Taking life by the reins
By Ryan Wiramidjaja

Nick Lotz, owner of Briarbrooke Farm, checks on his weanling foals after they have been moved out to the pasture. This is the time in their lives when growth and health need to be monitored constantly.

Outside Paris, in a rolling landscape of trees and fields filled with horses, sits Briarbrooke Farm. Briarbrooke is the home of Nick Lotz, 74, an eighth-generation Bourbon County resident who breeds and raises horses.

As a boy, Nick dreamed of working with horses. At 12, his grandmother gave him a subscription to what is now the Lexington Herald-Leader. When the paper published a section devoted to the horse industry, Nick pored over it. “There were ads for stallions and pictures of winning horses,” Nick says. “I was fascinated by it all.”

When his father’s work as a minister took the family away from Bourbon County, Nick continued to follow the horse-racing world. When he was 17, his family moved back to Paris, and he started working at Claiborne Farm, where he trained and took care of horses.

In 1983, Nick bought an old crop farm and transformed the 300 acres into a place dedicated to breeding the next generation of racehorses. Over the past 40 years, more than 1,000 horses have come through the farm. Today, the farm has 115 horses. About 35 foals are born on the farm each year; about 20 of them are sold and the rest kept for racing.

Raising horses is no easy task. It requires money and time but, most importantly, passion, which Nick has in abundance. Walking through the Hopewell Museum's opening of a show of famed horse photographer Tony Leonard's work, Nick shared his memories of horses in the photographs. He knew most horses' farms, their winning records, their legendary trainers and the jockeys who rode them.

Along with his passion comes hard work to maintain the farm. Always on the move, Nick runs between farm jobs, horse auctions, and viewings of horses to purchase.

“My life is like that Beatles song, ‘Eight Days a Week,’ I’m always working,” Nick says.
But he has never wavered in his commitment to the work. “There was never really any other idea of what I wanted to do,” he says. “There was no doubt and no turning back.”

Nick doesn’t let his farm’s success go to his head. He notes that horse racing is a sport known for high price tags, fancy celebrations, big hats, and pearl necklaces. “It’s a game of kings,” Nick says. “I’m just an ordinary guy.”

Nick talks with farmhand Larry Tubs about the repairs to the batwing mower, a valuable piece of equipment in maintaining the growth of the grass, keeping it an ideal height for the horses.

At the Fasig-Tipton horse auction in Lexington, Nick watches for his horse to be put on the block.

The Kentucky October Yearling book is a guide to all the yearling horses for sale at the Fasig-Tipton horse auction. Horses at the auction are sold for between a few thousand dollars and a few million.

Nick stands with his neighbor Audrey Reed and friend Brian Graves at the Fasig-Tipton auction as his horse is sold.

At his desk, while taking care of the administrative work of running Briarbrooke Farm, Nick talks with his wife, Betsy Paulding.

Yearlings in their paddock at Briarbrooke Farm enjoy their time roaming around the enclosure in the late morning.

At the Hopewell Museum gallery opening of the retrospective celebrating the work of famed equestrian photographer Tony Leonard, Nick reflects on his time in and around the world of horse racing.