Located in the beautiful central Texas countryside outside of Marble Falls,
Tonkawood Farm is a bustle of activity. Mother and daughter team, Pat
Dickey and Pam Hollyfield provide a vast contribution to the central Texas
horse industry, and more importantly to the horses they represent.
Experience is the key to Tonkawood’s success. Tonkawood Farm originated 35 years ago in Long Lake, Minnesota by Bill and Pat Dickey. The Dickey’s owned and operated a professional stable for American Saddlebreds, expanding into Hunter-Jumpers and a children’s riding and training center, servicing 60 horses on a regular basis. Pat taught riding and horsemanship, along with all of the responsibilities involved in animal ownership for 25 years to both children and adults.
Bill Dickey, on the other hand, was not a horseman…not until he realized the inevitable and joined forces with Pat. He supported Pat’s showing for 15 years and was an old hand at the show circuit and the perfect Show Dad for daughters Pam and Darci.
In the spring of 1994, the family sold their land in Minnesota and moved Tonkawood Farm to the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Tonkawood was scaled down considerably, eliminating the Saddlebred training and competitions. Upon moving to Texas Pat and Pam also founded the Common Ground Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to serving at risk children with the use of horses. Common Ground also rescues and rehabs horses that are at risk of slaughter.
Pat and Pam found their nitch specializing in training and selling children’s and amateur horses – matching horses to riders for the safety and well being of both. They have been extremely successful in finding the right environment and job for many horses so they can live a successful, productive life with the respect and good care they deserve.
The partnership between mother and daughter has worked beautifully.
Pam is the head sales associate and is responsible for evaluating each horse
and then determines his or her suitability. Pat also has a good eye
for incoming horses and helps determine their suitability and proper placement
of the horses with new owners. Pat also handles the business end of
Tonkawood such as maintaining the website, bookkeeping, advertising and general
Tonkawood guarantees their horses to their buyers, which is very unique in the horse industry. Their goal is to match horse and rider for the benefit of both and if the new owner doesn’t get along with their new horse for any reason, Tonkawood will gladly work with the owner to trade out for another horse.
“If a customer and a horse do not match,” says Pat, “it is our position that the horse suffers as much as the owner. Our goal is to make sure both are happy.”
Before a horse comes to Tonkawood it is thoroughly checked for soundness…teeth, feed and general condition. The next step in the evaluation process is temperament and ground manners, moving on to clipping, bridling, saddling, and load easily into a trailer.
“I continually look for “holes” in the horse,” says Pam. “Possible personality traits that could render the horse unsuitable for a child or an amateur.”
The horses are turned out in a large pasture and their herd personality is accessed to determine if they are aggressive, easy to catch, and placement in the herd hierarchy.
Each horse is then put through a rigorous evaluation. Pam goes through Western Riding, Trail, Hunter-Jumper, Dressage with each horse, watching the horse closely to determine the tasks the horse seems to do easily and also what the horse enjoys doing. Pam evaluates what the horse knows, figures out how the horse has been trained and used and what signals/cues they understand and respond to.
The most difficult of all horses to evaluate are the “bomb proof” trail and children’s mounts. “Bomb Proof” should mean the horse has shown it can be a good safe animal that does not overreact to various situations and can be counted on.
When evaluating the “bomb proof” horse, Pam takes the horse trail riding over rocks, in the pasture with loose horses, goats, burros and cattle. The next step is to take the horse off the property to determine if they’re levelheaded. Road riding is very important - riding next to all types of traffic, check for the barn sour horse and will ride without other riders.
During this process shortcomings can also be determined and to what level. When Pam and Pat have determined that a horse has some type of problem or issue, they make the determination as to what a suitable buyer for that animal will be.
“We do not give up on a horse if we find a problem that can be clearly identified,” says Pat. “We alert a buyer so a combined decision can be made as to the suitability of the horse for that buyer. It’s our belief that bad horses are not born, but made by human intervention.”
Buyers are carefully screened for their suitability for each horse. There are some problems that do not post a danger to riders or handlers, such as stall weaving, bribing, etc., and the buyer must be aware and informed of the care needed for that particular horse.
Where does Tonkawood find their horses? Pat and Pam used to make the rounds at the sales, but their business has grown so much they seldom get out to the sales and auctions. Over the years they have established a network of horse dealers throughout a five-state area.
“These people call us when they find the type of horses they know we’re looking for,” said Pat. “When they do, they are delivered to us for evaluation and purchase. We pay top dollar for our horses and do not quibble over a good horse; therefore, we have first shot at most of the best horses.”
Tonkawood Farm horses are sold very quickly so Pat and Pam have a list of prospective buyers and their “wish list” as to what they are looking for in a horse – either for themselves or for their children.
“We believe a horse and rider are a partnership,” said Pat. “Safety and quality of a person’s riding time is very important and can be very dangerous on the wrong horse.”
Tonkawood Farm represents the horse. Pat and Pam go to the extremes to seek a place for their horses in the right environment and in the right job so they can live a successful, productive life.
For more information about Tonkawood Farm, you can call 830-693-8253, visit www.tonkawood.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.