Kathy Fremes’ biography

Kathy Fremes

Kathy Fremes congratulates her student Kendal on school horse Cool Dude for a successful dressage test.

Kathy Fremes congratulates her student Kendal on school horse Cool Dude for a successful dressage test.

As the owner, manager and EC certified competition coach of Country Hill Farm near Stouffville, Ontario Kathy Fremes has her hands full.  Days start early and end late at Country Hill, with an endless to-do list full of training in the morning, errands in the afternoon and teaching in the evening. Kathy has always mentored instructor of beginner (IOB) candidates, but recently, she was made a Coach Developer. “I really enjoy meeting the dedicated, mature students who are entering the profession and looking to achieve either IOB or Competition Coach credentials. They are keen students who often juggle this equestrian goal with busy personal and professional lives. One of the students I mentor runs her own barn, has four kids (one is at university), teaches privately and comes all the way from Barrie to train weekly—now that’s dedication a lot of clicks on her truck!”  says Kathy.

Fremes splits her time between instructing Management of the Equine Environment (a course at the University of Guelph run by Equine Guelph, 60 students), teaching 30 riding students, training horses and looking after 55 rolling acres of farmland where she harvests the hay that feeds the 25 horses who call Country Hill home.

Fremes as always been passionate about land conservancy and was a founding member of “Healthy Lands for Healthy Horses.” Its mandate was to educate horse farm owners on environmentally sound practices through workshops held province-wide. Country Hill was recognized for its outstanding stewardship and was awarded  Can-Am Award for Environmental Excellence. Kathy Fremes and her farm are the only recipients to be honored with this distinction twice!

Finally there is the popular ˜Country Hill Retreats” business that offers farm vacations to city folk who want to hone their riding skills and experience farm living even if only for a day or two. New to the offerings for vacations are Yoga on Horseback lessons.

Oh and did I mention, she also offers cooking lessons too and catering under the Country Hill Cooks!—just another passion for this talented multi-tasker! Using fresh and organic ingredients from local purveyors or even Fremes’ own garden, taking into careful account the season and what ingredients are available locally. Fremes has multiple contacts in the neighbourhood, and runs her kitchen with a “farm to fork” mentality. The hands-on classes strive to get people away from a fast-food culture and into the wholesome world of ‘slow-food.”

When asked what a typical day involves, Fremes laughs and replies “Coffee first!” In a day as busy as hers, you would be hard-pressed not to drink coffee! Fremes began riding at an early age and started teaching when she was 17 to “support her horsey habit.” She didn’t start off with a horse of her own at the time, but rode and trained horses for others. She fondly recalls one of these first horses, a small pinto mare no taller than herself named Squeeze. She remembers clearly how Squeeze would follow her around, and the many things they did together, including mock hunts. Kathy remembers riding this  feisty pony who tried to her best to outrun the larger horses. “I ate a lot of dirt but boy was that one determined little mare!” (Isn’t it amazing how alike riders and their mounts can be?)

Since then the equine industry has changed drastically. “Country Hill used to be way out in the sticks; now it’s one of the closest stables to the GTA!” Urbanization is not the only change in the industry, the demographics are changing as well. Riding used to be primarily a child’s sport. Parents would take their kids up to the barn to ride with others kids, the parents themselves never rode.

Now there has been a shift in the business. Adults are beginning to ride for the first time, or picking up riding again from their childhood. Many are even purchasing their first horse and fulfilling a life-long dream. Looking at Country Hill as a business, Fremes is aware of this and makes changes accordingly. Especially since “About half of my students now are adults.”

When asked what she enjoys most out of her many jobs she responded wisely: “Do what you love and you never have to work a day in your life.” Through her cooking Fremes gets instant gratification and results. When working with horses, the process takes far longer, sometimes even years, to reap the rewards—especially if you dabble in breeding and sourcing horses for her diverse clientele. But it is well worth it, “being able to connect with horses and students to come through to a breakthrough moment.” And working with Equine Guelph is a way to “give back” and educate the next generation to follow. “I believe in community service, and that just doesn’t mean pulling out a chequebook but giving of your time and experience,” she says.

Being a former student of Fremes’ myself, I can attest to this. It has been an interesting ride in re-training the horse that I lease, and I know I could not have done it without her input. She has a wealth of information and for every problem I have ever come across in my riding, she has had a solution. Since coming to Country Hillmany years ago my riding has improved immensely, and it’s all because of Fremes. I asked her to be a reference for my application to vet school and I’m happy to report I got in! Today I am a fully certified vet for small animals interning in Long Island, NY.

In order to keep up with all the many things that she does, Fremes stresses the importance of finding a balance. Managing the farm is a huge responsibility not to be taken lightly. People depend on Fremes to be there and provide for their horses. “In this business, the job is 90 per cent hard work and I’m very luck to have an excellent staff to support me and care about these horses and students as if they were their own.”

“For every day her staff take off – including major holidays – Fremes must be there to fill in “and horses don’t care if it’s Christmas or you’ve got a really bad cold…they just want to be fed. I’m a great believer in whatever you put into a pursuit, you get out of it. Country Hill has been a wonderful, wild and sometimes bumpy over 30- year ride, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

– Kristyn Hale, DVM