By Tafra Donberger
Portraits by Shawna Simmons
Back when the horse show scene was relatively small in Birmingham, Alabama, there was a little girl who dreamed of bigger things. This was where Allison Majerik Black grew up, and thanks to her mother, loved horses and nursed that dream of bigger and better horse shows.
Her horse story began with a pony, whom she lost to colic, and then a second pony who was like so many ponies equestrians are familiar with — rank and difficult. Her third pony took her to her first shows, around age 9. Allison participated in Pony Club, which gave her that all-around approach to caring for horses as well as riding, that eventually led to teaching lessons at only 15.
“I wanted to build my own business and show farm,” Allison said. “I made all of that happen to produce horses, ponies and riders who compete at the top national levels.” Today, Allison owns and operates Fox Lake Farm, in Birmingham, which has a team of talented trainers that help her manage a booming business. They travel every year to shows like Devon, Washington International and various USEF competitions.
Love of Horses
Allison’s mother, Mary Anne Majerik, was the catalyst for Allison’s own equine dream. Though her family had nothing to do with horses, they didn’t discourage her, and soon, Mary Anne had her own horses, showed and eventually owned what is now Fox Lake Farm. She was able to share her love with Allison very early. “She grew up out here, crawling up and down the aisles,” Mary Anne said. “She didn’t really have much choice in the matter. She always gravitated to it more than her sister or brother did.”
Both Mary Anne and her husband, Jim, would foxhunt together, with little Allison in the “pumpkin seat” or smiling on her dad’s hunter. Later, when Allison was old enough to ride, she went to summer camps and lessons with her sister, Leigh. “When my sister stopped riding, I asked my mom if I could have her lesson each week so I could ride more,” Allison recalled. “I went to my first A show at age 16, and after that, I realized that was the direction I wanted to go.”
Realizing early on that the glitz and glamour of the bigger shows was what she wanted only gave Allison the drive to pursue it, which aided in building her business to what it is now. By 16 she had saved enough to buy her own truck and trailer to take kids to horse shows. She put up ads in the local grocery stores, and it grew from there.
Birmingham still had a racetrack at the time, so Allison would buy off-the-track Thoroughbreds, turn them around and sell at a profit, which helped her get clients. Now, she has nine staff members that divide and conquer. “I feel like my biggest accomplishment is having people work for me who grew up in my program,” Allison said. “It’s tremendous. They treat it as their own, it’s like family. They do an amazing job, and they know the whole program.”
Gem of a Horse
It was Allison’s junior hunter In The Dark, or Blackie, who stands out as the most memorable mount she competed on. The Thoroughbred was owned by Robert Watkins, who asked Allison if she’d like to ride him while he was out of town. “I loved riding him,” Allison said. “Robert took a job in North Carolina and asked me to help sell him.”
Rather than helping him sell Blackie, Allison bought him herself. “I got this fantastic horse! He did anything. He was a wonderful Thoroughbred, he jumped amazingly. He made up the difference for all the tough ones I had!”
She’s since had many wonderful horses come through her barn, including Eloise, the 2012 Horse of the Year owned by the Styslinger family and shown by Claudia Styslinger. “She is an insanely talented, smart creature!” Allison said.
Another barn favorite is Elliott, who, in a world dominated by warmbloods, is a Quarter Horse. Elliott went from pasture turnout with western training and parade experience to one of Allison’s most dependable and loved lesson horses. “He’s just perfect,” Allison said. “He’ll take you from your first lesson to jumping your first vertical. He’s worth his weight in gold.” Elliott has been with the team at Fox Lake for four years now.
From lessons to the show circuit, Allison and her crew enjoy taking their clients from short stirrups to the big circuits, where they take pride is seeing them do well. It comes full circle when students come back to the farm as trainers. “There are lots of horse shows and lots of wins, but I feel like my biggest accomplishment is growing two of my own students, Guerry Force and Carlyle Brown, into hard-working employees,” Allison said. “They truly have a vested interest in this business and I’m so proud to have them working for me!”
Becoming a Judge
Not many 15-year-olds know what they want to do with their lives, but Allison has certainly proven an exception. There were those who helped her along the way, like Roger and Judy Young, who shared their knowledge and paperwork, giving her advice along the way; and there was the fact that Allison is just that determined and capable.
“Mom always said when I came out, I was 25 years old,” Allison laughed. Her mind for management has helped many youngsters find their skill in the saddle, taking on everything from local shows to USEF and Devon. If that weren’t enough, she pursued her judge’s card, receiving her “r” card in 2012 and the “R” card in 2016. “I find it inspirational to sit on the side of the ring and view it all from a totally different perspective,” she said. “Plus, I know what the trainer at the in-gate goes through to be there, because I’m in that position so often!”
At the end of the day, it’s Allison’s personality that shines through. “She’s very good at dealing with people,” Mary Anne described. “She’s very outgoing, very sure of herself.”
For more information, visit www.foxlakefarm.com
Photos by Shawna Simmons, www.sasequinephotography.com