When Jim Doll approached his wife, Sue, about moving their two daughters to a farm in Mount Airy, she wasn’t having it.
“He was the one that wanted to get into horses. I was like been there, done that,” said Sue, who was raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with a series of family horses.
By the 1980s, she was busy balancing a nursing career and raising their daughters, Susan and Kathy, but when their older child announced she wanted to breed her mare and raise a foal, the 35-acre farm near the edge of Mount Airy seemed like the place to do it. So, in 1986, the family packed up their life in Ijamsville and moved out to the former dairy farm.
“We don’t want cows” is the one thing Sue remembers the girls saying three decades after the move.
What they got instead was a lot of cow manure. One of the first tasks the Doll family undertook was digging 2 to 3 feet of cow manure out of the barn, which had been used for a dairy herd and later cattle. Sue stood in the doorway of the barn on Thursday and mimicked stepping up onto the manure.
The manure was so high that the horses couldn’t stand up without bumping their heads on the ceiling, Jim said.
The farm was in the Linganore High School feeder pattern, and at the time it was known as “cow pie high,” recalled their daughter Kathy Siedor.
“I was a seventh-grader and I didn’t want to be a ‘cow farmer,’” she said.
Luckily, after the manure was hauled out of the barn and spread on the fields as fertilizer, the farm devoted its resources only to horses. Windsong Arabians birthed its first foal — named Pegasus — that June, and then Jim and Sue transformed the farm into a horse breeding, training, riding and boarding center.
Windsong Arabians has birthed between 40 and 50 Davenport Arabian horses in the 32 years since it opened. Currently, they keep three stallions on the property, including Divine Design — also known as “Desi” — a chestnut stallion who is about 20 years old.
“This was my dream horse,” Sue said, walking up to Desi and stroking his nose.
Sue first saw Desi as a foal and tried to buy him, but he wasn’t for sale. After he turned 3 years old, she tried to lease him but the owner only would if she trained him to be saddled and ridden, which she did not have time to do. Thinking all was lost, she purchased another horse, but six months later the owner called back and said he was going to geld Desi unless she wanted him. Now Desi is a proud “daddy horse” to several of Windsong Arabians’ foals.
In the mid-1990s, however, the horse market tanked, and Arabian breeders were hit hard.
“We survived it better, because I think our horses were able to be sold as family horses and not just Arabian show horses,” Sue said.
All but six of the foals birthed on the farm have been sold over the years, and the horses have tended to have good conformation and stay sound, she said.
Windsong Arabians has also offered different ways for children to get into riding without parents making the upfront investment of buying a horse.
The farm was among the first in the area to form a leasing program, which allowed individuals to pay $1 a year plus the cost of boarding. In return, the Doll family took care of the horse — including veterinary care, tack and farrier services — and the child could ride the horse and take lessons.
The farm also launched a “working student” program, which awards riding time to students who help with morning and evening chores at the barns. The program is akin to leasing, without having to pay, Sue said.
Jennie Lupkin got her start at Windsong Arabians at age 12 as a working student. Now 21, Lupkin is the farm’s assistant manager and she will eventually take over the business with Siedor.
Windsong Arabians currently has two other students in the program, though they are always looking for more, Sue said. Among the benefits for students involved in the program are new organizational skills and a sense of responsibility helping to care for the horses every day.
Lupkin’s work at the farm has also brought “one of the best horses ever” into her life, she said.
Quest, a white pony, was locked in a stall alone for 15 years and never let out. When investigators found him, his hoofs were so long — from a lack of proper farrier care — that they several feet long and curled like spirals, as a Dodo video shows. He had two companions in the barn, but one had to be put down almost immediately due to the severity of the neglect, Lupkin said.
Quest was sent to Days End Farm Horse Rescue — which is on the Howard County side of Mount Airy — where Lupkin found him and eventually moved him to a new life in a private field and run-in shelter at Windsong Arabians.
“He’s been good for her, and she’s been good for him,” Jim said.