Home of Marabet Farm and Olde Oaks Farm
By Victoria Sheehan
Paris is always a good idea. Paris, Kentucky, sits in the heart of Bourbon county. Less than 10,000 people call this town home. There are taverns built in the 1700s, and historic markers point visitors in the direction of quaint wonders from the past. However, it’s on Main Street where visitors can find the true heart of the town.
Paved with red brick is the Bourbon County Horse Walk of Fame, where concrete markers feature horse shoes and plaques from the country’s most famous equines—all whom called Paris home. In front of the court house is Secretariat. Turn onto Arderly Place and there is Seabiscuit. More than 50 horses are immortalized in the streets of the town that proudly claims these horses as their own.
And now, Alesi Farms calls Paris home. The breeding program combines two separate farms that joined forces to grow and improve the standard of breeding quality hunters in the U.S. At the helm are two business women who value horsemanship above all. Vicki Hunton, owner and director of Olde Oaks Farm in Thompsons, TX, and Maggie Fullington who owns Marabet Farm, combined forces to create Alesi.
Vicki Hunton grew up in Pony Club in Hawaii. Taught by the formidable Jean ‘Terry’ Tugman, Hunton remembers names like Lockie Richards and other famous riders coming to give clinics. Above all, Hunton recalls the family atmosphere.
“Their barn was their house,” Hunton says. “Terry was a wonderful person, she took us all under her wing. We used to ride and then we would go get in the pool. It was a real camaraderie.”
Hunton’s family eventually moved to Texas, and Hunton started riding and working at Pecan Tree Farm with Dan and Burnis Foy. Here, she was first introduced to the love and business of breeding.
“There were three of us teenage girls, and one year there were three fillies born. Dan said, ‘you can each pick one and you get to work with it, teach it to be brushed and handled.’ He would teach us how to teach them,” says Hunton. “It wasn’t just about riding, it was about being an all-around horse person.”
After Pecan Tree Farm, Hunton started riding with Liza Richardson. The two formed a more than two-decade long friendship, and Hunton’s own breeding program gained traction with the purchase of the stallion named Shine, an imported warmblood with whom she’d previously bred a couple of mares.
Horse of a Lifetime
After trying to track down Shine to breed again, Hunton realized Shine was for sale. Hunton, Liza, and Hunton’s mom Charlotte went to try him two days in a row. Not only did Hunton want Shine to breed, but she also wanted to ride him in the amateur hunters. Liza agreed she could help teach her to ride him, and Charlotte encouraged her daughter to go after her dream. Call it fate, call it kismet…whatever it was, it worked. Hunton brought Shine home, and her life changed.
“If you’d asked me two weeks before if I’d ever own a stallion, I would have told you that you were nuts,” says Hunton with a laugh. “It was a total fluke, but it all worked. And he was a dream come true.”
Hunton rode Shine in the Adult Amateur Hunter division and Richardson showed Shine to several hunter derby successes. The stallion was consistently on the USEF top sires list for Hunter Breeding, and was even quiet enough that Hunton’s mother walked him around from time to time. Hunton cherished Shine and kept some of his offspring to create the foundation for her breeding program.
Building the Foundation
Fullington had a small but careful entrance into the world of breeding. After buying a yearling, and showing her in Hunter Breeding with the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Sallie Sexton, her interest was piqued to the combinations that make talented horses. She began breeding on a small scale using what she learned from Sallie’s extensive knowledge and incredible attention to detail.
“I researched and researched all the different bloodlines and different stallions and how important it was to put a combination together. I knew that I really wanted an Argentinus mare. So fortunately I was able to find one, Ornella and got her in foal to Balou Du Rouet who I had really admired. Nobody else even knew who he was at that point. And that’s how I got Bliss.”
Bliss MF was born on Fullington’s farm in Florida. In a time where most prized stallions were (and still are) imported from Europe, Bliss MF represented a strong beginning. He would go on to be named 2021 and 2022 USEF leading sire for Hunter Breeding. His full sister, Optimum M, is still a coveted broodmare at the farm.
But Fullington wasn’t done. She continued her meticulous research and narrowed in on her next combination. Her daughter’s junior hunter Lady Bug, who also had a career as a successful jumper, had movement and temperament that made her important to breed. They bred her to the famous sire King David. The result was Royal Envy MF, who inherited her mother’s beautiful movement and went on to become an elite mare for Marabet Farm. Fullington bred Royal Envy to Corlando and got her next exceptional stallion, Carry On MF.
“We researched and designed all these breedings ourselves,” says Fullington, who stresses the importance of careful breeding, using excellent mares and the realization that building generations of breeding here in the U.S. is rare—but necessary to grow quality programs stateside.
“We started our own breeding program, and it has produced mares, and those mares have produced babies and now we have six generations.”
A Kentucky Home
Fullington and Hunton’s relationship started simply. Chatting over the phone a few times, Hunton bred some of her mares to Fullington’s stallions, Bliss MF and Carry On MF. One morning, Vicki found her prized Shine broodmare had passed away in her stall. Vicki was devastated, and desperately wanted to preserve her line. She rushed to get the mare’s ovaries to Texas A&M. In the early hours, she called Fullington.
“She called me in a panic really early in the morning and said can you get me semen quickly?” says Fullington. “I said, ‘absolutely’. I literally hung up the phone and went out and I collected two of my stallions and flew two boxes to her. I would say that’s probably the thing that cemented our relationship.”
After that, the two met at the next USEF annual meeting in Wellington. They had dinner and hit it off.
“She called me one day and said, ‘I’m looking for a farm in Kentucky, but I can’t be there all the time. Would you be interested in sharing a farm with me?’ And I said, “Absolutely!’ That’s how this all happened,” says Fullington.
“The reason I chose Kentucky was the grass. I bought the farm in Paris and Bourbon county where the grass is excellent,” Hunton says. “It gives the babies a good start. Plus, the hills are so much better for them. So, everything will be born there, and we will spend the summers with the show horses in Kentucky. In addition to the show horses, the young horses will also go for three months to work on running up and down the hills and just being a horse.”
Setting a New Standard
In January of last year, Fullington and her daughter Christy moved onto the 264-acre property now known as Alesi Farms. Five stallions stand at the farm and more than 20 broodmares representing more than five generations also live on the property. The name, Alesi, was Shine’s registered name before he came to the United States—an homage to the horse that changed it all for Hunton, and a reminder that the farm is building a legacy.
“We breed for the amateur market, but we breed athletes,” says Fullington.
“Our most important thing is a good brain. All of our stallions have really good brains and that’s something we’re very proud of,” says Fullington. “I’m not saying occasionally we don’t breed a talented jumper or dressage horse, but the bottom line is that a hunter is a very specific thing, and that’s what we’re breeding for here.”
At Alesi Farms, a common phrase is, ‘The mare is more than 50% of the equation’.
“Both Vicki and I are very proud of the fact that we have a lot of mares from our own stallions, as well as really good mares that we’ve collected over the years to build our programs,” says Fullington. “People forget that a good mare makes all the difference in the world. You ask anybody in Germany, they will say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, stallions are a dime a dozen—but a good mare, they’re hard to find’. Mares raise the foals, the first learning experiences they have is from their mothers. And as much as I love my boys, we are really about our mares.”
Hunton and Fullington know that growing a prized breeding program in the States that can withstand the test of time is not easy. It is expensive, and it is not supported by the same systems that European countries like Germany and Belgium already have in place.
“Alesi Farms enables both of us to expand our breeding programs and do more for people in the United States,” says Fullington. “I would like this to be a place, a destination, where people can come in and go to multiple breeding farms and have all us work together and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got customers coming in, what have you got? Let’s bring them to everybody, because ultimately, that’s going to help all of us. That’s sort of my goal, to make the Lexington area a spot where people can come and look at a lot of young horses the way you can in Germany.”
The Lasting Legacy
Last year, when Fullington packed up Marabet Farm in Florida and moved to Kentucky, her daughter Christy joined her.
“Christy left a lucrative job teaching to come help me run this farm because I’m not as agile as I used to be. This will all be hers someday,” says Fullington. “I couldn’t do this without her.”
And those family bonds extend beyond blood relatives. “I just love it when I get pictures and videos from my buyers and they talk about how happy they are and how much they love their horses. That’s what keeps me going,” Hunton says. “Relationships are everything to me.”
“People with similar goals often gravitate toward each other,” says Fullington. “That’s true not only with Vicki and I but with the breeders that we meet along the way. A common goal is great horses, whichever direction you’re taking. Sometimes your family is blood, and sometimes your family is made. In this case that’s very true.”
A Final Note
The Plaid Horse would like to send our deepest condolences to the Hunton family on the passing of Vicki’s mother, Charlotte. Charlotte passed away as this story was being put together. Charlotte was an unwavering supporter of Vicki’s riding and breeding pursuits and was excited for the future of Alesi Farms.
Alesi Farms at a Glance
- 264 acres
- More than 20 Broodmares
- Located in the heart of Paris, KY
- Specializes in breeding and starting top hunter prospects
- Encompasses Vicki Hunton’s Olde Oaks Farm which still has a location in Thompsons, Texas and Maggie Fullington’s
- Named after Shine’s registered name in Germany
Meet the Stallions
- 2004 Black Stallion Homozygeous Black/Bay 16.2 h
- Balou Du Rouet/Argentinus/Pik Trumpf
- 2006 Bay Homozygeous Black/Bay Sabino 16.1 ½ h
Carry On MF
- Corlando/King David
- 2008 Bay Homozygeous Black/Bay Sabino 17 h
- Plot Blue/Contendro/Lanadel
- 2014 Bay Stallion Homozygeous Black/Bay Sabino 16 ½ h
Beyond Bliss M
- Bliss MF / L’Attitude MF
- Newest breeding stallion to be approved in spring
- 2017 Bay Stallion Homozygeous Black/Bay Sabino 16.2h
*This story was originally published in the February 2023 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!
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