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Horse farming an addictive and rewarding venture

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By Ashley Scoby

You can’t have just one potato chip. At least that’s how the saying goes.
But what about horses? Can you have just one of those?

In the cases of Mary Lipginski and Susan and Bill Arnold, just having one horse is impossible. They are two examples in Spencer County of individual families raising an immense number of horses.
Lipginski lives on Whispering Oaks Farm, which has been passed down through her family since it was purchased by her grandfather in 1902. When Lipginski and her husband, Bill, first moved onto the farm, they mostly raised cattle and grew other crops. But when Bill died, Lipginski decided she wanted a horse to ride around the property.
“A horse,” she said, stressing the first word. “Fifty-seven horses later, here I am.”
Lipginski specializes in breeding and selling mountain horses, a breed that originated in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Her brother, Bob Rogers, helps her out and has become the resident expert in researching and choosing top-of-the-line stallions to breed to the mares. The farm has sold horses to people across the world – Pennsylvania, Ohio, California and Germany, for instance.
“My sister has really gone above and beyond in getting the best stallions to the farm,” Rogers said.
Whispering Oaks has also received recognition for its horses in international competition. At the 2010 United Mountain Horse World Grand Championships, the farm came away with seven championships from three different horses.
“The year before, I didn’t win anything,” Lipginski said. “I just wanted to win one blue ribbon. I was really blown away with our success.”
And as if 57 of her own horses weren’t enough, Lipginski often invites other riders to trail-ride throughout her 381 acres. Whispering Oaks has hosted several trail rides sponsored by the American Competitive Trail Horse Association.
Although having a whopping number of horses is something Bill and Susan Arnold may have in common with Lipginski and Rogers, trail riding is not. The Arnolds actually raise 47 miniature horses – animals that cannot be ridden by anyone more than about 80 to 100 pounds.
After both retired from working at the postal service, the Arnolds decided they were going to dedicate time to their new endeavor: raising miniature horses. It was something the couple chanced into. They stumbled across a miniature horse show at the state fair in the late 1980s and decided it would be a fun thing to try.
“Neither of us had ever owned horses, so we were a little more at ease with the miniatures,” Bill said. “They can definitely still kick you, but your odds of getting hurt are a lot less.”
In 1990, the Arnolds’ son was searching in the newspaper’s classifieds for a dog to buy. Instead, he saw an ad for miniature horses on sale. And 47 horses later, here the Arnolds are, much like Lipginski.
The Arnolds used to show their miniatures, but have not in recent years due to time and budget constraints. Bill especially misses the thrill of the show ring, and plans to get back into it within the next couple years. During their time within that aspect of the business, however, the couple made connections internationally.
“We know people all over the country and the world now,” Susan said. “We have friends in Australia we met at a show who have come to visit us before, and we’d like to go over there at some point, too. This business has been so much fun for us.”
Whether it’s miniature horses or mountain horses, both the Arnolds and Lipginski and Rogers began with a drop in the bucket and expanded into much larger horse organizations within Spencer County. Both groups are involved with their respective breed’s national organizations as well.
But further than national conferences and international shows, these two groups of people represent the love still present in Spencer County for the horse, no matter how large or small. From starting out with just one or two of the animals to developing international operations, they are prime examples of how the horse industry is alive and well within Spencer County. Although neither operation is your typical horse farm or back-story, the feelings for the animal are the same: Like potato chips, it’s hard to have just one.
“I’ll come home and I’ll be really tired, but I get rejuvenated when I’m taking care of the horses,” Bill said. “It’s like a second wind for me.”
“I was getting to retirement age, and I was thinking I wanted a horse to ride, just to ride,” Lipginski said. “I thought that would be a good way to watch the property … Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. This took me a whole different direction but I’m glad it did.”