In recent years, Southwind Farms made its name in New Jersey at its farm in Pennington. Now, the farm is expanding back to its roots at the New York farm that started it all back in 1978.
by Dave Briggs
The news that Southwind Farms is back in business in New York is more a resurrection of its roots rather than a new venture for the breeding operation that made its name in New Jersey in more recent years as the home of such stellar stallions as Muscle Hill, Artsplace and many more.
Southwind Farms general manager Laura Young said the 400-acre farm — in the butternut valley of Gilbertsville, NY not far from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown — was the original farm the late Mr. and Mrs. Allen Skolnick started in 1978.
“We used to send our yearlings up (to the New York farm), but found the environment was more challenging to raise young horses and we really wanted to consolidate all the yearlings to the New Jersey facility so our clients did not have to travel to two different farms to view yearlings,” Young said. “Around 2005, we sent some mares up to participate in the New York breeders awards, but at that time the program was capped and many of the smaller operations did not see much money if any from the breeders awards. More recently the breeders awards have become more available and appetizing.”
“New York is a no brainer. We had the facility in place, it’s not diluted with stallions, it’s very competitive racing and there are not to many larger operations.”
The New York operation features some 200 acres devoted to pasture, three main barns with a total of 60 stalls, a full breeding shed and an onsite laboratory with hematology equipment so staff can quickly get blood work results. All of the stalls have been remolded and there is new fencing on the property, as well. Southwind grows its own hay onsite and on some adjacent land.
Heather Gross, who has worked for Southwind for 11 years will be the onsite manager of the New York farm, which is located a little more than three hours from the Pennington, NJ farm.
“She is very experienced in all aspects of equine breeding and health care,” Young said. “She is originally from the area and her entire family are there as well. The core staff have all been with us for seven or more years. But that said we are one Southwind. We help each other as much as possible. If they need hay, we ship it up. If we need hay, they ship it down. We are in constant communication. Our computer systems are linked together so I can see what’s going on up there as they can see everything going on down here. We are transparent with each other and assist each other as much as possible.”
Young said there are two residences on the New York property — the house Gross lives in and the main Skolnick mansion which is part of Quarry Hills Rentals operated by Southwind CEO Barry Skolnick, the son of the farm’s founders. The mansion is rented most of the summer, “to bridal parties, baseball enthusiast and folks that just want to stay at a beautiful farm,” Young said.
“Barry has supported us though everything thick and thin. We wanted to get things set up and ready for boarding mares in 2020. We have been in full operation since April of 2019,” Young said. “The farm is within two hours of every major stallion station and we are now 20 minutes from the new Diamond Creek (New York) operation, so picking up semen and breeding mares at our facility is a hop, skip and a jump.”
Young said there is space to board between 25-30 mares at its New York farm, but they will be careful to maintain sustainable numbers.
“Over population can lead to pasture decline and bio security issues. We have always been very strict with quarantine protocols for new arrivals and maintaining our pasture quality. As with the New Jersey facility, we are self-sufficient. We run as a business and we need to be in the black each year. It will be no different with the New York operation. Our main goal is to establish enough clientele, breeders awards and New York breds at the sales to increase our income on that farm to be in the black.
“It’s a great facility, but it has to be managed, as with any breeding farm. Numbers can get out of control really fast, so we are going to cap the amount of mares we will take. We want to maintain pasture quality, staff comfort and the health care of each horse.”
As for stallions, Young said some people have already inquired about standing them at Southwind New York, “and we have let people know we are ready. If a stallion or two comes our way great. We have the experienced staff and facility in place to accommodate them. If not, we are close by to many stallions stations to give clients options for their mares.”