certainly didn't think I would eventually be selling several parcels back to him."
His first 'resell' was 15 acres for additional manufacturing space. Next was a five-acre patch, and soon a few more parcels. Most recent acquisition was a wooded. 22-acre patch of land owned by Bill's brother, John Roebke. This particular parcel adjoins the north edge of the soon-to-be professional riding academy for Magister Equitum, the Schweiss equestrian facility.
You sense the friendly bantering over these land swaps. Schweiss two years ago mentioned to John Roebke that he'd like to buy that old wooded farmsted. Roebke responded, "Mike, I don't need to sell that parcel. Make me happy."
Apparently the fever of building a first class equestrian facility was not to be denied. "Mike told me he'd pay for all the legal work, the survey to establish boundaries, even the closing of the old well. And I would get the check for the land," Roebke said.
Being an astute CPA (Certified Public Accountant) with a Minneapolis area firm, Roebke simple acknowledged, "Mike, that's fine with me. We started with just a 10-acre patch including some of the woodland. But he convinced me to sell him the entire 22-acres."
At a June 30 visit at the Schweiss equestrian facility, the Roebkes shared their amazement of the renovations taking place on the land they previously owned, "As we dove in, we looked. We remembered what once was," exclaimed Bill Roebke. "We saw what is now happening an we both exclaimed 'Wow'."
And it's only going to get better. John Williams, a professional equestrian course designer from Kentucky is now putting his touches to work. The intent is to have a professionally-designed riding academy that potentially will soon be hosting major horse shows events for riders from across the Midwest and elsewhere.
"It's important to have a variety of topography and that includes open spaces with appropriate jumping and water courses, plus a wooded area as part of the cross country challenges," explained Williams. "A completely open course is a bit sterile and boring. This topography gives you a bit of everything you want."
John Roebke is amazed by what the Schweiss' have created. "Never in my wildest imagination could I visualize what Julie, Mike and their family are now creating," he said. "I remember that 22-acre old farmstead as a junky old box elder grove filled with rocks, rusty cans, old pails, crap iron and a bunch of old beer bottles too. It was a typical 'catch all' dumping place."
"These re-sales of Mike's original farmland back to Mike have just been fun, and intriguing too," Bill Roebke added "When you see your long-time neighbor building a business that keeps on expanding. it was only logical to sell back some land as needed. You want to see this business grow. It employs lots of people. Mike is a catalyst for this area. That's part of what America is all about. And that's been my satisfaction in reselling this land back to Mike."
"The Schweiss girls have been dreaming about this riding facility for years. Today we are seeing this ambition getting into its final stages of preparation," the Roebkes concluded.
"It's fun. It's exciting. The Roebkes have been reliable and fair," said Schweiss. "The economy has been a bit spooky at times so you've got to have some faith and some courage."
Having good products in the marketplace helps too! Schweiss Doors is acknowledged as #1 for both bi-fold and hydraulic doors in world markets.
More expansion down the road? The Roebke brothers simply responded, "Look at Mike's history," Bill Roebke winked, "And if he needs more land I can find another parcel."
On June 30, this magnificent new training course was appropriately dedicated as 'The Roebke Run'.
Stay tuned. There likely will be more chapters (acres) added to this remarkable story about a piece of farmland that keeps exchanging ownership, parcel by parcel.
A family of horse enthusiasts from the area have added to their love for riding...in a big way.
The Schweiss family, who own and operate the well-known Schweiss Bi-Fold
Doors company between Hector and Fairfax, have constructed a state-of-the-art equestrian facility and
stable just north of the Bi-Fold Doors plant.
The large red barn is clearly visible for motorists on Highway 4 passing near the facility.
The Schweiss Magister Equitum Stables held an open house last Saturday for visitors to take a first-hand look at this majestic facility.
Construction on the facility began in November of 2006 and took approximately one year to complete.
The Schweiss' purchased 40 acres of land from Bill and Gail Roebke, Hector, in order to construct the facility. "None of this would have been possible without Bill and Gail," said Brook (Schweiss) Mead, who manages the new facility.
Mike Schweiss owned the land originally, but sold it to the Roebkes. "In the early 70s, dad (Mike Schweiss) had owned all the land," said Brook. "But he sold it off when he wanted to get out of farming." Mike Schweiss began re-acquiring the land in pieces over the last few years.
The first part of the Schweiss Magister Equitum Stables is complete with the construction of the stables and riding arena. The next phase is finishing the cross-country course, which consists of building the jumps. The cross-country area sits immediately north of the stable. By next fall, they hope to the facility ready for schooling shows, although they wouldn't be a recognized. "Within five years we are looking at hosting recognized shows," said Brook.
The stable facility is a heated barn with breathtaking woodwork and architecture with a medieval theme. Indoor stalls line the inside of the spacious barn. Also available are paddock with run-in-shed and pasture boarding. The barn also houses an indoor riding arena that measures 80' x 200' in size.
"I never thought it would be this big," said Brook. "It's more than I could've imagined."
The facility also includes a kitchen area/viewing area for owners to watch during training or workouts, a wash stall and a tack room.
Stabling includes the use of all the facilities. While horses are at Schweiss Magister Equitum Stables, owners are welcome to take advantage of the living quarters which can sleep up to six people. The owners can register for short stays at $300 per horse.
Schools or training services are available with trainer Kathy McInerny. Owners are also welcome to bring their own trainers to the facility and use any of the facilities, including the cross-country course, outdoor dressage area, stadium and indoor arena.
The idea for such a facility came from Mike and Julie Schweiss' daughter and Brook's younger sister, Autumn. "She was determined to learn how to jump," said Brook. "We were strictly trail riding. I thought I was all done with the horses. I could handle just trail riding, but when Autumn said she wanted a jumping saddle, I knew she was intense and this was not something that was going to go away. Mom and dad bought the jumping saddle and I did a lot of research on trying to find a trainer."
The search for a trainer ended up sending Brook and younger sisters Autumn, 14, and Lark, 13, who both attended St. Mary's School in Bird Island, to Maple Lake twice per week, which is a round-trip of four hours. They made the trip for two years.
"It got to be too much," Brook said. "That's when we decided it was time to build. Dad thought this was a short little phase until he found out 'oh, we can win money at these events and my girls are actually doing quite well.' Once he realized we were bringing blue ribbons home, he realized we were not going to give this up."
Autumn was the first to start riding and competing in these type events and Lark soon followed. After about six months, Brook also began competing. "I tried it twice and decided that I was going to keep doing it," Brook said.
Autumn and Lark started training on ponies and Brook on her horse. Autumn later decided on a bigger horse and she continually places in the top 5 or 10 in competitions. She researched and found a unique Akhal-Teke breed. There are only 255 of that breed in the U.S. There are now three owned by the Schweiss family.
"We do about five or six shows a year," Brook said. "We go all over. The closest is in Anoka. That is the only one in Minnesota." Other stops include Kansas City, Otter Creek in Wheeler, Wisconsin, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Illinois and Kentucky.
The three Schweiss sisters have found something they are very passionate about. Now they have a place to enjoy that passion, just a few steps away.
Schweiss Magister Equitum Stables was created with the goal of allowing many horse enthusiasts to enjoy that same passion.
For more information, contact Brook at firstname.lastname@example.org or (320) 894-8831.
*Originally published in the News-Mirror of Hector, MN