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Horsing Around

By Lisa Stites

When her daughter fell in love with riding horses at age three, Natalie Sasser said she knew the family needed to move to the country to live on a farm. Now the family has built that farm into a family business, boarding horses and running the Wild Bill Arena at Turn and Burn Farm, 5085 Columbine Trail NE in Leland, hosting all sorts of western style horse competitions. Children’s parties can be booked year round, and there are still a few spots for summer camps too.

“I love being able to give her that opportunity and have this in her backyard,” Natalie said. “I want her to be able to chase her dreams. She tells me all the time she wants to train horses and go to Texas to barrel race horses.”

Turning vacant land into a farm and arena was a bit of a challenge with the sandy soil. “We live at the beach. Our ground is very sandy, which is great because it doesn’t hold water, but it is deep,” Natalie said. They hauled in lots of dirt, because Natalie said it’s important for people to have fun and also for the horses not to get hurt.

“It was all done by us, my family, our friends. We have cleared 12 acres, we have the arena, and we board three horses,” Natalie said. The family has seven horses too, and future plans include adding more space for more horses.

They bought the land in 2016, after having horses bordered in Honalee Stables in Bolivia. Finely made many friends there, even older girls. The positive experiences Finley had also affected Natalie, and it’s something she’s trying to pay forward in all she does with her business.

“I want people to support each other. I want my daughter to cheer for everybody,” Natalie said. “My daughter had that, and I want that for others.”

And that’s exactly the atmosphere at Wild Bill Arena. Spectators — even those without horses or children riding in competition — are welcome. It’s a family-friendly event with a nominal charge at the gate and food service on site.

So how did this Leland family get out into the country and into farms and horse racing? Natalie said that they had tried gymnastics, dance and t-ball for Finely.

“Someone gave us a gift certificate for a trail ride and that was it, “ Natalie said. “She took off with it.” They bought their first horse when Finley was five years old. “Her name is Emma and she is still out here. That horse is worth her weight in gold. She is the queen out here,” Natalie said. There are also mini horses that help out with birthday parties and children’s camps, and Natalie’s mom even has a trail horse.

Natalie is also a math teacher at Southport Christian School, and says she has a great support system with her husband and family in keeping the farm going. The Arena plays host to game shows and competitions. Natalie explained that the game shows draw more of a local crowd, with belts and buckles as awards, but people will travel for the competitions and the money prizes. People came from 300 miles away to a competition earlier this year. The family started horse camps three years ago, but just started hosting shows in January. The shows will go through the beginning of June, take a break to allow for some grass to be planted, and start up again sometime in the end of August. They’ll probably host 18-20 shows this year.

Natalie said she loves how supportive the horse community is and that the sport is great for children. “They learn self control, discipline, taking care of the horses, responsibility,” she said. “They learn everything. They form that bond with the horses.”

She also hopes that farms and stables like hers and others in the area make Brunswick County even more attractive.

“Everyone wants to come to the beach but they don’t know the other side of (U.S.) 17, the country side of the County,” Natalie said. “I’m hoping that when we get to expand, people will be able to come to the beach and ride their horse.”

And what does 10-year-old Finley like best about horses and riding? “Going fast,” she said.


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