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Kristen Kovatch

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Best of HN: What Does Your Favorite Girl Scout Cookie Say About Your Horse Life?

In the middle of February, just when winter is starting to look like it will never end and that we’re trapped in an endless cycle of freezing and thawing with mud on every single surface (including, somehow, the INSIDE of your horse’s blanket) a little ray of sunshine comes to help cheer us up: the Girl Scout cookie, those little brightly-colored boxes (that seem to grow somehow smaller every year) containing rows of addictive little pastries with cute names. Science* proves that Girl Scout cookies don’t have any calories at all. (*alternative science)

You can’t avoid them this year — even if you’re like me and have somehow successfully dodged every adorable wee Scout with her sign-up sheet so you too can mainline cookies right to your face (the perks of working from home with the horses at the family farm), there is in fact an APP this year that lets you order them direct. I’m going to do you a favor and not link it right now.

Okay, we’ve established that we’re all woefully addicted. But what does our favorite Girl Scout cookie variety say about us as equestrians?

(This list is 100% fiction and based on the same “science” as described above. Read this with a grain of salt.)

Thin Mints: “Crisp wafers covered in chocolaty coating. Made with natural oil of peppermint.” You like to pretend that you have expensive taste, as evidenced by your love for the darkest and most decadent cardboard box cookie that good money can buy, even though deep down you know you’re just as horse-poor as the rest of us, as evidenced by your filthy car and duct-taped paddock boot. All of your horse equipment is in your “colors” and despite the fact that your horse has only one lead and spooks at his own shadow, he is arguably the best dressed, best turned out and most matchy-match horse in the ring.

Samoas: “Crisp cookies, coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut, and striped with dark chocolaty coating.” NOT to be confused with samosa, a delicious fried dumpling filled with spiced potato and lentil. Your love for exotic, tropical fruits like the rare and hard-to-find toasted coconut mirrors your appreciation for experimenting with new disciplines, much to the chagrin of your fellow boarders at your exclusive hunter-jumper barn. In a given week, you and your horse might dabble in dressage, western trail, pleasure driving and liberty work. The lesson kids still gossip about the time you brought in a live goat so you could practice heel catches like a real cowboy.

Tagalongs: “Crispy cookies layered with peanut butter and covered with a chocolaty coating.” You binge-eat an entire box of these that one of your lesson moms brought in to share with everyone and chased it with another cup of bottom-of-the-pot jet fuel coffee, because you are the overworked riding instructor or working student who secretly wishes that these cookies would grow a pair and finally turn into the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups they’re trying so hard to emulate. Here, please take another box. You deserve them.

Trefoils: “Delicate-tasting shortbread that is delightfully simple and satisfying.” No one actually likes these. Move along.

Do-si-dos: “Crunchy oatmeal sandwich cookie with creamy peanut butter filling.” You genuinely enjoy volunteering at horse shows, helping pick up around the barn, horse-sitting for other boarders out of town on vacation and all the nasty chores like scrubbing out the field waterers on a 40-degree day. People who don’t know you might call you a brown-noser but you also make wickedly-good guacamole and bring plenty of wine to barn parties to ensure that you’ve bought everyone’s loyalty.

Savannah Smiles: “Crisp, zesty lemon wedge cookies dusted with powdered sugar.” The only kind of equestrian who could possibly call a lemon cookie their favorite has to be the kind of rider who is all business at the barn, keeping their personal areas tidy and well-organized. Your horse is a nondescript bay who, rumor has it, you paid a good five figures for, and he is every inch the professional under saddle or on the ground. You’re not all that engaging, but when you got into some of Do-si-do’s wine at the last barn party you did tell some pretty hilarious stories that got everyone’s attention.

Toffee-tastic: “Indulgently rich, buttery cookies with sweet, crunchy golden toffee bits.” (Also, gluten-free.) You are retired or semi-retired from some incredibly high-stress job like air traffic control, riot police or heart surgeon, and to relax and unwind in your newfound down time you bought a hot-headed Thoroughbred or auction rescue with a dubious past and ride circles around all the young folk on their well-broke animals, egging them on with just the appropriate level of friendly trash-talk and sassy older-person banter as your horse does gymnastic tricks in the corner because he’s “feeling a little fresh today.”

Girl Scout S’mores: “Our new crunchy graham sandwich cookies with creamy chocolate and marshmallowy filling (YUM!) are one more delicious way to support her next adventure!” These cookies are apparently brand new for this year, so the only way that they could be your favorite already is if you are always trying the next new thing, from fancy bits to magical saddle pads, air-ride horse boots and holistic remedies. You still haven’t found the particular combination of bit, saddle pad, boot and supplement that works well for your horse, but you’ve certainly accumulated a wealth of knowledge as well as half a tack shop overflowing out of your locker. You’re a favorite in the barn because you’re happy to lend any of this stuff out or sell it at cost before you head out to try something new.

Go cookies. Go riding.

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Roof Torn from Texas Eventer’s Home in Valentine’s Day Tornado

On the morning of Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — severe weather moved through the area of Houston, Texas, with five tornadoes touching down between 8 a.m. and 8:45 a.m, according to the National Weather Service. One of these tornadoes tore through the property of Alayna Gnagy, an Area V eventer, destroying her home and damaging her barn and fencing.

Fortunately, Alayna had safely tucked her horses and donkey inside the barn before leaving for work that day, which may have ultimately saved their lives and kept them from harm. While the barn sustained damage, the horses weathered the storm safely. Alayna’s home, however, was not so lucky. The roof was torn off the house, somehow leaving Alayna’s dog “Jake From State Farm” unscathed inside.

Alayna's dog, Jack From State Farm, was thankfully uninjured in the tornado.

Alayna’s dog, Jack From State Farm, was thankfully uninjured in the tornado.

Alayna’s good friend Alyssa Walker explained the damage. “She is left with a ton of damage to her property, including downed pasture fences, debris littered everywhere, damage to the barn and her horse trailer and most importantly, no house or roof over her and her boyfriend’s head.”

The damage to the home — considered a total loss — is not covered by insurance.

Alayna competes her horse When Hoofbeats Echo at Training level at horse trials throughout Texas. A highlight of their partnership was competing at the 2015 Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships.

“Alayna took a $300 barely broke rescue horse and brought him up the levels of eventing,” Alyssa said. “She is a tough woman but I can’t even fathom the amount of stress she is under trying to get her life under control with nowhere to call home.

“Alayna is a humble person who does not ask for help on her own, but she is the first person to step up when someone else is needing.”

If you would like to assist Alayna in rebuilding her home and her property, please visit the YouCaring page set up in her name. The estimated cost for demolition of the existing home is $2,700. Any other funds raised will go towards a down payment to rebuild a new house.

Needville Feed and Supply also has an account in Alayna’s name for feed donations and fencing supplies.

Our thoughts are with Alayna and other families affected by the Valentine’s Day storms in Houston.

Jenni Autry contributed to this report.

Tuesday Video from SpectraVET: Winter at Marbach

Julien Guntz produces beautiful visual and auditory journeys for horse lovers to experience unique locations all over the world, and his latest masterpiece is one of our favorites yet. We visit the German state stud of Marbach, steeped in 500 years of history and making winter look absolutely exquisite.

While eventers best know Marbach as the host site to one of Germany’s key spring CIC3* events, the stud is hugely influential from a breeding standpoint. Throughout its history, Marbach bred the finest horses to help influence local stock, depending on need: heavy breeds were introduced to bolster working horses, followed by general-purpose breeds suitable to both farming and carriage work as well as riding, to post-war sport horses.

The farm is now recognized as the establishing base for the Baden-Württemberger (which is the breed of the one and only La Biosthetique Sam FBW), as well as host to a herd of fine Arabians and the Black Forest draught, all of which appear in the video.

Marbach hosts breed inspections and offers boarding opportunities; another farm campus at St. Johann offers retirement for aged equines. Marbach has become synonymous in Europe with fine breeding as well as education for both the rider and the breeder; the farm also welcomes thousands of tourists each year.

We’re big fans of the work of Julien Guntz and we think you’ll agree that his stunning videos provide an up-close-and-personal look at some of the biggest and best places our horse world has to offer. You can view a full list of his works by clicking here.

Why SpectraVET?

Reliable. Effective. Affordable.

SpectraVET is committed to providing only the highest-quality products and services to our customers, and to educating the world in the science and art of laser therapy.

We design and manufacture the broadest range of clinically-proven veterinary therapeutic laser products, which are represented and supported worldwide by our network of specialist distributors and authorized service centers.

Best of HN: 9 Times the Lady Gaga Super Bowl Halftime Show Summed Up Equestrian Life

Lady Gaga is 100% a performer, through and through, putting her heart and soul into every single note, dance move or death-defying leap off of the top of a stadium. Sound like anyone else you know?

When you take the green horse down his first bank:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

When your horse is playing hard to catch:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

Getting all the barn girls together for a photo…

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

…and then trying to get the horses’ ears up so they look cute:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

Friends, family and responsibilities trying to get you to leave the barn:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

Trying to polo-wrap your antsy horse like:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

On your way back to the stabling area after winning a big class:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

Trying to navigate the warm-up ring:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

When you know you’ve just laid down the best pattern/test/course of your life:

Lady Gaga's FULL Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show | NFL

Go Gaga. Go riding.

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American Pharoah’s Full Brother Was Born Last Night & He’s Adorbs

Hot off the internet presses: a full brother to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah has been born at Summer Wind Farm in Kentucky!

Sired by Pioneerof the Nile out of Littleprincessemma, this little bay colt was born overnight. Whether they go on to win racing’s “Grand Slam” or retire off the track to start a second career as sporthorses, every Thoroughbred starts out the same: a wobbly-legged little foal sticking close to his mother’s side.

Littleprincessemma just had a full brother to American Pharoah. She delivered a beautiful bay colt by Pioneer of the Nile at approximately 1:40 am. Mare and foal are doing well. Welcome to the world little one! #summerwind #americanpharoah

Posted by Karen Bailey on Wednesday, February 8, 2017

One of my favorite sayings, "fall down seven times, stand up eight!" Life is full of ups and downs, even when you are American Pharoah's full brother. Moments like this make it all worthwhile. ❤️ #littleprincessemma

Posted by Karen Bailey on Thursday, February 9, 2017

Littleprincessemma and the full brother to American Pharoah. #inlove #obsessed

Posted by Karen Bailey on Thursday, February 9, 2017

Obviously there is no guarantee that lightning could strike twice and that this colt is destined to inherit his brother’s incredible legacy… but wouldn’t it be great if it did? Until we find out, best wishes to this little colt and his connections.

Go riding!

As seen on…

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Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: White Thoroughbreds

True white Thoroughbreds are very rare. Grey horses that turn paler and paler with age are fairly common, but true white Thoroughbreds come from a genetic mutation and are uncommon indeed. One more white Thoroughbred has been added to the ranks with the birth of a filly by Revolutionary out of the white mare Beautiful Devil. She arrived during the Super Bowl!

It was believed until recently that white Thoroughbreds were a variation of the sabino pattern, essentially presenting as one giant body-wide white spot. However, recent research indicates that these white horses are genetic mutants, which can present in a number of different ways all referred to in a group as “dominant white.”

The Patchen Wilkes horses are perhaps the best-known example. The filly in this video is from a white damline including Beautiful Devil, Spot of Beauty, Patchen Beauty and White Beauty.

Another recent example of a rare white Thoroughbred was the colt born last February at Rockridge Stud in New York. His white coat coloring came from another family; his dam is a daughter of the famous Airdrie Apache, who boasts a mottled coat and is dual registered as a Paint.

Have you ever seen a white Thoroughbred in person? Let us know in the comments below.


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Best of HN: Great-Grandmother, Age 62, Rides Winner at Tampa Bay

Sue Martin is #goals. Not only is she still actively riding at age 62, she’s still riding as a jockey… and winning to boot. Aboard Blue Haze of Fire, Martin won a claiming race on Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs, marking her first win since 2014. Since Martin’s only riding a handful of races these days, that’s not a bad record.

Martin rode her first race in 1973 in Idaho. Also in the mid 1970s, she married trainer Wayne Martin; it was Wayne who trained her mount on Sunday. Amid the usual rough-and-tumble jockey life, Sue Martin also made time for having a family, with seven children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

According to Martin, there are no plans to retire any time soon. We salute you, Sue Martin, and wish you all the best in your continued career!

If you’d like to watch a replay, click here to open Tampa Bay Downs’ replay site — select Sunday, January 29 and watch Race 4. Blue Haze of Fire and Sue are the 7 horse.

Go riding.

[Great-Grandmother Rides $53 Winner At Tampa Bay Downs]

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Best of HN: Every Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl Commercial Since 2002

As we count down to the Super Bowl, join us in reliving the magic of the best marketing campaign known to equestrians.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

(Editor’s choice for second most likely to make you cry)

2007

2008

2009 (bonus: there were two this year!)

2010

2011

2012

2013

(Editor’s choice for most likely to make you cry)

2014

2015

2016

Tell us which is your favorite in the comments section below!

Go Clydesdales.

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Best of HN: The Netherlands Has a Place Called PonyparkCity & It’s So Kitschy & Wonderful

PonyparkCity is weer geopend! De sfeer zit er goed in op de verwelkomingsochtend in Lucky Town!

A photo posted by PonyparkCity™ Official Account (@ponyparkcity) on

There’s a video going around social media about the wonders of the Netherlands (yes, in response to recent political events in the United States) that makes just the briefest, most casual mention of this fantastic place that is truly the stuff that dreams are made of. After spending half of my afternoon gleefully clicking around the website for PonyparkCity while audibly squealing, I have to agree — this is a true wonder, Netherlands’ finest gift to the world.

It’s like the Dixie Stampede meets Disney World meets Westworld but without the psychopathic robots and with a LOT MORE PONIES.

Basically, you come to PonyparkCity, stay for a week with your family and live in a cabin THAT COMES WITH A PONY. Like a fully-stocked hotel: clean towels, complimentary shampoo, pony.

Okay, I don’t really think the pony is necessarily tied to the front porch awaiting your arrival, but just know that when you book a cozy cabin at PonyparkCity you get your own personal pony for the week. So essentially your most basic need is covered right from the get-go.

Additional ponies do need to be hired per family, so if you have brought more than one tot along (read: smuggled in ALL of your friends from Horse Nation who are all pretending to be under the age limit of 12 to ride) you will need to make sure you book the appropriate number. Because nothing spoils a pony vacation faster than having to share your pony with your sibling.

Once you’ve hooked up with your pony, the world is basically your oyster — there are a number of arena spaces as well as organized pony trail rides into the woods and countryside around PonyparkCity. You can also sign up for free riding lessons from a professional instructor as well as participate in the pony show, including the intriguing “Miss Pony” competition which requires a costume. I bet parents absolutely LOVE packing for this trip.

Helmets are required, and are available for free loan for the week. All riding is bareback, but stirrups are available to borrow as well if your pony jockey requires “more stability.” It’s up to the kids to catch their pony from the giant communal barn, groom and care for their pony every morning — this is no groom-for-hire operation but a real hands-on pony wrangling experience. For anyone fearing a hundred sets of tiny hands yanking on ponies’ mouths, rest assured — it looks like all of the ponies are ridden in halters.

Okay, the pony part is great, but what is there to do the rest of the time? (I mean, let’s be real, if there’s a pony, who even cares, but in case there’s a non-horsey kid in the family, we’ll take a quick tour around the rest of the grounds.)

Perhaps you might enjoy bowling…

… or panning for diamonds (I’m not positive this is how diamonds are mined but we’ll go with it) …

… or hanging around with this sheriff with his suspiciously real-looking firearm.

 

Zo, die boef zit gevangen! #cowboyshow #PonyparkCity

 

A photo posted by PonyparkCity™ Official Account (@ponyparkcity) on

PonyparkCity truly has it all: there are a number of restaurants around the grounds, all decorated with the same cartoon-colored American Wild West decor and offering dishes like “authentic American BBQ” or Tex-mex as well as a fully-stocked grocery store in case you want to spend the night in.

There’s also a completely-indoor Western town complete with pony performance arena and seating for a thousand, an evening revue show, the quintessential Cowboys and Indians show, miniature golf and all sorts of family-friendly activities. Mom and Dad, we’re holding out hope that there’s an authentic Western saloon serving plenty of whiskey down some side street somewhere.

The rates page mysteriously does not translate into English so we’re not entirely sure how much a week at PonyparkCity will set you back, but WHO CARES because there are literally hundreds of ponies here waiting for you to snuggle them all.

  Ponypret! Ps. Check PonyparkCity op Facebook voor het hele filmpje#PonyparkCity   A video posted by PonyparkCity™ Official Account (@ponyparkcity) on

Like, legit, HOW MANY PONIES ARE THERE.

I can’t even.

Check out PonyparkCity online, and follow their Instagram at @ponyparkcity for a nonstop dose of pony goodness.

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Best of HN: This Extensive Sales Video May Blow Your Mind

This sales video for a Missouri Fox Trotter named Walter is SO straightforward and dry that it’s hard to tell if trainer and seller Zackery Stevens is just that much of a straight shooter or a total genius or both. We can’t decide if we should laugh, marvel, take this man seriously or buy him a beer. Or maybe all of those things.

Let’s just establish before you watch this 20-minute sales video (the man is nothing if not thorough) that Walter appears to be perhaps the greatest horse that has walked this planet. We promise, this is worth the 20 minutes just to listen to this guy talk about his horse in the driest voice you’ve ever heard from someone trying to sell something.

As a side note, we took a peek at the TheHorseBay.com online auction page for Walter, whose sale ended about a week ago. If the page is reporting accurate information, Walter sold via online auction for $50,000. Well done, Walter. And well done, Mr. Stevens.

Thanks to Horse Nation reader Lynn for the tip!

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14 Things You’ll Find in Any Equestrian’s Car

As seen on EN’s sister site Horse Nation! Check it out for equestrian news from around the world, plus plenty of first-rate ridiculousness to help get you through your day.

That better not be a judgmental look I see on your face, little dog. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

That better not be a judgmental look I see on your face, little dog. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Some time a few years into my first job as a full-time professional horseperson, I opened my car to drive home from the barn on a cold winter night and sat down to immediately realize that I had achieved a certain benchmark status: I had an equestrian car. I didn’t realize how much this moment meant to me until it happened, nor how long I had been unwittingly working to develop that certain blend of aroma, dust and random equine detritus, but when it happened, I knew that for the present moment at least, I had “made it.”

Now that I’m managing my own horses at my own property, the situation has perhaps gotten even worse. Or should that be “better”? I can’t decide.

Chances are, you’ve made it too. Here’s a list of things you’ll find in any equestrian’s car.

1. Boots. Or perhaps a full set of riding clothes. If you go right to the barn from your day job, you might store a day’s riding apparel in your car. In my particular scenario, I’ve stashed a pair of riding boots in the backseat since I’m now wearing knee-high muck boots for the winter to get around.

2. A lead rope. Mine was serving as an emergency dog leash and I just never bothered to take it back out and put it in the tackroom. But I might legitimately need it someday to rescue a loose horse in the neighborhood or something… or I’m just lazy and it blends in to the floor now.

3. Sacks of feed. I only have room for so many pounds of feed in my collection of metal trash cans, but I like to buy enough feed that I’m not constantly driving up to the feed store to stock up, so the extra bags accumulate, sagging in the backseat like unattractive passengers or providing a foundation for more stuff to be piled on top of them in the cargo area, totally forgotten until I run to the feed store again to discover I already had two bags lurking in the back.

4. Actual tack. Headstalls, spare sets of reins, saddle pads that you keep meaning to take home and wash but will forget about until the first warm day when your car smells like a sock… perhaps an actual or saddle or two…

5. Double-ended snaps. You never can find one when you need one, but there are like four in the glove compartment or the cup holder.

6. Speaking of cup holders, lots of empty drive-through coffee cups. Pick your poison, but in my neck of the woods I’m a Tim Hortons fan.

7. Extra bulk jugs of vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, or other things you bought at the grocery store for the barn. I go through a single spray bottle of ACV, oh, maybe every two months? But I had to buy a gallon jug at grocery store so that I had one on standby, where it has been rolling around on the floor in the back of my car since September waiting for me to notice.

8. Unmatched gloves, likely all for the same hand. So you can’t even put them together to make a full pair.

9. A completely scentless dried-up air freshener. From that one time you made a legitimate effort to clean out your car and make it smell appealing, two years ago.

10. Old invoices and receipts from farrier visits gone by. Because filing things in your home office would be both responsible and also let your family see how much you’re spending.

11. Hypodermic instruments, either loaded or used. This looks really good when you get pulled over. I had to drive to a satellite farm for a few weeks to hand-walk a horse on long layup and had a loaded needle of ace floating around in my car “just in case.” I never used it but it was quite the shock when friends or significant others would open the glove compartment and I would remember its existence.

12. A barn dog. Bonus points for this one because they bring their own wake of loose hair and general filth with them. If my border collie has gotten particularly friendly with the cattle on a given day, she seems to come back with molasses lick stuck to her which is its own special variety of delight.

13. Broken things you fully intended to take home to repair. Blankets that need patching, leather that needs stitching, a wide variety of things that just need some cleaning and duct tape… someday, when you remember that you threw them into the back.

14. A fine patina of dust, dirt and hay chaff on pretty much every surface.

What’s floating around in your car? Let us know in the comments section! Go riding.

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Product Review: SSG Winter Training Gloves

I'd give these gloves two thumbs up but it's really hard to do that AND take a picture. All photos by Kristen Kovatch. I'd give these gloves two thumbs up but it's really hard to do that AND take a picture. All photos by Kristen Kovatch.

Some equestrians are lucky: they can keep on working all winter long in any variety of glove they find, from your basic horse-friendly models to the dollar store one-size-fits-all knit variety, and their hands are always toasty warm and ready to rock and roll.

Tragically, I am not one of those people: After years of trying to figure out exactly what combination of silk ski liner, Hot Hands and glove I needed to NOT turn my hands into two ice blocks, I basically gave up, wore a wind-breaking thin glove layer so my knuckles didn’t dry and split and accepted the fact that I was never, ever going to find a pair of gloves that actually worked whether I was riding, driving or doing barn chores.

And then I found the SSG Winter Training Gloves. My only regret is that I did not find them years ago.

The Winter Training Gloves are all leather, lined with fleece and Thinsulate and include a knit storm cuff. These features combine to make an insulating, cozy glove that also looks nice without picking up “barn gunk” easily, meaning that I can actually wear them out for general public as well and not need to go crazy buying multiple pairs of gloves for one winter. The leather offers water resistance, and generally the gloves are so well insulated that the snow doesn’t stick and melt. While these gloves do add just a bit of bulk to my fingers, I still had plenty of dexterity to do up buckles, measure supplements in their tiny scoops and maintain feel on my horses’ mouths.

Glove back, including detail stitching.

Glove back, including detail stitching.

I’ve used these gloves so far in the following applications:

  • Snowshoeing in single-digit temperatures with wind chill factor below zero
  • Driving my team with temperatures in the mid-20s
  • Barn chores in conditions ranging from the 20s down to single digits

Even for driving the team, where I’m sitting fairly still with my hands extended and relatively stationary — typically a recipe for freezing your fingers into solid little ice cubes, isolated so far away from your core — my hands were comfortably warm, which is such a new sensation for me after years of driving weekend winter sleigh rides with numb hands that I had to tell everyone in our party about how awesome these gloves were.

Glove palm and knit storm cuff.

Glove palm and knit storm cuff.

SSG Gloves has long been respected as one of the best manufacturers of equestrian gloves for working, training and showing. Browse the entire line of winter gloves here, and check out all of the categories to find the perfect pair for you!

Best of HN: Drama Llamas, a Horse Writer’s Observation

Original photo Pixabay/Olichel/CC, with photo editing by Maria Wachter. Original photo Pixabay/Olichel/CC, with photo editing by Maria Wachter.

I’ve been a writer for Horse Nation for about a year and a half. I freaking love this job. I get to write and I get paid to write! How cool is that?!

I have found out over my 18-month stint with Horse Nation that out of all the articles I have written for them, the ones that get the most views are either funny articles/lists (10 reasons why equestrians do this or that, etc) or pieces that invite discussion. People love that stuff!

Sometimes the comments are even more amusing than the articles themselves. If you don’t believe me, read the satirical post Highly Scientific Report: The Budweiser Clydesdales Are Fake. Then read the comments. Oh my, was that a blast to read! I also love the fact that half the comments were from people who didn’t even read the article. They just “assumed.”

My informative articles, on the other hand, don’t get read much at all. I get it, we LOVE drama and we LOVE to laugh and we LOVE to stir the pot. Look at the nightly news, for example: they stay in business because of all the drama they create. It also seems that people who say “I can’t stand drama” tend to be the most dramatic of them all.

Here’s the truth: social media has become a great tool for people to get their drama fix.

For example, if you post a picture of you riding your horse on the trails and get a through-the-ears shot, you’ll get a couple of likes and a couple of nice comments. If you put a pic up of yourself riding in the wrong bit/saddle/tack; riding without a helmet; riding a slightly chubby/slightly skinny horse; or being a little overweight yourself, your post will go viral with plenty of out-of-control comments.

Here are a few things people love to go off on:

  • barefoot vs shoes controversy.
  • anytime anyone rides without a helmet, especially if the rider is under the age of 18.
  • any time anyone rescues a horse and asks for advice.
  • saddle and tack questions
  • training suggestions — such as how to stop a bolting horse
  • bad horse trader deals/stories (by the way, we’ve all been burnt before)
  • posting x-rays of your horse’s feet
  • anything related to the Budweiser horses
  • horse abuse stories
  • anytime a horse is for sale for under $200 — because the kill buyer will buy it.
  • riding with your dog
  • horse racing
  • “but I thought I bought a horse that was beginner safe!”

I could go on and on.

Basically if it’s on social media, it’s fair game. You better come prepared with your big girl panties and a bucket of popcorn.

Watch out for posts that start like this:

  • I’m looking for an honest opinion (trust me, they are not)
  • I’m not looking to start drama (they actually are)
  • Let me tell you what I think (after I got my emotions and a bottle of whiskey involved, even though I wasn’t there and I only know one side of the story)

So, readers of Horse Nation, now that the winter months are upon us, most people will be house bound instead of being outside doing stuff to keep them busy. You will come across a lot more drama in these next couple of months –horse people just can’t stay away from it.

Snuggle up, grab your favorite snack and indulge in your own reality show type of drama right on your own social media of choice. Shoot, bust out the liquor if your day is especially boring. You can deny it… but you know you love it.

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Best of HN: Horse Nation’s Most Read of 2016

As we start 2017 as a fresh canvas, it never hurts to look back at the previous year — here are the top three most-read pieces from our sister site Horse Nation.

3. Isabel Werth’s David Bowie Freestyle

2016 certainly seemed to take way more than its fair share of celebrities, didn’t it? In January, David Bowie passed away, and we shared Isabel Werth’s goosebump-raising David Bowie freestyle dressage test.

“In honor of wherever you’re headed next, Mr. Bowie, we’d like to take the liberty of dedicating Isabell Werth’s killer Grand Prix Dressage Freestyle with El Santo at the Central Park Horse Show to your awesome afterlife adventure. It’s infused with some of your danciest hits, and we hope you’re doing a lot of that in the Avant Garde Ether.”

[Full article and video]

2. An Open Love Letter to Lani, the Weirdest Race Horse Ever

This year’s Triple Crown didn’t give us the kind of beautiful fairy-tale story we loved in 2015 — but it did give us plenty of unique characters, not the least of which was Lani. This gangly, quirky underdog from Japan captured our hearts and Lorraine Jackson’s open love letter to the horse was loved by lay racing fans and racetrackers alike!

“You got shipped out to Japan, which isn’t altogether unusual with the burgeoning racing and betting universe that exists there. You had some predictable starts, as well as some less predictable ones, like the time you won two races six days apart at the end of your 2-year-old year.

“Then your connections were like, ‘I know! What if we ship him to America, but we stop on the way (NOT REALLY ON THE WAY AT ALL) in Dubai and catch a race on the World Cup card, and THEN go to America!’ and everyone thought this was a great idea. But since you’re the weirdest horse in the world, you didn’t think this was weird at all, and went ahead and won the United Arab Emirates Derby.”

[Full article]

1. A Clydesdale April Fools

Longtime Horse Nation readers know that April Fools Day is one of our favorite days of the year — and we think we really outdid ourselves in 2016. Our very-clearly-a-spoof article about the beloved Clydesdales going missing only to be found surrounded by empty beer kegs was our most-read story of the year!

“The police report states that Budweiser long-haul driver Ed Murphy stopped in Colby, Kansas on Monday night at a planned layover location before finishing the drive to an event in Denver. The team was unloaded and moved to a secure turnout facility for the night, and when Murphy returned for the horses in the morning, the gate was wide open and the horses were gone.

“Anyone in the Midwest region is encouraged to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, and report anyone offering to sell a Clydesdale gelding. All eight of the horses are between 17-18.2 hands, have four white socks and white blazes, and answer to the names Bud, Buddy, Bud Light, Buddy Light, Bud with Lime, Boo Natty, and Craft Beers Suck.”

[Full article]

Happy New Year! Go riding.

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Get Ready to Cry Tears of Joy Over Purina’s Christmas Commercial

That was your official warning. Also, if it’s any consolation, I’m sitting here crying right along with you. Again.

Remember that time I counted down all the horsey things that made all equestrians cry every time? Those seven moments were a mere warm-up act to this video from Purina. Everything about this ad is perfectly written, shot and edited to be a giant sob-fest from beginning to end, whether you’re ugly-crying with sadness or joy.

Grab your tissues. You’re going to need them.

What an emotional roller coaster. Sure, we suspected we knew the ending from the moment it began, but that doesn’t diminish the wringer we just put our hearts through. We hope that, once you’ve dried your tears, you might be inspired to help horses in need yourself: volunteer for your local horse rescue, make a monetary or equipment donation to a rescue in need or maybe even adopt a rescue horse into a permanent, safe home.

Purina sponsors A Home For Every Horse, which is a program designed to help find safe, loving, forever homes for rescued horses. Through A Home For Every Horse, Purina has donated over $425,000 to participating shelters, which equates to over 800 tons of feed.

Thank you, Purina, for your good work in helping rescued equines in need!

Best of HN: An Equestrian Christmas Carol Collection

Photo via Pete Markham/Creative Commons Photo via Pete Markham/Creative Commons

It’s a time-honored Horse Nation holiday tradition to gather ’round the tack room, dole out the eggnog and partake in some Christmas caroling — equestrian style. Here are a few of our favorite tunes:

O Come All Ye Horse Poor

(to the tune of “O Come All Ye Faithful”)

O come all ye horse-poor

Broke and without money

O come ye, o come ye and look at your bills.

Come, let us count them, figure up the total:

O here is your board bill

And here is your farrier

And here is your vet bill,

The greatest of all!

(Full lyrics here)


George Morris Is Coming To Town

(to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”)

You better watch out

You better not cry

Better not pout

I’m telling you why

George Morris is coming to town.

He’s watching your horse

And checking it twice:

You’re gonna find out if

it’s really that nice.

George Morris is coming to town.

(Full lyrics here)


What Shoe Is This

(to the tune of “What Child Is This”)

What shoe is this which I have found

out in the muddy pasture?

It must have fallen off someone,

which means the hoof’s a disaster.

Why, why must you play all day

And rip your shoes off all the way?

Now, now I must find the one

who’s left this shoe behind them.

(Full lyrics here)


Bed the Stalls

(to the tune of “Deck the Halls”)

Bed the stalls with bales of shavings!

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Even though your back is aching

Fa la la la la, la la la la

When you’re done, the horses will poop

Fa la la, la la la, la la la

Just one more thing for you to scoop.

Fa la la la la la, la la la la!

(Full lyrics here)


Gray Show Horse

(to the tune of “White Christmas”)

I’m dreaming of a gray show horse

Because I bathed him yesterday.

The show’s today,

so will he stay

as clean and bright as I pray?

(Full lyrics here)


Horses Loose

(to the tune of “Jingle Bells”)

Dashing through the snow

With a grain bucket in my hand

Down the road I go

This ain’t what I had planned!

The hoof prints lead this way

I hope I’m on the trail

Was that a distant neigh?

And a flash of waving tail?

Oh, horses loose, horses loose

Horses over there

Oh what fun it is to chase

Your horses everywhere!

Horses loose, horses loose

Horses can’t be found

Oh how much I love to chase

My horses all around.

(Full lyrics here)


It Came Completely From Nowhere

(to the tune of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”)

It came completely from nowhere

That giant, enormous buck.

And now I’m lying here on the ground —

Yes, this would be my luck.

My horse was schooling oh so well,

just perfect in every way.

But then he arched his back and bucked

And left me here to stay.

(Full lyrics here)

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: #PonyProblems, Christmas Edition

Santa Claus' reindeers should be Ponies !

#WinterTale | PegaseBuzz

Et si les rennes du Père Noël étaient en fait des poneys ?
/Share if you think that Santa Claus' reindeers should be ponies !

Posted by PegaseBuzz on Sunday, December 1, 2013

We literally have zero idea what is going on in this video but we love it.

Somehow, the concept of ponies alternately saving Christmas and wreaking havoc on the holiday makes me think of the minions of Despicable Me: they’re small, cute, hilarious, wicked and wildly destructive. Come to think of it, perhaps minions were inspired by ponies in the first place??

Either way, this bizarre video set to “Christmas Time” by The Darkness is pretty adorably destructive, just like almost every pony we know and love.

Astute internet pony trend followers will recognize these plucky fellows as the same little guys who starred in the #DancePonyDance commercial put out by Three, a UK-based mobile network. That moonwalking pony basically burned down the Internet when the video was first released, and we’re sure this herd of Christmas steeds are headed in the same direction.

Go ponies. Go Eventing!

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Wiser Concepts supplements are available only through your veterinarian. Learn more at KPPvet.com.

Best of HN: 11 Signs Equestrians Are Easy to Please, Winter Edition

Shout-out to Rossy Morillo for inspiring this list and providing sign #3!

For all the fuss and bother we equestrians make about things being absolutely just the way we want them — yes, I love when family members come help me do barn chores but seriously I hang the halters exactly that way for reasons I can’t explain to you and it drives me up the wall when you change it — we’re really not that hard to please.

In fact, the more we think about it, the more the weirdest things make us completely happy, especially in the high-maintenance season of winter. And to be totally truthful, winter is such a struggle for horse owners that we’re simply pleased just when things are going normally. Here’s a list.

1. When the blanket comes in from turnout with the same number of straps it was turned out with.

2. When the ice berm on the arena roof stays intact for your entire lesson.

3. Going out to the barn at 6:30 on a cold morning and finding that the buckets AREN’T frozen.

4. “He didn’t buck me off today!”

5. Opening the sliding barn doors on the first try without having to chip them free of ice and snow.

6. When the ice balls accumulated in the shoes pop free on the first twist of the pick.

7. When the hose surprisingly isn’t frozen into a giant crinkly curlicue.

8. “He finally pooped!”

9. When you realize you actually remembered to put a block down for your trailer jack back in the muddy autumn.

10. When you successfully made it to the manure pile with a fully-loaded wheelbarrow without slipping on the ice.

11. When you forgot to plug in the diesel but it starts anyway.

Go winter. Go riding.

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Thursday Video & Photo Gallery: Thank You, Valegro

Photo by Kit Houghton, courtesy of Revolution Sports and the London Olympia Horse Show. Photo by Kit Houghton, courtesy of Revolution Sports and the London Olympia Horse Show.

Arguably the greatest dressage partnership of our time, Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro danced for the final time last night under the spotlight at the Olympia International Horse Show for Valegro’s retirement ceremony.

What is there to be said about Valegro that hasn’t already been stated a thousand times or displayed on the international dressage stage for all to see? His partnership with Charlotte Dujardin is a true fairy tale, a lucky combination of circumstances that became pure magic and elevated the sport of dressage to its highest levels, raising the standards of horsemanship for all equestrians.

Team Valegro — that is, part-owner Carl Hester, rider Charlotte Dujardin and groom Allen Davies among others — has always made it clear that the horse’s needs were the top priority. With nothing left to prove to the world, the decision was made to retire Valegro at the peak of his game, to let him gracefully waltz into retirement on his own terms. It’s not truly the end of his performance days — he’ll still appear at demos and exhibitions, but his competition days are over.

Last evening at the Olympia International Horse Show, Valegro formally retired before a packed crowd who came to see the final dance.

Go Valegro.

This post was originally published on Horse Nation.

Best of HN: 11 Signs of Winter by The Idea of Order

Presented by:

ideaoforderHN graphic NEW2016

No matter how much I resist, kick, scream, and complain, somehow winter still comes. Jerk. It’s only just December but I can fully assure you that I am ready for June. I seriously think next year I need to plan on a month in Florida (so any of you down near Wellington hit me up!)

2016-12-6-winter-when

Go Riding…preferably back south where it’s warmer!

Morgane Schmidt Gabriel is a 33-year-old teacher/artist/dressage trainer/show announcer/ who still hasn’t quite decided what she wants to be when she grows up. A native Floridian, she now lives in Reno, NV, where she’s been able to confirm her suspicion that snow is utterly worthless. Though she has run the gamut of equestrian disciplines, her favorite is dressage. She was recently able to complete her USDF bronze and silver medals and is currently working on her gold. Generally speaking her life is largely ruled by Woody, a 14.2 hand beastly quarter horse, Willie, a now beastly 5-year-old Dutch gelding, and Stormy, her friend’s nearly all white paint gelding with a penchant for finding every mud hole and pee spot in existence. Visit her website at www.theideaoforder.com.

SVE 15 For Willie 4002

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SmartPak’s ‘If Horses Were People’ Is Going LIVE at 11 a.m. EST

Imagine for a moment that SmartPak‘s “If Horses Were People” video series and the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway got together and had a kid … that kid would be “If Horses Were People” going live today on Facebook at 11 a.m. EST!

Yep, that’s right: Sara and Sarah will be hitting Facebook Live today and acting out your live suggestions! If you have a favorite weird horse activity that you always wished the SmartPakers had acted out in their most popular video series, here is your chance — simply navigate to SmartPak’s Facebook page and watch the live video at 11 this morning.

Want to rewatch some of your favorite IHWP? New to the series? We’ve included a few of our favorites below, but you can watch the entire playlist on YouTube by clicking here.

Go SmartPak. Go Eventing!

Best of HN: The Equestrian Wine Pairing Guide

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Agne27 Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Agne27

Horses and wine … it’s a kind of chicken and the egg scenario, isn’t it? (Okay, a quick Google search did reveal that the discovery of the process for creating wine predated the domestication of the horse by about a thousand years, but you get the idea.) As long as there have been equestrians, there has been wine, both for celebratory and consolatory purposes.

There’s no denying the easy elegance of a bottle of wine as a charming holiday gift. To help you select just the right bottle this year for your equestrian party hostess, hardworking trainer or horse-loving friend, we’ve put together a helpful pairing list. Salut!

Chardonnay: a medium or light-bodied white, notably crisp and moderately dry
Pairs well with: celebratory occasions such as a relaxing trail ride on a warm afternoon; consolatory purposes such as yet another hoof abscess on the day your trail ride is scheduled.

Riesling: an aromatic white which can range from semi-dry to semi-sweet depending on origin
Pairs well with: celebratory occasions such as the OTTB’s first successful XC schooling where no one got run away with; consolatory purposes such as the OTTB’s third XC schooling where he completely ran away with everyone including the trainer.

Pinot Gris: a full-bodied white sometimes described as “spicy”
Pairs well with: celebratory occasions such as making it successfully through a dressage clinic without bursting into tears; consolatory purposes such as the spare tire on the trailer ALSO being flat while running late to the dressage clinic.

Sauvignon Blanc: a crisp, dry white, notably refreshing
Pairs well with: relaxing at the end of a hot, dusty show day, no matter how well the day went. Also pairs well with flopping on the couch after trying to load your reluctant Warmblood for four hours straight.

Merlot: a medium to full-bodied red with tannns of rich, ripe fruit and chocolate
Pairs well with: No-Stirrup November.

Cabernet Sauvignon: a full-bodied red, known as dry with vegetal notes
Pairs well with: celebratory occasions such as the barn holiday party; consolatory moments such as realizing that you do in fact have way too many saddle pads.

Pinot Noir: a medium-bodied red with fruity or sometimes meaty notes
Pairs well with: celebratory occasions such as scoring a truly excellent deal on a barely-used Devoucoux; consolatory occasions such as your horse trashing yet another expensive 1200 denier turnout rug.

Shiraz: a full-bodied red known for fruity and spicy notes
Pairs well with: celebratory occasions including your horse cleared for work after a long lameness; consolatory occasions such as your horse turning up lame… again.

Malbec: a slightly-dry red known for intense color and a noted plummy flavor
Pairs well with: the satisfaction of knowing your horses are well-fed, all tucked in for the night and comfortable despite the blowing snow. Also pairs well with falling off thanks to blowing snow and cold temperatures for the fourth time this month.

Go drinking. Er, riding.


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Updated: Flint Ridge Farm in Alabama Takes Direct Hit From Tornado

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Photo by Victoria Tripiano

Deadly storms tore across Alabama on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Flint Ridge Farm of Huntsville took a direct hit. The farm has hosted Tennessee Valley Dressage and Combined Training Association shows for many years, and in true eventer fashion the local horse community is banding together to rebuild.

“A tornado dropped between the house and the barns,” confirmed Flint Ridge boarder Victoria Tripiano. “The main barn roof is completely gone and there’s damage to that barn. The second barn is half blown away; what’s standing is missing the roof. The indoor arena is completely demolished.”

Fortunately, all of the humans and horses on the property survived the storm with remarkable resilience, though three horses, Batman, Dempsey and Thea, are currently receiving veterinary treatment, boarder Natalie Weil confirmed to EN.

“The most severely injured horse, Dempsey, is fortunately expected to fully recover to enjoy his retirement,” Natalie said.

“The third injured horse, Thea, belonged to a boarder. She is able to remain in a stall in the roofless main barn in order to protect her stitches. The three horses injured were the only three that were turned out, as they are pasture boarded. The other horses were all locked safely in their stalls.”

Photo by Victoria Tripiano

Photo by Victoria Tripiano

The property also sustained major damage to fencing, and the pastures are littered with debris. The farm’s collection of jumps is nearly completely gone. Victoria shared this video with us to show the full extent of the damage:

In the true spirit of the horse community, more than 60 people arrived at the farm yesterday to clean up debris and start repairs. “We were able to clear enough of the pastures to be safe for the horses, and we put up many temporary fences to keep the horses away from the debris that is difficult to clear, like glass from the mirrors in the indoor arena,” Natalie said.

“The barn aisle is now completely clear, with the remaining ceiling removed and ready for new roofing. The local roofing company, Dudley Brothers, came out as soon as they could yesterday and ordered and delivered some of the material needed to start repairs. The work on the roof has already started today.”

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Photo by Victoria Tripiano

Flint Ridge Farm has started a GoFundMe page if you are able to make a monetary donation to help the farm clean up and rebuild. The farm’s most immediate needs are hay, grain and shavings.

“We had a fresh delivery of hay from our local supplier delivered on Monday before the tornado hit, and many of those bales are now peppered with shards of glass,” Natalie said. “Due to the drought, we are having difficulty finding hay to replace what was lost, and we are trying not to stress our supplier too much. He was one of the people there helping repair fences, all with a broken leg!”

Flint Ridge Farm is also active on Facebook, where you can follow for more updates about the storm recovery. Our best wishes go to Flint Ridge Farm in the recovery and clean-up process.

“Heidi, and her mother Diana, the owners of the farm, are doing an excellent job of keeping it together for everyone,” Natalie said. “We are all shaken by the reality that sometimes there is little you can do to protect what you love.”

If you are local to the area, Jim Graham is hosting a fundraising dinner during his show jumping and dressage clinic next Wednesday, Dec. 7, at River Rock Stables in Harvest, Alabama. All proceeds from the dinner and raffle will support Flint Ridge Farm’s recovery efforts. Click here for more information.

Jenni Autry contributed to this report and has an editor’s note to add: One barn cat is still missing in the wake of the tornado. Please join us in sending positive vibes that the sweet kitty is just hiding and will return home soon.

Update 12/1/16 5:26 PM: Natalie Weil of Flint Ridge Farm provided Nation Media with an update on conditions at the farm. Two of the injured horses have been transported to the local veterinarian; both are expected to fully recover. The third injured horse belongs to a boarder and is able to remain stalled in a roofless barn to protect her stitches. All three of the injured horses were pasture boarded; the horses inside the barn did not sustain injuries.

“Yesterday we had over 60 people, many of which we did not know, came to help us clean up and repair what we could,” Natalie noted. “We were able to clear enough of the pastures to be safe for the horses, and we put up many temporary fences to keep the horses away from the debris that is difficult to clear (glass from the mirrors in the indoor arena, siding, walls, etc.). The barn aisle is now completely clear and the remaining ceiling removed and ready for new roofing. The local roofing company came out as soon as they could yesterday and ordered and delivered some of the material needed to start repairs. My dad is there today, he let me know that they have already begun work on the roof!”

The farm insurance does cover the barns, shed and house on the property, but unfortunately the indoor arena was not covered. Additionally, there is immediate need for hay and shavings, as much of what was stored on the property is now peppered with shattered glass. Compounded with the drought in the southeast this year, the farm is having a difficult time finding hay. The GoFundMe page linked above is raising funds to help defray of these new materials, as well as to help replace fencing and the indoor arena.

“Heidi, and her mother Diana, the owners of the farm, are doing an excellent job of keeping it together for everyone,” Natalie added. “We are all shaken by the reality that sometimes there is little you can do to protect what you love.”