New Partnership Elevates Dressage to a New Level in Texas

Pati Pierucci and Shoofly's GoGo Boy (Photo Courtesy of Pati Pierucci)
Pati Pierucci and Shoofly's GoGo Boy (Photo Courtesy of Pati Pierucci)

This year’s Shoofly Farm CDI and Spring Classic, scheduled for April 24-27, will likely be one of the most competitive ever and that’s because dressage is being elevated to a whole new level in Texas horse country. A new partnership between Shoofly Farm, lead sponsor of the annual show, and Pierucci Dressage has greatly expanded training and educational opportunities for Texas dressage riders. Shoofly Farm owner Kim Rathmann tried for some time to lure Pati Pierucci away from her base in Virginia and then last fall her dream of partnering with Pierucci became reality. “I had asked her a few times about coming to Texas. Then all of a sudden, she called me one day and said, ‘I’m coming’. And sure enough, she did and it has just been awesome every day,” Kim said. “We’re really getting things organized the way they should and getting the farm running as it should. Every day since she arrived, we do the happy dance.”

“It’s just a beautiful farm,” Pati said. “The footing is excellent. Everything on the farm is top rate and is focused on maintaining the health of the horses.”

It’s clear that Pati has been good for business. Right after it was announced that she would be relocating to Shoofly Farm, new clients came in, Kim said. “She so believes in you and so believes in your horse that you come to believe that you could be in the Olympics next week. She just really gives you confidence and makes you see what you can be.”

In addition to their love for dressage, the new partners share a common vision for Shoofly and an interest in breeding, particularly Andalusians. “Kim and I share an interest in Spanish horses and so together we are trying to produce one or two nice babies a year for sale,” Pati said. That breeding program involves a 10-year-old PRE stallion named El Espiritu, previously owned by Jennifer Johnson of JC Andalusians in Virginia. “He is a super stallion and my daughter Hannah is using him for her first Young Rider test.”

Pati is no stranger to PRE horses. For some time she was the lead trainer at Hampton Green Farm, which specializes in the breeding and sales of PRE horses. She left Hampton Green and relocated back to Virginia in 2008 but her passion for Spanish horses has remained.

Kim said the two friends just want to breed horses that allow others to enjoy dressage. “We just want to breed horses that are safe and happy and can do the job for the amateur and the professional. I’m 63,” Kim said, “and I’ve had a lot of horses and not all of them were safe. I’m an amateur and I have two horses now that are awesome. As a breeder, I want to provide others with the opportunity to feel the magic.”

Shoofly Farm is rapidly becoming what Kim and Pati envisioned – a training center where everyone is part of the family. “Our riders have goals and desires and together, Pati and I are helping them meet those goals and fulfill those desires in ways they didn’t even think they could.”

But it isn’t just the Shoofly Farm community that Kim supports. She supports the annual CDI that is run by the Houston Dressage Society in an effort to provide competitive opportunities for all riders. “That organization is the most wonderful team. The society does such great work and we have such fun doing the CDI.

Pati Pierucci and Shoofly's GoGo Boy (Photo Courtesy of Pati Pierucci)
Pati Pierucci and Shoofly's GoGo Boy (Photo Courtesy of Pati Pierucci)

At this year’s Shoofly Farm CDI and Spring Classic Pati plans to compete with Shoofly’s own Go-Go Boy. The horse, previously owned by Lauren Hampton, had been a Grand Prix partner for Jim Kofford under the name of Harmony’s Galant. “We renamed him,” Kim said. “The horse hasn’t shown a lot so we just need to get him out and see where he goes.”

“He’s a Harmony sport horse,” Pati said. “He’s 18 hands and magnificent.” Pati and Go-Go Boy spent some of their time this winter training in California with Christine Traurig as they get ready to compete in the April Shoofly Farm CDI in Houston. Pati is already working on a freestyle that she used 13 years ago. “My friend Tigger Montague did a freestyle on this horse for Jim Kofford so Tigger knows the horse and he suggested I use my Sound of Music freestyle from 13 years ago.”

It didn’t take Pati long to feel right at home in Texas. She might be a relatively new resident but she is no stranger to the state. Pati had been doing clinics in Texas ever since a friend, Nancy Murray, had moved to Houston and Pati said she was impressed with Texas riders from the start. “There are so many talented riders and trainers there, but it’s often a forgotten area,” she said of Texas. “And yet, there are many people here who are dedicated to being in full-time training. These are really committed people.”

From the moment she arrived last fall, Pati was inundated with people and horses looking for training. “There is a serious desire here to attract more good riders and trainers and build a real community of FEI riders who support one another,” Pati said. She made the move last fall because the timing was right. Her husband, Peter, works for Wal-Mart. He had just finished an 18-month assignment in New Hampshire and was ready to relocate. So, the decision was either to relocate back to Virginia and stay there for awhile or make the move to Texas. Pati said the move has been good for the whole family. Peter is now working in Texas and their son Ray is settled into his new school in Texas. The couple’s oldest daughter, Phoebe, is out of school and their other daughter, Hannah, was willing to make the move and continue working with her mother. Hannah is also an active dressage rider. “She has been riding some of the Spanish horses and I can turn some of those over to her,” Pati said.

It isn’t just the family that has benefited from the move to Houston. Pati said the partnership with Shoofly is making it possible for her to focus all her time and energy on training, teaching and advancing her own education as a rider. “I was running the business myself in Virginia and that meant I had to manage and pay for everything. Now, all I need to focus on is the training, the teaching and my own study.”

Mutual friends may have brought Pati and Kim together but they quickly realized that they had a shared vision of building a premier dressage facility in the midst of cowboy country. Kim had returned to Houston after spending 20 years in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and she was anxious to see dressage grow in her home state. She is a native Texan, born in San Antonio and raised in Dangerfield.

It was a desire to keep control over her horses and her barn that led Kim to purchase the Shoofly Farm property. “When I came back to Houston, I checked out all the barns but I had been in my own barn for so long that I just felt more at home having something I could control and do things my own way.”

Kim had landed in Wyoming after doing a road trip there with friends when she was a young woman. “I just feel in love with the state.” She was engaged at the time and told her fiancé that he must promise that one day he would move her to Jackson Hole. After marriage, Kim and her husband vacationed in Jackson Hole and eventually bought an old cabin. “I upgraded it and then sold it and then just kept flipping houses in Wyoming,” Kim said. Eventually, she settled in Wyoming while her husband went back and forth to his business in Houston. The Rathmanns bought a farm in Wyoming and Kim settled there. They still own the farm and use it for summer vacations.

Wyoming was a great place for raising kids, Kim said, but when the last child graduated she decided to head back to Texas. “At the time that our last child graduated, I had been taking care of the barn with 11 horses and was worn out.” As tired as she was with barn chores, she decided that having her own barn was still the best option for her. Enter Shoofly Farm. “The farm name comes from the fact that my husband’s mother had an old shoofly, which was an old southern rocker for kids.” Shoofly started as an 11-stall barn and has been growing ever since.

“This is only the third year that I started having boarders. There were three buildings in paddocks and I turned three of those into four-stall barns and one into a two-stall barn. We now have 24 stalls,” Kim said.

The first time Pati did a clinic at Shoofly Farm, Kim didn’t even get the chance to ride. “My mom had a stroke and was in ICU. I saw Pati for maybe 10 seconds. But Pati kept coming back and I started riding with her and I can tell you, it’s not hard to fall in love with her. She has so much knowledge and expertise. I’ve worked with lots of clinicians but none ever met all the needs of riders and horses. There are lots of lovely people here who are trainers but not with her unique combination of skills,” Kim said.

Those skills have made Pati a leading figure in American dressage for nearly three decades. She has earned far too many victories in the Grand Prix ring to name. In 2000, she was long-listed for the U.S. Olympic Selection Trials with Highlife Farms’ stallion Highlife. Two other leading Grand Partners in her life were the Hampton Green Farms’ stallions Grandioso and Idillio. These two stallions introduced Pati to the beauty of the PRE and she has remained a fan of the breed ever since.

Jo Hinneman and Shoofly's GoGo Boy (Photo Courtesy of Pati Pierucci)
Jo Hinneman and Shoofly's GoGo Boy (Photo Courtesy of Pati Pierucci)

Pati was born in Owensboro, Kentucky and grew up in Kentucky and New Jersey. She started riding as a child and her education has included not only dressage, jumping and eventing, but also Western riding.

She even galloped race horses for Barclay Farms in New Jersey. She studied Equine Studies at Harcum Jr. College in New Jersey and started running large barns at an early age. “I had various jobs running barns from the age of 15 to 25,” Pati said.

Her dressage career started with her mother’s Appendix Quarter Horse – Sage’s Spy Song. It was David de Wispelaere her first introduced her to the world of FEI-level competitive dressage. In addition to David, Pati’s education has included working with Robert Dover, Betsy Steiner, Kathy Connelly, German Olympian Martin Schaudt and currently with Christine Traurig. Christine said she enjoys coaching Pati because of her “talent, feel and adaptability. Pati also brings an open-minded attitude into the training, which makes it so much easier for a coach to produce results.”

Pati echoes what many leading trainers have said, which is that horses have taken her on amazing journeys in life. “I cannot imagine my life without them,” Pati said. “They make you want to get up every day.” Her sincere love for horses is another reason that Christine says she enjoys coaching Pati. “She has tremendous passion for the horses and also for the people with whom she is involved. That, coupled with her vast experience having been in the sport and business, makes her very special.”

Now, Pati is on a new phase of her life with horses, one that has taken her to the heart of Texas and a world of new opportunities. And while Houston is a long way from world in which Pati grew up, she is excited about this next stage in her equestrian career. “My specialty has always focused on building a relationship with your horse. The move to Shoofly Farm is offering me an opportunity to do just that. I feel that this is a place where both I and my family can flourish.”

And Kim is quick to add that Shoofly Farm is sure to flourish with Pati as part of the team.