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A Brief History of Dodon Farm

 

Steuart Riding Salute The TruthDodon is a 550-acre tract of land in Davidsonville, Maryland near the Patuxent River, about ten miles west of Annapolis.

Steuart Pittman, Jr. and his six siblings are the 8th generation of the family to own the farm. Three generations of Pittmans currently reside on the farm including Steuart Sr. and his wife Bobby; Steuart Jr., his wife Erin and their twin sons, Andy and Sam; Polly and her clan in their house by the pond; and Romey and her family way back in the woods. Polly and Tom are working on a new venture at Dodon - The Vineyards at Dodon. The first batch of wine from the test vineyard is underway - what could be better than wine and horses?

While much of the farm and family history was destroyed along with the old house in a fire in the 1950s, we do still have records to tell us what our ancestors did here, and of course there is a family graveyard where ghosts appear from time to time to check up on us.

Bruce Davidson on Salute The TruthFor most of its history, the farm produced tobacco. When that market began to fade out we raised beef cattle. But the farm always had horses. In 1753, colonial Maryland's Governor Sharpe appointed Dr. George Steuart of Dodon "Colonel of the Horse Militia." Dr. Steuart and his friends bred Thoroughbreds and held match races at what is now the Parole Shopping Center. His most famous horse was Dungannon, who he imported from England to run against his rival Lord Calvert's horse. Dungannon won but the silver cup (The Annapolis Subscription Plate) somehow ended up in a museum in Baltimore. During the Civil War, we understand that horses were bred and trained at Dodon to serve in the Confederate Army.

From 1890 until 1929 Dodon was owned by the Catholic Church. Two of Steuart Sr.'s great great aunts donated the farm to the Church, forcing their brother and his family to leave the farm. The priests held a Dodon Fair each year, and held mass each Sunday for local residents, but they considered the place too remote and some said that the old house was haunted, so they decided to sell it. The brother's daughter (who had grown up at Dodon) returned to buy the property back, thereby restoring it to the family. She was Steuart Sr.'s grandmother, Annette Steuart Pittman.

Steuart Pittman, Sr. grew up mostly in New York, but spent vacations at Dodon as a teenager with his beloved pinto horse, Patches. When he inherited the farm he oversaw the production of tobacco and then later raised beef cattle while practicing law in Washington, but his passion was the horses. Foxhunting gave him a reason to ride and a reason to breed on a small scale. One line of his homebreds began with Molly, who pulled a plow on the farm and was crossed with a Thoroughbred to produce Amy, who was crossed with a Thoroughbred to produce May-Do-Well, who was crossed with a Thoroughbred to produce Steuart Jr.'s first event horse, Lucaya. Lucaya later become a field hunter for Steuart Sr. and then Bobby. Both have hunted for decades with the Marlborough Hunt, sometimes starting from Dodon. Bobby recently retired her 25 year-old trusted homebred Thoroughbred hunter mare, Strange Bedfellow, in favor of a younger Quarter Horse gelding called Little Black, but Steuart Sr. stepped down from his horse in his early eighties. He often shows up for the tailgates.

The area around Dodon has been developing in recent years, but Steuart Sr., Bobby, and the seven children sold the farm's development rights to the county and the state. The deed to the property now disallows any future development outside of a handful of homes for family members.

The name Dodon is said to come from the French, "Dieu Donne" meaning "from God." It may also be a derivative of the Greek, Dodona - a prehistoric oracle in Greece dedicated to Zeus and the "mother goddess," Dione. It was said that by listening to the sound of the wind in the oak trees of Dodona, one could hear the future.

Read the Wikipedia entry for Dodon Farm here.

Article on the Roedown Races and revival of the Annopolis Subscription Plate from the Capital Gazette. April 4, 2008.

 


ABOUT STEUART

Steuart began riding as a child in the hunt field, in pony races, and at local shows. He was introduced to eventing through Pony Club and learned the fundamentals of dressage as a teenager from his inspiration and mentor, Ellen Shepherd. In high school Steuart evented through Preliminary on his Thoroughbred mare, Hurricane Hannah. After a ten-year absence from horses, Steuart returned full force in 1990. Since then he has derived most of his income from training and selling horses for eventing, dressage, and jumpers. Steuart can be seen each year with a new crop of horses who usually compete to the preliminary level and are sold. Some he has shown in the preliminary jumper circuit, and one he has shown fourth level dressage. In Salute The Truth, Steuart finally has a horse that is not for sale and is has competed up to the Advanced level.

Steuart on Hurricane HannahSteuart's instruction has come from a variety of trainers including Bruce Davidson, to whom he went regularly with his stallion Salute The Truth; Jim Wofford, Gunnar Ostergaard, Hans Jurgen, Stuart Black, Becky Langwost, and Linda Zang for dressage. He credits most of what he knows to the horses that he has worked with. He believes that all of us learn mostly from our horses, and in his teaching he attempts to speak from the viewpoint of the horse. The other major influence on Steuart's riding has been 20 years of daily practice in Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese practice of meditative movements designed to open up the free flow of energy through the body.  Steuart often describes the interaction between horse and rider in terms of energy and encourages riders to think and feel in these terms.

Steuart's ProfileIn 2003 Steuart participated in the first training program and assessment of the US Eventing Association's Instructor Certification Program. After intensive coaching and practice teaching before Karen O'Connor, Eric Horgan, Don Sachey and others, Steuart went to Texas to be evaluated in the areas of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping instruction, horse management, and safety. He passed in all areas and is now a part of the small group of trainers in the country certified to teach through the preliminary level. The program includes continuing education with the top trainers in the sport.

A variety of essays written by Steuart Pittman on training issues can be accessed by clicking Steuart Says on the dodonfarm.com menu. We encourage you to send comments back to Steuart via e-mail at

 


ABOUT ERIN

Erin has had a fascination with horses for as long as she can remember. Growing up horseless but next door to a ranch in Colorado encouraged her to finally get into the horse world for good as a college student. She dreamed of veterinary school from about the age of 4 onwards, but high school chemistry scared her into pursuing a degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado instead. After volunteering at Colorado Horse Rescue for several months, she decided to try again for her childhood dream and enrolled in Colorado State University's Equine Science program in 1996. After finishing her second bachelor's degree there, Erin entered into a graduate program in Equine Nutrition instead of going to vet school.

Erin and KateErin's research at CSU was aimed at investigating the effects of rapid growth on bone development in weanling horses. Upon completion of her MS degree at CSU, she took at job at the University of Maryland as the coordinator for their new Equine Business Management Program at the Institute of Applied Agriculture. She stayed there for nearly 10 years, teaching yearly courses on Equine Nutrition, Equine Reproduction, Equine Behavior, Pasture Management/Hay Production, Equine Health Management and Agricultural Marketing. Erin was also an Extension Horse Specialist for 8 years, coordinating the seminar series at the Horse World Expo among other outreach activities. Erin is currently the Vice Chair of the Maryland Horse Industry Board where she was appointed to her second term as the representative for the Equine Academic Community. Erin left the University in June 2011 to pursue working with the Retired Racehorse Training Project and to become the Business Manager for Dodon Farm.

Erin and GeorgiaErin doesn't have much time for riding, but when she does, it's on her favorite horse, Georgia (dam of Frankly True by Salute The Truth). She is available for individual Equine Nutritional Consultations, speaking engagements. Her areas of expertise are in Equine Nutrition and Weed Control in pastures.

You can contact Erin via email at

 

 




Copyright Dodon Farm
Updated May 25, 2012
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