2012-04-12 / News

Horsing around: Islander opens farm across the Verrazzano

Morningstar unlocked its stable doors in February and already has 14 horses

Laura Gray-Storey of Newport practices jumps astride Dan, Jamestowner Nancy Pottish’s bay thoroughbred, at Morningstar Horse Farm. Trainer Lynn Dafoe, also of Jamestown, is shown in the background, PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN Laura Gray-Storey of Newport practices jumps astride Dan, Jamestowner Nancy Pottish’s bay thoroughbred, at Morningstar Horse Farm. Trainer Lynn Dafoe, also of Jamestown, is shown in the background, PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN Morningstar Horse Farm is open for business on the site of the former Freedom Farm at 2415 Tower Hill Road, according to owner Nancy Pottish of Jamestown.

The farm, which Pottish has been operating since February, has stalls for 35 horses and is a place to go for people who love to ride, with a choice of woodland trails, two outdoor rings and an indoor ring.

The property also serves as a base for horse trainer and riding instructor Lynn Dafoe, a fellow islander.

On Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors are invited to take a tour and sample refreshments – Pottish is calling the event an open barn. Since it falls on Cinco de Mayo, Pottish anticipates that she will serve up some tacos and other “slightly Mexican food,” along with bagels and traditional brunch fare. She also expects a former owner, Lou Sammartino, and his daughter Claudia to attend.

The farm dates back to the 1880s when it started as an animal farm, she said. In the 1970s, Sammartino bought the property for his daughter because she loved horses, according to Pottish, who is working to bring the luster back. The farm fell into disrepair after he sold it years ago.

“The big joy is to take this thing,” Pottish said, “bring it back up again, and do it with family and friends in a small group.”

Pottish said the monthly board is $650, which includes feed (hay and grain), taking the horse out to pasture daily, and mucking out the stall and providing clean shavings for bedding and blankets as needed. The farm will also arrange for a farrier, which is a specialist in equine hoof care, and handle veterinary appointments at the owners request.

The price is about midway between the two statewide extremes – the $1,200 monthly fee typical in Newport and the $450 monthly boarding seen in the western part of the state, she said. “We’re aiming for that middle ground.”

So far, her clients are coming from all age groups. Pottish said that there are a lot of young girls, 13 and 14 years old, but their horses belong to the family. She said there are some older teens who own their own horses, as well as some adults.

Pottish said the unique pleasure of riding comes from the partnership with the horse.

“It’s you and another creature, with a very big soul and heart.”

Pottish, self-described as 50-something, has called Jamestown home for the past four years. Originally from Manhattan, she met husband Peter Travisano on a ski slope in Utah. The couple lived in Utah before coming back east.

Travisano grew up in Rhode Island but had relocated to Utah where he was in the oil business. The couple started a manufacturing company, which made bike parts and other products from oilbased carbon fiber and epoxy, also used to make tennis rackets and golf clubs. They also made satellite parts and hoods for Corvettes.

They sold the company when Travisano decided to buy a boat and return to Rhode Island to live near family, she said. Travisano knew about the horse farm property because he once worked there.

As a youth, Travisano built some of the fences and stalls on the farm when Sammartino owned the property. She named the place Morningstar partly because that was the name of Travisano’s childhood horse. (His family lived in Iowa at one point and kept horses.) She also liked the fact the farm faces east like the Morning Star in the sky. Plus, the name inspired a hopeful feeling, she said.

Travisano’s brother John is working on the property now. That connection may become permanent, Pottish said, but for now, he’s an independent contractor.

The new horse farm is running like a family operation. Along with Pottish and Dafoe, Marissa Wolk works at the farm as the resident manager.

“We’re on the same page with everything,” Wolk said. “The care of the animals comes first and there’s no ego trip. We have really nice horses without the attitude. This runs more like a family environment.”

Wolk, who graduated from Morrisville State in upstate New York, owned horses growing up and said she has “always been working” around them. Pottish hired her to be on site 24/7.

Dafoe, originally from California, teaches riding, western saddle, dressage and hunter-jumper competition events. Dafoe was doing odd jobs while looking for work as a trainer when she met Pottish. She encouraged Pottish to get back on a horse.

“As a kid, I rode,” Pottish said. She stopped at 15 years old, but recently started working with Dafoe three days a week. Meanwhile, she was also searching for a new business opportunity. When the farm became available, Pottish bought it and they decided Dafoe could run her business there.

Last week, Dafoe raced around one of the enclosures following a student-rider. The rider eased Dan, Pottish’s horse, a 19-year-old bay thoroughbred, over a hurdle.

Dafoe, originally from California, lived near the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and was never at a loss for trainers to further her skills.

“I was spoiled,” she said. Dafoe once showed a horse in competition against one of the Arabian stallions that appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Black Stallion” film, she said.

But she also has traveled around the world. One of her happiest memories came from a day in Israel when she rode in the Golan Heights and ended the trip by swimming with the horses in the Sea of Galilee.

Fourteen horses, including Dan, whose name is short for Jack Daniels, are stabled on the farm. Pottish hopes to have 22 by summer’s end.

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