A Long History of Excellence — BHEC’s History Rooted in the Orcutt Dynasty
Lark René Henry and Josh Noble – Scions of the Mighty Orcutt Dynasty
Making a profound impact on both the Morgan and Saddlebred world through five generations, the Orcutt dynasty has a storied past that would fill a history book. We have examined how their ancestors have influenced the lives of the younger generation represented by Lark René Henry of Bobbin Hollow Farm in Naples, Florida and Josh Noble of Burkland Farm in Rowley, Massachusetts, who are keeping the traditions alive.
Samuel Orcutt, who hauled freight with Morgan horses in Vermont in the 1800’s had five, two of whom were in direct line to Lark and Josh. Samuel’s son, Frank, was father to Bob Orcutt (Josh Noble’s grandfather), who established Burkland Farm. Another son, Wallace, the father of Lyman Orcutt (Lark’s grandfather), built Orcland Farm. Both Burkland and Orcland farms produced and showed some of the best horses of their generation, including the great Orcland Leader and Vigilda Burkland, for whom Burkland Farm is named.
Vivian White Henry and Woody Henry Senior (grandparents on Lark René Henry’s father’s side of the family), established the original Bobbin Hollow Farm on 370 acres in Amherst, Massachusetts where Lark grew up. Woody Senior and Vivian created one of the top show barns in the country. Camp Bobbin Hollow, Vivian’s brainchild, attracted hundreds of students from the USA and abroad who learned saddle seat, hunt seat and dressage. With approval from the United Nations, the camp also became popular with delegate’s children from all over the world.
Vivian and Woody had two children, Marsha and Woody Junior, who were both destined to become well-respected professionals in the Morgan and Saddlebred communities. Taking lessons as children from George Nichols at Mount Holyoke College, they learned the fundamentals of riding. When Marsha was 10 and Woody 6, they moved to Bobbin Hollow and when they were old enough, became important contributors to the family business.
Marsha (Shepard), owner of Marsha de Arriaga clothing, became a wellrespected judge and equitation instructor. Woody, the protégé of legendary trainers Frank Bradshaw and Bill Rowan, was always in great demand as a trainer of both Saddlebreds and Morgans. He met his wife, Louise (daughter of Lyman and Ruth Orcutt), on the East coast show circuit when they were both junior exhibitors. Lark remembers stories of when her mom and dad joined in the traditional water balloon fights at the New England Regional show in between sessions. Louise, who began life showing pony hunters and competing in three-day events as a child, brought a wealth of experience to the farm that she still applies today as one of Bobbin Hollow’s senior instructors, teaching everything from dressage to saddle seat. Woody, Jr. and Louise gradually assumed responsibility for Bobbin Hollow from Vivian and Woody, Sr. Learning to ride when she was still a toddler at the Amherst farm, Lark was trained by her parents and her aunt Marsha, her equitation instructor. Marsha taught her grace and style, as well as the finer points of horsemanship. While Lark preferred to compete in the performance divisions, this early grounding in equitation has influenced the first-class instruction she provides today. She learned the art of training and showing from her father as well as patience and organizational skills from her mother.
Lark had what she describes as an idyllic childhood, mixing with the other students at Camp Bobbin Hollow and having the opportunity to show some great horses. When only a lead-liner, Lark remembers with pleasure when her father allowed her to take a victory pass off the line at the New England Regional show. Many victories followed during the junior exhibitor years including top ribbons with her Morgan, Roman Prince Rainier and her three-gaited Saddlebred, CH Private Eyes, with whom she won a reserve world’s championship at Louisville in 1983.
Woody and Louise continued running the Amherst farm during Lark’s high school years, but when it became progressively more difficult to find adequate help to staff such a large facility, they made a decision to move, relocating Bobbin Hollow to just five acres of prime real estate in Naples, Florida. In college at the time, Lark remembers being in shock at the news. “My grandmother (Vivian) and I were so homesick,” she recalled. In spite of the smaller acreage, the farm continues to flourish with 29 stalls. Primarily a Saddlebred operation, Bobbin Hollow is still home to a few top Morgans.
Lark, who worked in marketing for several years before coming back to Bobbin Hollow as a full-time trainer, knew she was being drawn back in by her ancestry. “It’s hard to get it out of your blood,” she admitted. Her father, who is still involved on a daily basis at the farm, gradually gave her more responsibility until she took the helm as head trainer. Not only did a lifetime of learning from experts in the field prepare her for the responsibility, her passion for teaching and her understanding of sales and marketing have kept Bobbin Hollow firmly on the map. Rapidly establishing her own distinguished career as a trainer and instructor, she was voted the Horse World’s People’s Choice 2007 Instructor of the Year and was just recently voted the 2014 UPHA Professional of the Year for Region 4.
In the tradition of her grandmother’s Camp Bobbin Hollow, established so many years ago, Lark has found her adult and child camps to be an excellent avenue for creating new business. The annual adult camp, bringing riders to sunny Florida in the winter, attracts people from all over the USA and Canada. Several children, including world champions Ariana Varveris and Lauren Griffin, have progressed from camp to the Academy program to the Class A show program. Lauren earned multiple titles including the Junior Exhibitor Park Harness World Championship in 2007. Riding HVK Noble Flame, Ariana won world championships in Walk-Trot Saddle Seat Equitation and Walk Trot English Pleasure unanimously out of 21 entries. In 2014, The Varveris family bought CH-EQ CoCo Mojo for Ariana. Immediately successful, she won, among other top awards, the reserve championship in the NHS Good Hands Saddle Seat event at the Blue Ridge Classic and an invitation to ride in the NHS Good Hands Final at the Mane Event horse show. Other, recent success stories are Nissa Sultan who went to camp, started showing in Academy and won the 2014 Three-Gaited 13 and Under Division 2 Reserve World’s Championship with her new mare, Tia Margarita. Emma Phelan followed the same path taking her first ride on the green shavings last year with CH Salt Heir.
In reflecting on a family dynasty so famous they were honored in the Orcutt Family Legacy exhibit at the Museum of the Morgan Horse, Lark was pragmatic. While proud of her heritage, she does not spend time looking backwards. “I work 16 hour days – I only have time to look forward,” she observed. Nonetheless, those who came before her have shaped who she is today – a first-class trainer/instructor with a work ethic to match her talent.
Lark Henry and Josh Noble share a great-great grandfather, Harrison Orcutt, son of Samuel Orcutt with whom the family dynasty begins. While every branch of the Orcutt family influenced the horse world in different ways, Dr. Bob Orcutt, Josh’s grandfather, was famous for establishing Burkland Farm. Dr. Bob and his long-time assistant, Pat Tataronis, whom he later married, was a first-class trainer who applied her skills to help ensure the continued success of Burkland.
Dr. Bob, a veterinarian, was determined to run both a busy large animal practice and a thriving Morgan horse farm. In order to achieve his goals, he worked from 4:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon, then made farm calls until midnight. When those hours were not enough to get the job done, it was not unusual for him to be setting fence posts at 3 a.m. Josh, who lived nearby with his parents, Leif and Helen Noble (Dr. Bob’s daughter), learned early that running a horse farm was hard work. When Josh was still very young, Dr. Bob (Gramp) would strap his car seat to the jog cart and take him for a ride. He loved it. From there he progressed to taking riding lessons, working around the farm and eventually, competing in the show ring. Taught by his grandfather as well as John and Sheri Lampropoulos, Josh was a worthy competitor, although basketball and soccer, for which he earned a college scholarship, kept him away from the show ring at the end of the season.
While earning a business degree at Wesleyan College, Josh worked for Rob Turner, one of the top Saddlebred trainers in the country. When Pat passed away in 2005, he returned to Burkland Farm. Enjoying long evenings talking to Dr. Bob about breeding, judging and training, he was later able to apply much of that knowledge when he and Caleb inherited the farm. “He had a wealth of knowledge and could go generations back in pedigrees. The most important lesson he taught me was you never stop learning; you can learn something from everyone; sometimes it may even be what not to do,” Josh reminisced.
“Gramp always had really nice horses. He wanted Trophy in the bloodlines because they would fire up and go. In Command would give prettiness and with Fleetwing you would get a solid body and square trot. He took his time and believed every horse had a job. First, he would get them broke, then he would figure out what they should do.” Josh took good notes during these precious evenings, making sure he would be able to remember his grandfather’s pearls of wisdom. “There are horses back in the pedigree you can rely on to produce certain traits,” Josh summarized. “Some of my favorite horses are Bell Flaire and Schiaparelli (one of Dr. Bob’s favorite mares). I’m interested in producing quality horses that think well and can do a job, regardless of division. I enjoy watching people enjoy their horses.
Morgans are such a versatile breed; from showing, to carriage, to jumping, to reining, there isn’t a discipline the Morgan cannot excel in.” When Dr. Bob Orcutt died in 2006, Burkland Farm was willed to Josh and his brother, Caleb. Though an avid horsewoman, Helen Noble followed in her father’s footsteps as a large animal veterinarian with little time to spend at the farm, leaving Josh and Caleb as the logical choices to keep the traditions alive. When she does have free time, however, she takes great pleasure in driving some of the horses.
Both Josh and Caleb have responsibilities outside the farm. Josh, who loves teaching young people, received a master’s degree in education and teaches at an urban high school. Caleb runs the Newbury public access TV station as well as providing music for and announcing horse shows under his Noblesteed Productions banner. They keep only 12 horses at the farm, with the emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Josh’s wife Melanie, also an invaluable asset to the farm, showed Morgans under the direction of Harry Sebring while growing up. Now a registered nurse, she helps at the farm whenever her schedule allows.
Josh has the greatest respect for the horsemen of his grandfather’s generation, saying, “They did it right; from the way they operated and how they treated each other. They were a strong community and very knowledgeable. We can learn a lot from looking back. You have to give back to those who have given to you and do it in the best way that you can.” To this end, he is working on getting his Morgan R judging card and was recently awarded the inaugural Young Adult Alliance Scholarship to help with expenses. Josh has a genuine desire to continue his education through judging and to give back to the breed in this capacity. He is also on the show committee for the New England Regional and is serving in his first year as a ringmaster.
With broodmares, show horses and youngsters to be broke as well as a full-time job, Josh is incredibly busy, especially now that he and Melanie have a six-month old daughter, Mackenzie. Reminiscent of Josh’s childhood when Bob Orcutt took him for drives in the jog cart, the couple takes Mackenzie to the barn while Josh works horses. When Mackenzie grows up, she will probably want to show but just as Bob Orcutt would not allow Josh to show unless he worked for it, Josh wants to instill that same sense of responsibility and work ethic in his daughter. “Most of all, I want her to enjoy it,” he emphasized. In the foreseeable future, Josh is dedicated to not only producing quality horses but, in his words, “At Burkland, we want to do our part to promote the breed and see it grow so my family and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the Morgans who have given so much to us.”
Lark Henry and Josh Noble are extraordinarily fortunate to have inherited the wisdom of the many generations who preceded them but they have added their own unique talents to help keep the industry alive for generations to come.
Article originally published in the May 2015 issue of Horse World.