Take 5 with Jennifer Corder
Checking in with the Azalea Coast Horse Farm
Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Rocky Mount, JENNIFER CORDER has loved horses.
“I was always pretending my bike was a horse, or playing with My Little Ponies,” she says. “Everything was horse-related, so it wasn’t a surprise when I started begging my parents to let me ride.”
Corder began working with Terri Pace, a wonderful trainer who encouraged her love of horses and taught her everything she knows. She rode competitively throughout her childhood and teenage years, then took a break when she went to college. Soon after that came marriage, children, and the demands of family life, and it seemed Corder’s passions were destined to remain on the backburner.
Then her daughter fell in love with horses, and Corder found herself pulled back into a world she thought she’d left behind. “She woke up one day and suddenly it was horse everything,” Corder says. “I thought, ‘Oh no, I have a mini-me here!’ She started riding locally and the more she got involved, the more my passion started coming back.”
Corder had always dreamed of owning a hunter jumper horse farm and running a business, and as her daughter got more involved with riding, that dream no longer seemed so far-fetched.
“We came across Azalea Coast, and my husband saw the potential before I did,” Corder says. “I’m glad he did. It’s an absolutely gorgeous property.”
The farm had not been fully operational for at least a decade, and needed quite a bit of work to restore it to its former glory. Over the past year, the Corders renovated the entire barn including stall fronts, updated the tack room, restroom and apartment above the barn, updated flooring throughout, and are currently finishing the student lounge. They have also reseeded pastures and currently expanded the riding ring and added new GGT footing.
“The biggest project was irrigating the whole property, including every pasture and common area, so we can maintain grass throughout the year,” Corder says. “Then we did landscaping throughout the property, added about two acres of new pasture, and finished a lot of fence work.”
Luckily, Corder had plenty of help along the way. “We have great boarders who are like family members to us,” she says. “They pitched in, so it’s been a group effort. Whether it’s picking up a rake to help with landscaping or hanging light fixtures, we couldn’t have done it without our friends and family.”
Azalea Coast is unlike many other horse farms. “We’re a smaller operation, and all our clients either own or lease a horse that they board at the farm.”
They have a trainer, Stefanie Phelps, as well as a show team that competes at rated hunter jumper shows throughout North Carolina and surrounding states. The core group of the team is between the ages of nine and eleven, but they also have some young adults as well.
Now that most of the renovations are done, Corder says she and the rest of their boarders can finally start really enjoying the space.
“My plan is to gain more boarders, add to our show competition team, and just have more kids out there,” Corder says. “It’s refreshing to see kids being outside and enjoying the space. That was my vision and dream – growing as a person, learning about animals and taking care of them. It’s wonderful to see all that finally coming together.”
Take 5 with Jennifer Corder of Azalea Coast Horse Farm
What draws you to horses?
“It’s hard to explain what draws me to horses. It’s a feeling I’ve had since early childhood. It’s what I understand. They have such a huge heart and a willingness to please. Once you form that bond with a horse, they will show you such great loyalty. Plus, there really isn’t a better listening companion than a horse.”
How long have you been riding?
“Since childhood. I took a break during my early adult years but came back to it after my daughter, Airlie, was born.”
What has it been like renovating and running the horse farm?
“Renovating and running a property that has served as a landmark in the horse community has been an honor. When we purchased the property, we promised the previous owners we would create a positive environment for children to ride and spend time together. Seeing it come together has been a great experience. The day-to-day operation is hard work, but it pays off to see the kids smiling faces playing, l aughing, and riding every day.”
For the kids who come to Azalea, what do you see them learning beyond just riding skills?
“For the kids at Azalea Coast, as well as children riding anywhere, horses teach them responsibility, hard work, and self-discipline. These kids have to take care of a large animal on a daily basis. There are also great emotional benefits to riding such as teaching children empathy and compassion. Riding and working with horses also helps children gain self-confidence and self-assurance.”
What’s a really good name for a horse?
“It all depends on their personality. I do have two names that I’d choose between if I ever bought another gelding: Maverick – registered name would be Top Gun – or Ferdinand, after my favorite children’s book character.”
To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.
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