With the launch of Iron Horse Dressage, Wendy McKelvy has created the standard-bearer for training in New England and a must-see stop for national and international equine enthusiasts.
Five years ago, Wendy McKelvy, who had recently moved to the Boston area from Colorado, looked around New England for a facility where she could train and board her two horses. When she finally found a place, her horses endured injuries. So, she sent them back to Colorado, where she still owned a much-loved training facility with a 24-stall barn. “Our clients considered us the Harvard of the horse world,” says McKelvy, who grew up in Michigan and has been riding for 12 years.
The issue, of course, was one of geography. Here she was in Boston, and her horses were out West. “I had all of the headaches of running a barn but none of the benefits of riding,” she says. “That’s when I approached my trainers in Colorado about moving to New England. Much to my surprise, they were ready to move back East.” Soon after, planning for the recently opened 84-acre, 34-stall Iron Horse Dressage (ironhorsedressage.com) in Framingham commenced.
“I wanted a facility that had every amenity I would want as a dressage rider,” says McKelvy, who notes the ancient sport has its origins in training horses for battle. Modern dressage is now an Olympic sport; horse and rider complete progressively difficult levels that test movement—it has been described as the figure skating of the equine world. “I worked closely with the trainers to design a barn that was not only beautiful, but [also] extremely functional and focused on the health of the horse,” she says. “I knew that with the facility I had in mind and the phenomenal training and horse-care from my trainers, we would create something exceptional not only in our area, but in all of New England.”
Iron Horse Dressage founder and owner Wendy McKelvy
McKelvy, whose eye for detail is only matched by her enthusiasm for the sport, says one of her major goals in the health of each horse. Visitors will find 12-by-12-foot stalls with cathedral ceilings for maximum air circulation and clerestory windows to inhibit bacterial growth. The stalls also feature mattresses that mimic natural turf, which, says McKelvy, encourages horses to lie down and rest—a big help during injury rehabilitation. “We have two solariums for radiant-heat treatments for the horse’s muscles, a dedicated vet and farrier stall, equine massage and equine acupuncture. Part of keeping horses healthy and happy includes allowing them to get out of the training mode and be a horse,” she says.
Optimized training is also an essential for McKelvy and her team. “Our clients are never without a trainer if they want a lesson,” she says. The lineup of trainers includes three United States Dressage Federation gold medalists who have a combined 100 years of experience in the sport. Iron Horse’s arena is 80 by 230 feet and features a Footing First’s Travelite dust-free surface, which McKelvy says allows riders to learn Grand Prix movements while minimizing the force applied to the horse’s joints.
Beyond the impressive amenities for riders and horses, one intangible immediately becomes apparent when visiting the facility: It’s friendly. “It might be my Midwestern upbringing, but we are continually being told, ‘You all are so nice!’ We pride ourselves on being kind, flexible and accommodating,” McKelvy says. (It’s also dogfriendly, and a wagging committee of border collies, Leonbergers and a bounding Irish wolfhound greet guests.) Iron Horse also welcomes riders at every level—from beginners to those with Olympic aspirations. “It’s my goal to be the number-one dressage training and boarding facility in the Northeast within five years,” she says.
Photography by: Courtesy of Iron Horse Dressage.