Tag Archives: horses

Christmas Stable

Their stalls are decorated, the horses snugged in. Wintertime at the stable, and Christmas approaching. Stockings soon will be hung on stall doors.Fletcher in decorated stall photo dorothy stewart

The riding students who decorated the stalls will come to the barn on Christmas Eve, so one told me, to have a Christmas party with the horses. They will fill the horses’ stockings and give them their presents.

Samson aka One Kid CoolOne horse is getting a lot of stuff from his Secret Santa. I know because she told me. Whispered it, actually, so Samson couldn’t hear. And they are practical things that horses need but that he will also enjoy. A lot of thought went into choosing his gifts. (Amazon links below give you a clue)

I’m sure his Secret Santa has made a Christmas wish list for herself. She’s a girl in her early teens and she has a wide range of interests. But the only gifts she has talked about to me are those she is buying for the horses. The special, big presents are for “her” horse but she’s been shopping for small things for all of them. She’s very excited about it, about the shopping for them and the giving to them.

“Her” horse is not actually hers. He belongs to the stable. The other horses being shopped for are the stable’s lesson horses. The details of ownership don’t matter. We all have a special bond with our favourite horse, no matter how many others may ride him or her. The horses feel the same way, I think. They have their favourite riders too.Willie in aisle beside decorated stalls

I don’t know what they think of their decorations. Well, I do know what “my” horse thinks. When I was leading him to the cross ties, he tried to eat the holly off a stall door. So that is his opinion: food!Butternut Stables doors with wreaths

Burdock Dog

Leo covered in burdockThis is Leo after he walked for just a second into a patch of burdock. The burs didn’t just stick to his hair, they burrowed right in his face, chest and ears.  I picked off as many as I could right away. Before I did, his ears were stuck to the top of his head.

Having a poodle, I can easily believe the commercial with the man saying he came up with the idea for velcro thanks to his sheepdog who liked to run through the woods.

If you get a Poodle, get used to dealing with burs and plant life of all kinds embedded in his or her hair.  Even Charlie, with long silky hair, attracts burs like a magnet.  They’re a bit easier to brush out because his hair is less dense than Poodle hair.

Burdock Removal

trimming Leo's ear after bur removalBest tip for dealing with your fine-haired dog:  cultivate a groomer as your new best friend so you can call them when you have a grooming emergency.  Last night, trying to get the mess out of Leo’s ears and head, I fervently wished my nieces who are groomers in Red Deer lived nearer me.

But I persevered with brush and scissors and finally Leo returned to normal appearance, albeit with shorter ears.  He had a row of burs firmly wound around the bottom of one ear.  There was no choice but to carefully cut off burs and hair.  Then I had to trim the other ear so it matched.

Leo brushed and ear length evenedI find a small slicker brush the best.  But even that can’t get into full burs knotted into hair.*  I carefully cut into the centre of those with blunt-nosed scissors.  Cut with the hair, not across it.  That opens up the bur so it will more easily brush out but avoids cut lines.  Use a comb to take the accumulated bur bits and hair out of the brush.  With a poodle, when most of the burs are out, brush backwards to get the small bits out and fluff the hair up.

I have been told baby oil on the bur softens it and makes it easy to brush out.  I tried it with my German Shepherd and found it no easier and just made his hair and my hands greasy.

After Burdock

Even after the burs are gone, I brush and brush to get every trace out.  If I don’t, and if they can, the dogs will lick at the irritating bit trying to dog brushes, scissors and combget rid of it.  In doing that, they can lick right down to the skin and cause hot spots of inflamed skin.  Gold Bond medicated powder is a godsend, especially for Leo.  His pouffy hair makes it difficult to put ointment directly on the skin.  The powder goes through the hair to the skin and dries it up.  He doesn’t like the taste so doesn’t lick it a lot.  Their groomer at Pampered Pooch in St. Thomas told me to try it when Leo had a really bad spot that we feared would need veterinary attention.  Within a week, it was better.

Best Tool Ever

*Since I first posted this (Jan. 7/12 St. Thomas Dog Blog), I’ve dog-hair-rakefound the best tool ever. A hair rake for double-coated dogs breaks up a burdock and pulls it out of dogs’ hair and horses’ manes and tails easily.

Horse Show

jamie-waitingA horse show is a great way to spend a day. Sleek horses, adorable ponies and their riders showing their skill. It’s watching beauty in motion.

Today, at Spring Brook Stables near Moncton, I held my breath while watching the ring. Yes, it was the beauty of the horses and riders and all that. But I was watching one horse in particular. Jamie, my favourite school horse, was competing. He did wonderfully.

jerry and jamie at ring entranceIt was possibly his first show ever. For sure, it was his first in several years. But he was so calm while waiting and in his classes you would think he had been hanging around show rings his whole life.

horse show classHe and Jerry, a fellow lesson horse at Butternut Stables, went with two of the girls who ride there. Only Jerry had been at shows before. But all four looked like they were old hands at competition, and they did great.

jamie-with-ribbonA first, second, two third and two fifth place ribbons in total. The girls rode beautifully. They looked confident and lovely. So did the horses. I think – hope – they’ll all be back in a show ring soon.

I’ll Have Another

Barbaro-findagrave-17738583-J-GriffithThis was first posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 10, 2012. This Saturday, May 7th, it’s Derby Day again. It feels different this year – it’s the first anniversary of the beginning of American Pharoah’s successful run for the Triple Crown. It’s also the 10th anniversary of Barbaro’s Kentucky Derby win. Sadly, he was injured in the Preakness and he died Jan. 29th 2007. 

coffee mug from Kentucky Derby MuseumThe 1st Saturday in May, this is the mug I pour my first cup of coffee into.  Last Saturday, the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another came from the middle of the pack and passed the frontrunner. At 15-1 odds and in the 19th position, he wasn’t considered a serious contender.

His jockey, Mario Gutierrez, raced at Hastings Raceway in Vancouver, or as the announcer put it, “the small-time circuit up in Canada.”  It was Gutierrez’ first Derby ride.  I’ll Have Another’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, is originally from Windsor, Ont.  As a university student, he got interested in racing by hanging around Windsor Raceway.  Two racing lives honoured in the winner’s circle of the most I'll Have Another at finish line 2012 Kentucky Derbyprestigious race in North America, both nurtured on Canadian tracks.

Tracks that, at least in Ontario, face closure.  Premier McGuinty’s government decided that the long-standing profit-sharing agreement between tracks and the OLG would not be renewed.  Until now, OLG and the track shared the profits, with OLG getting the lion’s share.  Still, the 10% that the tracks get is crucial to their economic survival.  Slot machines and rooms that house them cost far less to maintain than do barns, tracks and horses.

All racetracks, including Churchill Downs, rely on slot machines and other forms of gambling for income.  When we toured Churchill Downs, our guide said the only day of the year on which the track 1907 Postcard of bookies at Woodbine Racetrack Torontoactually makes money from racing is Derby Day.

But the pride, prestige and history of Churchill Downs is in the racetrack and barns.  It is a tourism draw, with tours, gift shops and a museum.  Restaurants, motels and stores in Louisville also benefit from the dollars that come with these tourists who come to Horse Mecca and buy a commemorative mug.  Do non-gamblers make a special trip to tour a casino, other than in Las Vegas?

A racetrack is a huge operation, employing many in track and horse maintenance.  Also the breeders and trainers who spend years refining bloodlines and preparing juveniles for the track.  The stars are the horses and they are expensive to maintain.

Amazon link for Northern Dancer Legend and Legacy
Click for Amazon

Meanwhile in Ontario, racehorses are being sent for slaughter.  If the tracks don’t have the slot machines, they likely will close. There will be nowhere to race horses so breeders are getting out of the business.  That means getting rid of living horses.  It is said that newborn foals are being killed before they stand up – that way insurance will cover their “loss”.  Many of those thoroughbred foals and their mothers and fathers have the blood of the great Canadian Northern Dancer in their veins.

Thoroughbred and harness racing are part of our national history.  If Harness racing at Western Fair track London Ontario ca 1934profit sharing with slot machines keeps tracks alive, that also keeps alive our horses and our presence in the sport of kings.  McGuinty’s tinkering with what worked just fine for long before he became premier is now costing the lives of horses and livelihoods of horse people. (*see 2 comments below)

Musical Ride II

The RCMP Musical Ride was in Sussex this week at the Princess Louise Show Centre. Tonight they are giving a very special ride in Moncton, to honour the three Mounties killed there one year ago. A lot of emotion for them, one rider told me. Some have been stationed in Moncton, all know someone stationed there or nearby. A difficult performance for them and one they feel very deeply.

Teddy in PLP stall before musical ride
Teddy in PLP stall

So too for us in all the New Brunswick audiences: remembering the horrible day that took the lives of Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, Doug Larche and Dave Ross and wounded Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen. We are privileged to have the horses and officers of the Musical Ride with us at this sad time.

Below are photos of horses and riders before, during and after the performance. Click or tap to see a larger view.

Tacking up

Cybil
Cybil gets bridle put on by Cpl. Beverly White
Riders prepare
Riders prepare in PLP barn

Musical Ride

Line up at opening of show
Opening of performance, Princess Louise Show Centre
Viper and rider Jeremy Dawson
Viper with rider Jeremy Dawson of Newfoundland
Lances forward
Lances forward

Meet the horses

Viper meets and greets
Viper meets and greets audience members
Steele and Cst. Hugues Dionne
Steele and Cst. Hugues Dionne

Cooling out

Returning to barn at PLP
Returning to barn at PLP after show
Cooling out horses
Cooling out horses beside barn
Rider walks horses

The week before, the Musical Ride was in nearby Hampton NB. Click here to see my post and photos of the horses’ arrival at Butternut Stables and their parade through town to the performance field.

Musical Ride

unloading-horse-photo-D-StewartThe RCMP Musical Ride was in Hampton NB last week. The horses stayed at Butternut Stables where I ride. I was there when they arrived and, next day, I ran alongside as they walked from there down Main Street to the soccer field where they performed. Black horses, red serge. Impressive. Imagine them precision riding at top speed.horses on the way to Musical Ride Hampton

“32 horses and riders moving as one, perfect harmony between man and beast, a kaleidoscope of manes and tails and battle lances crisscrossing in a collage of synchronous movement. It takes your breath away.” Lt. Welsh, All the Queen’s Horses, Due South

RCMP-Lenny-photo-D-StewartIt started in the 1870s with the precursor to the RCMP, the North West Mounted Police. The men did fancy drill maneuvers with their horses for fun. In 1904 they performed for the public at fairs in Manitoba. Mounted patrols stopped in 1936, but they kept the horses. The Musical Ride officially became part of the public duties of the Mounties in 1961.

The horses are Hanoverians, raised and trained at the RCMP farm near Ottawa, Ontario. The riders are officers who first learn to ride, then perform. After three years, they return to regular duties.stabled-photo-D-Stewart

I don’t think there’s anything comparable anywhere. Certainly there are armed forces ceremonies that combine tradition and ritual with active duty. The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is one. You can watch it – at Buckingham Palace.

RCMP-trailers-Hampton-photo-D-StewartBut the Musical Ride is a moveable feast. The cavalcade (4 tractor trailers and support vehicles) travels across the country annually to cities and small towns to perform. Money raised goes to the sponsoring community groups.

back-of-procession-photo-D-StewartIn much of Canada, the RCMP are the provincial and local police force. But they are also a federal policing agency, equivalent to the FBI in the US. I try to picture FBI agents on horseback, looking non-threatening, looking comfortable. Can’t do it.

Cybil-and-me-ButternutIf you’re in Yarmouth NS, you can see them this weekend. Next week they’ll be back in New Brunswick. June 2 and 3rd, they’ll be in Sussex at the Princess Louise Park. I’ll be there to say hello to the lovely Cybil. Here is the 2015 schedule for NB, NS, Ottawa, SK, QC and NL.

due-southATQH-mtvpersiaPaul Gross’ song Ride Forever kept going through my head as I watched the horses unload. They didn’t come down the ramps the way they do in a Due South episode. Listen, and watch in this youtube video.

 

Track Royalty

Entrance to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky DerbyThis coming Saturday, May 2nd, is the Run for the Roses, the first leg of the Triple Crown.  The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. The young royals of mainly North American horses will be there. Both connections and horses dream of winning it and going on to win the other two jewels of American Thoroughbred racing.

No horse has done it since Affirmed in 1978. It’s the longest gap ever in Triple Crown history.  I didn’t see Secretariat’s spectacular runs in 1973, but I certainly knew about them. With three Triple Crown winners in the 1970s, I thought it was something that would happen like clockwork every few years. Little did I know.

looking up at twin spires from seating areaChurchill Downs, even without horses there, is magical.  In the tunnel and trackside, you almost see the horses and jockeys. Inside the viewing salons, you feel the money and the excitement. In the betting lounges, the tension and hope for the big win and desperation over the big loss surrounds you.

What’s wrong

There’s a lot wrong with the horse racing industry, just as there is with any sport business that involves animals. Too many horses are bred in order to find that elusive ‘superhorse’. What happens to the foals that don’t make it to the track, and those that do Thoroughbred great Ferdinand racingmake it, but aren’t good enough for the big time?  What happens to those that are good enough but, like any athlete, get past their prime?

The great Ferdinand, 1986 Kentucky Derby and 1987 Breeder’s Cup Classic winner and 1987 Eclipse Horse of the Year, was slaughtered in a Japanese meat-packing plant in 2002 after his career at stud was deemed over. He earned over $3.75 million.  His reward was to become steaks and dogfood.

What’s right

There’s also a lot right. Running faster than the wind is in the blood and bones of a Thoroughbred. Most racing people love horses. They ought to. It’s the horses who run the race and win the glory and the money. The jockey, trainer, groom and exercise rider help the horse, but they are support staff. A jockey can cause a horse to lose a race, but he can’t make a horse win. It’s the horse’s mind and heart that runs the race. And that’s all the people need to remember. Look after Cat at Barbaro memorial stone, Kentucky Horse Park 2007the horse and the horse will look after you. And remember, when that horse no longer wins the big purses, that it was his or her effort that got you where you are.

That’s where owners, owner syndicates, trainers and jockeys can go wrong. They think it’s them – their handling, their business decisions that are key. People who believe in their own centrality in horse racing should instead invest in NASCAR or motorcycle racing. The thrill of speed and winning is the same, and it is solely your care and handling that makes a car or motorcycle win or lose. It might be cherished by you, but it’s inanimate. It will not feel anything if you junk it at the end of its career. If you’ve done well in horse racing, thank the horses that did it for you by treating them right in retirement.

Thoroughbred Retirement

In 2005 NY racing groups began the Ferdinand Fee, a voluntary $2 per race charge with girl petting horse at Old Friends Equine Retirement Farm 2007proceeds going to Thoroughbred retirement farms. Old Friends Equine Retirement Farm near Lexington is the only one that takes stallions. Because of their often-difficult personalities, they can be hard to handle. Most rescue and retirement farms are not equipped for them. Mares and geldings stand a better chance than stallions of having a good post-race life. (Updated from my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 5, 2011.)

 

The Tao of Horses

“If you knew a horse, you could depend on him and if he was going to do something bad, you could depend on him to do that too. I always understood horses better than I did people.“

This opinion on the staightforwardness of horses is from retired US Captain Thomas Stewart. His story is in The Tao Of Horses: Exploring how horses guide us on our spiritual path by Elizabeth Kaye McCall. At the end of WWII, Capt. Stewart and Dr. Tao of Horses: Lipizzaner 2002 London ONRudolph Lessing, a German army captain and veterinarian, got 200 Lipizzaner stallions and broodmares out of Czechoslovakia before it was given to Russia in the Allied division of territory.

The Lipizzaner story is in the chapter entitled ‘Peace – The unequivocal ambassador.’ This book has many such stories – individuals and breeds of horses that are particular noteworthy in the equestrian world. It’s a small book and it covers a lot of ground. Each chapter focuses on a few people and the breed of horse with which they work. You get the story of the breed, including individual horses, people and their philosophical musings on what horses and their particular branch of equestrian activity gives them mentally and physically. The author adds her own thoughts, short sections at the end of each chapter with a physical or mental exercise, travel tips and internet search suggestions.

I stay well clear of any book with ‘Tao’ in its title, too New Age self-helpish for me. But when I found a copy in a thrift store – why not? I’m very glad I bought it.

Before I read it, I did not know the singer Wayne Newton is a well-respected breeder of Arabian horses. I did not know that the drummer of the 1970s band Three Dog Night, Michael McMeel, was inspired by the movie City Slickers to set up an equestrian programme for Los Angeles “at risk” kids. The book tells the horse stories of people you have heard of and those you have not but are happy to learn about.

Tao of Horses
Click for Amazon link

This book is what its title says, a look at the way of horses.  It discusses them and their relationship with humans in all ways – practical, emotional and psychological. You get an easy to understand overview of breeds and equestrian arts as well as a lot to think about in terms of how horses and humans connect at the heart. You can read about the art of dressage, for example, and learn some technical points of it.  You also read about a family who have spent their whole lives in pursuit of this dance between human and horse. You are moved to think about that expression of balance and fluidity in terms of your own life, with and without a horse to share it.

It is a self-help book but it doesn’t outline steps to fix your life. It gives you something better. Food for thought about yourself and your emotional interior and about creatures – human and equine – outside yourself. It also teaches you about horses and equestrian disciplines from reining to racing. A lovely book, and well worth its full price for horse- and non-horse people alike.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Nov. 10, 2011

 

Cigar 1990-2014

Champion racehorse Cigar 2007 at Kentucky Horse ParkThe news from the Kentucky Horse Park that Cigar died Tuesday Oct. 7 made me look through photos I have of him.

After retiring in 1999, he lived in the Hall of Champions at the Kentucky Horse Park. I met him there in December 2007. He was in his stall, watching a stablehand clean it. But when he saw he had visitors, well, over he came. Seeing my camera, he posed.  According to the woman looking after him, he loved putting on a show for the punters.  Outside in the paddock, he’d run and roll for the crowd standing along his fence.  Inside his stall, he’d do what he did with me, come right up and strike poses for as long as a camera clicked.

Cigar died during surgery to relieve his pain from osteoarthritis in his neck and spine. He was 24 years old. He earned nearly $10 million and 19 of his 33 starts. He tied the 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation’s record of 16 consecutive wins. His maternal grandsire was the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. His paternal great-grandsire was the great Northern Dancer. Twice voted Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male and inducted racehorse Cigar with stall door open Dec. 2007into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame, he lived up to the standards of his predecessors.

He thrilled racing fans at the track and, in retirement, he thrilled many more by giving of himself so cheerfully.  You were a gentleman, Cigar, and you will be missed.

He is buried at the Memorial Walk of Champions near his barn and the Horse Park says there will be a public memorial service at a later date.

The Princesses Louise

PLP-Sign-photo-Dorothy-StewartIs Princess Louise Park in Sussex named for a British Royal or a horse?  I’ve heard both answers. The person was daughter of Queen Victoria and patron of the 8th Hussars Regiment.  The horse was the 8th Hussars Regimental Mascot.

Princess Louise, the horse, was an Italian-born WWII refugee. She later was naturalized as a Canadian citizen, made a Freewoman of the Village of Hampton and a member of the Canadian Legion #28 Hampton Branch.

Princess-Louise-marker-photo-D-StewartShe and her daughter, both members of the 8th Hussars, are commemorated with their own marker close to the Cenotaph  in Hampton’s Veterans Park.

A foal found wounded beside her dead mother in Coriano, Italy, Princess Louise was rescued by 8th Hussars men from the Hampton and Sussex area.  She then traveled with them for the rest of the war – to Regimental mascot Princess Louise and 8th Hussars in ItalyFrance, Belgium and Holland.  It took considerable ingenuity to pull that off.

When the men moved by ship to France, they were not allowed to take animals.  So they modified a truck that was being transported, building a stall behind a false wall in it. Two of them went AWOL for a short period of time during loading.  Afterwards, the charges were quietly dropped.  Perhaps the machinations went quite a way up the chain of command?

8th Hussars Regimental Mascot

Princess Louise and the regiment were in Holland at the end of the war.  When it came Camp-Sussex-Mural-photo-D-Stewarttime for the men to come home, they couldn’t bring her back on the troopship.*  They left her with the British Army Veterinary Corps, asking them to get her on a ship as soon as possible.

She arrived in New York a few months later.  From there, she went by train to Saint John where she was given the keys to the city.  She then traveled in style to Camp Sussex in the town of Sussex and served there for 27 years as Regimental Mascot.  Her duties included Sgt-Bickerton-Princesses-Louise-Sussex-1954representing the regiment in Remembrance Day services and most civic events in Sussex.  She greeted officials and was a favourite in parades around the province.  H. Thad Stevens was her first handler and Sgt. Gordon Bickerton took over care of her and her daughter.

Legacy

Princess Louise gave birth to three foals.  After she died in 1973, a daughter named Princess Louise 2 served as mascot until her own death in 1981 at the age of 27.

Legion-application-photo-D-StewartPrincess Louise’s horseshoes, framed, hang in the Hampton Legion.  Also there is her application for Legion membership.  Her hoofprint is on it, and beside “number of dependants” is typed “3420 (total Regt’l enlistment)”.

Her story was written by LCol. R. S. McLeod.  You can read it here.  A children’s book about her, The Pony Princess, was published by the Hampton Legion, written by Ana Dearborn-Watts.  It was given to area school libraries.  The President of the Hampton Legion told me that usually every Remembrance Day “somebody writes something Dearborn-book-photo-Dorothy-Stewartabout her.” Indeed a story this lovely, of horses and men, should not be lost to us.

I borrowed the photos of Princess Louise from the Saint John Telegraph-Journal’s 2011 Remembrance Day story, here. You can read more about the 8th Canadian Hussars here.

*US WWII veteran Bill Wynne, in his book Yorkie Doodle Dandy, tells how Princess-Louise-shoes-photo-D-Stewarthe successfully smuggled Smoky, his Yorkshire Terrier, back. He laments, however, that others were not so lucky with their adopted dogs, monkeys and other pets.  But he doesn’t mention any serviceman trying to sneak a horse on board!