When Kathleen Taylor was just 10-years-old, her father purchased a 20-acre farm that would set her on the path to where she is today.

“My dad gave me a choice at the time. He said I could either have riding lessons on school horses at a nearby hunter/jumper stable or I could own a horse, or four, as it turned out. However, the catch was I would have to help build the barn, the fences and even harvest hay every summer. In the end, I chose the farm route.” Taylor said.

Taylor soon was showing her own horses and took riding lessons when she was able. She went on to attend Bennett College in Millbrook, N.Y., where she majored in Equine Studies and Fine Arts and was elected vice-president of the intercollegiate riding team. 

But it was not until she purchased her first small farm in Ocala that she became surrounded by, and involved with, Thoroughbreds. 

“My next-door neighbors trained and raced Thoroughbreds and I found a business retraining the non-winners and retired racehorses as hunters. With my past connections in New York and South Florida, I could barely keep up with the demand. It was back-in-the-day when the Warmblood craze was just beginning to have a dominant presence in the U.S. show rings, so the sound, attractive Thoroughbreds were still highly sought after as hunter and jumper prospects,” Taylor said. 

Her involvement with the Thoroughbred community eventually led her to an advertising sales position at Florida Horse Magazine. A year later, she went on to publish an all-breed shopper’s guide which later developed into Florida Thoroughbred Weekly, featuring national race results for Florida-breds. 

“This was accomplished through a custom-built database provided by Daily Racing Form which was developed exclusively for Florida Thoroughbred Weekly. The racing digest rivaled regional Thoroughbred publications and with its weekly circulation of more than 2,000 Florida breeders, owners and trainers, it grew to have mail subscribers in 16 states. In May of 1996, our primary focus changed from publishing to specializing in equine advertising, mainly for Thoroughbreds,” Taylor said. 

Taylor also owns her own company, Capstone Graphics, which has now been in business for nearly 30 years. 

“During that time, the boutique agency has launched or maintained the campaigns of more than 100 successful stallions in Florida and New York. A few of the prominent sires from then and now include Kissin Kris, Premiership, Stormy Atlantic, Graeme Hall, Silver Buck, Skip Trial, Northern Afleet, Successful Appeal, Bustin Stones, Big Brown, Cajun Breeze and Freud, to name a few,” Taylor said.

It’s no surprise that while surrounded by all things Thoroughbreds, Taylor found herself attending the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company auctions and purchasing her first broodmare in partnership with her mother. 

“The offspring of that broodmare was a chestnut filly that we sold as a yearling. She went on to win four races and later become a producer. Over the next 14 years, I bred and sold a few more racehorses. However, my primary focus then was operating Capstone Graphics and occasionally scouting hunter prospects for agents.”

Taylors daughter, Andi, was a teenager at the time and decided she would take a break from riding to play high school volleyball. 

“We had just sold our last pony and my farm was empty. It wasn’t even two days later Andi called me, frantically saying, Mom, you have to come and help save these horses.”

Andi and her trainer were driving on a road outside Ocala when they saw a mare foaling in the field as people stood around watching, not knowing what to do. Andi and her trainer went over the fence and helped foal the mare. But then, they noticed there were dozens of abandoned horses. 

“The Thoroughbred farm owner was facing a dilemma of not being able to care for the other horses and was facing charges, so he asked me to take as many as I could and he would hand over the papers,” Taylor recalls. “I had no clue what their pedigrees were, but I proceeded to bring home several mares who were in the poorest conditions to help save them. Begging me to take more, we then ended up with 22 more emaciated horses, mostly mares. Word got around about these abandoned horses, and several farms donated hay and feed while vendors sent medical supplies. The help we received was incredible. Once I had the registration papers for horses, I began calling their breeders to ask them to adopt back the horses they bred. That ended up being savior for several, but certainly not all of them.”

After a couple months, the horses recovered and Taylor proceeded to advertise them for sale. A few farms donated seasons to help Taylor recover the expenses with eight mares being bred on those donations.

“Of the remaining mares, there was one I decided not to sell. She was 18 years old with a sweeney shoulder. So if she did happen to become in foal, she would require special care. Remarkably, Cent Nouvelles went from the bag of bones condition we found her in and blossomed into the most beautiful, dappled chestnut you could imagine before producing a bay colt by Shakespeare.”

Cent Nouvelles foaled French Quarter on April 8, 2011, at age 19. Unfortunately, she passed away the following year.  

“French Quarter was a winner as a. 2-year-old and raced under the trainer John Mattine and owner M. Howard Walton until he was claimed for $65,000 as a 6-year-old following a win at Gulfstream Park. After placing in a couple of stakes, he eventually began running for a tag every three weeks. I was watching him closely, and by age nine, he was being claimed every time he raced. The tag was getting lower each time, and I was becoming concerned about his future. My husband, Norman Haferkamp, and I began going through the process of finding a trainer to help claim him so we could bring him home,” Taylor said. 

Taylor first applied for an owner license, but her efforts proved futile as the claims box was full and they did not win the shake. 

“This is when I reached out to Mike Lakow, vice president of racing operations at Gulfstream Park, and also Tammy Gantt at the FTBOA, to help find a way to jump through the hoops. Finally, through a combined effort, we were able to purchase Frenchie and bring him back to Ocala to retire. French Quarter capped his career with earnings of $455,271 and 71 starts.”

Today, French Quarter is enjoying his retirement.

“I decidedly took a break from breeding and owning horses and sold my farm in 2016,” Taylor said. “But as many know, it never really gets out of your blood. Today, together with my husband Norman, we’ve bred and sold yearlings—two of which are now 2-year-old Florida-breds. On March 15, 2024, we also had a filly foaled by Rogueish, out of our stakes-producing daughter of Fusaichi [Pegasus].”

Two years ago, Taylor also purchased a 2-year-old and raced him with trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr.

“It was thrilling as newbie owners to stand in the winner’s circle after he won his second start. Max Swagger, a 4-year-old gelding by Shackleford that stands 16.3 hands, is now in dressage training in Ocala and preparing for a new career as a jumper next year. Max currently resides in the stall next to French Quarter,” Taylor said.

Return to the March 26 issue of Wire to Wire