Friday, December 8, 2023

‘I always had a horse’: Shooting Star Farm in Spofford celebrates new equine facility

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SPOFFORD, N.H. — When he was 8 years old, Scot Tolman got his first pony. He was growing up in Swanzey, N.H., and his dad converted a chicken coop into a stall for Beauty, named, of course, after Black Beauty.

“I always had a horse,” said Tolman, during a phone call while he was driving to Greenfield, Mass., to get a frozen horse-semen tank recharged with nitrogen. “The only time I didn’t have a horse was when I was in grad school in Florida.”

At Shooting Star Farm on the edge of Pisgah State Forest, Tolman and his wife, Carol, breed Dutch Warmbloods, also known as KWPNs or Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland.

Carol Tolman, with a doctorate in educational psychology with an emphasis on literacy, was a former school teacher and is now a literacy consultant.

Shooting Star Farm has become one of the top breeders of KWPN horses in the country but it wasn’t until this year that Tolman said they had a facility that could meet their business and personal needs.

Last month they hosted an open house at their new equine facility with more than 150 people attending.

With the new facility, the Tolmans hope to showcase their programs and provide an opportunity for people to learn more about KWPN Horses.

“I think that I was born a breeder,” he said. “I tried to breed my horses when I was a kid. If I came from a more educated family I probably would have been a geneticist.”

After graduating high school in 1978, Tolman went to the University of New Hampshire as a pre-veterinary science major.

“At the end of my first semester, I auditioned for a play and I got the lead,” said Tolman, who dabbled in the high school drama program. “And then they offered me scholarship money. I guess I’m a theater major.”

He went to grad school at the University of Florida for acting and directing, leaving his horses behind.

While at grad school, in 1989, Scot’s brother, Gary, died in  a snowmobile accident in Harrisville, N.H. Grieving the loss, he turned back to what gave him comfort growing up.

“When my brother was killed the first thing I did I went out and bought myself a horse in Florida,” he said. “My friends thought I was crazy. They didn’t know that part of me at all, but I knew that’s what I needed.”

Tolman had plans to work as an actor in California after grad school, but with the death of his brother, his priorities changed and he returned home to New Hampshire to start a family and care for his aging parents.

He taught high school English for 16 years and also owned and operated a restaurant in Swanzey for a while and helped found Edge Ensemble Theatre Company in Keene.

“Acting wasn’t my prime motivation in life. Horses have always been. Originally, I started breeding these horses because I wanted to breed a quality horse for me to ride and I couldn’t afford to buy at the time.”

He decided to breed Dutch Warmbloods because one of the only people nice to him when he was asking questions was a woman who owned a Dutch horse.

“And then serendipitously, maybe two years later a guy showed up at our doorstep, a Dutch native who had been transferred for his job and he wanted to ride and his dad bred Dutch horses.”

Tolman then made a trip to the Netherlands, where he now maintains a dozen breeding stallions.

“The Dutch keep track of everything. So for me, being an information hound, it was just a natural fit.”

He goes to the Netherlands frequently, but last year he bought for himself a schoolmaster, a horse that is well trained in the upper levels of dressage.

“I just wanted a place to be able to ride it around,” said Tolman, about the new facility, which he hopes will be an educational center in New England for KWPN horses. “So we decided, before we got any older we would just do it.”

Tolman remembers what it was like to scrape together pennies to care for a horse while growing up, so he works out financing plans so folks can get an affordable horse as a way of paying back all the kindness he has received over the years.

“I come from a really poor family and if people hadn’t been kind to me along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Tolman, who is also a writer, keeps an online journal at shootingstarfarm.com.

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