In my opinion, HHABC (Horse Haven at Bear Creek) is the result of providence. When my husband and I came to tour Doggy Haven Resort as a possible business venture, I took one look at the property next door and said “I want to live over there.” One and a half years later, a Doggy Haven employee called to say that a realtor had stopped by and the property was going on the market. I was ecstatic and ready to buy on the spot. My husband David was of course the voice of reason “we don’t know anything about running a horse ranch”, but I didn’t care, I just new it was right.

Once negotiations were underway for the property – we realized that we would need a partner, someone to manage the actual hands-on, day to day running of the barn.  We could handle the business end, and even the manual labor, but doing the actual horse handling would require someone skilled. People weren’t going to leave their horses in our care just because we loved them. We needed someone that knew all about horses and how to care for them, and who wanted what we wanted; a low-key, family friendly place where people would feel at home, and know that their horses were receiving the best care possible. We asked around and got a few referrals but none seemed quite right.

I had begun researching boarding facilities online to find out more about the business end.  What services were offered, what were the environments like and what did people
want in regards to lessons and training. I was looking at one stable when I came across the bio of a trainer – Robyn Smith, and knew I had to meet her. She sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I called to set up a meeting with her, but she was no longer with that stable and they had no forwarding information. I tried different online searches, but came up blank.

We decided to post an ad on Craigslist for a business opportunity. Within a day we received several responses to the ad… but most amazing was that several were from
students saying we needed to talk to their instructor. Who did that turn out to be? None other than Robyn Smith!

When we got to the stable to meet her, a petite blonde with sparkling blue eyes and a ready laugh greeted us. She was bubbling over with energy and talked non-stop during
our entire tour of the facility. She mostly spoke about the horses and their different personalities and how they helped her teach her students. The passion and respect she felt for these animals was unmistakable.

She brought a horse the color of a new copper penny into the arena, removed the halter and lead rope and shooed her away. This copper penny (also named Robbin), jumped,
bucked, twisted and snorted like I had only seen wild bronc’s do. Then Robyn (the human) slapped her rope on the ground and called, and Robbin (the horse) came trotting over. She asked my husband to come into the arena and promptly shut the gate in my face, with a smile. Now that I know her better, I’m sure it was the look of fear in my eyes for my husband’s safety. But for some reason, I trusted this woman enough to keep quiet.

She sent my husband walking down the arena wall and with a nod and point, sent Robbin trotting after. She instructed my husband to turn right, left, stop and Robbin like a big red setter, followed at his side. After getting my husband safely back on the other side of the wall, Robyn’s energy changed. She was no longer thinking about us, but was completely focused on Robyn. With a breath, look and slight movements of hand, she had Robbin backing, side-stepping and moving in sync with her own footsteps. I have to admit I was in awe. The other thing that I noticed while at that first meeting, and would only impress someone who has had to ‘catch’ and halter their own horses, was that every single horse, without exception, came at the sound of her voice and voluntarily bent their own head down into the halter she held for them. We made an appointment to meet again, but for me, if Robyn was willing to join-up with us, the decision was already made – she was the one.

The last part of completing our new venture was to find a live-in caretaker to tend to the horses and help watch over the place. We got hundreds of applications and met
with several competent horsemen and women, but again, no one seemed quite right. It was getting down to the wire, two weeks to go before we opened the doors, and we knew we needed to make a decision. I was just getting ready to send off an email offering the job to the best candidate we had found, when I got a response to our ad with an attachment that said ‘Dads Resume’. It made me smile.

I called and we set an appointment to meet with Nate and his wife Mary. Nate struck me as a quiet and thoughtful man, and Mary was optimistic with a laugh that made you
want to join in. They had helped run a 100 acre horse breeding farm for 20 years that had been sold to developers. They had done everything – the books, kept up the property and tended to the health and welfare of the horses. I was scratching my head wondering how these obviously over-qualified individuals had fallen into our laps, when Nate said the key words. “I just need to be around horses”.

So who is HHABC? In my opinion, it is the best group of horse loving, friendly people around. We have the best family of boarders that any stable could be lucky enough to have, and wonderful and commited students who get that their horse is only as good as their leadership. And best of all, a herd of the most opinionated, strong-willed and willing horses I have ever known.

I consider myself truly blessed.

Donnell Boyd