Lizzy Whipple: Young Horse Breeder Finds Business Success
- March 11, 2018
- Jolyn Young
After college, 24-year-old Lizzy Whipple returned home to rural Scott Valley in northern California to start a horse breeding program, Whipple Equine. Through hard work, help from mentors, and the Lord’s blessings, her program is flourishing. She owns a proven stallion, Reygans Smart Lena, helps find optimal stallions for client mares, assists in the process of getting them in foal, sells foals in utero, trains foals, and ships colts across the United States to their new owners.
Lizzy welcomes a new foal into the world.
Here, Cavvy Savvy writer Jolyn Young visited with Lizzy about her journey as a young entrepreneur in the highly competitive performance horse industry.
CS: Can you tell me a little about your background with horses?
LW: I have always loved horses and was lucky enough to have parents that wanted to encourage that. When I was two, my parents found a retired, dead broke rope mare named May for my birthday. That mare was the gentlest horse that you could imagine and babysat me for the rest of my childhood.
CS: What sparked an interest to breed your own horses?
LW: [When I was a kid] I always answered “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with “rodeo queen or horse breeder.” Later, I decided that becoming a vet was a way more realistic dream. So, with that in mind I decided that I liked University of California at Davis (UCD) best for vet school and their undergrad program. In my first year there, I discovered their undergrad Equine Reproduction internships and I was hooked. After a few months at the horse barn, I realized vets only worked with dying and unconscious animals, but there really was a way to become a real life horse breeder.
After attending UCD for three years and achieving all she could in the Horse Barn program, Lizzy headed back home to northern California to start her own horse breeding program. By taking online courses through a local community college, she later earned an Associate of Arts degree in Social Science.
CS: Can you tell us about your horse program?
LW: As of right now, 65% of my foals are purchased in utero. Part of that purchase agreement is that any handling and training the buyer wants done before weaning will be done from the get go. I am up at all hours of the night during breeding season to not only ensure that foals are delivered safely, but to also schedule semen shipments from leading stallions standing all over the US. Then the days are spent getting the mares settled back in foal and handling the foals.
Mares and foals are a pretty sight on a summer day.
CS: What geographical region do most of your foals go to?
LW: Right now the interest is really been coming from California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Texas. I just sent a 2-year-old to northern Washington, and I am about to ship another to Ohio. This year, two foals I have sold in utero will be shipped to Texas and Louisiana as soon as they are weaned. The foals are starting to go all over the place, which is exciting.
Here’s a product’s of Whipple Equine’s dedication and hard work.
CS: Is this your full time job?
LW: This is 100% a full time job. Due to the monumental start up costs, I also have another full time job to make ends meet.
In addition to operating Whipple Equine, Lizzy works as a customer service rep at a local telephone company. She hopes the horse program will one day be her sole occupation.
LW: The horse program started to gain some real momentum in the past year. The big accomplishment of 2017 was to be able to purchase Reygans Smart Lena, who has won $77,000 as a reined cowhorse and is a son of $38 million sire Dual Rey and out of a daughter of Smart Little Lena. That was a huge leap for my program and was only made possible through friends and family who believe in this dream.
Here, cowhorse trainer Ron Emmons shows Reygans Smart Lena. Photo by Kathy Higgins.
CS: What other accomplishments dominated 2017?
LW: I was also able to take one of the foals by Reygans Smart Lena that I had bred in UCD to the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity with Dean Autry of Autry Performance Horses. Dean and [his wife] Sterling are amazing people. I cannot describe how blessed I am to have them as my trainers.
CS: Do you have any mentors or major influences for your business?
LW: [Cowhorse trainers and Lizzy’s neighbors] Sam and Debbie Gaemaelich are a huge inspiration and mentors to me. Sam proved that running a successful equine business in a rural area is possible. He has been a sounding borad and voice of reason for several years. Dean and Sterling Autry have also been pirceless during these start up years. We are both building our businesses right now and any little trick that we learn is shared. We are growing together.
But my biggest influence is hands down my family. When I would lose hope and realize what an uphill battle I’m fighting, they would pull me back up and show me just how I was wrong. But I am also under no illusions that this business is successful for any other reason than that God has wanted it to be. His hand has been in every purchase, sale, AI, pregnancy, foaling, show, person and opportunity that I have encountered throughout my entire life.
This is what the face of a hard-working, satisfied, blessed young woman looks like.
CS: What advice do you have for other young people looking to build a business in the equine industry?
LW: This business is not the romantic notion that so many people believe it to be. It is physically demanding, mentally draining, and emotionally taxing. It takes two years to get these foals on the ground. Along the way, you’re going to lose pregnancies, deliver dead foals, and desperately try to save your mare and you won’t always win. After that, there is another three years until you can find out if that foal you have invested five long years, thousands of dollars, hopes and dreams will be the champion you so carefully bred for.
It very rarely goes perfectly, but if you have a dream and can find joy in the planning, watching your mares grow heavy in foal, those first precious breaths that is living flesh and blood of your dedication, and the utter joy at seeing the foal you made strut into that arena, then this is the most rewarding and satisfying career you will ever have.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives on Mann Lake Ranch in eastern Oregon with her husband and their two small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....