The Starnes Family is pictured here together during the NSBA World Show. Photo © Courtsey Promotions

Industry Power Couples and The Secret to Their Sucess

Many of us know having a career in the horse world means traveling many miles for shows, long hour days, and hard work. Finding someone to be by your side through all of it, every day is a rare and special thing.

Lucky for us, there are many influential and motivational couples in our industry today. We recently spoke with four established couples in various parts of the industry to learn how they make it work alongside their spouse in and out of the office every day.

Roger Landis and Debbi Trubee of North Farm

For most of us, we can’t imagine being with someone who doesn’t eat, sleep, and breathe horses 24/7. Roger Landis and Debbi Trubee had the same thought process. They were both raised in the horse show world and wouldn’t have it any other way today. The couple switched from the training side to breeding about fifteen years ago and started North Farm.

An important aspect of working with your significant other is separating roles and acknowledging the others’ strengths. When you define who is doing what, it helps prevent future issues. Roger and Debbi use this within their business for ultimate success.

“Roger and I have settled into a perfect place where he has his division that he runs, and I have my parts of the business that I run,” Debbi said. “We have mutual respect for each other’s area. For us, having our independent areas to oversee allows us to be the chief of our operation and respect that the other is in charge of their area.”

“We have separate responsibilities, so it works well for us,” Roger said. “Debbi is the brains, and I’m the workhorse. It’s nice to have someone that understands the daily trials and tribulations of this life, and she lets me work dawn to dusk.”

Phil and Phyllis Harris of Harris Leather and Silverworks

Life can take you down different paths throughout the years. Phil and Phyllis Harris of Harris Leather and Silverworks didn’t start a business together at the beginning of their careers. Phyllis pursued her dreams of being a physician assistant and attended PA School at Wake Forest University. The couple was together eight years and made a point to wait until she graduated before they wed. Phyllis practiced medicine 13 years before deciding to work full time with Phil at Harris Leather.

Work is not everything in life. These two mentioned how being together and spending time outside of work keeps their relationship strong.

“We work very well together and have a deep respect for one another,” Phil said. “It is great. We are constantly leaning on each other for advice and help. I could not do this without her. She is so smart, and a tremendous asset to our company and our relationship. It is a real blessing to be able to work together. We’ve created an inseparable bond that has helped our marriage survive for more than 33 years. We are best friends and business partners.”

“We enjoy spending time together at work and outside of work,” Phyllis said. “It is wonderful because we are best friends, business partners, parents, and most of all, husband and wife. We are always together and even enjoy sharing each other’s passions outside of horses and the business.”

Ronnie and Hannah Casper

Growing up together as neighbors, the Caspers fell in love is the classic love story everyone dreams of having. The two met at a very young age in Florida and knew they would be together forever. Ronnie and Hannah now own Hannah Jewelry. Ronnie is also still seen in the show pen as an exhibitor and judge.

The couple agreed that, to be with each other day-in and day-out was a huge bonus for their careers. Supporting one another in all facets is also a big part of being a successful business couple.

“We are blessed to be able to work together,” Hannah said. “Most couples don’t get that luxury as they have different careers. I said blessed, and know how lucky we are, but I didn’t say it was always easy. We are very fortunate to be able to spend most of our lives with our best friend.”

“I believe that the most important thing about keeping a great working relationship with a spouse in the horse business is acknowledging the help, support and hours of hard work your wife or husband puts in to help push you to be your best,” Ronnie said. “We all have to remember that without that person, most of us would never have gotten to the levels that we have. Hannah has always given everything she has to be there for me while I show. I have always given my all to help her and support her in her jewelry business. We couldn’t have done it without each other.”

Jay and Kristy Starnes

When someone is practically raised on the back of a horse, it’s no surprise they want to become a horse trainer as an adult. Jay and Kristy Starnes started from the small open horse show circuits and are currently two of the top trainers in their industry. The couple married in their early twenties and have created an impressive name for themselves in the show pen.

Working alongside your spouse is no easy task, but competing with them is even harder. Jay and Kristy acknowledged their job can be difficult at times. They also said it helped and worked to their advantage in some ways too.

“We get along well, so it is not hard for us to work together,” Jay said. “We both have different roles in the business and complement each other well. Not to say that we never butt heads. We do argue about things from time-to-time, mostly about horses. But in the end, it is just one person saying out loud what the other was already thinking and not wanting to hear.”

“We do not have many struggles,” Kristy said. “We love what we do and enjoy our jobs. This is a lifestyle. That is something that is hard for a lot of people to understand. Being a horse trainer is not a 9 to 5 job it is 24-7. We can divide and conquer. We both have similar but different riding styles, and if one of us does not suit a horse the other will. We end up producing a lot more show horses that way.”


These four couples are just a glimpse into some of the amazing families working together in the equine industry. As Kristy Starnes said, this is a lifestyle which requires passion and dedication. Finding someone to be there through the easy and challenging times is the real test, but as you can see, it can be done.

About the Author: GoHorseShow writer, Courtney Hall is a graduate student at Missouri State University. She is obtaining a Master’s Degree in Agriculture with research in Agricultural Communications. She started showing the APHA& AQHA all around circuit as a youth and continues today as an amateur.