BY KATIE MATTESON
Samantha Lauf’s face lights up when she describes getting her first pony.
She was just 5 when her parents bought an eight-acre hobby farm in Kenosha. Her mom had always wanted a farm.
They raised pigs, cattle, chickens and when Samantha was 7 her parents bought her a pony she named Chaz. Two years later eight more ponies arrived when her parents took on the rescue animals.
She took care of the ponies before and after school and learned everything she could by reading books about horses. She made a homemade cart and a harness for Chaz and led him around the farm, creating her love for carriage driving at 9.
Now 31, the girl who loves horses owns Windy Hill Equestrian Center in Mount Pleasant and a subsidiary business, Black Tie Carriage Service.
The carriage business actually came first, when Samantha and her husband Ryan hired a horse-drawn carriage for their wedding in 2011 and were not impressed with the service or the attire of the driver with uncombed hair, who wore cowboy boots with jean capris and a purple floral top.
They recognized a business opportunity and decided on standard attire of black riding boots black breaches, white button shirt, black tie, black vest and a black top hat.
The couple lives on the 10-acre farm that Samantha’s parents bought in 2002 and expanded with the purchase of 22 additional acres in 2015. They took over ownership of the farm in 2017 and opened the boarding business in May that year.
They currently have 32 stalls and board 24 horses, in addition to Samantha’s 12 horses, including her first pony Chaz. She also has Blaze, the first pony she ever rode. She was one of the rescue ponies.
They have draft horses for the carriage business (three Percherons, one Clydesdale and one Belgian), as well as other riding horses and ponies.
Samantha’s parents, Tammi and Jeff Senical, still visit the farm every day to help with chores and the various building projects, but now live in town, where they care for Tammi’s father who had a stroke in 2017. He comes to the farm every day too.
Ryan works as an auto technician in Kenosha during the day and maintains all the farm vehicles and does other chores around the farm.
It’s definitely a family affair, but Samantha is the leader and whose passion drives the operation.
She’s up at 5:30 a.m. every day and starts turning out the horses by 6 a.m. Once the horses are out, she goes to work cleaning all the stalls and doing maintenance projects. The horses stay outside until sunset, when she leads the horses back inside.
Her father works construction, so Samantha worked with him to build all the barns and she keeps up with the maintenance.
“I’m great with a drill and usually the one who cuts all the sheet metal,” Samantha said.
To cut costs and create a high quality environment, they have used repurposed materials. Much of the barn is constructed with reclaimed lumber and other materials, such as patio blocks for the flooring in some of their aisleways and tack rooms.
The horses and their owners are also treated to temperature-controlled stalls thanks to radiant floor heating and industrial grade weather rated fans. Wi-Fi-connected smoke detectors and security cameras keep the horses safe.
Other features of the facilities include a 60-foot by 150-foot indoor arena and a 100-foot by 200-foot outdoor arena, two tack rooms, an indoor washrack, second story viewing area, as well as cedar split railing fencing with electric rope for all the drylots and 20 acres of custom seeded horse pastures.
Updates currently under construction include a riding trail around the perimeter of the property, an indoor restroom, onsite coin-operated washer and dryer, a temperature-controlled lounge and a sound system for the arena.
Samantha does not personally offer riding instruction, but four riding instructors are based at the equestrian center.
For more information about the equestrian center or carriage service, visit windyhillbtc.com.