The Portofino Equestrian Center began as a love story to the lush rolling countryside of Portofino. Located in Eastern North Carolina (aka “The Triangle), the PEC is known for its acclaimed cross-country equestrian facilities, riding trails that stretch for miles, and acres of undeveloped forest areas. Its connection to the outdoors has made Portofino a dream come true for horse lovers everywhere.
The equestrian community has always been the driving backbone behind our passionate devotion to providing the finest care and training possible. We want to encourage riders to get out of the city and support the rich equestrian history of North Carolina. We aim to keep the integrity of Portofino alive for future generations of equestrian riders, who will carry forward a longstanding love of all things equestrian.
In early 2010, the Portofino Equestrian community had its first open house in the personal home of Sandra & Norwood Thompson, the director & developers of Portofino.
The house, now known as The Red Roof Inn, captures the immense rugged beauty of the Portofino landscape through wide plank pine floors, a cathedral ceiling, and a grand log-burning fireplace. Norwood and Sandra have always welcomed the Portofino community into their home with open arms, always available for questions and comments regarding the community.
Just to the rear of the Red Roof Inn lies the real attraction to the site: a luxurious 22-stall barn, paddocks, and a riding arena.
We pride ourselves on our thorough research and selection process when it comes to employing the best of the best. Our staff is representative of the pride and passion put behind our services. They are a progressive group of knowledgeable horse lovers, ranging from competitive equestrians to spring-loving April & March trail riders.
All our team members have years of horse experience and are incredibly responsible for caring for your companions. They go through a specialized hiring & training process, ranging from daily operations, programs, and procedures to equine safety and wellness education. This ensures that they are prepared to rise to any challenge that may present itself.
Aaron Stuckey Hill is Portofino’s three-day event rider and instructor. Raised in Newnan, Georgia, on her family’s farm, she has always felt a strong connection to horses, demonstrated through her training methods. She has produced many horses and continues to help students develop their young event horses.
Aaron has competed countrywide, from Washington to California, and was long-listed for The United States Three-Day Event Team in 2001. A longtime US Pony Club member, she achieved the USPC difficult “A” rating and continues to work with local Pony Clubs.
Many of Aaron’s students have competed at the National and FEI levels, training students like Mia Braundel.
Aaron has sharpened her skills through years of experience in the field and extensive training with legendary horsemen, including Mark Todd, Ralph Hill, Nick Larkin, Bruce and Buck Davidson, David O’Conner, Jim Wofford, Julie Richards, and Robert Costello.
Veronica has dedicated her life to teaching and helping students discover their passion in the equine world. She enjoys competing, holding both the USDF Bronze and Silver Medals.
Exposure to equine genetics and basic veterinary care during her career at a Virginia breeding farm inspired Veronica to pursue a degree in Animal Science with an equine emphasis. During college, she competed with the Virginia Tech Equestrian Team. Upon graduation, Veronica became a working student under USDF gold medalist Susan Cooper, acquiring extensive experience training and marketing dressage sport horses.
Veronica’s move to Colorado led to her training young horses alongside the esteemed international sport horse importer Noble Dressage. She also enjoyed her full-time training with Diamond Dressage and teaching her weekly dressage class at the Urban Farm in Stapleton, Colorado. In North Carolina, she continues her dressage education with her coach, Tami Batts, and clinic-ing regularly with Danish Olympian Lars Petersen.
She has built a teaching and training business on the eastern side of Raleigh and loves the honor of watching her students and their horses develop through dressage training!
Penny Goddard is an accomplished trainer, instructor, and rider across multiple disciplines. For her, riding is not a hobby—it’s the law. Penny grew up working on a ranch outside of Reno, Nevada, later attending the nationally accredited Meredith Manor Equestrian College, studying English and Western riding disciplines. After graduating, Penny was an instructor at Meredith Manor, teaching students full-time.
Penny has competed successfully in Three-Day Eventing, American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress. She has taught multiple students who placed in the top 5 of the AQHA Select World Show. She was Reserve Champion for the American Royal in Western Pleasure and Trail while competing in third-level dressage. She’s qualified for the American Eventing Championships (AEC) and has students who have qualified for the AEC.
Penny has been a Fort Leavenworth Riding Stables trainer and has worked as a private trainer for 17 years. Before this, she served as an assistant trainer for Judy Bohnam, a multiple-time World Champion in trail riding.
She specializes in long-lining horses to assist horses in overcoming tension and apprehension. This method results in more relaxed and rhythmic horses that respond to the rider’s aids to develop better collection through improved balance.