Archive Contents

Quality Horse Care is Top Priority at 
Hidden Hills Equestrian Center

by Ginny Farmer

Tucked away at the end of a long dirt road in Auburn, 60 horses at Hidden Hills Equestrian Center wait patiently in their stalls to be fed, brushed, ridden or simply visited by their owners or caretakers.

Stephanie Howard Gingles, owner and manager of the Hidden Hills facility, which opened about two and a half years ago, is a passionate horse lover who counts herself lucky to be able to do for a living what most people have only as a hobby.

In the short time during which the center has 

Stephanie Howard Gingles, manager of Hidden Hills Equestrian Center, brushes 19-year-old J.R.’s Legal Tender in the wash stall inside the barn.

been open, it has grown by leaps and bounds – literally. The number of horses boarded and lessons given has increased tremendously.

"We’ve reached our full potential," Gingles said. "The stalls are full, the barns are full. We’re not capping it off, though. We’re going to keep expanding."

Since Hidden Hills Equestrian Center opened two and a half years ago, it has grown from being able to stable 21 horses to now housing 60 horses.

When Hidden Hills first opened, only one barn with 21 stalls was used. Since then, an old nine-stall barn on the property has been renovated and plans are in the works for a five-stall barn to be built. The old barn is at least 30 years old, she said, so it needed a lot of work, including a new roof and a fresh coat of paint. Gingles leases the land from Josh Hartman, whose family has owned the property’s 136 acres for more than 20 years.

Gingles said she has two employees who do

 the farm work and one who teaches beginning lessons, Grace Owen. Gingles is the head trainer and teaches advanced-level classes.

Many of Hidden Hills’ customers are students of Auburn University, a few of which are even members of the school’s equestrian team. But Hidden Hills has hunter/jumper programs for all ages and skill levels of riders, from small children to adults and beginners to advanced show riders.

"To me, everybody is special," Gingles said. "We’ve always got those riders who are very committed and strive to be the best they can be."

Some horse owners visit their horses every day, and others a few times a week, but each horse receives the attention it needs each day. Horses are fed twice a day, their stalls are cleaned, and any health problems that arise are taken care of. Gingles said she even helps horse owners by making sure 

Each horse receives the attention it needs on a daily basis.

their annual vaccinations are scheduled, and she usually treats most of the horses at the same time, unless an owner chooses otherwise.

A Birmingham native who grew up loving horses and loving to ride them, Gingles says she knows how important quality horse care is, and she is proud of the level of service and opportunities Hidden Hills provides for its customers.

"Anybody who comes to interview to board here, they’re going to see the quality of the care," Gingles said. "This is not a weekend job. It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. You can’t quit at five."

Gingles, whose home is actually on the Hidden Hills property, said she makes sure she looks at every horse in the facility every day.

"I do a barn check at night to make sure all the horses are feeling good when I leave here," she said. "I lay my eyes on every horse every day, and I have exceptional help that takes really good care of these horses."

She also said it is her and her employees’ passion for what they do that makes their work so special, and her dedication can be seen in how equally passionate Gingles is about showing horses and helping her customers demonstrate their own passions and talents.

And of course, safety is a big issue at Hidden Hills – all riders are required to wear helmets; but Gingles said the most important way to avoid accidents is simply to make smart decisions when riding.

"It’s a pretty big deal to make that commitment to do something with your riding ability and your horse," she said. "Our goal is to make the horse and rider become that perfect unit – to have a relationship that looks flawless in the ring."

Gingles said she encourages all of her students to compete, because there is a place for everyone’s skill level.

Each year, several shows are held at Hidden Hills, both association-affiliated and in-house. Three or four are held by the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association, and about four are schooling shows that allow the local riders and those who board at Hidden Hills to come together and show off what they have learned. The facility also offers summer camps and professional clinics.

Gingles still competes in both regional and national U.S. Equestrian Federation shows. Just about three years ago, Gingles received a Champion Trainer Trophy from the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association. That year, her students won more awards than students from any other trainer.

"I’ve always loved horses – ever since I was born," said Gingles, who has competed in horse shows for years. "I wanted to get into the hunter/jumper world and start riding and competing on that level."

Even after attending Southern Union in Opelika and intending to transfer on to Auburn, a life in the horse industry was too tempting to give up or postpone. It was only after a few years of being a trainer and managing a barn in the area that Gingles was contacted by Hartman to run Hidden Hills.

"It’s just something I’m passionate about," Gingles said. "If I can be doing what I love to do for a living, then why not? I never get enough of it."

Hidden Hills is located on Lee Road 677, and can be reached at (334) 466-8024. Gingles said a Web site is also in the works.

Back Home

Archive Contents


Date Last Updated January, 2006