Horse Heaven Comes Full Circle at Walton Place

I have been passionate about horses my entire life and feel fortunate that I was raised in the beautiful countryside of Unionville, Pennsylvania. As a child I had the opportunity to grow up fox hunting with Cheshire Hunt and participate in the Cheshire Pony Club and at regional rated hunter shows.

I grew up on a farm located on Big Springs Road, a dirt road that dog-legs over to Thouron Road, and as a child I would ride my pony past what is now Walton Place Equestrian on a regular basis. Some of my best memories as a child are from riding down those dirt roads all alone with my pony.


Lisa Thomas cubbing at Cheshire on Upland Flying Fish, circa 1975.

I’m now a parent, and we have been careful to encourage both of our children to work hard towards their goals and to never take for granted the exciting opportunities that surround them here in Chester County.

My daughter, Kendal Thomas, who is now 14, has trained primarily with me, but through my business she has been exposed to some of the top riders and trainers in the industry. Regardless of that advantage, we never take for granted that owning horses is a privilege which requires hard work, an abundance of energy and some serious financial resources.

My daughter, like myself, loves to experience multiple disciplines, so we fox hunt, compete at the local hunter/jumper shows, and enter a few of the area’s starter trials. She’s even raced both of her ponies at some of the area pony races.


Kendal and Danny at Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show 2016. Photo by Lisa Thomas.

This past fall, I decided it was time to loosen my maternal grip on coaching Kendal and to treat her to a birthday lesson with my new client, Grand Prix show jumper turned upper level eventer Michael Walton. What I didn’t expect was that this would turn into a regular opportunity for Kendal to ride one of Michael and Joan’s horses. Ruckus is the perfect “first horse,” as he’s competed up through Prelim level and is Mr. Consistency!

As a parent, I’m now learning to sit by the sidelines, keep my mouth shut (sort of) and enjoy watching my kid being coached by a true professional. Thankfully I have Joan’s companionship ringside to keep me in line and the best view and seat in Chester County.

I hope now I may formally retire from being that overbearing parent/coach, and I thank the Waltons from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity they have offered to my child to learn on Ruckus. May she work hard for them and always be humble and appreciative.

Kendal wanted to share her experience at Walton Place Equestrian. Here is her story:

“When I first heard I was going to get a lesson from Michael Walton for my birthday, I was ecstatic. Whenever we drove by the Walton’s amazing facility in Unionville, I would instantly tell my mom how fun it would be to soar over that Phillies jump.

“When I got there I ended up cross country schooling a small horse named Ruckus because my pony is green. I had so much fun! Ruckus is a point-and-shoot type of horse, and when he jumps, it feels like a rocket blasting off. I even jumped my first corner and angled brush on Ruckus. I had such a great experience at Walton Place, and I was so appreciative of such a successful ride.

Michael coaching Kendal and Ruckus at Walton Place. Photo by Lisa Thomas.

“Shortly after I left their farm, my mom got a call from Joan Walton saying that they wanted me to ride Ruckus in the Novice divisions at Radnor and Plantation Field. This made me very excited to go back to have my second lesson.

“Preparing for Radnor was very short. In fact, I only had a week. However, Michael made this easy by assuring me that Ruckus was educated and experienced. After a couple of lessons I felt like I was ready to compete. I went to Radnor with a game face on, and Michael and Joan were stars helping me tack up and get in the zone. I warmed up for dressage and had a satisfying ride.

“Unfortunately, the dressage ring was located right next to the port-a-potty, and the door slammed twice while we were in the dressage ring which shook us up a bit. However I made up for this in stadium and cross country, going double clear in both. I came out in seventh place, and I was proud of my accomplishments at my first USEA recognized event.

“Next I had to prepare for Plantation. This was unrecognized and a fun event since it was their Halloween season finale, however I still took it seriously. Sadly, Joan and Michael were away that weekend, so it was up to my mother and me to have a successful day.

Going into dressage I tried to imagine what Michael would say. “Eyes up, and keep a connection.” I ended up with a score of 31.5. I was very excited that I got such good a good score by myself. Unfortunately, I dropped a rail in stadium due to a bad approach, but learned that I had something to work on in the near future. I ended up in fifth place with a clear cross country.”

Kendal competing Ruckus in the Plantation Halloween Horse Trials. Photo credit Amy Dragoo!

Kendal competing Ruckus in the Plantation Field Halloween Horse Trials. Photo used with permission from Amy Dragoo.

“After these two events my mom had more exciting news for me. I was going to be able to ride Ruckus in the spring. I was so excited especially because I have outgrown my pony and it is time to sell him. I now know I have a future being able to ride at Walton Place and can’t wait for the 2017 season.

“With skills to work on after the event, I know that my family and the Waltons will support me in any way possible. I am so appreciative of what my mother has done to give me this amazing opportunity, but most importantly, I value the generosity Michael and Joan have given me.”