Declan Jackson and Melanie Schow, co-owners of Stepaside Farm
Partners in life and united by a love of animals, Declan and Melanie (camera shy) accidentally stumbled on Stepaside Farm en route to picking up new puppies in 2012. Soon after, they moved from the Pasadena area to Fresno to start a new life of farming and ranching. While Melanie grew up in California, Declan came to the United States from the farm’s namesake, Stepaside, Ireland. With experience as an amateur jockey, Declan began working as an exercise rider and then trainer for Howard Schow. It was there that Melanie and Declan met and the rest—as they say—is history.
With Declan’s horsemanship and Melanie’s talents in corporate-level management and real estate, their skills are a winning combination. On non-ranch time, Melanie makes fine-art jewelry and is an avid knitter. Declan enjoys fine woodworking, investing, and long solo hikes in the mountains.
Julia Thwaites, Farm Manager
Originally from Singapore, Julia met Declan at Santa Anita racetrack in 1983 when she was working for her brother, a top trainer in Singapore. In 1986, the two started working together and, after all these years, their collaboration is still going strong. Excellent horsewoman, budding cowgirl, and all-around hard worker, Julia’s skills are critical to the success at Stepaside Farm. According to Declan, “Julia is no-nonsense and works harder than anyone else. Even harder than me!” She is owned by two adorable Jack Russel mixes, Sophie and Legs. For fun, Julia likes travel and gardening in her spare time.
Dagoberto Contreras and Dario Contreras, Groundskeepers
In 2004, Declan and Dagoberto met at Hollywood Park. When they started working together, Declan trained him to be a hot walker and the fine art of working with horses. “He can walk the toughest, crazy horse as he understands they are stronger than you are and if they rear up, you let them,” says Declan. In addition to working with the horses, Dagoberto and his cousin Dario clean stalls, mend fences, cut acres of grass, trim trees, and are in charge of the endless task of fixing any of the hundreds of sprinklers on the property. For fun, Dagoberto is a runner.
Howard Schow—in memoriam
Howard is the reason our farm exists today. When Power Ped got his first black type, we visited Howard’s graveside to break the news we’d fulfilled his dream. He is greatly missed, and his legacy lives on at Stepaside Farm.