Almost every young girl dreams of owning a horse one day. And Dana Grimaldi was no exception.
In her case, she got her horse. Now, 20 years later, she’s found herself running a horse-breeding operation on a sprawling property in Riverhead — with a massive, newly built indoor horse ring serving as its centerpiece.
More than a year ago, Serendipity Farm was just a big, empty property and a dream. Then the work began. Ground was broken in July 2012 and the farm officially opened in September.
“We’ve only been here one year and we’ve done so much already,” Ms. Grimaldi said. “I still can’t believe it.”
The land off Mill Road is part of a preserve that covers 20 acres, 17 of which can only be used for agricultural purposes. The legal arrangement allows Ms. Grimaldi to breed horses, which is considered farm work, but not to offer boarding or give riding lessons. The barn, which is 40 feet by 220 feet, was designed by Ms. Grimaldi and custom built by Morton Buildings Inc. of Cutchogue. The motif is charmingly old-fashioned and weather vanes adorn pointed rooftops. There are 20 oversized stalls so mares and foals can lie together comfortably, and each stall is equipped with heaters and heat lamps for the foals, should they become ill.
The barn’s main hall is at least twice the size of a normal barn and is outfitted with wash stalls and palpation stalls for vet visits to pregnant mares. One of the more impressive features is the barn’s indoor ring, which is massive at 100 by 200 feet, and covered by beautiful exposed wooden roof trusses.
An eight-stall barn dating to the 1800s remains on the property, but it has fallen into disrepair and cannot house horses, Ms. Grimaldi said. She hopes to renovate it to accommodate stallions. By the end of the year, she also plans to start building a half-mile track with a chute and a jogging track in the woods to build up horses’ hind legs and prevent injury. Behind the barn lies a sprawling expanse of land with 18 oversized outdoor paddocks. Horses are turned out for the entire day to graze and relax, which is generous compared to other facilities, where horses are turned out for only a few hours a day.
Ms. Grimaldi has been around horses since she was 10 and has ridden and competed at the Thomas School of Horsemanship in Melville. She attended Morrisville State College in upstate New York, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in equine science, majoring in racehorse management — specifically, thoroughbreds. In 1999, she began working at Belmont Racetrack for Claude “Shug” McGaughey, who’s been a trainer for more than 30 years and won more than 240 grand stake races.
“I worked for him every chance I could on college breaks and summers,” Ms. Grimaldi said.
From hot walker to foreman, Ms. Grimaldi worked her way through the ranks of the racing world before moving on to obtain a degree in veterinary technology.
“I missed it,” she said. “I wanted to get back into racing, but with my own horses.”
Her first mare was thoroughbred racehorse Montauk Daisy, who she trained while still working on the track. Ms. Grimaldi bought the horse from the Entenmann family in 2010.
“She became my foundation mare and the whole reason for the farm, and why I named it Serendipity,” she said.
Presently, 12 horses reside at Serendipity. There are four brood mares, three of which are pregnant. A mare’s gestation period is anywhere from 11 to 12 months, so Ms. Grimaldi only breeds every other year.
“I breed slowly for quality,” she said. “It produces a better quality horse and a better quality of life for the mothers.”
Pregnant mares Sax and the City and Montauk Daisy graze contentedly in the back paddock. Across the yard, stallion Peter nickers at the girls. He and Montauk Daisy have a bit of a history together.
“Peter used to pony Daisy on the track,” Ms. Grimaldi said. “Now I use him to break the babies here, but they defi nitely remember each other from all those years ago. That’s why I named it Serendipity,” Ms. Grimaldi said. “Everything just keeps coming around.”