John and Jill Stephens are very matter of fact about what they do. They don’t glamorize their work, which involves preparing horses for racing and/or juvenile auctions. But they know their role in the Thoroughbred industry is important because it provides young animals with a solid foundation of basic skills that will help them excel in the sale ring or on the racetrack.
“Our philosophy is we don’t make any of our horses better than what they are; their natural talent is already there,” said John, an Arizona native who will celebrate his 49th birthday in April. “But if we have 100 horses on our farm, our job is to get all 100 horses to the racetrack or the sale in sound order so they can succeed at whatever level their ability lies.”
Jill, who was born in Wisconsin 40 years ago, described their job this way: “Good horses are good horses no matter what. Bad horses are bad horses no matter what. But there are a lot of in-between ones that might not get to the racetrack if they don’t get a little extra attention. We create an environment where we can individualize training programs and nurture them a little bit. If we think a horse needs a pony for a little while longer, we can do that. If we think a horse needs to be ridden in the field longer, we can do that, too.”
While the Stephenses are modest about their contributions to the development of young horses, the long list of accomplished performers that have completed their schooling with the couple shows the husband-and-wife team has a special talent for working with budding equine athletes.
To continue reading, select the DOWNLOAD button below.