Written by: Nancy Jaffer
The multi-faceted Emil Spadone is as much an entrepreneur as he is a horseman. From his Redfield Farm in Tewksbury Township, New Jersey and Ocala, Florida, he oversees a hunter/jumper competition operation that handles everything from local shows to the American Invitational. Then there’s a breeding farm, as well as horse imports and sales.
“I love to buy, that’s my favorite thing to do, and I only sell because I like to buy,” Emil observed with a smile.
His sales business led to Trans World Equestrian (horseflight.com), a busy transport enterprise that runs from a office above his New Jersey stable.
Such success didn’t come easily or all at once, of course.
Emil’s early fascination with horses began at Coppergate Farm, a short walk from his childhood home in suburban Basking Ridge, N.J.
He worked in the school barn, mucking out, sweeping and tacking up.
After Emil began showing, a friend arranged for him to have a working student position with U.S. team member Buddy Brown at Imperial Farms in Florida, where Gene Mische and Steve Stephens were in business. From there, he went to work with Michele and Tim Grubb.
By the time he left, Emil had his own business, but still managed to spend hours working with Rodney Jenkins on the road at shows. That was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“Back then, there were so many amazing riders we would idolize,” he reminisced.
“It’s a little bit different nowadays. It’s almost like the focus is on the clients, the juniors or amateurs, but when I was a kid, we looked up so strongly to the professionals.”
At 51, Emil isn’t riding much; Adrienne Iverson is the top rider for his stable, showing both hunters and jumpers.
“Sometimes I miss it, but I don’t have time to get fit enough again,” he commented.
“We live a nice lifestyle. We work hard, but our business supports our love for these horses. I feel I can make more money not riding than I can riding. There are a lot of very good riders, and I wouldn’t have been in the top thirty.”
Emil has 50 horses in Florida. One of his farms in the state is used as a base for showing at HITS Ocala; the other for his breeding operation. He started the breeding as a hobby, but like everything else with which he’s involved, it quickly became a business.
“I know it’s expensive and hard to make money. I haven’t had a superstar yet, but I think I’m getting nice, solid horses,” said Emil.
“I love hunters,” he continued, adding that he could watch them all day. He’d like to see more horses in the division bred in this country.
“It’s our U.S. sport and I feel we should take advantage of the bloodlines that we get from Europe.”
A founding member of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s Pre-Green Incentive Program, which debuted at the end of last year, Emil is hopeful that initiative will feed the other hunter sections and help populate the professional divisions, which often can use more entries.
The transport business grew quite logically out of his horse business, which flew 65 to 85 horses to the U.S. every year.
“I felt like I wasn’t getting the service I wanted, and it was expensive,” Emil recalled. Starting his own operation was an obvious next step. “I was thinking it would help Redfield save money on flying horses over,” but it turned out to be much more.
He got together with Seth Vallhonrat, a Grand Prix rider who is now the company’s vice president for imports, and Bastian Schroeder, a native of Germany, who became vice president of shipping and manages the day-to-day affairs of the business with a staff of three. Bastion, a hobby rider who is a whiz with logistics, has a master’s degree in taxation law and economics. He emphasizes the business is “service-oriented.” He said the company handles an average of three flights per week, all organized on an office flow chart. Owners can keep track of their horse’s progress with photos of departure and arrival, if they want. The horses always are met by a Horse Flight representative when they land.
Not only did the transport business turn out to be convenient, it obligingly made a profit as it flew not only Redfield horses, but those of big name riders. Clients include Jimmy Torano, Kevin Babington and Katie Prudent. TWE delivered Cylana, the mount of Katie’s student, Reed Kessler, to the Olympics last summer.
“We try to give them very good service on top of the best price,” Emil said.
In addition to flying horses in from Europe, which is their focus, they also transport them to California and Florida. They fly about 400 Quarter Horses a year to Europe, where reining is a growing sport. The partners have shipped horses to the Middle East and also are interested in getting involved with business in Asia, which is sure to grow in the wake of quarantine protocols approved for the Global Champions Tour’s Shanghai, China, fixture this fall.
Try it, You’ll Like It
TWE don’t have their own planes, they generally use KLM “combis,” which have space for both passengers and horses.
“I’m totally hooked on this,” said Emil. “I love every aspect of horses. Bastian flies everywhere, but sometimes I will go with the horses. If you’ve never flown with horses and you’re a horse person, you should try it once, because it’s a great experience.”