Southeast Pennsylvania Horse Farms: Can the Small Survive?

HorseAs gaming heats up all over the state, legislators have created a support system for the horse industry, where big farms are edging out smaller operations. Most farms aren’t finishing in first, but far too many are getting stuck in the back of the pack.

t was 1971, and Rick and Dixie Abbott were spending their honeymoon at a yearling sale in Saratoga, N.Y. Then a second-year law student at Villanova University, Rick was realizing just how tough it was to sell show hunters, the couple’s earliest equine business. At Saratoga came an epiphany: Thoroughbred sales could be a more “liquid market.”

By 1973, the Abbotts had their first sales consignment in Timonium, Md. And before long, their Cochranville-based Charlton Bloodstock Agency would become the stuff of legend.

The Abbotts have always been in the business. Rick grew up in Willistown Township and was active with show horses and foxhunting. Dixie, a Glen Mills native, was once a three-day eventer. They met when Rick was in the Radnor Hunt Pony Club and Dixie in its Rose Tree counterpart.

Today, the Abbotts own a 37-stall barn on 157 acres in Highland Township—prime Chester County horse country. Rick says the farm is one of the few good investments he’s ever made—at least, he hopes so. They’ve recently put it up for sale.

They’ve foaled more than 1,000 mares in 40 years, but the time has come to significantly slow down. They will remain in business—just a scaled-back version.

All these years, horses have left Charlton Bloodstock Agency without ever having worn saddles. Charlton (Dixie’s maiden name) has also represented selling clients at thoroughbred auctions in Saratoga, Timonium and Lexington, Ky. Annually, Charlton has sold more than 250 horses. Many have won major stakes races throughout the world.

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