Palmarosa Farm

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Gordons’ daughter, Laura Bierly, making jumps with Jewel. (photo submitted)

Aiming to be new training ground for champions

By Barbara Childs

Tom and Katie Gordon of Palmarosa Farm in Landrum have expanded their professional horse world through participation in breeding and horse racing interests.

Tom Gordon and daughter, Laura Bierly, in front of the family home at Palmarosa Farm in Landrum. (photo submitted)

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After joining the S.C. Thoroughbred Horse Racing Association, they have made a commitment to providing a new home and life for a good future to former racehorses. Tom is a firm believer in giving a new life and job to these horses when they come from the racetrack.

“These lovely animals have so much to give us as trail horses, event and show horses, dressage and hunter/jumper disciplines, too, if professional and proper schooling is provided for them,” said Tom.

The Gordons have had pleasure horses for most of their lives. Katie’s horse, Diamond, is the queen of the barn, together with her companion, Fancy (Tom’s quarter horse), and show jumper Sheik. Diamond was rescued as a premarin PMU foal by Katie, and she has grown into a gorgeous mare, who is Katie’s pride and joy. As Katie’s devoted partner, she has blossomed into an elegant show and pleasure horse.

Most recently, Tom brought one of his racehorses to the barn, Eyes of the Jewel, to start a new career. Jewel has been training with Danny Sommo for the past eight months, and Tom and Katie’s daughter, Laura Bierly, has been riding and jumping her. Jewel made her debut in the show ring at the Harmon Hopefuls earlier this year.

“She exceeded our expectations, bringing home ribbons in every class she entered. We couldn’t have asked for anything more,” said Sommo. “Having very limited experience with navigating a full course, she was poised, quiet, well balanced and was a pleasure to work with. She is going to become a special horse in the hunter and jumper ring as her training progresses.”

The horses at Palmarosa Equestrian Center are trained and shown by Sommo. He relocated to this area about six years ago after a long and renowned show career at his training facility in New Jersey.

“In addition to the venues at FENCE, Harmon Field and the new equestrian center in Green Creek, there will be an increase of horse enthusiasts who will meet and compete in this area,” said Sommo.

Sommo learned about the horse industry from the bottom up, working at Monmouth Racetrack for several years. There he became fully immersed in the development of young racehorses. He passionately believes “horses have to be taught the skills of successful racing, which can be achieved through conditioning and training. You have to unlock the secret to each horse, and allow the horses to realize their potential both on the track and beyond. All thoroughbreds can run, but you have to teach them to race.”

Following his time on the track, Sommo applied his experience to all levels of the hunter/jumper equestrian equitation divisions. His busy schedule included participation in shows at Devon, Pennsylvania National, Sussex and the HITS, as well as international events in Europe.

Meanwhile, horses have been a lifelong passion of Bierly, the Gordons’ daughter, who shows the Palmarosa horses.

“I received my first horse, Sports Desk, when I was 12 years old. He was a thoroughbred and raced for 10 years on the track,” said Bierly.

Bierly’s first accomplishments in the show ring were logged at New York State University at Cobleskill, where she competed as a member of the intercollegiate riding team and graduated with a degree in animal science/horse husbandry. It was there she met her future husband, Brett, who participated in the western equestrian team at the college.

Their mutual love of horsemanship became a steadfast family commitment.

Today Brett and their 13-year-old daughter, Rachel, fully support mom’s equestrian endeavors. Bierly moved here 19 years ago after honing her skills of horses at the Camden racetrack. Her experience there provided a perfect foundation for her current objectives.

Bierly currently rides and shows her quarter horse gelding, Sheiks All Rugged. They are planning to compete in the 3’ to 3’6” jumper divisions this year.

“Sheik has been both a challenge and a great teacher to me as I expand my riding career in the show ring. He’s sensitive and an over-thinker,” she said. “You can’t get ahead of him, and you have to give him the confidence he needs to jump well. You know when you get it right because he gives you a big clean jump.”

Sommo and Bierly have their sights set on expanding the show program at Palmarosa. They will devote their time to several shows here and then devote time to selecting several show horses in Holland and Germany. Their established contacts in Europe with excellent trainers are invaluable as these masters have a long record of preparing horses and riders for top quality show venues in Europe, including the famous Grand Prix in Aachen, Bierly said. Their horses will allow Bierly to advance in the upper levels of jumper competition.

Sommo and Bierly place particular emphasis on the harmonious relationship between horse and rider. They believe an optimal team can be created through identifying and developing strengths for the human and the horse. The nurturing of this relationship is key to the success of mastering the challenges of competition.