University of Vermont

IF YOU CAN CONTROL A 1,000-LB. ANIMAL, YOU CAN RULE THE WORLD

Alumna Bonnie Sogoloff Makes Her Mark with Morgan Horses

Smiling couple in crowd at dinner.
Bonnie Sogoloff enjoying the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni and friends dinner May 11 with her spouse Hayes Sogoloff, after receiving the 2013 Outstanding Alumna Award – an inscribed maple bowl. ~Betsy Greene photo.

Bonnie Sogoloff has said, “if you can control a 1,000-pound animal, I think you can rule the world.”

Sogoloff, a professional horse trainer and farm owner, can indeed control large animals and has made great strides as a leader in the world of the Morgan horse, Owner, with her husband Hayes Sogoloff, of Cedar Spring Farm in Charlotte, Bonnie has bred and trained countless Morgans, taken many a youngster under her tutelage, been an internship site for UVM equine students and served generously in organizations promoting the Morgan breed.

Sogoloff was one of two recipients of the 2013 UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Outstanding Alumni Awards at a dinner at the Davis Center on campus on May 11.

“Bonnie Sogoloff stands before you because she is a champion of the Morgan Horse breed, its community of people and UVM’s equine program,” said CALS Dean Tom Vogelmann in presenting the award.

That’s a role that may be more important than ever as numbers of horse populations drop with the U.S. economy, he noted.

The University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm along with others are preserving this breed whose number of births dropped in the past dozen years from 3,500 to just 599 last year. The American Morgan Horse Registry reports the population of registered Morgans to be 1,500 today. UVM became the caretaker of the ‘Government Line’ of Morgans when the USDA transferred the breed and the Morgan Horse Farm to the care of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UVM. The Morgan horse is Vermont’s state animal owing to the fact that the Vermonter Justin Morgan was the owner of the stallion from which the breed is traced.

As dedicated as she is to Morgans, Bonnie Sogoloff also is true to her alma mater.

“If there’s a doctor in the house, perhaps we should check to see if Bonnie Sogoloff has green and gold blood running in her veins,” quipped Vogelmann, referring to the school colors.

Something about her undergraduate years at UVM made her an immediate and lifetime member of the CALS family. She attended UVM on scholarships, attained the dean’s list, majored in animal science and worked at the Morgan Horse Farm. After graduating in 1966, Bonnie Herschede married Hayes Sogoloff in Ira Allen Chapel. The couple moved to Massachusetts while Hayes, who also graduated in ’66 (zoology), completed his degree work in optometry. She worked at MIT. The couple returned to Vermont in 1970. He set up an optometry practices in Brandon in 1970 and Shelburne in 1971 and they both started Cedar Spring Farm in Essex Junction in 1976. Hayes is farm manager. Bonnie became a professional horse trainer in 1976. Prior to that she also trained Doberman Pinschers to AKC obedience titles. (Note that Dobermans are nearly the size of horses.) She became a U.S. Equestrian Federation recorded judge in 1984. Their daughters Keely Sogoloff '92, (zoology) and Wendy Sogoloff Gossage ‘94, (animal science), also have been involved in all aspects of the business. Wendy is now a trainer in Kentucky.

The farm outgrew its space so they moved it to Charlotte in 2005. Bonnie is a member of many professional horse and dog associations and has served several community organizations on boards as clinician and speaker; among them she is treasurer of the Chittenden County Farm Bureau. The couple was instrumental in establishing the Horse Farm of Distinction Award in 2011. Not surprising Cedar Spring Farm won that award in 2012. The Farm actively participates in local and state events like the Champlain Valley Fair, Farm Days Exposition and Shelburne parades.

Bonnie herself has received numerous awards in her field, but another measure of professional horse training success is the number of horses and rider/drivers who attain the highest level – champion or reserve champion. Bonnie’s list is more than 50 and counting.

The Sogoloffs have also demonstrated support of and service to UVM by repeatedly embracing and taking students and graduates under their tutelage.

One story particularly reveals Bonnie’s determination, hard work and collaboration. It’s a story told by Kathy Sheppard-Jones, summa cum laude, Class of 1991. Sheppard-Jones, was one of several people nominating Sogoloff for the award.

She wrote, “I grew up a typical horse-crazy kid, wanting a horse of my own in the worst way as early as I could remember. What was a little less usual was that I use a wheelchair to get around – that's not always seen as a formula for success when working with large animals.

“When I was 13, Bonnie found me my first perfect match of a horse. To assess the horse's response to my wheelchair, she had someone push her in a wheelbarrow while she led the horse around. This is the kind of problem solver that is Bonnie Sogoloff. She always had an idea, a plan, or an approach to make anything work.”

Sheppard-Jones went on to say, “Cedar Spring Farm was like being in the best sort of classroom – one of warmth and fun, but also of a strong work ethic.” Sheppard-Jones went on to win Youth ofthe Year contest at the Morgan Grand Nationals in 1991.

“The world will surely be a better place, when Bonnie Sogoloff rules it,” Vogelmann concluded.

But Bonnie Sogoloff got to have the last word – as should any world ruler.  “When I was in college – all the hijinks I pulled – I never would have thought I’d be standing here today,” Sogoloff said. She recognized the UVM leadership of Donald Balch, who was director of UVM Morgan Horse Farm when she worked there, and its “legendary horse trainer Bob Baker." She was the only woman to train with Baker.

Sogoloff was clearly a woman in a man’s world when she entered the field. She also acknowledged the obstacles that set her even more firmly on her path. “I thank Cornell University for not accepting me into their pre-vet. program because, as the director of admissions at that time said, 'I don't care who you are or what kind of grades you have, you are a girl and you like horses. We won't take you.'"

She was was also thankful she turned down a Ph.D. program at MIT and did not pursue a Ph.D. in genetics at UVM. And she was thankful she didn’t listen to her mother, whom she quoted as saying, “when are you going to forget about horses and do something with your life. It’s such a waste of a brain.”

Today Sogoloff is philosophical and grateful to UVM for what she called her “two educations – one at UVM that was academic and one in the horse barn that taught me who I am.”