Audra Broach Opened The Williamstown Equestrian Last Year
The barn sits on rolling hills with beautiful horses dotting the landscape. A large stable and arena nestle among those hills. Two dogs, Snickers and Mason, run around greeting the guests as barn cats lazily drape themselves in the flower beds.
Audra Broach opened her doors at The Williamstown Equestrian almost one year ago. What started as a pipe dream that she kept to herself blossomed into a growing business that has taken roots in Williamstown, W.Va. Broach began her career with horses while many were just past mastering the bicycle. At age seven she began riding on her family’s small cattle farm in Virginia. As she grew up, she realized that it would become more than just a passion, but also a career choice.
“I was about to apply to vet school, but then I heard of this riding school called Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center. So, my dad and I made the trip and we went to visit the school. I signed up that day. I did the full program and fell in love even more. I never wanted to leave and I just wanted to stay at the school, but I left and moved to Florida and New York to work with horses before I got my job at Meredith Manor,” Broach said. “And then, I took a giant, scary leap of faith and built this.”
As Broach motions around her, “this” entails the entirety of The Williamstown Equestrian. The barn offers boarding, training lessons, and sales. There are outdoor riding spaces, an indoor arena, and a state of the art boarding facility. Though for Broach, it’s not only a physical facility, it’s the realization of many dreams.
“It gives me chills just thinking about it. I cried a lot and prayed a lot through it. I couldn’t have done any of this without my partner. We were just talking about our dreams one day and I said, ‘I really, really want to own my own place. I really want a barn that I’m in charge of and students with whom I can share my passion.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Literally the next day we started planning,” she said.
I wanted the barn to be somewhere that everyone – all the clients, the borders, me, and my family wanted to be.
Finding land that was suited for a barn was difficult, but they were able to find the current piece and make it workable. When they first purchased the land, there was no electricity, water, or level ground, but Broach loved the location because it’s easy for people to get to and she loves the small-town pride of Williamstown and the surrounding Mid-Ohio Valley area.
“You know, I wanted the barn to be somewhere that everyone – all the clients, the borders, me, and my family wanted to be. So I want a very family-oriented location – just a happy place that everyone can enjoy being,” she said.
In creating a family-oriented barn, this means maintaining healthy and happy horses and creating connections between her clients and their horses or the horses on which they learn.
“I want the boarders and the people whom I teach – I want to make their relationship better with their horses and we teach people of all ages and all skill sets starting from little four year olds to 78 year olds, and just teaching them and sharing the love of horses,” she said.
Broach credits her time at Meredith Manor for bringing out her love for teaching. While she began as a student, she left as a teacher and that shaped her future identity.
“I know I found my love of teaching there. Before I left as a student, I just wanted to ride horses all day. Then I started teaching there and seeing someone have those lightbulb moments, makes you feel really good as a teacher. So my love for teaching blossomed there,” she said.
With over 25 years of experience with horses, Broach enjoys passing on her love of horses to her students still. However, learning to love and understand a horse can be a tremendous amount of work which is where having trained professionals like Broach and her team can make all the difference.
When I can have a rider start learning how to correctly communicate to the horse, everything becomes a breeze, and then they’re having more fun.
“I love seeing my students succeed. There are a lot of mechanics in understanding a horse and learning how to communicate in a horse-logical way rather than a human-logical way. We think very differently than the horse, so getting students to understand how the horse really moves and works and understands makes for a better relationship. So when I can have a rider start learning how to correctly communicate to the horse, everything becomes a breeze, and then they’re having more fun and they enjoy the horse a lot more,” Broach said.
As her business grew, Broach realized that she would need help to keep up with the demand for her services. Her team consists of two other women, Kylie and Cat, who were handpicked by Broach to help keep the business running in a manner that she expects to keep her main goal in sight – happy humans and happy horses. Everyday, they clean stalls, check the horses over, and generally make sure the horses are happy, pampered, and well cared for. For Broach and her team, it’s a labor of love.
“Kylie was one of my boarders. She’s kind of been with me from the get go. I needed someone who was a people person who could help me start teaching the younger kids and the beginners. She has really stepped at the plate – everybody loves her and she’s doing awesome. Cat was actually another student from Meredith Manor – and we just kind of hit it off. Her work ethic is amazing, super reliable and dependable. We just work really well together so she came with me after she graduated,” she said.
However, as much as she enjoys teaching, there are other aspects that keep her barn running smoothly. The office work and bookkeeping happens in Broach’s office located inside the barn which is adorned with salvaged barn wood from the original barn on the property, office furniture from her family home, and plenty of horse memorabilia and gear.
“I think the hardest part is the business aspect, because I am horses all the way. I have to be a bookkeeper and in the office, but I want to be out there all the time. I always want to be getting back to my horses,” she said.
Broach acknowledges that the business segments are still important to keeping her horses happy so she puts extreme attention into scheduling her horses throughout their weekly lessons and maintaining good horses at the barn. Often, she chooses horses based on the current needs of the barn to make sure no horse is being overworked or becomes unhappy.
Being able to put life’s craziness aside and being still is an invaluable skill.
“If someone wants a Thursday lesson, I’ve got to look through and make sure I have a horse available because I’m not going to overwork and I have to make sure that the horse and person are a fit for each other. My horses are top priority,” she said. “If they’re not happy, they’re not going to want to do their job so that is the big thing.”
Creating those strong, healthy bonds between horse and rider are important for safety, but also for creating the riding experience that Broach wants for all of her students.
“Horses are mirror images. So if you are angry or frustrated or sad, they know it. So they’re very therapeutic. You always have to kind of check yourself. If you’ve been having a rough day, you don’t want to bring that into your horse so you’ve got to figure out how you personally can kind of resolve it, work through it as an individual, so that your time with the horse is even better,” she said. “Being present is a great skill to have, whether it’s having to be present at work, having to be present on a horse being or being present with your kids – being able to put life’s craziness aside and being still is an invaluable skill.”
Broach plans to continue her business here and continue making the Mid-Ohio Valley her home. Within her business, she uses local suppliers and contractors as much as possible with her vet and farrier both small, local businesses as well.
“I love all the pride this community has for itself and I want to keep being a part of that in whatever way that I can,” she said.