Born and raised on Bainbridge Island, Kathy Countryman began bringing home starving and wounded animals at a young age. Following her passion to support animals in need, Kathy spent years with the Bainbridge Island Veterinary Clinic and Day Road Animal Hospital, adding expertise to her commitment to care for the "unwanted" creatures with claws, paws or hooves in her community.
In the mid 1970's, 19-year old Kathy Woodman met 29-year old, local farrier Rick Countryman during one of his many visits to shoe horses at the facility that would eventually become Countryman Stables. The two were married 4 years later.
With the previous owner in her 70's and struggling to manage the stables, Kathy and Rick bought the property from her in the summer of 1981 and Countryman Stables was born. Just a few months later in the fall of that year, Katie was born! Three years later, Kevin joined the family and the Countryman clan was complete.
A Family Affair
Throughout the 1980's and 1990's, Kathy continued to care for animals in need, teaching riding and horsemanship to the growing list of students and boarders at Countryman Stables. While Rick continued his work as a farrier, he simultaneously nurtured his passion for developing young horses, many of whom became successful in the competitive ring. At times, the pair would have 38 horses in their care, frequently bringing up to 25 horses and riders to various shows and events.
Katie Countryman Starks grew up riding and competing alongside the horses and riders at Countryman Stables. Known as a quiet perfectionist who enjoyed riding more than competing, Rick would spend hours helping to develop talented (but often challenging) young horses, which Katie would show with great success.
To this day, Katie is known for her intuitive and patient approach to reading the specific needs of each horse, which contributes to her reputation as a highly intuitive and adaptable coach and competitor.
After Rick's unexpected passing in 2011; with support from her children, Kathy ran Countryman Stables for the next 8 years. Even with the demands of the business, Kathy never stopped caring for local animals in need, and Countryman Stables remains a go-to resource for advice, temporary (or, let's be honest, permanent) housing for feathered and fuzzy orphans within our community.
Katie began to lend her depth of competitive riding experience as a coach at Countryman Stables in 2011. While equipped to train riders to compete at the highest levels as she did, Katie believes that nothing is worth it if you're not having fun. Thus, Katie's riders enjoy high quality (but low pressure) support throughout their development in and out of the show arena.
The Next Generation
Working hard to keep a family owned, community barn alive in an environment where such institutions are becoming more and more rare, Kathy sold the business to Katie and her husband Bryan in 2019. From Bryan's skills in maintaining and developing the property to Katie's expertise in running a safe, fun and competitive training center and barn; Countryman Stables is poised to serve another generation of Kitsap County horses and riders of all ages and abilities.
Kathy continues to teach riding and animal care at Countryman Stables, while simultaneously lending her decades of experience to advisory and board positions with institutions like the Bainbridge Island Saddle Club, which dedicated the Rick Countryman Memorial Riding Arena to her late husband in 2012.