BY JESS CLAWSON
Courtney Hayden-Fromm didn’t necessarily envision that her entire professional life would involve horses, but as the owner of Old Seoul Equestrian, horses are beyond even a job: her family life is wrapped up in them too.
When Fromm was little, her babysitters, including Sarah Meier–now a professional rider in Lexington, Kentucky–would take her to the barn with them. They were the ideal supervision for the horse crazy kid, and led her down the path that would define the rest of her life.
Fromm took a gap year before college. “I was riding and teaching a little here and there,” she said. “I went to college, but my heart kept calling me back to the barn. I wouldn’t say I always wanted to own a barn and train horses, but the career path sort of found me and I love it.”
Fromm’s husband, Doug, is very much part of the operations of Old Seoul, but didn’t start out in horses. “When we bought the farm Doug made me sign a contract that said I would never make him ride a horse,” Fromm laughed. “He has grown into a horseman because he loves and supports his wife, but honestly, if it weren’t for my love of this sport I don’t think he would be doing anything with horses.”
Their son, Carter, has “the world’s best pony, Pep Talk.” Cal, as the pony is known around the barn, doesn’t get ridden often–Carter prefers feeding the pony treats rather than riding. “Carter is into the ring maintenance. He likes the tractors and skid loaders, and loves to ride his four wheeler,” Fromm explained.
Together, the family has turned Old Seoul into a special place that tailors their program to the horses’ and riders’ needs and wants. She loves working with young horses and riders. “When we reach a goal and the perseverance pays off, it’s a good day,” she sad.
She prizes diversity of age and experience in the horses and riders at Old Seoul, calling it “the secret to our success.” Their farm is home to horses from foals to retirees and everything in between. Riders range “from lead line to Ocala, from the first time in the show ring to getting back into it at 70 years old, from the working student to the penthouse,” Fromm said. “There is never a lack of activity for every horse lover.”
Old Seoul Equestrian has a busy show calendar with “a little something for everyone” to ensure that their riders and others in the area have as much competitive experience as they would like to have at the local level. “We also always support a charitable cause that touches the lives of our competitors,” Fromm emphasized.
The familial element of the business prompted Fromm to develop the robust show calendar. “When Doug and I started a family, I wanted to be home more in the summers. Summer in Wisconsin is fantastic,” she said. “I also wanted to continue to do what I love and grow the industry in Wisconsin. Many successful riders come from the Wisconsin grassroots. We grow our offerings based on the needs of our area, and host at least two clinics annually.” They began hosting horse shows and clinics in 2012, and have grown steadily since.
Fromm appreciates how the Wisconsin Hunter Jumper Association local member show format is set up to encourage USHJA participation while also retaining the circuit feel at the local level. “Local shows should serve as an entry level preparation to the A circuit,” Fromm said.
Fromm is looking to grow her love of horses and the sport, as well as her local show series. “The grass roots is really the starting place for everything that makes great horsemen and women,” she said. “It’s my passion.”
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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