Journal Spotlight: Twin Pine Farm
Pepperell, Massachusetts

by Pat Payne

At Twin Pine Farm, they do it all.

Cathy and Toby Tyler maintain an active lesson, training and show barn at their Pepperell, Massachusetts, farm.  Toby is a competitive reiner who has won both the Massachusetts Quarter Horse Association's AQHA reining championships and the Northeast Reining Horse Association championships.  Cathy is an active dressage and combined training rider who has also begun combined driving.  Many of their students also ride in pleasure classes, English or Western, and in the hunter classes.  In addition, Twin Pine stands two stallions, Maurico, a German Holsteiner, and Taco's Sugar Daddy, a Quarter Horse.  Clearly, theirs is an exhausting schedule.  However, it's equally clear they love it.

"I saw reining and I said, 'I gotta try that.'  It got me hooked," Toby confesses.  "It's western dressage, that's what reining is, just with a little more speed.  But it's so much more exciting than dressage."

Jared LeClair, president of the MYQHA, of Lowell, MA, and "Pine Star Time" at the 1995 Congress. 

Cathy is equally enthusiastic about dressage and combined training.  "I've always been a dressage rider and an event rider.  That's really all that's ever intrigued me," she says.  Or at lest so she thought -- until she had the opportunity to try her hand at combined driving, that is.  "it's the most incredible sport of all.  Imagine the thrill of driving a four-in-hand!" she says with sheer delight.

Their students realize definite benefits from the versatility Cathy and Toby offer.  In fact, Cathy says, versatility is encouraged.  "You have to go and do what the customer wants done," she explains.  "And we've been happy to make the changes because it keeps our work fresh and exciting."

They've found their niche working with riders in the Quarter Horse youth activity program.  Most of the young riders in the program want to compete in a variety of classes, ranging from pleasure to hunters to trail to reining.  It's a move Toby applauds, affirming, "It's good for the kids to be well-rounded."

In his own words, Toby goes into greater detail about Twin Pine's preference for Quarter Horses and the farm's students: "We were attracted to the Quarter Horse.  Because of their athletic prowess, but more importantly for their superior dispositions.  In the beginning, the majority of our dressage and event students were first time horse owners, so we wanted them on Quarter Horses that we knew would help them build confidence and, as their skills developed, the horse would improve with them.  For the reining and Western pleasure students, it was a similar criteria, but definitely the same result -- we now have 15 out of 16 stalls in the boarders barn occupied with AQHA stars!"

"Our dressage and eventing students have captured USCTA and USDF year end awards and some of the same individuals have brought home year end titles from MQHA.  We have several sibling combinations that share a horse - one shows AQHA and the other events.  That keeps parents pretty happy, they have one horse doing two jobs."

Ask the Tylers what keeps their students so loyal and they both have a ready answer.  "It's got to be fun.  This is their relaxation, their outlet.  I hope the atmosphere here helps them with that," Toby explains.

"We treat all the customers' horses like they're ours.  They come to depend on us," Cathy interjects.  "I wouldn't trade a single one of my customers!"

Joining Forces

Toby and Cathy share very different equine backgrounds.  For Toby, horses have always been a part of life.  Calling the mid-1700's Hill Jock Farm in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, home, Toby has been riding since before he walked.

Cathy, on the other hand, began riding around the age of 19 or 20.  She feels that starting at this relatively late age has allowed her to better understand and empathize with her adult clients who find themselves in a similar situation.  People just learning to ride as adults have an entirely different set of circumstances to work through than the individual who came up through the ranks of Pony Club, Cathy explained.

Setting aside their different "equine" childhoods, the devotion to the equestrian sport they mutually have come to share is unequivocal.  Laughing, Cathy recalls she and Toby taking their horses on their honeymoon to avoid any training down time!

Looking back on those early years when they were both competing in combined training events, often the same events, Cathy remarks, "We both knew this just wasn't going to work."  The competitive nature and drive to win which they both possessed quickly became a problem when they were competing directly against each other.

But then, Toby discovered reining -- the problem was solved.  Within a year, he sold his event horse and leased a competitive reining horse.  Four years later, he was reserve champion at the Derby at the Super Slide In and a new career was launched.  "I think the dressage background really helped him," reflects Cathy.

Jocelyn Hawe of Pepperell, MA, and her registered AQHA mare "Promise Me Never" at the 1996 Longleaf Pine Horse Trials in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

But even after Toby launched his reining career, the Tylers didn't know what life and the horse business had in store for them.  Initially, they planned to build a top-level FEI dressage barn.  So, having completed an Olympic-sized indoor arena, they hired a German trainer.  But then that trainer, incredibly homesick, returned to Germany abruptly and the Tylers found themselves looking for a new direction in their business.

They found it in versatility.  They currently have 16 boarders and even more students.  With students competing in so many different disciplines, they often have two ore even three vans going to different shows on the same weekend.  When their business took off, "It was the beginning of the end - we never see each other anymore," Cathy says ruefully.  These days, Toby frequently finds himself standing in the center of the ring at shows in addition to riding a pattern.  He is now a judge, certified by the National Reining Horse Association.  Cathy's current project is coordinating the six teams that will represent Twin Pine Farm at the USDF Regional Team Championships for Young Riders.

Between them, they have five working students helping out at the farm, three with Cathy and two with Toby.  This year, Toby plans to compete in the open and limited open divisions on Chrome Plated String, a horse owned by John Duffy of Woburn, Massachusetts.

Without a doubt the Tylers stay busy and their customers stay happy.  Cathy and Toby can be reached by calling Twin Pine Farm at 978-433-5252.