Sarah Winning the Ladies 3-gaited World's Championship aboard WC. CH. Mr. Center Stage

EQS Alumni of the Month: Sarah Byers ’77

Owner of Premier Stables (Simpsonville, Kentucky)

I was very involved with the music department while I was at William Woods even though I was an equestrian studies and business administration major. I was an Alpha Phi and it was great to be part of a sorority. Over breaks, I traveled with the Chamber Singers, which was always a fun experience. The college atmosphere for me was great. I am the youngest of four girls and I was always just someone’s younger sister, so it was exciting to go to a different university than my sisters and be a part of my own community. When I was there,we were required to wear dresses on Sunday to the dining hall.  The student with whom I took my campus tour made such an impression on me that I decided to go to William Woods that very day. It was both a new and exciting experience but also a safe and protective environment. 

The whole trajectory of my life started the day I chose to go to William Woods. It set me up for my first job, which is also where I met my husband of almost forty years. 

The earlier days with lots of kids and lots of World Champions
The earlier days with lots of kids and lots of World Champions

How you treat people 

In the equine industry you have to work as hard as you expect your employees to work. It’s also important to treat people how you would expect to be treated and especially important to maintain good relationships with your peers. We are very fortunate that most of our employees have worked for us for over 20 years and we have a very loyal customer base, which can be uncommon in this industry. We started our business in 1980, which is a long time to keep a good reputation. A lot of our early riders have returned with their children to take lessons and share the enjoyment that they experienced as kids.   

Rob & Sarah the night she won the Ladies 3 Gaited World Championship and Rob won the 5-Gaited World Championship
Rob & Sarah the night she won the Ladies 3 Gaited World Championship and Rob won the 5-Gaited World Championship

Saddle Seat in Kentucky 

I grew up in Kentucky and returned after graduating from William Woods. I interviewed at the Rock Creek Riding Club, and with the help of Gayle Lampe, was hired as the riding instructor there in 1977.  My first apartment was in the clubhouse.  Rob, who became my husband, started as an assistant trainer in 1978. The management of the riding club was offered to us in 1980, and we were married in 1981. After renting Rock Creek for 9 years, we were able to purchase the former Don Harris Stables in Simpsonville, KY in 1989.   

The opportunity to run the Rock Creek Riding Club at the time we did was unbelievable – I don’t think it would be possible to do something like that today. We have slowed down a little bit with the work ourselves, but we still train horses and teach lessons. 

In the past, we worked 40 horses a day and also taught lessons. I have always been the one who handles the business side of things. We have had a lot of assistants over the years, many of whom are also William Woods alumni. That includes Renee Biggins ’83, who worked with us for 10 years when she first graduated and is working for us again. It is great having her back, as she is such a good rider and teacher, with a strong work ethic.  Today, we work about 18 horses a day and teach around 100 lessons a week.  

We have owned property in the Cayman Islands for years.   One of the reasons I think we are still going strong today is that we take time off each year and go there to relax. Rob is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer; I like to read and bike. We have friends from all over the world in the islands. In this industry, a lot of people get burned out.  We have been fortunate to find a way to keep working at a high level, but at a slower pace. 

Sarah being honored with the 2019 Audrey Pugh Guthridge Award at the Ky. State Fair World Championship Horse Show
Sarah being honored with the 2019 Audrey Pugh Guthridge Award at the Kentucky State Fair World Championship Horse Show

Teaching is always rewarding 

My favorite part of the horse business has always been teaching, which is also why I love having Renee at the barn.  She loves teaching as much as I do. If you enjoy people and can communicate well, you will always have a career. Whether you are teaching world champions, adults who enjoy their once-a-week lessons, or just watching kids grow up with horses, it’s always a rewarding experience. 

I have been fortunate to win many championships and so has my husband. Those are thrills we will never forget, but they might also not happen again. We still love coming to work because we love the day-to-day of the job. 

Advice for Students 

You need to be open-minded. We have had five different assistants that came from William Woods, and they were willing to do whatever we needed. They would work horses, teach, or anything else. We have run into young people who only want to do one part of the job and not others. You need to be willing to do whatever your job calls for and prove yourself to your employer.