Business

Owner trains horses, educates riders at Chesapeake Central Equestrian Center in rural Solon

Tara Walker of Cedar Rapids prepares Red for a lesson at Chesapeake Central Equestrian Center in rural Solon on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Walker has been a student of Trish Ringgold’s for 10 years. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Tara Walker of Cedar Rapids prepares Red for a lesson at Chesapeake Central Equestrian Center in rural Solon on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Walker has been a student of Trish Ringgold’s for 10 years. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Trish Ringgold took her first ride on a horse when she was 4 years old.

“My parents took me to McDonough Fair in southern Maryland, put me on a pony and led me around,” Ringgold said. “When they tried to take me off the pony, I screamed something wicked. That’s when they decided that I really wanted to ride.”

Ringgold started riding when she was 5 at Dayspring Riding School in Phoenix, Md., spending 18 years under the tutelage of Joyce V. Richardson, Dayspring founder and owner.

“As we grew up from children to young adults, we learned how to re-school and help train horses,” Ringgold said. “She instilled not just a love of horses, but good work ethic, communication skills and things like that.

“Miss Richardson really provided me the foundation that I needed and not just horsemanship skills.”

Ringgold moved to Eastern Iowa in 1994 after her husband, Jeff Riecke, was relocated by his employer in 1993.

“I told him that I wasn’t going to move into cornfields,” she said. “Jeff said it was good money and contractual work. He only expected to be here for three months living in a hotel.

“Once he was out here, he told me it was just like western Maryland with rolling hills. I told him, ‘Yeah, you’re just saying that.’ But when I came out to see him, I realized there were opportunities for us and not just with horses for me.”

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Ringgold initially worked as a freelance instructor teaching riding skills. She also worked with Bill Coester at Winds Reach Farm, a dressage and combined training facility in Iowa City.

After renting various places for a few years, the couple eventually bought the land, house and barn that would ultimately become Chesapeake Central Equestrian.

“It was time for me to develop my own business,” Ringgold said. “I began with boarding horses in the barn and doing some teaching on a seasonal basis because I didn’t have an indoor facility.

“We built the outdoor arena in what had been a hayfield.”

Ringgold was supplementing her income as an associate professor at Kirkwood Community College for 13 years in the horse science technology program. Three months after the program ended, Ringgold’s husband, Jeff, died from severe complications of Type 1 diabetes.

”After Jeff died, I knew that I had to do something for work,” she said. “When I was developing this (facility) two years ago, I was fortunate to have a great crew to help me work through stuff.”

Land preparation involving a lot of excavation was necessary to make way for a new barn and indoor arena where there were previously cornfields and hayfields. With the new barn and stables, Ringgold can accommodate 20 horses.

Ringgold now is the owner, trainer and instructor at the 55-acre Chesapeake Central Equestrian in Solon. The facility provides education for the horse and rider for the three disciplines of eventing — dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country jumping.

Chesapeake Central Equestrian also offers natural horsemanship training, horse boarding and sales.

Ringgold has 25 students — 20 who come weekly and five who take lessons maybe every other week.

“The youngest student is 10 years old and the oldest is in her 50s,” Ringgold said.

A typical lesson is 50 minutes — in the saddle — which costs $75.

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“When you are talking about a 10-year-old child who has never ridden a horse, we might take a little more extra time on the horse just to make them more comfortable,” she said.

“Someone working at a higher level of dressage or jumping that’s a lot more labor intensive will be monitored. They are not going to be jumping for 50 minutes.”

Many of the students own horses that are shipped in from other places — including out of state — and the rest of the horses are boarded at Chesapeake Central. Ringgold also has four “school master” horses for use by students.

“They are well trained and kept tuned up,” she said.

The horses ridden and trained for eventing at Chesapeake Central are warm bloods and thoroughbreds.

“The warm bloods can be an American Percheron or a Belgian thoroughbred quarter horse,” she noted. “Warm bloods are a blend of draft and thoroughbred, whether imported from Europe or bred and registered in America.”

Boarding and lessons are a package, providing the horse and owner instruction. Ringgold’s clients primarily live in the Corridor, but the owner of a horse who lives in Holy Cross in Dubuque County regularly makes the drive to Solon.

“The business is picking up, and for two years it’s really remarkable and starting to blossom,” Ringgold said. “Usually you need seven years in the horse business just to turn a profit.

“My hope is that I can do less of the maintenance, management, training and teaching. I can ride my own horses and get out and show more.

“Right now, this has to come first before I can leave for a show in Wisconsin with three (equestrian show) teams. I can get someone to cover, but I would like a little more stability in that area.”

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Ringgold hopes to expand her client base, possibly into the Quad Cities and western Illinois. She also wants to add some jumping fences on land that she has available to provide additional training opportunities.

As construction of the new barn was nearing completion, Ringgold asked the contractor if a stall could be transformed into a recovery room for abused or severely injured cats.

Ringgold, who had been a volunteer for SAINT — Saving Animals in Need Today — Rescue and Adoption Center in southwest Cedar Rapids, knew the organization needed a quiet room for cats to recover.

“Trish understood that it is difficult to find a secure safe place for injured or sick cats to rehabilitate and be monitored,” said Nicki Broderson, founder of SAINT. “She asked if we would consider letting her build a room in her barn.

“When she said that, it was such a relief to know that we would have a place for the animals to go and recover. It is a really nice room with its own ventilation, air-conditioning, and it’s totally secure.”

Peggy Stotser, a member of SAINT’s board of directors, said Ringgold is able to see the little nuances that are happening that volunteers might not pick up on during a five-minute visit three times a day at the organization’s animal shelter.

“Trish has taken a lot of time away from her business to maintain the recovery room,” Stotser said. “Just trying to find volunteers to go out there and help with the cleaning has been very difficult.”

Broderson said Ringgold, with her background around horses, is able to readily work with cats that have been abused.

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“Many of these animals have been in horrible situations where they don’t see people as a friend,” Broderson said. “Trish is so much in touch with the animals that it’s easier for her to gain their trust.

“SAINT is so lucky to have her.”

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