California Riding Magazine • January, 2008

Beyond the Breeding Shed
Hilltop Farm believes in putting equal
emphasis on both breeding and training.

by Rebecca Sparenberg

For over 20 years Hilltop Farm in Maryland has represented a comprehensive collection of Warmblood stallions. An internationally recognized leader in Warmblood breeding, the pedigrees and talents of their stallions—dressage, hunter, jumper, eventing and driving—is nothing less than exceptional. But recently, the hill has been abuzz with news.

The recent additions to Hilltop’s all-star line up of dressage superstar, Christopher Hickey and trainer, Jocelyn Wiese, along with the stallions, Popeye, a German Riding Pony (owned by Summit Sporthorses LTD and standing at Hilltop) and Donarweiss GGF, an Approved ISR/Oldenburg son of De Niro (owned by Greengate Farm) has added a new kick to both their breeding and training program.
“There was some concern when Chris joined Hilltop that we were turning into solely a training program,” says Natalie DiBerardinis, Hilltop Farm’s breeding manager. But an equal emphasis on training and breeding has always been, and remains part of, Jane MacElree’s (founder and owner) vision.”

There is little doubt that Jane’s belief that training and breeding go hand-in-hand is certainly true, and 2007 was banner year for everyone at Hilltop.

It started with Christopher and Brenna Kucinski’s Regent winning both the team and individual gold medals at the 2007 Pan American Games. Then Christopher and Hilltop’s Contucci son, Cabana Boy, bred by Doug and Shannon Langer, represented the United States at the World Young Horse Breeding Championships, becoming only the second U.S. bred horse ever to participate in the prestigious competition; and making Hilltop Farm the first U.S. owner to have sent four different horses to those championships. Chris and Cabana Boy also won the Markel/USEF Five Year Old Championship, as well as North American Breeders Futurity for Five Year Olds at Dressage at Devon and USDF Horse of the Year honors for the Young Horse Five Year Old division. 

Having Christopher at Hilltop has also allowed other members of their training staff to expand their horizons. Master handler and long-time Hilltop trainer, Michael Bragdell, has presented numerous stallions and over 500 mares and foals at different breed registry inspections. Michael has handled many horses at breed shows around the country with several horses presented in the championship classes, and most recently he earned his USDF bronze medal.

Photo: Bill Alphin

“Michael has been at Hilltop for a long time and has always been involved in handling at inspections and breed shows, and starting out the young horses,” says Natalie. “This year Michael has been able to show his talent as a rider in the performance classes as well. In 2007 he was able to acquire all the scores for his bronze medal in just three shows, including rides on our stallion Royal Prince at Third Level.”

This fall, Hilltop imported their Elite Hanoverian stallion Bugatti Hilltop. “Bugatti is an excellent example of our goals for the farm. He has already proven himself a very successful sire and we are looking forward to offering him for the first time through cooled semen to U.S. breeders. Bugatti will also continue his FEI dressage career, now under Chris Hickey,” says Natalie. “We believe stallions can be successful in both the breeding shed and the show ring.”

Passage on Past the Dressage Court

While it is hard to surpass Hilltop’s broad breeding line-up and their impressive training program, Natalie says Hilltop has always been a strong believer that customer service needs to go beyond the breeding shed or training arena. “We strive to stay involved in our breeder’s activities. Our commitment to our breeders extends far past the signed contract or even a live foal on the ground.”

Through services such as in-hand training clinics, a Devon support program, a raising service, breeder sales support and an awards program, Hilltop strives to remain a resource for their customers. Their Devon support program has been particularly successful and breeders came from long distances with their offspring by Hilltop’s stallions to take part in this experience.

“Our Devon support program is a great way to slowly acclimate young horses to the show environment. By coming to Hilltop early, we are able to handle them and see what they need to show their best. With young horses you have to be patient and let them come along at their own pace.”

The same emphasis on customer service and meeting the needs of the client extends to the Hilltop Farm training clients as well. “Students travel from all over the East Coast to train at Hilltop, and we have everything in the barn from 3-year-olds that are just being started to Grand Prix horses.”

“We are more than just a breeding farm,” says Natalie. “We want breeders and riders to know everything we have to offer.”

For more information on Hilltop Farm visit them online at, email or call 410-658-9898.