“It’s a big thrill to be champion or win a derby at a horse show. Or if they sell one for a lot of money, that’s exciting for me,” she said. “We’ve had some horses that have turned out to be worth a lot of money, and it’s nice to be a part of that. It’s a group effort. You’re only as good as the people behind you, and people in this business understand that.”
Buchanan comes from a family that shares her passion for the equestrian lifestyle. Her sister, Kathleen “Winkie” Buchanan Motley of Keswick, Va., would be at every horse show if her busy schedule as a wife and mother allowed.
Her late sister, Betsy Buchanan Fishback, coached the University of Kentucky’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Riding Team, served on the board of the Kentucky Hunter Jumper Association, and served as the director of community relations for the Kentucky horse shows held at the Kentucky Horse Park. Fishback, who married veterinarian William Davis “Dave” Fishback, passed away Jan. 17, 2009.
A Seven-Day Work Week
Managing Lane Change Farm doesn’t leave much time for anything else in Buchanan’s life. She said there’s seldom room for time off, since the farm shows year-round including during the winter, when they rent a barn in Wellington, Fla.
“The weekend that we did three derbies, we did one in Chicago [Showplace Spring Spectacular in Wayne, Ill., June 14] and then split the barn three ways: We sent one group to Atlanta [Atlanta Summer Classic in Conyers, Ga., June 17], one group to Kentucky [Country Heir II in Lexington, Ky., June 18] and left the rest in Chicago to do the horse show,” she said nonchalantly.
“And in the past 10 days, we’ve done three derbies between Pennsylvania [State College Classic in Furr, Pa., July 1 and Lion Country Horse Show in Furr, Pa., July 8] and Lake Placid [I Love New York in Lake Placid, N.Y., July 10.”
Aside from managing the derby horses, Buchanan also has to make sure horses are fed, groomed, tacked and at the ring for the regular hunter classes all week long.
“We are probably one of the few farms that do the professional horses on a big scale as well as the juniors. I think most farms’ weekends are the busiest, and the weekdays are more relaxed, but ours is reversed,” she said, noting that Wednesday is typically her busiest day.
While travelling directly from show to show, and managing nearly 20 horses with a small staff of eight may be a stressful way to make a living, Buchanan said the horses make it all worthwhile. And Glefke couldn’t be happier with the partnership, either.
“There are so many horses that come and go in our operation, and how Debbie keeps them healthy and keeps track of all of them mystifies me,” Glefke extolled. “I’m thrilled to have her.”
But Buchanan wouldn’t trade her demanding job for a slower pace.
“You have to love it, you can’t do it for the money. I wouldn’t know what else to do if I wasn’t horse showing,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate where there have been great horses all along, and I’ve gotten to see parts of the country that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to see.”
This is the fourth article in a weekly series about barn managers and grooms. Every Wednesday in July we'll publish a story about one of these invaluable behind-the-scenes employees. Learn more about what it takes to get top professionals into the show ring while everything runs smoothly at home.