Blue’s first show this season went great. He looked amazing and won all his classes. At show #2, he won his first class, but went lame towards the end of that ride. We found out this week that he has a tear in one of his ligaments and will have to take 6 months off to rest. We will be missing the rest of the show season, but he should heal up just fine with rest and be ready for next spring.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. We’ve been taking it easy this year after all the traveling we did with WEG last year. Mostly trail riding near my home and we did a couple local shows. We are looking forward to getting back into competing on a more regular basis and will be doing a competitive trail challenge later this month in Maryland. This will probably wrap up our year until next spring unless something else happens to come up later. I may do more competitive trail challenges in November depending on weather. I also wanted to announce a new sponsor. Ecolicious Equestrian will now be providing us with our grooming products. I am so excited to be able to use green, all natural shampoos, conditioners, whitening products, etc. It is the last thing on our list that we needed to replace in order to be completely natural in the products that we use. Please check out their products, tips and testimonials on www.ecoliciousequestrian.com and stop by any of my events to pick up some brochures for great coupons on their products.
The Sound Horse Conference was a three-day event beginning with three afternoon roundtable discussions geared specifically for your role in a horses life (trainer, owner, etc.) I was not able to attend this part of the Conference due to my schedule (flights cancelled, delayed…) but I heard all good things about it and plan on being able to make it next time. The following two days consisted of different individuals speaking on behalf of the TWH and horses in general. There were so many people there to teach and express positive ideas and methods. I enjoyed being able to see the slides of x-rays and studies done on padded vs. flatshod vs. barefoot horses and seeing how bone structure and joints through the whole body can drastically shift and change depending on how we care for the feet. I also like hearing about TWH’s that have found success in disciplines often thought to be specific to other breeds such as endurance racing. It was also commendable for an individual there to discuss how he used to be involved in soring as a way of life but has since realized that is not the way to go and is grateful that he has now seen the light. There was such a vast amount of topics covered, ones that I would never have thought of, all of which had wonderful speakers. A complete list and more details of topics and those who spoke can be found at www.fosh.info. I encourage everyone to take a look at what was offered and make plans to attend the next Conference.
I have been in the horse industry for 20+ years attending all types of clinics/expos/demos and this was the first time I left feeling like I had learned from every speaker. I can definitely say I learned more here in two days than in all the other expos combined over my lifetime. The wealth of information being presented surpassed my ability to take notes, so I decided to wait and purchase the video when it became available. I wanted to be able to reference the images presented with each speaker, as I felt they were extremely valuable in helping to illustrate the information provided.
We were provided with lunch each day and on the second evening, we traveled to a barn where we were able to watch fun demonstrations from a selected group of horses all representing different specialties. We were able to eat our dinner in a warm setting while watching these demos through glass panels or we could sit in the arena with the demonstrators. Each day we were given raffle tickets for a chance to win many different prizes. On the second day, they gave two awards to individuals who have made a difference in the sound horse industry. I was the recipient of one of these awards. I came up to the stage and we listened to a story about my life with Blue while Chris’ video of Blue and I riding at WEG was shown in the background. My award was then presented to me by Christine Sequenzia of the Animal Welfare Institute. It was such an honor to be invited to attend and to be the recipient of such a wonderful award. It’s very encouraging to know that hard work and natural care and training methods are being recognized and it gives me great faith in the TWH breed to know that there has been so much recent progress for their welfare.
I want to reassure those who were not able to attend that this is not a group of fanatics or “over-the-top” activists. Those involved simply believe in the best possible care and health of the horses. This was evident in the teachings of everyone. It was quite unique that although everyone there may have had different opinions or methods, all put the horse before themselves and seemed to realize that not ALL horses are the same, so the same thing doesn’t always benefit ALL horses. Any individual who owns a TWH should be in attendance, as well as those who care about the general welfare of all breeds. This was an invaluable experience for me and I thank everyone who worked so hard to make this come together.
I cannot believe it’s been over a month since I’ve been back and I’m just now getting to this. Those of you who have distracted me from this task know who you are ;) Anyway, we left home on the 27th of September for West Virginia and stayed at the Gillum House B&B, which accommodates horses as well. We always stay there on our way down South; it’s a great place for all of us. On the 28th we made it to our final practice at Hodge Arena in Kentucky. This was more of a barrel racing style arena, the footing had to be a foot deep, and hard pieces of clay throughout. It was kind of scary but practice went great and all the horses and riders had their patterns down by the end of the night. The horses stayed overnight while the people went on to our hotel for the duration of our stay in KY. In the morning, we woke up at 5am and went back to pick up the horses for transport into KY Horse Park. All required vet checks/records and vehicle checks went by with no problem or hassle, and access into the park and stable area was immediate and easy to navigate. Once unloaded and unpacked, we went about acclimating our horses and preparing for our evening exhibition. Some of us had a few mishaps, but no one noticed. The arena was not full that night; we were riding during the same time as the dressage competition so it was more of a practice run anyway.
The next day, our exhibition was in the morning, and the stands were packed. In fact, even the standing room was full. Lots of school groups had come in and the kids were leaning over the fence, rocking it the whole time we rode. They were singing our song louder than the speakers and dancing through our entire ride. The routine went as well as it possibly could have, and rather than veer away from the mobs of screaming children running to get closer, Blue pushed all the way up to the rail head on and never flinched through his whole routine. I laughed the whole time and when I was finished, my lips were so dry that I couldn’t close my mouth. Everyone there was having a great time. After the demo, we rode back up to the rail and stopped for the kids to pet the horses. Blue loved this part best, especially when he smelled little hands full of buttery popcorn. He didn’t even try to steal their food, he just forged his head down into the crowd for the kids to hang on his head and neck and give him kisses. We got to sign some Breyer WEG Autograph horses too. This was by far my favorite day.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the park sightseeing, shopping, and just enjoying the calm, well-maintained environment. That evening we had tickets to the reining freestyle show and it was really great. I was happy to be able to see Stacy Westfall do her demo. I had met her a few times before but this was the first time I got to see her ride. There were three riders in particular who were absolutely amazing; I will have to check my program for their names.
The next morning, I took Blue out for a walk around the Park to stretch his legs. We ended up parking out on a grassy patch and letting some children step in for photos. We had a line by this time, but Blue did not move once until everyone had gotten their photo. In fact, three different people jumped back when they touched him because they thought he was a statue at first. I guess they hadn’t seen a horse stand that still in the middle of a crowd before :) We did another demo that night.
October 2nd and our last day at the Park. We had a morning demo and then spent the rest of the day relaxing and going back to see anything we wanted to spend more time on. My mom had flown in for the day and I was able to sneak her back to see Blue after our ride. I went back to the Ariat pavilion to pick up some of my goodies that I had requested from the day before. (They also sent a new pair of field boots to my hotel :) Arait has been great to me this year, I’ll be a lifelong ambassador for their company. Also stopped by Soft-Ride to say hello and saw that our testimonial was playing on their TV’s. Again, more amazing people. We were able to go down to the cross country course and get right up along the fence for some of the really great jumps. Then it started to get really windy and we headed back to the barns in time for the rain to start. It had been beautiful weather, mid 70’s and sunny up until this point so we got lucky to have been finished for the day. We had to leave that evening, and although we supposedly had reservations to go back to Hodge Arena, they had no room for us. Some people who lived fairly close went home or found other places to go. We went to a beautiful Thoroughbred racing farm called McPeak, just a few minutes away, courtesy of Duke Thorson (thanks!). The next morning we were out of there and back to Gillum House, WV. Finally on the 4th, we made it back home.
Overall, the whole event was very well managed and I was very pleased at the lack of chaos. Everything seemed to go according to schedule and the Park stayed clean. The volunteers and staff were all knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with. The entire experience was a positive one. All the individuals who spoke to us made it very clear that they thought our team was amazing and that they were so proud of us for bringing flat-shod, sound horses to exhibit. Side note: USDA was there for our inspections to make sure all our horses were clean and sound. Blue was the only one with any bare feet so he got a lot of attention from the spectators for that.
Thank you to the selection committee that knew we would represent well. Thank you to all my sponsors who made this year possible. Not just the trip to the Games, but all the practices all over the country as well. Thank you to Chris for helping make this an easy journey before, during and after, believing in us when we needed someone to, and for helping take care of Blue while we were there so I didn’t get tired. Thanks to everyone who came out to see our demos and support sound Walking Horses. Thank you Mama Bear for letting me call you 20 times a day and being happy for me because I was there even though you couldn’t be.
I just posted a video of our WEG demo, day 2 on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1MgTcgIkZ8. There are more videos of our whole team but make sure you look at the one posted by me (cravingblue96) rather than the one posted by derekalexander. Mine is much clearer and more focused on the horses. More videos to come and I am working on a recap of the trip.
www.feitv.org will air a live stream of the Games for their duration. It looks like you can choose to watch things other than the World Championship events by clicking on one of the options in the purple bar across the top. Universalsports.com will also air a live stream. This is an NBC television station and you can watch it on TV if you get that channel. NBC itself will be broadcasting 6.5 hours of highlights on each of the three Sundays during the Games: Sept. 26, Oct. 3, Oct. 10. Coverage starts sometime around noon each of the three days.
Our testimonial video for Soft-Ride boots is up on their site. It’s really cute. All my NWHA info got cut though. Here’s the link! http://www.softrideboots.com/Testimonials-soft-ride-equine-gel-orthotic-comfort-boots.asp