The Raucher family at Heritage Farm in Easthampton, MA, bought and sold horses for three generations.
Marie and Jerry Raucher were the first generation at the farm. Marie passed away on Jan. 20, 2017. Jerry passed away in 2003. Their love of horses carries on through their children by selling horses at auctions, offering them for riding and supplying 40 to 50 horses for summer camps.
In the 1930’s and 40’s, Jerry helped his grandfather deliver milk with a horse-drawn wagon in Coney Island, NY and worked at camps in Maine and Pennsylvania on college breaks. He then worked at a stable in New Jersey called Sunnyside Riding Club.
Marie grew up riding horses in the city parks in Brooklyn, NY. When her brother Jimmy worked for a trainer at Sunnyside Riding Club, Marie and Jerry met, married, and ran several stables: Blue Spruce in the 60’s and Smithtown Riding Club from 1968 to 1972. They offered horses in a hack-line and Marie fit in fox-hunting between teaching lessons and raising children.
They had four sons, David, Donald, Douglas and Dennis. After their move to Easthampton in 1972, Diane was born. In a story her father was fond of telling, “This property has had a number of different names. It was called Heritage Farm when [Jerry] bought it and he kept the name and the phone number that people were used to,” said Diane, making the stable easy to find for previous customers. There was a house and 24-stall barn with a tack room, indoor arena, office and two “real bathrooms” with running water. The couple leased the farm for a year then bought it. They added a newer, larger 32-stall barn in the late 80’s. All five children grew up riding and competing.
“My mother always had an eye for horses. My brothers will buy any quantity of horses — 10 to 20 — based on confirmation lessons my mother instilled in us,” said Diane, who carries on her mother’s teachings by teaching riders the basics: “Balance, understanding each horse is an individual and needs to be ridden accordingly, understanding how a horse thinks when [riders] get on to get the best experience, understand the cues [riders are] giving the horse, and how [riders] expect the horse to respond.”
Sales are sporadic, but dependably brisk in spring and late summer, when they sell a lot of the horses they have leased out to summer camps. “They are very popular because people know that they’re horses that are going to be very safe and very useful,” said Diane.
Their 30-acres is devoted to the horses so they buy their hay. The amount “depends on the horses we have and the weather — meaning how much turn out is available — whether they are out in the fields or in the barn on grain and hay, and the quality of hay.”
Having been around horses for their entire lives, the Rauchers have an extensive background on the health, well-being and daily care of horses. Since plenty of things can go wrong, it’s helpful to know how to keep them safe and healthy. When asked about recommendations for ponies which have foundered, Diane said, “We wet their hay and feed them on a low carb diet.” For their one pony which had foundered and recovered, “If we were to turn him right now out on spring grass, he’d founder in a heartbeat. You can maintain a foundered horse to the end of their life, naturally, if you’re careful to control what they eat.”
Diane and three of her brothers live within 10 square miles of each other and Heritage Farm. Dennis — who preferred riding Western style and cattle — carries on the family tradition of buying and selling horses at his farm Heritage Livestock in Mt. Vernon, MO. His wife and children are involved in the Pony Club and local midwestern Hunter shows.
Donald is the man behind the mic at their annual auctions, owning his own auction company, Raucher Brothers Auctioneers. When younger, he rode as an outrider at several tracks and now owns several thoroughbred racehorses. Douglas travels constantly as a Certified Equine Dentist and USEF rated ‘r’ judge.
Many of the 14 Raucher grandchildren, the third generation, are active with horses through daily barn help and as members of IEA and IHSA teams, playing Polo or Pony Club Games and working with many of the sale horses. Diane’s two children, Riley, 10, and Erin, 8, ride their own ponies, and are part of a vaulting team in Connecticut.
Riley’s horse, Jack Frost, is a calm, gray and white flea-bitten gelding. “I liked him. Mom and Dad got him for me. I brush him and he is fun to ride.” And so, Marie and Jerry’s tradition and the joy of having a working relationship with horses continues.