Inside this haven for horses near a busy intersection in Port Orange.
Watching horses peacefully graze in a green pasture along the side of a busy street is an unusual sight in the middle of any city. That, however, is exactly the view one gets at the corner of Nova and Madeline avenues in Port Orange where Port Orange Stables occupies the land.
The building is two stories high and made out of concrete block from floor to ceiling. During hurricanes, people bring their horses from around the area to it for safety.
The stables have been in the city since 1965 when the 54-stall building was created by Gottlob and Ellen Koenig. Originally the family was from Tennessee, where they had a successful career showing Tennessee walking horses.
Tennessee walkers are gaited horses, which means they have a smooth, even movement for a rider in the saddle. If they were cars, they would be luxury models that provide quiet, even rides while having lots of pep.
There is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the middle of the property, also. When Hurricane Irma came through, Laura Metzger, great-granddaughter of the Koenigs, stayed in the apartment. She said she did not even hear the hurricane.
When the Koenigs decided to move to Florida, they wanted a state-of-the-art equestrian center where people could congregate and compete. During its prime years, Port Orange Stables was the premier Tennessee walking horse facility in the country. National competitions were held on a regular basis.
The Koenigs owned a champion Tennessee walker stallion named Triple Threat, who sired several horses who became champions themselves. One of the foals stayed with the family and was named Triple Threat Again. Father and son ruled the equestrian circuit for many years.
“During the '60s, Port Orange Stables was the only building in the area," said Laura Metzger, daughter of current owner, John Metzger. "Nova Avenue was barely a dirt road. The rest of the land was just land as far as the eye could see.”
The Koenigs and Metzgars watched the city grow up around it.
As time progressed, competitions became less popular, and the stables transitioned to a regular boarding barn that housed many different breeds of horses. After Gottlob Koenig died, care of the grounds became harder for an aging Ellen Koenig, and the barn started showing wear and tear.
Boarding was self-care, which created inconsistencies that provided challenges for both horses and boarders.
Currently, Joey Layne and her husband, Terry Tyler, are the barn coordinators and grounds keepers. The stables is now a full-care boarding facility. The consistency with feeding and pasture turn out has improved life for the horses and fostered increased cooperation among boarders.
Layne and Tyler have made extensive repairs to the stalls and mid-pasture fencing. They painted and cleaned stalls, cleared out areas in the barn aisles where hay and boarders’ equipment used to be kept, and they established a small lounge area for people to gather.
Layne and Tyler opened pasture areas outside of individual stalls, called run-ins, where horses can go in and out of their stalls at will to have more exercise and choice for grazing.
New boarders are coming to the facility and stalls are filling up. Boarders who have rescue horses get a reduction in fees.
The Metzgers, Layne, and Tyler have definite plans for the future of the historic building. They plan to build a regular outdoor arena with state-of-the-art lighting and arena footing.
They want to bring a professional trainer on board who would give basic riding lessons as well as teach advanced riding such as Dressage.
Re-fencing the entire perimeter of the farm is another project for the future.
Currently Layne trailers out individuals or groups who want to go on trail rides. She often has gatherings with campfires and social activities that foster goodwill.
Layne said individuals can ride their horses on the street. Riders are cautioned, however, to be sure to clean up any messes their horses may leave.
Port Orange Stables is a solid reminder of days gone by, yet is transitioning to the future for those who love horses and want to keep them close to home.
It's a great view from the street, too.