Third generation continues tradition of raising, racing Standardbreds on Steiner Stock Farm
By Dawn Kessinger
LIMA — In 1885, Eli Steiner started Steiner Stock Farm just north of Bluffton.
“It started as a livery business. They had some stallions and bred some mares, but it was mainly a livery business. In other words, they wanted to raise horses that people would come and buy to pull a buggy. Not the heavy-duty horse or work horses, but horses to carry the family wagons and carriages,” said Dr. David Steiner, who is Eli Steiner’s grandson.
Eli Steiner, who ran the business, had the help of his two brothers, Gideon, who was a pharmacist, and David William, “D.W.,” when he started the family business.
“The business prospered. They sold buggies and harnesses. They taught people how to take care of horses, what to look for and problems to watch out for – they did it all,” Steiner said.
“The Standardbred part of the business was like having a Corvette these days – the young people wanted something that went a little faster, that could pull around the livery wagons and on Sundays go out on the gravel roads and race,” he said.
In 1907, when Steiner’s father, David, was 5 years old, the family moved to Lima and bought the farm where it’s located today, 2050 Bellefontaine Rd. in Lima.
“They bought the first significant Standardbreds around 1910 or 1912. They went down to Kentucky and bought a couple of good ones that had raced well and they stood them as stallions. They diverted the business into the racing business because with automation and Henry Ford, the family horse was soon a thing of the past,” Steiner said.
“We’ve kept the business going even during World War II, when Dad was in the service. We had three broodmares, and a friend kept them,” he said.
In addition to growing up around horses and the family’s business, Steiner’s father was a family physician in practice for almost 50 years in the Lima community. Steiner also grew up in the horse business, and is a retired orthopedic surgeon.
“I came back and started in 1972. My biggest joys in the (family) business involved meeting Dad after work. We’d go to the county fairs. Back in those days, we’d train and race 10 or 12 horses, and then we’d watch the races at the county fairs. You could do that, come home and get a good night’s sleep and be ready to go to work in the morning,” Steiner said.
To help him manage the farm, Steiner has always employed a manager. Wade Morris and his wife, Janie, joined the farm in 2002 and are the current managers of the 200-acre Steiner Stock Farm. While Wade has been raised in and involved with the horse business his whole life, Janie is a registered nurse and worked in labor and delivery for 25 years. Janie now cares for mares through their pregnancies – which last 11 months – and delivers their babies.
“Basically, my job is the welfare and upkeep of the horses. We breed mares here, raise babies until they’re 17, 18, 19 months old and then we sell them. Then we bring each mare back and get it back in foal,” Wade Morris said.
“We have the responsibility of around 30 mares plus their year-old foals plus their new babies. Part of the job is finding people who, when they go to feed the horses, will help us watch the conditions of the horses and babies. I don’t think there’s ever a day when we don’t have something up in the barns: a cut, a nick, a scratch, a bump, a halter rub. We have as many as 100 horses on a farm sometimes,” Janie Morris said.
“You have to look at every horse every day,” Wade Morris said. “They don’t know Christmas or Thanksgiving from Monday and Tuesday,” he said.
The Morrises said they start foaling at the end of January, and foaling will continue through the end of May.
“One of us is always within five minutes of the barn for five months (during foaling) in case there are complications. It can get a little stressful occasionally, but it’s neat – it’s a good job,” Janie Morris said.
“If you didn’t love the horses and the business, you wouldn’t do this job because it’s so time-consuming. After the foals are born, for the first 12 hours, someone is watching them all the time because they must stand before they can eat. If they have trouble getting up, then they don’t get the nutrition they need,” Janie Morris said.
Additional responsibilities include giving most medications, shots, IVs, and diagnoses for the horses, along with checking and breeding them.
“It’s a business; it’s busy, but watching a mama horse turn around and look at her baby for the first time and give that first little nicker, it never gets old,” Janie Morris said.
The Morrises said that although attachments can form, it’s not especially difficult to say goodbye when the horses are sold.
“You know that (the horses will be sold) going in. By the time you get through working with 25 to 30 teenagers, it’s like, ‘bye, bye, have a good life,’ because we’ve weanlings to come back to.
We’ve got a whole other group that we have to wean off the mare when we get through with the sales,” Janie Morris said.
Plus, the couple enjoys watching their kids – the horses – at the racetrack.
“You’re proud of your kids – we had one of the horses that we raised here that has won $1 million racing. His name is Noble Falcon, and he was Dr. Steiner’s first millionaire,” Janie Morris said.