Riding's APRIL, 2009 COVER STORY!

California Riding Magazine • April, 2009

Gray Fox Farm
Northern California farm
breeds tomorrow's champions.

by Kathleen Burke Jensen

Nestled among the roaming hills and vineyards of Sonoma County is Gray Fox Farm. The sprawling facility is home to several fabulous hunter stallions and a much coveted band of beautiful, talented hunter broodmares. Jill Burnell, owner of Gray Fox Farm, prides herself on standing the cream of the crop of proven and up and coming imported Warmblood hunter stallions. The black Hanoverian Redwine is the flagship stallion at the farm. He is currently enjoying much success in the hunter ring with John French.

Redwine with John French


Redwine recently made his debut at Thermal where he was champion in his division the first week out. He caused quite a stir with his sleek and shiny black coat, four white stockings and big white blaze. Redwine captured the attention of competitors and spectators alike with his pretty movement, picture perfect jumping style and amazing ring presence. “Not only does Redwine have an incredible temperament but his exceptional conformation enables him to go naturally in a perfect hunter frame,” comments John French.

Approved Oldenburg NA, RPSI and Canadian Warmblood, Redwine will be presented to Hanoverian, Belgium and GOV for approvals this year. He is also nominated International Hunter Futurity (IHF) and is Performance Horse Registered. Redwine’s first U.S. foal crop arrived in 2008. He consistently passes on his stunning good looks and athleticism. Many of his foals were site champions at their inspection.

Photo: Draygonfyne Design


Next in the lineup is Federalist (also shown as Faberge). This handsome chestnut stallion with plenty of chrome not only offers mare owners the opportunity to breed to a proven performance stallion, he also has some of the most sought after bloodlines for discriminating hunter breeders.

Federalist is by two-time Olympian For Pleasure, one of the finest jumping horses to look through a bridle. Federalist followed in his famous father’s footsteps and enjoyed a successful career as a jumper in the Mini Prix ranks with rider Chris Pratt in Canada and on the East Coast. He also stood for a few years at Spruce Meadows.

Gray Fox Farm has high hopes his huge jump and hack winning movement will breed stunning hunters along with competitive jumpers. Federalist is approved Hanoverian and Canadian Warmblood. He will be presented to the Oldenburg NA and GOV this year and is nominated IHF and is Performance Horse Registered.



Aloha is a beautiful black stallion with four tall white socks and a blaze. Aloha is just starting his career in the ring and has shown much promise. He has a spectacular jump. In his first week of showing Aloha was Reserve Champion in his hunter division. He was imported from the Mecklenburg region of Germany and he has a charming personality. “He thinks he is part Labrador,” says Jill. Aloha is approved Oldenburg NA, nominated IHF and PHR.

Romantic Star at his first hunter show with Chad Keenum.


Romantic Star is new to the Gray Fox Farm stallion roster. This spectacular bay Class I Elite Hanoverian stallion was champion his first show of the season. Quite an accomplishment considering he had only been in hunter training for 10 days prior to the show.

Romantic Star will remain on the East Coast with Chad Keenum and continue to make his mark in the hunter ring showing at many of the major shows. Some of his many accomplishments include siring 19 approved stallions in Germany. He won Get of Sire at Upperville in 2003. His foals have successfully competed in hunters, jumpers and dressage.

Jill plans to have Romantic Star join the other Gray Fox Farm stallions at John French’s barn in the fall to continue his hunter career. He is approved Hanoverian, GOV and Oldenburg NA and is in the Jumper Breeding Program. He’s nominated IHF and Performance Horse Registry.


Rated R is a 3-year-old black Hanoverian stallion that is still in Germany. He will mature at over 17 hh and his contribution to the Gray Fox lineup is his exceptional movement and fantastic temperament. Coupled with his beautiful jump, he seems to have the makings of a serious competitor. Gray Fox Farm will import him in the spring and he will go directly into training with John French. He will be presented Oldenburg NA before being imported.

Ravenswood, by Redwine, at a few hours old.


For customers who don’t have a broodmare, Jill breeds her stallions to one of the 11 broodmares she keeps on her property. These mares are all champions in their own right. One is the dam of the 2008 Zone 3 Champion. As Jill is fond of saying “mares are the backbone of a successful breeding farm.”

When asked what she looks for in a potential hunter stallion Jill replies, “I look for stallions that have something unique to bring to the American market and then I pick stallions I would like to breed to. I like a great temperament first and foremost, for example Redwine and Romantic Star both received 10s for character in Germany.”

Jill doesn’t want to have to worry about producing babies that no one but a professional can handle. She really likes a beautiful horse so that is one of the things she looks for in prospective stallions. Of course all that means nothing if they can’t do the job. “I’m fortunate to have great trainers like John French, Meredith Herman and Lenny Marconi to help me make the correct decisions,” Jill says. “They are the true experts and I listen to their advice. I’m so pleased that John French agreed to ride some of my stallions. He and his team have
been wonderful.”

Jill hopes that her current stallions continue to produce future hunter stars and that her young stallions can live up to their potential. She would like to import a couple more outstanding stallions in the next few years if the opportunity arises. “I really hope that mare owners continue to be happy with the babies, they are the ultimate judges of a stallion’s success,” Jill explains. “I want my breeding business to continue to be a really interesting and fun adventure.”

For more information contact Jill Burnell at Gray Fox Farm by phone 707-322-3046, or e-mail grayfoxfarms@yahoo.com or visit www.grayfoxfarms.com.