Planning for the Unpredictable
How Horses Improve Our Professional Lives: Loretta Briede
By Shannon Ott
In the heart of Frederick County lives the Briede Family Vineyard. Established in 2013 and owned and operated by Loretta Briede and her husband, Paul. Loretta, a longtime horsewoman, dreamed of operating a vineyard in her local area of the Shenandoah Valley providing grapes harvested as sustainably as possible to create an overall wonderful and unique wine drinking experience. When asked how horses prepared her for the life of a vineyard owner, she replied “horses are unpredictable, so is the weather”.
Loretta who began riding at the age of three learned about the unpredictably of horses when placed on a Welsh stallion without a stitch of tack. A small Loretta bobbled on the back of the feisty pony who had promptly took off. From those early experiences through to Loretta’s teen years she cannot remember a day not spent with horses, whether riding, racing, driving, breeding, or even swimming with the creatures that had captured her heart. From age 10-19 she rode with Vince Dugan at Blue Rock Enterprises in Pennsylvania. Loretta speaks highly of the nine years she spent with Dugan, and he remains one of her greatest influences in the sport of riding.
In 1975 Loretta learned about another unpredictable part of the horse world, finances. She was forced to sell her show mare and walked away from horses for the next 15 years. During this time Loretta met husband Paul and had two children. While in Curacao pursuing Paul’s aviation career, Loretta found a Manege (Dutch riding school) and was able to help a boarder with their own unpredictable and problemed horse. It was at that moment something clicked back into place for Loretta and she was ready to begin riding again.
Upon returning to the States Loretta’s family bought her an unbroke 3-year-old thoroughbred, she was back in the saddle and has not left again since. Her daughter, Cyrena, took an interest in riding and rode along side Loretta on many hunts with the Blue Ridge Hunt Club. Cyrena rode an Appaloosa that her mother purchased for only $700, Loretta has always believed in the most inexpensive horses having promise, Cyrena and her “cheap” horse won many local championships and even East Coast Appaloosa of the Year. In 1994 Kathy Neuman, a friend and trainer, found Loretta’s heart horse. A Thoroughbred called Laird Ivor that Kathy expected would be an amazing horse. In 2002 Loretta and Laird won the North American Field Hunter Championships. They also won many local championships throughout their partnership.
For years Loretta would buy off-track horses or other inexpensive projects and would implement the skills Vince Dugan had taught her all those years ago. Loretta found success competing horses locally through the VHSA Associate Program. In 2008 she and her horse placed 6th Amateur Hunter year end, she also placed in the top 10 in Green and Pleasure in Lexington. Loretta also remembers fondly riding with her sister and her in laws at the Devon Horse Show in the family class. After some hearty discussions about maneuvering the horses through the class, it seemed that they may not make it as far as the ring, cooler heads prevailed, and Loretta and her family walked away with a blue ribbon that day as well as a fond family memory. Riding remained a part of Loretta’s life as she began planning for her vineyard. In 2013 she had retired both her Thoroughbreds, and the time seemed right to begin planting. Loretta notes that both her life with horses, and at the vineyard has required “hard work and a vision for success”. Especially when faced with the unpredictability and challenges that both bring.
At 59 Loretta began to fall into the all-encompassing world of wine, but she was not giving up on riding. After a long search for the perfect horse, Loretta found Ascending Flight (Rea) a 4-year-old Canadian Sport horse. Knowing that this was likely to be her last horse, Loretta hoped for the perfect final partner. After a knee surgery Loretta began looking into on the ground techniques to use with Rea to strengthen their bond while she was healing. A new mentor, Janice Smith, introduced Loretta to natural horsemanship. Even though it was totally different from everything she had learned before, Loretta remained openminded to the idea of natural horsemanship, and saw major results at Rea’s first show walking away with a reserve champion and winning her first class. 2016 was quite the year for Loretta, she purchased and shipped Rea from Canada, and sadly the same year both her retired thoroughbreds crossed the rainbow bridge.
For a year, her barn sat empty, Rea was being boarded off the property. No horse nickers in the mornings for grain, the smell of horse slowly dissipating, Loretta was ready to move on. 2017 saw the first Briede crop under a USDA certified program, and saw the transformation of Loretta’s beautiful barn, to an even more beautiful tasting room. Loretta remembers fondly all her memories in the barn with her beloved horses, but even more is ecstatic to continue to make even more lasting memories with family, friends, and customers that come to enjoy a glass of her wine. 2018 was bittersweet. As the tasting room opened, the entire Briede crop was lost to extreme amounts of rain creating too much moisture. The unpredictability of the weather had struck, and Loretta was forced to pick up the pieces and rebuild their entire crop. That hard work paid off, in 2020 their wine “Sparkling Winchester” won a silver medal in the Governor’s cup in Virginia, and their “Arandell” wine won a silver medal at the International Sommelier Challenge in San Diego. Since the Briede Family Vineyard specializes in hybrid grapes, the flavors are quite different from what you would expect, they are one of only a few vineyards that specialize in hybrid varieties.
As the tasting room has begun to see more customers, Loretta has seen less of her horse and even less saddle time. Rea is boarded right down the street from the vineyard, so long as the weather allows it, Loretta tries to ride most mornings before performing her vineyard duties. Last year the vineyard was prepared to hire a tasting room employee to lift some of the burden from Loretta’s shoulders, and allowing more time with riding Rea. Unfortunately, COVID-19 destroyed the chances of any new hires, as they had to find a way to stay afloat in the most unpredictable time anyone has faced.
Loretta has two passions in life, her business and her partnership with her horse. Both have their ups and downs, are fickle, and can be downright heartbreaking at times. Loretta’s final remark was that every morning she gets up and faces what her business has to offer, “it may not be the horse I wanted that day, but it is the horse I have to ride.”
The Briede Family Vineyards offer a variety of wines, private event planning, and have a variety of events throughout each month, May events include: May 9th: Mother’s day Dessert Extravaganza May 28th: Melanie Pearl Live (every Friday night through Oct 28th), Sexi Mexi food truck 5-8pm May 30th: Irish Music 2-5pm