Interview with Maryanna Haymon from Marydell Farm

Wendell Haymon, Don Principe, and Maryanna Haymon. Photo: Sharon Packer

Wendell Haymon, Don Principe, and Maryanna Haymon

Hello everyone. We have an awesome interview here with Maryanna Haymon from Marydell Farm in North Carolina. Maryanna was the recipient of the Pegasus Award from the USEF this year. From the USEF site-This award recognizes individuals who have exhibited outstanding dedication and service to horses and equestrian sport. These individuals have excelled in attracting people to the sport and have contributed to horse sport by advancing its popularity. The nominee must be living and retired from actively competing in equestrian sport. Read more about Maryanna, her late husband Wendell, and their passion for breeding sport horses!

Lets start out with some background:

Marydell Farm is located in Columbus, North Carolina, about 10 miles from the Tryon International Equestrian Center. The area is blessed with all 4 seasons, rolling hills, good grass.

Wendell Haymon (1941-2020), my husband was very supportive of our breeding efforts. He was a scientist and was fascinated by the genetics of breeding horses. He would study pedigrees and we would discuss Conformation and athletic ability. But most important to us was the work ethic, character.

In the beginning, we did what most new breeders do- we looked at magazines, ads, mailings from the big farms. Making many mistakes along the way. Going with the glossy ads, shiny horses and advice from people who we respected.

But things started to turn around and we began making better informed choices in 2000. We attended the (first of several for us) Hanoverian Breeder’s orientation course in Verden, Germany.

Our horses started winning at breed shows and performance shows in dressage and hunters.

Marydell has won the USDF perpetual trophy, “Traveling Trot” 5 times over the years with weanlings to young horses to mature horses.

We have produced 8 fully licensed and approved stallions with various registries. That includes Doctor Wendell MF (Don Principe/Sandro Hit) who is ridden by an Amateur in Europe to several GP Championships

Tell us about your riding experience and how you got interested in horses:

I was interested in horses since my earliest memories. I was born and raised on a potato farm in New Jersey. I could not have any animal that did not serve a purpose. But I was so determined, I worked many odd jobs and at age 11, bought my 1st horse. I started riding barrels racing, competitive trail, jumping before moving to dressage at the age of 35.

Tell us about Marydell Farm. When did you and Dr Wendell Haymon start your breeding program?

Marydell Farm was originally Galloping Hill Farm in Alpharetta, GA starting in 1990. When Wendell’s job took him to Greenville, SC in 1997, I wanted to have a farm in NC. We purchased 33 acres in Columbus, NC, merged our names to come up with Mary (Maryanna)Dell (Wendell). We started with one broodmare in 1990 and at one time had 10 mares and up to 30 horses on the farm.

Why did you start to breed horses?

In 1990, I was diagnosed with severe back issues that were progressing at a rapid rate. I was told I would be in a wheelchair in 2 years. But being a stubborn sort, I looked at my future and developed a plan. I had been a NICU nurse and I could not live without horses in my daily life. So, I combined the two and became a breeder. I also developed a well-defined breeding goal. To breed a horse that I could ride until I could no longer ride safely, comfortable and athletic but one a trainer would want in their barn, not for the training fees, but for the horse itself.

Don Principe- Who bred him? Bloodlines? Tell us about his personality, why you purchased him, show accomplishments, and his legacy.

Don Principe (Donnerhall/ Prince Thatch xx/Durkheim) was my heart horse. He was bred by Adleheid Brunning in Germany where I first met him as a 2 yr old that the Verband had rejected from the licensing. But Adleheid beleived in him so much, she did not follow the normal procedure of castration, but sent him to Hans Heinrich Meyers to be started and trained for the stallion test. In 2003, we had paid in stud fees, over $30,000 and decided we needed our own stallion. Since our broodmares were primarily “R”ubinstein lines, we felt that the Donnerhall line was what we needed. So we traveled to Germany to see “Prince” and also saw 12 other stallions. Prince was the first one we went to watch, but I knew that he was the one for me. He and I just connected in a way I had never before had with another horse. There are no words to describe that kind of connection.

Prince was so loving and outgoing with everyone he met. Most people mistook him to be a gelding because of his laid-back personality. But he always fired up when he was inside those white fences. There were times when a couple of his riders came out of a warm up and said to me” I do not know what is going to happen, he is “up” and taking over”. Those classes were his best scores those riders ever received on him. Don Principe was a frustrated eventer at heart. If he got away from you on the ground, you were in for a heart wrenching, total terror of concern he would hurt himself. He would do a full out gallop and jump anything in sight. Once he got away from me at the Kentucky Horse Park when I was hand grazing him. He ran off and took a couple of the cross country jumps before anyone could get near him. He had this look on his face of pure joy. He lived in a 36”chain 10’leather lead with a button end after that when he was at a show. But at home, he was lead with a plain cotton lead.

It would take many pages to catalog his competition accomplishments. Some highlights were the FEI Young Horse National Championships with Jim Koford, The first CDI win with Courtney King Dye, Qualifying with Jen Marchand for the National USEFI 1 Championships, going back to Germany to train with Klaus Balkenhol with Jen Baumert, on to Hilltop Farm as a schoolmaster for Michael Bragdell, who Michael rode his first Grand Prix, back to Jim Koford to compete in Grand Prix and then onto Kaitlyn Blythe on a Nations Cup Team, winning a Nation’s Cup silver and then becoming the Brentina Cup Champion.

But his legacy is multi-faceted. He proved that the right combination of conformation, athleticism and work ethic could make a horse that could be happy in his work and be healthy and sound of mind and body to be competitive into his late teens. All the while having a dual career- competition and breeding.

In his breeding career, Don Principe left many, many top horses. Most went on to the Adult amateurs, but several made it to the top of sport in dressage, a few went on to be National Eventing Champions, and even more went on to be great hunters, excelling in the hunter derby. Both Don Principe and one of his sons, David Bowie MF have been ridden by para riders.

We are just now witnessing his great worth as a dam sire. Serenade MF, Sonata MF, Faith MF, Bruce Springsteen MF. Don Principe sired or is grandsire to 7 stallions- Doctor Wendell MF, David Bowie MF, Don Pharrell MF, Bruce Springsteen MF, Doc Dancer MF, Debonair MF and Dionysus MF.

Jim Koford and Doctor Wendell MF. Photo Sharon Packer
Jim Koford and Doctor Wendell MF. Photo Sharon Packer

Don Principe also is the sire or grandsire to 5!!! USDF “Traveling Trot” perpetual trophy winners. Duet MF, David Bowie MF, Dansuse MF, Danae MF and Dakar MF

Tell us about Serenade MF. How was it going to Europe and watching Alice Tarjan and Serenade compete?

Serenade MF is by Sir Donnerhall I and out of Elite Mare Duet MF by Don Principe. Alice Tarjan purchased Serenade MF at Dressage at Devon when she was just a few months old. Alice has a gift for spotting talent in a young horse and developing it to the fullest. In 2017, the year Wendell was diagnosed with leukemia, Alice and Serenade MF won the FEI 4 yr old Young Horse Championship at Lamplight. Alice kindly invited us in to the awards and that photo is one I truly treasure. Serenade MF went on to win the Lovestra Cup for developing GP in Wellington in 2021 and onto to win the FEI/USEF Developing Grand Prix at Lamplight at age 8. This year, Alice was invited by the USEF to represent the USA on the Nation’s Cup Team at Rotterdam, Netherlands. I was lucky enough to find the funds to travel there to see them compete in person. Thanks to the generosity of Alice and the kindness of the USEF, George Williams, I was able to experience the week alongside the US team. The anxiety of watching a horse that we bred represent our country was extremely anxiety producing. But the pride in standing with the American team and seeing that exciting pair do so well had me on cloud 9. Then Alice and Serenade were named the alternate for the World Equestrian Games. From what our research revealed, Serenade MF was the first American bred warmblood to be on the WEG teams. Hilda Gurney’s Keen was actually the first but was a TB. Serenade MF came back to the states only 2 weeks before the USEF National Grand Prix Championships where she was the Champion, outscoring her fellow teammate, Katie Durheimer.

Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF have now won two of the World Cup qualifiers, Devon and Tryon and are hoping to be able to represent North America in Omaha next year.

Alice Tarjan, Serenade MF, and Maryanna
Alice Tarjan, Serenade MF, and Maryanna

What are the 3 top attributes that you look for, when searching for a foal/weanling?

TEMPERAMENT AND WORK ETHIC!!!!!!!!

The #1 top requirement for me. The horse has to be intelligent, outgoing and friendly. As far as work ethic- I have a test for that in the young foals. I walk out into the field and just stand there away from the mares and foals. IF a foal is bold, curious and comes to me, leaving mom and peers, that shows me that foal wants to be with a human and to me that equates to work ethic.

WALK! A pure walk with elasticity is what many horses lack today. I am known for breeding large, pure walks with swing. You can not alter the basic walk and it has so much to do with quality of canter. I do not pay any attention to the trot. A trot is the gait that can be created by training and the rider.

When I breed, I look for CONFORMATION to support the practical goal I have in mind for that foal. Without a good basic structure, most horses will not stand the test of training or longevity. I want a good solid foundation. There are some deviations you can work with and others are a no starter for me.

How is the market for the American Sport Horse breeder?

The market for American breeders is as it has always been difficult despite some people doing OK. I think for many, there is still the belief that Americans don’t produce the quality that is in Europe. That is a misconception that is almost impossible to dispel. Take for example Doctor Wendell MF. He was American bred and trained up to GP. Even with a top International trainer recommending him, several team members passed on him. He was sold in Germany for a good amount of money to the first person who tried him. He then went on with his Adult amateur rider to win the Russia Cu three times at GP putting an American bred Hanoverian on the WBFS top 100.

American riders and trainers don’t like the effort they need to put in to find the Diamonds in their own backyard. There is a great deal of “cache” and prestige attached to having an imported horse. It is cheaper to go to Europe and see a good number of horses in a central location. Their program for starting young horses is something we are missing here in America and that is not going to change as American riders want to ride FEI levels and not take pride in starting young horses. And before anyone starts on me, there ARE good young horse trainers but they need to make a living and for most breeders, that cost is prohibitive.

What does the future look like for Marydell Farm?

Since Wendell passed away, Marydell has not been quite as active. I will be breeding some mares this year and already have interest from Germany in a filly from one of them- a Don Principe dam.

What do you do on your days off?

I read a great deal, am starting to put together a book on breeding. I like to travel to shows to watch Marydell Farm horses compete even if I do not own them. I like to cook and love to bring food to breed shows for breeders and handers. I hold open houses here at the farm when there is a dressage show in town. I enjoy meeting friends for lunch and movies

Thank you, Maryanna, for your dedication to sport horse breeding and for such an informative interview for horses4yc.com! You can reach Maryanna Haymon here:

725 Phillips Road, Columbus, North Carolina, 28722

h-(828)863-2145

c-(864)325-3529 [email protected]

on Facebook @ Maryanna Haymon

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