09/01/2005 11:00PM

After 25 years, a change of lifestyle


Four Horsemen's Ranch in Anthony, Fla., does not have the cachet that, say, Ocala Stud has, or Bridlewood Farm. But in its own way the 170-acre working farm has been a success story for almost a quarter-century. So it came as a surprise that Four Horsemen's Ranch is shutting down. Jeff Schwietert, part-owner and manager of this family operation, seeks a change of lifestyle.

"Time to move on," said Schwietert.

Schwietert said he won't be leaving the Thoroughbred industry, but wants to escape from the everyday grind and responsibility of owning and operating a breeding and training business.

"Done this for almost 25 years," said Schwietert, who looks younger than his 47 years. "I just want to be in a different part of the business. That's why I am selling the farm and dispersing."

Phase I of this dispersal took place last month at the Ocala Breeders' Sales annual yearling auction. Phase II takes place next month at the OBS fall mixed sale, where the farm's 27 broodmares will be sold. The final phase comes in January '06 at the OBS winter mixed sale, where the farm's 20 foals of '05 will be consigned.

The farm's broodmare band, usually numbering under 30, has produced 35 stakes winners. Two of them - Val's Prince and Star Over the Bay, both Grade 1 winners - were invited to participate in international races in the Far East. Another, Beldame Lear, was a Group 1 winner in Europe. Still another mare produced Thunderello, runner-up in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Sprint.

One senses in talking to Schwietert that dispersing his bloodstock and selling the farm was not a necessity, rather an option. True, he says, his back problems are not getting any better, but the fact is that the Thoroughbred business has evolved over the years and Schwietert's modus operandi is under pressure.

The 2-year-old market, said Schwietert, nowadays focuses on conformation and the ability to zip a furlong or two. "Pedigree at the 2-year-old sales does not carry the weight that it used to carry," he said.

Schwietert is a pedigree connoisseur, and over the years he shipped many a broodmare to Kentucky because he felt that the stallions that best suited his mares were not available locally. Lord Avie was a popular choice for his mares, as was Cozzene. Schwietert in the main sought sires who could sire a Grade 1 horse. This year, the Four Horsemen's Ranch broodmares have been bred to Speightstown, More Than Ready, and, in what can be described as an act of prescience, six mares were bred to Afleet Alex's sire, Northern Afleet.

Not all the mares in the Four Horsemen's Ranch broodmare band are going to the sales. Schwietert has made arrangements to pension those who, he feels, earned the right to their final years in peace and comfort. Latuyabay, age 25 and dam of five stakes winners, is a pensioner, as is the 27-year-old What a Reality, dam of three stakes winners, including Gotham City, a colt that was pin-hooked from Four Horsemen and sold at the 2-year-old sales for $2 million.

Schwietert and his wife, Shelley, have their own band of talented fillies. Two of their four daughters have won statewide recognition as being superior athletes, and the other two, pre-college aged, are on the same course. The oldest Schwietert daughter, Kelly, is a student at Florida State University, but instead of capitalizing on her abilities as both a first-rate volleyball and softball athlete, she opted instead for an academic scholarship. Christine, another daughter with athletic skills, is a scholarship student at North Florida College.

Schwietert has several wants. He wants to stay in the Thoroughbred business. He talks about getting involved in bringing new stallions to Florida. He talks about management and consulting. He also talks about his other goal to continue his volunteer coaching time with Ocala's Catholic High School.

Four Horsemen's Ranch, says Schwietert, may be going out of business, but he's just changing pace.

Farnsworth in process of closing

Farnsworth Farms has no certain date for the sale of the 426-acre farm property.

"Many nibbles, no bites," said farm owner Mike Sherman.

While the farm is selling its breeding stock in October, the matter of the farm's stallions still has to be addressed. Two of them, Double Honor and Suave Prospect, are in the thick of the competition to become Florida's leading sire for '05.

"Were down to three stallions" said Sherman, "Double Honor, Suave Prospect, and Adcat. And the way it looks at this time is that we'll stand them at the farm for the '06 season."