Billie Sullivan and Steven Highet to show off horses at ‘open barn party’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 28, 2014

WOODLEAF — You’ve heard of an open house, certainly. But what about an open barn?
That’s a horse of a different color isn’t it?
And horses are what you’ll see on Sunday, Oct. 5, at the Open Barn Party from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pantheon Acres Arabian Farm, 2225 Needmore Road in Woodleaf. The event will feature face painting, pumpkin painting and a coloring contest. A presentation of horses and the history of Straight Egyptian Arabians — the farm’s featured breed — takes place at 2 p.m.
Billie Sullivan has had a lifelong passion for horses. In October 2012, she bought the 20-acre farm where she lives with her fiancé, Steven Highet.
The barn on the property was in bad shape, she says. “We gutted it. We’ve rebuilt it with our own two hands. We’ve put in new wood where we couldn’t keep the old.”
They’re still in the process of finishing up 10 stalls and a breeding lab. The barn doesn’t exclusively house Arabians, but that’s its main focus.
Billie loves Arabians, but specifically wants to continue the breed known as Straight Egyptian Arabians.
“I started with one,” says Billie, 25. “I always wanted my own land and my own place.”
Billie says that SE Arabians are considered more rare than other Arabians. “Some people consider them more pure. They’re incredibly versatile and very smart.”
She is a military police officer with the Army National Guard based in Rocky Mount.
A native of South Africa, Steven, 31, works full-time for the National Guard as a helicopter mechanic and flight crew chief.
The rest of the time, you can find both of them at the farm.
“I dragged him into this,” she says of Steven, who serves as the barn’s breeding manager.
Billie’s mom got her into horses.
“I had my first horse when I was 12, and caught the fever,” she admits.
Billie and Steven met through the National Guard, and moved to Woodleaf to make Billie’s dreams come true.
Billie loves introducing her horses.
She describes Nar Azar as an up-and-coming stallion at 2˝. His gray coat will eventually turn pure white. His name translates to “Fire of March.” Arabians may be gray, chestnut, bay or black in color.
Lily of Paradise, or Lily, is a chestnut Arabian that Billie likes to call The Blonde Barbie because of her light mane. Although both horses are smaller than you’d expect, they’re relatively big for Arabians, Billie explains.
Two colts, Amir Moudalal and Awasef Al Meenah, nicknamed Moo and Thunder, were both born here. Thunder got his name — The Port of Thunderstorms — because he was born during an “insane storm,” Billie says. Moo’s name translates into “The Spoiled Prince.”
Zapporah, a black bay Arabian, is the face of the farm because she was one of the first mares Billie bought. Her full name is Zapporah Al Jannat, which translates to “The Beautiful One of Paradise.”
“She’s actually our favorite,” Billie admits. “She’s beautiful and she’s got a great personality.”
Other horses in the barn are Rosie, whose full name is Rosetteaa, a 21-year-old mare; Gracie, a purebred Arabian; Meennah, whose full name is Meennah Mishaala RCA (“The Port of Light”).
Billie and Steven are hoping to carry on the Straight Egyptian Arabian line.
The faltering economy did not help horse breeding, Steven says. But there are still people like Billie who are passionate about it.
“We want to give more attention to the breed,” she says.
Billie wants people to know that Arabians are smart horses. Like elephants, they never forget. Breeds such as thoroughbreds, Appaloosas and quarterhorses, called light breeds, can trace their origins to Arabians imported from the Middle East.
Arabians are one of the oldest breeds of horses, a thinner, compact and slender animal with large nostrils, built for endurance to handle long trips across the desert with ease.
Billie says, however, that her horses don’t like heat.
“Ours are spoiled,” she admits. “They have fans in their stalls.”
Still, she says, “our horses are so people-oriented. They just want to please.”
Judi Ziegelhoffer and her daughter, Hailey, 10, who live in Salisbury, board their horses at the barn. Hailey’s Destiny is an Appaloosa, and Sue is a Morgan cross. Hailey rides horses and shows horses through 4-H.
“We were boarding at another barn that was not very kid-friendly,” Judi explains. “I was looking online and found Billie. We went out to visit in January, and they were just so sweet to my daughter. Hailey’s very shy, but she opened up to Billie immediately.
“The barn felt like home the minute we walked in.”
Judi moved their horses in March. Next year, Destiny is expecting a foal by Azar, who will be available for stud next year as well.
“Billie and Steven have a passion for what they are doing,” Judi adds. “I want my daughter to be exposed to a horsewoman like that.”
New to the barn are Gatsby, a registered APHA paint gelding whose full name is Painted Bodacious, and Jet, an APHA solid black paint whose full name is Half Mignons. They are owned by Nanette Isenhour of Salisbury.
Nanette chose the farm, she says, because of Billie’s personality. “She’s really warm and open and sweet. The facility is just amazingly nice. Billie knows her stuff.”
In 2015, Billie and Steven, with the help of local vet, Dr. Juston Schmidtke of Rowan Animal Clinic, plan an embryo transfer for Rosie because she is an older horse. Gracie will serve as a surrogate, and with luck, a foal will be born about 320 days later.
“He’s fantastic,” Billie says. “Anything we’ve thrown at him, he’s been successful.”
Billie and Steven think they’re the only barn on the East Coast that’s attempting the procedure.
“It’s really easy but really hard,” Steven says. “You have to have all sorts of control measures in place.”
The procedure is quite common with cattle, he says.
Billie admits they’ve jumped right into their work since purchasing the farm. “You get in all the way or you don’t get in.”
Steven agrees.
“I grew up with horses,” he says, “but nothing at this level. It’s hard to be around it and not fall in love with it and be a part of it.”
Still, he likes to tell his favorite joke about horses.
“What’s the quickest way to make $1 million with horses?” he asks. “Start with $5 million.”
The open barn party is free, but Billie and Steven need to know how many folks to prepare for. If you’d like to attend the open barn party, RSVP via text or call to 704-677-0853, or email
Parking will mostly be at 2215 Needmore Road, along the street or both. There will be no parking at the front of the farm.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.