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Kristen Kovatch


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673 Trainers Accepted for 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover

Elisa Wallace, whos2018 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred contest, accepting their $10,000 prize check. Photo by Anne Litz.

The Retired Racehorse Project announced yesterday that a total of 673 trainers have been accepted for the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover and Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America. Becoming an increasingly-popular event for off-track Thoroughbred lovers and often a gateway goal for first-time OTTB owners, the Makeover will take place Oct. 2-5, 2019 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

The 2019 trainers come from 44 states and four Canadian provinces, representing professionals, amateurs, juniors and a new team entry format. For initial application, trainers selected a primary discipline in which they had the most experience, though they’re not locked into entering this discipline for October.

Eventing and show hunter are the most popular disciplines heading into the 2019 training period; a total of ten disciplines are represented at the Makeover including barrel racing, competitive trail, dressage, eventing, freestyle, field hunter, polo, show hunter, show jumper, and ranch work.

Trainers are competing for over $100,000 in prize money and a chance at being voted America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred: the winners of each division are eligible for popular vote by text message from spectators watching in person and via live stream. For many trainers, however, the Makeover is less about the competition and more about the experience of taking a Thoroughbred from track to second career successfully.

Numerous big names will be participating in this year’s Makeover: 2018 eventing champion Elisa Wallace, world champion colt starter Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship, world champion barrel racer Fallon Taylor and two-time Breeders’ Cup-winning jockey Rosie Napravnik (now an eventer).

Other event riders accepted as trainers include Ellen Doughty-Hume, Dorothy Crowell, Hillary Irwin, Kendal Lehari, Natalie Neneman and Cathy Wieschhoff. Click here to view the full list of accepted trainers.

The entire Makeover rulebook underwent some changes for 2019, with an increased emphasis on equine welfare: all horses competing in the Makeover must be microchipped, and microchips will be scanned at a new vetting-in upon trainers’ arrival at the Horse Park in October. New scoring, including overall “impression scores,” keep the Makeover’s emphasis as a training competition rather than an end-goal horse show.

Trainers don’t need to have selected their Makeover horses yet; in fact, some may not acquire their horses yet for several months. Others are well on their way in training already. Trainers will take to social media to share their progress; check out the #TBMakeover hashtag to follow along. We’re also planning to line up some bloggers across all three Nation Media sites, so keep an eye out for those as well.

Nation Media was well-represented at the 2018 Makeover, with Eventing Nation’s Kate Samuels placing fifth in eventing and sixth in show jumping with Turkomani; Horse Nation’s Kristen Kovatch Bentley placing seventh in ranch work and participating in the freestyle with Jobber Bill; and Jumper Nation’s Meagan DeLisle participating in field hunter and competitive trail with Flashback Justice.

[The Journey to the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Begins!]

Stop What You’re Doing Right Now & Watch: 2019 Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl Commercial Is Here

Budweiser has earned itself a reputation that will take many years to fade away in regards to its Super Bowl commercials: the “golden age” of Budweiser Clydesdale mini-movies seemed to take place from 2005-2015ish, (one exception being the incredibly moving 9/11 tribute). When they started pre-releasing these things on social media a few weeks early, I for one was grateful, because then I would know in advance to excuse myself from the room at whatever Super Bowl viewing party I was attending so I didn’t ugly-cry in front of friends and family.

And then in 2016, Budweiser’s marketing strategy shifted — perhaps actual beer sales to weeping horsewomen weren’t the target demographic after all — and the Clydesdales took a bit of a backseat, at least as far as emotionally-gripping storylines and heart-wrenching music was concerned. The 2019 ad, just released as of this morning, appears to be following in that vein: no anthropomorphism, no riveting storyline… just those big, beautiful horses, doing what they do best.

The post was originally featured on our sister site, Horse Nation.

Best of HN: Missed Connection in the Grocery Store

Photo by Pixabay/CC.

I was browsing salad dressings when she walked by: unmistakably an equestrian.

Honestly, the first thing I noticed was the super-cute pair of red Noble Outfitters muck boots. That’s not an “over the counter” brand that anyone can just pick up at Tractor Supply or Wal-Mart. That’s an equestrian brand. If boots like that walk by you, take note.

Those, and the breeches, and the vest, and the deliberate trajectory she was taking through the store. She walked with purpose, and in the brief glimpse I got of this equestrian before she vanished into the frozen foods, I imagined that surely she had just come from the cold barn, needing to pick up a few things at Wegmans before warming herself back up at home.

“Did you see that?” I said out loud to my husband, while he inexplicably put two different kinds of mustard into the cart.


“That was an equestrian. That was a horse girl!”

He blinked. “How do you know?”

See above. It was like being part of a secret club.

But we did not live in a region known for harboring equestrians. We were a county in which it seemed that everyone had horses, but no one actually rode them. Maybe they pulled them out of the field every now and then for a little trail ride, or hauled them down to the game show for laughs. But a real, live, breeches-wearing equestrian? Now that was a rare thing.

He continued to look at me strangely as I kept my head on a swivel, striking up the courage to say hello, ask her where she rode, strike up a friendship, should our paths cross again, our carts colliding in the bakery section. I did not see her again. Perhaps she was never there at all.

Wegmans equestrian, if you’re reading this, I want to be your friend.

Go riding.

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

Product Review: The Outlander Wool Riding Skirt by Arctic Horse

Photo by Chloe Petry.

A hazy sort of freezing mist hung in the air around the trailer where the horses were tied, fully harnessed and hitched to their partners waiting to hook on to the big bobsleds for a day of wagon rides. It was a damp, inhospitable day, but there were still plenty of people lined up waiting for their ride — so it was time for us to bundle up, now that the horses were ready. I reached into the back of my car and folded my new Arctic Horse riding skirt around my waist, zipping it right on over my jeans. The old-timers in our draft horse club watched me critically, no doubt wondering what crazy thing the sole lady driver would do next.

“What in God’s name is that?” one of them called across the parking lot.

“It’s a skirt, gentlemen,” I replied smugly, zipping the skirt all the way down before untying my team.

And what a skirt it is: the Outlander Wool Riding Skirt from Arctic Horse might just be the coolest piece of riding apparel I’ve added to my wardrobe, ever. After all, there are only so many ways to reinvent a riding coat… but this? Arctic Horse’s riding skirts are truly innovative, targeting a unique need in the horse industry while looking totally gorgeous. Yes, as it turns out, you can have it all.

Photo by Chloe Petry.

Arctic Horse makes a variety of riding skirts in short and long lengths, all sewn in Alaska by an all-women team. Most of the materials are American-sourced. Depending on your individual needs and tastes, there’s a huge variety of skirts to choose from: I went with the classic, timeless look, durability and warmth of (humanely-sourced) wool in the Outlander Riding Skirt. Lined with recycled micro-fleece, the Outlander is serious about keeping one warm.

Front view. Photo by Chloe Petry.

Back view. Photo by Chloe Petry.

The Outlander zips open up the front, meaning that one can easily wrap it right around themselves without needing to remove boots or struggle with multiple layers. Snaps provide additional closure for windbreak, with fleece-lined pockets serving as the perfect spot to warm one’s hands or stash gloves. With the adjustable zipper, the skirt can be worn totally closed (for things like running errands or driving the team) or opened as far as you like for working around the farm or riding.

Elastic leg strap, with one side of the skirt snapped up for hands-free holding. Photo by Chloe Petry.

Even zipped all the way up, there’s so much room for ACTIVITIES. Photo by Chloe Petry.

Snaps hold the skirt up out of the way while working around the horse or mounting so hands can stay free, and leg elastics (attached with a snap for quick release) hold the skirt in place for windy days or fast riding. Belt loops can house a belt, including various belt-mounted accoutrements (for me, that’s a knife and a cell phone case, both of which I’ve needed in multiple situations around our working farm). It’s safe to say that as a horsewomen-owned company, Arctic Horse thought of pretty much everything.

The skirt keeps Jobber’s back and haunches dry and warm… even in blowing snow. Photo by Chloe Petry.

In the saddle, the Outlander skirt lays over the haunches of my horse, serving as a quarter sheet which is particularly useful on cold, snowy days — aka, most of my typical winter up here in the snow belt. I like to try to keep my horses relatively covered and dry while riding in the winter, both for their comfort and for the most efficient use of my time in post-ride grooming. The Outlander skirt also keeps my legs covered and warm, meaning that I no longer have to fool around with both a quarter sheet AND chaps on a cold, snowy day. There’s nothing worse than getting back to the barn in a pair of cold, wet jeans from riding in the snow, but that’s now a thing of the past.

Photo by Chloe Petry.

My driving student Chloe kindly came out to take photos for this review, and I let her hop on a horse for a few moments in thanks… and popped her into the skirt as well. She fell in love and I had to make sure she didn’t sneak home still wearing it — but especially on a bareback horse, she noted that it helped contain the horse’s body heat to keep both of them warm on their amble around the field. On a day where the wind chill made it feel like a brisk 9 degrees, that kept everyone comfortable and happy!

Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Arctic Horse skirts are made to order, and customers are encouraged to take careful measurements to ensure they get the size that works best — especially if you plan to wear the skirt over jeans as opposed to breeches or leggings. The Outlander skirt is $299, which is certainly a bit of an investment, but should also last me a lifetime with care.

Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

If you’re an all-seasons rider, you can’t go wrong investing in an Arctic Horse skirt. I personally love the classic, traditional style of the Outlander skirt — also, because I really like feeling like a combination of Annie Oakley and Lady Stark of Winterfell — but there are a ton of options available at the Arctic Horse website depending on your riding conditions and specific needs.

Go riding — no matter what the weather!

Photo by Chloe Petry.

US Equestrian Award Winners Roundup

The US Equestrian Annual Meeting took place last week on January 9th-12th, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. In case you missed it, check out our recap of the events’ proceedings from the 9th and 10th, plus the 11th and 12th.

One of the highlights of the Annual Meeting, of course, is the awards ceremony: over two nights, the Pegasus Awards are given to outstanding individuals, and Horse of the Year awards the national and international horse who had peerless performances in 2018.

Who took home top honors for 2018? Here’s the complete scoop, plus some of the inspiring acceptance speeches from honorees.

2018 Equestrian of the Year: Laura Graves

2018 Equestrian of the Year – Laura Graves

"I come from a family of athletes and it wasn’t until I settled into equestrian sport that I really became comfortable with myself. If it weren’t for the family I found in equestrian sport I would be just an uncoordinated awkward girl without very many friends, so thank you all for being my friends.” -2018 USEF Equestrian of the Year, Laura Graves

Posted by US Equestrian on Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 USEF Youth Sportsman’s Award: Clea Cloutier

Clea Cloutier- USEF Youth Sportsman's Award

“For the young rider like me who’s never been able to afford a horse, the dedicated equestrian who always had to take the long way around, and the one who never realized their full potential: you’re worthy.” – Clea Cloutier, 2018 USEF Youth Sportsman’s Award #PegasusAwards

Posted by US Equestrian on Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year: Isabela de Sousa

Isabela de Sousa- 2018 Junior Equestrian of the Year

"A phrase that I think represents the Sportsman's Charter is that 'it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.' This is exemplified in our sport in the show horse of today with the Retired Racehorse Project and the Thoroughbred Makeover." – Isabela De Sousa, 2018 USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year

Posted by US Equestrian on Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sallie Busch Wheeler Trophy: Anne Kursinski
Awarded for distinguished service to equestrian sport

Anne Kursinski- Sallie B. Wheeler Award

In her most courageous act of all, Anne shared her heart-wrenching story of abuse in order to protect the young equestrian athletes of today. #PegasusAwards

Posted by US Equestrian on Thursday, January 10, 2019

Walter B. Devereux Sportsmanship Award: Anne Gribbons
Richard E. McDevitt Award of Merit: Harry Chapman, Yum Kee Fu, E. Hunter Harrison, Michael Rheinhemier, and J. Richard Wilkinson
Pegasus Medal of Honor: Ellen DiBella, Janine Malone, Debbie McDonald, and Robert Ridland
Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial Breeders’ Award: Allyn McCracken
Sallie Busch Wheeler Trophy: Anne Kursinski
Norman K. Dunn Trophy: Bruce Griffin III
C.J. “June” Cronan Trophy: Victoria Gillenwater
Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy: Jody Strand
Bill Robinson Trophy: Eugene Sweeney
Vaughan Smith Trophy: Wendy Potts
William C. Steinkraus Trophy: Laura Graves and McLain Ward
Emerson Burr Trophy: Victoria Colvin

Lifetime Achievement Award: Georgie Green

2018 USEF Lifetime Achievment Award Winner: Georgie Green

Learn more about the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Georgie Green and her incredible accomplishments for our sport, but specifically the American Morgan Horse breed. #PegasusAwards

Posted by US Equestrian on Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 National Horse of the Year: Cobra the mustang

Cobra: 2018 National Horse of of the Year

From Wild to World Champion, say hello to the 2018 USEF National Horse of the Year: Cobra #JoinTheJoy

Posted by US Equestrian on Saturday, January 12, 2019

2018 International Horse of the Year: Verdades

Verdades: 2018 International Horse of Honor

Verdades and Laura Graves made history for #USADressage this year finishing 2nd at the FEI World Cup Finals, securing individual and team silver at Tryon2018, and climbing to number 1️⃣ on the World Ranking List in October! Tonight he has a chance to add International Horse of the Year to his long list of accolades!

Posted by US Equestrian on Saturday, January 12, 2019

2019 US Equestrian Annual Meeting Links: WebsiteMeeting ScheduleBroadcast ScheduleLive Stream, Meeting App for iOS/AndroidTwitterFacebookInstagram

Image via US Equestrian.

As seen on Horse Nation:

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?”


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?”


“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


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:


(to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”)

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

Your racing days are over now,
You’ll jump a fence or work a cow.
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.


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


Eskadron velcro-open bell boots… ribbed. SmartPak


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!


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.


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!


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!

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

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…


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.