Riding To The Top hosts Triple B event

Therapeutic riding centers come and go.b b b r t t Staff changes, funding issues, and public enthusiasm all tend to wax and wane over the years for these high-overhead facilities and organizations.

Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center in Windham is the shining exception. Since its debut 20 years ago, it has survived and thrived, providing thousands of children and adults with valuable (some say, priceless) horse and rider connections. Read about Barn to Beach rides and Triple B events.

They’ve worked with children.

They’ve worked with vets. Read more.

Their instructors have been recognized as some of the country’s best. Nancy Hohmann is a past winner of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) National Instructor of the Year award.

bbbootsNext month, they’re celebrating two decades of doing good with another rendition of their major, annual fundraising event:

Triple B – “Boots, Band, and Barbecue.”

The celebration and auction will be held October 19, 6-11 pm in their riding arena. The space will be transformed with lights, décor, live music, and dancing.

Dig out your most kickass cowboy boots for this cause. You might just win the evening’s boot contest.

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In the name of horse-friendly open space

swisherHorses need space. Riders do, too.

If you look at Swisher, Iowa by satellite, you’ll see lots of open space. When I moved here from Maine, I was excited to explore the 14,000 acres of nearby Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area.
I did.
It was wonderful. Read more. Watch video tribute to Iowa riding.
Until I got a ticket.

I was cited for riding my horse on public land and fined $100.

Turns out the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area is reserved for hunters and fishers. Despite the negligible environmental impact (hoofprints? The occasional poop?) and acts of good citizenship (calling in poachers, carcass dumpers, litterers, etc), I was labeled persona non grata by the Department of Natural Resources.
The citation left this horsewoman frustrated and curious about the state of horse-friendly public space.

Iowa ranks 49th out of 50 when it comes to the percentage of publicly owned land.  Just one percent of its land consist of parks, forests, and grasslands. Horse riders are unwelcome on most of them.

Maine, as many of you will attest, doesn’t do much better. It ranks 37th. Read more.
Many of us enjoy riding on private land owned by friendly neighbors. But as time marches on, development often turns old trails into subdivisions, fields into fenced and gated backyards.
Increasingly, we must now resort to trailering to open space or riding around and around and around in an arena.

Suburban parking lot near Provo, Utah

Suburban parking lot near Provo, Utah

It’s a drag. For those of us with an open-space craving, it can be downright depressing.

But consider Utah.
The state boasts five national parks and has a greater percentage of public land than every other state except Nevada and Alaska. Combine that with a culture that welcomes, embraces and accommodates horse riders.

If a chance ever came to move there, what trail rider wouldn’t jump at the opportunity?
That chance has arrived and this girl is Utah-bound.

War and a Horse Death

Combat stress and horse death don’t often collide.
But it appears that’s what happened when Ryan Grafft, a 32-year old captain in the National Guard, allegedly shot three horses, killing one of them. Read more.
After admitting to the shooting, Grafft told the Johnson County officials, it was a “stupid” thing to do, according to the criminal ryan-grafftcomplaint. He’s been charged with three counts of livestock abuse and two counts of reckless use of a firearm. The case has been continued until the end of October.

Grafft went to Iraq in September, 2005. His tour was nearly finished when then President George W. Bush announced plans to increase America’s presence in Iraq. Grafft stayed in Iraq for nearly two years.

As an infantry platoon leader in the 133rd Infantry Battalion, he led 40 soldiers on more than 500 combat logistical patrols, escorting 62,000 trucks in Anbar province, one of the most dangerous areas, according to the Mitchell County Press News.

Two soldiers in his battalion were killed. 35 were injured.

“We saw a lot of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices),” Grafft told the local paper. “It wasn’t an easy time.”

horse-dead-300x158Now, five years later, Grafft allegedly shoots and kills an innocent, unwitting animal.
It’s easy to call acts like these “random violence,” so why is the American public increasingly weary of stories like these?

Nowadays, they seem as predictable as the next eruption of an active volcano. The government says it’s helping soldiers deal with post traumatic stress, but with the uptick in crimes like these, it makes one wonder.

I spoke with a Johnson County prosecutor about the case. She told me the charges were all misdemeanors. Even if convicted (the case has been continued several times as he reportedly seeks treatment), it’s unlikely he’ll serve any time in prison, she said.


Horse v Human, payback

My son, Cormick, was feeling pretty smug when I proposed a rematch. He’d outrun Comet and me over the long, rugged Pleasant Creek loop. Read about Horse v. Human contest.
This time, I said, let’s see how you do against Pep and me. Pep is Peppermint the Pony. If Comet is a gazelle, Pep is a buffalo. If Comet is a wide receiver, Pep is a running back.
c and meThe game was on.
I gave Cormick seven minutes or about a mile headstart. We headed out of the parking lot at a trot and maintained it for five minutes with Pep sniffing the ground and looking all around, as she usually does when first heading out on the trail.
Pep was much more go-ey than Comet at this stage and there was no hesitation in her stride. At three miles, we were beginning to see glimpses of our rival as he chomped away at the route. Cormick was maintaining a strong, seven-minute per mile pace and it would take a certain amount of tenacity to catch him.
Pep has tenacity.
By halfway, Pep understood we were pursuing Cormick and embraced the mission. Despite the sunny, warm day, she dug in and churned down the trail like a one-horse Pony Express.
We altered between loping and trotting, and walked only when necessary (like rough terrain or bridges). With a mile to go, we caught our rabbit.
The three of us jogged the last stretch together and finished, good and spent, heads lowered in unison.
The hilly, eight-mile plus loop took about 70 minutes, a full 10 minutes faster than with Comet.
Needless to say, this begs the question: Who’s faster – Comet or Pep?
We’ll see.

Jodi makes progress, too

sniff2  It’s been a year since we acquired Jodi, the hefty, unstarted paint mare from Wisconsin.
Steve Peters has taken his time with her and it looks like the calm, deliberate approach is paying off.

We headed out to Pleasant Creek State Park for a long trail ride, just her second ride away from home. As you might expect, the five-year old was super curious about everything. Steve gave her time to take in her surroundings. She smelled the ground, investigated sounds and looked around high and low. Read more about Pleasant Creek and watch video.

onereinBefore we got going, he also asked her to flex her head and neck on both sides, making sure the One-Rein Stop would be there if he needed it. Read related article.

There’s a lot to be said for value of long rides (of at least a few hours). They give horse and rider a decent chunk of time to work things out, think about things, and most importantly, ride together.
Over eight miles, there were spooks and hazards alright. But Steve consistently gave her room to move and never nagged her with his reins or legs.

The result?
This pair got a solid, no-drama ride behind them with Jodi’s confidence and willingness firmly intact.

Read more about Starting Jodi.

Baby Mule Steps

jo jumpWhat’s the most striking difference between the new mule, Jolene, and her horse herdmates?

  • Not how she moves.
  • Not how she looks.
  • It’s how she eats an apple.

When you give Jolene a chunk of apple, she will:

  • Smell it
  • Take it in her mouth
  • Hold it in her mouth while looking at you
  • Only then, after a long moment, she will start chewing it.

And so it is. My every intention gets vetted and scrutinized by this guarded, new addition. As expected, my skills are being put to the test as I work on helping Jolene become a more confident, more trusting, and more trail-worthy partner.

These past weeks have been dedicated strictly to ground work. Even leading her can be an exercise in patience and consistency.

Pressure and Release?
Better call it light pressure and immediate release.

From previous experience and a few false starts (see above), Jolene knows bolting can get her away from whatever’s bothering her.

My task, in these early days, is to teach her that bolting means more work and will be less comfortable than just hanging out with me. Round pen work has been effective in getting her to understand I can make her move as well as give her relief.
She moves to a trot easily. No whips or sticks necessary, just pressure with my eyes, arms, and body position. She stops quickly when I relax and stop directing her. She’ll let me approach and give her a rub. But she doesn’t follow me around like our other horses will.

Not yet.

Read more about Jolene.

Evidence-Based Horsemanship returns to Northeast

Lois Dietrich will host neuropsychologist Dr. Steve Peters and horseman Martin Black at their first seminar of Evidence-Based Horsemanship on the East Coast, November 15-17.

The pair will conduct lectures, demonstrations, and Dr. Peters will dissect a horse brain at the Mountain Springs Arena facilities in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania.
The seminar begins Friday evening with an introductory lecture, followed by two jam-packed days of learning.

Stay tuned for more information or contact Lois Dietrich at 610-223-7859 or lhdietrich@gmail.com.

Check out more Evidence-Based Horsemanship articles here.

Read about their presentation at last year’s Equine Affaire.

Buy the book.

How does Evidence-Based Horsemanship work in the New England reality?

EBH in New England reality, Part II

Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.

steve martin elko 1

This Horse Rocks

Today, Christies will auction off “Bigger Bertie.”
He’s bigger alright.
rocking horse copyBelieved to be the largest handmade rocking horse in the world, Bertie stands about 15 feet high. He’s pictured here on a London street with six-year old Reva Lemanski.

The 2012 sculpture is made of marine plywood and has two trap doors. (His great granddad is the Trojan Horse, for sure).

Bidding starts at $38,000.

All things considered and over the long haul, he might be cheaper to maintain than those horses out in our pastures.

Quieter. No behavioral issues. No hay bills or manure.

But not much fun after the first few rocking sessions.

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