Treat Dispenser

This time of year, when it gets dark early and the days are short and cold, I find myself squeezing very little horse time into the day. It becomes a race to get to the barn before I have to work only by the lights. As a result, I end up just bringing them in or feeding them. They love this of course. No work and the Mom becomes the feeder and treat dispenser. The joy of this is the fact that they come when they are called and are often at the gate waiting, unlike in summer when the grass is good and they are at the far end of the pasture and deaf as a doornail to my loud calls to “come in”.
Being a treat dispenser means occasionally we get a nipper. This has to be punished immediately and with great distrust, much angst, and not a little unhappiness. For a while the treats only go in the feed tub until all eager lips calm down a little. So, I am not really happy with my winter role as the Treat Dispenser. Very soon, boys, the work will be returning! Be ready!!!

Welcome to the weekend


f you are like most eventers, weekends are sucked up by competitions, schoolings, travel, lessons, auditing clinics, riding in clinics, shopping for new tack, new riding clothes, or new horses.

Cleaning the house, washing the car, working on the flowerbeds, mowing the lawn, and doing laundry are way down on the list for most of us! But when I have a bad turn of luck and terrible thoughts, I turn to cleaning to keep things churning in my mind, and letting the big chunks of sadness settle to the bottom.

This week, I won a recognized event with the lowest score of the entire day, and a dear friend’s horse was euthanized at a huge overseas event after a terrible accident nearly at the end of a terrific cross-country course. (Rest in peace, beautiful Crackerjack.) This is a sport of very high high’s, and the lowest low’s.

22780574_10203776428847213_629747719238684142_nWe all learned lessons from these two incidents, and also from the weekend’s endeavor to video tape a whole load of scenes for the new USEA jump judge video. It was very difficult to find out about Cracker at the very facility that was his home, Windurra. But we carried on, and our riders did an incredible job working their way through a long script with a lot of difficult riding questions!

The event we won was Waredaca, one of the last events I ever rode Rugby at when he was alive. Hamish was a star. It was a very long day with an early start and late return home. We actually show jumped after XC, a new order of the phases for Hamish – he’s never had to do that. Thanks to great jumping lessons from Kayla Muller, we were able to keep all rails up and do a good job in show jumping, and won with a rail in hand. It had been 9 years since I’d ridden at Waredaca. What a fine return it was.

Much learning this week. Watching horses do the circles and turns around the jumps at Windurra for the video was extremely interesting. Good horses do what they are taught to do, despite some real rider error. It was amazing how hard it was to make them do it wrong.

Take A Look

While I blog for Eventing Nation and Horse Junkies United, I don’t always keep up my own blog here. If you want to see some of the things I’ve written recently, check out these links:

Eventing Nation (63 blogs, Article Views 60,530) and the latest is:

Horse Junkies United

( I’ve been writing for this site since it’s inception. Here’s a few favorites: Sisterhood of the Traveling Shadbelly (; Lucky’s Take On Going Away (;  and the blog that went around the world, “We Risk, We Ride, We Love This Sport,” with over 50,000 reads.

Completing the circle

Here’s a photo that an upper level eventer posted on social media:

I call it the “Circle” photo.

She wanted to make sure her husband knew how much she loved and appreciated him on their wedding anniversary. But when I looked at this photo, it stood for so much more.

First of all, she’s on her way down the ramp into the Rolex stadium for a dressage test ride, that hallowed place, the dream cloud location that every young (and old) eventer in America wishes they could enter. But such dreams take many details to shake into place. First, the horse; an animal you nurture, train, live and die with, care for with all of your heart and all of your pocketbook to get, sometimes, to just one corner of The Dream. If all shakes into place, the glass jar of screws spill out in perfect order, you actually get to Rolex and get to compete. And if even more stars align and fortune cookies predict, you complete the three-day event at the pinnacle of equestrian competition. And if you are vaulted into Heaven, you get a ribbon and place among the champions at the victory gallop at the end of the day. So the horse, the creature that enables all of this, is the first circle of love. (Remember, love is stable management, ala George Morris).

Next, the supportive undercast to the dream has to be solidly within the circle. Not outside, smiling, waving and taking video, but living and breathing that dream on the ride with you, next to you and on occasion, behind you pushing or in front of you leading. Having a willing supporter is different from a partner who shares your dream with you, who hooks onto your star and says, “I’m coming along…it’s my dream, too.” This person or persons if your family is with you also is your tribe who go along on this trek to the Promised Land. Their smiles, words, sometimes just their physical presence beside a tense warmup ring, or sitting on the tack trunk next to the stall of the broken horse with an arm around your shoulders, is beyond your ability to appreciate. You feel so complete, so lucky to have them, so thankful they are in your life, constantly amazed at your sidekicks who are where they are when you need them. That’s the second circle.

The third circle is a more silent one. It’s the overarching presence of fairness, or faith in the system that makes the competition a worthy goal. If it were a cheap thrill, or a fixed contest, there would be no satisfaction in the win, little gain for the pain. Love exists, here, too, in the officials who study the game, figure ways to fix it with rules when it breaks, safeguard the horses, the competition, the public views and educate riders who lose sight of the goal along the way. The love here is the love of the parent for the child, the mother’s guidance, the father’s pride in competition; the “family” that includes many non-family members who still care about you and your horse, and a sport, and it’s future. This love will keep this sport alive for everyone to reach their eventual goal, whether it’s walking boldly down the path with the big green Rolex signs, or just leaving the start box  with a kick and a “whoo” at your local novice horse trials.  A sport that is the wellspring of dreams. Keep the circles linked and you’ll get there.

Poultice Wars

Ok. He’s standing. Ready – set – GO! Grab the hoof, in one smooth motion, scoop the poultice out of the bucket, while holding up the foot, don’t let it touch anything, slap the piece of paper feed bag onto the hoof, cup the paper around the hoof and quickly reach for the plastic wrap – careful now – pull the end piece and stretch it around the hoof, two wraps quickly and let’r go!
Well, that’s how it’s supposed to go. In reality, it’s like this.
Wrestle with the Paragon bucket lid (some where in my life I’d like to meet someone from the Paragon company and bean them for making such a difficult lid for poultice buckets). Scoop poultice out with something, get poultice on your hand, your hair, your pant leg and the wash rack floor. Sort of in that order. (But it won’t be all the places you will find poultice by the end of this procedure. Trust me.)
Feed bag pieces usually mean feed to a horse. Beware. They will move to get a better look and get their mouth closer. Just in case there’s feed in the feed bag piece you might get on their foot eventually.
Wrap of any kind takes two hands. Just a note to self. It takes at least one hand to pick up a hoof. Resting a poulticed hoof on your knee is …. well …. imagine poultice everywhere. Literally everywhere. Your car steering wheel. Your dog’s head. Your kitchen counter. Your coffee cup tomorrow morning….
So have the wrapping material ready and at hand. Then the horse moves and leaves you stranded! Help, help! pass me that wrap please! You stretch in your best yoga imitation, while holding the hoof, spreading your legs and reaching with your fingertips to the wrap just outside your range – careful now – balance, stretch – eeek (that ripping sound is yes a piece of clothing or could be your ACL – and….either the hoof has to be abandoned or you have to use something else closer to hand….just sayin’…..from experience…underwear doesn’t work.
Having a solid plan for horse movement is critical so double all of your supplies and put one set on the right and one set on the left and you should have it covered. (In case he backs up – sorry, you’re out of luck.)
Once you’ve made some sort of wrap on the poulticed foot you can put it down and then the fun really begins. The horse will then squish most of the poultice out from under the sole and it’ll pretty much cover the rest of the aisle or wash rack in poultice that was not already attacked. The horse will step around a bit and move a little more, just to make sure most of the poultice continues to be spread in the environment. Do nothing. This is a natural evolution of the Poultice War and any action at this point is futile.
Let the horse settle and go in for your last mop-up action. This involves covering the hoof with a boot or sturdy bag and Vetrap. This requires a professional with experience so make sure you are well prepared for this final procedure. Lift the hoof, and with both hands work the boot over the toe. More poultice will squish out and towards the heel of the hoof, usually getting on your arms and chest at this point, so all parts of your body should now be covered. This is very important. You cannot miss any part or you’ll lose.
At the end, when you put the hoof down, and step back to admire your work, the poultice should be just about everywhere you view, and if you’re lucky, a few spots should be left on the hoof. This is the true enjoyment of winning a poultice war, the complete covering of your world in the white clay. I understand it now. It is all coming clear to me (as soon as I wipe my glasses off). Let the healing begin.

85 Years

There is something to be said for a thing that lasts a very long, long time. My hunt, Wicomico, has been around for 85 years and today was the 85th edition of the opening day hunt. Traditionally this signals the official start of foxhunting over the 2014-2015 winter season.

1966 hunt photo bwFoxhunting is a sport that has not died with the advent of modern civilization, in defiance of all logic and certainly in the face of some really difficult times. Our nation’s Founding Fathers were highly supportive of foxhunting; George Washington left a good bit of writing behind about hunting, a subject probably that got more than its fair share of his time. Hounds were imported to this country to chase fox right here in Maryland, just beyond the Bay Bridge, actually, in the mid 1600’s. That’s right — 1600’s. Foxhuntings’ roots run very deep in America.

Our hunt, Wicomico, had its start in the thriving community of Salisbury, Maryland, back in the 1920’s when so much open land around the town lent itself wonderfully to the sport. Up until the 90’s much of the hunt’s usual hunting locations were in Wicomico County, in and around Salisbury. Today, however, the hunt has no land left in that vicinity. Most all of the land over which the hunt did follow hounds is now housing development, although if you drive slowly and look hard you’ll still see an occasional wooden coop at a fence corner.

It’s hard to talk about Wicomico Hunt without talking about Hamilton Fox, who joined the new hunt as a young sportsman in the professional and social whirl of Salisbury. Ham guided the hunt as master for many years, riding at the end when he had to be lifted upon a horse to hunt the hounds. He brought many people with him to fox hunt. We lost Ham in 2013, but there is no question he was with us today as hounds cast in our first trot into the woods. A strong person often carries a good idea forward and acts as a beacon. They attract energy and support. It is no mystery Ham was such a great huntsman, and strong leader – he was a lawyer and decorated World War II military veteran who served on D-Day in Europe. It’s hard to know exactly but it is very likely Ham attended well over half of those 85 years of opening day hunts with Wicomico. No wonder I felt him those quiet moments walking single file in the woods with first field, as hounds cast for scent.

10402550_956201817740628_2798608102743523995_nOpening day is the day when everyone comes to meet up, follow hounds, and socialize after. We bring delicious food to our little barn clubhouse on private property near our state hunting land. There are trailers that pull in and park and unload all sorts of horses from every breed, and the folks who ride are from all walks of life, young and old, experienced and green. We pay honor, almost unconsciously, to the 84 years that have gone before us today, the spirits of good horses no longer in the trailer, hounds no longer hunting, men and women no longer following hounds or laughing and talking at breakfast with a beer and plate full of food.  The fox is the only one who knows, completely, what the foxhunting we do is all about, the only one who controls the sport. Perhaps that is the secret survival reason for foxhunting, that ultimately, man cannot control the game and only a small woodland creature with a bright red fur has the last word.

If the enthusiasm and energy of today’s foxhunters is any measure, the sport will last and thrive again another 60, 70, 80 years. Long live this hunt!


Fall does not sneak in like spring, nor glide along like summer. It flips the page and drops the temperature 15 degrees, and says, “there. get ready.” The fall rye grass is already up turning the fields grey. The geese have been flocking for two weeks and it’s only mid-September. The horses are less concerned about flies and more concerned about the pesky bots and I’ve had to work on removing the yellow eggs off their legs every day. They don’t get many but it’s like a game to find them and scrape them off with the bot block. This time of year I get excited for fall eventing because it’s so nice to ride when it’s not blistering hot and sweaty. The bad news is the light fades quickly and we are losing two to three minutes a day. This year I do plan to get up some arena lights.

The horses are doing well. I was able finally to write about Rugby and putting him to sleep, but really, it wasn’t me — it was Lucky who spoke about it for me. Another top-read post at HJU but it has been hard to read it and look at it. My friend Amy expressed sympathy to me for what I had to go through and even though it’s been more than a month, the tears just came, and I couldn’t help it. It is so hard to lose the things you love, and I’ve lost three of the most precious things to me in the whole world in six months. One foot in front of the other.

Hamish is getting ready to hunt. Lucky getting ready to do something, not sure what. And George is also a priority and back in work as much as possible so that I can get more confident on him. Hopefully the fall, with all the fun and work at Fair Hill, will bring some good times. We are ready.

My dearest Rugby. I love you and miss you.

My dearest Rugby. I love you and miss you.

September First

Trying to get ready for fall.

Hacking horses as best I can given the circumstances (health, weather, footing, big black horseflies, etc.)

Working towards the day when I am free.

Don’t forget, is live but not yet developed, and will probably get going later on this year as the light fades and I get more time at night to work online. I am trying to put together a top resource for a world-wide information place for eventing, event horse enthusiasts, eventing fans and others who are either interested in event horses and their training, sales and competition, or riders and trainers who are involved with event horses. It’s going to be all about the horse.

Finally got a chance to watch and listen to Doug Payne’s video of Running Order’s career, and he actually mentions moi at the Fair Hill International monsoon year — being in the warmup all by himself in the pouring rain. What a great guy, and he was a super trooper during that day.

These things make me feel a little brighter and more positive in a dark and dank world.

Onward.2012 hammock jump original


Mid Year Update

Where am I – how am I doing?

I am focusing less on conditioning and training the horses right now, and more on getting myself well and keeping healthy both physically and mentally. Riding made a condition I have worse recently, so I took nearly a month off riding to heal. I am waiting to see if the time helped. Also, hot summer days are murder on my auto-immune system, so I have to take a “no outside work” break in the deepest part of summer. So for these reasons I had to back off the horses a bit. Indy went to a new home in Virginia with his owner and I am ecstatic that he will be closer to her and get more attention. That’s a good thing.

I wrote a piece for Horse Junkies United about why we event even though two tragic deaths rocked the sport in June; it got thousands of views and spread all over the world, including being read and distributed by the executive director of British Eventing, who said it explained very well what we do, to others who do not understand the sport. I asked a question about bullying in the horse world on the COTH bulletin board, and it received the most views of any post of the week. My older blogs occasionally pop up in feeds and links; my writing is widely read. I am just now beginning to believe myself! (Yah. Don’t waste too much time on that notion.)

How are the horses? Lucky is good. Working on getting in front of the leg more. Working on ground manners. Rugby relapse is evident – not doing well. George – about the same, struggling to find time for him. Hamish – my favorite ride but woefully out of shape. Got to get going on these guys, but I am good day – bad day physically, so have to do it as I can. Frustrating because I cannot keep a proper schedule. It is what it is.

I may take a road trip in July to Virginia to watch the last tryouts for the WEG team and see the sights in blue-blood country. Anyone up for that?


2013-12-06 10.42.58It’s a beautiful Saturday morning; I have lots and lots of work to do in the barn, outside, in the yard, the driveway needs work, the manure pile, the list goes on….but first, this morning, I had to help Charlie back to God. It hit me hard perhaps because I’m still mourning my mother’s loss. He was suffering and was losing function, crying, then sleeping, and nearly comatose at the vet’s. (Thank you, Lord, for the great and kind people at Governor’s Avenue Animal Hospital in Dover, DE. They saved me today.) I am missing him and Jax, left at home, is also missing him. Although, I think Jax is rather glad to be Only Dog again. Charlie was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia about the time I had to go back to Seattle to watch my mother die, and when I got home, he’d lost weight and was not doing well. He hung on about 6 months. So here, I am taking the time to put up a little memorial that can live online for my dear little dog Charlie who was always a good dog and always a happy dog no matter what happened or where it went around here. He was a great dog, and I am just now realizing how much joy he brought to my life. Why do they have to be gone before you realize how lucky you were to have such a great friend? No goodbyes. Just look up Mom, when you get to heaven, Charlie, and make sure she gives you a treat. She was a great cook, and Charlie was a great eater, so I am sure they are getting along super!

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