Lucky C Stables, a much-loved equestrian business located on Yankee Folly Road in Gardiner, is changing hands after 34 years of continuous operation by Gary and Susan Clark. By the time you read this, it’ll be a done deal, with the closing scheduled for Wednesday, November 10. The Clarks are retiring to their getaway house on Eagle Lake, near Ticonderoga, following a Thanksgiving gathering in Gary’s native Missouri with family they haven’t seen since before the pandemic.
The sale of the 21.5-acre property could have been an occasion for mourning by the tight horse-loving community that has grown up around the Clarks’ operation, where the children who learned to ride there in the 1980s have been bringing their own children to do the same in more recent years. Farmland on the market always draws the attention of housing developers, because it’s an easy place to build. But Gary and Susan were adamant that Lucky C must go on.
“This has not been easy,” says Susan. “We talked to a lot of people. It took a long time to find the right person whom we were comfortable with.”
That right person turned out to be Siyon Kim, an educator and speech/language pathologist who landed in New Paltz about five years ago and started looking for a place where she could ride and keep horses of her own. “I spent my formative years in Southern California,” Kim says. “I used to ride when I was little. But my family didn’t live in the country, so I didn’t have access to horses.” She traveled east for her education, at Bryn Mawr and NYU, and went on to raise a family. But, she says, “My fascination never ended. I kept circling around to horses every ten years to try to make it work in my life…. When my kids got older, I looked around and said, ‘It’s time to get horses.’”
Coincidentally, a friend of hers from Montana was relocating to New York and needed a new home for her two horses, so Kim took them on. And Lucky C was the place she found to board them, with a paddock where they could be turned out daily. As she got back into riding, Kim and the Clarks quickly hit it off. “There was just something about her; she’s a kind, genuine person,” says Susan. When it came time to identify a prospective buyer, “Siyon Kim checked every box. We wanted somebody who would hold it dear to their heart.”
Kim says that she was motivated by the strength of the “existing community” that revolves around Lucky C. “It’s really a group effort…We’re just rolling up our sleeves and helping each other out,” she explains. “We’re trying to keep their baby going, which is what we all wanted. It made us very emotional to think of all that being gone.”
Most of the operation’s existing staff will remain in place after the Clarks hand over the keys, including veteran program director Jessica Williams and recently hired barn manager Sammi Senak. “Trainers, barn operations, facilities management – everybody’s staying on,” says Kim. So will established programs, for the most part, including regular weekend jaunts to equestrian competitions throughout the Northeast (and sometimes further afield). Noting that there is less of an established social network among the people who use Lucky C mainly for boarding and lessons, Kim adds, “I’d like to focus a little more on programs for the boarders, the people who do not compete.”
Lucky C’s Community Riding Program, which offered up to 120 lessons a week to all comers, will come to an end, says Susan: “A new policy started October 1: If you take lessons here, you have to lease a horse after the first ten sessions.” The stables are currently home to about 30 horses, half of them boarders and the rest owned by Lucky C and made available for lease or lessons.
“Some of the horses have been here for 15, 18 years,” says Gary. “They’re part of the staff.” Kim has made a commitment that all will be retired on the farm when the time comes. The Clarks will take their grown daughter Lindsay’s pony with them into retirement; he’ll live with former riding instructor Kristy Fink, who has relocated to Saratoga.
Carol herself – a New Paltz native who began riding at age 6 and met her husband when she was pursuing her degree in Equestrian Science at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri – will continue to conduct hunter/jumper clinics for riders who want to compete, including monthly visits to Lucky C. And she plans to seek licensing from the US Equestrian Federation, “so I can officiate at horse shows.”
At this point, mainly the couple want to “take a year off and regroup,” according to Susan. “We want to change things up a lot, get away from the day-to-day grind, have more space to do other things.” The Clarks have vacationed in the Adirondacks since their son Wayne, now 30, joined the New Paltz High School cross-country ski team and began competing regularly in Lake Placid; they bought their Eagle Lake house about four years ago. But in their line of work, Gary observes, “You may be away, but you’re never away.” Travel is in the cards now, and they have family all over the country they want to visit.
The local riding community can take comfort in the fact that the Clarks are leaving Lucky C in the hands of people who value its programs and culture. “It’s a beautiful piece of property. We’re leaving it at the height of our career. We have the nicest horses and the best riders, and our horses are winning. We’re leaving on top,” says Susan, a little wistfully. “We’re literally handing her the business. It’s turnkey and ready to go.”