In this exclusive interview, Frank Stronach, 2007 Eclipse Award winning breeder and owner of older female champ Ginger Punch, discusses his newly relocated Adena Spring Farm complex, the breeding philosophy of the farm, the strong quality of his employees, and his new "Frank's" energy drink. Click here to watch the video.
A Breeder Apart
As Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs turns the page on yet another successful year, which saw Stronach Stables finish as the leading owner by earnings and Adena Springs finish as the leading breeder by earnings in North America, many of the operation’s past stars and the people who care for them are experiencing their first winter at a new farm.
The equine residents of Adena Springs Kentucky spent 2007 gradually moving from the old farms near Versailles and Midway, Ky., to a new location near Paris. Stronach had begun developing the old Adena Springs, which was actually 1,850 acres split among three different properties, in 1989.
“We closed on the first piece of property around the end of August 2005,” said Adena adviser Dan Hall of the new farm. “We began doing site work in December 2005, and we broke ground on our first structure during the first of May 2006. A lot has come together very quickly. We moved our first horses here in January 2007, and it has been a trickling process, but everything is here now.”
Finding 2,000 contiguous acres of farmland suitable for horses in Central Kentucky was not an easy task, and in fact, the new Adena resulted from buying three separate tracts of land. Two different 1,000-acre properties that had been home to cattle and crops were bought separately and then joined together when another 40-acre piece of land was purchased.
“The transition has gone really well,” said Hall. “Sometimes it was a stretch when we were in two spots, but you manage through that kind of thing. The horses have settled in great. The stallions moved over really well, and we are up and ready for business.”
While the Adena broodmares moved to the new farm throughout the spring of 2007, the stallions did not move until July 31, after the conclusion of the breeding season. The 1,000 acres that were purchased and developed first are home to a 14-stall stallion complex, seven 28-stall broodmare barns, and an employee village.
“The only property we really developed in Kentucky before this was the part of the farm on U.S. 60,” Hall said. “You notice a lot of similarities here. The barns have been tweaked a little bit, and they are a little bit bigger. On the inside, they are basically the same. On the outside, this time, we put in longer windows to increase ventilation.”
As it concerns the horses, the biggest change from the old farm can be found in the broodmare barns. Instead of having one barn set aside for foaling and moving mares there as their due dates draw near, each barn is equipped to handle births.
“There were some negatives to (one foaling barn), so what we decided to do here is create it so every barn is set up for foaling,” Hall said. “There is a little bit of added management and maybe a little added expense in night personnel when barns begin to overlap with due dates, but we feel the advantages will far outweigh those disadvantages.
“These mares come into these barns, they develop their own herd, their own buddies, and they won’t be moved. They will stay here through the whole process. We believe you will end up with a happier, safer, healthier foaling process than what we had in the past.”
While the barns look similar to the old ones, rubber has been put on the stall walls and the floors.
“It is all completely sealed so nothing gets into the floor, so you can disinfect,” Hall said. “That was the big functional change that we made in the stalls, along with the longer windows.”
The pasture setup for mares and foals was also tweaked. Each barn has about 100 acres allotted to it, and three turnout options are found at each one: two large fields that are 40-50 acres each, a smaller field of about 10 acres, and a small paddock.
“We have set it up as a graduated process,” Hall said. “They start out in the smallest of paddocks, and then we give them a bigger paddock. At the other place, it went from a two-acre paddock to turning them out in 30-40 acre fields. That is why we wanted to create another transition and see if we can eliminate some injuries. Also, you always have individuals that physically maybe don’t need to be kept in a paddock, but they don’t need to be in a 40-acre field. It gives us that other option.”
Stronach also used the development of a new farm as a way to provide new facilities for his employees. He did so by emulating the employee village that was created at his farm in Florida. The new farm features a pool, pool house, exercise room, regulation soccer field, volleyball court, and basketball court. Additionally, there are six manager/foreman homes, six two-bedroom units, and six four-bedroom houses throughout the farm, with the largest group being built around the recreational facilities.
“Frank did something similar to this at our Florida farm, and it has been a great addition down there, so we somewhat duplicated it up here,” Hall said. “In the employee village, we have a mixture of two- and four-bedroom homes along with a manager’s home. We don’t have the golf course they have in Florida, though.
“The village benefits the employees, and it benefits us as well. They become more of an Adena family, especially since we are a little more isolated out here.”
Stronach also took the opportunity to change things about the stallion complex when the new property was constructed. The receiving area for vans and trucks was made about three times larger and another door was added to where the mares enter and exit to help control the flow of traffic.
“We made some minor changes, but nothing major,” Hall said. “The breeding shed itself has a similar-type layout. We have gotten to a point where we have been breeding mares forever and it’s not like there are really ways to reinvent the wheel now, but there are always things you are kind of tweaking.”
Additionally, the stallion barn is now directly attached to the main office of the farm.
“Frank made that decision,” said Hall. “The farm up in Canada is set up that way, but it is not a stallion barn, it is a training barn. They like the way it works. Our biggest flow of visitors is to see the stallions. I think it will work out well.”
The other 1,000-acre portion of the farm contains seven run-in sheds that have been allotted about 100 acres each. They house mares that come up barren or were recently retired. After weaning, the broodmares will move to the run-in sheds as well.
“They are labor-saving, and they are great for the horse,” Hall said. “We have three stalls in each one if someone needs to come in for vet work or has a problem. We also have smaller paddocks around each one of them.
“The mares are grouped over here according to due date, and they will all move at once. We may not move them until 30-40 days before foaling, and they will live here until then. They have free choice hay, and they have protection from the elements. The only time we see them want to be in is when it is cold and wet. Otherwise, they are outside. They create their own community, and we don’t want to disrupt it all the time.”
Adena also used run-in sheds at what it terms the annex portion of its Woodford County land, and in fact, has retained that 500-acre property.
“We are hanging on to that,” Hall said. “We have a 25-stall barn and four run-in sheds with stalls there. Primarily what we will end up using that for is when fillies come off the racetrack, they will go there first to be separate from the herd.”
Also, isolation barns have been built on the 40-acre piece of land that connects to the 2,000 acres of the new farm. They will be used when a mare or foal returns from the clinic or if a horse needs to be isolated.
“They will go into these facilities instead of going into the herd for a while,” Hall said. “These barns are five stalls. We will make three or four like that instead of one 20-stall barn, because with one large structure, every time you bring one animal in, it re-contaminates everything.”
In all, the farm measures 2,045 acres, and cattle are run on parts of the property that are too rough for horses.
“It has been nice being able to work on some of the things you wanted to try in order to make it a little bit better,” Hall said. “What Frank always tries to do is combine a functional facility, a safe facility for the horse, and something that is aesthetically pleasing. He has always tried to marry those three things into developing a farm. That is always a learning process, and it is always a work in progress.”