A Year of Change and Growth: 2016 Recap


January 1, 2017

Dear 2016,

We are thankful for each and every of our 365 days together. Each day was different and wonderful in its own way. Those difficult and stressful days, I remember them now as days of learning and growth. The days that everything just seemed to work out, those are reminders that you are on the right path. Those days and all of them in between, we are thankful for. 

2016 began like most years for me at Freedom Woods, busy. While I have been fully involved in most aspects of the barn all of my life, managing has been a fairly new venture for me beginning in the summer of 2015. I have always spent my days teaching, riding, and taking our team to the shows. I have been blessed to have a supportive family and clients to help me thrive and develop as a professional. Adding manager to my list of things has put more on my plate. I have always been the type of person who tries to do everything by myself, a bit of a control freak. Over the years, in times this has worked for me, but generally leaves me feeling exhausted. I always knew I wanted Freedom Woods to grow and flourish. To be a wonderful place for people to come and ride and of course for the horses. Over the years I have created countless notebooks outlining the future, but thats all they were, plans. 

I was able to see that in order for things to change, I needed to change. No one person is capable of doing everything. Luckily,  a small group of people were here already who share the same work ethic and support the barn. In order to grow we really needed to find motivated, hard working, and talented professionals. People who are trust worthy and reliable. People who want to work hard, grow, and develop themselves and as a whole. Having the right people could allow me to spend more time and focus my energy on putting plans into action.

2016 became a great year for change and growth at Freedom Woods. We are beyond excited and proud of what we accomplished this year, from our team, to our clients, to our horses, and our facility. 


Over the course of this year, three incredible professionals joined the team. Haley Buchmiller started our year off right. She has become part of all aspects of the barn. From teaching lessons, to showing client horses, and coming in on her day off to help clean up or paint around the barn. She has developed riders from our school program and moved them on to leasing and riding at a higher level. 

In the Spring, Stephen Foran joined the team. Shortly after, we took a trip to Europe and brought home some impressive horses. Since then, he has ribboned in multiple Grand Prixes including his win just last month on Cooper 152 in the Futures Prix at the World Equestrian Center. In addition to riding and working with the horses, he also takes pride in our students and encourages and helps with their riding. You will find him on most days off helping out around the barn as well. 

Our team has continued to grow with Jackie Kinson coming on board last month all the way from North Carolina. While Jackie has only been here a short time, she has shown us that she shares the same work ethic that we do. 

Just a few weeks ago, one morning I began scrubbing the aisles and deep cleaning the walls. In the past when I would begin a project like this, it would take forever because it would just be me. Without hesitation, Haley, Stephen, and Jackie all jumped in to help. What would have taken me a month to finish, we finished in less than a week. This is just one of the many examples of how well we work together. 

Being part of the team and knowing we have the right people here has allowed me to loosen the reins a bit and spend more time putting dreams into action. From our trainers, to the grooms, to the office staff, we all work together. We all help each other. And because of this, we have all been able to grow as individuals and as a whole. 


Our trainers spend hours and hours in the arena each day teaching. Watching our students gain experience and develop their riding over the course of the year is truly incredible. To help develop their riding from a large children’s pony in the beginning of the year to purchasing their first jumper and working through all of the changes that entails. The progress for many of our riders this year has been overwhelming.When we think back to the beginning of the year and how far they have come, it is one of the best feelings in the world. 

In addition to the riding, I look back on this year and I am overwhelmed by the amount of trust and support our clients have in our stable and in me. Through all of the changes of hiring new staff to remapping the turnout schedules and some of the day to day operations, I have received nothing but help and support. 

We have truly become a second family. When you ride here, you don't have one trainer, you have all of us. When our trainers have long hours on the weekend, there is a supportive client to bring you a coffee halfway through your day. Each day we go out of our way to help each other, without hesitation, without question, because we care. 

We are proud of all our students and clients success in 2016 and we are looking forward to continued growth and success this year. And we are so thankful for your continued trust and support. 


Every year, it seems the quality of the horses here gets better and better. We are all beyond excited and appreciative for the horses we have and get to work with. After all, this is how it all started, for the love of the horses. 

This year we have added countless new faces to our team, from beginner ponies to imports from Germany and we love each and every one of them. They work hard from teaching students to ride, to competing in the Grand Prixs. We are so lucky to have such wonderful partners to work and compete with. We are so proud of the progress and success they have made this year and are looking forward to continued growth in the coming year. 

I wonder what new faces will join us this coming year…


The thing about having a place that is home to seventy some 1,200 pound animals is that it involves constant cleaning and work just to maintain it. Then you throw in the hundreds of people who come through every week and your random goat and chicken, and things get more complicated. Over the course of 2016, on top of regular maintenance we also managed to make time for improvement. We refurbished and painted two new courses of jumps for both the indoor and outdoor We made a new grazing area outside that will be available for use in the spring of next year. We began building a new wall for the outdoor that will be complete by summer of 2017. 

We are so thankful for all of our staff who helped make these improvements possible and have even bigger plans for next year! 

We are so proud of all of the growth and success 2016 has brought. We are thankful for all of the trust and support we have each and everyday. 

The power of positivity is truly an amazing thing. When you love what you do and you work hard everyday, it is easy. When you have a team of people who love what they do and work hard everyday, it becomes effortless. 

Cheers 2016, thank you for all of the memories! We are ready to hit the ground running and knock 2017 out of the park! 



Ashleen Lee and The Freedom Woods Family