Making sure the horses are happy at Ivory Creek Farm keeps owner Natassia Stallings happy, too. Located in southwestern Franklin County, the hunter jumper training and boarding facility is situated on 19 acres of green pasture land that backs up to Benson Creek.
Natassia and her husband, Mason, bought the small farm at 215 Evergreen Road in 2016. “This property was just charming to us and in a great location,” she said. The Kentucky Horse Park is a short half hour drive for shows and Frankfort’s Lakeside Arena is nearby, as well.
Natassia explained that although Mason is not a “horse person,” he is involved in the building, landscaping and planning aspects of the farm. “He doesn’t do a whole lot of hands-on horsey stuff. That’s me,” she said.
The farm has two barns that can hold up to 20 horses, a large arena with a full course of jumps, trail riding and fenced pastures. They are in the process of “phase building” the new main barn. When it’s finished, it’ll have stalls for the farm’s boarded horses, an enclosed tack room and grooming area.
While the couple believes they still have a long list of projects to make Ivory Creek what they want it to be, they’ve gotten a good start. “This is our forever home. I see doing this the rest of my life,” Natassia said.
From Los Angeles to Frankfort
Natassia’s love of riding and competition started in a place not always associated with horses — Los Angeles. “My aunt used to take me trail riding in California where I grew up and I just loved it so much,” Natassia said. “I became involved in a military riding program called the California Rangers where it’s all about being on a team. Then, I had a friend who was into English riding and so I kinda fell into that.”
After graduating with an equine science and equine business management degree from the University of Findlay in Ohio in 2008, Natassia started work as an assistant trainer at River Mountain Farm in Versailles.
“What’s really cool about Kentucky is that there is such a camaraderie about the horses — it’s in the history,” Natassia said. “In California, horses basically live in a stall and get a sand pen to exercise in. I fell in love with Kentucky. There are wide-open spaces. It’s natural horse land.
“Horses are just amazing, athletic animals and they allow us to live out our dreams through them. I think it’s really important to make the horse happy and healthy so it enjoys it’s job. We really strive for that here, just making them feel good and look good — then they’re happier to work with you. You want them to meet you at the gate and be happy to see you,” Natassia explained.
Second career for thoroughbreds
Natassia also retrains thoroughbreds from the racetrack as hunters and jumpers. “There are so many that need second chances after they’ve run or were unable to run because of injury or they were too slow,” she said. “You feel like you can help a little bit. It’s really cool to see organizations that have popped up to work to find new homes and second careers for these horses.”
The majority of horses boarded at Ivory Creek Farm are thoroughbreds at present. “Thoroughbreds are just so prominent in this area, but we definitely work with other breeds, as well,” she commented.
Natassia, who also works as a trainer at other barns and shows her own horses, has been involved with the Thoroughbred Makeover sponsored by Thoroughbred Charities of America in past years. It is the largest thoroughbred retraining competition in the world for recently retired ex-racehorses. In 2018, she re-trained Prados Spark who then took third in the Show/Hunter discipline of the Thoroughbred Makeover. “He’s a pretty cool horse. He had all of these things working against him, including colic surgery and a plate in his leg and yet he was able to overcome,” Natassia said.
Lessons, shows, care and fun
The farm offers full-care boarding, which includes a training program designed to develop the horse and rider as a team in and out of the show ring. It offers both child and adult lessons to develop and expand their horsemanship and riding skills.
“Ashley Layman basically runs the beginner program, which includes learning about the care of the horse,” Natassia remarked. “When riders are a little more advanced and they can ride with a group of people, they move up to me. I do give private lessons, but I mostly work with small groups where we ride together and take turns jumping.”
Students can compete in shows, many of which are held at the Kentucky Horse Park and Lakeside Arena. The competitive team from the farm does travel as far as the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio.
The farm has five lesson horses, including Banner Bill, an ex-racehorse transitioning to being a jumper. “Banner Bill had a successful racing career, with winnings of almost $600,000. He’s a pretty cool horse. He has one blue eye, which is rare for a thoroughbred,” Natassia said.
There’s also the pony, Byron, that was purchased with their three-year-old daughter, Taylor, in mind. “Taylor can tack up the horses and lead them. She brushes, feeds and can do all the buckles. We make sure to be right there with her, though,” Natassia said.
In the ring
“I find it really fun to work with riders and figure out how to make the ride go smoother, better — have the horse and the rider learn something. It’s a great feeling when the rider accomplishes something they didn’t really think that they could. Once they learn it and it clicks, it’s forever theirs. And that’s exciting to me,” Natassia explained.
She enjoys training her riders for competition. “Every time you get on a horse, it’s different. Your horse may be on their A game that day or might not be; it might be sore; it might be cranky; it might be too wild and fresh,” she said. “I like the challenge of trying to figure out how to make it work in that moment. And, when you’re in the competition ring, you only get one shot. Basically, every jump you come to, has to be executed perfectly and that’s how you score well. It’s a personal challenge to me,” she said.
The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Ivory Mountain Barn team, which Natassia co-coaches with Elaine Schott from River Mountain Farm, recently returned from competition where the high school team was champion and the middle school team was reserve champion.
“We are working to make Ivory Creek Farm a little boutique barn,” Natassia said. “We just want it to be that special place that every time you leave, you say, ‘That was fun and magical and I can’t wait to come back.'”