As an army of workers clock in and out to assemble Hyundai vehicles in south Montgomery County, a few miles down the road an army of one is rewiring a different kind of horsepower.
Barely cracking five feet, Elaine Bodine Carroll, owner of Bar-El Farm, is quick with a smile, firm with a handshake and passionate about horses.
Carroll started conditioning horses for yearling sales in the late ‘80s, but ultimately transitioned to taking racehorses from the track and retraining them for a second career in jumping, eventing, dressage and trail riding.
“I made a circle where I went from providing racehorses to bringing horses back and giving them a second career,” she said. “What made me fall in love with what I do now is watching the overall transition of the mindset of these thoroughbreds.”
Step No. 1 when retraining horses is getting back to the basics. Something as simple as going to the right takes time, Carroll said.
“We do a lot of boring stuff,” she said while describing the re-training process. “A lot of them don’t know what a pole on the ground is, so we’ll slowly start teaching them how to pick their feet up (and go over the pole).”
Carroll’s farm has space for four horses that typically stay six to eight months on her 26-acre spread before being sold. She said her relationships, connections and horsemanship helps her bring back the best to Montgomery.
“When buying a horse, I always tell people it’s like buying a used car,” she laughed. “I’ve built my reputation on the quality of horses I have. I bring back knowledge of everything I know about these horses, but I always recommend a pre-purchase exam.”
Carroll said, to date, all her horses have passed pre-purchase exams, with most of her horses ending up in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
One recent buyer, Sarah Spitzer from Dawsonville, Georgia, said her horse purchased from Carroll is among the most levelheaded horses she’s ever owned.
“Elaine also has enough experience to know how people and horses will match up,” Spitzer said. “She knows if it’s not a match, it’s not a match. She’ll tell you if you need to keep looking.”
Carroll said the connection she feels with horses is what drives her to give them a second career when their lives in the fast lane are finished.
“When people see the Kentucky Derby, what about the unsung heros behind the track?” she asked. “Not the big winners, but these horses that aren’t in the spotlight. They have hearts just as big, but they just couldn’t run as fast.”
Carroll said her horses are reasonably priced, and most of the money she makes from the business is used for feed, care and travel expenses. To contact Carroll, visit her website at barelfarm.com.