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Horse farm helps executive escape the rat race

July 05, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Karen Geesaman raises Arabian horses, one of the equine world's most beautiful and versatile breeds, but she's lucky if she rides one of them once a year.

"I just don't ride much. I'm mostly into breeding horses," said Geesaman, owner of Birches Garden Arabians on Rabbit Road west of Greencastle. Her herd has an average of 20 horses at any one time, including four to six foals born each year. A big horse farm runs 30 to 50 head, she said.

During the week, Geesaman, a Waynesboro, Pa., native, lives and works in New York City, where she is chief financial officer of two companies that produce national television commercials. She is co-owner of one of the firms.

On weekends, she flies to Washington, D.C., rents a car and drives to the farm, where she helps Scott Brumfield, 39, her trainer for the last six years, run the horse operation.

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Geesaman bought the 54-acre spread in 1981 as a retreat from her busy New York professional life. A year later she decided the farm needed some animals.

She grew up loving horses. Her father, a local post office employee, owned a couple of horses that he used to enter at the Hagerstown Fair back in the days when it had a racetrack.

"That's where I learned to ride," Geesaman said.

Arabians have been her favorite since she was a girl and read the "Black Stallion" books.

In 1982 she bought two pregnant brood mares from an Arabian horse breeder in Williamsport, Pa.

"I didn't know anything about breeding or raising. Now I have 20," she said. "Arabians are the oldest pedigreed horse. They go back 4,000 years. They're strong, athletic, people-oriented and are bred to survive harsh conditions."

Geesaman's horses sell for $1,000 to $50,000.

"Raising horses on a farm this small doesn't make a profit. You have to put money into it, but when you're small you can breed better horses, train them better and give clients personalized service," she said.

Geesaman, Brumfield and Brumfield's wife, Gwen, a certified breeder with a degree in equine reproduction from Colorado State University, run the farm. They also train their horses and those of clients and spend eight to 10 weekends a year at horse shows.

Scott Brumfield judges Arabians on the East Coast, in South Africa and South America. A trainer for 17 years, he apprenticed at big Arabian horse farms. He knew one day he would settle down on a small farm like Geesaman's.

"It's really worked out for us. Gwen breeds horses and I show and judge them. We also decided we'd live on a small farm when we had kids," Scott Brumfield said.

The Brumfields have two sons, ages 3 and 2.

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