“You’re crazy! “ This was the reaction of Amanda Mecca’s father when she told him she was going to college to study horse care and management. He thought she would grow out of it. But she didn’t. Amanda took equine studies at Delaware Valley College and also did a 6 months exchange in her senior year at Hartpury College in England. No one in her family was involved with horses but Amanda always loved horses and at age 10 her parents gave her riding lessons as a birthday present. That was it. “I was addicted, obsessed.”
After college she worked as a show groom for a Grand Prix showjumper and then worked as a vet tech in a small animal practice. But the itch to work with horses took over and she went to work as a barn and office manager at Old Salem Farm. After a year and a half there she was introduced to the Gochman family who were starting their own barn in Wellington Florida. The Gochmans have two daughters Sophie and Mimi who are dedicated young riders and their mother Becky is also a rider and competitor. The Gochmans bought a farm in Wellington and redid it with amazing results and Baxter Hill is now one of the most exquisite equestrian facilities in Grand Prix Village in Wellington.
Amanda started to work as the barn and office manager at Baxter Hill in 2012 and she is still there for the entire winter season. When the Gochmans return home to New York for the summer their horses and their team, including Amanda, go with them. What is involved in being the barn and office manager at Baxter Hill during the winter show season in Wellington?
Amanda’s day starts early getting the mail, sorting it out, going through the emails from the bookkeepers and vendors (who provide the feed, hay, stall bedding) and paying the bills. Amanda is in charge of getting in all the barn supplies, getting in the various specialists for the horses; massage therapists, chiropractors and the vets. For the vet Amanda will be present when the vet examines a horse and will make sure the groom for the horse knows what the vets’ instructions are. She will also meet with the other specialists and go over what plan they want implemented for the horses they have treated.
If she has time Amanda will also go out to the jumper ring to help with changing the jumps to put up a new course. She also frequently walks through the barn during the day to make sure that all is as it should be. Baxter Hill also has a property manager and Amanda will liaise with him to discuss what needs to be done on the property and what changes the family may want. There are also cleaning staff who look after the facility and Amanda supervises them and follows up with them. Basically Amanda supervises each and every person who comes in or out of Baxter Hill.
One of Amanda’s very critical jobs concerns the show entries for the two Gochman daughters Mimi and Sophie and their mother Becky. They all compete in the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Amanda has a file binder with information on every one of the 30 horses at Baxter Hill. Each horse has a plastic file page with the originals of the horse’s USEF membership and the rider’s memberships. The ponies have official statements of their height which is necessary for the pony classes. Each horse also has a Coggins certificate (blood test results) and a record of their vaccinations. Both are required to enter a show and to be on the show grounds. Amanda also has all of this information on her computer. For the show entries she takes the binder to the show secretary and the information is transferred to the show records. Every Monday Amanda goes to the show secretary and gives her a list of the various classes that she wants the horses to be entered in. The Gochmans and their coach and trainer Amanda Derbyshire will have notified Amanda what classes the horses and ponies are to be entered in for that week. Each horse or pony will have a show number that will be assigned to it for the entire season.
The show classes are put up on a white board in the stable showing the entire schedule for the riders and the horses. Amanda also has this schedule online. From this the grooms will know what horse has to be at the WEF show grounds and at what time and who will be taking the horse over. Amanda Derbyshire, as coach and the exercise trainers and the two Gochman young riders and will go to the show grounds. At the shows coach and trainer Scott Stuart of Rivers Edge farm will be there to help with the warm ups and he also shows some of Gochman’s horses in the professional hunter classes.
Baxter Hill has had consistent success for the past several years for all the riders. Amanda told me that she wonders each year how they can top the previous year. She attributes the success to the fact that all involved “work together as a team”. She also says the grooms are “phenomenal” and she trusts them wholeheartedly with the horses. “They’re amazing,” she says “they take such pride in their horses”. She told me they also go the extra distance for their horses. On one show day when the showing was finished early and everyone had gone home she found one of the grooms out hand grazing one of his ponies so it could have some grass at the end of the day.
Amanda’s job is indeed a dream job but one with very high expectations and demands. But the Gochmans are a supportive family to work for and they reward the people who work so hard for them. For the American Thanksgiving the Gochman family took Amanda and Amanda Derbyshire, and the exercise riders to the Bahamas for Thanksgiving on a yacht. ”It was a surreal experience.” Amanda said. ”Like being one of the Kardashians!”
I originally wrote this as a guest post for ‘All of the Pretty Things Here’ in spring 2016. When I saw the Word Press daily prompt was the word “exquisite” I thought of Baster Hill Farm and of how Amanda Mecca keeps it “exquisite” for these high performance athletes, horses, ponies and riders!