21 October 2011

~If These Boots Could Talk~ The Series ~Windsor~

These boots have a done a lot of walking and listening!

The non-denominational place of worship at Windsor.

Village By the Sea
Established in 1989, Windsor is a family oriented sporting community
and private club located in Vero Beach, Florida
{quoted from the Windsor site}

The Club on the beach
Interior of club restaurant 

To the beach from inside the club.

Windsor was founded in the late 1980’s by the Canadian Weston family,
a name all Canadians know from that family’s hotel fame.
 A long stretch of undeveloped beach-front property that architects
and planners turned into planned community mixed
with gigantic homes {and gigantic price tags!},
 golfing, tennis,
equestrian stables, shops, laundry/dry-cleaning services, messenger services,
private country clubs, post office, spa, gym complete with on-site trainers,
 restaurants and shopping services.
Yep. Someone who will cater to your every need.
There are even guest suites *in town* so your pesky family
does not have to invade your 8 bedroom, 7 full bath that two of you share :)
You never have to leave this Utopia for anything!

The architectural model for Windsor. 

*For sale* $11,200,000

South Florida is home to many, many incredible gated communities.
But, Windsor.....
Just takes the cake!

*For Sale* around 8 million
Exterior of previous home pic

Windsor was developed with the extreme wealthy, the famous, and the celebrity in mind.
Of course, the usual guard is posted at each entrance.

A very modest sign at the entrance

And employees like myself were instructed to~
*never gawk, ask for autographs, never inform media outlets of any persons residing
or visiting in Windsor*

*{I have continued to observe this commitment within my previous employment contract.
The only sharing of names is done so because the person(s)
made their residence at Windsor known to various media outlets.}

All the homes, shops, and public buildings blend in.
This home, with it's entrance to a courtyard, and the pic above are considered to be 'in town'!
Enormous, grand homes dot the outskirts of Windsor. Most residents travel by golf cart unless
leaving the gates of Windsor!

I took a position with Windsor  at the start of 2002.
I was in charge of each horse's overall health-care
Daily medications, supplements, vaccination schedules, vet appointments, dental, 
daily leg care, wound care etc.
I also took care of all arriving and departing horses from the facility.
We had staff 24/7, including night watchmen.

After leaving Montezuma and working for the
~crazy ultra-wealthy man on the beach~ 
 for a year,
{Imagine Al Pacino in Scarface! And which I still have never written about!}
I craved working in an organized atmosphere where the goal was
to maintain happy, healthy horses with clientele whose focus was the same.
{Windsor was just a few miles down A1A from the crazy man!
There must have been something in the water....}

Ummm. Didn't happen!

I knew I would be back to working with the occasional crazy, loony bin
'hard to deal with, ultra-wealthy client'
 but, I had years and years of experience in that department.
There wasn't anything I hadn't seen or been a part of

Or so I thought.....

The stable, at Windsor, was filled with horses of many breeds.
Privileged horses, and even a few that only wintered at Windsor, and then spent summers
at other stables up north where their owners had homes to escape the
south Florida summer roast.
Two horses that were used to flying over international waters.
Because when the owner visited one of her many other homes,
she wanted the horses with her in Germany,
because the quaint barn just wasn't as darn cute without them!
{true story}

You can eat Al Fresco and watch the horses graze!

The majority of our clients were women.
{You could not board a horse here if you were not a resident of Windsor.}
We had a few families with children that kept horses in the stable,
whose nanny's would bring them for riding lessons.
The staff, including myself, dreaded lesson day.
It made for barn filled with many children who had never been told no.
About anything.
{My saving grace was that I didn't give lessons!}

Except for this family.

Actor Chris O'Donnell with four of his children, sans wife!

I believe at the time, Mr O'Donnell and his wife only had two or three children.
{It was public knowledge that they had a home in Windsor.}
Lovely family, with very hands-on Mom and Dad!
I wrote a little about Mr. O'Donnell
last year.

The stable had just been completed when I began working there.
I always found it very interesting that most of the celebrities we catered to
were far more gracious than those who were not known in the public eye.
One couple who had horses and lived in Windsor
were Reve and John Walsh.
{John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" and whose 
son was murdered in 1981 in Hollywood, Florida }
Reve and John Walsh

Reve Walsh was a down-to-earth soul.
Chatty, nice, genuine, and loved her animals!
She had a great sense of humor!
{I think there was a reason she usually hung out with the staff!}
I always enjoyed the time she spent at the barn :)
Mr Walsh?
Ummm. Not so much.
I will leave it at that.

Most of our clientele would have fit into any of the 
*Real Housewives*  series!
They would arrive at the barn in their uber-chic riding outfits.
They would chat on their phones to BFF's about how the new
live-in housekeeper wasn't working out.
The wine at last nights party was certainly not what should have been served.
Their decorator was always late.
Their trainer was hot.
and on and on...
On a daily basis, I was privy to so much gossip about
the residents of Windsor I could have started my own,
"National Enquirer",
dedicated to just the *going-ons of inside the Windsor community*! 
The Real Lives of the Windsor Housewives!!!

We had not one client who knew how to tack up their own horse!
Now, for the horsey set who rides, this is one of the first things you learn.
I have always stressed this to newcomers in the equine world.
It is a matter of safety to both horse and rider.
Most of the clients were experienced riders.
But, not knowing how to saddle or bridle your own ride is inexcusable.
It is dangerous for both the rider and the horse.
If a piece of equipment comes loose or breaks,
the horse looks to the rider to take care of this.
Many times, I would get a call over my Nextel radio from a client
who was trail riding alone.
Miles from the barn.
I would jump in a golf cart and speed off to find the client chatting on the phone,
waiting for me to come adjust the saddle or another piece of equipment.

Windsor sits on over 400 acres. The riding trails are gorgeous!
Or bring them a towel.
Or a bottle of water.
Or they would want to use the golf cart to zip back to the barn,
because their friend "Fifi" had called asking if they would like to go shopping.
And I would take their horse back to the barn?

It was almost as if they were all the
"Stepford Wives"
They dressed their bodies in the same designer wear.
They all drove the same types of vehicles.
They carried the same designer bags.
They went to the same hairdresser.
They all complained that the never saw the husbands.
They never heard from the grown children.
The clients with small children were always stressed.
It's hard to keep a good nanny!
A few with small children sent them to boarding school abroad.

When a group of Windsor woman gathered
at the stable to ride together, it seemed a sad imitation
of what real friendship should be.
The old adage,
"money does not buy happiness"
rang true for each one in a different way.
Often, I became the person who listened to their
 troubles, and their disappointments in life.
I did a lot of half-smiles and head-nodding!
They usually let me know what advice their therapist had given.

I always wondered what brainiac came up with using all white in a barn! Oy.
The maintenance dept. was forever cleaning and repainting!
We had a very set-in-concrete rule
about feeding the horses nothing other
than carrots as a treat.

Because we had so many clients who had no horse knowledge.

It was on Thanksgiving day that one client decided to
make a treat for her two horses.
And one of the ingredients she used?
Well, it was poisonous to horses!
Both of her horses had to be transferred
to the equine hospital in Palm Beach County.
I was furious and in tears at the same time as I loaded two extremely ill
horses to be transported.
They both survived, but there was no reason these two beautiful animals
should have been put in this position to begin with!   

The lounge and dining area for the stables. Over the top? Yes. But, so were the clients!

Over the years I have been the recipient of some very nice gifts from horsey clients.
At Christmas I usually was given a cash tip or gift certificate to a wonderful restaurant,
and quite a few times a a trip to PGA Spa!
My fave!
It is the clients way of saying,
"I appreciate the love and care you give to my animal!"
Whether it was a $250,000 horse on the Grand Prix circuit
or a back-yard pony~
I always give my utmost in equine care.
It's what I love.
I was fortunate enough to have my passion also be my career.
Over the years I have maintained relationships with several past clients
who keep me filled in on the life of their horse.
I love this!

The horses may be ridden *in town* at Windsor.  We would notify the maintenance dept. when a
client would choose to do this. That way the *horsey piles* could be cleaned up promptly!

The Christmas I spent at Windsor was very different.
Not just for me, but also for the other employees who also had years experience
in working with horses.
And loved the client horses as their own.
We held an open house Christmas in the barn.
All residents in Windsor were invited!
Gorgeous tents were put up.
Christmas flowers decorated tables laden with incredible food and drink.
A band played.
Of course, the barn looked like a winter wonderland,
as it had been decorated by the
Windsor decor team!

An equestrian dream! Polo field, dressage area, turn-out paddocks, and miles of perfectly maintained trails!

For each client and their horse,
I made a wreath of winter flowers.
In the center was the name of the horse.
These were to hang on the stall doors after the holidays.

Other employees also made or purchased something for each client/horse.
All the gifts were incredible!
That evening we did our gifting.
Only it was just the employees who were handing out gifts.
Only one client had thought to put the group that cared for her horse
on her gift-giving list.
She gave each one us a pencil.
Yes. You read that right!
A thick white pencil with little horses printed on it.
These sold in the Windsor gift shop,
in the children's area.
Even the director who was in charge of equestrian events was visibly appalled.

In the weeks leading up to the holidays,
tipping was outrageous!
From the restaurants, laundry services, security guards, golf employees,
beach cabana staff~every area of Windsor staffers
had been gifted generously by the residents:)
Except the stables that housed the beloved horses of  the residents!
{Let me clarify that I did receive, by mail,
 a very generous holiday tip from the O'Donnell family,
but I was the only one since I exclusively cared for their horse.
The Walsh family had moved.}

Now, I hope no one thinks I was being greedy or
expecting something I shouldn't have.
I know gift-giving is from the heart.
You don't give expecting to receive.
But tipping in the equine business is very common.
From grooms, trainers, stall cleaners, to those who work
on the track cooling down race-horses, doing leg-care only,
staying with an ill horse for 48 hours straight,
to horses in the show ring and the staff that travels with these horses.

Owners tip.
Tipping happens every day. Not just holiday time!

Most of the stable staff at Windsor felt the
non-gifting of our employees was a direct reflection
 of how the clients felt towards the staff.
My voiced opinion was very different.

For whatever reason, this select group of clients didn't view their
horses as members of the family.
They didn't appreciate these beautiful animals.
They didn't have a full understanding about how precarious
the equine breed is.
And the staff that cared for every aspect of the horses
came with degrees and certifications behind their names.
I think the horses owned by them were nothing more than a piece of jewelry.
Even if the bloodlines were impressive and the pedigree was something to boast about,
that is all it was.
A prop to wear once or twice a week.
Kind of like the tennis racket propped in the garage corner.
It's there if you ever want to go play with the other Stepford Wives.
Just another thing to fill your day, look right, and fit in.
But, there really isn't any heart in it.

When I made the decision to finally leave Windsor,
it was easy.
I didn't feel any connection with the horses or the clients.
When you work in a field that deals with
the care and daily antics of horses,
there is always a bond formed.
Between the caretakers, horses, and the owners.
When an owner makes a decision to sell, move, or worse~
the horse passes on or the decision has to be made to euthanize:
it feels like a quick to the gut.
Because when you care for someone's animal as if it were your own,
your heart is completely invested!
I have been fortunate to forge great bonds with so many animals over the years.
But at Windsor...it just didn't happen.
It was like a chilly, trickle down effect
from client to client
horse to horse
staff member to staff member
of just a cold, empty, feel-nothing barn of routine work.
When I left it made me nothing but sad.
Sad to know it could have been so much more.

If these boots could talk, they would tell you stories
that I wouldn't dare!
That is why I do the writing
the boots just do the walking!


Read more in the 
"If These Boots Could Talk" Series
~A little side note ~
As a Human and Victim Rights advocate I do believe that John Walsh, along with his wife, Reve
are credited with helping millions of missing children.
Through their work,
Missing and Exploited Children have a voice today and laws to protect them.

Also, in 1981 and through-out the investigation,
my uncle, who is now retired,
was one of the Federal Agents assigned to the Adam Walsh case after part of
 little Adam's body was found in a canal in Vero Beach, Florida.
Such a small world it is at times....


TexWisGirl said...

you have certainly lived an interesting life - and moved in circles most of us never will. :)

Debi@7Gates said...

I'm not sure if the grass is greener on the other side or not; depends on which side you're on, I guess. Remarkable place. I can't even imagine working there. I certainly understand the horsey world and know how it can be. The horse circuit is amazing!

Beth said...

love those boots. what a story to tell. thanks for sharing.(:

Lynne said...

I sure do enjoy getting to know one more chapter in
"Misha Life."

Deb said...

Wow Misha!!!! Incredible glimpse into your past. What an amazing eye opening story about the rich and famous.... I'm glad you got out and live a peaceful existance now. It is fascintating... the career you have had and the people you have rubbed elbows with. The things they take for granted kind of make me a little ill.

John Walsh sounds like a descent guy and SO interesting that your uncle was assigned to the case.

I'm so glad that you told this story. Love it!

Deb said...

Okay, so I go the John Walsh guy mixed up with the other guy you were talking about...maybe not so nice. Anyway, very interesting...

Jeanette said...

After all those pictures of that beautiful place..I think the last one was in the most beautiful place of all! Thanks for a wonderful post.

Karen said...

Such a horrific story, I remember it well.

And Misha, I REALLY enjoyed this stroll through Windsor!! WOW, the life of the uber-rich!!.. However I don't envy them at all, there is something so vital missing there. But oh, those grounds are beautiful.

Lottie said...

How well written! Very interesting story of a chapter in your life. You have a real gift for writing. I had heard of Windsor, but didn't know the whole story! I was also shocked at the story of Christmas!

pilgrimscottage said...

Misha, this is one fascinating story!! I'm glad not to be one of the very rich. In the business world we were in, in Florida, my husband and I had dealings with some wealthy people and too often found them very unhappy. So much for worldy wealth. Your story of Windsor is so sad. You told it very well.

pilgrimscottage said...

By the way, just had to tell you, I sure like your boots!

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Your story is a very telling one...I've looked at places like this so many times. From the outside they always look so beautiful, perfect and picturesque. And then, just like you found, when you're on the inside, you find that there is no magic there after all. I admire you for remembering who you are and taking your own brand of magic and your boots to another very lucky place.

Marilyn said...

WOW - your boots would have a lot of amazing stories.. Great post.. : )) Great Blog you have here, .I'm officially following ya with smiles.. I also wanted to know if you would like to join in on my project..? Project PINK.. Painting the blog world PINK for a day.. Breast Cancer Awareness on Oct 3oth..!! Over 40 blogs so far are in.. Please check it out - it'll mean SO MUCH to me.. Wishing you a lovely weekend..http://theartsygirlconnection.blogspot.com/2011/10/paint-your-blog-pink-awareness-faith.html

Mary said...

First of all, I LOVE THOSE BOOTS! I find the human cndition extrememly interesting, and sad sometimes. Through your writing, I could just feel the coldness you must have felt while working there. It is truly a gorgeous place, but a bit weird for me. The photos of this place don't even seem real to me. As far as life experienses go, I do think this one is pretty cool though.

Thank you for the tip on the warmers, I think that is the perfect solution for Fred. I will be ordering one this week in fact.

Donna said...

Oh my goodness! Your boots have been around LOL! The Windsor folks (I am sure they would not like being called folks) need a real life! It is amazing how some people live and I don't envy them at all!
I loved the stories of your life :) Can't wait to read more!

Mary Ann said...

How sad for all the horses, and even sadder for the "Stepford" people who live there, think we are the "saddest" people... I feel sorry for all of them.

Rural Revival said...

Love this post! : )

You know, I had a relative win millions in a lottery and to see how it affected their family was a real opener. I no longer waste my money on lottery tickets. I don't want to win if it's going to turn me into someone like that. And I'm sure their behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the uber-rich you dealt with at Windsor. No thanks.

Interesting post just the same and perhaps a reminder to be careful what you wish for. : )

And yes, I am certainly familiar with the Westons. They also have a huge chunk of the market on food, owning one of the largest supermarket chains in Canada. And apparently all that money can bring you a position such as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. This position is the Queen's representative on a provincial level, while the Governor General is her representative nationally. We're very much a commonwealth country!


Maura @ Lilac Lane Cottage said...

What a job that must have been Misha. It's a real shame that you walked away from there feeling the way you did. It's also a shame that these people only had horses for 'show' and not because they loved horses. Thank goodness for people like you who really cared for their animals. I'm glad to see that Chris O'Donnell and his wife were nice to work for and remembered the care you gave their horses...thank goodness there are still people like that in the celebrity world. Same with John Walsh's wife. I hope you J and the critters are enjoying a beautiful warm Sunday. It's 77 here...a soft breeze and I'm heading out to do firewood..again. Take care my friend.
Maura :)

(GBS) NewsFromTheHill said...

Wow! What an interesting sojourn. The lives of the wealthy are apparently really removed from the realities that the rest of us face.
I've never moved in such circles.... it must have been both fascinating and repulsive at the same time.

allhorsestuff said...

News from the Hill- totally said it worth repeating!

WOW Misha...Your boots have traveled the street and stables of the rich and famous. Though, as you have described, those places someytimes can leave one empty.

The work you did was reward in itself and the few folks that you mentioned saw the value of heart and effort. Neat to have them to lean on im memeory.
WHITE Stables...amazing! Kept the maintinence crew in business as well as the "street riding"! That really made me chuckle that they were called when someone went out for a ride in the streets...Disney like atmosphere!
Gorgeous place truly.
You were blessed with that cool adventure dear!

Thanks for the heads up to come over...LOVE YOU!
I know that you are loving the AUTUMN...your Kitty photo's are so lovely and he is a comfort...even to me over in Oregon!
Hang in and keep the heart smiles coming...it is life and health!