Merilee Ventura is the Owner/Operator of ByWay Farms, a Hunter-Jumper barn, training horses for Hunter Equitation or Jumper careers, located in Carthage, NC. A licensed USEF “R” judge in Hunter & Hunt Seat Equitation and ‘r’ judge in Jumpers, Merilee has over 40 years’ professional experience and currently serves on the board of the NCJHA.
Merilee began riding competitively at the age of seven and started training other riders while she was still in high school. She established ByWay Farms in Medford, NY in 1974. Originally a four stall barn, ByWay grew to over 30 horses and 100 riders. During that time she had numerous students qualify for Medal & Maclay Finals as well as qualified, shown and placed at:
- Harrisburg National
- Washington International
- The National Horse Show
- National Jr. Hunter Finals
- National Pony Hunter Finals
- NAL Finals
- Zone Finals
Seeking a warmer climate (and longer show season), ByWay farms relocated to Carthage, NC in 1996 where Merilee continues to foster excellence in both horse and rider. In 2001 Courtney Reese won the National Pony Equitation Final out of 286 riders. Courtney was the first and only NC rider to achieve this goal. She was also awarded second in the Large Pony Hunters.
Merilee’s horses have been Zone Champions in First Year Greens, Second Year Greens, Amateur Owner, Adult Hunters, Children’s Hunters & Ponies. In addition, they have been awarded First, Second and Third at Jr. Hunter Finals as well as First, Second and Third at Madison Square Garden in Small Jr. Hunter.
Merilee recognized early on in her career that there was always more to learn and attributes much of her success to those trainers willing to share their knowledge with her through lessons, clinics and friendships including, Frank Chapot, Gordon Wright, Judy Richter, George Harris, Wayne Carol and many others. During the 1970’s Merilee was hand selected as one of the top six trainers on Long Island to be personally mentored by Captain Vladimir Littauer (the developer of hunt seat equitation). Today, much of her training style is still heavily influenced by his teaching.
It is because of the generosity of these trainers that she has a passion for sharing her knowledge with others and as a result several of her students are wonderful professionals out there today.