November, 2017 - NorCal Spotlight: Shady Lane Farm, LLC
Written by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 30 October 2017 21:06

Matt and Lindsay Archer’s small program makes a big impact on its horses, riders and the sport.

by Kim F. Miller

Matt and Lindsay Archer have a uniquely balanced approach to their hunter/jumper training and sales program, Shady Lane Farm, LLC. Their clientele ranges from a backer of their Grand Prix goals to an amateur equitation and hunter rider who was one of Lindsay’s first students 15 years ago.

The Shady Lane Crew: Lindsay, Matt, Addison & Lillie. Photo: Karen Heinrich

Lindsay Archer and Camarone.

They have a steady stream of client-owned youngsters in development, sales horses and, somewhat inadvertently, homebreds coming up the ranks. Matt’s service as vice president of the NorCal Hunter Jumper Association adds to their professional juggling act. Personally, they are raising two daughters Addison, 7, and Lillie, 5, who, along with riding their ponies, enjoy a range of normal kid activities that add to life’s time challenges.

Spending time with Matt and Lindsay, however, you wouldn’t guess their schedules were hectic. They are calm, positive, down-to-earth and much-admired. “One minute they are jumping in a 1.4M class, and the next they are jumping on bikes to ride around the showgrounds with their daughters,” says Catherine T Harvey, the client who rides herself and sponsors top jumpers, including Camerone, with whom Lindsay has been making her Grand Prix mark.

Catherine noticed the Archers during her years training with another program closer to her home stable in the South Bay Area’s Woodside. Seeing how Matt and Lindsay treated their horses, each other and their contemporaries stuck in Catherine’s mind. Some time ago, she asked Matt to work with a troublesome young horse and was impressed with the results. “He has just the right balance of being firm with them about the rules, yet also understanding of what I call their ‘effervescence.’”

In 2015, Catherine and her horses joined the Shady Lane program and she remembers her first show experience with them well. “Matt and Lindsay each rode about 20 rounds, then they got back to the barn and helped clean tack, wrap horses’ legs and then they started sanding a client’s tack trunk,” she shares. “There’s no job too big or too small for them. They just roll up their sleeves and work and you don’t see that very often anymore.”

For the last few years, the Archers have been at capacity at their boutique-size barn in the East Bay Area’s Alamo. But even if they could accommodate more horses, they don’t want to. That’s because they insist on being hands-on with their clients and their horses. Plus, family time is an equal priority.

Lindsay & Matt

Matt Archer and 4-year-old homebred, Icon SLF, at the Sacramento International Horse Show. Photo: Alden Corrigan Media for West Palms Events

DIY Upbringing

The do-it-yourself and hard work ethic is part of Matt and Lindsay’s hard wiring. As a junior, Lindsay was a top equitation rider under Karen Healey’s tutelage, and her early equestrian years were spent learning by doing.

Much of her knowledge base was built through at-home horsekeeping, tooling around her parents’ Arabian horse ranch and absorbing the methods of the cattle ranching horsemen in her family. Her family was good friends with the late William Nissen, DVM and his wife Twinkie. Lindsay credits them with steering her toward the hunter/jumper world and its top horsemen.

Lindsay’s parents, Donna and Art Anderson, were big players in the Arabian halter horse industry after importing the famous sire of prized Russian bloodlines, Padron, to the United States. He was one of about 150 horses they imported over the years.

The Andersons have been critical to Shady Lane’s success, from turning their lovely property over to the training business and offering horse-keeping know-how like finding the right local sand to create terrific footing for the big outdoor arena.

Matt grew up in the Fresno area with minimal formal instruction and the lessons of maximum miles in the saddle. During his junior years, he kept a horse at a racetrack stable where the idea was planted that going forward is a key to many sporthorse training challenges. He supported his riding by grooming and hauling horses and, during a stretch with Dutch breeder Egbert Schep, learned about European horsemanship and the sales side of the industry.

Matt and Lindsay crossed paths in their youth, but did not meet until 2001, when she was working for Gry and Duncan McFarlane and Matt for Butch and Lu Thomas. A problematic sales horse brought them together and a mutual connection led to their partnering in a sales enterprise. By then, Lindsay had stepped out on her own, with Gry and Duncan’s encouragement, by taking over the clients of a retiring local trainer. Matt and Lindsay partnered in Shady Lane in 2003 and married in 2007.

With the shared priority of putting the horse’s welfare above all else, the couple complements each other well. They both coach all riders. “I’m very direct and Matt is maybe a little more warm and fuzzy,” Lindsay laughs. At the moment, Lindsay is the rider getting the Grand Prix shot made possible by Catherine’s sponsorship. “I’m extremely grateful to Catherine and to Matt for that,” she stresses of her run with Camerone and other steeds approaching big ring readiness. Meanwhile, Matt is burnishing an already strong track record of developing youngsters with wins and great ribbons in the young jumper divisions. At home, they regularly ride the horses the other competes on and those their clients campaign. “It’s important to us that we each have a feel for all of the horses in our program,” Lindsay says.

Lindsay and Catherine T Harvey

Longtime Shady Lane client Martha Weissbaum & Kona. Photo: Alden Corrigan Media



Horsemanship Emphasis

Grateful for their DIY days, the Archers incorporate what they can of that concept as coaches. Self-sufficient horsemanship is the aim regardless of a student’s show goals.  Shady Lane’s schedule is a relatively modest 15 to 20 competitions a year, and when a client misses a show they are encouraged to maximize the chance to work with their horses on their own. “There’s a lot to be learned from that,” Lindsay observes. “Riders shouldn’t have to be told what their horses are doing; the rider needs to feel that. Riding is all about feeling and reacting.”

Gaining knowledge is an equal priority. Lindsay is working on bringing Canadian course designer Peter Grant in for a clinic. To be held during the horses’ winter downtime, this non-riding session will emphasize the nuances of today’s increasingly technical jumping tracks. “It’s not just about where the jumps are and how many strides are in between them,” Lindsay relays. “It’s about what materials they are made of, what’s behind the jumps and the footing. You could have a line at the Sonoma Horse Park and Spruce Meadows with the same distances, yet they ride differently because of the different surfaces.”

Although small in acreage, Shady Lane is continually updated to enable customized care for each resident. The Archers added more stalls to the original six-horse barn of the Arabian era and expanded the arena to accommodate big courses, including a bank complex in one corner. Three irrigated grass pastures provide natural horse time that the Archers consider critical to happy, healthy horses. Most kick up their heels and burn off energy, which contributes to a relaxed frame of mind and minimizes the need for boring and physically taxing lunging or other means of attaining the right energy level for each horse. A European horse walker, an equine treadmill and a mobile Theraplate vibration therapy unit further facilitate individualized horse management.

The Archers didn’t intend to include breeding in their program, Lindsay explains. But when you have a lovely retired Grand Prix mare, Ratosca, and a mother, Donna, with breeding savvy and interest, why not? Today Shady Lane has nine homebreds between client-owned and personal stock, ranging from the 4-year-old Icon SLF, out of Ratosca and by Ustinov, to two foals born this year. Matt rode Icon to a fourth finish in the 4-year-old Old Suitability Finals at the Sacramento International Horse Show in early October.

Ensuring their clients are well mounted is another Shady Lane priority, and for that they’ve most often turned to Neil Jones Equestrian as their primary horse source. Over roughly a decade working with the Belgium and U.S.-based enterprise, Lindsay appreciates the fact that they have been equally professional and effective in finding suitable horses for clients regardless of their budget. “He always made the same effort to find us the right horse.”

Wise Perspective

The Archers have a wise perspective on the industry and have calmly ridden through changes. When Lindsay started on her own, she took an intense approach focused on A circuit success. She had attended a Santa Barbara boarding school for high school so she could ride with Karen in Southern California and that’s the level of commitment she was familiar with. But when a handful of clients left for a more relaxed program, Lindsay realized that an emphasis on excellent horsemanship could also anchor a business with a less intense show focus.

For their first several years together, Matt and Lindsay’s program was comprised of 10 to 12 clients, each with one horse and lives and/or budgets that fit with only occasional showing. Today’s clientele is about half that number of riders. Most have more than one horse and several have high-level competition goals that fit well with the jumper track Matt and Lindsay are on thanks to Catherine’s sponsorship. “I learned from Karen that the business always changes, but you just keep doing the same thing and stick with your program,” Lindsay shares.

They are advocates for the sport itself and its growth in Northern California, sponsoring several shows and industry programs, including the Shady Lane Style of Riding Awards. Lindsay served as vice president of the NorCal Hunter Jumper Association for six years, during which she initiated the Prix de Nations program that sent local junior teams to compete at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada. They are excited about the FEI 2* jumping coming to the Sonoma Horse Park next September as part of the Split Rock Jumping tour.

Amateur hunter and equitation rider Martha Weissbaum has owned three horses, one at a time, during her 15 years with Shady Lane. Martha has been thrilled so see Lindsay and Matt get their crack at the bigger jumper divisions. “Along with others who have been with them for a long time, I think it’s so great to see them have the opportunities to compete at that level. And the things they’re learning doing that are things that have helped us in our training.”

When her second horse, Easy, retired, she figured it was time to retire herself.  “But I wasn’t very happy not riding, so I decided to come back,” shares Martha, who works full-time in the insurance industry. “I attribute a lot of that to Shady Lane and the Archers. If not for them, it would have been a lot easier to retire.” Winning a 3’3” Amateur Owner Hunter class at last month’s Sacramento International Horse Show with her new horse, Kona, was a recent comeback perk.  “They are wonderful people with a wonderful program.”