UI students, faculty find stress relief boarding horses at local ranches

Members of the University of Iowa community are enjoying the closeness of local farms and ranches where they can board their horses while school is in session. The boarding opportunities allow students and faculty to keep their companions close.


Jerod Ringwald

A horse named Kid sits in a stable at Wind Reach Farms in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Wind Reach Farms rides, trains, and boards horses in eastern Iowa.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

After a long day of classes at the University of Iowa, Katie Pribyl joins a small but close-knit community of faculty and students who board horses throughout the Iowa City area in visiting their beloved companions.

Pribyl, a first-year student, has been riding horses since she was 6 years old. Being from Glenview, Illinois, she said one of her first concerns when moving to Iowa City was where to keep her horse, Milo. She’s had Milo for over a year.

“The first steps were researching barns in the area, so I could move my horse down here to be with me during school,” Pribyl said. “We visited a couple of times to visit barns and get to know the owners, ask questions.”

Pribyl decided to board her horse at 7A Ranch and Boarding Stable located in Oxford,  a 20-minute drive from Iowa City.

“It was the closest. The facility was really nice, the owner was really nice, and I thought it was a good opportunity for us to take advantage of,” Pribyl said. “It’s like paying monthly rent, on an apartment, but for a horse.”

Despite being a full-time student, Pribyl is usually able to get out to 7A Ranch multiple times a week, she said.

“I try to get out at least five to six days throughout the week to at least see him,” she said. “I don’t necessarily ride every day just because I don’t have time or it’s not what we feel like doing that day. I’ve been really lucky with my class schedules. I’m able to get out there often.”

Pribyl shows horses in different competitions that require hours of training and work, she said.

“It’s important for me to have him here so that I can put in that work so that we can compete over the summer and he’s not sitting at home, forgetting everything that we’ve worked for,” Pribyl said.

Mary Trachsel, UI associate rhetoric professor, also boards her two horses, Rabbit and Loretta, at 7A Ranch and Boarding Stable.

Bill Coester pets a horse at Wind Reach Farms in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Coester rides, trains, and boards horses in eastern Iowa. (Jerod Ringwald)

“I’ve had Loretta for nine years and Rabbit for three,” Trachsel said. “I have always boarded these two horses because I live in Iowa City. It’s the only way I can have horses.”

Trachsel goes to the ranch often and rides, but work keeps her from spending as much time at the barn as she’d like, she said.

“That’s why I’m happy to board my horses,” she said. “The barn owner sees to their day-to-day keep when I can’t be there. I don’t have to worry about going on vacation.”

While horses are expensive, Trachsel said they are a priority for her, and the investment is worth it.

“I feel confident that my horses are well cared for,” Trachsel said. “I don’t have the hassle of buying and hauling hay, fixing fences, et cetera. When I want to clean stalls, I can. If I don’t have time, I don’t worry.”

Bill Coester, owner of Winds Reach Farm in Iowa City, currently has around 25 horses boarded on his farm, where university and community members can board horses. He said he has kept the number of horses he boards relatively small in recent years, to handle the amount at hand.

“I’ve kept things small just because it’s what I can deal with,” Coester said. “There’s always a demand and I think the facility can hold a lot more than we do at this point and handle a lot more, but it’s more of what I can oversee and do with the operation.”

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Coester said he has seen an increase in the demand for boarding and training since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the pandemic situation, there’s a lot of interest in getting out and [riding] with the horses,” he said. “The winters here are somewhat brutal or can be, and we do have an indoor riding facility, which is nice.”

Winds Reach Farm is primarily a private training stable, but also has boarding and events on the side, Coester said.

“We concentrate in dressage and combined training. It’s our main emphasis and work, but we have some 100 jumper activities,” Coester said. “We hold clinics and little shows throughout the year. [It] keeps people inspired and going.”

For people like Pribyl, having a horse nearby is the perfect escape from daily life.

“It’s a great stress reliever to be able to get away from school and have an animal that I can hang out with and work with that’s away from people and education,” Pribyl said.