The History of Hilltop Farm
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Hilltop Farm’s beginning started well before the purchase of land in Colora, Maryland. In the early 1980’s, Ann Hill, the youngest daughter of Jane MacElree, began riding with Jill Hassler in Quarryville, PA. Ann is a survivor of spina bifida and her time with the Hassler family at their Quarryville farm had an enormously positive impact for her. As the relationship between the families grew, Jane began to support Jill’s son Scott in his riding ambitions. Eventually, the decision was made to search for a new property on which to develop a training center.
A very unique property was found in the hills of northern Maryland. The 400-acre farm offered a tranquil setting and excellent pastures. One of the original houses dated back to the late 1700’s and buildings from its most recent years as a camp offered endless opportunities. Construction began and, in September of 1991, Hilltop Farm officially opened its doors. The main training center was at the heart of the property and its image has been the iconic logo for Hilltop Farm ever since.
The goal of offering a complete approach to breeding, raising, and training of elite sport horses was becoming a reality. Stallions, such as Cabaret and Parabol, were actively campaigned at competitions throughout the US and formed the foundation of Hilltop Farm’s stallion offerings. In 1993 Select Breeders Service moved their home office to Hilltop Farm. Respected worldwide for offering the very best in equine semen collection and processing, SBS’s services elevated the breeding program at Hilltop Farm to a new level of expertise.
Redfort – Landego – Calypso II
The purchase of the Holsteiner stallion Riverman brought added attention to the Hilltop stallions in 1995 and just a few years later the addition of Contucci firmly established Hilltop Farm’s position as one of the most prominent stallion stations in North America. Hilltop’s influence was being expanded over in Europe as well, with Bugatti and Rousseau making an impact in both breeding and sport.
Caprimond – Lungau – Akzent II
Royal Prince and Susanne Hassler made history in 2004 when the pair placed fourth at the FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses. This placing remains the highest finish by an American to date. In late 2006, Scott and Susanne decided to venture out and develop their own business. This marked an exciting time for Jane MacElree and Hilltop Farm as a new chapter in the farm’s history began to unfold.
Chris Hickey was hired as Director of Training in January 2007 and immediately took the farm to new heights in the competition arena. That summer Chris won Team & Individual Gold Medals at the Pan-American Games with Brenna Kucinski’s Regent. Just a few short weeks later he was the highest placing American at the FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses with Hilltop Farm’s Cabana Boy. For the next seven years Chris would garner multiple US National Championships as well as regional and year-end titles with horses from Hilltop Farm.
Natalie DiBerardinis, who originally worked for the farm in the late 1990’s, also returned to Hilltop Farm in 2007 to take up the reins in the Breeding Department. Hilltop’s Guest and International Stallion Programs were expanded in the subsequent years to broaden the base of Hilltop’s stallion offerings. Developing US-bred stallion prospects became, and remains, a particular passion for Natalie and the team at Hilltop Farm. Stallions such as Donarweiss, Qredit, Hemmingway, and Sternlicht are all US-bred and show the depth of quality that has been developed at Hilltop in recent years.
Michael Bragdell, a native of Sweden who has played an integral role with Team Hilltop since 1995, was promoted to Hilltop’s Head Trainer position in 2014. Michael’s own development has grown along with that of the farm’s during his 20+ year history with the farm. Now focused on the development in sport of the training horses, he still maintains a close connection with the young horses and breeding stallions due to his past experiences in those departments. Twenty-five years after its inception, Hilltop remains committed to all the aspects that go into the development of elite sport horses.
Jane’s enthusiasm and commitment to Hilltop Farm remains as strong as ever. With Jane as our example, every member of the team at Hilltop Farm continues on our mission to provide the very best in our programs, customer service, and always to keep setting a new standard of excellence in our endeavors. Hilltop-bred and owned horses are making headlines in both the competition arena and the breeding shed and we continue to redefine our own place in the sport horse industry.
History in the Making
Once again we made the long drive out to the beautiful Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, IL for the Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships. Michael qualified two horses for the Championships this year.
It was an absolute perfect finish to our Florida show season when Chris and Witness were invited to be on Team USA for the first ever CDIO3* Nations Cup competition in Wellington, Florida. Chris and Witness started the weekend out strong with a 2nd place finish in Friday’s Prix St. Georges, but they really shone in the Freestyle under the lights on Saturday night.