HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) – Michael Dowling’s career in the equine industry is riding high with the opening of The Hill, a horse farm in the heart of New Jersey’s prestigious Essex Hunt country.
Located in Far Hills, the facility offers a top equine training program and state-of-the-art systems for both horses and riders. An assistant professor of equine studies at Centenary University, Dowling has ensured that his latest business venture is opening doors to Centenary students seeking to broaden their experience in the industry.
The state’s equine industry—which encompasses everything from pleasure riding to world-class horse shows, therapeutic riding, breeding, and racing—contributes $3.2 billion to New Jersey’s economy annually. In fact, New Jersey has more horses per square mile than any other U.S. state.
Raised in northwestern New Jersey, Dowling grew up around horses as a frequent visitor to his cousin’s farm. He opened his first equine business at age 23 after earning his undergraduate degree from Fairfield University and studying at the University of Lancaster in England. While developing a client base, he trained and showed horses along the east coast for almost a decade. Seeking a more grounded lifestyle, Dowling joined the Centenary faculty 20 years ago. The Hill represents the merger of Dowling’s former business, Windham Hill LLC, which he operated for 30 years, with several partners. In addition to The Hill, Dowling is a co-owner of Monmouth at the Team, the longest continuously running horse show in the United States. This year’s event was held at the Centenary University Equestrian Center in August.
Today, Dowling spends his time teaching and coaching at Centenary, as well as coaching clients at The Hill and in Florida on weekends. At Centenary, he is the co-coach of the University’s IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association) team, which has won three national championship titles and a reserve champion title, and has produced three Cacchione Cup champions. “It’s a very busy schedule but I find it very rewarding,” he said. “It allows me to give back to our Centenary students and help mentor them on their journey in the equestrian world.”
Yet, Dowling’s biggest impact has been on the professional careers of the University’s students and alumni, many of whom have worked at his farms after graduation. Through the years, more than 20 Centenary students have also interned at Dowling’s barns in New Jersey and Florida: “These are typically very motivated students who really are looking at getting the most out of their college experience. I am proud to say that most of them have gone on to be successful additions to the equine community.”
Program diversity is key to the success of Centenary’s equine studies program, according to Dowling. “The equine studies faculty is diverse and very active in the professional community,” he said, noting that faculty members include an equine veterinarian, trainers, licensed officials such as judges and stewards, a lawyer, a grief counselor, and certified therapeutic instructors. “This diversity allows us to network and puts us out in the thick of the horse world. I have people reaching out almost on a daily basis, looking for students to work in various facets of the industry.”