For Fox Chapel woman, horsing around is more fun than the law

Dana Friday traded in her law books for a dream equstrian business

On a Wednesday afternoon, Dana Friday, like many people, was at work.

But hers is not the typical workplace. Instead of cubicles, computers and copy machines, there are barns, hay and lots of horses.

"Horses are one of the most wonderful things that God put on this world," she said.

Ms. Friday, a 44-year-old mother of four who lives in Fox Chapel, has a law degree and has worked as a trial lawyer. But 3 1/2 years ago, she decided to pursue full-time an interest in horses that long ago bloomed into a passion. She, along with her husband, as well as another husband and wife pair, purchased a nearly 40-acre farm and stables in Indiana Township in late 2010.

"It's a lot of work, physical work," she said. "But it's worth it."

At Cedar Run Farms, there is boarding space for about 40 horses, lessons provided by professional trainers for riders ranging from children to adults, a tack shop, trails for riding, two indoor rings and one ring outdoors, for training.

Owning the farm has given Ms. Friday a dedicated place to train with her horse, a Dutch warmblood she calls Miro, for the equestrian sport known as hunter, in which a horse and rider ride around a show ring and jump over fences.

Ms. Friday and Miro, whose show name is Leandro, won the Reserve Championship in the low adult hunters category at the Chagrin Valley Farms A-Rated Horse Show in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, which took place the second weekend in January.

This past weekend, Ms. Friday returned to Chagrin Falls for another hunter competition. Her 14-year-old daughter, Anne, also planned to compete.

But on Wednesday, Ms. Friday was at Cedar Run Farms. It is where she can be found most days, and it is the farm where, as a 10- or 11-year-old, she started riding horses.

Fourteen years ago, after she gave birth to the first of her four daughters, she began decreasing the hours she was working as a trial attorney, but she continued to ride horses. A few years ago, she and her husband, Charles, started looking at properties that had horse stables.

Her husband, she said, doesn't like horses. But he had a friend, Anthony Martini, whose wife, Gaby, did.

"I always dreamed of owning a farm but couldn't do it alone, and she did, too," said Ms. Martini, who lives with her family in O'Hara. "Our husbands, for some crazy reason, went along with it."

There are four employees who work at the farm, completing tasks such as moving the horses to and from pastures, feeding them and cleaning the stalls.

Ms. Friday and Ms. Martini contribute to the work, too, and also organize events such as summer camps, birthday parties and a small horse show held for people connected to the farm.

The farm also gives the women more time to ride their horses. Ms. Martini has practiced the equestrian sport of dressage, and Ms. Friday continues training with Miro for hunter competitions in which, she said, "whoever makes it look the easiest wins."

Her trainer is Cindy McCullough of Sewickley, who has worked as a professional trainer for 35 years and who has been giving lessons at Cedar Run Farms since shortly after Ms. Friday and Ms. Martini purchased the farm.

"You start little," she said Wednesday, as she stood inside one of the barns, watching as a few young riders made their way around the inside ring and executed jumps over short fences. In competition, the fences vary in height, with beginners doing fences around 2 feet and more advanced horses and riders doing fences around 3 feet. The fences for Ms. Friday and her horse in last week's competition were 2 feet, 6 inches high.

"The whole thing is working together," Ms. Friday said, indicating how she can signal pace changes to her horse by the way she is sitting.

Ms. Friday liked being a lawyer, and in some ways, she said, a law degree continues to be helpful when it comes to running a farm. But in her new career, she said, she is "much happier." Running a stable, she said, allows her to pursue her passion, and gives her more flexibility for being involved in the lives of her children, four daughters ages 8, 10, 12 and 14.

Her goal for this year is to compete in more horse shows, something she already tries to do at least once a month.

And the future?

"My dream would be to have a matching barn in Florida," Ms. Friday said. "Even though we have everything we ever wanted, we still get to have another dream, right?"

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.