By Britney Grover
Portraits by Isabel J. Kurek
It would be easy to say that Tiffany and Matt Morrissey are a ‘horse show family.’ Tiffany runs East Wind Farms, currently home to 47 show horses, and Matt owns Morrissey Management Group (MMG) with his father and is an owner and operator of Traverse City Horse Shows. Much of their lives revolve around horse shows—their 5-year-old daughter, Mattelyn, known as Matty, has grown up practically living at shows. But even in this horse show family, it’s family, and not the horse show, that comes first.
“Yes, we work a lot—but we try and enjoy time together. We make time to do things as a family, vacation here and there or just spend time together on a Monday,” Tiffany said. “Our daughter is very important; making time to do things together is very important. You don’t get these days back.”
Horse Show Life
Tiffany grew up on Long Island in a family where nobody rode or had anything to do with horses. There was a local barn down the road from her house, and Tiffany told her parents she wanted riding lessons—which grew into an intensive Junior career. Working with top professionals, she developed skills catch-riding hunters, jumpers and equitation horses. “I spent the winters in Wellington and always loved it; I knew I wanted to live here, and I definitely knew I wanted to do this professionally,” she said.
Her final Junior year, Tiffany won ribbons at equitation finals, earned her gold medal for winning over 20 USET classes and placed second in the USET Talent Search Finals. She turned professional immediately after Indoors, going to work for trainer Jimmy Torano, and soon added her first Grand Prix win to her resume. While building her skills and before setting out on her own, she met Matt.
“We met at the horse show, and started dating—I was living in Wellington at the time, and he was done with school and living in Wellington also,” Tiffany said. “He was in the management side of the horse shows, so we managed our schedules as best we could to try to show in the same locations.”
Matt doesn’t ride at all—despite being third-generation in the horse show industry. His great-uncle, Gene Mische, was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and received the USEF Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to producing show jumping events as founder of Stadium Jumping, Inc. Matt’s father, Michael, worked alongside Gene to create and manage some of the country’s most well-beloved shows.
Growing up, Matt worked at horse shows like Lake Placid that his father and uncle ran, but never got into the “horse thing.” In fact, when he went to school, it was on a golf scholarship. After graduating with a master’s degree, he continued the family tradition in horse show management full time. Even though he’s not “horsey,” being in the industry means he understands Tiffany’s goals and workload in running East Wind Farms.
“It’s definitely beneficial that we’re on the same page, and there’s an understanding of the level we both want to be in the sport,” Tiffany said. “We travel a lot, and sometimes one of us is home and one of us is away. Traveling and showing at bigger venues is just part of it; there’s a full understanding of the business from top to bottom.”
Tiffany created her own business, East Wind Farms, in 2007, and she and Matt were married in 2008. Since then, they’ve each been growing their respective businesses—and their family.
Matty is 5 years old and started kindergarten this year—which has been the biggest change for the family. “Up until this point, it’s been pretty easy because she hasn’t been in school counting absences,” Tiffany said. “She’s traveled anywhere that’s possible. I take her everywhere with me—she’s been dragged to all the nice restaurants and customer dinners. It’s a little bit of a transition.”
With Matty attending school at home in Wellington, either Matt or Tiffany try to be there with her as much as possible. “I do have a very large business, and I work a lot—I try and juggle both to 110% as much as I can,” Tiffany said. “She is my number one priority and her education is very important to us. We do all of her school events, anything that’s feasible for us—family comes first.”
Tiffany loves being hands-on in her business: She’s a self-proclaimed “control freak” at the barn, riding early in the morning and late at night and involved with all 47 horses in the East Wind Farms program. She has a large customer base, as well as client horses she brings along and competes up to as high a level as they can go before being sold—including winning ribbons at Derby Finals and in Grand Prix. All of that means in order to have the ability to step away and put her family first, Tiffany needs a great support team.
“We have people that have been with us for a really long time—my assistant, Maggie Gould, has been with me for 10 years; my barn manager, Heli Rincon, for 14; and my ‘at-home’ trainer, Jen Gais, worked with me for a few years at the beginning and left to start her own family and now she’s back,” Tiffany shared. “Everybody has been together for a long time, and I think that sort of camaraderie between us feeds over into the program. We have a good team, and I think it’s important that I can take a step away here and there to do stuff with Matty. I have a good team behind me to keep things rolling—and I do appreciate them, that’s for sure!”
While successful in the ring herself, topping many derby and World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) classes, right now her business is focused on developing the young sales horses she has and helping her clients achieve their goals. “I’ve had kids that I started from the beginning, and really watched them go through the ranks and succeed,” Tiffany said. “That’s a highlight for me, watching them grow and mature into adults and meeting their goals. We try to set goals for everybody, whatever level they’re trying to achieve—we spend so much time together teaching, it really is a partnership between the riders and us.”
At Home in Traverse City
East Wind Farms is based in Ft. Lauderdale, and has expanded to include a farm in Traverse City, where they’re based in the summer right next to Flintfields Horse Park—home of the Traverse City Horse Shows, a large part of the family’s life since Matt took over the show in 2015.
“This was our eighth summer there, and it’s especially important to me being that Matt is there and spending a lot of his time there,” Tiffany said. “They have so many weeks of showing now, so we all get to summer together—we’re very lucky that we’re pretty much in one location. Traverse City is another home for us now; we’re building a house on the farm as well. We look forward to the nice weather and getting out of Florida for the summer heat!”
It’s the weather that comes up first when listing what she loves about Traverse City. “The town itself is really nice,” Tiffany continued. “There’s a lot to do. We go out on the boats on Mondays. There are good restaurants, and it’s a very family-oriented area where families can come and other siblings that maybe don’t ride have other activities than just the horse show. It’s one of the top resort towns and a nice summer spot for everybody, not just the riders.”
Outside of horse showing, the Morrisseys love the water, whether it’s fishing or a day at the beach. They prioritize family vacations whenever they fit in, always in a warm climate with water activities. Tiffany and Matt both dive, and Matty just started snorkeling. As for the horse shows themselves, the first priority is to keep them fun for Matty.
“We just try and make it fun for her right now, since she’s so little—I just want her to enjoy being at the show with us, seeing that we’re pretty much living at a horse show,” Tiffany said. “It’s important that she likes to be there. Right now, it’s really fun for her. If she wants to show, she shows; if she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t. But she definitely likes to ride and loves the ponies, the animal aspect of it.”
Enjoying the Days
Matty has two ponies of her own and they’ve leased several here and there for her. She loves to ride after school, and enjoys practicing. She has a special bond with Maggie, who trains her rather than Tiffany, who tries very hard to stay in the “mom box” as she watches all the lessons—which doesn’t always work out as planned.
“Last year she was like, ‘Mom I’m doing the poles,’ and I was like, ‘What? Doing the poles, what are you talking about?’ She said she was going to try out the poles; well, the pony trotted in and cantered out—I jumped the fence and was out of my mind. The pony just looked at me, and Matty was totally fine; they were like, ‘What are you doing?’” Tiffany laughed. “I’m sorry, but that was just too much for me. ‘Back in the box’—I’m trying!”
One might think that with the pressure of all of her different busy roles—including being an ‘R’ hunter judge—Tiffany would enjoy time to do things for herself. “I don’t really have much—I keep my nails done, that’s one thing I do,” she joked. “But really, if I have any extra spare time, if I get home early, I’m in the pool with Matty. I try and spend any ‘free time’ with her—I really enjoy her company, and we do a lot together. For me, I really love to shop, so retail therapy is fun—but I’m happy to stay at home and hang out with her. We live in a great house in Wellington, so ‘love where you live’—and we sort of live in paradise down here.”
When it comes to business goals, Tiffany would love to return to the Grand Prix ring—but for now, she’s happy where she is, focusing on what she is. “The amount of effort and drive to do this at this level is a 24/7, everyday goal—to do it the best that you can,” she said. “I try and juggle that with being the best I can as a wife and mom. But you know, I’m lucky. We have a really nice life; like I said, you don’t get these days back with our daughter. Mom is the most important job I have.”
For more information, visit eastwindfarmsllc.com and traversecityhorseshows.com
Photos by Isabel J. Kurek, www.isabeljkurekphotography.com