Conway Arabians leaves Minnesota to join Marion County Equestrian Center
When Lori Conway loaded the first batch of Conway Arabians Arabian horses to her husband Peter’s farm in southeastern Minnesota in February, it was windchill minus 27 degrees.
When she arrived in Florida at the couple’s new farm in northern Marion County with the horses a day later on Feb. 22, it was 80 degrees outside.
“Our broodmares are so happy here,” she said on Friday when registering the 82 horses they transported and four new foals, the youngest not even 3 days old.
As Lori and Peter roamed the hills of the 194-acre farm under the shade of towering live oak trees, their four dogs – Ace, Dually, Maize and Luna – loyally followed, aside from pausing to jump in the pond or hunt squirrels.
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“Our farm in Minnesota is absolutely stunning eight months of the year, maybe six,” Lori said. “To leave it, you had to find something magical, and this place is magical.”
From their new farm – located south of County Road 320 and west of Interstate 75 – Lori and Peter will operate Conway Arabs, their training and breeding business that started in Minnesota 22 years ago. The move not only represents a big step forward for the Conways – who were named the country’s 2018 Breeder of the Year by the Arabian Professional and Amateur Horseman’s Association – but also the growth of the Arabian horse industry in the world. Marion county.
World Class Arabian Horse Breeding
“I love the whole study of pedigree and genetics. I love trying to create a better horse,” said Peter. “Our goal is to breed and produce the best performance Arabian horses. in the world, and it’s not easy. It sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s a mixture of science and art, horsemanship and luck.
They specialize in breeding for performance disciplines, including Western and Hunter Siege, and they also breed Half Arabians.
Among other accolades, one of their stallions, Coltane, was the 2018 APAHA Purebred Saddle Seat Horse of the Year and the United States National Park Horse Unanimous Champion.
The Conways deliver all babies themselves and have around 10-12 foals per season, although their maximum has been 26.
“(In Minnesota) our babies right now wouldn’t have been outside. They would still be in the barn,” Lori said, or not born at all, as they tried to plan births for May or later. late in colder weather.
Here, foals gallop on their mothers’ haunches in the Florida sun in the paddocks of the farm, which has 110 stalls, four barns, a 1-mile racetrack, lunging ring, EuroXciser and hot walker. The Conways will complete a fifth barn and add a covered arena.
Farm manager Jose Guerra, barn manager Kristie Hoppe, trainer Jen Schmitt and other employees are a vital part of the farm, where horses eagerly greet the Conways at each stall or paddock, pushing each other mutually apart for a pet on the muzzle.
Horse training ‘consumed my whole life’
Peter, owner of a modern office furniture company, became interested in Arabians when his young daughters wanted horses and met Lori when she became their trainer. He is now vice-president of the Arabian Horse Association.
“One thing led to another and it consumed my whole life,” he said. “It attracts you.”
Peter was attracted to Arabians because they interact with people more than other races and love their owners, he said. He calls them “the horse that loves you back.”
Arabians are known for their domed faces, long necks and high tails. Lori fell in love with the breed growing up around them in Boulder, Colorado.
“I’ve been training horses professionally since I was 14, so pretty much my whole life,” she said. “I was one of the youngest to get my judging card when I was 21 and have been judging horses ever since.”
She retired from coaching several years ago, but still shows horses and has judged competitions all over the world, including national championships in the United States, Canada and Argentina.
Conway Arabians is a diamond sponsor for the 2022 Region 12 Arabian and Semi-Arab Championships to be held at the Ocala World Equestrian Center May 4-8, and they will also be fielding five horses.
Horses are ‘top priority’ in Marion County
The WEC also factored into the departure from Minnesota, which required seven trips. They started to seriously nurture the idea a few years ago and keep an eye out for available farms.
“We take advantage of it. It’s an incredible facility,” said Peter. “A friend of mine called it a ‘tribute to the horse’ and I think that’s a perfect description of the World Equestrian Centre.”
The Conways’ realtor at Ocala Horse Properties told them that the top three reasons people move to the area are weather, taxes and horses, all of which are perks.
The Conways jumped on Marion’s northern farm, buying it for $11.05 million from Los Samanes Polo & Racing, whose owners returned to Venezuela permanently after splitting their time between there and the Florida.
While their main concern was the property and its suitability for their horses and scenic morning walks, the house was also a plus. It is fully furnished with modern decor, including imported Venezuelan woods, and there is an infinity pool, gym, wine cellar, two guest houses and a manager’s house.
“Everywhere we’ve been, the culture here is fantastic,” Peter said of the area. “Everyone is so friendly. You immediately feel at home. »
And unlike Minnesota, horses are at the top of the priority list here.
“You drive forever, and it’s cornfields, hayfields, cows, then horses, but it’s in that order,” Lori said of their former home.
Today, in the horse capital of the world, they are part of a vibrant horse industry and a growing movement of Arabian farms and shows in the region.
“You’ve just done miles and miles, and it’s nothing but horse fencing, vets and farriers, and everything you could possibly need for horses is here,” said Peter said.
2021 show at WEC voted best Arab horse show among hundreds
The 2022 Region 12 Arabian and Semi-Arab Championships will be held at the Ocala World Equestrian Center May 4-8, marking the show’s second year since leaving Georgia.
The 2021 show at the WEC won the Arabian Horse Times Readers’ Choice Award for Horse Show of the Year out of some 400 shows, including US Nationals and the famous Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, which is the largest Arabian show in the world. world.
“It is voted on by the Arabian horse community. They vote for the horse show of the year based on the vibe of the show, the activities, the fun they had, what makes it special, the competition,” said Lara Ames, owner of the ‘Arabian Horse Times.
The WEC stadium and other venues stood out to readers.
“It’s really nice to have a high class facility that you never have to leave the facility, but it feels like you’re on vacation,” she said. “It will be one of the events to attend every year.”
Mike Haggan, who is part of the Region 12 show committee, said this year’s competition will have more horses and entrants, including from Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and the Minnesota.
“There was always something to do. You can just walk around the WEC site, you see the church. You see all the different rings. Everyone was so comfortable there,” he said of last year’s show, which featured around 600 horsepower. “What separated them was just the location, the city, and then the people who decided to finally get back to a horse show after COVID.”
With Conway Arabians and other groups like the Royal Arabians of Arizona moving their farms here, Haggan says Scottsdale and Ocala are the two places to go for those from the Arab world.
“I like to say Ocala is turning into Scottsdale East because Scottsdale, Arizona has always been the Mecca of the Arabian horse,” he said.
There will be $150,000 in prize money available through the Spotlight Futurity program, and an additional $26,000 for the show’s Egyptian horse event.
Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at [email protected]