WINAMAC — For eight years of Abby Miller’s childhood, she helped care for the horses stabled in a private barn along the banks of the Tippecanoe River on the southwest edge of Winamac.
Now, she owns that barn and another on the site and has opened her own horse stables and arena to turn her lifelong hobby into a full-time job.
“I love being here,” she said. “I think it’s one of those things where we were meant to be here. ... This place has been one of those dreams come true for me.”
Miller, formerly a teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Logansport, and her husband, Paul, bought two horse barns and an attached indoor arena in January. She’s been working since to transform the private stables on Ind. 119 into Greenbridge Farm, a horse boarding and show site named for the green bridge that spans the Tippecanoe River just to the north.
She got her first horseback riding lesson when she was 8 years old.
From that point until she was 16, she helped her parents take care of several horses stabled in the older of the two barns that are now part of Greenbridge Farm. In exchange, she was allowed to stable her horses and some 4-H cows in the barn.
Abby’s family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, about two years before she graduated from high school in 1988. Her horses followed her there and stayed with her when she went to college to become a teacher.
In college, she worked part-time at a nearby stable in exchange for boarding her horses.
“Once I was 18 it was pretty much my job to make sure they had a home,” she said.
Laddie and Du, two horses she grew up with, followed her to California and then to Idaho after her marriage.
The Millers returned to Star City, just outside Winamac where they’d grown up, five years ago — horses still in tow. Abby and Paul bought a house with a nine-stall stable next to it when they moved, and Abby offered the extra space to friends to stable their horses.
“That’s where I realized it could be a business,” she said.
Friends asked whether Abby would teach their children to ride or train horses that hadn’t been ridden, so she began teaching and training, too, while raising her daughter. However, her commitments didn’t amount to a full-time job.
Once the Millers’ daughter was old enough to start school, Abby went back into teaching full-time, taking a job at All Saints Catholic School. But just a few months later, they found out they had a shot at buying the stable of Abby’s childhood and its newer counterpart.
When she visited the stables, they had been vacant for a short time after being used to house an alpaca farm for several years. Still, she was astounded by what had been built into the newer stable.
“They made huge improvements,” she said of the former owners.
“They went to the ends of the earth.”
She pointed out the water-heated barn floor, a dust-controlling sprinkler system in the 15,000-square-foot indoor arena, lights on the outdoor arena and even a security gate.
The arena came in handy during this summer’s heat wave.
“They insulated this so well that even though it was 100 degrees outside, it stayed about 80 in the barn,” she said.
After the Millers bought the horse farm and began boarding more horses there, Abby spent early mornings and evenings, when she wasn’t teaching at All Saints, riding horses and teaching beginning horseback riders.
“I’m still not exactly sure how I did it, but I would get up at 5 a.m. and ride all the training horses before going to school,” she said. “I was doing 5 in the morning to 10 at night pretty much from January until the end of school.”
Abby made the difficult decision to quit teaching again and start running the horse farm full-time.
“I could’ve hired someone to manage this, but that kind of misses the point,” she said. “There’s a lot of responsibility in watching other people’s horses, so I felt like that’s where I needed to be.”
But it’s work she loves. She enjoys vacationing but is always eager to return to her horses after just a couple of days “because I need my fix,” she said.
That dedication is part of why some of her clients have chosen to board their horses with her.
“The part that impresses me — it’s one thing to be really into horses,” said Alice Ulm, “but it’s a completely different thing to see the commitment she has.”
Ulm, a Winamac native, met Abby through her brother and started boarding her horses with Abby about two years ago. She has ridden horses for more than 50 years.
“In order to do some of the stuff she does down there” — like cleaning and training — “you’d have to love it or you’d go berserk,”
Ulm added. “And for her, it’s interesting to have seen her come full cycle and see her get back into that place.”
Bryce Brumm, a Winamac man who with his wife bought a horse for their three children last Christmas, said he appreciated boarding the family’s horse rather than caring for it himself.
“We’re not horse people; we weren’t brought up as horse people,” said Brumm, who knows Paul through work.
Stabling the horse at a horse farm is helpful since the family doesn’t have to build its own barn, he said, and isn’t knowledgeable about horse care.
“That’s been a huge advantage to me because otherwise, I wouldn’t know what to do,” he said.
The biggest advantage, though, is Abby herself, said Brumm.
“It’s not just a place where we’re putting our horse,” he said. “Abby’s 20 or 30 years of horse experience is what makes it what it is.”
• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.