YORK-Jim and Pauline Creeden have owned and operated Topline Horse Center in the Coventry area of York County since October 1997. Pauline, using forward-seat riding principles outlined by the America National Riding Commission, has instructed more than 1,000 students in her riding lesson program, while Jim, a professional farrier, runs the center’s day-to-day operations.
In addition to riding lessons and farrier services, the full-service facility offers horse training, riding day camps for children, boarding services, and monthly horse shows throughout most of the year. The horse center provides a family atmosphere, along with instruction consistency, so that students are comfortable and know what to expect when they arrive for their lessons.
Prior to obtaining the horse center, the Creedens both attended Virginia Tech. After graduation, the horse farm’s current owner at the time reached out to Pauline and asked if the couple would be interested in purchasing the center. Pauline grew up in York County and spent many of her childhood years riding at the facility. The Creedens’ son, Jimmy, has had the unique opportunity of calling Topline Horse Center home since the day he came into the world.
“Growing up here, our son is very familiar with horses and helps us out on the farm whenever he can,” said Jim Creeden. In addition to running Topline Horse Center, the couple opted to homeschool their son, Jimmy. While homeschooling can be an isolating environment for some children, Jimmy had the opportunity of meeting other children while his mom was teaching riding lessons. Currently 21 years of age, the Creeden’s son is an engineering student at Thomas Nelson Community College.
“The Conventry neighborhood is a great area to own a family business,” said Jim Creeden. “In addition to the environment, it’s a good location to run a business because there’s a lot of military, NASA, and other government enterprises nearby.”
Topline Horse Center offers day camps for children throughout the year. In addition to daily riding lessons, students learn about general horse care, such as feeding requirements and vet care. The camps are open to novice and advanced riders who want to learn more about horses than just being in the saddle.
“We hold camps that coincide with York County’s school calendar, so they’re offered over spring break, Christmas vacation, and we have three to four camps over the summer,” said Jim Creeden. The Creedens started an after-school camp during the pandemic that grew in popularity while kids enrolled in public schools were cooped up and attending virtual classes.
“We were really busy last year with the after-school camp, so we were fortunate in that regard,” said Jim Creeden. “Now that a lot of kids are back in school, we’re focusing on holding lessons in the afternoon one day a week for kids who are homeschooled.”
The center offers lessons to children who are at least six years of age and able to ride a bicycle without training wheels.
“They need to have good balance to be in the stirrups,” Jim Creeden said. Riders begin with private lessons that provide one-on-one instruction. Once riders can walk, trot, canter, and perform small jumps with their horse, the students transition to group lessons that are composed of three to seven other riders.
Stables on the farm are home to roughly 15 horses throughout the year; sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on how many horses the family is boarding in addition to their own horses. “Most of our horses live a long time, well into their 30s because they have a steady environment instead of being tossed around their whole lives between owners,” said Jim Creeden. “Once they come here, they’re fed high-quality, balanced feed and get plenty of exercise on our program.”
The most prevalent horse breed on the farm is the American Paint Horse, Jim Creeden’s personal favorite. “We also have thoroughbreds and an occasional Quarter Horse,” he said. “Because I go around and shoe horses, I’ve noticed Paint Horses are just really sweet horses in general. In addition to their beautiful coloring, they have nice temperaments.”
Topline Horse Center sells Blue Seal balanced grain feed from their tact and feed shop on site. “We normally sell clothing and other items through the tact store, but since the covid-19 pandemic, we’ve temporarily closed that portion of the store and are currently just selling feed,” said Jim Creeden.
The Creedens are members of the Virginia Horse Shows Association and hold horse shows from January through October on the first Saturday of each month. “In November, there’s a championship held every year in Lexington, VA,” said Jim Creeden. “Our place has been the home to a lot of champion horses and riders throughout the years.”