In the competitive horse industry, especially in the marketing of sale horses, what does it take to be successful in selling horses? There’s a little hot secret in the North Georgia mountains of a woman who prefers to fly under the radar. She’s a savvy Thoroughbred trainer who manages to stay humble. Zeb Alampi Fry of Little Kentucky Farm holds former racehorses and the sport of kings near and dear to her heart.
The name of your farm is interesting. To be located in North Georgia, there must be a connection to Kentucky?
Yes, I grew up in Lexington and in Michigan. I finished school in Kentucky, attending the University of Kentucky.
Have you always had a love for Thoroughbreds and horse racing?
I have. There’s a passion and an amazing history about them that leaves me awe-struck. I’m a bookworm and enjoy studying history and anything that has to do with racing. I’ve always had Thoroughbreds in my life ever since I can remember.
What kind of business do you have and are you personally involved in racing?
Currently I own a training and sales barn on my farm. It seems to have morphed into things over the years, and follows along closely with trends, the economy and what the competition arenas are doing with Thoroughbreds. I do Eventing and that sport favors Thoroughbreds. I think they’re generally a well rounded breed and can do anything. I use to be at the track 24/7, and started working from the ground up. I did everything from grooming, mucking stalls, hot walking, gate training, galloping and eventually Steeplechasing professionally. My days started near 3:30am and then I was at my first class by 9:30am. School was always drilled into me and I hated it. It was so boring and almost came too easily for me. But my education was something I could fall back on and incorporate into my horse career.
What do you struggle with mostly in your training and selling?
The frustrating part can be when people compare my horses to others on the market and assume my horses are ‘rescued’ Thoroughbreds. There’s also this huge misconception that Thoroughbreds must be rescued from the racetrack and that it’s this horrible place. The truth is that to compare my horses to ‘rescued’ horses is like comparing apples to onions. There are fantastic groups of owners, trainers and riders at the track who are hard workers and love their Thoroughbreds. Its also an interesting fact that many of the same people looking to buy a horse, will choose to buy a plane ticket to Europe, pay all costs to bring their instructor, buy a horse overseas, fly it back and then pay 6 to 12 months of training at their instructor’s farm. After’s all is said and done, they’ve probably spent $30K or more in a single year on a horse that’s real value is likely around $8K.
Would you say there are stereotypes or stigmas that are attached to Thoroughbreds?
Sure there are and its just one more thing that grinds my gears. I think social media and lack of hands-on equine experience helps to fuel the rumors and ignorance. It is honestly laughable what I hear and read. I’ve been told chestnut mares are trouble, Thoroughbreds have terrible feet, Thoroughbreds can’t do Dressage, Thoroughbreds are difficult to put weight on, and they’re too high strung and dangerous. All those things are a bunch of lies and fairy tales, but sadly those prejudices can stick.
What trait or traits attracts you to a particular type of Thoroughbred?
I seem to have a lot of dapple greys, and thankfully that is largely due to Fort Prado. He was a gorgeous stallion both physically and mentally and he produced cookie-cutter offspring. I always go for big soft eyes, I’ve got to be able to touch the ears, and the horse needs to have solid hooves. It is also helpful to have breeders and trainers who are friends and who you can trust.
You don’t have a big operation. Would you say you prefer it that way?
I use to think to be successful that I had to have a massive barn with every stall filled in order to make an impact. Turns out that isn’t true for me. Instead I work slowly to produce quality Thoroughbreds for 2nd careers in a variety of competition arenas. I have good ladies who work for the farm which allows to me focus and stay on course with whatever each individual Thoroughbred needs from me. I don’t get in over my head and I honestly don’t care what the other people who sell horses are doing. I’m that confident with the Thoroughbreds that I produce.
It must be easy to get attached to your horses. Do you have a hard time with your emotions when you sell one?
My friends would definitely say that I do. Sometimes I call them up and get their opinions on potential buyers and I take to heart their opinions. I have that nagging voice in my ear that says, “Maybe you should keep this one?” I put so much time into them and I love them all very much. I don’t make it easy on anyone inquiring about one of my horses. I ask a lot of questions and research the buyers. I’ve been frustrated in the past by some professionals with outrageous demands. I use to believe having a professional buy one of my horses was a feather in my cap, but over the years I’ve found that the sincere horsemen are the serious amateurs. They are appreciative of their horses and don’t lead you through wild goose chases. I see so many former sale horses out competing and winning! They’re happy and healthy with their new owners, and that lessens the pang I get in my heart when I see them off with our last goodbyes.