By Jan Westmark
Emil Spadone’s equestrian career started when he was 12 years old and his family moved within walking distance of Coppergate Farm, owned and operated by Tom and Lyla Florio, in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Emil’s mom loved horses and riding quickly became a family affair. Emil worked in the barn after school in exchange for extra lessons.
A few years later, Mr. Florio asked Emil to work in the main barn, changing the trajectory of Emil’s life. “I was apprenticing with Mr. Florio and showing on our New Jersey local show circuit,” Emil said. “I learned so many things about running a barn and business. I can’t even begin to tell you the countless great memories I have of growing up at Coppergate Farm.”
Throughout his career, Emil feels fortunate to have worked with some of show jumping’s great. “I modeled my approach in training and riding from a combination of my three greatest influences: Buddy Brown; Tim and Michelle Grubb; and Rodney Jenkins. All icons and talents with uncanny horse sense.”
Emil started his own Redfield Farm in 1995 and shared how the farm earned its name. “For several years before I started my farm, I had a great friend in a stray dog that wandered onto our farm,” he said. “He was a kind of red-colored Lab of some sort. After he passed away, I decided to name my new business Redfield in his memory.”
In addition to Redfield Farm, Emil stays busy with his breeding business, Redfield Breeding, and Horseflight, a horse transport business.
You have Redfield Farms locations in Florida and New Jersey. Which location do you like better?
I’m lucky to have both, but we seem to be spending more and more time in Florida — arriving earlier and staying longer. The winter in Florida allows us to show and still come home at night. During the summers, we’re traveling show to show and don’t get to be home as much, so I think that gives Florida the slight edge.
Horseflight is a big part of your life; what do you like about it?
I’m very passionate about seeing it succeed. I feel blessed to have my current team, which came under our new management four years ago. It’s a very competitive industry when it comes to pricing. Customer service and attention to detail lead in setting us apart and above. Our motto is “Fly First Class.”
What do you like best – training students, breeding, or buying and selling horses?
I love it all. If I have to put them in order, I would say number one is buying horses: the excitement of seeking out and buying your next talent you dream of being one of the best. Breeding would be next. You have the same dreams, only it takes quite a bit longer. Training and selling stand together for me. Training a successful horse-and-rider combination is as fulfilling as selling a successful horse-and-rider combination.
What’s the goal for your breeding program?
To produce the type of horses we’re seeking when we’re buying. The best horses clearly have the most positive impact, but I realize they’re not all going to be superstars. For the rest, my goal is finding the right discipline and putting them in the right hands, in order to have a successful match at whatever level and whatever price point.
Do you have any students or riders over the years who really stand out?
This business has introduced me to many students and riders over the years. I can appreciate something about each and every one of them. It reminds me of an old saying Mr. Florio hung on the wall at Coppergate. “Everyone here brings happiness.”
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
It has given me the opportunity to have made some friends for life — people I cannot imagine my life without. I also get up every morning and get to do something I love, and it doesn’t get better than that.
What’s your favorite meal?
I’m Italian, and even though if you know me you know I am always dieting, pasta would be my favorite meal. Most shapes and sizes, I love pasta.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I would like to slow down time. Life is too short; I want to live to be 200 but feel like 25.
If you weren’t involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
I would have been involved with real estate sales and development.
If you had a week off, what would you do?
Rent a house on the beach … and do nothing!
Who inspires you?
My team inspires me. For each endeavor, whether it be Horseflight, Redfield or Redfield Breeding, my team of incredibly hard-working people inspires and drives my passion to succeed.
How would you like people to remember you?
I would like to be remembered as a good person: a nice, humble, good person.
Photo by Adrienne Morella