Heartland Hackney Farm features 500+ acres located in southeast Iowa. The farm employs 7-8 people who care 400+ Hackney ponies, making it perhaps the largest breeder of ponies in the world. The farm raises its own hay and oats to help in feeding its stock in a cost effective manner.
Darrel Kolkman saw his first hackney when he was just a boy, while his family was enjoying their annual summer camping trip to the Iowa State Fair. He was immediately drawn to their impressive athletic ability and classy appearance. Raised on a 310 acre family farm in rural Iowa, Darrel’s family raised grain, cattle, and hogs. Darrel’s father, Delbert Kolkman, sacrificed valuable pasture space that could have been used for cattle to allow Darrel to have his first ponies. His first pony was a 4 year-old Shetland riding pony.
Second to his love for horses was a love for athletics. Darrel received a scholarship to play basketball at Southeastern Community College. He later earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Northern Iowa University, and a Master’s Degree from Northeast Missouri State. While in college, he purchased his first hackney from Roy Sutton.
Staying active on both the athletic and equine fronts, Darrel became a college basketball coach at the same local community college where he had played a few years before. Being on the coaching staff, his team finished as National Runner-Up. He then considered a graduate assistant coaching position at Kansas State University. His decision was monumental – pursue a career in coaching college basketball, or stay near family and relatives where he could also pursue his love for horses. He chose the latter and got a job coaching and teaching at a local school.
Darrel first started showing ponies in the early 1960’s. Partnered with his brothers Gary and Dean, they had only three brood mares. They began showing their foals at small shows in the Midwest. The Kolkman brothers made their first showing at the Illinois State Fair in 1966 when they showed a pony named Mr. Prairie Flower. Darrel’s brothers soon moved on to other pursuits and Darrel continued to show ponies at the Illinois State Fair through 2015.
It was very evident that there were two ways to obtain the best stock, buy it or raise it. Knowing that he could not afford to purchase top hackney blood, Darrel began the long quest to raise it, an effort that would take decades to complete. Countless hours were spent year in and year out reading through old show magazines and stud books, trying to learn as much about the best bloodlines available in the Hackney breed
During the 1970’s, Darrel and wife Sandy, managed raising three children, teaching, coaching, and raising and showing ponies. Darrel’s herd of ponies stood at about a dozen. In 1978 he showed at the Kentucky State Fair for the first time when he made the trip to Louisville with a weanling filly Sweet Echo. She won her class.
During the 1980’s Darrel’s herd began to grow in numbers, reaching around ninety head. He decided to add the Heartland prefix to his stock and began experiencing consistent success in the show ring at a national level. Mainly focusing on ponies shown in hand, the farm was very successful at the Mid-West, National, Michigan, and Mid-America Futurities.
During the 1990’s the farm’s numbers grew steadily to where they stand today.