Anna Knipp had admired the Hardwick farm near Ashland since childhood, when she first visited the property. When it came up for sale at about the same time the Jefferson City native was making plans to return to mid-Missouri, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a longtime dream come true. The property is now Knipp’s home and the location of High Spirits Farm, a world-class training facility she founded for American Saddlebreds, Hackneys, Morgans and Roadsters.
What did you find appealing about the Hardwick property?
I had known the Hardwick farm for years, as Dr. and Mrs. Hardwick were car customers of my father. Mrs. Hardwick knew I loved horses. We were frequent visitors to the farm and admired it every time we went to Columbia. As a summer riding student at Stephens College, I knew a few of the students who kept horses there and was fascinated by the farm.
What kind of work have you done on the property?
There was a lot of work done with an effort to keep the exteriors much the same. Wood fences were replaced with white vinyl. The main house was renovated. The exterior is much in keeping with the other homes. Inside, it is completely different than when it was built in the 1950s. Lots of major repairs were needed to make it a workable, livable farm. For at least six months, I lived in the old Bass home, which had no air-conditioning. That was a very hot summer. Many old trees had to be removed, but I think a good job was done to retain the style and look of the property as most remember it.
What have you enjoyed most about living at High Spirits?
The proximity to Columbia and Jefferson City is a definite bonus. Anyone would enjoy the ambiance of the place. The highway and traffic do not play a role in the day-to-day, as it sits high enough that you feel very private with all the convenience of living near wonderful communities.
How did you get into horse breeding and training? Why American Saddlebreds?
My mother always rode and owned horses but had never shown them. She wanted me to learn to ride properly and enjoy the same activity she did. It has gotten completely bigger than we ever imagined but, in turn, has provided great accomplishments, wonderful lifelong friendships and great fun. Growing up, she had Saddlebred horses, but they were not show-quality. Betty Weldon, a Jefferson City resident, was a great influence. At one time, she was the largest breeder of American Saddlebreds in the world. It was a privilege to know her and learn from her. I am not a professional trainer, just an owner and exhibitor. The natural course is to try to raise show horses from the nice ones you own. That’s a challenge in itself. It can be rewarding and disappointing.
What are some of the awards and titles your horses have won?
I’ve been very fortunate to have owned and shown several grand horses and Hackney ponies. One American Saddlebred, named It’s Dan The Man, became a three-time world champion and two-time Horse of the Year. The Hackney pony Heartland Supremacy earned 12 world titles while I owned him. Katharine The Great won a world title with me as an amateur showing in the Young Horse Stakes class. Play-Mor’s I’m A Star Too, a Morgan, won two world titles this year. There have been over 30 world titles and a lot of thrills.
What has made you so successful? What sets your horses apart?
In the horse business, it takes a team to be successful: the animal, its trainers and caretakers. You must have the ability to think well while competing to have an edge and overcome the inevitable nerves, and you need a lot of luck. It’s easy to try hard with something that you’re passionate about and enjoy. It’s like any other sport in that there is a lot of hard work and preparation, and the stars have to align themselves.
Lots of people have wonderful horses to show, but horses are animals that have good days as well as bad ones, just like people who perform. You hope that preparation, a good attitude and the diligence to handle the good with the bad keeps you competitive for the long term. Personally, I love a beautiful horse of any type. That is one thing you can never take away from a performance animal: they stand out from the competition, even to people who are not familiar with show horses.