Texans find ideal horse country in Berkeley

September 26, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A year ago Michael and Brenda McCall moved lock, stock and saddle from the sand and tumbleweeds of Desert Shadow to the green rolling hills of Deer Shadow Farm.

The couple, who has raised horses and taught riding for 16 years, made the 2,100-mile journey from El Paso, Texas, to Berkeley County to be closer to some of the best horse country in the United States. Saturday they will host the first of three horse shows in the Deer Shadow Farm Fall Show Series.

"If these go well, then we'll be able to get them with different show approvals," Brenda McCall said recently. She hopes future shows hosted by the farm will be sanctioned by horse show associations in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.


"That way participants who win shows here can earn points in their organizations. It would make it more worthwhile for people to come," McCall explained.

It's not just the riding crop and jodhpurs set that's invited to attend, she noted. "The shows are open to the public if people just want to come and watch, or have an interest in horses," McCall said.

It was July 1996 when the McCalls bought the former Whiting's Neck Equestrian Centre at the end of the road of the same name. "We really wanted to get to the East Coast in general. There are just so many more shows in this area than in Texas," she explained.

The couple looked around the region, including Virginia and Maryland, but found the best combination of location and price in Berkeley County. The 26-acre farm has 49 stalls for boarding horses, an outdoor arena and a 200-by-800-foot indoor equestrian arena.

"We're also working on a cross country course. There was one here, but it wasn't maintained," she said.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, competitions begin in 42 classes in 13 divisions and two styles, Western and English riding. Age groups range from those for children ages 8 and under, to "Fossils Over Fences," which McCall said is for amateur riders over the age of 30.

Champion and reserve champion awards will be presented for each division with a high point series award at the end of the three shows. The other shows are scheduled for Oct. 18 and Nov. 15.

Brenda McCall was raised on a horse, her grandfather having trained them. "He got me on a horse when I was 3," she recalled.

The native Texan became an accomplished equestrian, good enough to train with the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. She was selected as an alternate, but the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to the United States' boycott of the Moscow Games.

She took pre-veterinary courses at New Mexico State University, but people kept asking for help with their horses and she found herself doing it for a living. She leased a barn in Texas and started Desert Shadow Farm.

Brenda met Michael McCall when he moved from Oklahoma and called her about boarding his two horses.

In addition to offering field and stall boarding for horses, the couple also raises what she called "half Arabian sport horses" bred with thoroughbreds, saddle and show horses.

They also teach classes, either one-on-one or in small groups of three or four. The indoor arena gives them a year-round facility. "We actually seem to get busier in the winter because of that," Brenda said.

Brenda said parents often enroll their children, then get involved in the sport themselves. During the summer, she said a lot of teachers enrolled in classes. This summer they also had camps for children and adults.

Retired show horses are used for the classes. McCall said they are both gentle and experienced with riders.

The McCalls changed the name of the farm, in part because of "its interesting past," she noted. The equestrian center had previously been leased by a few operators who were unsuccessful. A friend suggested Deer Shadow Farm because it's similar to the McCall's first farm.

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