Kentucky has long been known for horses and hospitality; at Big Red Stables, you’ll find both in one place.
Big Red Stables is a third-generation, family-owned farm in the heart of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass region. For more than 30 years, They have welcomed horse enthusiasts and beginners alike to experience real horseback trail riding.
Emily and Drew Dennis, stable wranglers and trail guides, want you to feel at home on the farm. After all, this is Emily’s family farm.
In the beginning…
The home farm has been in Emily’s family since the 1940s. “My grandfather, Earl Dean, and his brothers at one time had about 3,000 acres of interconnected farmland,” Emily said. “All that’s here now, a little over 200 acres, remains in the family because my mom, Judy Burks, loved the farm.”
From an early age, Emily started riding horses and developed a passion for them and the farm. She can remember going out on the 3,000 acres of rolling hills and riding as far as the eye can see.
When Emily graduated from high school, she attended Transylvania University and studied Biology. Throughout her summers, Emily was a trail guide in Yellowstone National Park. She also worked in Big Horn, Wyoming, on a Quarter Horse ranch.
While Emily was away there wasn’t anyone to help her mother, Judy, ride the horses on the farm. Judy knew that to keep horses on the farm she had inherited, the horses needed to continue working and exercising. So, in 1987, Judy established Big Red Stables as a way to keep horses on the farm.
Farm Credit was there to help
In 2006, Emily and her husband Drew moved back home to the family farm to help Judy run Big Red Stables. When they looked for financial support to help them through the transition, Central Kentucky Ag Credit became integral to the process.
Emily and Drew had an existing relationship with Central Kentucky Ag Credit, so it was natural to turn to Senior Loan Officer Brad Godbey when additional funds were needed.
“Ag Credit has been a critical partner in what we've done and is always easy to work with,” Emily said. “Ag Credit is an institution that makes you feel like family.”
Creating the true “Big Red Stables” experience
Drew and Emily now own the front 56 acres and houses that make up the home farm. Emily and her sister Nellie own the back 150, which is used for cattle pasture, horseback rides and hunting.
The farm is named “Baile Mam,” which is Irish Gaelic for “mom’s home,” to commemorate the late Judy Burke who passed away in 2016. Her ashes were spread on a high ridge at the back of the farm.
After Judy’s death, Ag Credit assisted in the purchase of Judy’s house, and Emily decided to add to the experience of Big Red Stables by making the house of her childhood an Air BnB for customers. Emily loves to travel and take horseback riding holidays out of the country, and she wanted to share this type of experience with customers that visit Big Red Stables.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the lights on in mom’s house,” she said.
Never a dull moment
Following in the footsteps of her grandfather and her father, Emily is also a lawyer, working for the Counsel for the Legislative Ethics Commission. Managing the farm and her day job can be challenging, which is why Emily is grateful for the collaboration with her husband, Drew. Emily handles the bookings for both the horseback riding and the Airbnb, while Drew manages the finances and the groundskeeping. It’s truly a team effort.
The bigger picture
When asked what keeps her driven to get up each day, Emily said, “It's being able to share the spirit of the farm. If you can get people to pause and actually feel the spirit of the place, that's a real big deal. If you can get people to connect, to almost feel like a kid again, then there's hope for humanity.”