Kildare Farm seeks to propel hunter-jumpers to new heights
For Nancy Britt, the law takes a back seat to horses.
That’s not to suggest Britt is a lawbreaker — far from it. She is, however, a licensed member of the Colorado bar who practiced law in this state for nearly a decade, then abandoned her law practice in favor of her first love — horses and hunter-jumper training and competiton.
“The horses called and I decided to stop practicing law,” said Britt. “I went to Florida, even though I didn’t know anybody, because I wanted to play in the big leagues.
“Everybody from around the world comes to Florida in the winter, from the dressage world, eventing and hunter-jumpers,” she added. “It increased my confidence to ride and win against some of the top riders. And to learn from top people about barn management and horse care.”
These days, Britt runs her own hunter-jumper barn in western Colorado. It’s called Kildare Farm, and she operates out of a barn on East Orchard Mesa called Alamar Stables, owned by Floyd and Tamara Joramo.
Britt has been there since last spring. Her goal, she said, is “to bring to this valley a top-end hunter-jumper barn” that will enable some students and horse owners to join her in competing at top-level shows around the West. She also wants to see a more developed local show circuit, perhaps in cooperation with hunter-jumper enthusiasts in the Roaring Fork Valley and Montrose.
Britt has 25 horses boarded and/or in training at Kildare Farm. And she has more than that number of students, both juniors and adults, in the Grand Valley and Montrose.
She arrived at this corner of Colorado by a circuitous route. It began with her father’s career in the oil industry, which took the family to Texas and Utah before they finally settled in the Denver area when Nancy was 15.
She rode in Western disciplines, dressage and eventing. But, it was when she began as a working student for a trainer named Frank Conway that her eyes were opened to the hunter-jumper world.
“I fell in love with it the first time I rode a horse that was really trained to jump,” she said. “I love what it takes to be a really good hunter rider — to be effective and still. Then jumpers add the thrill of speed.”
After high school, Britt got into riding in open hunter-jumper shows, competing against professional riders. And, she said, she was fortunate to ride with a number of very good instructors. But, after two years, she changed course and enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
While there, she rode and worked at some of the top barns in the Boulder area, including for a woman named Jodi Kennedy. “She was the one who really mentored me,” Britt recalled. “I worked for her for 10 years, on and off, while I was going to college and later, law school” at the University of Denver.
Britt obtained her law degree and was licensed to practice law in Colorado in the late 1990s. She did so, first with a litigation firm in Denver, then another firm in the San Luis Valley, and finally her own law practice in Salida.
She decided to give up her legal duds for boots and breeches in 2005, made the move to Florida and regained her professional status. Eventually, she managed her own business there, with a barn where she boarded, trained and bought and sold horses.
One highlight of her time in Florida, she said, was making it to championship competitions against some of the top riders and horse owners around, “with horses that I started and brought along myself.”
Additionally, at the Region 3 championship in Jackson, Fla., one year, she was invited to walk the course with three of the top riders and instructors in the world. “I learned so much about horses, training and this sport,” she said. “It renewed my faith that you can win in this sport without breaking the rules.”
Eventually, though, she decided to return to Colorado, in part because her parents still live here part of the year.
“I ran into somebody I knew from Boulder who introduced me to Terry Gallegos,” a well-known hunter-jumper rider with her own barn in Mesa County. Britt started doing clinics at Gallegos’ place, then spent an entire summer teaching and riding there.
“I didn’t want to go back to the Front Range, and I was getting to know a lot of people here,” she said.
She spent the winter in Tucson, but in the spring began looking for a place where she could expand her operations. Alamar, which has served a variety of horse disciplines over the years, was empty. It seemed a good match, and she reached agreement with the Joramos to operate there. She boards, trains and buys and sells horses.
Over her career, Britt said she has learned that a key to training is “keep it simple, but do it with precision.” Riding, she added, is a partnership between a human and another creature that doesn’t speak the same language. Part of her job, she said, is to teach people that riding and competition are nothing to fear, and they can help build skills and values that will assist people throughout their lives.
Britt plans to go to California to compete this winter, possibly with some of her top students.
But she’ll be back at Alamar in the spring, she said, continuing to work in and promote the sport she loves.