Normandy Manor Farm Origins

Reprinted from L.I. Horse Directory Magazine, November 2002

When musician and horse breeder, Deborah Borra decided it was time to expand her breeding operation, she realized that Long Island was not going to be the place to continue. High cost of hay, grain - limited grass turnout, proximity to veterinary support were all considerations. Encroaching building and neighbors took it’s toll on what started as three acres, three mares and one stallion.So, she did what most Long Islander’s only dream about doing. She packed up the farm and moved to the Genesee Valley in Western New York State.

"I looked for several years before deciding on this particular area. I settled on this region because it has everything a horse person needs to support a breeding or training operation. The area is no stranger to horses. It is the home of the Genesee Valley hunt, The Stuart Horse Trials, Walnut Hill Riding and Driving, Western New York Dressage Association. Famed racehorse breeder Gail Gray (Graywood farms) ran her operation in the area for years as did Ted Zornow, former president of the Trotter Association and owner of one of the largest standardbred farms in existence.

It was Ted’s property (formerly known as "Avon Farm") that has become the new location for Normandy Manor Farm. Ted was a well respected member of the Rochester area, owning several thousands of acres in the area. His farm housed more than 300 horses at one time during the height of standardbred breeding. The sports complex at the University of Rochester is named in honor of him. "Moving into his house and carrying on a tradition of breeding on his former farm has been an honor. I not only acquired a beautiful farm, I acquired a lot of family as well since his son and daughters and grandchildren still reside in the area. It almost seemed like destiny that I should find this property - Ted Sr. and his son both graduated from the University of Rochester and I also graduated from U of R (Eastman School of Music).

We had a lot in common right from the start and it made for an easy transition."The barns had been in constant use, however, the house had been closed up for 15 years with everything left as it was. The 20 room house needed updating, but it was well built with a lot of charm. " I bought pretty much everything in the house that the family was willing to sell me and moved in."

Living in the "country" is much different from living on Long Island. People are much more neighborly and drive by to formally introduce themselves. " On the day I was to leave Long Island to move, I accidentally broke my leg while loading a horse onto my trailer so I made the move in a wheelchair. Word traveled fast that the "new girl in town" wasn’t able to shop for herself and I had neighbors driving by asking if I needed them to pick up groceries. I also accumulated some of the best home baked pies I ever ate!"So, moving to the area for Deb was like moving in with "old friends".

A few changes were in order however, like trading in a wheel barrow for a John Deere tractor. The size of the farm warranted a large machine to get around the 8 barns located on the property - "a wheel barrow just wasn’t going to cut it." It’s not uncommon to see "the green paint" as the locals call it riding through the fields. "On Long Island, I practically had to gift wrap the composted manure to get rid of it. Up here, farmers ask you if you wouldn’t mind spreading it on their fields. It’s a win-win situation".Deborah Borra began her breeding operation in 1994 pretty much by accident - "I purchased a yearling colt named "Bailey’s Irish Creme" who was by the Swedish stallion "Brando" from Cazenovia college to replace my beloved horse "Diesel" who had passed away earlier that year. " I had suffered an illness in 1993 that left me unable to walk for months, let alone ride a horse. I had no intentions of raising young horses at the time but there was something about this colt that struck me. Little did I know that within three years time, I would be owning the stallion Brando and a band of broodmares to breed to him - or that it would be this little colt that would inspire me to get my stamina back. I showed up at the Cornell Equine Research park with the whole mess and began what was to become a whole new career - breeding. I clearly remember Dr. Chris Schweizer and Dr. Michelle Kutzler (both breeding vets at Cornell) wondering who in their right mind would embark on such an undertaking without much breeding background. They admitted to me years later that they didn’t think I’d last through the year - but they were wrong and it’s been eight years and now they are two of my best friends. I credit them with being great teachers." Deborah has since taken many accredited breeding courses that carry continued ed credits for practicing veterinarians. "I wanted to become as knowledgable as I could with regard to breeding and foaling. I take the responsibility of the lives of my animals very seriously."Normandy Manor Farm (as it was called on Long Island) now consists of 230 acres and breeds mostly Swedish Warmbloods. Located on the property are 8 barns, breeding shed with lab and various outbuildings (like the original grist mill and school house). It is a picturesque haven for horses who graze over the 90 acres of pasture. The riding ring sits high on a hill with a view over the valley to the town of Avon. A tumbling brook greets visitors as they drive down the winding lane into the farm. It is truly a place of peace and harmony for both people and animals.

Breeding is the main thrust of the farm which houses 15 quality broodmares. All of the mares are "marebook" mares and many are imported "diploma mares" - the highest honor a mare can achieve as a prospect for producing exceptional foals. These mares are the foundation of the breeding program and their bloodlines were all carefully chosen for specific qualities. "I am asked a lot why I chose to breed Swedish horses and the answer is simple: The Swedish horse is one of the most versatile breeds out there. If you carefully study Swedish bloodlines, you will find that the horse may have Hannoverian, Holsteiner, Dutch, and even some excellent Thoroughbred lines in them besides Swedish blood. The Swedes have very carefully over the years infused some of the best bloodlines from other warmblood breeds, while developing a superior sport horse. Swedish horses are extremely smart, athletic horses which excel internationally in dressage, jumping and driving. You are allowed to breed a papered Swedish mare to an approved stallion from other warmblood registries and still be granted full Swedish papers. You are also allowed to breed a registered warmblood mare from another approved registry to an approved Swedish stallion and be granted full Swedish papers. This makes for some very exceptional breeding."

As an example, last year the farm bred an imported Robin Z daughter (Robin Z is currently Sweden’s top jumping competitior and sire) to a Quidam de Revel son named "Quite Easy" (another of Sweden’s upcoming jumpers) and produced a filly who has not only the Swedish jumping lines but the bloodlines of Quidam as well who is a Selle Francais. The filly is also line bred with Alme lines, whose blood is found in a high percentage of internationally competing jumpers.The farm breeds exceptional dressage prospects as well.

In 2002 the farm produced it’s first foal crop at the new location consisting of 7 foals. It has been an official Swedish Warmblood Inspection site two years in a row, introducing many breeders in the area to the Swedish horse and to the rigorous testing that they must go through to be inspected and graded. "When I first moved in, rumor had it that a "Swedish warmblood" was moving in, thinking that it was me! Many locals in the area didn’t realize it was a breed of horse since the thoroughbred breed was so prevelant in the area".

Unfortunately, Brando passed away at the age of 24, one year after moving to the new farm. "His memory lives on with us as he was the founding sire of our farm. He was such a great stallion to work with. He was smart and kind and had a great work ethic. He was patient with me as a new stallion owner and I am reminded of him daily when I look at his wonderful foals. This year at the inspection, his daughter "Brando’s Myrical" was the highest scoring filly at the inspection, scoring 24 points and was class I. He passed along elegant, correct conformation - and foals who learned quickly with a great sense of humor.

"The farm now stands two approved Swedish stallions - "Kardinal" who stands a full 17 hands and has the famed "Utrillo" bloodline (Utrillo was #1 on the BLUP index as sire of jumpers and 8th as sire of conformation horses, and "Falcon" who is by the sire "Ganesco" who was awarded the 1987 Breeder’s Trophy and is the father of four approved stallions. Kardinal was the Champion Stallion, Mature Horse in 1995 at NEDA and Reserve Champion and First under saddle at the Lexington Breed Show and Second Best Suitable Dressage Horse at Devon in 1992. He was competing FEI level Dressage ridden by David Collins when an injury prevented him from further competition.

"Kardinal’s offspring are incredible - they have the kindest temperament I’ve ever seen in a foal. He produces beautiful necks and elastic gaits in his foals - and he gives them his kind head and eye. It is clear that his foals are talented.

Falcon has the honor of producing the top scoring son SEAHAWK - the only foal on the 1989 national tour to receive a 10 for gaits. Falcon himself is an elegant, light stallion with extremely balanced gaits. He was brought to the East Coast from Washington State specifically for breeding. At the age of 20, he is still getting mares in foal on one insemination. Normandy Manor Farm is expecting 8 foals for the 2003 season. The farm will have several spots available for outside broodmares to be boarded and foaled out for clients. Mare management, artificial insemination, stallion collecting and fully monitored foaling is also available for 2003.

It has become a full service breeding operation working in conjunction with local breeding veterinarian Dr. Jeff Jamison. The farm will also make several diploma mares available for lease which can be inseminated to the stallion of the client’s choice directly at the farm. This is a cost effective way to get a bloodline you want without going through the expense of importing and purchasing the mare. "The exciting thing about this farm is that you don’t have to go to Europe to buy imported bloodlines - we have many of them right here without the importing cost. We are only 40 minutes away by plane via "Jet Blue Airlines"(leaving from JFK) and 20 minutes from the Rochester airport. It’s faster to get here from Long Island than it is to drive into New York City". Prospective buyers can fly in for the day or spend the night and take in the local sights.

You can tour the farm at "" to get a closer look.When asked if Deborah misses Long Island, she told us this: "Long Island has some of the best trails to ride on (Caumsett Park and Connetquot State Park immediately come to mind). It has some of the most educated horse people in close proximity to socialize with. There are wonderful training facilities and shows available. Long Island has many great things going for it with regard to horses, however, horse owners must be vigilant in keeping it that way. Nassau-Suffolk Horseman’s Association has been doing a great job keeping trails open for years, but without input from all horse people, these things are at risk to be taken away and would be a shame to have happen. I moved upstate to have more space, which was not going to happen for me on Long Island. Do I miss it? I miss some of my good riding buddies. I don’t miss the traffic or the lack of open space. I feel as if I’ve been given a second chance at life - able to live out my lifelong passion - living with horses on a day to day basis."