If you follow WTW on social media then you got a little bit of a head start on this news.
I’ve been trying not to spill the beans on this for months (not until everything was signed and done and dusted and certain), but a lot of you already had a pretty good idea via context clues. WTW has officially purchased a second location!
I haven’t mentioned it but we’ve been throwing this idea around for years, really. The Texas location is great in that it’s where Michelle’s family is, she has nice big foaling stalls, all of her breeding equipment is there, etc. What it’s lacking is space and lots of nice grass for babies to grow up. Plus it’s not really the best location to sell foals from – there’s nothing else nearby to draw people to the area. A second farm on the east coast would be much more ideal for raising foals as well as the commercial aspect of the breeding business, so we’ve been poking around for quite a while now.
At first the search was kind of all over the east coast, but eventually we narrowed it down to Aiken or Ocala. It just makes more sense, with those being major hubs. People are through those areas often, there are a ton of horse shows and events locally that make it cheaper/easier to get young horses out and about, and the warmer weather is easier for us Texans to cope with. At the end of the day, though, Ocala just ticked a few more boxes than Aiken did. Originally we were thinking longer term, more like a few years from now, but with the explosion of the Ocala area since WEC opened (and now with the news that they’ve purchased OJC to turn into an eventing/polo facility as well), it was kind of a “now or never” thing as far getting a farm with enough land and not being priced out.
Bobby and I looked at couple places when we were in Ocala in April, and it was pretty much right after that that the search began in earnest. Michelle and her husband flew down over the summer to look at a bunch more, putting an offer in on one that was under contract already but accepting backups, but that one didn’t pan out. Option B was this place, a 58 acre farm that’s been a racehorse breeding/foaling/raising facility for the past few decades. They put in an offer, it was accepted, and so began all the red tape and BS that comes along with a big purchase like this.
Michelle and I flew out to see the farm in October before we went to Maryland, and that was my first time seeing it. We spent a few days walking around, taking in the layout, thinking through all the options for how it could work, and making lists. With 5 barns, tons of turnouts, round pens, two homes, and a eurocizer, it’s got some really great bones. It’s even got a breeding lab and two foaling stalls with viewing windows from the office, so it does have the capability for breeding/foaling to happen there in the future as well. There’s definitely some work required to get it cleaned up a bit, get some fences repaired, old equipment cleared out, things painted and restored to their former glory, some landscaping put in, road repair, etc. It’s perfectly functional as-is though, so a lot of those things can be done over time, which is the plan.
The idea is that the racehorse mare/foal boarding aspect of the business will stay, as those boarders want to stay on. The barn worker also wanted to stay on, so essentially no part of that will be changing, at least for a while. The facility is large enough to accommodate multiple things. The first “new” thing that’s happening is preparing it for it’s new seasonal trainer – Megan. Michelle and Megan have had a working relationship for a few years now, Megan has some WTW horses and Michelle plans to send her more, so… it makes sense for her to have a permanent place in Ocala that she can base out of in the winter. Getting the property ready for a riding operation to come in for a few months requires a little bit of scrambling at the moment, but it should work out. The first order of business is putting in a new all weather riding arena – something that also everyone else in Ocala is trying to do right now. The location of the farm is hard to beat though, we drove to some of the main facilities while we were there to get a feel of how far they were and what the drive was like – 10mins or less to OJC, Sweet Dixie, and Majestic Oaks, 18mins to WEC. It was blowing my mind just how close everything was. For someone who has to drive 2 hours each way just to get to the closest XC schooling venue I can’t even fathom having 5-10 options all within half an hour, much less all the different shows happening everywhere all the time.
Going forward once the foals are weaned at the original WTW location, they’ll be shipped out to WTW East to grow up in the big lush pastures of Ocala. Anyone interested in purchasing can view them there, and if desired they can continue to board the foal there until it’s riding age, something we hadn’t been able to offer before. As a business it gives us and our clients a lot more options. And the person in charge of giving them their early education and raising them to be good equine citizens? That’ll be me. I have a lot of stuff to wrap up here, tons of logistics to figure out that I haven’t even started on, and even more things to get in order, so the move won’t happening be right away. Most likely guess would be about 6ish months. We’ll just have to see how things shake out. The current barn worker onsite at WTW East is plenty capable of taking care of them in the meantime. Michelle will remain at the Texas location to do the breeding/mare care/foaling out.
About a million people have asked me about the t!ny h0use – will it stay or go. That I don’t know yet. The Ocala farm has a little house for me (well I claimed it immediately anyway, so… it’s mine now lol) so we will have to decide if we want to sell the tiny, keep it here and rent it out, or take it with us and turn it into a rental. A lot of yet-unknown factors weigh into that decision, obviously, so for now I’m not sure which it’ll be. The little house on the farm is also small, maybe 600 sq ft if I was guessing, which is the perfect size IMO. It has 2 bedrooms though, which would be nice for the SO to be able to have room for all his stuff. It’s also about 40 feet away from the small cinder block barn that I’ve claimed for my horses, and all of it is toward the middle of the property, away from the seasonal rental front barn and well back off the road.
So there ya go – beans officially spilled, cat finally out of bag. I think this mostly gets you caught up on everything that’s been happening behind the scenes over the past few months. Now there’s even more to do, we really haven’t even begun yet, but I’m pretty freaking excited to finally have sight of what’s next. This is the beginning of the next phase for WTW and for myself!