RiverCross Farm – Sally Harrington Philippo On Thoughtfully Raising Her Homebreds, One Foal At A Time

RiverCross horses enjoying the quiet atmosphere in the stables at home - Picture by Mateo Nantais

BY April Bilodeau

When bringing foals into the world, a warm and kind atmosphere can make all the difference in how they come along in their first years of life—and beyond. Sally Harrington Philippo, owner and manager of RiverCross Farm, is focused on doing exactly that.

“Building trust with infinite patience is a key principle in developing a brave and honest performance horse,” Sally tells The Plaid Horse.

Sally has been breeding on the farm for approximately 25 years and has produced beautiful, athletic horses with consistently wonderful temperaments.

RiverCross Farm is located in Quebec, Canada. The picturesque farm lays amid gentle contours of hills and valleys with beautiful pastures and a deeply peaceful landscape. This is an ideal environment in which a young horse can grow and thrive.

Picture by Mateo Nantais

Her dream of breeding came from a desire to help develop an ideal amateur performance horse in North America using the bloodlines she researched that were producing the best quality in Europe.

The first generation of RiverCross horses were produced on the forefront of equine reproduction using frozen semen. Commonplace today, but not 25 years ago.

“I wanted to import into North America all the lovely attributes of the horses that were being bred in Europe,” says Sally. Her favorite breed? The Dutch Warmblood.

Most recently, RiverCross Farm added a new, exciting young stallion to their family—a four-year-old son of United Touch S out of a Verdi mare, bought from Willem Sweirstra, a respected breeder in Holland.

With this well-known stallion line at her fingertips, Sally plans to continue to keep RiverCross’s breeding on the cutting edge.

The Importance of temperament

RiverCross Onyx, the farm’s original signature homebred stallion, still making dreams come true and doing well at age l9 with his amateur rider Stacey Nauss – Picture by Braided Media

While bringing top lines to Canada was a priority for Sally, her focus is breeding to create amateur-friendly horses.

“I really think temperament is the most important thing, because I want people to really enjoy their horses,” says Sally. “I love having a relationship with the people who have bought horses from me. It’s not a prerequisite to keep my horses, but many people do. It’s deeply satisfying when people treasure them so much.”

Sally adds that she enjoys the process of raising an animal when they’re young, and developing them to trust their environment and, most importantly, the humans who help to bring them along. Watching an animal flourish before her eyes is more exciting than competing and winning, she adds.

Still, her horses have gone on to win at some of the biggest venues in the country, and have been sold to satisfied customers from coast to coast.

“Building trust with infinite patience is a key principle in developing a brave and honest performance horse.”

­—Sally Harrington Philippo

Supporting The Young Professional

RiverCross Luna (sired by RiverCross Lark (Lingh/Indoctro) out of the farm’s Cardento mare) with 
Jacquelynn Neary – Picture by Laurel Jarvis

Unlike a lot of breeders, Sally keeps many of her horses until they are older and have built a show record. She also partners with like-minded young professionals who put the horse first and share a mutual respect for the integrity of the horses’ character.

Her current professional, Jacquelynn Neary, has been with RiverCross for four years and has proven to demonstrate the same standard of care that Sally promotes.

“She is extremely talented and hard-working,” says Sally of Neary. “She has my full confidence to continue the development of my horses for their careers.”

Living Mindfully With Horses

Sally Harrington Philippo enjoying a moment with one of her homebreds – Picture by Tom von Kapherr

Sally and the staff at RiverCross treat each horse as an individual and work daily to gain and maintain their trust.

“Some of the best talent is realized by the strong connection developed between a horse and rider,” says Sally. “You can ask anything of the horse and they’ll do it once you have taken the time to develop that solid partnership.”

To develop that connection that horse people desire, she recommends being present at the barn and with our horses.

“I appreciate technology and how important communication is with smart phones but we have to be able to be present with the animals,” says Sally. “We need to relearn to pause and to really connect with and appreciate our horses. Stop every so often and look into their eyes.”

A maximum of two horse foals and an occasional pony foal are born per year at RiverCross Farm ensuring that each one can receive the individual attention needed for their careful development. 

For more information about Sally Harrington Philippo and RiverCross Farm, visit www.rivercrossfarm.com.