By: Vicki Schuster, The Brookings Register
Two local entrepreneurs have taken their combined 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and have opened a special five-star hotel. But this one isn’t for people.
It’s for horses.
Both tired of the corporate world, Adam Welch-Hagemann, a former assistant restaurant manager, and RJ Welch-Hagemann, a former hotel general manager, have opened W.H. Stables, LLC.
Previously known as Triple H Stables & Arena, their facility is located at 1913 20th Ave., behind Ramsdell’s. They took the reins July 10 and said they did it because timing and the opportunity were just right.
“I think we got in at a good time with the SDSU school year just around the corner,” RJ said. “Brookings is growing, and I think people are going to need more horse boarding.”
W.H. Stables sets itself apart from the others because it is the only one in the area offering all boarding services, including up to full care. This “pony pampering package” will have the two personally carting grain, hay and water to the horses. Their stalls will also be cleaned out twice a day.
Some of the other boarding options include:
– Pasture care: Allows the horses to stay and roam outside while still giving the owners barn rights and use of facilities like the horse wash area.
– Partial care: Horses will be fed and watered at the owner’s cost.
– Self care: The owner will take care of their horse.
– Overnight and weekend boarding: Out-of-towners and people who need assistance for their horses can inquire about short-term services.
Currently, W.H. Stables has good vacancy. The barn includes 30 stalls with the front area having 12 heated and freshly painted ones. As of press time, nine of them are up for grabs. The remaining 18 stalls in back have room for 12 new renters.
It also includes a riding arena (available for rent to non-boarders), a wash station and three pastures.
The property also contains areas for humans to live, work and play, too. There is a three-bedroom apartment and two mechanic shops, both available for rent.
Even though they are new to being business owners, both have several decades of equine experience as RJ began working with them before he could even read and write.
“My life changed significantly when I got on a horse for the first time at age 4, and I was cleaning hooves by the time I was 6,” RJ said.
Growing up on the Lake Traverse Reservation near Agency Village in northeastern South Dakota, poverty, unemployment and substance abuse were the norm.
“These beautiful, majestic, intelligent animals have not only been a way of life to me and my people, they actually saved me,” RJ said. “When I had problems I would just go find a horse. They were always there to listen.”
In 2009, Adam and RJ packed up and headed south as RJ enrolled in equine science classes at the Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology in Denver. Serious health issues ended that dream for him after a few semesters when he contracted Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
“At one point, I wasn’t able to walk and was in a wheelchair for a few years,” RJ said.
To be closer to family while RJ recovered, they moved to Sioux Falls. While his health continued to improve, the pair suffered another major setback when a late-night house fire took everything they owned but the shirts off their backs.
As the two started over, Adam began his climb into management in the food service industry and RJ began working at a clinic in Brandon for five years as a veterinary technician.
In 2016, they moved back to the Brookings area, and were both working at South Dakota State University before taking over the stable. Adam was most recently with Weary Wil’s, and RJ was in environmental services.
Junior SDSU Dairy Production and Agricultural Communications student Taylor Gilmore has been boarding her horses, Annie, 13, and Charlie, 2, at the stable for two years now and says she could not be happier that Adam and RJ traded in their mops and spatula for pitch forks.
“The fact that the two of them are very driven and passionate about all animals helps give a sense of security to those of us who want to board our horses here,” she said.
Proximity and hours of operation are another two major factors she loves about W.H. Stables.
“I like that it is close to campus and has a full-time riding arena,” Gilmore said. “I also like that there is no curfew, so if you have to do chores or work your horses late at night, it just makes things easier.”
But even more than location, Gilmore, who trains with Annie for competitions with the SDSU rodeo team, says RJ’s vet background and having both of the men accessible from sunrise to sunset makes a big difference.
“Now with Adam and RJ being onsite, they are really making the grounds look good, and it will help their stable get taken more seriously,” she said. “They both know how to handle small, everyday things to emergency situations.”
She says the more attractive the atmosphere, the more it will entice high-quality, talented horses and their riders. “Competitors under the same roof are a good thing,” she said. “It’s good for both the horse and the trainer.”
Whether you are experienced with horses or if you are new and don’t even know where to start, Adam and RJ said they are here to help. Their programs fit everyone’s budget and lifestyles as they offer three-, six- and nine-month and one-year leases.
“We’re just two guys who love horses and care about their well-being,” said Adam.
“Happy, healthy horses is our game,” he said.
W.H. Stables is planning an open house for early fall.
For more information, contact them at 605-759-7728 or 605-789-1854. They can also be reached at email@example.com, or find them on Facebook.