APRIL 24, 2017 –
He walks into the barn like a comfortable cowboy, his stride honed by many hours in the saddle and his good-guy white hat crinkled in all the right places. It’s a true horseman’s barn, designed for the comfort and safety of its valued residents, but, as he nears, something seems amiss. Instead of a crisp button-down shirt and starched Levis, his white shirt is made of a sports performance fabric and he is clad in breeches. That’s because he’s the self-proclaimed show jump-ing maverick, Todd Minikus. The two-time, bronze-medal-winning U.S. Pan American Team mem-ber earned more than 130 national and international grand-prix wins, represented the U.S. on many a Nations Cup team, served as an alternate for the Olympic Games show-jumping team, and was named equestrian of the year in 2014. He’s husband to fellow equestrian Amanda Minikus and dad to 8-year-old Colt and 6-year-old Langley. Todd’s barn and his home, set on 10 acres on the outskirts of Wellington, Florida, are his ranch and his personal bonanza.
It’s not like a typical Florida home—it’s more Colorado-style,” Amanda explains. “Todd would say if he could live anywhere, he’d live out West. He loves the Western theme.” They bought the property anticipating the South Florida horseshow circuit moving nearby but, when that failed to materialize, they decided to build a kid- and horse-friendly compound. Amanda would stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. looking at house plans, and when the right one was discovered, it evolved into the present home. “We always wanted to build something because we need a home, not only for us and our family, but we need a home for our horses,” she said. The barn was finished slightly before the house, and they moved in Thanksgiving Day in 2010.
For the Minikus family, it’s a family affair as well as a partnership. Todd does most of the training but, when he is away at shows, Amanda takes over the care and riding of the horses left at home. “We definitely do this as a team,” she says. “When he’s at the show, I handle things at the farm and try to make it so everything works together. He can’t be at two places at once, so I help ride the horses here so that everything stays on track.” Meanwhile, she wrangles two kids and five dogs, including four Rhodesian ridgebacks and a token Jack Russell. “It’s nice because the kids can just come out and come see us and hang out,” Amanda adds. “Our daughter rides, but our son doesn’t have any interest right now. We want it to be their idea. Just because we do it doesn’t mean they have to love it.”
Todd enjoys his home life as well. “When the kids are on the patio and I’m training the horses in the backyard, they yell out, ‘Dad, I need the TV changed’ or ‘Where’d you hide the remote?’ or something like that,” he explains, “that makes it great, as well as handy, that we’re right there with the kids.”
The children ride their bikes on the property, so when the compound was designed, safety was a prior-ity. The horses were also key in the design, with practical-ity, functionality, work flow, and their safety in mind. Crosshatch on the front of the stalls and spaces between the stall slats allow for optimal air flow.
Todd and Amanda believe that in the barn, the horses come first. “They are the athletes, so we have to take care of them,” Amanda says. “If they’re not taken care of to the best of our ability and we don’t keep them in tip-top shape, then how can we then ask them to perform?”Todd and Amanda both take an active approach in the care of horses. “You can walk by the stalls and see in just as you’re walking by, and you’re able to see their legs,” Todd says. “You’d be surprised the stuff you notice. And the horses seem comfortable, and that’s impor-tant to me. I like the hands-on approach with the horses. Sitting in the house, you can hear if somebody’s banging or in trouble, and I like that feel.”
BY SUE WEAKLEY
PHOTOS BY GEORGE KAMPER