AHT’s February Leader Of The Times

Leader of the Times -

AHT’s February Leader Of The Times

Leaders Of The Times: Jerland Farms—A Family Tradition
by ANNE STRATTON

Anyone who has observed the Arabian industry for the past several years can tell you that Larry and Shelley Jerome’s Jerland Farms, in Barron, Wis., is a notable success. That’s no surprise, as their senior sire, *Khadraj NA, is routinely highly-ranked on Leading Sire lists at top shows. But stallions, even headliners, are only part of the story; to understand Jerland, you have to understand the concept of family. It’s the Jeromes’ guiding principle, and it applies to both horses and humans.

Start with the horses. *Khadraj NA is the leading living sire of national winning Arabian western pleasure horses; he had signaled his potential even before Larry Jerome acquired him in 2007, and at Jerland, it all came together. However, he turned 25 last year, so down the aisle in the stallion barn stands the next generation in the Jerland program: his 6-year-old son Khaja J, out of the Huckleberry Bey daughter Promise V. And already, Khaja J has demonstrated his ability to breed on; one of his earliest foals was Kola J, who is currently in training with Stanley White III for a western pleasure career. He is slated to carry on his heritage. “He’s in the same mold as dad and grandpa,” Larry Jerome observes.

And the humans? As with the Jerland Arabian sire line, there are three generations of horse-loving Jeromes. Larry and Shelley have seven children, all of whom participated in equine activities, beginning in the barn as youngsters (“our kids took care of their horses; no one did it for them”) and then in the show ring. A love of competition, Larry says, is in the family DNA. “You have to realize that it’s not about just winning with an animal,” he says. “You’re trying to build a person—create an individual who has the ability to [make decisions for the animal] and who is responsible for its wellbeing.”

Six of the seven Jerome children have been in Arabians and many still are, although one maverick, Jeremy, has joined his wife in Warmbloods. Right now, some are focused on families (Lyndon and Alicia have horses for their children, but don’t show) and careers (daughter Sacia is an orchestral musician and a member of the indie pop-rock group, Well Known Strangers). But even with other demands, a few still compete in the show ring when the time is right.

“Some are a little bit crazier about horses, like their father,” Larry smiles. “One of my biggest thrills last year was that my oldest daughter, Daria, rode at the U.S. Nationals for the first time. She didn’t have the opportunities that some of her younger siblings had because she had been raising four boys and running a farm, but she went top ten in Western Pleasure Select AATR in a class of more than 40.”

He was likewise pleased when Moriah, his second daughter, rode Brass Star to the 2008 Canadian National Championship in Park AOTR, and the following year, nailed a top ten in the U.S. National Championship English Pleasure AAOTR as well. Best known of the Jerome kids in the Arabian business, of course, is the youngest, Indira, who has ridden and shown Jerland horses all her life. “She had a regional championship at 11,” Jerome recalls, “and showed all the halter horses for me.” She now continues the Arabian commitment with her father, involved in breeding decisions and showing horses.

And the third generation? “Indira’s daughter is so horse nuts already, you couldn’t keep her out of the pasture when she was 3,” Larry reports. And he beams when speaking of Daria’s son, Zach Stransky. While many of Larry and Shelley’s grandsons love to ride western, Zach chose English Pleasure, and last summer, he and the then 5-year-old CRF Shinning Encore earned two championships at the Youth Nationals. On Fire Fighter Ted, he added a third one in Country English.

Here’s where the genealogy connects so intricately that it begins to sound like a new version of Ancestry.com®. Zach’s horse is out of CRF Brass Lady, a full sister to Moriah’s mount, Brass Star, and Daria’s Kharmel J is a daughter of the Jerland stallion MPA Giovanni, out of the Marinos’ Kharmel BR, a *Khadraj NA daughter.

“Everything is family!” Jerome nods.

“To me, our family is reflective of the diversity that horses are used for,” he adds. “We have the English, hunt and western riders, we show halter, and we have a couple of cowboys in the family. Even though we’re seven kids and mom and dad, and there are a lot of similarities, we also have the individual differences, and that’s what makes the passion for the Arabian horse so unique—diversity.”

A simple adherence to quality and commitment is the tradition that passes through generations of horses and humans at Jerland. Larry sees how his family and his Arabians fit in the same big picture. “We did everything together,” he recalls of the years when he and Shelley were building Jerland Farms. “I always say, when you are a family of seven kids, nobody invites you for dinner. So, your kids become each other’s best friends, and to this day our kids love doing things together.”

That means there is always a crowd on hand now. “Our immediate family is 40 people, just kids and grandkids and spouses,” he notes. “Seven children, 24 grandchildren, seven in-laws, and Shelley and I.”

Nowhere was that more clear than during the past holiday season. “On the first weekend in December, we get together to make potato sausage and lefse,” he says. “Those are Scandinavian foods handed down from our grandparents.” Cousins fly in from around the country for the event, which—no joke—resembles an animated Norman Rockwell moment. Raised in the tradition of hard work, many members of the clan are very accomplished in their professions, but no one complains of their lowly assignments (peeling potatoes, onions and garlic, and grinding and mixing meat). In a day, 500 rounds of lefse and 350 pounds of potato sausage emerge.

“There are 95-year-old people working alongside 3- and 4-year-old kids,” Larry says. “Then everyone cleans up and we have a big dinner.” There are humorous awards and toasts to grandparents, and then everyone picks up musical instruments, and Christmas carols, traditional old dance tunes, pop songs and more fill the air.

All of that is about more than just happy times, Larry Jerome feels. For him, a strong family and a thoughtful, well-reasoned breeding program—such as Jerland has, but which is available for all serious breeders—represent a bedrock strength for the Arabian industry. “Life is about where you came from,” he reflects. That’s true for both people and horses.