If you haven’t had a chance yet to soak up some of Horse Network’s breathtaking footage of Big Sky Farms in Starksboro, Vermont, now’s your chance. The barn and wedding venue has been a longtime labor of love for owner Aaron Pollak and his fiancee, trainer Megan White, who boards up to 10 barrel horses on the property.
We caught up with the couple to find out more about country living, those beastly Vermont winters, and (literally) turning mountains into
molehills barrel racing arenas.
HN: Megan, I believe you’re from Arizona originally, how did you end up in Vermont?
MW: I was born and raised in Arizona. I started hauling my horses to Vermont to continue training and to spend summers with my now fiancee [Aaron]. This is the fourth summer I’ve spent here, and I brought seven horses with me this year.
HN: Aaron, what was the property like when you bought it?
AP: The farm was there, and dates back to the mid-1800s, although it was in some parts of disrepair when I bought it. We have done a ton of work to bring it back into shape. It’s taken lots of hard, sweating long days.
MW: There was an existing orchard, sugar bush, and barn, and we combined two pieces of land to create it. We added an arena, round pen, fenced pastures, and we had to improve the pasture quality from disuse.
HN: What else did you have to do to make Big Sky horse-friendly?
MW: We needed to add stalls to the barn, so now we have six. I have separate pastures for every horse, and each pasture has its own run-in shed. I keep the horses separate because of the risk; one bad kick or play turned too rough can end a horse’s barrel career. They can touch each other over the fence and see the other horses all around, but it keeps them safer. I have 10 pastures total. The horses I have now are all my own personal horses, with a few outside horses in for barrel training. We have a total of nine on the farm this month.
HN: What do you do with your horses in the winter?
MW: I don’t spend winters at the farm. I pack up and take my horses back to Arizona with me. Winter is peak [barrel racing] competition time there. So none of my horses get a winter break like many of the horses [in Vermont] seem to do. They get breaks all throughout the year as needed.
HN: What was your biggest challenge in creating the property?
MW: [Aaron] had to basically move a mountain to flatten a place for my arena. There’s not a flat piece of ground on the property, and I have a love/hate relationship with it.
AP: Yes, the arena was the biggest project to date. All I can describe it as is jello. I would pick the dirt up on one side of the hill, move it downhill, and then it would just keep melting and sliding. It was a slimy mess.
HN: Megan, what’s the difference between training horses in Vermont vs. Arizona?
MW: My horses are easier to keep in shape here, but I miss things from flat Arizona, like my sand track where I can breeze them and stretch them out. I use a four wheeler to get around and bring the horses in a lot more here, and I’m still in better shape than when I walk everywhere in Arizona. My horses don’t get pasture in Arizona, so they definitely think that’s the best part—although it comes with a lot more pulled shoes and biting bugs.
HN: What’s next for the property?
MW: We are busy hosting weddings on the farm; we’ve had five or so here so far. The view is the hook, and we have so much space, we can pretty much accommodate anything. We are in the process of creating an outdoor pavilion, we have a pond, an orchard, and now the experience to plan weddings too. We also sugar and sell maple syrup from our own trees and sugar house.
HN: What’s your favorite thing about Big Sky Farms—and how’d it get that name?
AP: The name ‘Big Sky Farms’… well, I guess when everything is said and done, we are there because of the privacy and the view, and it has one very, very big sky.
MW: Yes, the best part about living here is the view of Camels Hump [State Park]. We are at the end of a road, on the top of a mountain. When everyone goes home for the day, we have total peace and quiet.