Hinckley Horse Haven: Hinckley Equestrian Center
Ethereal heavenly light shines lovingly upon the rooftop, illuminating the gorgeous and statuesque cupolas which adorn the majestic Hinckley Equestrian Center. A welcoming marquee, “In God We Trust”, crowns the entrance apex of this magnificent facility. Already it appears unique and interesting and, perhaps, vastly different from many others.
by Regina M. Sacha-Ujczo, Ohio Equestrian Directory 2021 Issue, pg. 40-43
As you walk into the inviting and homey greeting room, complete with multiple round tables and a large American flag made from fire hoses, the facility grandeur is complemented and toned by a sense of warmth and welcome. This is not by accident.
Owner, Ron Rice, a retired corporate executive, has loved horses his entire life. A self-assured, yet humble demeanor envelops him. Not surprisingly, in 2018, when Ron retired early, he turned his focus and skills toward developing a family-centered horsing facility that is superb in every way. His horse property shopping was brief, since he knew immediately when he stepped upon the grounds of Hinckley Equestrian Center (HEC) that this was the place to develop his horsing dream. It was a very special venue and one which could accommodate his future vision. Ron beams as he says, “I looked at no other property. It was love at first sight. I took 34 years off from horsing and now I’m back.”
Truly, it has been a lifetime love affair with horses for Ron. His love of horses began as a child with fond memories of his first horse, “Bucky” whom his parents purchased for around 300 dollars. Everything horsing is of interest to Ron. “As a child I could sit all day and watch a horse show”- much to the intrigue of his parents. Ron definitely possesses the “elusive horse gene” that science has yet to prove but horse enthusiasts know exists for certain.
Ron is not your typical equestrian facility owner. He possesses a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and statistics from Miami University (Ohio), with minors in operations research and statistical analysis. Despite his rigorous academic coursework Ron stayed connected to horses, riding on Miami’s nationally recognized Equestrian Team. A pictorial collage, lovingly made by his wife, Susan, attests to the many blue-ribbon achievements throughout his college years, and is displayed in HEC’s main office.
It is easy to see why Ron was captivated by this facility and 52-acre property located in rural Medina county at 1575 Ledge Road in Hinckley, Ohio. Expansive, impressive, and picturesque, the location is easily accessible from major highways, (I-271, I-71, and Routes 3, 303, and 94) and is close to the Hinckley Metroparks bridle trails.
With infinitesimal attention to detail, Ron endeavored to recreate HEC as a dream multi-disciplinary horsing facility which would accommodate the needs of horses, and bring together his family and a diverse extended family community of horse lovers.
Everything was researched, planned, and selected with horse welfare and comfort as a priority. There was much to do - footing selection, lighting, feed management/storage, farm implement organization, water systems, and staff/crew support. Hacking trails were created. With the vision of future horse shows at the facility, temporary show stalls, a show office, trailer parking, creation of a cross-country jump field plus stadium jumps (for mini trials) were also in the plans. Exhausting detail and complex tasks, but each piece came together beautifully and continues to evolve.
The farm office reflects family, replete with ribbons, horse art, and memorabilia. Cozy dog beds dot the floor to accommodate the various farm dogs, Cooper, Winston, and Corona. In addition, Ron’s young teenage daughter, Julia, visits with her dogs, Keebler, Newton, Snickerdoodle, and Cookie.
HEC is a family affair extraordinaire! Ron Rice is assisted by his wife, Sue, who is a “hard-working organizer, designer, and the one who creates the beauty within.” Ron’s eldest son, Will, lives next door to the property with his wife, Morgan, who is the Barn Manager. “She truly does a great job of running the place every day” and, by the way, “she can walk to work,” Ron smiles.
While pursuing a marketing degree, Morgan also found time to ride on the Miami University (Ohio) IHSA team. She currently owns two OTTB’s, Richie and Rio, and has enjoyed competing with Richie (age 7) at local hunter schooling shows. Rio (age 3) is currently busy just learning how to “horse” under the watchful eye of Morgan’s best friend and mentor, HEC on-site trainer, Stephanie Framer.
The two have high hopes for a bright future in the hunter ring for both horses. “I am super passionate about the process of taking my boys from wild track babies to show horses,” shares Morgan. “And Stephanie is the one that really got me into finding the joy and satisfaction that comes from working with young horses.”
Ron and wife, Sue, live off-property with their son, Thomas, and daughter, Julia, who is an avid and already accomplished equestrian. Her tack wall is papered with show ribbons - mostly colored red and blue - and all attained this year with her horse, Chesney, who just “might be named after Country singer, Kenny Chesney,” Ron shares with a grin.
As one enters the barn area, a “Suggestion Box” is located to the left of the entrance door and is a sign of open communication and consideration of boarders and staff. Diversity of horse discipline is reflected in the variety of horse breeds represented at HEC - from tiny, white Welsh pony, Tinker Bell - to ginormous, large-boned Kramer, a 30-year-old Thoroughbred, who rests comfortably in his oversized 12'x 16' stall. A total of 41 horses of varying sizes and breeds occupies these ample, gorgeous, pristine wooden stalls of varying sizes; (12’ x 12’), (12’ x 14’), and (12’ x 16’). There are an additional 32 temporary stalls constructed outside to accommodate stabling for events, shows, and mini trials, etc.
Pleasant nickering and the sound of contented hay chomping are warm, welcoming greetings as you walk through the spacious barn aisleways. Natural light beaming from sky lights illuminate the stall area during the day with plentiful barn lighting for dreary days or at night. The floor is fastidiously hand swept to perfection as you journey down the hallway to the impressive indoor arenas. Two temperature-controlled (yes – heated!) arenas are enclosed within this facility. Even more impressive is the prestigious Martin Collins MCEcoTrack® equine surfaces footing. It is a horse and rider’s dream come true to ride upon this dustless perfect footing, which never needs watering because of its wax extruded coating. “It is a low maintenance product which is a combination of CLOPF® fibers, industrial soft rubber, and high grade sand which is carefully weighed and blended with a wax coating. This premium product is featured at international competitions and is a must for the demanding equestrian.” The huge multi-purpose outdoor arena has the same perfect footing but is not wax coated in order to facilitate element water absorption. Watching a jumper rider glide across the nearly “soundless” footing in approach to a giant oxer is comparable to angel footsteps treading lightly upon Heaven’s floor!
In addition to the remarkable arenas and specialized footing, the lighting, both inside and outside, is comparable to stadium lighting or an illuminated night venue in Wellington, Florida. Many other impeccable details are addressed to include two large restrooms with plentiful space and hooks for changing, and four large tack rooms with roomy lockers. There is an impressive heated “solarium” complete with hot/cold water faucets for veterinary use if needed. Additional amenities include a lunch room, complete with stove, refrigerator, microwave, and vending machines for snacking. So, beyond the horse’s wellbeing, the comfort of riders, grooms, and crew is also of paramount concern. One need only articulate a concern and the attempt is made to resolve the issue. For example, a western rider could not fit her large saddle in the normal locker. This concern was remedied by constructing a low and wide locker underneath a window in the tack room, which amply accommodates the saddle and other necessities. That is personalized customer service!
A spacious hay field was turned into a cross-country eventing mini trial field. It is “pristine”, but “inviting and easy”, according to Ron. Paths have been cleared through the woods to the field for a hacking trail. Gorgeous new cross-country jumps were constructed by the esteemed expert, Chris Gable, from the well-known South Farm, who also assisted in the cross country course design. Three large pastures and eight all-weather turnouts were fashioned. Drainage was studied and impeccably addressed around the facility to preserve long-lasting riding fields, pathways, and proper runoff.
Planning and organization are stamped everywhere at HEC. Manure is wheelbarrowed up a ramp into a dumpster which is hauled away weekly. This practice is an excellent way to manage fly control. An enormous white board lists all horses and pertinent activities, including turnout and stall cleaning, and is meticulously tracked and initialized. Buckets, feed tubs, blankets, and hooks are all numbered for accuracy and organization. The large implement area houses necessary farm equipment, and includes a giant mound of stall bedding which is replenished easily by backing the supply truck in and unloading it in the corner. A huge 4.5-ton grain bin stores Purina brand food that is easily dispensed through a chute to the feed room. No need to deal with bags and bags of grain! Of course, if a horse needs another specialty feed, they will administer it.
Horses are cared for with utmost attention, including blanket management and turnout. Stalls and pastures are equipped with Nelson Automatic Water systems. Some horses even enjoy the luxury of nighttime turnout, especially welcome in the hot and buggy summer months.
Ron has created a horsing haven with the development of a top-notch premier facility that has more than just wonderful amenities, and constructed with the “best of the best.” It is a community of horse lovers where all are welcome - hunter/jumpers, dressage enthusiasts, western, trail riders, competitors, and leisure riders - all coming together to live their journey. According to Ron, HEC exists “for the love of horses.”
Speaking of horse love, the “Crew” at HEC is methodically devoted to the ultimate care of its horses. The AM Crew is led by seasoned Crew Manager, Mel Gingery. Mel manages feeding, turnouts, stall cleaning, and horse care, etc. with attention, concern, and wisdom. Her horse care history is extensive and rich from decades of working for famous Standardbred Trainer, Earl Bowman. At one time, she even held an Assistant Trainer’s License. Mel accrued a plethora of interesting “tried and true” remedies from Earl and others in Standardbred racing, and applies her diverse and proven expertise at HEC in caring for the horses. She breeds and shows Guinea pigs as well. It is a mutual admiration society since Ron describes Mel as “an animal lover with a big heart.” Mel radiates joy about her work and states, “Ron is so nice and is truly invested in this place. It is great to work for such wonderful people like Ron and his wife, Sue.” She began working for the previous facility owners over 11 years ago and is the most tenured person at HEC. Mel is assisted by three other AM helpers and a slightly larger crew on Saturdays.
HEC is a full-service facility with complete care, training, and lessons for children and adults with two impressive trainers. Stephanie Framer, who lives at the farm with her black lab, Cooper, owns and operates High Standards Stables (HSS), a Hunter/Jumper lesson program exclusively operating out of HEC. She and independent trainer, Tammy Cagno, provide excellent training, lesson guidance, and event organization. Also, with a live-in trainer and nearby Barn Manager, there is comfort in the knowledge that someone is always on the property for oversight, security, and that very important “night check.”
With a vision beyond full care and premier boarding, HEC was revamped and renovated with hunter shows, trials, and various equestrian events in mind. Ron’s planning skills are showcased with forethought to build 32 temporary stalls and an outdoor show office for various venues. He recommends, “pull in, circle the barn, unload, check in, and park your trailer. No backing!” That’s music to most equestrian’s ears in a very competitor-friendly environment.
Ron is multi-faceted and continues to demonstrate his vision and reach well beyond HEC as the owner of an interesting Cajun restaurant on Sanibel Island in Florida, named Mudbugs Cajun Kitchen. It is known for excellent service and interesting Louisiana-style food, great atmosphere, and lively music. There are two bars, with one of them located on the rooftop. For those who don’t know, “mudbug” is a name for a crayfish (also known as crawdaddy), a freshwater crustacean, related to the lobster.
Ron, Sue, and their family demonstrate the value of giving back, and are quietly involved in a multitude of philanthropic endeavors with equestrian non-profits, and are generous with use of their HEC facility and support. Even their Mudbugs Restaurant was recently recognized for its generosity to the Florida Golisano Children’s Hospital Pediatric Neurosurgery Unit by donating 50% of takeout proceeds - up to $50,000 in total support.
On September 20, 2020, HEC held its inaugural Mini Trial as a fun way to introduce Eventing to both riders and horses. The 1-day competition included dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. HEC also offered cross-country schooling for several days prior to the show for those interested.
What resulted was a very well attended, (over 100 entries!) successful event with ALL proceeds being donated to Trinity Farms Therapeutic Equestrian Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the therapeutic nature of horses to make a difference in the lives of those with special needs.
Don’t let the magnificence of Hinckley Equestrian Center distract you from the basic premise that Ron was inspired by - and has further enhanced at this beautiful facility - to create a venue “for the love of horses with a peaceful, calm atmosphere.” Ron states with sincerity, “we figure out how to make it right.” Yes, beyond problem-solving, they have “made it right” with inclusion, diversity, and horsing joy. That hallmark is the real magic of Hinckley Equestrian Center.
If you visit HEC, you might find Ron investing sweat equity, as he is known to pitch in where needed. He is a hands-on owner and can easily be mistaken for a crew member on any given day.
HEC is at full boarder capacity - with a wait list. However, you may just find yourself a fortunate boarder at this premier facility sometime in the future, or a visiting competitor, volunteer, or spectator at one of the many equestrian events. If so, you will be forever heartened and inspired by its enchantment.
Visit their Facebook page for current events, pictures, videos, and up-to-date general HEC information.
Regina Sacha-Ujczo is a USDF Silver and Bronze Medalist devoted to the pursuit of dressage excellence and one score shy of her Gold Medal. Formerly VP of HR for FedEx Custom Critical, she now leverages her communication, equestrian, and people skills as a Freelance Writer for horse-related websites, features and reviews. Her writing has received national recognition from USDF. Regina is married to Ed Ujczo and is “mom” to a robust animal family of three dogs and three horses. She and her husband reside in Seven Hills, OH.