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Robin DeGraff: Building a Life Breeding Horses and Captaining Yachts

Longtime horse breeder Robin DeGraff of Port Clinton, Ohio, has always been horse crazy. At age16, DeGraff graduated high school and went straight to work at a nearby stable to learn about horses.

Over the next several years, Robin worked at a multitude of barns and stables that specialized in breeding and showing many different horse breeds.

Finally, in 1985 DeGraff started her own breeding operation known as DeGraff Stables. Her business focuses on breeding and raising talented, primarily English-bred, horses.

Today, DeGraff Stables is a USDA Certified facility located in Port Clinton, Ohio. Their stallion roster features many champions and top sires such as Caribbean Touchdown, DGS Replicated, DGS TheEntertainer, DGS Vintage, iFiesta Fudge!, Frosty The Goodbar, and Invite The Artist.

Robin’s success in the horse world is nothing short of impressive. The appearance of her stallions’ bloodlines in many Top Five AQHA Superhorses is remarkable in itself, but there’s more to Robin than just her horses. DeGraff also has a passion for yachting and she currently has her 100 Ton Master Captain’s License.

To get her license, DeGraff passed the license qualifications, which include: be at least 19 years old, a U.S. citizen, have a minimum of 360 days boating experience, ninety of those days must have occurred in the last three years. In addition, one must be able to pass a physical and a drug test, hold a valid CPR and First Aid Card, obtain a Transportation Worker Identity Card (TWIC), and complete a Coast Guard-approved 25/50 or 100-ton license course.

Robin says, “I love ‘crewing’ on yachts.” DeGraff’s duties include navigation, ship’s route and itinerary, weather, radio, safety procedures and equipment, fenders for docking, and, of course, cooking and cleaning.

DeGraff works for a company that does two types of moves. One type is strictly delivery – travel to a location and pick up the boat and operate and deliver it to the end destination. Robin enjoys crewing on the delivery trips because of the flexibility it affords to choose and visit different ports.  She says “It has been fun making friends at stops that are now becoming familiar.“

The other type of move is with the owner on board and moving the boat from one location to their port of choice. It includes teaching them how to operate and maintain the boat and navigate the waterways. These yachts are typically in the 50 to 75-foot range. DeGraff says, “What I enjoy most about crewing on an owner attended vessel is that most of them are new owners, and it is rewarding to help them develop and improve their skills with their boat.”

Robin also likes to take friends boating with her as a vacation. “I believe in order to have a friend, you’ve got to be a friend. That’s why it’s important for me to share things with my friends that they might not normally be able to do, like boating.”

In addition to traveling with her friends, DeGraff won’t go anywhere without her pet corgi, Yogi. “I have so many pictures, all in such cool, cool places. Once I learned more about traveling by boat, it was important to me to be able to keep the boat at 60 foot or under so that I could get into the majority of marinas. Any jump in size over 60-foot, limits available stops. I find I like the small historical towns. I try to visit as many local historical sites, museums, and lighthouses as I can at each stop.”

She continues, “Yogi and I have traveled down to the Keys, through the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waterway, to the Houston Ship Channel, all the way up the East Coast to New York City Harbor.”

Even though Robin has lived a pretty grounded life saying “there would be times where I wouldn’t leave the farm for weeks due to the extensive work, like the year we foaled 162 mares.” She now enjoys being able to “just unhook and go somewhere.” Not only can DeGraff find her escape through yachting, but she has also recently taken up motorcycling.

Though yachting can sometimes make operating her farm a little tricky with the many days DeGraff is on the water and unreachable, being a captain has given her great joy. Robin gives credit to the people she works with, saying, “I am so appreciative of the amazing people I work with who afford me the opportunity to come and go all the time. They always take care of things at home.”

Robin also compares both the horse and boating worlds saying, “The horse industry has such great people, from the owners to the trainers, breeders, and staff, it’s all very connected. The yachting world is very similar in that it’s also a very close-knit community.”

DeGraff now visits the farm every few weeks when she’s not boating, but she stays busy “super planning” things for DeGraff Stables. One of Robin’s newest projects has been getting ready for her new up and coming stallions. She’s incorporating some new blood into her barn, including a halter bred stud, a paint horse, and is even looking at getting a reining bred horse from Matt Flarida Reining Horses in Purcell, Oklahoma.

DeGraff has an ‘ideal’ of form to function for breeding and takes pride in “Never changing to be more commercial,” and she focuses on “one person at a time and not big farms.”

Her husband, David Dooge is the one who got Robin into boating. After his passing from cancer two years ago, she got her captain’s license and gave her boat the meaningful name, Stepping Stone. 

Through 30 years, they worked their regular businesses, traveled the country, boated the Great Lakes, and developed DeGraff Stables.

“We built it literally by hand through all the ups and downs – stall by stall, horse by horse – promoting stallions, raising prospects, showing a few select individuals, processing every collection, and foaling every foal. We have the best family and friends that helped make our days full.”

CLICK HERE to view DeGraff Stables’ latest ad in GoMag.

About the Author – Oklahoma State Equestrian Commit, Lauren Pursley is a devoted youth equestrian showing in the all-around events with her horse Lovin Some Lazy Lola. Lauren is the current Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association President, AQHYA Region 8 Director, and a member of Team USA 2020 for the Youth World Cup.  In addition to competing in AQHA shows, Lauren competes in Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) horse shows and participated in the 2020 AQHA Ranching Heritage Bred Young Horse Development Program.