Appy Orse Acres owner says there is a lot of work in keeping herd content
For Bernadette Ruckdashel, owner of Appy Orse Acres riding stable in the Town of Fredonia, work is all about horses.HORSES ARE BIG business at Appy Orse Acres in the Town of Fredonia. Above, stable owner Bernadette Ruckdashel posed with Lincoln, alongside Katie MacLaurin and Chief.
Ruckdashel bought the rural property in 1968, first as a part-time avocation and eventually as her full-time calling.
She currently owns 44 horses which are used for trail rides, lessons and riding camps. The stable also provides boarding for another 26 guest horses.
“We have boarders from all over the Midwest and campers from as far away as China,” Ruckdashel said.
That workload means long days. Still, Ruckdashel has the look of contentment on her face as she stands under a shade tree and surveys the 174-acre property on Willow Road.
“It is beautiful here, but is also a lot of work. I have had people ask me, ‘All you do is let people ride horses around all day and you get paid?’” Ruckdashel said.
“There is a lot more to the business than that. This is what I do for a living. The horses have to generate enough income to pay for their feed, their shoes and their veterinary care.”
Those necessities are not cheap.
First, there is good reason for the phrase, “he eats like a horse.”
Her horses get new shoes four times a year, and it costs $100 each time. Harnesses cost $100 each, and the price of saddles ranges from $700 to $3,500.
“That is a lot of horse rides,” Ruckdashel said with a grimace aimed at those who think running a stable is the easy life.
Her horses tend to be veterans of the trade, many “working” well into their 20s and 30s. The memory garden on the stable’s grounds includes a memorial for Rusty, a favorite horse who was 39 when he died.
One of the keys to horse longevity, Ruckdashel said, is keeping the animals outside.
When they are confined to a stable, she said, the horses get bored — wearing out joints by pacing and teeth by gnawing on whatever strikes their fancy.
“You have to know the personalities of each horse, which ones get along and which ones you have to keep apart,” Ruckdashel said.
“I have found out that horses are very sympathetic and empathetic. If you are having a bad day, they’ll come up and put their head on your shoulder. If you are in a good mood, they might give you a nudge with their muzzle.”
Ruckdashel said horses have a transforming effect on young riders, too.
“I love to watch youngsters gain confidence as they learn to control a 1,200-pound animal. Children can learn a lot about self-discipline and paying attention to detail while learning to ride,” she said.
Boarding a horse costs between $230 and $320 a month at the stable. Lessons cost between $25 and $55 a session. Week-long resident camps cost $585 per child, while day-camps cost $385 per rider.
The stable also schedules special events centering on trail rides, and routinely hosts corporate gatherings, schools and church groups.
Ruckdashel said business has not been hurt too much by the economy, although participation in summer camps this year has been less than in recent years.
Still, she can see past the financial bottom line.
“We have always been about service,” Ruckdashel said, noting the business has sponsored events that have raised more than $40,000 for St. Jude Hospital. An ongoing scholarship program is also supported.