Wilmington, OH – This week’s Wilmington Sunday Spotlight shines on Melissa Donnelly of Just A Folly Farm in Oxford, Michigan. Just A Folly Farm is a family-owned hunter, jumper and equitation training and boarding facility founded by Dorothy Campbell. We caught up with Melissa Donnelly to talk more about the family business and her career.
WEC: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have been showing ever since I was four years old. I have been working at the family farm for a little over 20 years. When I was very young, I didn’t think that this would be my career. I didn’t make the decision to become a professional until I was a bit older.
When I was an amateur, I lived in Wellington and North Carolina. I had the opportunities to work with several amazing horseman and athletes. I learned so much about the sport during that period in my life. I mainly helped with grooming and daily tasks, but I was able to lesson and progress with each experience.
Once I returned home, the family farm was looking for a professional to ride at the horse shows, so I took the opportunity and couldn’t be happier with the decision.
WEC: Tell us about Just A Folly Farm.
It’s a family owned and run farm with my mom, Dorothy Campbell as the head trainer and my brother TJ Campbell as the logistics manager, then I focus on the showing, riding and care of the horses.
My mom has owned the barn for 40 years. She does the teaching back at home while I am on the road showing. When she does come to the show, we split the duties, so the days run efficiently. My brother TJ handles the travel and lodging. So, when we are ready to hit the road, a trailer is out front ready to pick us up and then once we get to the show, he has organized the lodging and stabling. We have a great process, and it makes everything so much easier.
We have a pretty large cliental. On average, we have around 30 to 40 horses at a time, then at horse shows we tend to have 12 to 20 horses with us. Our cliental ranges from beginners learning how to walk, trot to performance hunters and high-level jumpers.
Many of our young clients try and compete in all three disciplines. They will start out in the equitation and small hunters, then make their way through the ranks until they are ready to compete in the big hunter and jumper classes.
WEC: What horses did you bring to the Fall Classic Show Series?
We currently have 11 horses with us. We try and stagger who is showing and who is taking the week off. A few are client horses and I have a couple of really nice young ones with me that we are in the process of developing.
Corlando 49 is a customer’s horse that has taken her from 2’6” to 3’6”. I started him in the 3’3” hunters about eight seasons ago. I have done the High Performance Hunters with him for the past five years. We have obtained almost every goal that we have set out to obtain. He is the king of the castle, and he knows it.
Cinda is a client’s equitation horse and when she is away at school, I get to show her in the derbies. Cinda probably makes me the most nervous, because I feel like I have to live up to her incredible career with her owner. She knows her job so well, so the pressure is on when I go into the show ring, because I know she is more than capable of doing her job and it’s the only job she currently has to do. While her owner is at school, we keep Cinda fit by jumping her once a week in the derby and she loves it. I would say it’s a pretty great life.
Douglas De Riverland is a young horse that we imported last year. He has been doing the green hunters and is coming along very nicely. I think he’s going to be a very special horse for someone when he is fully developed.
Magic High Flight is another young horse that I am very excited about. He has a very promising future ahead of him. I think he is going to excel in the hunters and equitation.
I haven’t found myself a new big jumper yet. We have had a few sale horses that have come in and out, but I haven’t had my eyes set on one for myself yet.
WEC: What does a normal horse show day look like for you?
I usually get to the barn around 5am, making sure everyone is fed and hack the horses that need a bit of exercise before the day starts. As soon as the show starts, I am pretty much on the move all day, jumping from ring to ring. When we have a little break, I will try and ride a few or help with some barn chores. At the end of the day, I make sure everyone is fed and wrapped for the night. I tend to leave around 6pm or 7pm. I always try and help with night check, so I can physically put my eyes on all the horses to ensure everyone is happy and healthy. Then I repeat the entire process the next day.
WEC: What is your favorite part about WEC?
WEC is like a second home to us. We travel to horse shows from time to time, but we spend most of our time showing here. My clients love it here and the facility makes it so easy for us. We don’t even have to leave the grounds, because they have lodging, food and fun things for the kids to do.
The show does a fantastic job changing the elements each series, so the atmosphere feels unique for the horses. The competition here is also great. Just last week, the derby was stacked with incredible riders, and one was better than the next. It makes for a great show, and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Thank you, Melissa for taking the time to chat with us! Best of luck showing next week!
Photos courtesy of Winslow Photography