World champions horses can now be found in Germantown Hills.
Joe Lavery and Danette Musselman moved 14 of their horses from Kentucky up to Germantown Hills on July 16, with two more to follow.
For Musselman, this is a return to the area she grew up in. She is originally from Morton, where her family owns Musselman Farm. The pair said that the farm is acting like a breeding farm and nursery.
Both have been raising horses all their lives. Lavery is the fourth generation in his family to raise horses, while Musselman’s family has raised horses for hundreds of years.
“We grew up in this business, so we’ve been in it from the ground up,” Musselman said. “I could ride actually before I could walk.”
Lavery and Musselman said everything just fell in place to allow them to move up here.
“We sold a horse to (the Mitchells) about a year ago and Danette’s brother, Danny, lost a limb and he’s in the hospital,” Lavery said. “He has MS and he just never complains and we’ve been visiting him. We had a couple of hours to kill, and the lady was so happy with the horse we sold her that she sent us letters and cards. We had her address so we came by just to see and when we did, one thing led to another. It might have been God’s plan, because Danny’s family is here. So, we just packed everything up from Kentucky.”
The horses that were brought up were American Saddlebred horses, which Lavery called, “the horse that America made.”
“The American Saddlebred is a breed, but they have different disciplines,” he said. “Some may pull a fine harness buggy. Some may drive, some may ride, some may do multiple gates. They’re the most versatile horse in the world.”
Members of the community that are interested in seeing the horses or taking lessons can go to the farm, located at 163 N. Lakeview Drive, East Peoria.
“The main thing that I like to push is that we can introduce this breed to everybody,” he said. “We have a riding lesson program. We would love to share this breed with them. People can call and schedule an appointment for a riding lesson. I think it may have a huge impact on their lives.”
While they will be giving riding lessons, Lavery and Musselman still plan on competing on the state and national level.
“We’re going to be at the Illinois State Fair,” Lavery said. “We’re taking 18 horses. From there, we’ll go to the World Championships with a half-dozen in Louisville, Ky. Winning there…that’s like our Olympics.”
Between them, the pair has raised close to 100 world champion horses, along with numerous national champion horses.
Page 2 of 2 - “Danette’s won many world championships,” Lavery said. “We have three horse shows that are like our Triple Crown. She took an Illinois-bred horse from Morton down to Lexington and won a huge class. It’s a three judge panel. It’s all separate and they can’t communicate. There were probably 10-12 horses in the and all three judges had her first.”
In addition, clients from California to Kentucky, including famous names like William Shatner and Sylvester Stallone, have purchased horses from the pair that have went on to become champions as well.
“I think it’s important to let the community know that we have had world and national championships, because that’s something that’s rare for this community to get that level of horses,” Musselman said.