“This is Ann White. I’m returning your calls. I apologize I didn’t get back to you sooner. I’m operating a booth at the Illinois Horse Fair and have a slack moment. What can I do for you?”
Concise most congenial horse visit quickly cut short: “I have customers. I’m headed back to Kansas tomorrow. I’ll call you. Thanks.”
Several days later: “Oh, I apologize I didn’t call you. Say, everybody’s in for lunch. Could you contact me in a bit?”
Thirty minutes afternoon: “Thanks for your patience. This is absolutely a one stop shop here.”
She’s obviously head cook, bottle washer, housekeeper, barn crew, mother to dozens including three of her own, farm wife, truck driver and the list goes on and on.
First and foremost, this is Ann White: horsewoman.
A most simplified description that could and should continue much further, and would still be incomplete, considering diversity, accolades, but most importantly the love of horses and horse people.
“I grew up in Manhattan, but I was born with a mutation, the specific gene, that is an addiction to horses. Nobody can completely understand it unless they have the inborn feeling for horses that I’ve always had,” claimed Ann White of Vermillion Valley Equine Center on the White family farm north of Belvue in Pottawatomie County.
“I’ve always loved horses, wanted to be involved with horses, and am so fortunate that my life and profession have taken me beyond my greatest imagination and possible vision, working with horses and riders,” she admitted.
However, it’s not been an easy road. Born Ann Fischer, a doctor’s daughter as one of six siblings who came in a five year period, theirs was not a horse family.
“I never even owned a horse of my own until I was married, but I always wanted to work with horses. They were just not a priority in my family,” White said.
Yet, receiving viable support, White did start taking riding lessons while still in grade school. “A $100 pony owned by a trainer was all I had, so with some of the other students, we’d borrow a trailer, and pull it with the family van to shows,” she remembered.
While talented in any endeavor with horses, White from the beginning has been involved with hunter-humper type horses typically riding in English tack with flat saddle, although she can ride Western and does on occasion. “I prefer a flat saddle,” she stated emphatically.
By teenage days, White started trading labor for the opportunities to work with horses. “I cleaned stalls, fed, turned out, groomed horses, worked on ranches, helped horse traders at the sale barns, started giving lessons myself, anything I could do in order to be able to ride and show horses,” White insisted.
Collecting hunter on flat and over fence awards in her high school horseshow days, White, upon graduation, attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, for two years. She then transferred to her hometown Kansas State University, graduating with a degree in animal science.
Continuing to ride, show, give lessons, White served as president of the KSU Horseman’s Association, an organization for horse oriented students to participate in horse related activities while at college. “K-State did not have an equestrian team at that point, but I would have wanted to ride on it,” she noted.
Dating while at K-State, upon graduation, White married her husband of 30 years, Mike, and the couple moved to the family’s diverse ranch-farm operations north of Wamego where located today. “There are nine children in Mike’s family, and five still live on the farm. Mike’s dad is 89, and is involved in the farm-ranch operations, too,” White said.
Becoming a farmer’s wife was fitting for White to raise their three daughters, get her own horse and to develop horse business operations beyond her imagination.
“I knew I wanted to be on a farm, not in a desk job. We’re completely diversified with cattle and crop ground. I’ve done a little bit of everything here to help make a living,” White contended.
Closest to her heart though was the opportunity to own and train horses and teach others horsemanship skills. “I really didn’t have goals of doing what we’re doing now whatsoever. I would have been happy riding colts and giving lessons,” White said.
Today, Vermillion Valley Equine Center is a full service boarding facility specializing in hunters, jumpers, equitation, and eventing. “We offer riding lessons and horse training for all ages and skill levels along with horse boarding in stalls and pastures and also have horses for sale,” White described.
Clients come from throughout the Midwest to have their horses trained and learn personal horsemanship skills from Ann White and her fulltime training staff.
“My employees are the key to the success of our business. The instructors have ridden with me most of their lives, are dedicated to our profession, and we have very devoted barn help. I’m so fortunate to have these people,” White credited.
This becomes especially important considering that White is on the horseshow circuit a high percentage of the time. “They take care of things when I’m gone, but I help with everything that needs to be done when I’m here. I clean stalls, brush and saddle my own horses. It’s all part of the business,” White said.
Most important of all is Mike and Ann White’s daughters. “We’re fortunate they all appreciate our lifestyle, have always helped and continue today,” she acknowledged.
Alice, 25, graduated from Oklahoma State University and is now a fulltime professional trainer at her home barn. Jessica, 23, is enrolled in international studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Amy, 21, is a junior in Ag business at Oklahoma State.
All three girls have ridden and shown horses and are talented equestrians. “Jessica wasn’t into showing as much, and often stayed home, but that put a lot of work here on her shoulders, which she never seemed to mind,” White said. “I’m thankful they all like horses and enjoy working with them.”
Alice was on the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) team at Oklahoma State, and Amy is on the team there now. “I’ve become very involved with the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) sanctioned championship sport. I’m a strong supporter of the valuable training for equestrians who envision careers working with horses,” White said.
More than 60 horses are at the farm now, with about two dozen owned by White, and the remainder by boarders. “We have 24 stalls, pasture area, and seven employees on the average, but I did the work myself for many years, while we’ve been developing,” White noted.
Arena facilities are “shared with the ropers,” White commented. “Mike likes to team rope for a hobby, so when the cowboys come, we take the jumps down, and let them do their thing.”
Every breed of horses is on the farm from ponies to draft horses, to warm bloods, to Quarter Horses. “My favorite is Thoroughbreds. I especially like to make track horses into fence horses,” White said.
“Every horse will jump, but some just don’t like it, and others don’t have the athletic ability,” she evaluated
Although she’s trained many horses from the beginning, White said, “I’m not the first one in the saddle anymore. But, we break all our own horses here at the farm, and I monitor the entire process.”
When show time arrives, White said, “It looks like a circus leaving here. We sometimes take as many as 30 horses. I have an eight-horse trailer, we have a four-horse trailer, and the owners generally haul the remainder.”
Students have collected awards from local pony clubs to regional circuits to winning eventers at United States Equestrian Federation throughout the country. Several other students have also been on NCEA teams.
“Our horses compete on the flat and over fences, it’s typically a combined score,” White related.
“While we specialize in jumping, our horses do everything, trail ride, pleasure ride. We can put them in Western tack, ride in those show classes, we really enjoy the extreme cowboy races and competitions like that,” White said.
Most of White’s students are girls, but there are a handful of male riders, who typically ride with Western gear.
“Vermillion Valley Equine Center is a full service boarding and training center located in the rolling Flint Hills of Kansas. We guarantee professional services with reasonable rates and intend to exceed expectations of our students,” White insisted.
A strong believer in building up and supporting the local horse community, White currently serves as president of the Kansas Hunter Jumper Association, is on the board of directors for the Kansas Horse Council, and is involved in EquiFest of Kansas.
Forever, and most obvious always, humble, White emphatically clarified, “I’m really not one to toot my own horn. I like to just blend in.
“I really wouldn’t care if I ever went to another horse show. I enjoy it, but I just want to be involved with horses, training and teaching others. Horses are so healing. They’re such a way of life. As long as I can pay my bills, and be involved with horses, I’ll just be happy,” Ann White contended.