The history behind Willow Brook Farms is immense, and viewers of the Sept. 30 episode of “The Ride with Cord McCoy” will get to experience it.
“Only about 45 minutes from Philadelphia and 20- minutes from New Jersey lies one of the best equine facilities on the East Coast,” McCoys said as he opened the show, which airs at 1 and 11 p.m. Eastern time Mondays on RFD-TV. “We’ve definitely found a diamond in the rough.”
The 325-acre property sits between Bethlehem and Allentown in eastern Pennsylvania, which was acquired by James W. Fuller. His son, C.T., however, is the one that made Willow Brook Farms into grand piece of equine history.
“I stepped off the plane, and 10 minutes later I’m on the back of a horse,” McCoy said, explaining the property’s proximity to the urban life that exists in eastern Pennsylvania. “That, actually, was one of the advantages of that place back in its heyday, because if somebody wanted to view a horse, they could fly in and ride a horse, then be on a plane back home in an hour.”
There were a lot of advantages when it came to horses at Willow Brook, and it centered on horses.
“When I was a little girl, I would see pictures of my grandmother and my grandfather riding horses,” said Holly Fuller McLain, C.T.’s daughter. “When I was 8 years old, he bought a horse.”
C.T. Fuller hired Bob Anthony as a stable boy and to ride some of the farm’s horses.
“He asked my dad if he could start riding my one horse, breezy,” McLain said. “That fall he entered the horse in the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg. He won the open stock horse class on Breezy.
“That was the start of it.”
Fuller realized he had something, and he built upon the passion that was burning. He acquired the great Joe Cody, which has been inducted into the American Quarter Horse Association and the National Reining Horse Association halls of fame with Fuller.
“My dad had very talented natural athletes,” McLain said. “Bob Anthony was very naturally gifted as a horseman and trainer. Gene Brandner was the one who developed and created a good sliding plate. The first sliders were Gene Brandner putting sliding shoes on these horses so they could go out and really slide.
“The team my dad had was amazing. When we got horses and Bob Anthony was champion, my father got a spark to do something with horses. He had a vision about Quarter Horses and promoting them. He was a very good businessman, and he always had a vision of what he wanted, and this was it. He had a dream, and he made it come true.”
Those who were around him most saw that spark, and they knew then they were part of something special. But it’s the legacy that took McCoy and “The Ride” video crew to Pennsylvania to shoot the episode.
“The history of the place is what got to me,” McCoy said. “When you’re there, you realize that the most famous reining horse trainers have been through Willow Brook forever. It’s pretty awesome.”
It is. Willow Brook farms sits on rolling hills and is tucked away in the country living that’s just a stone’s throw from the city life. But alongside the trees and grasslands is majesty for those who understand.
“There’s just something about this place that is reining,” horse trainer Josette Conti said. “It sort of is where reining came from. It feels like home.”
It was for C.T. Fuller, and he passed along his love and his legacy to those closest to him. Now they’re excited to carry it forward.
“There are so many people behind the farm that I’m excited for its future,” McCoy said. “You talk to some of the people who worked with him or grew up around him, and C.T. is the kind of guy, that if you had a time machine, you’d definitely want to meet.”