Aimee LaFayette began riding when she was five years old, when her grandmother, Janice MacLean took her to her first lesson. Five years later, Aimee’s grandparents built Franktown Meadows Equestrian Facility so that both her sister Sarah and she could pursue riding year round – something that was not widely available in Northern Nevada. As a junior rider, Aimee competed successfully in the pony hunters, junior hunters, and children’s jumpers. Aimee returned to riding in 2009 after a long break from horses. Since this time, she has become more involved in the management of Franktown Meadows by promoting the facility’s assets to host events such as a standalone hunter derby, EAP clinic, dressage competitions, as well as monthly clinics. In addition to her time working with her family at Franktown Meadows, she is enrolled in a doctoral program for Cultural Anthropology. She conducts research in Zacatecas, Mexico on violence prevention education.
Sidelines: How did you get started with horses?
AL: It was my grandmother, Janice MacLean, who was always in love with horses. Unfortunately, she passed away four years ago from pancreatic cancer, but she passed on her love to her family, it really goes back three generations.
Sidelines: How did the idea for the Franktown Meadows Derby get started?
AL: My grandmother began the love for riding within my family and the little barn of Franktown Meadows was eventually built. It was the idea of being a premier facility for hunter/jumper and dressage training in Northern Nevada. Nothing like that really existed. When we achieved a twenty year history of being a boarding/training facility, the idea for the Derby came about. Sue Lee, who is very good friends with Rush and Carl Weeden, introduced us and they have really helped us. It was really through the support of Diane Carney and the Weedens that we had the support to grow and expand.
Sidelines: How would you like to see the Franktown Derby grow and change over the coming years?
AL: We hope to become one of the most traditional, respected and important events that people seek out to participate. We believe in the longevity of the program and that it isn’t going to be abandoned by the industry. It is something that is going to be closely related to tradition and one of the best places to have a hunter derby.
Sidelines: What challenges have you faced?
AL: Well, as far as challenges, it’s two-fold: locally and geographically. Horses in Northern Nevada are typically tied to things more western-oriented in discipline; we educate our local community as our primary basis. We are a destination, it is a special destination, but it is out of the way of the typical horse show circuit, we have to convince people that the travel is worthwhile.
Sidelines: Is there anything else you would like to add?
AL: We do the Derby in the name of our grandmother, Janice M. MacLean, because she would have said “yes” to this immediately. We also do it because we have such a love of the sport, and enjoy being able to contribute to it in a meaningful way.
-By Kendall Bierer