Ray Bernier and his stallion "Hear Them Talkin" aka Loto.
A Man with A Plan
Hillcrest Stables would never have existed if it wasn't for the limitless energy and ingenuity of Ray Bernier. For those of you who don't know Ray - you'll most certainly meet him on one of your visits to Hillcrest. Ray was born in Connecticut to a military family in 1944, and moved to Vermont when he was around 10. He grew up around horses from an early age as his father was deeply involved in horse racing. In 1966, Ray joined the Air Force and worked as an engineer. Fast forward a few decades to 1980, Ray spent many of his days milking cows for a small dairy farmer on the Westford-Milton Road.
One day he decided he wanted a try country life himself and purchased the 187 acres from the dairy farm owner. He continued to milk cows on the property for another 15 years until it simply wasn't making enough money to continue. At about the same time, a new business venture peeked Ray's interest - emu's. If you know Ray - you know how good he is at finding a deal, and that's exactly what got him into Emu's. He learned of two breeding birds that were valued at nearly $65,000 dollars a piece and offered the owner $25.00 for the pair - the seller anxious to rid himself of the Emu's agreed and Ray's new venture took off. To make room for a new barn, he cleared a majority of the property that was largely forested up to this point with pine and found a barn nearby that needed to be dismantled.
Once again, Ray saw an opportunity and pounced - taking the barn down piece by piece and moving it to his property where he constructed a new barn for the Emu's with the repurposed lumber. The Emu business grew to over 400 birds at one point before Ray once again was faced with the challenge of change. He decided it was time to do away with the Emu's due to a decreased demand for their lean meat. The very day the last Emu left, he drove to the lumber yard and had 2 truckloads of lumber delivered to begin converting the Emu barn into horse stalls.
The first barn quickly outgrew itself with horse owners looking for a place to board and is what prompted Ray to build another barn at the bottom of the hill with an indoor arena in 1998. At about the same time, his aging father needed a place for his older horses and broodmares. In 2002, Ray began building the frame work of what would become Hillcrest Stables. Originally the plan was only for a few stalls with a pole barn arena so the broodmare's offspring could run around freely. Ray quickly realized he need a larger structure to accommodate his needs. A concrete foundation for the arena solved his footprint problem and soon the barn began to expand quickly with additional stalls and features. Ray ran Valley View Stable, a small boarding operation, for a number of years before selling to Bruce and Wanda.
In May of 2014, Ray passed away after a couragous battle with cancer. While no longer here, we remember him everyday for his hard work and dedication to creating a beautiful facility. He will be greatly missed.