The idea of the Middle River Ranch was initiated in 1994 by Richard Hildreth and Robin Sprafka. It began as a small breeding operation in Cumming, Iowa. It soon became apparent that the project was out-growing the ten-acre area that housed it. The entire business was moved to one hundred seventy five acres further south in Madison County.
The property has large rolling hills with green pastures, sizeable wooded areas, several ponds and a creek running just about smack dab in the middle of it all. The acreage was the original homestead land of a much larger farming operation. The old farmhouse had been moved onto the property in 1910 by horse drawn conveyance and nine children were born in the residence during the next few years. Although the land had been farmed, the house had not been lived in for three years by the time Rick and Robin came along. So with three cats in tow they moved in with the mice and broken water pipes.
As farms tend to get, this one was no different. Junk was everywhere. Treasures and antiques were found hidden and lost in the debris as clean up progressed. The project is still on going but great strides have been accomplished.
There were two salvageable buildings on the property. One was a large Morton building that was just the right size for storing hay and equipment; the other was a dilapidated grain storage building. With some innovative thinking and lots of elbow grease, Rick turned the structure into a three-sided shelter for the horses that were living in that forty-acre pasture.
The next two projects started about the same time. The in-door arena and the smaller used building that Rick bought as a project for him to build. The in-door arena was built by a contracting company and was completed very quickly, the “Project” took poor Rick about seven years to finish. In Rick’s defense during those seven years he built a round pen for training, several large paddocks for stall horses, added new fencing to both the forty acre pastures so they would have easy access and two out-door riding arenas. One of the arenas was built during the time it took Rick’s broken left wrist to heel after a nasty fall from his horse. He claims the ring is oval because that is the way he moved when he worked with one arm.