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Kristen Kovatch

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Best of Horse Nation: Equestrichondria, or Basically Being a Horse Person

My last personal horse was so hardy and apparently indestructible (other than his somewhat tenuous grip on reality) that you might have assumed he was a mustang. He was never lame. He could go barefoot or shod with equal nonchalance for the footing. In four years, he never had an abscess, a stone bruise or one lick of scratches. Once, he got a bit of rain rot. That was pretty much it.

My current project Jobber has proven to be a much better match from an emotional, mental and physical standpoint — he takes up my leg, he’s athletic and talented, and he doesn’t have a truckload of mental baggage. The downside to this lovely animal — because few of them are truly perfect unicorns, after all — is that he has a tendency to be a big giant baby any time there’s anything even slightly amiss physically.

In some respects, I like this. A stoic horse can be kind of hard to live with if he just keeps soldiering on despite a raging abscess or strained tendon. I like knowing instantly, without a doubt, that there is something wrong, so that I can address it quickly and efficiently and call the professionals in when necessary.

On the other hand, there was the time Jobber maybe got stung by a bee, or something, and his nose puffed up on the bony part where I didn’t even know a horse could puff up, requiring the application of an ice pack.

This was cute. Photos by Kristen Kovatch

Then there was the time he stepped on the only rock out in the field and went immediately head-bobbing lame for the next ten strides until the sting of it went away, I suppose.

Oh, and the time he developed grass mumps, which I didn’t even know was a thing.

I don’t feel like Jobber is particularly accident-prone as far as horses go; he does live out 24/7 and there have certainly been many more fine and healthy days in the past year that I’ve owned him than days on layup. He’s just the kind of horse that things sort of happen to.

Prime example: Jobber’s hind legs stock up when it’s muddy out. When the ground dries up and he’s willingly moving around more, OR we get a nice couple of feet of snow and he’s cruising around on a nice pack, the swelling goes down. It also goes down with exercise, so I try to get him out for a bright forward hand-walk at minimum every day. Stocking up is typically a stalled horse condition, but Jobber is special. I was pretty concerned about this the first winter, but when I realized it was, in fact, simply stocking up and not cellulitis, lymphangitis or any other horrible -itis that would be indicated by slightly chunky but cold, sound legs, I learned to let it go and just manage it. The right hind tends to linger swollen just a little big longer than the left. I don’t know why, but it’s not enough of an issue that I’ve ever gotten a vet involved.

Bonus: hind legs stocked up when he wasn’t moving around much due to the abscess, so this required attention to three out of four legs.

Naturally, in the current weather conditions on the East Coast that have been dumping rain endlessly on saturated ground, it’s pretty muddy around here, and the combination of Jobber having his shoes pulled (hinds a few weeks before fronts, and all under the careful supervision of a devoted farrier) with soul-sucking wet mud means that again the horse has some chunky legs.

Naturally, any memory I had of last year’s stocking up went right out the window.

Despite all logic telling me that, once again, some marginal cold swelling combined with a lack of fever, no sensitivity and a perfectly sound animal was in fact just the new normal of Jobber stocking up a bit in the winter, I panicked. I moped. I hovered around Jobber’s hind legs obsessively while he happily and blissfully-ignorantly ate his grain every day, likely wondering what weird thing I was doing now. I dragged my long-suffering husband to the barn and pointed dramatically at Jobber, who by this point had reduced the swelling in the left hind and had just a bit left in the right.

“Look at his fat leg!”

Erik peered at the horse critically. “The left front? The one where the abscess was?”

“No. The FAT one!”

“… the right front?”

“THE FAT ONE.”

Erik stared first at one hind, then the other. “You’re bonkers. These look exactly the same.”

Later that evening, after a good friend had convinced me that since there was literally zero evidence to support my claim that Jobber must have sustained a deep digital flexor tendon injury or had lurking, silent and unusually cold cellulitis that was causing the lingering stocking-up, I was, in fact, bonkers, I was sitting on the couch stewing, still somehow convinced in the front of my mind that Jobber had suffered some sort of career-ending injury. Erik could tell.

“Are you thinking about Jobber?”

“Yes.”

“What is it with horse people? There is literally nothing wrong with him. I couldn’t even see the swelling. He is FINE.”

I glowered.

“You’re an equestrichondriac. You are always worried about that horse. He is FINE. I just invented a word to describe you.”

He stood up to head to the kitchen.

“Also, I just gave you a story idea for tomorrow. So you’re welcome.”

Earlier this afternoon I returned to the barn — a colder day, with the ground finally starting to harden up. The stocking up was nearly imperceptible. Jobber trotted up sound, like he had every day. All was well.

The ’52 Free Thoroughbreds’ Are Ba-ack!

Photo by Pixabay/CC.

Autumn changes to winter; the snows come and go. And annually, the infamous “52 free Thoroughbreds” posts emerge from their slumber and start to make the rounds of the internet once again.

We’re not really sure about the mechanics of how exactly this works — every year, it’s a brand-new post, dated just a few days prior, but with the same old copy:

FREE HORSES!!!! 52 thoroughbred horses need homes. Will go to Sugarcreek this Sat. for slaughter. Gentleman died and his son wants nothing to do with them. Most broodmares are broke and some are in foal weanling, yearlings, 2 yrs. and 3 yrs. old most are gelded. FREE and papered. Friend of the deceased is trying to find homes. 440-463-4288 Barnesville, OH.
Please copy and paste this on your status
I would hate to see all these horses put down. PLEASE someone help they are FREE and papered!!!!!!!!

The most recent iteration was created on January 2. With a recent date stamp, to the unaware but well-meaning, this looks like an urgent, brand-new post with horses in need of homes RIGHT NOW. Likely, this has already been shared to you several times in the past 24 hours. It’s a bizarre phenomenon that this particular (fake) post, every year, goes truly viral … especially when there are horses in need of homes every single day.

The truth of the matter is that all 52 of these Thoroughbreds found homes… eight years ago. The original post is from January 2011.

On January 27, 2011, Daniel C. Stearns, DVM passed away, leaving his Thoroughbred breeding and racing operation in the hands of his son Dan Stearns to dismantle. Prior to his death, the senior Stearns made provisions with his son to place certain horses with certain people, with the rest to be placed in reputable homes preferably in the Thoroughbred industry. Stearns made it clear that none of the horses were to go to kill buyers or first-time owners who might put the horses in a bad situation.

A friend of the Stearns, Lynn Boggs, posted the first urgent message on Facebookto help network homes for the remaining 52 horses — and within hours, had reached an international audience. She fielded calls and messages from all over the world, and within four days, all of the horses had found new, safe homes, mostly right within the Ohio area.

Boggs’ original post did not include any language about the horses going to slaughter — but shares and copies of the post mentioned the possibility that the horses would ship to slaughter if homes were not found. That was never Stearns’ intention, though the newfound urgency with that changed language did help the post gain even more early traction.

The original story is a reminder of the positive power of social media — but the re-emergence of this post and its subsequent annual viral urgency reminds us equally of a darker side. For whatever reason, this particular post grabs the public’s attention in a gripping way that drives everyone to share it like crazy, while real horses right now in 2019 in need of good, reputable, safe homes linger at rescues and placement agencies waiting for new owners as their social marketing gathers dust.

Just now, while writing this story down at our family farm stand, my sister-in-law got a phone call from a family friend to tell her about a post she had seen on Facebook about 52 free Thoroughbreds and asking if there was anything we could do for them. Imagine if we could grab the public intrigue about horses in need right now and enjoy the same kind of viral marketing and quick networking that placed all 52 horses back in 2011!

So let’s use this viral post as a soapbox, horse lovers — when your friends and family share it to your wall or your messages with pleas for help, encourage them to make a small donation to your favorite horse-related charity to help horses in need of help RIGHT NOW. The more people we educate, hopefully the fewer will share this post next year — and the more will be encouraged to help animals in need today.

Oh, and quit sharing those stupid Johnny Depp memes. Those are almost as bad as the original post.

Go riding.

New Scholarship Offsets Trainer Fee for Thoroughbred Makeover

Emily Daignault-Salvaggio and Gin Joint, winners of the Field Hunter division at the 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover. Photo by Heather Benson.

When the Retired Racehorse Project raised the trainer application fee for the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover to $300 — a $100 increase — not everyone took the changes in stride. Following heated debates on social media, Emily Daignault-Salvaggio decided to step in and create the Give Back to Go Scholarship to refund the application fee for one lucky trainer.

“Paying it forward has always been huge for me,” she describes. “We were the kind of family where our parents took us to soup kitchens at the holidays and taught us that it was our responsibility to help. My parents led with a really good example.”

Describing herself as “lucky in life and lucky in horses,” Emily has always made it a point to give back, selecting charities including CANTER Pennsylvania as an annual recipient of funds from her family’s foundation.

Emily is no stranger to the Thoroughbred Makeover, having won the field hunter division with Gin Joint in 2015, and knows the journey to the Kentucky Horse Park is an expensive one. With that in mind, Emily launched the Give Back to Go Scholarship, which will refund the Thoroughbred Makeover trainer application fee for one deserving individual.

Keeping in line with Emily’s philosophy of paying it forward, each scholarship applicant must make a donation to a horse-related charity as part of the application process.

“I hope that by encouraging others to pay it forward, I can help people realize how awesome it can be to help change the world positively,” Emily said.

Full details for the scholarship are on the scholarship’s website. Here’s a breakdown of the application process:

  • Scholarship applicants should apply to the Thoroughbred Makeover first. The Retired Racehorse Project will refund the entry fee of the winning scholarship applicant.
  • The scholarship should be applied for separately from the Thoroughbred Makeover — there is no automatic entry for the scholarship.
  • Scholarship applications must include either a written description or a two-minute video of what it would mean to the applicant to receive the scholarship, plus proof that the applicant has made a donation to a horse-related charity.
  • Finalists will be selected by a panel of judges consisting of other 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover division winners, with one winner selected by a group of well-known Thoroughbred-related individuals.

For more information and to apply, please visit the Give Back to Go Scholarship’s website and follow the scholarship’s Facebook page.

Go Eventing.

Best of HN: An Equestrian Christmas Carol Collection

Pixabay/CC

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:

OTTB

(to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”)

OTTB, OTTB,
How lovely is thy movement.
OTTB, OTTB,
How graceful is your stride.

Your racing days are over now,
You’ll jump a fence or work a cow.
OTTB, OTTB,
You’re good at everything.

(Full lyrics here)


Santa Baby

Santa Baby, slip a stallion under the tree, for me.
Been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
So hurry down the hayloft tonight.

Santa baby, an ’18 F350 too,
In blue.
With a tow package dear,
Santa baby, so hurry down the hayloft tonight.

(Full lyrics here)


A Few of My Favorite Things

Hoofprints in footing and hearty barn banter
Light floaty trotting and smooth rocking canters
Big soft-eyed geldings all tacked up like kings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Cream-colored ponies and bright mares with moxie
Fresh colts and fillies and steeds that are stocky
A horse that can move as though she had wings
These are a few of my favorite things!

(Full lyrics here)


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)


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)

ELD Woes Now Over?

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The slow-moving debate over electronic logging devices for all commercial motor vehicles has been raging for what’s felt like forever. Just over a year ago in November of 2017, the news caught many in the horse industry by surprise that all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) would be required to carry an electronic logging device (ELD) to help drivers comply with laws mandating rest periods and driving limits. For anyone hauling live animals, that can be a big problem.

The definition of a commercial motor vehicle had not changed, but many horse owners were surprised to learn that their rigs had been considered CMVs all along — and would therefore be sharply affected by the requirement to electronically log their time behind the wheel. While the concept behind the ELD comes from a desire to improve safety, there are plenty of gray areas that the new mandates did not appropriately address: imagine being forced to pull over at a rest area and stop driving for 10 hours while your horses stand on the trailer. That’s exactly the scenario that the new laws would have created.

With very little public awareness of these changes, various organizations in the horse industry, chiefly the American Horse Council, pushed back, working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to try to reach a compromise for compliance. These changes would affect not only equestrians, but all livestock haulers, and the national Farm Bureau and cattlemen’s groups also joined the fight.

Here’s a quick timeline of the ELD debate:

  • November 2017: the ELD requirement first becomes a nationally-known issue for livestock haulers
  • January 2018: the mandate is waived until March 2018 to grant haulers more time to comply (and for a better solution to be reached)
  • April 2018: temporary exemptions were created until September 2018 by the omnibus bill in Congress

Brief spending bills passed by Congress throughout the fall to avoid government shutdowns included language that pushed compliance back first to December 7, then to December 21 of 2018. Now, however, the FMSCA website includes a pagethat specifically states:

Transporters of livestock and insects are not required to have an ELD.  The statutory exemption will remain in place until further notice.  Drivers do not need to carry any documentation regarding this exemption.

It’s unclear if “further notice” will eventually come down the road, or if this is a permanent solution. We encourage all haulers to keep an eye on the FMSCA website for further alerts, but for now, it does appear that all livestock haulers can stop holding their breath.

Go riding.

As reported by Horse Nation

Best of HN: Coming Home — Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare Brings ‘Warhorses’ Back to U.S.

Kyle and Binky at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover. Photo by Susan Palmer.

A bay with a dainty blaze, “Binky,” as she became known, was a 2008 Kentucky-bred by Songandaprayer who made 16 starts in the United States before the end of her 3-year-old career. Fairly noncompetitive, she changed hands, shipped to Puerto Rico, and made another 80 starts for her connections through mid-2017.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico in September of 2017, with the latter now recognized as the worst natural disaster to strike Puerto Rico on record. The horses at Hipódromo Camerero, Puerto Rico’s only racetrack, were not immune to the power of the storm and the widespread destruction; in the weeks following Maria, horses were left exposed to the elements — the walls on the backside remained intact, but about 90% of the barns lost their roofs, leaving metal strewn about and horses often standing in deep muck after downpours of rain. Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare (CTA) provided boots-on-the-ground assistance as much as possible, with eventual support from US mainland-based aftercare charities when shipments of feed and supplies could be flown in.

Post-hurricane conditions at Camerero in Puerto Rico. Photo by Kelley Stobie.

It was in these conditions that Binky foundered, as well as developed a raging case of scratches. It was believed that she would likely never be riding sound, and in fact was near death. Through the hard work of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, Binky recovered and got her second chance, flying out of Puerto Rico back to the mainland United States to RVR Horse Rescue in Florida. Rothfus adopted her and competed with her in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover, using the competition as a platform to raise awareness among OTTB enthusiasts about the horses of Puerto Rico, many of which started their careers just like Binky in the U.S.

Because Binky’s story, while an amazing triumph, is not an isolated tale — every year, as many as 150 horses ship from the mainland to Puerto Rico to race. In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing, describes Kelley Stobie of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare.

“We have good owners and good horsemen here,” Stobie says. “They buy good horses at the U.S. sales and bring them here to run. We do breed some on the island as well, and all of the native-bred horses are registered through the Jockey Club.” But what breaks Stobie’s heart are the horses that should have retired in the States and never been run again — the so-called “warhorses” with more than 50 starts, horses who weren’t competitive at the lowest levels of US racing, and even horses on the vet list at various tracks. She’s seen all of these come through the track in Puerto Rico.

“I’m not opposed to horses shipping here to race,” Stobie adds. “What I have a problem with are the old or unsound horses coming here that should have been retired.” Buyers from Puerto Rico work several angles to get trainers to sell their horses into Caribbean careers, from describing the beautiful warm weather to playing up loyalties: “With a lot of track workers originally from Puerto Rico, the buyers tell them it’s their responsibility to help the racing industry at home.”

“We don’t slaughter horses here,” Stobie is quick to point out. “But so many need to be euthanized. There’s nowhere for them to go when they’re not competitive here, and CTA simply cannot handle the numbers with limited capacity and limited funding.” Puerto Rico is only 3,500 square miles with about a 40% poverty rate, which makes placing horses within the U.S. Caribbean difficult. “Some horses will go run in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Stobie continues, “but we just don’t have that much room to retire horses here. It’s an island — resources are limited.”

Worthy of Wings, back in the U.S. mainland. Photo courtesy of Kyle Rothfus.

Part of the problem is the expense of bringing horses back into the United States from Puerto Rico. Going into Puerto Rico, there is no quarantine requirement, but coming back into the States, horses must quarantine. It costs upwards of $3,300 to get a horse out of Puerto Rico and back into the U.S. Factor in that many of the horses that CTA is trying to place have health problems or limitations, combined with the number of younger, sounder horses coming off the tracks in the U.S. ready for second careers, and the issue is compounded.

“We’ve taken a lot of negative comments,” Stobie details. “They say, ‘why should we spend so much money and time getting these horses out of Puerto Rico when there are so many that need homes here in the U.S.?’ Well, these horses are from the States originally — they deserve to come back. Connections failed them along the way — that’s not the horses’ fault.”

Worthy of Wings unloading on the mainland:

Live Video as Worthy Of Wings, Charlie Bull & Barlovento Tiger leave travel stall and load trailer for Ocala!

Posted by Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare Inc. on Friday, November 9, 2018

Rothfus too has had to field his share of questions about why he’s not helping more local horses — and he refers them to his 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover hopeful, Worthy of Wings. “She was bred right here in Ohio,” Rothfus, himself based in Ohio, points out. “She ran about 90 starts in the United States and 72 of those were in Ohio.” “Worthy,” as Rothfus calls her, has more than earned her warhorse status, retiring with 138 career starts. “We owe it to these horses to bring them home.”

Worthy settling in back in Ohio. Photo by Kyle Rothfus.

Rothfus again hopes to raise more awareness of Caribbean horses with Worthy. “If I can help inspire more people to choose the warhorses or the ones that might need a little rehab, fewer horses might end up needing help like Binky and Worthy. By not choosing these horses here in the United States, they were able to slip through the cracks and continue running in Puerto Rico. There’s a bigger picture I’m hoping to help people to see.”

Follow Worthy of Wings’ journey to the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover at OTTB Training. For more information about Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, please visit the organization’s website.

A candid moment among CTA horses at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover. Photo courtesy of Kyle Rothfus.

Book Review: ‘In the Middle Are the Horsemen’ by Tik Maynard

I’d like to think that I’ve enjoyed a truly cross-disciplinary equestrian background: I started riding huntseat equitation at a local 4H barn as a kid; then dabbled in western riding and gymkhana; learned the art of reining and got my first taste of reined cowhorse in college; worked on a ranch in Wyoming starting horses and driving cattle; spent several years as a professional teacher, trainer and coach in western and draft horse driving while continuing some training over fences; left the competition world completely to ride on the family farm; and have made a return to the show pen with my racehorse-turned-ranch horse. This is not to brag on how experienced I may or may not be — this is simply for context.

In this array of experiences and interactions, including several brief working student positions crammed into college winter breaks between semesters, I’ve gleaned immeasurable amounts of information. Every trainer with whom I’ve worked has left an impression on my overall horsemanship (both positive — “I want to be like that horseman” — and negative — “I will never ask that of/do that to a horse”) in the same way I’ve learned from every horse which has come through my life. Yet I’d have a hard time defining myself as any one particular school of horsemanship.

Tik Maynard’s In the Middle Are the Horsemen chronicles his own multi-disciplinary journey, driven by an insatiable lifelong thirst for knowledge and the desire to be the best horseman he can be. This quest is initially focused on being a great rider, but as Maynard gains more experience abroad and around the United States, his goal shifts almost imperceptibly towards being a great horseman — the kind of person a horse would choose if a horse had the option.

Maynard is humble throughout, still thinking of himself as working towards that goal of horseman (“a horseman, however, goes deeper, thins about the heart and soul of the horse, as well as the body. A horseman not only knows his horse, but his horse knows him — this is a true relationship”), nowhere near attaining Horseman(“working on himself for the horse, not the horse for himself”). In a truly rare feat in today’s perfectly-presented world, Maynard is honest about his mistakes, unafraid to describe in detail all of the various times he — like all of us — made errors in judgment or just simply failed.

The book itself takes us along on Maynard’s working student adventure: at a personal crossroads in his life at the age of 26, Maynard leaves the comfortable home base of his parents’ horse farm in Vancouver to travel as a working student around the world, landing positions with some household names in dressage (Johann Hinnemann), eventing (Ingrid Klimke and the O’Connors) and show jumping (Anne Kursinski, and very briefly Ian Millar), as well as some time on a ranch in Texas with Bruce Logan. Working for Sinead Halpin for a weekend would prove to be a fateful meeting; the book chronicles their romance and partnership as well as some major life events.

While writing one’s own story may seem like a breeze — you’ve already lived it, so it’s not like you’re creating new characters or plot out of your own imagination, right? — the process requires some serious self-awareness and reflection, not to mention a thick skin. Maynard, documenting his early working student experiences for first Gaitpost and then Chronicle of the Horse learns this lesson early with one particular response to his tale of working for and summarily being fired by Johann Hinnemann in Germany: it takes a brave person to bare their soul on the page, at the mercy of readers and critics.

So many parts of this book spoke to me not only as an equestrian but as a writer who has chronicled my own experiences for readers and similarly struggled to find my niche as a rider and a professional. A few passages in particular stood out to me.

On writing one’s own story — it’s never just your own story once pen meets paper:

It is often easier to see and evaluate emotions in someone else — we are so close to our own! […] My writing, my articles, were never meant to be a definitive look at horse people and their training methods. They were only meant to be my story.

On quitting — a debate I still have with myself over leaving the industry as a professional:

Time was giving me perspective on my stay with Herr Hinnemann, but I still had more questions than answers. Why did I stay as long as I did when I was unhappy? Should I have stayed even though I was unhappy? Would I have had the courage to leave his stable if I hadn’t have been dismissed? It’s a curious thing: Sometimes it takes more guts to quit a job, no matter how unsatisfying it is, than to stick with it.

On Thoroughbreds and what they can teach us:

I agreed with them both: Thoroughbreds were often more sensitive. But George’s claim that this put you ahead was not totally correct. Horses can be too sensitive […] With some Thoroughbreds, we don’t start ahead of the game because they are sensitive, we start behind because they are too sensitive.

But then again, maybe it wasn’t about the horse. Probably I just needed to ride better.

Maynard’s story is 100% his own. And yet at the same time his story is all of our stories — the twisting roads we take, the mistakes we make, the mistakes we own up to and the mistakes we deny, the courage to face ourselves and be true, and the courage to always strive to be better.

Any equestrian who has ever wrestled with what it means to be a horseman will find value in this book. Tik Maynard’s In the Middle Are the Horseman is available through Trafalgar Square.

Go riding!

Originally published on Horse Nation.

SmartPak: ‘Stuff Dressage Riders Say’ With Ryan Wood and Boyd and Silva Martin

The only thing that could improve SmartPak’s ever-popular “Stuff Riders Say” series? Adding Team SmartPak riders, dressage rider Silva Martin and eventers Ryan Wood and Boyd Martin.

This trio of professionals takes turns reading “stuff dressage riders say” and they crack themselves up as they go — always a good sign!

Well, it sounds accurate to us. What would YOU have added to the list?

Best of HN: HN Deep Questions: Ribbed vs. Smooth Bell Boots

Such mysteries abound. SmartPak

Okay, Horse Nation hive mind: we have a burning question that we can’t figure out through massive amounts of research*.

*Googling a lot.

First, some background: bell boots (sometimes also called overreach boots) are used to protect a horse’s feet, from the pastern and coronary band down to the heel. Good for horses who overreach with the hind feet (hence the name “overreach boots”), the boot will protect the sensitive heel bulbs from getting clipped, as well as a front shoe getting caught with a hind toe and pulled right off. (Bonus points to horses like mine who manage to interfere with the other front foot as they learn how to horse.)

Some horse owners, especially those with certain shoeing regimens, may prefer to have their horse wear bell boots all the time; others will use bell boots just for turnout and riding; yet others may apply bell boots only for training and riding. They’re also often recommended on all four feet for shipping, when a horse may step on himself while balancing in the trailer.

There are numerous styles of bell boots and overreach boots, from the classic pull-on gum or rubber varieties to velcro-open bell boots to various neoprene or nylon iterations for specific purposes. For the sake of today’s discussion, we’re chatting the classic bell-shaped bell boot, either in pull-on or velcro-tab.

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Davis smooth velcro-open bell boots in black. Also could double as a photograph of Darth Vader from behind. SmartPak

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Eskadron velcro-open bell boots… ribbed. SmartPak

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The classic pull-on bell boot, KL Select Italian. SmartPak

The other night, a friend of mine sent me a casual message, asking what the difference was between ribbed and smooth bell boots. (For all of us with a good equestrian friend, we know this is just a normal conversation.)

I thought about it. I Googled. I thought about it some more. And now I can’t stop wondering. All of my clicking around on the internet revealed that no one else really seems to know either. It’s worth mentioning, perhaps (I don’t really know), that you can only apparently get pull-ons in ribbed; smooth only seem to come in Velcro.

What is the difference? When would you use one versus the other? Why are there options?

Please, Horse Nation, weigh in and help soothe my troubled mind.

#SmallBusinessSaturday With Draper Therapies, Saratoga Horseworks & Wilker’s Custom Horse Products

Courtesy of Draper Therapies

Especially as we start to shop for the holidays, it’s easy to forget that some of our favorite equine businesses are small companies with just a few employees, and our favorite products are the result of hard work and innovation by just a handful of individuals. Our sponsor Draper Therapies is certainly one of those small businesses, partnering with two other small businesses in Saratoga Horseworks and Wilker’s Custom Horse Products to produce our favorite equine therapy products. We caught up with all three companies to chat equine small business and the unique challenges they face — just in time for #SmallBusinessSaturday!

Our panelists:

  • Becky Shipps of Draper Therapies:Draper Therapies makes equine, human, and canine therapy products featuring Celliant®, a recently FDA approved fiber that helps combat muscle fatigue. We’re based in Canton, MA are are a part of the Draper Knitting Company, a 180 year old family owned/operated textile manufacturing company.”
  • Kate Stephenson of Saratoga Horseworks:Saratoga Horseworks Ltd specializes in custom horse clothing (from dress sheets to fly sheets) and accessories, such as our popular Saratoga Bandages, K9 Kooling Coats, Storage Bags, and more. We’re based in Amsterdam, NY.”
  • Kristyn Rogers of Wilker’s Custom Horse Products: “Wilker’s Custom Horse Products has been a manufacturer of saddle pads and leg wraps since 1974. We are located just south of Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. Consumers can find our products in many local tack shops (a map of our dealers is available here) or can purchase a small selection of items directly from us here.”

Becky on Draper Therapies working with Saratoga Horseworks and Wilker’s Custom Horse Products:

“Draper Therapies has been working with Saratoga Horseworks since our inception. Quite literally, our equine line would not be possible without them! They make our polos (and Perfect Polos!), saddle pads, stable sheets, coolers, quarter sheets, hock boots, quick wraps, and dog coats. Their specific knowledge about equine garments makes them invaluable to us – they have the brilliant combination of horse AND textile knowledge to help us develop new products that are not only functional but that are beautiful and last a long time.

“Draper has been working with Wilker’s for two years now. We originally started working together on developing what is now our No Bow Wraps, and now we have started developing other products (look for an XC pad from Draper that is cut and sewn by Wilker’s soon!). When I start developing a product I look around and see who is producing the best products in that category. Wilker’s is a trusted name that has been around forever and their no-bows have been a staple in just about every barn I’ve been in so I was thrilled that we got to work with them to incorporate our fabric with Celliant® into a product that was already tried and true. The sales have spoken for themselves – our No Bows are a HUGE customer favorite and I love hearing all the stories of how the wraps are helping horses stay on the top of their game.”

What are some of the unique challenges you face as a small equestrian business?

Becky: “Being seen! Even though the equestrian market is small in the scheme of the world, it’s always bustling and there are so many brands competing for attention. Always being creative, innovative, and staying one step ahead is tricky, but staying hungry is how small businesses survive. And it’s fun to be creative!”

Kate: “One of the biggest challenges we face is the competition with less costly imported brands and products. This is a two-part issue, as not only can imported products be marketed at a lower retail price, but the lower cost of production means these companies can spend more on marketing and promotion. Consumers may not realize that all of the big marketing they see does not always translate to a better product. Another challenge along these same lines is that brands that produce internationally do not always have the same level of regulations, which again makes it cheaper to produce while sacrificing sustainability, workforce safety, and more.”

Kristyn: “As a small business, it can be difficult to compete with lower prices of foreign-made goods. We believe that the high quality of our products, as well as our vast range of custom colors and options, sets us apart and keeps customers coming back to Wilker’s.”

What’s your unique niche in the market and how do you address that need?

Becky: “Our products are unique because they’re not exactly what you think of when you think of a “medical device”. We’re really changing the way people think about alternative therapy products and how they can be integrated into daily care of all horses, not just senior or injured ones. Being small has been helpful because it allows us to build a strong relationship with each customer. It starts when they first find us and we explain how the product works. It grows when they have questions or need help ordering and, with the help of social media, the relationship continues to be interactive as we release new products and information about our brand. As a brand we try to be helpful and friendly, so after awhile many of our conversations with customers end up sounding like two old friends catching up! We truly love our customers and are grateful that we can always be a friendly and familiar face in the equestrian marketplace.”

Kate: Our “niche” is creating high-end custom horse clothing with impeccable quality and attention to detail. Being a small business allows us to offer an incredibly personalized buyer experience for our consumers, something that we believe is key when it comes to creating one-of-a-kind items. With a small work force, we can also better insure that each and every blanket meets the highest of standards when it comes to quality and appearance.

Why should consumers “shop small” this holiday season?

Becky: Because small businesses take pride in their work. That item that you bought from a small business someone took the time to dream up, design, then make, package, market, etc possibly all by themselves. They will always go the extra mile to make sure you’re as satisfied and as proud of your purchase as they are of their creation.

Kate: We think it is important because you are not only supporting a small business, but also supporting our workers here in the USA, American suppliers of materials and raw goods, and the community as a whole. When you shop small, you set off a chain reaction that reaches far beyond just the company you have purchased from!

Kristyn: We encourage consumers to shop small this holiday season because you’ll have a memorable and personable experience. Many tack shops offer far more than just the products on their shelves; they offer services and benefits that make shopping with them a more hands-on experience, ensuring you have exactly what you’ll need to for a fun and safe ride.

Courtesy of Draper Therapies

Support small business this holiday season and shop small! Check out our sponsor Draper Therapies for their unique therapeutic products, plus partnering businesses Saratoga Horseworks and Wilker’s Custom Horse Products.

Go small business, and go riding!

Best of HN: In Defense of the Square Cooler

BELGIANS IN BATHROBES. That’s all. Photo by Kristen Kovatch

Not too long ago I was trawling my Facebook timeline (as you do) and saw someone hating on that barn staple, the square cooler. “No one uses those anymore,” sneered this individual, insinuating that somehow, the square cooler had become retro and outdated, set aside as the trend-seekers turn their attention to the next big thing (fitted coolers? Dress sheets? I have no idea what the cool kids are doing these days).

As someone who wouldn’t know what’s trending if it flew by and hit her in the face, let me tell you that at least as far as my barn is considered, the square cooler is king. This is a hill I will gladly die on, defending these oversize fleecey monsters until they’re pried from my cold fingers.

1. One size fits all.

Why would anyone turn down the opportunity to buy a few giant coolers that fit literally all of their horses, rather than sizing individual fitted fleece sheets for every horse? I also realize that not every equestrian has small horses and drafts co-mingling together in one happy pasture, and this may not be as big of an issue, but for goons like me who need to have one in every size, I can’t beat a blanket rack draped with square coolers ready to go just an arm’s length away when someone needs to dry off and warm up.

2. They cover the entire horse.

The point of a cooler is to allow a horse to dry while preventing him from getting chilled… right? So what on earth is the point of leaving the neck uncovered, steaming away on a cold day? Yeah, okay, I have a fitted fleece sheet to use on those days where it’s not quite warm enough to air-dry after a bath but the horse isn’t steaming into the atmosphere… but if I’m trying to dry off a sweaty horse or warm up a chilled one who’s been outside in the cold rain, I obviously want to cover as much of the horse as possible.

3. They wash easy.

As far as smuggling it home into my home washer so that my husband won’t notice, you can’t beat a square cooler with its subtle nylon tie straps — there are no metal buckles to clank and clatter like a rock polisher as they turn endlessly over and over again in the machine. In a world in which literally every other thing with horses has to be complicated, isn’t it nice to embrace one simplicity?

4. They’re versatile as heck.

If you haven’t worn a square cooler as a hooded cape at least once in your life, are you even an equestrian? I’ve wrapped them around me at cold indoor horse shows in the dead of winter; I’ve worn them as lap robes while driving my draft horses. While hacking out bareback on our 27-year-old senior horse in the snow last winter, I definitely wore it like a giant quarter sheet-cum-dress, and while I’m not saying it was the safest thing in the world, it also made me feel like Lady Stark of Winterfell as I ambled around the pasture and some things are worth it.

I might look slightly like No Face from Spirited Away but whatever, it was cold out. Photo by Chloe Petry

Square coolers, don’t ever let anyone dim your shine. Go riding!

California Horse Community Needs Help in Deadly Wildfires

Embed from Getty Images

Raging wildfires in California have caused 50 confirmed deaths, with 48 of those coming from the Camp Fire in Butte County and two from the Woolsey Fire in southern California. The Camp Fire has virtually destroyed the town of Paradise and continues to blaze at about 35% contained.

The fires grew rapidly: the Woolsey fire grew to 35,000 acres in its first 24 hours last Thursday, and the Camp Fire grew even faster to 70,000 acres in its first day. With such dramatic speed and exponential growth, residents barely had time to evacuate. Harrowing images flooded social media from both fires: flames scorching trees on both sides of the road as people drove to safety. Animals turned loose as their best chance of survival. Horses ridden to the beach in Malibu to await pickup to safety with smoke and flames licking the sky overhead.

The Camp Fire is currently at 135,000 acres and 35% contained; the Woolsey fire is at 97,620 acres and 47% contained. Several other smaller fires are also raging in California, leaving fire-fighting resources stretched thin and evacuation efforts for both people and animals working hard. The fires are fanned by the Santa Ana winds, which blow hot, dry air east to west. Combined with dry fuel after a dry summer, conditions are right for fast-moving, devastating fires.

Details on all fires can be found at CalFire’s website, which also lists human and animal evacuation centers.

While having an evacuation plan for horses should be the first step towards keeping them safe in natural disasters, it’s not always possible due to the speed of a fire or rapidly-changing conditions. Due to the speed of the Camp Fire, there are numerous reports of horses turned loose, which can increase their chances of survival rather than being locked in a barn or small paddock. Owners forced to make that decision should mark their horses if at all possible with identification or phone number.

The full scope of devastation and damage won’t be known for some time as these fires continue to burn; it’s already believed that the death toll from the Camp Fire will continue to rise as authorities search the rubble left in the fire line’s wake. An estimated 96% of the town of Paradise burned to the ground.

How you can help:

Cash donations give organizations on the ground the flexibility to apply those funds where they are needed most.

US Equestrian Disaster Relief Fund: US Equestrian will determine where funds are best applied. In the past, US Equestrian has sent truckloads of hay to disaster-stricken areas, among other aid. Donate here

Humane Society of Ventura County: Aiding animals from the Woolsey Fire and others in Ventura County. Donate here

North Valley Animal Disaster Group: All-volunteer organization currently caring for over 1,300 evacuated animals in shelters plus additional wellness checks during the Camp Fire. Donate here

LA County Animal Care Foundation Noah’s Legacy Fund: Specifically to aid during disasters, the Noah’s Legacy Fund supports animal evacuation efforts plus animal evacuee supplies and support. Donate here

Brooke USA: As stated on the donation page, Brooke USA has yet to determine where funds will be applied but this reputable organization will find the area of most need. Donate here

American Association for Equine Vet Practitioners: This organization has a dedicated fund for emergency disaster relief. Donate here

Our hearts go out to all affected by California’s devastating wildfires.

Best of HN: Blanket Hacks for DIY Warriors

Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

We don’t all have the luxury of professional blanket cleaning and repair — if you’re a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to blanket maintenance, here are our favorite tips and tricks for extending the life of your expensive blankets!

It’s blanketing season for those of us who by choice or necessity will now spend the next four months obsessively checking the weather forecasts and trying to decide between medium or heavy. While some of us might be unzipping the package on some brand-new sheets this year and others are digging our professionally-cleaned and -repaired blankets out of storage, there are others among us — again, by choice or necessity — who tackle all of that blanket maintenance ourselves. For the DIY warriors out there, here are a few tested-and-true tips for getting the most out of your blankets!

Washing

Post a question about washing turnout blankets to any public group on social media and you’ll get a variety of responses — some claim that washing and drying in industrial or home washers is fine; others claim that drying the blankets will kill the waterproofing while still others claim it’s the kind of detergent one uses that will render your blanket as leaky as a sieve next year. From anecdotal experience, I can state that when I worked at a large 70-stall equestrian center, we washed and dried our turnout blankets every spring and rarely had any issues with waterproofing.

Now tragically without a designated horse clothing washer/dryer set, I’m a little more choosy about what I put in my home appliances. Faced with a pile of fairly disgusting, muddy turnout sheets and blankets every year, I prefer to wash mine outside.

I’ve found an electric pressure washer to be a valuable tool in blasting the crusted-on mud and inevitable manure off of the blankets inside and out. I have not used a gas-powered pressure washer on blankets; I do know they tend to be a bit more powerful than the electric models so proceed with caution!

After the initial mud and gunk has been pressure-washed away, tackle the rest of the built-up with some good old-fashioned elbow grease: a stiff brush and Dawn dish soap work well to get out all of the dirt and grime. Soak in a tub if necessary.

Repair

Minor repairs such as small holes and tears can be handled at home without a major investment in a sewing machine. Gorilla Tape has been a game-changer for me in recent seasons; for larger holes and rips Gorilla Tape also manufactures a wide tape patch. A few notes on Gorilla Tape: the adhesive works best when it’s applied to a clean surface, so at minimum, go over those blankets with a stiff brush before repairing. It also works best when both the tape and the repair surface are warm, so bring the blanket home if you can. The tape patches do not breathe like the blanket material, so plan accordingly if you are repairing a lot of rips!

You can also repair blankets with patches from old sheets adhered with waterproof glue. A catastrophically-damaged blanket can still have plenty of salvageable parts for repairing others — the tail flap in particular is usually a good size, maintains its waterproofing and is easy to cut off of an old blanket to save for making patches.

Interior tears can be repaired with needle and thread; you can also apply a fabric patch to ensure a smooth surface against your horse’s coat.

If your blanket has truly given up the ghost with an irreparable tear, make sure you save all of the hardware — chest buckles, belly buckles and of course those leg straps!

Waterproofing

A number of waterproofing treatments and sprays can be applied to tired blankets. Many of these are available at camping or outdoor stores. I’ve used Nikwax to great effect but there are many similar products out there! Applying new waterproofing can usually get another season out of an older blanket, and if you’re diligent about re-applying you might be able to extend its life for several years.

What DIY blanket tips do you have to share? Let us know in the comments!

This article was originally posted on our sister site, Horse Nation.

Best of HN: 8 Words That Make Breaking In a New Phone Tough For Equestrians

Photo via Barbara Lane/Pixabay

Autocorrect stepping in where it isn’t needed has certainly been responsible for more than one gaffe in the smartphone age (expect for the whole “covfefe” thing — you really let us down there). Fortunately, with enough furious repetition and backspacing, it’s possible to train one’s autocorrect to recognize certain words unique to one’s own areas of interest.

But the first few days or so with a brand new phone? Those days are rough. Speaking from recent experience, here are a few equestrian words that really gave my phone a hard time for the past week or so.

1. OTTB (no, not itty. How can you even recognize THAT as a word?)

2. SMZ (no, not SMH, I don’t even say that)

3. Percherons (yeah, phone, I really wanted to ask my father-in-law if he was planning to drive the persons this weekend)

4. Bute (no one knew what I was talking about when I said “let’s cut him to one scoop of sure in the morning”)

5. AQHA (no, we’re not following aqua rules)

6. Pastern (not the pattern)

7. Withers (I don’t have a horse with high withered. That doesn’t even make sense)

8. Forecart (this might be a bit of a fringe word for draft drivers only, but it’s a thing… not a forecast)

And, of course, woe betide you if you have a horse with an unusual name. The phone now recognizes “Jobber” but for awhile he was “jibber” no matter what I typed in there. Is jibber even a word? We’ll never know.

What would you add to the list?

Go riding!

ICTMI: Watch Accelerate Win the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Get so caught up with weekend eventing action that you totally forgot about fall’s biggest horse race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic? No judgement, and for your recap convenience, a quick summary: Capping off a nearly-perfect season, Accelerate was the toughest of them all in the $6 million race held Saturday at Churchill Downs. Thankfully our friends at Horse Nation have done a bang-up job covering the Cup — here’s a replay, and visit the site for more including this photo gallery of Breeders’ Cup jockeys’ winning moments, this embarrassing report  about the Cups’ token drunk dude, and an inspiring feature on the New Vocations Breeders’ Cup Pledge program.

Accelerate, ridden by Joel Rosario, wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Breeders’ Cup World Championship Saturday at Churchill Downs. Photo by Jessica Morgan/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM.

In a year that felt strangely empty with the early retirement of the Triple Crown winner Justify, a 5-year-old named Accelerate stepped into the void and grabbed the championship for himself: winning five of his last six starts, the chestnut son of Lookin At Lucky made Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic his sixth Grade I victory of 2018.

Accelerate was trainer John Sadler’s 45th Breeders’ Cup hopeful, and his victory broke one of the most infamous losing streaks in Breeders’ Cup history. He went off as the favorite in a star-studded field including Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow, UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn, Travers winner Catholic Boy, and 2017 multiple Grade I winner West Coast.

Mendelssohn set a grueling early pace that sent murmurs through the crowd as the fractions flashed up on the screen, with McKinzie and West Coast in hot pursuit and Thunder Snow lurking on the rail. Accelerate, under a ride by Joel Rosario, had to hustle from post 14 to make up some ground and settled clear mid-pack.

Into the home stretch, Mendelssohn tried his best to hold on but faded, leaving the door wide open for Accelerate to sweep three-wide on the turn and take command of the race. He held off challenges first by Thunder Snow and then by characteristically late-closing Gunnevera to cruise under the wire the latest Classic champion.

A fascinating debate now unfolds over who should earn Horse of the Year honors: Justify, the undefeated unraced-as-a-two-year-old Triple Crown winner who retired in the first half of the year due to injury, or Accelerate, who won six Grade I stakes in California and then beat the best of the East Coast in the Classic? Weigh in with your thoughts!

Best of HN: Where Are They Now? 5 Breeders’ Cup Graduates

The Breeders’ Cup is the crown jewel for North American racing (with increasing participation from Europe as well). Many owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys dream of their horses capturing the elusive title of Breeders’ Cup Champion, and every year another crop of potential stars enters the starting gate hoping to get their piece of the glory.

Champion or not, however, the Breeders’ Cup graduates are all in need of a second career when their racing days are over: some go on to be breeding horses, but plenty of others find their second career in the show ring and beyond. We caught up with five former Breeders’ Cup runners to get the scoop on their post-racing careers!

Theory
2014 gelding by Gemologist
Bred by Fred W. Hertrich III and Ronald K. Kirk
Formerly owned by WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd., SF Racing LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC
Formerly trained by Todd Pletcher
Breeders’ Cup history: 10th in the 2016 Juvenile

Theory won his maiden start at Saratoga and followed up that victory with another in the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes at Belmont. He finished tenth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind winner Classic Empire. He never saw the top three again on the track, and after one start early in 2018, his connections made the decision to retire him and seek a second career. Restarted by Carleigh Fedorka as agent for Carolyn Walsh, Theory caught the eye of Clare Walker of Walnut Farm in Kansas.

Theory and Carleigh Fedorka. Photo by JJ Sillman

Walker purchased Theory in July. “We are currently working on instilling good solid dressage basics and relaxing in this phase,” describes Walker. “He is a forward thinking and smart horse but is naturally a bit of a worrier so I’m mindful not to rush him. He is brave and clever about the jumps, but I have focused more on pole work to make sure he gets the footwork basics he needs along with the rideability on the flat.”

As an upper-level eventer herself, Walker allows herself to dream about long-term goals: “Well, we’d all like another upper level horse, wouldn’t we? I have run horses through 2*, so it would be super if he was the one that went on to surpass that, but who knows, really?”

“Theory is a very sweet horse, has some wisdom for his age and is quite affectionate. However, his favorite thing in the whole world is to eat and he gets quite excited at meals times. He had tieback surgery as a two year old so he doesn’t really have a voice, but if he did he would shout at me for his breakfast!”

Theory and Clare Walker. Photo courtesy of Clare Walker

Radiohead
2007 gelding by Johannesburg
Bred by Redmyre Bloodstock and S. Hillen
Formerly owned by Antonacci Racing and Gerald Antonacci
Formerly trained by Danny Gargan
Breeders’ Cup history: seventh in the 2009 Juvenile

Bred in Great Britain, Radiohead showed early promise as a juvenile, winning the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes at Ascot and placing in several other Grade 1 and 2 stakes in England. He placed seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which was won that year by Vale of York. After his Breeders’ Cup attempt, Radiohead stayed in the States and never quite captured his early potential. Moving down the ranks of racing through the later years of his career, Radiohead retired from the track and was placed through ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption with Tristan Francar in February of 2015.

Originally, Francar intended to show Radiohead at the 2015 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in dressage but closer to the deadline felt that the horse was not mentally ready and made the horseman’s decision to scratch. Since then, Radiohead’s training has progressed through Francar’s individualized program; he has schooled work through second level. A few physical setbacks forced some time off, but he’s been cleared to work again and Francar is slowly rebuilding his fitness, with the goal to return to the show ring in the spring.

Photo by Shaana Risley

Cary Street
2009 gelding by Smarty Jones
Bred by Darley
Formerly owned by JBL Thoroughbreds LLC and Walsh Racing LLC
Formerly trained by Brendan Walsh
Breeders’ Cup history: winner of the 2014 Las Vegas Marathon, the first year it was dropped from the Breeders’ Cup card

While from 2014 onwards the Marathon was dropped from the Breeders’ Cup card, the graded stakes is still considered by many to be an “unofficial” Breeders’ Cup race — and Cary Street was the first post-Breeders’ Cup winner. Winner of multiple graded stakes, Cary Street was considered the horse that helped launch Brendan Walsh’s training career, and when the horse incurred a minor injury to his suspensory ligament in 2016, Walsh sought a great home.

Photo by Marissa Miller

Enter Steph Butler, an associate veterinarian at the time at a racetrack practice in Lexington, horseless and preparing to start shopping. “One of my friends who at the time was an exercise rider for Brendan with his string stabled at Keeneland for the summer found out that he was looking to find Cary a home since he needed a job. I brought Cary home in the summer of 2016 after talking with a lot of people who worked for Brendan, and what really struck me was how much everyone loved the horse.”

Butler took the rest of 2016 to rehab the ligament injury and let down Cary from racing life; Butler carefully and slowly strengthened the injured ligament and Cary has no limitations now. Over the following summer, Butler introduced jumping, and she and Cary Street competed at the 2017 Thoroughbred Makeover to great success, finishing fifth place and top amateur trainer in competitive trail and 11th in the field hunters (tied for tenth, dropped to 11th in the tie-breaker).

Post-Makeover, Butler and Cary won a Masterson Station hunter pace with a friend, and competed at some schooling shows over the winter. Cary also enjoys trail riding in both English and western tack. Butler hopes to take him to some recognized events in 2019.

Not only is the horse versatile and athletic in all of his careers, he’s just fun have in the barn. As described by Butler: “Cary, in a nutshell, is a 9-year-old-yearling. He is the barn clown, the obnoxious little brother in the pasture who loves to pester the other geldings to play with him (even though he’s 17 hands) and has a huge, goofy personality and is such a fun horse to be around.”

Photo by Steph Butler

Mr. Commons
2008 gelding by Artie Schiller
Bred by St. George Farm LLC
Owned St. George Farm Racing LLC (Banwell)
Formerly trained by John Shirreffs
Breeders’ Cup history: fifth in both the 2011 and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile

Mr. Commons is still owned by his breeders, the Banwell family of St. George Farm. They raced him to earnings of over $900,000 in a career that spanned six years and 29 starts, including two graded stakes wins. Mr. Commons ran eighth in the 2011 Preakness Stakes, plus finishing fifth two years in a row in the 2011 and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile on the turf.

“The Banwells opted to see what Mr. Commons could do in a second career,” shares trainer Emily Brollier Curtis. “They reached out to me to see if I would work with him as a dressage horse. Mr. Commons and I have competed through first level so far, most recently attending regional championships. He is schooling all of the third level and should be showing third next season.”

Brollier Curtis believes that Mr. Commons can be a Thoroughbred stereotype-breaker: “I hope to get him to the FEI levels and really see what an OTTB can do in that setting. He is a very sensitive horse, very particular. He likes what he likes and tells you what he doesn’t like. He is super fun to train because he is quick off the leg and hot to the aids. A very ambitious horse!”

Photo courtesy of Emily Brollier Curits/Wendy Wooley

Romp (ARG)
2004 gelding by Incurable Optimist
Bred by John T. Behrendt
Formerly owned by Sisters in Racing Stable and Jeff Siskin
Formerly trained by Kristin Mulhall
Breeders’ Cup history: ninth in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon, eighth in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon

Romp accomplished a long racing career with his last start in 2013 at the Jockey Club age of nine. He didn’t break his maiden until well until his three-year-old year, but seemed to get better with age with his first graded stakes placing as a six-year-old. With 55 career starts, Romp was well into warhorse status when he retired through New Vocations, where Leah Alessandroni became his next owner.

Romp showed talent over fences and enjoyed a brief stint as a show horse, but truly enjoys the quieter retired life, getting to simply be a horse out in the pasture!

Photo by Courtney Calnan

Go Breeders’ Cup. And go riding.

6 Ways to Participate In No-Stirrup November (Without Creating Sore-Back December)

Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

No-Stirrup November is upon us! This month is an opportunity to strengthen yourself in the saddle, deepen your connection with your horse and achieve what you might have thought impossible. But that doesn’t mean that you need to go totally cold turkey, yank the stirrups off your saddle and attempt to continue on like nothing has changed — that can be a recipe for disaster both for yourself and your horse. This year, we’ve put together a guide to help you conquer No-Stirrup November in a way that’s safe for both horse and rider!

1. Get in a good warm-up — with your stirrups.

In many parts of the country, November is getting pretty chilly. That can mean tight backs and stiff horses in some cases, and if you guess that a rider bouncing along without stirrups is pretty uncomfortable for a cold horse who isn’t warmed up yet, you’d be absolutely right. Keep those stirrups while you give your horse a good, thorough warm-up to ease his muscles (and yours) into working, especially if the air is getting frosty. You’ll both appreciate it.

2. Start small — yes, it still counts!

“No-Stirrup November” doesn’t have to be taken literally. Especially if you don’t often do a lot of no-stirrup work in your regular program, suddenly removing the stirrups from your saddle and locking them away for a month has the potential to lead to some scary situations for you and a lot of bouncing on your horse’s back.

Instead, take a look at your current riding program and decide where you can start working in some no-stirrup work. Once you and your horse are warmed up, perhaps you can drop your stirrups and work on your sitting trot for a few minutes, gradually building up each day to bigger goals. If you were jumping 3′ grids with stirrups, perhaps you might scale back to cavelletti until you’re strong and comfortable without your stirrups. If you ride a young or green horse, you might pick your battles on when it’s a good time to go stirrup-free (if at all!)

You won’t be “cheating” — just setting yourself up for success to improve over the course of the month! Even cooling down after your ride without stirrups can be a stepping-stone to bigger things.

3. Set realistic goals.

Riffing off of the above theme of starting small, assess your current level of riding and set a realistic goal for the end of November. If you’ve never ridden without stirrups before, your goal might be to sit the trot for a full lap of the arena. If you already train without stirrups frequently, your goal might be to jump an entire 2′ course or perform an advanced maneuver without your stirrups.

Having a workable goal to attain by the end of the month will help you build a program for the month of November: if you want to be able to canter without your stirrups, you can design steps that will help you get there. Without a specific end destination in mind, you might otherwise spend a lot of November aimlessly wandering without your stirrups wondering if you’re getting any stronger!

4. Work with a trainer or instructor.

If you’re not sure if you’re ready to drop those stirrups, seek the advice of a trusted trainer or riding instructor, especially if you typically ride on your own. He or she can help you with no-stirrups exercises and drills to help you get stronger so you’re not just bouncing along on your own.

If you ride a green horse or a horse otherwise unsuitable for extensive no-stirrup work, you may also benefit from taking a no-stirrups lesson on an instructor’s horse better suited to the task.

5. Take care of yourself between rides.

Most equestrians know that riding alone isn’t typically enough to build the optimum level of fitness to become a competitive athlete — the best riders also train in the gym as well as in the arena. That said, if you’re already cross-training, you may need to scale back your activities in the gym to counter soreness from riding without stirrups if you’re not accustomed to the activity. Make sure you are supporting yourself with good nutrition this month, as well as stretching before and after your rides!

If you had a particularly intense ride or lesson the day before, it’s definitely okay to scale back a bit the next day until you’ve recovered. There’s nothing worse than trying to hold on to the horse with exhausted legs when you feel yourself losing your balance!

If you come into each no-stirrup ride stronger, stretched and balanced, your horse will also have an easier time performing with you.

6. Listen to your horse.

If you notice that your horse is getting grumpy to saddle, reactive while grooming or otherwise shows signs of discomfort or pain, stop and listen to what he’s trying to tell you! Perhaps going without stirrups for a whole month is not in his best interests for the sake of his back or his soundness. There’s no need to sacrifice the health of your animal to follow a fad — but if you pay attention to your horse’s feedback and plan your program accordingly, there’s no telling how far No-Stirrup November might take you.

No-Stirrup November can be one of the best months of the year to improve your riding for all levels of rider! Use the guidelines above to customize a program that works best for you and your horse and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve improved.

Tag your #NoStirrupNovember posts on social media! Keep an eye on EN’s sister site Horse Nation for support and stories, including a social media roundup each week during the month. 

A SmartPak Halloween Classic: ‘Stuff Riders Spook At’

“We get you because we are you.” SmartPak’s motto has never been truer: this classic video, first released at Halloween 2016, is chock-full of all of your worst barn fears. From spooky loose plastic bags to tragic clipping accidents, this video is sure to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Try not to shriek out loud…

Eeek!

Go SmartPak, and go riding! And be sure to visit our sister site Horse Nation as they celebrate through Halloween day with plenty of spooky stories and celebration.

‘OMG, What Happened To Your Face?’: Grass Mumps

Disclaimer: This anecdote is not meant to serve as veterinary advice. Any horse health concerns should be taken to your veterinarian.

A crisp fall morning earlier this week found me ambling back from the cow pasture on my horse Jobber after a successful move of the farm’s cattle herd between fields in the pasture rotation. Jobber had done a fabulous job of being exactly where I needed him to be every time I asked, and for the first time in her life, my border collie had been actually helpful rather than popping up exactly where she didn’t need to be at the most critical moments.

I stepped down out of the saddle back at the barn, gave Jobber a good pat on the neck, gathered my reins and felt my eyes bug out of my head.

“What. Happened. To. Your. FACE?”

On the 15-minute walk from the point where I had last dismounted to close up a wire gate as the last of the cattle disappeared over the hill in their new pasture and now, Jobber’s cheeks had bloomed into a series of… well, to put it succinctly, lumps. He looked rather like a hamster — not a good look for my normally sleek Thoroughbred, despite the bloom of his thick winter coat.

The initial lumpy swellings on Jobber’s cheeks. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

The swellings were fairly symmetrical, firm to the touch, and did not appear to be sensitive. Jobber stood there patiently, likely thinking what are you doing now, human as I poked and prodded at his face. I gently pulled at the reins as though I was riding — no bit sensitivity. I pulled his bridle in the barn, got him untacked and groomed, and checked his temperature. Normal. Judging from the way he was trying to clean up stray wisps of hay from the floor, he appeared to have a fine appetite.

I stood back and looked at my horse, who looked back at me expectantly. What? This is what I look like now, he could have been saying.

I tentatively turned Jobber back out so I could observe him. My immediate thought was a bad tooth — but the swelling was symmetrical, and he got right to work grazing, so that seemed unlikely. He had had a mild facial swelling earlier in the summer which I believed was likely a bee sting or a big horsefly bite, but again, this swelling was symmetrical on both sides. Had he stuck his head in a thorn bush while we had been moving cattle? That had definitely happened, yes … but what were the chances that he somehow pricked both cheeks equally to the point of swelling, without me finding any actual wounds or embedded thorns? The swelling was too high to be a symptom of strangles, and he was lacking the other key symptoms as well (fever, loss of appetite, nasal discharge and coughing).

The eventual diagnosis? Grass mumps.

Yes, it’s a real thing — poorly explained in most veterinary literature, and rather mysterious in cause, grass mumps (sometimes called grass glands) are swellings of the parotid gland, located below the ear and behind the cheek. While it’s generally believed to be a mild allergic reaction to new grass, or perhaps new pollens, no one seems to know for sure why the swellings appear. Generally, removing the horse from the triggering grass is enough for grass mumps to clear up on their own within a day or two; some advise giving antihistamine.

Diagram showing the location of the parotid gland. Photo via public domain.

This was still a bit puzzling to me, as we’re clearly well into fall — Jobber had been on this pasture all summer, and due to some recent pasture decisions, the cattle had eaten down most of the pasture so there was little brand-new growth. Then I remembered — the day before moving all of those cattle, I had moved the horses into a different section of pasture where they hadn’t been grazing since the spring. With some untouched weeds bobbing over the fenceline, I had probably set up the perfect storm for these mysterious grass mumps.

When I next checked Jobber, the swelling had faded from his cheeks and had settled into the classic location for grass mumps — symmetrical swelling below the ear and behind the cheek, over the area of the throatlatch, right over the parotid glands. The next morning, they were barely noticeable, and by afternoon they were gone completely.

Swelling now over the parotid area over the throatlatch — the classic “grass mumps.” Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Thus ended a brief and characteristic equestrian panic, and thus my knowledge grew just a little bit more about weird conditions that our beloved horses are prone to developing at the drop of a hat. Grass mumps can be filed under the heading of “things that look worse than they actually are,” as well as “things that may look somewhat like much more serious conditions” — but in reality, they’re more bark than bite.

24 hours later, back to normal (if slightly dirty). Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

For more information about grass mumps, I recommend the article “Jaw Swelling In Horses: Strangles or Grass Mumps?” from friends of Horse Nation, Kentucky Equine Research.

That’s Spooky! Details on HN’s Halloween Short Story Contest

The old “snort-n-spook,” a Halloween classic with year-round appeal. Photo courtesy of Kate Samuels. 

Have a spooky Halloween horsey short story to share?

Whether you have an old tale that’s been passed down in your barn family or you conjure up the best spooky story in your mind and put it down on paper, Horse Nation is calling for your best horsey Halloween tales for its first annual short story contest. We’ll publish the best around Halloween, and we’ll be reading our favorites on the Halloween episode of Horses in the Morning, the horse world’s first and favorite daily podcast!

How to enter:

  1. Send your story, either in the body of the email or in an attachment, to [email protected] Include your full name (or penname!)
  2. Stories should be limited to about 2,500 words. If you’re under that limit, that’s fine; if you’re a bit over, we’ll use our discretion. Stories selected for publishing may be edited slightly for length if necessary.
  3. Multiple entries are welcome!
  4. “Spooky” suggests a true good old-fashioned goosebump-inducing ghost story, but we’ll also welcome lighthearted spoofs. That means you can write “The Curse of Hunter’s Hill Farm,” or “The Horse Who Was Too Fat For His Girth To Buckle.”
  5. Entries are due by midnight on Wednesday, October 24!

HN will publish the best 5-8 stories on October 29-31, and we will read our favorites on the October 31 episode of Horses in the Morning.

Go Writing! Here are a few spooky tales to get you started:

 

Best of HN: Equestrian Life Hack — Moving Stall Mats

Horse Nation contributor Melanie O’Neill, an event and dressage rider from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, shared this recent mind-blowing equestrian life hack. We’ve all had to contend with the dreaded barn chore of moving, cleaning and then replacing those cumbersome yet necessary stall mats — they’re bulky, heavy and just not designed to be picked up and moved easily.

Melanie found a cheap and easy way to haul those mats around the farm using common materials lying around pretty much every barn we can think of. In Melanie’s words: “I have heard of using clamps or vise grips, but I didn’t have those … and this is free!”

Genius! With just a long section of twine and a few pieces of old hose for secure handles, Melanie made a handy little DIY mat handle in just a few seconds flat.

Thanks, Melanie! Have an equestrian life hack of your own to share? Let us know by emailing [email protected]!

Go riding!

Hurricane Michael Wrecks Panhandle Farms, Including Aqua Farms Sport Horses

The quickly-intensifying storm smashed the Florida panhandle on Wednesday, leaving destruction in its wake. Joe Pimentel’s Aqua Farms, one of North America’s top Trakehner breeding operations, was hit particularly hard.

Aerial view of catastrophic storm surge and wind damage in Mexico Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Michael. The powerful surge swept numerous homes clean off their foundations while violent winds caused extensive structural damage. NOAA/public domain

Hurricane Michael was a storm of unprecedented strength and speed: the storm rapidly intensified from a “disturbance” on Saturday to a fully-fledged hurricane just shy of Category 5 wind speed by Wednesday. The Florida communities of Panama City and Mexico Beach took a direct hit, with images from Mexico Beach in particular showing scenes of widespread devastation. The famous tourist destinations are essentially unrecognizable.

Due to the storm’s speed, it was able to cover a lot of ground inland, remaining a defined hurricane as it clawed its way across the Southeast. While the remains of Michael have now blown out to sea over the Atlantic, the recovery efforts are just beginning, and among the millions affected by this storm are horse owners and equestrians.

Hit particularly hard was Joe Pimentel’s Aqua Farms Sport Horses: Pimentel is the president of the Trakehner Association of North America (TANA) and respected as one of the largest breeders of Trakehners in the United States. His farm in the Panama City area is home to 75 horses, including several prized stallions.

While the farm was built to withstand hurricanes, the intensity and track of Michael wreaked havoc on the 250-acre property: the roof blew off the stallion barn, the indoor arena is a pile of rubble and an estimated $1 million worth of outbuildings were damaged or destroyed, reports TANA secretary Jean Marie Larson to Horse Nation. While the storm track meant that Aqua Farms did not suffer flooding, the farm did take the brunt of the western edge’s high winds.

Tragically, one horse was killed by the storm — a broodmare who had foaled in September, leaving behind an orphaned filly. Another injured horse was euthanized by a veterinarian, who came to the farm as soon as she could to treat horses injured by flying debris. Larson reports that transport will be heading to the farm soon to pick up the orphaned filly and any other critical cases so that they can be cared for while the farm cleans up.

Orphaned filly with “Trakehner royalty” bloodlines. Photo courtesy of Jean Marie Larson.

Efforts are underway by friends of Pimentel to assess how much hay and feed he needs for the immediate health of his horses. A GoFundMe has been set up by Pimentel’s sister to assist. Larson adds that Pimentel has been part of the Trakehner community for decades and has been “a great guy for a lot of us,” and the horse world is already responding in kind.

Elsewhere in the region, efforts are underway to provide relief for other horse owners in the wake of Michael. Tune Ups Veterinary Equine Services, spearheaded by Dr. Bess Darrow, is gathering monetary donations and organizing a volunteer team to assist horse owners in need; Dr. Darrow reports to HN that the situation is currently “chaotic” and she is having a hard time getting into the area.

For all readers who wish to lend a hand, Fleet of Angels is connecting victims with help via its National Equine Evacuation Directory — the directory connects those in need with evacuation sites, volunteer shippers and donated goods including feed and supplies. The directory includes easy-to-navigate channels for individuals who need assistance as well as those who can provide; Fleet of Angels is also accepting monetary donations.

Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Michael.

This story was originally posted on our sister site, Horse Nation.

Jobber Takes Kentucky: Thoroughbred Makeover, Day 5

The Kentucky Horse Park is filling up with talented ex-racehorses and the trainers who have devoted the past 10 months to bringing them along — Horse Nation editor Kristen Kovatch reports with her project Jobber Bill! If you missed it: Part IPart IIPart III, Part IV.

I’ve grown strangely accustomed in the five days that I’ve been here in Kentucky to a number of things: getting up happily (well, maybe not happily, but promptly, anyway) before dawn, operating with little sleep, little food, and tragically way too little water, and spending about 14 hours at the showgrounds. This is the horse show life: It’s been a long time since I’ve lived it, and while it’s bizarre and strange and taxing on every system, it’s also glorious, triumphant and stupidly fun.

This morning, however, was unique.

“I need to be at the stirrup cup in 20 minutes and I’m panicking” read the text message I read in the pre-dawn darkness. Meagan DeLisle (of HN and JN fame) had been braiding horses literally all night long, and as often happens with dedicated braiders, had left her horse for last … meaning that he was still chilling out in his stall, braided down but not pulled up.

That’s how I wound up with a pull-through in my hand, hastily pulling up hunter braid for the first time in about a decade, a headlamp shining the way as Meagan pulled on her show clothes and tacked up her horse. I’m pleased to say that not only did the braids not look completely terrible when the sun actually rose, but Meagan made it to the stirrup cup with time to spare, and a glass of port later, was looking much more optimistic about her day.

Meagan and Flash gathering at the Stirrup Cup on a very picturesque hunting morning. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Jobber was back to “home Jobber” mode after extensive hand-grazing and riding over the past few days, and after another long graze this morning, I anticipated needing only minimal warm-up for the freestyle performance. While I had been looking forward to showing Jobber’s talents with cattle in the freestyle, I equally had zero expectations for the class as far as placing and scoring went — I simply wanted to show the world that Thoroughbreds could work cows!

Expectations should have been placed, perhaps, on the unknown factor — the cow itself. Fellow ranch work competitor Fawn had kindly hauled in a roping steer on a trailer for me, and while our experience was mostly in working cows and calves in the pasture, I was pretty confident that Jobber would take to a roping steer easily. What I should have doubted, perhaps, was the roping steer’s ability to take to us. From the moment the black and white booger stepped off the trailer, he was pretty resistant to any of our attempts to actually direct him anywhere … almost as though that big indoor atmosphere that I had worried about with Jobber had struck fear right into his little bovine heart.

In a normal reined cow horse run — the specific discipline in which I hope to show Jobber in 2019 — this cow would have gotten us a whistle blow and a new cow pretty much immediately. But in the Makeover’s freestyle format, in which this was a BYO cow event, that wasn’t really an option … so we tried to make the most of what we had. At least we kept the spectators entertained.

Freestyle at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover

In a regular reined cow horse run, this cow would have been whistled out and I would have gotten a new one — but this was the freestyle and I had to work with what I got on a time crunch! Therefore, enjoy four minutes of me trying various methods to get this little booger to move as Jobber tries his hardest, despite the cow goring him (he is fine, but I think he might STILL be mad about it).

Posted by Jobber Bill, 2018 RRP Thoroughbred Makeover on Friday, October 5, 2018

On the plus side, I’ve never used a flag around Jobber before (this may shock some stocksmen, but it’s just not a tool we typically use on our farm). I’m pleased he handled that well, and also beyond pleased that he lost absolutely none of his bravery after getting thumped in the chest by this irritated steer.

Shout-out to all of the random folks who jumped over the wall to help herd this booger of a cow back to his trailer! It got a little western, but it got done.

Photo by Nancy Kohler-Cunningham.

Our Makeover performances are now behind us: I’ll come back to the indoor arena tomorrow for the awards presentation for working ranch, in which we are officially seventh place — for which I’m over the moon happy. For the way that Jobber just walks into the indoor ring with all of its atmosphere and all eyes on him as though he does this every day — when in reality he spends his time outside just wandering around the pastures with me — made me so unbelievably proud of him and so grateful for the horse he has become. I am truly a lucky horse owner.

Oh, and Jobber also found this giant soccer ball in the warm-up ring and dragged me over so he could push it around. Photo by Melissa Murray.

As the sun set this evening, Meagan and I, inherently just two grown-up pony children, slipped on our helmets and halters and let Flash and Jobber graze lazily out in the field, enjoying the fact that thanks to the Makeover, we had found these lifetime horses for ourselves. We may not be here to chase the prizes and the placings, but we are only here because this organization and this event made us believe that we could tackle this challenge.

The past 10 months with Jobber have been full of highs and lows, challenges and rewards, and so much expansion of my horse knowledge. He has truly been a life-changing horse for me, and I’m looking forward to continuing the journey when we get home … after I turn him out and let him chase our cows around on his own for a few days out on the pasture.

Photo by Allison Everhart.