“When we moved [to Antioch], all of our friends thought we’d lost our minds,” says Susan Bozorgi. “We’re very involved in Lake Forest, so when we did this, everybody thought it was some terrible disaster. But when we started hosting parties and getting people up here, they all said, ‘I get it.’” The new Bozorgi family home sits just off a country road at the top of a hill, the highest point on their property, which they’ve named “Believe It Farm.” Their back deck is the perfect vantage point to see the rest of their 20 acres, which hold an 18-stall barn for the retired or injured horses they tend, six large open-air turnouts, and a gorgeous view of the forest preserve that borders their property. When you arrive, the sounds of nature take over as soon as you turn off your car: bird songs, the summer breeze shuffling through leaves, the occasional nickering of the horses. Suddenly, nature outnumbers civilization and it feels like you’ve escaped. Best of all, a 20-minute car ride down 94 puts you back in Lake Forest, like you never left.
The exodus to Antioch began with longtime Lake Foresters Rush and Caroline Weeden. Development all around their Lake Forest hunter/jumper training facility, Brookwood Farm, began to make it a less than ideal training ground for champion horses and riders. “Horses and city life don’t usually mix that well,” says Caroline with a laugh. “Luckily, we were very established, so when we moved north, it was a very easy transition. And we’re very appreciative that [our clients] are all willing to make the trip for their training.” Their new 40-acre property is a much more accommodating space for the horses, but the Weedens keep their home in Lake Forest, which serves as their primary residence during the school year while their daughter attends Lake Forest High School.
“Rush and Caroline are the core of this,” says Ila Lemonis of Lake Forest, who also just got her own 20 acres right down the road from Brookwood Farm and Believe It Farm. “I have five horses and my ultimate goal was to be where they were. I spend almost every day at their farm anyway, soon I’m going to be living right next door and I’ll be able to have my retired horses on my farmland. I’ll continue to keep my show horses with Rush and Caroline because they’re outstanding trainers and I couldn’t do it without them.” Both Ila and her daughter train at Brookwood Farm and ride in shows together.
The love of riding horses is often a family affair. Back at Believe It Farm, all of the Bozorgis ride. Susan has been riding with her father, Hank, since she was seven years old, and Hank has always dreamed of having a horse farm out in the country. Finally, at the age of 88, Hank is experiencing it thanks to Susan and her husband, Kenny, and he helps take care of their clients’ retired show horses. “I think a lot of people like to have good care for their horse that they consider a member of the family,” says Hank. “There’s a lot to look after here and that’s good. I used to see my grandchildren twice a year, Christmas and vacation. Now, every day with them, it’s a new life. It’s a good life.”
Even though they’ve found a great life in the country, it doesn’t mean they’ve given up on Lake Forest. Both of Susan’s kids, Alec and Amanda, go to school at Lake Forest Academy, where Alec plays lacrosse and Amanda is very involved in the Center for Conservation Leadership program with Lake Forest Open Lands. “We made a commitment when we did this that we would still keep [our children] very involved in the life that they had before. I love that this feels very far away, but it really isn’t. That was really important for us. To us, the North Shore means family, tradition, education; it’s rooted in a value system that’s meant a lot to us, so we didn’t want to go far away. Lake Forest is where we want to raise our children.”