Barn tour benefits nonprofit
Bullseye, a 22-year-old brown and white Welsh Pony Cross, lives the life of luxury. He has spa day every day, where he is bathed and brushed and gets his teeth cleaned.
Bullseye lives at Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club in Darien. He can be seen, along with many other horses, on the Polo America Barn Tour on Saturday, Aug. 24.
The tour benefits the Semper Fi Fund, which helps injured U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
The Polo America Barn Tour takes participants to three multimillion dollar barns in New England. Aside from Ox Ridge, the tour includes Old Salem Farm in N.Y. and Double H Farm in Ridgefield. Tour times are 10 and 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 and 2 p.m. Each tour will last approximately three hours. Luxury tour buses will leave from Middlesex Middle School, 204 Hollow Tree Ridge Road. A box lunch is included.
Tickets, which cost $75, can be purchased online at poloamerica.com/events/ or by calling 760-668-6093.
The purpose of the tour is to see different aspects of all types of barns or get ideas to improve or build a new barn.
Ox Ridge tour guide Flavia Callari, a Wilton resident and Darien native, recently gave The Darien Times a tour of Ox Ridge.
Callari is a founding member and business manager of the Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club, whose former name was Ox Ridge Hunt Club.
Randy Russell, president of Polo America — a marketing firm specializing in the sport of polo — also gave the tour. Russell will be the tour guide on the bus.
Russell, who lives in California, has been involved with everything in polo from the stunt work on “Pretty Woman” to producing the U.S. Open Polo Championship. He has also organized barn tours in Florida.
About Ox Ridge
Ox Ridge is a family sports club that opened in 1914 and sits on 20 acres. It recently underwent a $12 million renovation.
It has a new equestrian complex and 18,000-square-foot clubhouse featuring squash courts as well as a pub room and fitness center.
The club also offers platform tennis, equestrian training programs, and horse boarding and care, as well as lessons and clinics for racquet sports.
The Ox Ridge Charity Horse Show was founded at the club in 1926.
Ox Ridge is open year-round and in rain or shine. It can hold 49 horses on its property and services children to grand prix riders, and everyone in between.
It has 12 grass paddocks, “which are playpens for the horses to go out in the morning, eat grass, clear their head, walk around, just chill out and then they get ready to go to work,” Callari said.
All the horses get ridden by the owner or by a pro.
In addition, there are heated wash stalls with heat lamps “that are therapeutic for the horses,” according to Callari.
There is also a horse treadmill, which is useful if the horses are injured or if it’s raining.
“They are on the treadmill from five to 10 minutes,” Callari said. “If you raise the treadmill, it helps build up their haunches. That helps propel themselves to a jump.”
The indoor arena is heated up to 40 degrees in the winter. “When it’s too cold, it’s not really safe for the horses,” Callari said.
“In the winter time, this is a great place to keep riding when everybody goes down to Florida,” she added.
The grooms and barn manager live on the property.
“It’s important to have someone here 24 hours a day. It’s for the safety of the horses,” Russell said. “You can keep an eye out for anything. If you have a horse that’s not feeling well, they can spend the night with the horse or every couple of hours come over and check on the horse.”
There is also a security system so all the aisles and certain stalls have a camera on them.
“It’s an app that we have on our phones so we can visually see what’s going on,” Callari said. “So, if anything happens, everyone’s phone will go off.”
With the app, they can tell “if it’s just a cat that came in or if a horse got stuck in his stall. It’s safety and security,” she added.
Ox Ridge has Pegasus Therapeutic Riding horses. Pegasus Therapeutic Riding was established in England in the 1940s. In September 1975, the first Pegasus riding sessions began at Ox Ridge.
“The children and adults that come are challenged in many different ways, from autism to physical challenges,” Callari said.
Semper Fi Fund
The tour benefits the Semper Fi Fund, which provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
“The Semper Fi Fund started off to help critically injured Marines. They have grown so large, they now take in the other military branches,” Russell said. “The work that they do, it’s not only just to help the soldier, it’s also to help the family.”
For more information, visit semperfifund.org.
Ox Ridge has been hosting charity horse shows since 1926. People come from all over the country and internationally to the show. Many famous riders have been a part of them including Georgina Bloomberg, the Leone brothers, McLain Ward, and Kevin Babington.
Notable equestrian George Morris trained at Ox Ridge as well.
In the past, there were car shows, dog shows, and the Yale Cup on the property as well.
A brand-new indoor riding ring at Ox Ridge was originally an airplane hangar that was brought to Ox Ridge in 1932, according to Callari.
Callari said Ox Ridge has a special camaraderie and friendliness that bonds all who come there.
“Everybody here has that same equine connection — the love of the horse,” she said.