When Sarah Meier climbed onto her first horse in 1985 at age 7, she began a slow trot toward her future in the equine industry.
More than 30 years later, Sarah is stoking a passion for horses in riders of all ages and experience levels as owner of Punchestown Stables in Lexington, Kentucky. Punchestown offers boarding, sales and lessons to customers, as well as a summer camp to help locals youth learn about riding and caring for the majestic creatures.
In the beginning
Originally from Wisconsin, Sarah grew up competing in the Hunter and Equitation divisions on the AA circuit in the junior category. While competing across the country, she grew to love Central Kentucky and, in 1996, she relocated to Lexington to attend the University of Kentucky. Soon, Sarah found herself dreaming about returning to the farm, and she decided to leave the university and pursue her passion for riding.
When Sarah started, she freelanced for various sport horse trainers. Anywhere there was work, Sarah was there. She worked for a number of local farms, particularly in Versailles, and also worked at the racetrack. “I always wanted to come back to sport horses, but learned a lot from the racetrack,” Sarah said. She still uses many of those lessons today when training horses.
Ready for the next chapter
In 2002, Sarah was ready to step out on her own and realize her dreams to their fullest. “I always wanted to own a horse business,” she said.
Sarah worked with Central Kentucky Ag Credit to purchase the land and barn she needed to support a business of just a few horses. Over the years, thanks to Sarah’s hard work and perseverance, Punchestown has grown into a thriving business.
She has continued to work worked with Ag Credit as the businesses expanded to update the outdoor arena, build the indoor arena and construct more stalls.
“The working capital loans helped me get through big purchases, such as the recent watering system we installed,” Sarah said. “All of those things have made this farm what it is today and that has been very helpful.”
Serving the needs of all riders
Punchestown has eight lesson horses on the farm, all-show quality, that range from ponies for beginners to older horses for more advanced riders. Sarah enjoys teaching riders of any age, from young kids to older adults who want to ride for the first time. Punchestown’s outdoor and indoor arenas make it possible for Sarah to offer lessons year-round, regardless of the weather.
Sarah also shares skills with customers through summer camps. Beginning rider camp teaches campers with little to no experience about basic horsemanship skills such as grooming, tacking, bandaging and riding. Sarah’s advanced camp is designed for riders who can walk, trot and canter with confidence. Participants in this camp learn more advanced riding skills and campers compete at a local show at the end of camp.
In addition to riding lessons, Punchestown has 32 stalls available for boarding horses. Each 12-by 12-foot stall has rubber mats, with optimal ventilation and natural light. All boarders participate in lessons and have the option of competing at local and national shows, as well as traveling to at least one rated horse show each week.
“Even though I started the business for the love of horses, the people are what make it happen,” Sarah said. “It has to be a customer service-type of business. I have tried to combine my love of horses and taking care of them with servicing people well.”
A team effort
Sarah relies on a strong team to make Punchestown what it is today. Alex Nelson, Sarah’s business partner, has been working at Punchestown for eight years. Alex is the assistant trainer and lesson program coordinator. When Sarah and Alex are out of town for national competitions, Carolyn Meng, Sarah’s assistant, travels with Punchestown’s youth riders to local horse shows.
Sarah has been able to live out her life’s passion through Punchestown. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it. “Even when it’s not going okay, it is important not to give up,” Sarah said. “It took a long time to build the operation to what it is today; it was long and hard, but it is important to stick with it.”