Last Laugh Farm: Building A Wholesome Breeding Operation From A Lifetime Of Passion For Horses

Founder/owner David Brown with Billy Echo

BY April Bilodeau

On a road trip back to Chicago from Washington, D.C., eight-year-old David Brown begged his mom to take him to a farm in the Smoky Mountains for a trail ride.

“I’m from the generation that worshiped Roy Rogers,” Brown tells The Plaid Horse.

His mom gave in that day, but the ride didn’t exactly go as planned.

“We saddled up and my horse was at the back of the group,” says Brown. “Everyone started walking out to the trail and my horse kept turning around and heading back to the barn.”

After this happened a few times, a humiliated Brown gave up on the ride, but instead of feeling deterred from riding, he was inspired.

“That day I decided that even if it took me a lifetime, I was going to master the horse,” says Brown.

Now, decades later, he and his wife, Ellen, are the passionate horsemen behind Last Laugh Farm, a breeding facility based in Grantville, PA, with an impressive list of top hunters, jumpers, and equitation stars who were born on the property.

The Path to Breeding

Brown is a graduate of the University of Colorado and holds a degree in International Relations. He started out as a news reporter in Washington, D.C. before becoming a press secretary at a young age. Later, he went on to work in public relations, moving to Pennsylvania where he became chief of staff to the state’s governor and eventually ended his carreer as a public project development consultant.

At home during those days, Brown was raising a family that was remaining connected to the horse.

“Throughout my life, I’ve always had the horse close by,” he says.

In the early 2000s, he and Ellen made the decision to buy the farm that they still own today.

“Little did I know the mistake I was making,” Brown says with a laugh.

His daughter was finding a lot of success in the jumper ring, but Brown felt that the family’s finances were restricting his daughter’s ability to really ride at the top level.

His solution? To breed the horse that he couldn’t afford to buy.

Billy Echo

Billy Echo – Picture by Stacy Lynne
Billy Echo – Picture by Stacy Lynne

Soon, Brown was breeding five to eight foals per year. “Everytime you breed one,” he says, “you want to breed two more to make them even better.”

Brown believed that he could continue making a better horse until 2016 when Billy Echo was born.

“When Billy was born I realized that this may be the pinnacle of what I accomplish here on the farm, ever,” says Brown. “He is just remarkable. He has never let me down.”

It all started when Brown and his wife were driving back from a horse-related trip in Virginia.

“We were on the backroads of Maryland and I saw this bay mare with four white socks standing in the middle of the field,” says Brown.

He slammed on the brakes, drove down the driveway, and asked the first person he saw if the mare was for sale.

“When Billy was born I realized that this may be the pinnacle of what I accomplish here on the farm, ever.”

­—David Brown

He bought her on the spot.

The mare, My Pretty Echo, was already in foal to the black-type Thoroughbred stallion Defrere. Their filly, a long-legged filly named Ballyecho, became a prominent broodmare for Last Laugh Farm and is the dam of Billy Echo. When Brown came accross the stallion Billy Mexico in an on-line stallion search, he thought the two could create a perfect match.

“I’ve never been qualified to look at genetics. I go by their temperament, their poise, their position, and movement, so I kind of rolled the dice on this breeding,” says Brown. “Unfortunately for our retirement account, inspiration always seems to trump marketability.”

Billy Echo, LLF is a 2016 Warmblood Stallion approved by seven studbooks. At 17.1 hands, he boasts stunning looks, a powerful, yet effortless jump, and a puppy dog personality, making him the perfect candidate for those wishing to create a top contender in the hunter, jumper, and eventing rings.

“He was produced by an inspiration,” says Brown.

At one of his breed evaluations, the judge told Brown that Billy is a near perfect horse. He has produced beautiful offspring who all demonstrate the looks, build, and personality that Brown so hoped Billy would pass on.

“He’s just an incredible guy,” says Brown. “If he were a dog, his tail would never stop wagging.”

A Farm’s Legacy

While Last Laugh was established as a family farm, Brown now views it as a wholesome activity, and a challenging retirement job.

“We’re the epitome of a mom-and-pop operation,” says Brown. While the farm at one point had 30 horses, Brown has downsized the program to ten horses. This includes a mix of weanlings, yearlings, young horses, and a couple of select retired ones. And of course, Billy Echo.

In addition to the Browns, the farm includes a barn manager and an exercise rider who assists in breaking the young horses.

“We have the ability to start the horses enough to build a good foundation and then sell them to continue the breeding operation,” says Brown.

Occasionally the farm brings in working students who stay on board for a couple of years, learning the ins-and-outs of the breeding world.

“I feel so incredibly lucky to do what I do, with people who care about the horses and share the same passion as I do,” says Brown. “I hope to continue this success for many years to come.” 

For more information about Last Laugh Farm and Billy Echo, visit www.lastlaughfarm.com and www.billyechollf.com.