By Laura Scaletti
Portraits by Pam Jensen
Glenn and Joan Petty have never met a stranger. For the past 30-plus years, they have welcomed everyone who attends their horse shows with open arms and their signature Southern hospitality.
Whether you enter their show grounds as an exhibitor, vendor, spectator or facility worker, you leave as a member of the extended Triangle Farms horse show family. For the Pettys, family, fun and fellowship are the key components of every show they manage.
Growing up in North Carolina, Glenn and Joan began their love for horses—and were both active in—the local horse scene. However, Glenn rode Western and Joan was a hunter-jumper so it took a few decades for their paths to cross.
“I grew up riding Western horses,” Glenn chuckled. “I rodeoed for six years. I rode saddle broncs, bareback and one bull. I retired after that one bull.”
Joan started her riding story on her family’s farm in Raleigh. “Mom and Dad each always had a horse and started us six kids on ponies when we were 5, 6 and 7 years old. When Daddy was killed in a hunting accident and Mom had six children under 16, Mom decided to buy a string of horses and offer trail rides to make money,” Joan said.
That simple act would kickstart the equestrian offerings at the family’s MacNair’s Country Acres. After the trail horses arrived, Joan could be found leading trail rides for four to six hours a day on the weekends.
“From there we started a lesson program, then a Girl Scout and Boy Scout program, then a day camp for kids interested in horses complete with a swimming pool. Eventually we grew and started doing local horse shows,” Joan said. “We outgrew the first farm and Mom bought another piece of property to build a bigger barn in 1970.”
Not only would the farm sustain the MacNairs, but it would also become a family affair. For years, MacNair’s Country Acres was run by Joan’s sisters, and now her brother operates it. Joan started her daughter, Cam, riding at the farm as well. Cam continued showing through her Junior years and is now the trainer at Triangle Farms, the Pettys’ show barn in Raleigh, continuing the MacNair family legacy.
By the late ’80s, Glenn and Joan each had found their niche in the North Carolina horse community. Glenn had become the state extension horse specialist, while Joan was not only a “pony mom” but she’d also started running shows for the Capital Horseman’s Association.
Two different paths would bring Glenn and Joan to the Governor James B. Hunt Horse Complex in Raleigh. As state horse specialist, Glenn coordinated the design and construction of the complex, while Joan ran her local hunter shows at the venue. In 1991, those paths collided.
“As manager of the horse complex, Glenn was my landlord,” Joan said. “He’d come by daily and check in on everything, then on Sundays he’d show up with an invoice and I’d write the check. It was totally a business relationship and went from there.”
As fate would have it, and with help from a few members of the horse show community, the relationship continued to evolve. “We had a lot of matchmakers, including George Wallace, who noticed neither of us had wedding bands on and wanted to do something about it,” Glenn said. “One day I asked Joan if she’d like to go out, she said, ‘Yes, but not yet.’ I waited a few weeks, asked again, we went out and from there it’s history.”
While Glenn and Joan were building a relationship, Joan was also building the first iteration of Triangle Farms. “We had been boarding at MacNair’s Country Acres since Cam had started showing ponies. When we needed to go to the next level in the horse show world, I decided it was time to build a show barn,” Joan said. “Once the barn was built, I thought, I have a great farm, with a nice ring—I should run shows here. We had our first NCHJA C-rated show on the farm in fall 1990 and kept adding more and more.”
That winter, Joan heard from Glenn that there were dates available at the Gov. Hunt Horse Complex to host A-rated shows, thus starting the Triangle Farm Raleigh Winter Indoors show series in 1991.
It was at the early Raleigh Winter Indoors shows that Joan started dishing out her trademark Southern hospitality, such as cooking breakfast casserole for exhibitors. “When I started running the series, there were no winter shows in North Carolina. I had to do all the extras, such as exhibitor parties, to attract and keep people coming to the shows,” Joan said. “In my heart there is no other way to run a show. I want people to come to the show, have good rides, feel like they are appreciated and leave with a smile.”
For the Children
Glenn and Joan put their hearts and souls into each show they run; however, their real labor of love is the Duke Jump for the Children show. The cause of helping the children has always been near and dear to the Pettys, both involved with Duke Children’s Hospital prior to knowing each other. “Joan and I are on the National Leadership Council for Duke Children’s Hospital, and we believe in doing everything we can to support the kids,” Glenn said.
In 1984, a fateful conversation with a fellow pony mom at a local show would forever intertwine Joan with Jump for the Children. “Pat Holsten told me her friend’s daughter had been diagnosed with leukemia and the reason she was doing the show was to help raise money for the hospital,” Joan said. “A few minutes later she asked if I’d join the committee. I was flabbergasted; I didn’t know anything about running a show and I asked myself, Why me?”
Initially surprised by the request, Joan became part of the committee the following year, became chairwoman of the show in 1990 and took over the show with Glenn in 1994. “When Joan and I took over running the show from Duke, we promised a minimum donation each year,” Glenn said. “We’ve never once dropped below that minimum. To date, we’ve raised $2.6 million for Duke Children’s. It’s not a very profitable show for us because of what we give away, but it’s a feel-good show that we are the most proud of.”
What started as a local NCHJA two-day show has grown into two back-to-back weeks of five-day USEF ‘AA’ premiere shows. However, it’s so much more than a horse show for the Pettys and the local community. “It’s for the best benefit there could be, helping the kids at Duke Children’s who have unfortunately gotten sick. It’s such a special feeling to give back to the community,” Joan said. “The board typically, when there’s not a pandemic, goes on a tour of the hospital. There are a lot of smiles at that hospital, and it feels good to know our show is helping create those smiles, because nothing matters more.”
Giving back to the community is part of Joan’s family legacy. “Mom ingrained it in all of us,” Joan said. “We have a good life, we give back. We work hard, we give back. With Jump for the Children, I’ve found my place where I can give back and feel really good about it.”
More to Give
During the course of his career, Glenn has become a professional horse show manager, USEF steward, USEF and USHJA committee chair and served as executive vice president of the Arabian Horse Association, to name a few titles. Thanks in part to his being the manager of the North Carolina State Fair Horse Show, Glenn has worked with pretty much every breed and discipline there is in the horse world.
In 2020, after a 12-year stint in Denver with the Arabian Horse Association, Glenn decided it was time to retire and come back home to the East Coast. Before Glenn could get too accustomed to retired life, he once again got a call to serve his beloved horse community.
“I was retired for 10 months when John Nicholson announced his retirement as CEO of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation in Lexington, Virginia. Many of the board of directors, including Ernie Oare and Kenny Wheeler, reached out to me and asked if I’d consider taking on the role of CEO,” Glenn said.
After a family meeting, Joan told Glenn if pursuing this opportunity was something he wanted to do, they could make it work. “Glenn wasn’t ready to retire. He thrives when he’s involved in things like the Virginia Horse Center. He loves to be out with the people, listening to them and then making decisions afterwards,” Joan said. “This is a great opportunity for him. He still has more to give!”
With a three-year contract signed, Glenn hit the ground running in May 2021. “My mission as CEO is to continue the modernization of the horse center. At 35 years old, the facility needed a refresh of the barns and arenas,” Glenn said. “Recently, most of the 13 show and schooling rings have had footing renovations, while two of our eight barns have been renovated.”
Like the support Glenn and Joan receive in Raleigh for their Jump for the Children show, the local and equestrian communities have stepped up to support the horse center. “My goal is to keep the momentum going and continue to raise funds to better the facility, while at the same time recruiting new horse shows for the venue,” Glenn said. “I’d love to fill up our dates with top-quality horse shows.”
Glenn and Joan have become more than simply horse show managers; they are the heads of the Triangle Farms horse show family.
“Of course, our number one goal is to present a quality horse show, but the most important aspect of our shows is that we have a good feeling of camaraderie and come together when one of our family members is in need,” Joan said.
This devotion was seen most recently when the couple started a GoFundMe for their legendary show shoe shiner Benny Cash, and they donated entry fees to provide a meal to firefighters who battled a fire at their show veterinarian, Fernando Cardenas’, home and clinic.
As the duo looks to the future, they hope to continue more of the same, giving back and getting so much from their community. “Family is what got us where we are,” Joan said. “The love of horses and helping others—that’s our direction as we continue on.”
For more information visit trianglefarms.com/horse-shows
Photos by Pam Jensen, www.pamjensenphotography.com