NEW YORK HORSE STORIES. ADVICE. HORSEPLAY.
EQUESTRIANS THE BOLD, THE BRAVE & THE HUMAN BOTTLE ROCKETS
New Yorkâ€™s Old West When Adirondack vacations came with a side of ranch dressing
Walk, Trot, Cut Behind the scenes with a horse wrangler to the stars
RIDE OUTSIDE 2020
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Horses, fresh air – and the lure of romance with a real cowboy – turned the Adirondacks into a dude ranch destination
Ready for their Closeup The horses at Cari Swanson’s Hudson Valley farm have stars in their eyes and never miss their mark
Extreme Equestrians Take a walk (trot or canter) on the wild side
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Mounted Archery Good horsemanship, precision, and the chance to live out those Lord of the Rings fantasies? Yes, please
Top-Tier Eventing There’s a very good reason why they’re called horse trials
Roman Riding If standing astride two galloping horses isn’t daunting enough, try doing it wearing a mini toga
Chestnut Mares Hot headed, crazy, and other adjectives that suggest the prudent choice is a nice, bay gelding
Bareback Broncs Eight seconds, one supremely ticked-off horse, and a thousand reasons to have an orthopedic surgeon on speed dial
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
A (Literally) Moveable Feast The elegant art of the pleasure driving picnic class, with recipes
On the Cover
Jump Start Summer speed under the legendary spires of Saratoga Racetrack
EQ Style Whoever thought of zippers on tall boots should be a candidate for sainthood
Thanks To Our Underwriters
Calendar The Sequestered Equestrian settles in with a few movies – all with a taste of New York. Leg Up News, Notes and Conversation Starters
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Armchair Equestrian Fit & Focused in 52: Exercises to achieve both mental and physical strength in the saddle Off the Beaten Path The Six Nations Trail System crosses miles of old-growth woodland and past a historic fire tower
The File Summertime, and the livin’ is weedy
Master Class Learn to ride a hunter derby, where not every fence has a flower box under it
Lasting Image A Thoroughbred foal is all promise and all legs
Haunting beauty and high-flying hooves. Throw in a dash of adrenaline and nerves of steel (both human and equine) and the destination could only be the cross-country portion of advanced level eventing. Take a deep breath, tighten the girth and hang on to your helmet: It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
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“If you have everything under control, you’re not moving fast enough.” — MARIO ANDRETTI
Into the turn at Saratoga, the storied summer meet and legendary Graveyard of Champions. PHOTO BY MICHAEL DAVIS
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A SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR NEW YORK HORSE UNDERWRITERS
NEW YORK HORSEÂŽ Owners Janis Barth Peter Barth Editor and Publisher Janis Barth email@example.com
UNDERWRITING SUPPORT New York Horse is published in part with underwriting support from: Canterbury Stables; Cazenovia College and the New York State Center for Equine Business Development; Cornell University Hospital for Animals; GallopNYC; New York State Fair; Morrisville State College; New York Farm Bureau; Central New York Dressage and Combined Training Association; Central New York Reining Horse Association and New York State Horse Council.
CREATIVE Mid-Atlantic Media midatlanticmedia.com
EDITORIAL Contributing Editors Barbara Lindberg Renee Gadoua Contributing Writers Renee Gadoua LA Pomeroy Katie Navarra Karen Steffy Contributing Photographers Amber Heintzberger Michael Davis Bruce Jones Brent Gamma Edmund Ressler Kim Hawkins
ADVERTISING To inquire about advertising Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 315-378-2800
New York Horse magazine is published by: Tremont8 Media, LLC Cazenovia, NY 13035 All rights reserved. ISSN 2375-8058. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the express consent of the publisher. All material submitted to the magazine becomes the property of Tremont8 Media. Submitted material may be excerpted or edited for length and content and may be published or used in any format or medium, including online or in other print publications. New York Horse is a registered trademark of Tremont8 Media.
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LEG UP: CALENDAR IT’S THE SEQUESTERED EQUESTRIAN EDITION: LOTS OF TIME & NO PLACE TO GO, SO ...
DROP YOUR STIRRUPS, GRAB SOME POPCORN & PICK A NEW YORK FLICK The Black Stallion. Young Alec Ramsay and a mysterious Arabian stallion survive a shipwreck, are rescued from a deserted island, and return to Alec’s home in Flushing, NY. After being spooked by a garbageman, the stallion is plucked from the city streets by a retired jockey who trains him and Alec for a match race with two champion Thoroughbreds. Secretariat. Housewife Penny Chenery takes over her father’s Thoroughbred farm and, in Triple Crown winner Secretariat, raises one of the greatest racehorses of all time. Never mind the Derby and Preakness; Secretariat’s iconic race comes in NY’s Belmont. Watch the movie just for his 31-length victory and the classic backstretch call. Hidalgo. Let’s call this the dark horse entry. Long-distance rider Frank Hopkins and his mustang Hidalgo take on an epic race across the Arabian desert. What’s the New York connection, you ask. Star Viggo Mortensen is a New York City native and a graduate of St. Lawrence University in Canton. The Madden Method. OK, technically these are videos. But considering this is the chance to watch Olympian Beezie Madden – and the staff at Cazenovia’s John Madden sales – teach everything from proper leg position to hoof care, we’re going to overlook the technicalities. Check out the series on their YouTube channel. Harry & Snowman. A half-century ago, Dutch immigrant Harry deLeyer paid $80 for an Amish plow horse bound for slaughter, named him Snowman and – at his farm on Long Island – forged the big gray into a national show-jumping champion. Snowman is long gone but, as one of the best sellers about him reminds, “living on is the memory of the horse who was yoked to a plow yet wanted to soar.”
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LEG UP: ROADTRIP Meander lower Manhattan for a glimpse of the city’s early equine history
n 1770, in what was then the bustling heart of the British colony of New York, a gilded statue of King George III was raised in Bowling Green Park. He was, needless to say, on a pedestal and on horseback – the better to majestically survey his subjects. And then his subjects had enough. The statue stood for six years. But by 1776 the Revolutionary War was in full cry and, in a nice twist of fate, the statue was torn down and melted into musket balls for the Continental Army. Only the base and the horse’s golden tail survived and can be seen at the New York Historical Society. Not far away, in Union Square Park, is a famous statue of George Washington – the man who replaced that other
George. Raised in 1856, it’s the oldest sculpture in the New York City Parks collection and the first American equestrian statue cast in bronze. While you’re (sort of) in the neighborhood, walk about 10 blocks south to Washington Mews. Step inside the historic red brick gates, open for strolling during daylight hours, and step back two centuries to Manhattan in the horse-drawn era. The cobblestone street, a half-block north of Washington Square, is lined on both sides with two-story stables and carriage houses. The facades, protected as city landmarks, still reflect the days when horses called these buildings home. But the interiors – now converted into homes and studios – let’s just say they’re fit for a king.
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News, Notes and Conversation Starters A tip of the helmet to a stellar show jumper Darry Lou, one of Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden’s stellar mounts, is a 2020 inductee into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame. The pair have captured numerous international wins since their partnership began in 2017, starting with gold in the Nations Cup CSIO5* at Spruce Meadows. In 2019, Madden and Darry Lou capped a strong season by winning the world’s largest grand prix, the $3 Million CP International Grand Prix presented by Rolex. After that victory, Madden, whose home base is Cazenovia, called Darry Lou “nothing but a pleasure to ride, I always say: If anything goes wrong it is my fault because he does exactly what I ask him to do.” The 2008 Dutch warmblood stallion was recently sold to Jennifer Gates. The Hall of Fame, established by the EQUUS Foundation and the US Equestrian Federation, celebrates both the talent of horses and their bond with people.
Collegiate riders honored for scholarship and commitment Congratulations to the New York students honored for academic achievement by the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association and Intercollegiate Equestrian Foundation. Senior Athletic Academic Achievement Award recipients are: Kaitlyn Currier and Erin Hankins, Cazenovia College; Amy Pitts, Marist College; and Bridid Miniter, Skidmore College. High test scores in the Teresa McDonald Scholarship Challenge were, for IHSA Zone 2: Adelaide Buerkle, Siena College and Amelia von Korff, SUNY Cobleskill. The recipient of the IEF Margaret Blackmon Memorial Award, recognizing passion and commitment to equestrian sport, is Isabel Hall of Cornell University.
NY rescue goes from unbroken to horse star Hanna Blain of Honeoye, and a 14-year-old rescue horse named Willie Nelson, won the Rescued To Stardom Training Contest at Horse World Expo in Harrisburg, PA. Blain was selected by Begin Again Horse Rescue in Lima to take Wilie Nelson – who had spent his life in a field where he was rarely handled and never trained – from unbroken to riding in only 90 days. The competition showcases the work of non-profit rescues and the value of previously unwanted horses. All the horses in the competition are available for adoption.
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HORSEPOWER lobbies for equine protection New York has a new lobbying group dedicated to equine welfare. HORSEPOWER was formed “to protect equine health and welfare, raise awareness about inhumane practices, and effect change in public policy” in Albany, said co-founder Nancy Miller, a competitive rider and lawyer. “We can be the engine to give horses a voice.” Among the bills they’ve targeted is the prohibition of horse slaughter for human consumption, establishment of a Committee on Retired Racehorses, and a tax exemption for commercial horse boarding services.
NYH honored as one of America’s top equestrian magazines New York Horse took top honors as one of the nation’s best equestrian magazines at this year’s Equine Media Awards. The American Horse Publications competition, now in its 50th year, recognizes distinction in both print and digital publishing. The General Excellence Award is the most coveted honor for print publications. The entries are judged on the effectiveness of editorial content and design, and how well the publication meets its mission. New York Horse was named the best selfsupported publication, circulation under 15,000. Three first-place awards also went to NYH writers: to L.A. Sokolowski, Features, for In Full Cry: Hunt Breakfasts, Beagle Teas and Whiskey Races; and to editor Janis Barth, Human-Horse Connection, for GallopNYC and News Feature for Mission Mustang, both part of a package of stories about the healing power of horses.
EQ STYLE ROARS INTO
looks back, and toasts to Spandex, technical fabric and zippers
By Karen Steffy
ormal English riding apparel for women hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years. Women still wear boots and breeches, a riding jacket and stock tie or choker, and gloves. There’s a reason for that: The attire is functional, and everything has a historical purpose. In the 1920s, Gertrude Keim Klemm Remey, a wealthy socialite, was the height of equestrian fashion. Her complete riding habit, now part of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, is impeccable – from her derby and hand-tied stock to her knee-length jacket with nipped waist. Take a moment to admire her style, then deconstruct what the well-dressed equestrian wore 100 years ago and give thanks for Spandex and zippers on tall boots: The stock pin and tie – which is about two feet long – can be used as a bandage for either horse or rider when out in the field. Like regular neckties, you can purchase a pre-tied stock, but many people stick with the traditional and it is almost a rite of passage to learn how to tie it correctly. The stock pin is always fastened horizontally to avoid stabbing yourself in the throat. Mrs. Remey’s breeches are a non-stretch fabric, which necessitated the flares at the hip and the lacing and buttons at the bottom of the legs. The knee patches – then as now – help with gripping the saddle and protecting the knees. With the introduction of stretch fabrics in the 1970s, breeches became more form fitting. The breeches I wore back in the late 1970s were of the ‘new’ two-way stretch fabric and had zippers at the bottom of the legs. A few years later I received a pair of four-way stretch breeches with Velcro at the bottom – pretty novel at the time. Now, of course, everything has Spandex and is so much more comfortable. With jackets, the biggest change is the use of Spandex and technical fabrics (a textile where function is the primary criterion). You can still purchase wool jackets and wearing them is still perfectly appropriate. As for headgear, the derby has largely been replaced by protective helmets. While not as sleek looking, most people have realized that protecting their head in a fall is more important than looks. One thing that is changing is the way that little bits of bling are creeping onto clothes because, traditionally, English riding apparel is rather conservative. It started with a bit of piping on jackets, but now Swarovski crystals can be found on helmets, jackets, boots, spur straps and even gloves. Changing, too, is the appropriation of riding clothes into the fashion world. Walking across the Cornell University campus I see lace-up short boots – paddock boots to riders – spurs and spur straps on tall boots, and zippers and ties on leggings that originated on the bottom of our ancient, non-stretch breeches. I sometimes wonder how many people wearing them know the origin of their clothing and that their equestrian style isn’t complete without a few smudges of dirt and some hay in the pockets. Karen Steffy, a graduate field assistant with Cornell’s department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, has been hooked on riding since she first sat on a pony at age 10.
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Clockwise from top left: A traditional stock tie doubled as a field bandage; Gertrude Remey, stylish and ready to ride; Mrs. Remeyâ€™s full riding outfit, preserved at Cornell; non-stretch breeches required laces to fit properly under tall boots.
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Weekly lessons to ride stronger and smarter
n the first page of the first chapter in his latest book, Daniel Stewart takes just two sentences to set out his philosophy of riding better: “Physical training will give you a whole new look. Mental training will give you a whole new outlook.” Stewart has made a name for himself over the past 25 years, training riders of all levels throughout the world. He’s considered one of the world’s leading experts on equestrian sport psychology, athletics, and performance, providing tips and quips at hundreds of clinics a year, in his bestselling books, and online through his Pressure Proof Academy. In Fit and Focused in 52: The Rider’s Weekly Mind-and-Body Training Companion ($27.95, spiral-bound hardcover, Horse and Rider Books) Stewart combines his techniques for mental and physical conditioning because the pursuit of both rock-steady nerves and a rock-hard core is the riders’ version of the holy grail. Readers get quick-hit recommendations for one exercise for the body, and one for the mind, for every week of the year. The end goal is attaining fitness that ensures improved performance on horseback, whatever your age, ability, or discipline. With 52 weeks of creative cross-training and ideas for customizing workouts to fit personal goals and lifestyle schedules, the book aims to produce riders who, at the end of the year, find themselves positive, pumped up, and ready to go, from head to toe. Stewart brought his Pressure Proof Clinic series to the Central New York Dressage and Combined Training Association’s 2019 fall symposium. Over two days of clinics and one lecture, riders learned some of the exercises covered in the book, from how to do a crunch on a mounting block to how to create a mental training acronym. (Editor’s aside: Hey, that one really works. Whenever we start pounding on ourselves mentally – every ride, every time – we now take a breath and say STAR: Stop Thinking And Ride. Don’t ask how the crunches are going.) In a step-by-step format, Stewart shows readers how to find the great equestrian inside them – ‘a rider who’s full of possibilities, potential, courage and confidence’ – and teaches them how to develop that inner greatness. Lessons begin with Week One and the simple act of helping others (it causes the brain to release chemicals that pump up self-esteem) and progress to breaking the cycle of negative thoughts and developing both willpower and why-power. Whether he’s offering tips to prepare for the show ring, or reminding readers to push on because “if it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you,” Stewart charts a course for any rider to create a year of fitness, confidence and growth.
60-SECOND CLINIC GIVEN THE CHANCE, MANY RIDERS WOULD LOVE TO FIND THEIR COMFORT ZONE, PLANT ROOTS, AND STAY FOREVER, BECAUSE EVERYTHING THEY DO THERE, THEY DO WELL. THEY LOOK GOOD DOING IT AND DON’T MAKE MANY MISTAKES. HOWEVER, WHILE THIS SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD PLACE TO BE, IT’S ACTUALLY A PLACE THAT WEIGHS YOU DOWN INSTEAD OF ALLOWING YOU TO SOAR. YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD, “YOU LEARN THE MOST FROM YOUR WORST LESSONS.” WHILE THIS MIGHT SOUND A LITTLE PESSIMISTIC, IT’S ACTUALLY TRUE BECAUSE ATTEMPTING AND ACHIEVING A DIFFICULT TASK (THAT IS, RIDING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE) HELPS YOU TO DEVELOP THE BELIEF THAT YOU HAVE THE CONFIDENCE AND COURAGE TO ACCEPT AND LEARN FROM STRUGGLES AND CHALLENGES INSTEAD OF SIMPLY TRYING TO AVOID THEM. 16 | NEW YORK HORSE | NYHorseMag.com
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OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Six Nations Trail System
Ride through a canopy of birdsong and into history
n the southern heart of the Finger Lakes lies the Six Nations Trail System, a wooded counterpoint to an area better known for its dark glacial waters. Designed to be horse friendly, the trails crisscross the hills separating Keuka and Seneca lakes and wind past a historic fire tower, one of the last in New York still accessible for a climb and a spectacular view. These public lands sprawl across 12,000 acres in Schuyler County, seven miles west of Watkins Glen, an auto-racing mecca better known for a different type of horsepower. But here, the canopy of trees is filled with birdsong and history, the name itself a reference to the Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois confederacy that brought democracy to this part of North America in the centuries before Europeans arrived. Today, riders can enjoy a 40-mile network of loops and spurs that ramble throughout the Sugar Hill and Goundry State Forests, traversing miles of old-growth woodland. Many of the stands of trees date back to the Great Depression and the early days of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided work for unemployed men. They planted thousands of trees – including nearly 1,300 acres of red pine, Japanese larch, Norway spruce, black locust, and white pine – and erected the Sugar Hill fire tower. The CCC laid the foundation for the park as it is today. Ride respectfully along these historic trails and leave only hoofprints behind. Plan a ride: The trailhead at the Fire Tower Recreation area, located at the northern tip of the park, welcomes riders with a camping area, 16 covered tie stalls, picnic tables, running water, a pavilion and an archery course. The campsites and tie stalls are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If the stalls are filled, the DEC allows horses to be tied to vehicles and trailers or to stakes firmly planted in the ground. The DEC does not permit horses to be tethered directly to trees. 18 | NEW YORK HORSE
Accessibility: The trailhead has handicapped-accessible mounting ramps. Field notes: Watch for wildlife as you ride. Everything from black bears to wild turkeys find a home in the woods and grasslands of the Finger Lakes region. Be aware: During winter months, the horse trails are open for cross-country skiing and snowmobile use and hunting is permitted in season. Hikers are also welcome year-round. Respect everyone else who uses the trail; “dismount and walk your horse” when encountering others, the Department of Environmental conservation advises. Fees: Use of the trails and all facilities is free. The download: Find a printable guide, including a map of the trail system and detailed inset of the Fire Tower trailhead at www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/ 6nattrailbro.pdf. Required papers: Proof of a current negative Coggins certificate is required for all horses; out-of-state horse owners are required to produce a 30-day health certificate. Nerd alert, history edition: The area was first settled in 1802, but its value for farming was marginal and its use as agricultural land ended in the early 1900s. New York bought its first parcels in the 1930s and, over the next two decades, continuously acquired land for public use, all for $4 per acre. Don’t miss this: The 75-foot tall Sugar Hill Fire Tower was built in 1941 by the CCC and was used until the mid-1980s. The observation cabin is open Monday-Saturday from late May until the third Monday in October; the stairs are open anytime. The reward for those who make the climb? On a clear day you can see almost forever – a 15-mile vista in all directions. Be prepared: Carry a cell phone on you. That way if you part company with your horse – beware of equine-eating fire towers – you have the phone.
For a year in need of happy endings, escape to a well-told tale
he scarlet dust jacket leaped out from a shelf of wellthumbed cookbooks and vintage mysteries: The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, 24th printing. It was like finding the Holy Grail buried in the back of an antique shop otherwise stocked with paint-by-number copies of The Last Supper. The opening words of the cover blurb were an express bus to the past: “Young Alec Ramsay first saw the Black Stallion when his ship docked at a small Arabian port on the Red Sea. The Black was a giant of a horse – all muscle, all power, all beauty. His mane swept in the wind like black flame.” This was the book that launched a thousand fruitless pleas to buy a horse and keep him near our apartment in New York City, if not actually in our apartment in New York City. Never mind that this was a work of fiction. Never mind that the Black rescued Alec from a shipwreck and was therefore more worthy than any equine we were likely to encounter. If Alec Ramsay could have a horse in Queens – so went my logic and that of all my horse-
crazy friends – why couldn’t we? Our parents were unmoved by either the brilliance of our arguments or the ark-suggesting flood of tears that accompanied them. When we weren’t spending the weekend galloping rented horses down the parkway median at Pelham Bay stables, or the summers galloping rented horses at sleepaway riding camp, we read. The Black Stallion Returns. Son of the Black Stallion. The Black Stallion and Satan. The Black Stallion’s Blood Bay Colt. Never mind that – as the 24th printing dust jacket reminded me – this was originally intended to be “good fiction for older boys.” By the time we got our hands on the series, the decades that separated us from the first edition in 1941 had wrought a new social order. And we girls could dream that one day, like Alec and the Black, our special bond with a horse would “electrify and captivate the entire nation.” Such is the transformative power of books. (Although it might be argued it wasn’t so much a transformation as an inevitability that one of those girls would grow up to become the editor of a horse magazine.) In a year when we could all use a spoonful of happy endings, escape to the pleasure of a well-told tale with a New York hero at its heart: The Legend of Zippy Chippy. Acquired in a swap for a truck, Zippy Chippy went 0-100, devoured junk food and turned losing into a fine art. The Zipster spent most of his career at Finger Lakes racetrack where, as author William Thomas notes, he embodied this life lesson: Although winning is what we all strive for, it’s the attempt that counts. David Harum. Recommended by NYS Horse Council Regional Vice President Gary Slate, this charming vintage novel is set in the upstate village of Homer. The title character is a banker with a passion for buying and selling horses. He drives, trains and – like the rest of us who have day jobs but live and breathe equine – he talks about horses throughout the book. Old Bones, the Wonder Horse. Exterminator, nicknamed Old Bones for his lanky physique, captured the heart of America with a come-from-behind win in the 1918 Kentucky Derby. He raced for the Binghamton stable of Willis Kilmer and, after reading the book, consider paying your respects to the beloved champion: He’s buried in the city’s Whispering Pines pet cemetery. Go ahead, get lost in their pages. You’re home. Might as well turn over a new leaf.
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Beware the Buttercup
These pasture plants should come with a warning label
fter surviving a never-ending winter – Snow! In mid-May! – it seems only fair that summer should be a season to simply relax. With horses, it’s never that easy. In any pasture in New York state, there are going to be 15 to 20 plants that are officially on the poisonous list, according to the experts at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. Most are only dangerous if eaten in large quantity, and while it may not be possible to completely eliminate them, it’s relatively easy to discourage horses from eating enough to be harmful. Horses are hard-wired to graze, so the first step is to provide enough feed so they are less tempted to browse the weeds and eat plants that aren’t good for them. Bottom line: If there’s not enough grass, owners may have to continue to supplement with hay. Next, take a walk through paddocks and
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pastures, keeping a cautious eye for plants that can cause illness and even death. And remember, some pasture perils are not only innocent looking – they’re plentiful. Buttercups, for one, grow everywhere and can be a skin irritant, and cause mouth blisters, diarrhea and mild colic. (They don’t taste particularly good, so horses tend to leave them alone. But as every horse owner knows, that’s no guarantee.) Even good forage can cause trouble. Alsike clover can lead to photosensitivity and liver disease; red and white clover infected with a fungus can cause slaframine poisoning, also known as slobbers because it causes excess salivation. The cure is simple: If a horse shows symptoms, move them to another pasture. Because most horses are also escape artists, double-check pasture fences for breaks and weaknesses, especially if nearby fields are planted with sorghum or buckwheat, or there’s Japanese yew beside the house. Sorghum grass can cause neurological and reproductive problems. Buckwheat causes photosensitivity with burns to the pink skin under a white coat. Japanese yew, if eaten in quantity, can cause heart failure. To learn how to identify all of the troublemakers, check the Cornell University Animal Sciences online list – poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/ anispecies.html – of plants that are toxic to equines. A plant identification app is also a helpful tool for knowing exactly what’s lurking in the hedgerow. It sounds like a lot of work – isn’t everything associated with horses a lot of work? – but taking care of pastures and mending fences are good ways to ensure the herd has a healthy, happy summer.
HOLLYWIID on Hudson For horse wrangler to the stars Cari Swanson, Mission Impossible is all in a day’s work
By L.A. Sokolowski
he Hollywood hills might not be your first impression when driving through the Millbrook hunt country of the lower Hudson Valley, but if you get to Stanfordville you can’t miss James Cagney Way, dedicated to the film star who called the town home until his passing in 1986. Then, if you head a few more miles east on that same winding country road toward Amenia, you catch a glimpse of Windrock Farm, 63 acres set deep off the road behind wood plank horse fencing. From a distance, Windrock and its Red Horse Rescue look like most rural Dutchess County properties. But inside, Cari Swanson and Swanson Productions offer a dream factory where horses become stars and celebrity names drop faster than stirrups. “Windrock Farm found me,” Swanson says. “It was several miles from where I boarded Fella, my appendix Quarter Horse, who I was lucky to have for 30 years. He was my best friend for much of my life. Life is full of coincidences, so it’s not surprising that I do what I do and live on a road called James Cagney Way.”
wanson, who was born and raised on a horse farm in Ohio, remembers her grandparents as excellent horsemen. “Horses are in my DNA,” she says. “My ancestors came from England and settled along the East Coast. The town of Brewster, Massachusetts, was named for Brewster Shaw, who is in my family tree on my grandmother’s side. One of his offspring landed in New York City, where another ancestor founded the Brewster Carriage Company.” She came to Dutchess County in 1985, after having first moved from London to New York City. “New York is home to me. The countryside is beautiful, and the people are wonderful. I found a country home with a barn for my horse, so I could escape on weekends to ride. I soon left the city and moved here to train horses full time. I’ve always followed my passion and never had a firm plan. Horses have guided me to many places and amazing people.” One of them was Ken Regan. Among the top photojournalists of the 1960s, he was heralded for
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music and sports images including ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ coverage of the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman boxing match, and as official photographer for two legends: the Rolling Stones and Secretariat. “Ken often worked in film as the still photographer and introduced me to producers who asked me to provide horses for various projects. When he was working on Taking Woodstock, directed by Ang Lee, he asked me to bring one of my horses to the set. “Ang said my horses were better actors than his human actors, because they hit their mark every time. Once people in the business learned that my horses came prepared and were easy to work with, more work came through word of mouth. One project led to another.”
Project might be an understatement when describing Swanson’s singular brand of professional horsemanship. “I am often asked if the horse can do something impossible. So much of my job is problem solving and offering safe options to tell the story.” And there are so many stories to tell. Especially, she says, with New York offering more incentives for the film industry, and the New York Film Commission promoting local vendors and bringing more production to the state.
“(The director) said my horses were better actors than his human actors, because they hit their mark every time.” Still, Swanson says, shooting in the Big Apple comes with its own unique logistics: “A film has to schedule shooting at times with the least amount of traffic so we can lock blocks down and use camera cars and run horses at liberty. Working in the middle of the night at Grand Central Station, or on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn at three in the morning, can be tricky.” Then, of course, there are the humans to deal with on set. “I train horses through intuition and kindness and apply these same principles when working with the talent,” she says. “I’ve always had great success teaching the talent to connect and communicate with the horse to create an authentic scene.” If the talent can’t ride, then it’s often up to Swanson to don the wardrobe and deliver the body double work to assure the shot. That can mean standing in for scenes where the horse is in the distance or running away from the camera, or when close-ups of moving legs are all that’s needed to fill the frame. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting to the set: “The horses may have to ride in a freight elevator or walk across a slick floor (which requires laying a path of rubber mats to the stage). One time, the horse had to stand on a small raised set, six feet above the ground, so he could be lit from underneath. There was no room for error and the horse could not turn around or spook.” Horses and small sets remind her of another a story; one involving a Ralph Lauren shoot in New York City for the Fall 2016 collection – called Unbridled Spirit – that became one of her favorite projects. The video pans across Lauren’s shop on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue as Swanson’s horses float into the storefront windows, appearing to gallop, rear and jump behind the fashion displays. “We had to create (those) images … in an impossibly small space. Luckily, I was able to capture all the movements in just a few strides because of the extensive training and trust my horses have in me. “The key to success is preparation and patience, which result in a powerful relationship with each horse, based on trust.”
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So, for Hollywood’s horse trainer, great performances begin at home. “All my horses are talented, and some are better at specific jobs. Listo is an exceptional Andalusian stallion that loves to be on set. He lights up when the camera is around, and nothing fazes him. He can stand at liberty on a stage in a crowded fight scene, under hot lights with a 15-foot camera arm two feet from his head, or gallop close to a camera car on the streets of Manhattan and always perform like a pro.” (Fans of the fantasy movie Winter’s Tale will recognize the grey Listo, and his equine doubles Merlin, Zeke, and Peaches). Swanson says horses are keen observers of every detail around them. Like show horses that learn the particular sequence that judges ask for gaits, equine actors learn to anticipate their cues, too. “It’s no surprise the horses learn the words ‘cut,’ ‘action’ and ‘back to one.’ Sometimes we have to change the word, so they do not anticipate the action. The most frustrating part of a job is when you train for a tough scene, shoot it, and it still lands on a cutting room floor.” But if that’s the most frustrating part, then her greatest joy comes from witnessing how her horses help the humans they are working with to relax and calm their nerves. “The horses offer the best therapy for everyone on set. There can be high energy and short fuses when artists come together for a creative process. Horses offer a grounding effect every time.” Horses can elicit such a deeply connective experience with their human actors that Swanson might find herself hosting actors at the farm after the shoot while they continue improving their new equestrian skills. “Each horse is an individual and offers so many great lessons. Every day, each horse teaches me a new lesson. They remind us to be patient, live in the moment and appreciate every small success.” The researchers were: Timothy Henry, director of the athletic training program at SUNY Brockport; Michael L. Pi lato, athletic trainer with Monroe Community College in Rochester; and Tasneem Zaihra, assistant professor of statistics, SUNY Brockport
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But … since it wouldn’t be Hollywood without a little gossip, we had to ask if she’s been horsing around with anyone we might recognize from stage, screen or print, and weren’t disappointed. John Turturro rides Swanson’s FEI dressage horse, Bond, in the new HBO show, The Plot Against America. If you loved Downton Abbey then you may enjoy The Gilded Age, the TV drama series from Downton creator, Julian Fellowes, set in Manhattan on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution (and psst, being shot in part in upstate New York). Swanson has been handling the casting call for carriage drivers with period-appropriate rigs, and the final cut may include horsemen you’d recognize from several local driving clubs. “There are many talented people in New York who can replicate period clothing,” Swanson says. “I have never had a problem finding period tack for a shoot and know where to get anything made that may be required.” No celeb name-dropping would be complete without a Bey (as in Beyoncé) watch and Swanson says the Grammy award-winning artist used both Listo and her chestnut overo mare, Lily, in a music video produced on NYC’s Pier 59 last fall. “I don’t always know when our work will appear. One time, I was walking through Times Square and looked up to see an ad with Blaze on a giant screen with Gigi Hadid. Another time, I was at the Longines horse show and was delighted to see Bond on the Jumbotron above the arena for a Mark Cross campaign.” She’s reached a point in her career where it’s no surprise to find her own horses on the big screen but growing up, who was her favorite equine celebrity? No contest there. “My favorite horse show was Mr. Ed. I always loved his antics and lessons teaching humans how to be better individuals. He was full of wisdom and had a great sense of humor.” The same might be said of this producer, trainer and one-of-a-kind natural horseman. Cut, print, that’s a wrap.
ACT TWO Cari Swanson isn’t just about celebrity. For more than 15 years, at Red Horse Rescue – their motto “Where Horses Get a Second Prance” – she has been rehabilitating horses and, for those no longer able to work, providing retirement and unconditional love until the end of their lives. “That is our mission. We love them, listen to them, and help them find new purposes,” she said. Red Horse Rescue, based at Swanson’s Hudson Valley farm, is a nonprofit supported by donations. Learn more at redhorserescue.org.
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or most riders, it’s a good day in the saddle when their canter departures don’t include trotting halfway around the arena; they’re not doing their impression of a human lawn dart; and their horse’s impulsion comes from the hindquarters, not the spooky end of the ring. And then there are the extreme equestrians, the ones who aren’t happy unless they’re riding a chestnut mare bareback through a blizzard, or combining archery and galloping into a ‘Look Ma, no hands’ equine rush. Think of them as the spiritual cousins to NASCAR drivers and Motocross racers, except saddles aren’t fitted with roll bars and a harness seatbelt system. Oh, and their horsepower doesn’t come with a mind of its own. So, here’s to the cowboys who fearlessly swing a leg over a rodeo bronc. And here’s to the trick riders whose idea of just another day at the office is standing astride two horses as they jump through a ring of fire. And to the advanced-level eventers, for whom riding cross-country is no walk in the park. What flows through their veins? Our guess: A cocktail of adrenaline, ice water and molten steel. Grab some spurs and turn the page. It’s one heck of a ride.
Mounted Archery Horsemanship and precision reign as an ancient sport takes a modern bow By Katie Navarra
hooting a bow and arrow from the back of the horse creates an adrenaline rush like no other. There’s something primal about relying on good horsemanship to master an ancient skill that combines speed, precision and nerves of steel. Cue that sense of accomplishment, even at the entry level. While competitive riders may race around the track at speeds close to 20 mph – perfectly balanced at the gallop, with no reins and a laser focus on the target – the sport is beginner friendly and open to riders of every age and discipline. “It’s a really good outlet from the normal equestrian pursuits,” said Caroline North, a trainer and one of the founding members of Eternal Flame Mounted Archery. The club, based in Western New York, is the first mounted archery group in the state affiliated with Horse Archery USA. “Trust in your horse is the most important thing,” said North, because reins are not an option while you’re pulling an arrow from a quiver, drawing the bow and letting fly. The horse is guided entirely by legs, seat and voice, so the first spook at an imaginary squirrel spells trouble. “You also have to have good balance and a good grip, or you can get into trouble real fast,” North said in what may be the understatement of the year. “Learning to go slow has been the hardest part for me. The faster you try to go, the more mistakes you make.” Bow and arrows? Maybe a few hundred to start. Channeling that inner warrior? Priceless. “You’ll feel like you’re in you’re in a scene from Braveheart and you’ll feel pretty cool doing it,” said Alaina Reid, a co-founder of Eternal Flame. A steady steed, a bow and sharp arrows once defined the line between life and death. Mounted archery dates to the Ottomans and Mongols, who used it to hunt and in war, as did Native Americans. As guns replaced arrows, archery became a hobby and a sport rather than a necessity for survival. Today, it’s a rapidly expanding competitive event. “Horseback archery is steadily gaining popularity in the United States, but draws larger crowds in places like Hungary, Turkey, or Korea, where the events may even be televised,” said Cody Lee Jones, president of the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas, with clubs across the U.S. Even though it hasn’t achieved the same level of recognition as cowboy mounted shooting, horse archery is quickly spreading as a discipline. And archery has an advantage over competitive shooting sports: No permits required. “I always wanted to try mounted shooting,” Reid said, but “gun laws in New York make it difficult since anyone handling a pistol has to have a permit. That isn’t the case with archery.” Interested? Participants don’t need any prior archery experience, but they do need to be good riders. Everyone starts on the ground learning how to hold a bow and sight a target. Once mounted, riders
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“Develop a soft eye. In everything you do, and especially in your archery practice, find ease and relaxation.”
– Hilary Merrill
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progress slowly, often spending many sessions just at the walk. Horses need to guide off the rider’s legs, without contact on the reins, as they move along a track. Hilary Merrill, a professional horse archer, came into the sport with 25-plus years as an eventer. It gave her some tools to use, but the challenge and excitement came from creating something new. “Training riders and horses to communicate via leg, energy level, voice and seat … has been an incredible journey,” said Merrill, brand ambassador for Decathlon. “(Mounted archery) has improved my understanding of and relationship with horses to a new, beautiful level.” North describes the experience as moving meditation. When she’s practicing, she said, she’s in a zone where she focuses on hitting the target over and over again. You can’t over analyze, she said, and you have to develop a rhythm. Starting out, even the most confident riders question whether their horse is a suitable mount, Reid said. The sport isn’t breed specific, so any horse that’s trained to move off the leg can participate. Reid rides a spotted saddle horse and her mother rides a Tennessee Walking Horse. Other Eternal Flame members use Arabians or Quarter Horses. Most horses learn to accept the sound of the arrow bouncing in the quiver and releasing from the bow, and to seeing motion on either side. There’s always the chance a horse won’t adapt, but the majority get accustomed to the sound and feel. “We’ve been using hula hoops to get sensitive horses used to it,” Reid said. “That way if we drop it and they step on it, we only lose three dollars rather than a $200 bow.” Compared to many other disciplines, it’s relatively inexpensive to try mounted archery. Lee estimates it’s possible to spend as little as $300 depending on the bow. The equipment in mounted archery is similar to other archery events but there are subtle differences. Riders, for example, use a special quiver: either one that is slung around their back, Robin Hood-style, or one that connects to the belt and the rider’s knee. “Arrows can get pricey. I use cheap arrows I can buy at Walmart. They cost $30 to $40 for six tips,” Reid said. “We use field tips, not broad tips, which are more dangerous. Plus, the field tips don’t rip up the targets as much.” An added incentive to riders already outfitted in their primary discipline is that there are no dress codes or tack requirements. Riders can participate with the equipment they already own. “Many shoot successfully from English jumping and dressage saddles,” said Merrill, who rides in an adjustable-tree jumping saddle. “Endurance saddles have a nice shape and allow enough freedom of movement, too.” Most sanctioned competitions also offer riders the opportunity to dress in costume. Attire isn’t the only reason to give mounted archery a try, but it can be a lot of fun, North said. She plans on revisiting all the Lord of the Rings movies to gather ideas and make her own costume. “Get started by going to a clinic or private lessons with a good trainer,” Jones said. “There are also some good books out there and some videos on YouTube. Just keep a positive attitude and remember that it’s all about having fun.”
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ADVANCED LEVEL EVENTING NYHorseMag.com | 37
THE ARTFUL HORSE
goes to the Millbrook Horse trials and finds bunkers and bar tops and banks – oh my Photography by Amber Heintzberger and Brent Gamma Story by Janis Barth
he big grey, ears pricked, soars over a fence that – to the casual observer – bears more than a slight resemblance to a horse-eating alien landing party. Two telephone poles angle from the sides like antennae. Small cedars and a gaggle of grasses bristle at the bottom. Cooley Northern Mist slices over the top, five strides to the sideways log and down goes his landing gear. He and rider Andi Lawrence, pinney No. 43, are the early advanced team into the water complex at the Millbrook Horse Trials. This is a hot spot for spectators, so the course designer has them loop through the water twice, exiting over – yes! – another giant log, this one adorned with the enormous painted head of a wood duck. Even the most intrepid of horses, the ones who stand their ground when threatened by ninja squirrels or snow coming off the arena roof, would look at this, the cross-country portion of advanced level eventing, as an invitation to gallop into the gates of hell. Three, two, one, go … Out of the start box. Ahead lies the bar top (Fence 3: a mini pub on a raised platform complete with barrels, bushes and a bench in case the horse decides he’d rather stop and have a beer); the vegetable stand (Fence 9: tall, wide and slanted with shelves of shucked corn, carrots and cauliflower); and the 8X table (Fence 14: mighty wide by pretty tall, festooned with large slices of tree, in case the thought of jumping over a small military fortification isn’t daunting enough).
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Just over six minutes allowed to complete the course, 25 obstacles in all,
ending with a brush fence atop a ditch because simply jumping over a ditch after keyholes, banks, drops and bounce steps – on a horse that doesn’t know what’s coming and must trust and unhesitatingly obey its rider – isn’t a sufficient challenge.
This, as Heels Down magazine observes in its primer on eventing, is the level
for “the craziest of crazies.” Might as well have a sign at the start box that says, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”
So perhaps this is a good time to pause for a moment and note the obvious:
Advanced level eventing is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach or the inexperienced. It’s the highest level of horse trials, with tests of significant difficulty and jumps of nearly four feet. OK? And back on course we go.
Considered the triathlon of the equestrian world, eventing combines three
disciplines: dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. Penalty points from each phase of competition are totaled for the final standings; the horse and rider with the lowest score wins.
The Millbrook Horse Trials is the largest eventing competition in the north-
east and the only one with an advanced division. It was a warm-up for the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 World Equestrian Games and it’s a showplace where mere mortals can gallop the same course as Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton, who brought three horses to Millbrook last year.
Three, two, one, go …
“Thank you,” says Doug Payne and then he is off and there are only the
hoofbeats of Flynn, an 11-year-old Oldenburg, galloping into an unknown landscape that will test his speed, skill and stamina.
“Whoa,” Payne says 23 times over 6 minutes, 26 seconds – adjusting the pace
as a helmet cam catches every swivel of Flynn’s ears, every snort and the occasional “Easy” from Payne as they fly cleanly over the course.
“Pay attention, thank you,” he adds as they clear the Trakehner – a rail over
a ditch—and curve right to the cedar oxer. There may be an expletive deleted on the gallop to Fence 6, the Bunker, and really who among us is ready for trench warfare on horseback?
Meanwhile, back in the spectator area, it’s glass warfare. Rosés and chilled
whites jockey alongside silver bowls filled with blue hydrangeas. A small boy hops over a pint-sized fence. A spaniel mugs for the camera.
Trade the dust and adrenaline for crystal and silver on the sidelines? The post-
course smiles and pats, the tired rider ruffling her horse’s forelock, say it all:
Not in this lifetime.
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Roman Riding For those days when sitting in a saddle on one horse just isn’t enough By L.A. Sokolowski
he sun flickers and spools and as the shadows lengthen across the Attica Rodeo grounds the bronc riders and steer wrestlers give way to a star-spangled vision standing astride two horses. Dusti Crain-Dickerson, glorious in red sequins and bravado, gallops into the arena, one bare foot on the back of each horse. The pair of paints match each other’s pace hoof for hoof, and she smiles and sweeps an arm toward the bleachers saluting the crowd. This, she says, is the moment that feels like flying: “There is so much preparation that goes into each show and then, when you’re in front of thousands of people and it’s just you and your horses making that connection, there’s just no better feeling.” A horse-crazy kid who transformed her cowgirl dreams into a career as a trick rider, Crain-Dickerson fell in love with Roman riding as an awestruck 8-year-old on a family vacation to the Dolly Parton Stampede in Branson, Missouri. “I was hooked. I got home and Roman riding became my obsession,” says Crain-Dickerson. She began performing at rodeos before her teens and became the Parton stampede’s lead Roman rider for 12 years. At shows like Attica and the 2018 Adirondack Stampede Charity Rodeo, she might stand atop three horses – one foot on each outer horse – and even jump the team through fire. Adrenaline is in her blood. Her dad owned a company providing horses and bulls for rodeos and Crain-Dickerson barrel-raced. But while enthusiasm might get a budding trick rider into the saddle, only hard work will keep them there. “Starting a rider is not as simple as showing them a trick,” she said. “New riders go through a long series of simple, standing still maneuvers for quite a while before ever learning their first trick.” Physical fitness is a big factor and Crain-Dickerson – a competitive gymnast growing up – continues gymnastics for balance and strength. She also
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lifts weights and focuses on cardio to keep light and strong. As for her four-legged partners, Crain-Dickerson said she gravitates toward a horse that’s older than age five, has some height and has already had a job such as barrel racing. She also looks at how they move and what their demeanor is like. “I think horses in any discipline are comparable to kindergarteners learning to read and write,” she said. “Some pick it up right away. Some require a little more work. I’ve had horses take to trick riding and struggle with Roman riding, and vice versa. All horses are different and progress at their own pace.” One of the first tricks she shows a horse is a single vault, which asks the rider to jump to the side of the horse before pulling themself back on top and into the saddle. It doesn’t put much weight or pressure on the horse but is a good start to the foundation of most tricks. It’s safest for the rider, too, because they’re not strapped on. Because trick and Roman riding are high speed and fast-paced, Crain-Dickerson said, “it’s important to keep horses conditioned without making them tired of doing their job. My warm-up exercises include a lot of long trotting, figure-eights, bending and flexing in each direction, reiterating correct lead changes and, most of all, keeping them calm and relaxed.” Eight horses rotate in and out of her performance schedule and their wellbeing, both mentally and physically, is paramount: “It’s very important you don’t ‘blow them up,’ or sour them to either discipline,” she said. “I enjoy giving them the rest they always deserve. “Having a daily relationship with the animals you perform with is absolutely key to being successful. Respecting them and recognizing that they are the real stars is the best way to have a long trick riding career.”
New York audiences have loved trick riding since the last Roaring ‘20s From 1922 – and well into the next three decades – Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden was the top venue for rodeos and Wild West entertainment. A New York Times reporter, on assignment to talk to its cowgirl performers, observed, “We went expecting to interview tomboys but found ourselves in the presence of six mistresses of dignified deportment.” “Their costumes rivalled any circus lady who ever pirouetted on horseback, and there was one among them who ... examined the riders with professional care through a gold lorgnette.”
Photo of Dusty Crain-Dickerson at the Attica Rodeo by Michael Davis
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Chestnut Mares Reputation precedes them: Redheads equal hotheads
he first poster pretty much says it all: Next to a photograph of a clearly ticked-off horse – ears flattened, teeth bared – are the words “Hell hath no fury like a chestnut mare.” Oh wait, there’s also this one: “Instead of yelling boo this Halloween, yell something scarier like ‘Loose horse,’ or ‘No stirrups,’ or ‘Chestnut mare.’ And this poster slogan, short and to the point: “Beware the chestnut mare.” (Also available on mugs, T-shirts, hats and tote bags.) For the superstitious equestrian, good and bad omens lurk in a horse’s coloring and markings. Black horses are alleged to be safe but difficult. The old saying about white legs varies with the number: One sock, buy him. Two socks, try him. Three socks, doubt him. Four socks, do without him. But if there’s one enduring equine truism above all others it’s that chestnut mares are hot headed and temperamental. Which is the polite horseman’s way of saying they’re crazy. The riders brave enough to climb on their backs? Daring. Which is the polite horseman’s way of saying those folks are crazy and please bring us the bay gelding. Turns out, however, that the mystique surrounding Red Queens may be just an old wives’ tale, possibly passed along by old chestnut mares who figured a bad reputation beat an hour under saddle any day of the week. In fact, a 2016 study of 477 horses found that while behavior could be linked to age, sex and breed, coat color had very little impact on their character. The research found chestnuts were bolder and more likely to approach unfamiliar objects – but hotter and crazier? Sorry, but no. So what about the stereotype? Like other bits of typecasting, researchers say chalk it up to confirmation bias, meaning people remember the red-hot mares that support the crazy chestnut myth and discount the calm ones they’ve encountered. And that’s unlikely to change says veterinary professor Dr. Clare Wade of the University of Sydney: “I’m pretty sure people will keep their views regardless of what science does.” In that case, at least for now, expect Santa will keep giving chestnut mares to bad children instead of coal.
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Bareback Bronc Riding Hell on hooves: A lit fuse hardwired to dispose of human riders
he chute opens, a half-ton of surly bronc crashes, spins and churns. and the crowd leans forward in anticipation of another airborne cowboy. Rodeo started with bronc riding, an extension of everyday life on the range. Someone, after all, had to climb on an unbroken horse and convince him – against all evidence to the contrary – that a saddle was a good idea. But with every pitch and yaw, every diving buck and dropkick, that image fades further in the rearview mirror. The goal is to hang on for eight seconds, one-handed, on a horse specially bred for its ability to buck. In short, hell on hooves: A lit fuse of quick-twitch muscle wired to dispose of human riders by jackhammering them into the ground or, if it’s an exceptionally good day, launching them skyward like a bottle rocket. On the first jump out of the chute, the rider must ‘mark the horse out’ or be disqualified, meaning the heels of their boots must contact the horse above the point of the shoulders before the front legs hit the ground. Success requires strength to be sure, but the event also demands rhythm, balance and precise timing. Both the horse and rider are scored. Riders are awarded points for spurring action, control, timing and position. For the bronc, it’s a simple proposition: The tougher the ride, the higher the score. Bareback riders have a rigging to hold onto – saddle bronc riders have a saddle, goes without saying, and a thick rope – but in either case it’s a bit like having a great white shark hooked to a bamboo kiddie pole. Let’s put it this way: There are enough irregularly scheduled injuries to consider having an orthopedic surgeon on speed dial. Bareback bronc riding began to develop as a professional rodeo sport around 1900, and since the early days it has always been thus. Ride. Rewire. Repeat. As the sun sputters and the bleacher lights rise, pause to consider this most American of pursuits, a take-no-prisoners sideways bucking remnant of the frontier past. There are no superstar salaries, but there is enough glory on horseback to make the words of that old Western sage, John Wayne, ring true: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” Bronc rider at the Attica rodeo by Michael Davis
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happyTRAILS Adirondack dude ranches whisked city slickers far from the madding crowd
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By Katie Navarra
n the small Adirondack town of Hadley, residents crowded the streets in early 1951. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of a special rail delivery: a train car carrying 30 wild horses from Montana. Don “Wild Horse” Baxter had spent the winter out west with his new wife, Janie. He’d convinced his father-in-law that their Painted Pony Dude Ranch wasn’t complete without guided trail rides and weekly rodeos. Now he was back. Classes at the local school were released so students could watch the parade; businesses took a break for the momentous occasion. As the horses stepped out of the train, Baxter and a handful of wranglers were waiting, ready to drive the band of mustangs five miles north along Route 9N. “They hadn’t been handled; they were just wild as wild could be. I got a few of them broke out in Montana and they were nice horses, so I got a train car and shipped them east,” Baxter, now 93, tells the story. “I had just turned 21, so it was quite a big deal for me.” Baxter is credited with being the first – and the only – to bring horses into the Adirondacks by railcar, but he was far from the original cowboy in the region. By the time Baxter’s horses arrived, the Adirondack Mountain dude ranch culture was flourishing. The first opened in the 1920s and, at the industry’s peak, there were almost 40 dude ranches and nearly 19 “Horses for Hire” stables in the area. “The area has a deep local Western heritage that was once widely known,” said Pam Morin, Lake Luzerne town historian, who has a collection of memorabilia with pieces dating back some 100 years. Two men are credited with promoting the mountains as a destination for western-themed vacations: Ed Carstens and Earl Woodward, neither of them with a drop of cowpoke DNA.
Photo courtesy of Ridin-Hy Ranch
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Woodward helped reinvent Adirondack tourism in the 1920s after growing dissatisfied with his fortunes in Forest, Ohio. His farm wasn’t performing well, and his teaching position paid poorly.
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“Legend claims that he took a pin, circled it over a map a few times and struck the map randomly. The pin landed on Stony Creek, New York, so Earl traveled there and liked the area,” according to a dude ranch history compiled by Bea Evens, the former Lake Luzerne historian. Woodward purchased his first 222 acres in 1920, and another 1,400 acres in 1928. For the first few years he rented rustic cabins to sportsmen and operated a resort on a more traditional model. Then, between 1928 and 1930, he created a vacation home development and built the Northwoods Dude Ranch at its heart. Success led to Woodward’s second venture, Hidden Valley Dude Ranch, and soon the area was bursting with western-themed getaways. Among the entrepreneurs who heard cash in the jingle of spurs was Carstens, the son of German immigrants. Carstens was born and raised in New York City, but loved the Adirondacks and believed a combination of horse and water activities would be successful. He was right. In 1940, he purchased a former girl’s camp in Warrensburg and transformed it into a rustic getaway called Ridin-Hy Ranch Resort. He started with 12 cabins at a rate of $27 per week and coined the phrase “Romance at the Ranch” to lure vacationers north. Three generations later, Ridin-Hy is still open and still in the family.
Photo by Michael Davis
Offering the promise of finding â€˜romance at the ranch,â€™ the area was marketed to single women as an opportunity to meet a real life cowboy and find love
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“Offering the promise of finding ‘romance at the ranch,’ the area was marketed to single women as an opportunity to meet a real life cowboy and find love,” said Morin, who collects and preserves oral histories from cowboys, cowgirls, wranglers and others who were involved in working the ranches. Her daughter, Shana, and son-in-law Shawn Graham operate the Painted Pony Rodeo, the same business Baxter stocked with horses in the 1950s. At its peak, the streets were overflowing with out-of-town guests. Morin recalls driving down Route 9N and seeing people sleeping in their cars because all the resort rooms were full. But by the 1970s and 80s, the dude ranch industry in New York was in decline. The Great Escape Amusement Park had opened in 1954, promising thrilling roller coasters instead of scenic horseback rides. And in 1962, Interstate 87 allowed drivers to bypass Route 9N, the congested two-lane highway running through the heart of cowboy country. To bolster the region’s popularity as a western destination, rising country singer Roy Stevens established the Big Hat Country Dude Ranch Trail and posted bright yellow signs with 10-gallon hats to mark its route. In 1984, Governor Mario Cuomo named Big Hat one of New York’s Heritage Trails, a 40-mile meander through Lake Luzerne, Hadley, Stony Creek and Warrensburg. At the time, the area proclaimed it had the greatest concentration of dude ranches anywhere in the country. Today, of the dozens of dude ranches that once beckoned would-be buckaroos to the Adirondacks, only a handful remain including Ridin-Hy; 1000 Acres Ranch Resort (founded in 1942 and once known as the “Cadillac of Ranches”); Painted Pony Ranch; and Roaring Brook Ranch Resort. Six stables still offer tourists the chance to rent a horse by the hour and go for a ride, but the Big Hat Country Dude Ranch Trail is becoming overgrown and fading into memory. Legally, it’s still open, although private landowners don’t maintain the trails as they once did.
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But on any given summer Saturday night there are seven different rodeos held within a 300-mile radius, and every year Morin organizes a “Ranches, Rodeos and Wranglers Reunion” on the fourth Saturday in July – the National Day of the Cowboy. A century ago, a newly mobile middle class came north to replace concrete canyons with wide open spaces. Dudes of every stripe still seek the escape only an easy gallop can provide. “Many of our guests have been coming for 20 and 30 years so when we see them coming through the door it’s like an extension of our own family,” said Carrie Beadnall of Ridin-Hy. Together with husband Troy and his brother Tim and wife Carrie, they run the 700-acre ranch where visitors can still ride the trails and enjoy the weekly Monday night rodeo. “It’s a big responsibility carrying on the tradition, but it is heartwarming to know that we are a part of that legacy.”
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A Fit of Pique (Nique) WHAT GOES TOGETHER LIKE HORSE AND CARRIAGE — OTHER THAN LOVE AND MARRIAGE? THE ORIGINAL EQUINISTA FINDS OUT
Story by L.A. Sokolowski Photos by Bruce Jones
ummer is nature’s way of saying let’s party, and what better way to celebrate than to practice the art of enjoying an elegant meal outdoors. The word picnic first appeared in English – from the French pique-nique – in a 1748 letter from British statesman Lord Chesterfield, who associated it with card-playing, drinking, and conversation.
No wonder a passion for picnicking among Empire State equestrians has never waned. For nearly half a century, the Walnut Hill Farm Driving Competition in Pittsford featured a Picnic Class. Its in-gate closed for the last time in 2018 but, in 2019, the Lorenzo Driving Competition in Cazenovia picked up the reins, debuting its own Picnic Class and continuing an appreciation for fine horses, good food, and the great outdoors. According to the American Driving Society, a Picnic Class is judged in two sections, Performance (25%) and Staging (75%): “A picnic appropriate to the turnout and number of participants must be carried on the vehicle. All picnic participants must be on the carriage during the ring section of the class and be presented in the staging section.” Performance is judged on manners, way of going in the ring at a walk, slow and working trot, and overall impression. Then the horses are unhitched and taken back to the stable, while competitors set up a posh meal on tables arranged around the main show ring. It’s an elegant nod to a bygone era and, as one might imagine, more fine china and silver and less plastic forks and paper plates.
“I thought it would be a blast to try it,” said New York State Horse Council past president, Marsha Himler, recalling entering her first picnic class while visiting friends in Florida in the 1980s. “I was invited to spend the holidays and compete in the carriage show ... I was just doing it for fun.” Driving her friend’s horse and four-wheeled phaeton carriage, she proceeded to “decorate the seat of the carriage with a huge wicker basket including a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, a jar of olives, and a pitcher with two glasses. I had vodka martinis waiting for the judges.” Lucky judges. And much to her, but perhaps no one else’s surprise, “I got first place.” For Jillian Stroh of Mountain Thyme Training in Eaton, winning Lorenzo’s first Picnic Class didn’t require convivial lubrication so much as teamwork and a nod to her Scottish heritage. “I started driving in 2003, after taking riding lessons for three years. I have a few rare diseases, Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder and Scheuermann’s Kyphosis. I had months at a time where I couldn’t ride because I was recovering from knee surgeries but missed the horses so much. My instructor suggested driving and I never looked back.”
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Stroh began competing at Lorenzo 16 years ago, and when she learned about the new class, she was all in: “I always wanted to compete in a picnic class but not many shows offer it. Sometimes it’s only open to specific carriages. I drive my Haflinger gelding, Nolan, to a road cart.” Nolan, her teammate for more than a decade, “was pivotal in our win because he helped tie in the country theme with a beautiful but steady horse you could take on a nice drive. He’s consistent and calm, but still brings energy and impulsion to the ring.” Her parents take credit as the inspiration for her winning Scottish theme: “My father was born in Scotland, and my mother has Scot blood, so we were raised to embrace our heritage. “... Our Gemmell family tartan was the tablecloth, and we drew inspiration from it for the flowers, place settings, etc. We wanted a rustic theme and provided a plethora of traditional Scottish cuisine, with baskets woven locally by an Amish family.” It was a plethora, but since when has any good hostess let someone leave the table hungry? “Our picnic included – and I admit we went a bit overboard – smoked salmon with toast points, haggis with mashed potatoes and beet purée, baked brie
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with heather honey and fruit, shortbread, Empire Biscuits (my favorite), jelly babies and breads, and Irn Bru Scottish soda and Scotch whisky to drink.” In a picnic class, the great pleasure is in camaraderie over competition. “When I was able to ‘size up’ the competition, I was so impressed by my fellow drivers that I said to my mom, ‘Well, at least we’ll get a ribbon!’ After seeing the other drivers, I never expected to win,” Stroh said. “All the carriages were classic, pristine, four wheels; we were the only two-wheeled cart. Despite hot and muggy temperatures, all the horses were beautiful, and each driver/passenger appropriately dressed for their style of turnout.” Stroh’s tips for a picnic to remember start with coming up with a theme and working from there: “Sticking with tradition and appropriateness are important, but it’s also important to make it a picnic you’d want to attend!” she said. “Rehearse setting up your picnic, preferably with your passenger, and make a plan ... Have someone who can take your horse back after you unhook, as your carriage stays at the picnic staging area. Having a pit crew can make the experience easier for everyone.”
A PLEASURE DRIVING PICNIC THAT’S RIGHT IN OUR WHEELHOUSE We’ll pass on the haggis, and the jury’s still out on men in skirts, but Jillian Stroh’s winning Scottish picnic is more than a wee bit of all right. Recreate it with these ideas, including Jillian’s own recipe for her favorite cookies. BAKED BRIE WITH HONEY AND ALMONDS
JILLIAN’S TRADITIONAL EMPIRE BISCUITS
BROWN SUGAR SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD
1 (8 ounce) round Brie cheese ¼ cup honey ½ cup chopped, roasted, salted almonds
2 cups butter, softened 1 cup white sugar 4 cups flour 1 cup raspberry preserves 12 Maraschino cherries, halved 8 cups confectioners’ sugar ½ cup milk
2 cups salted butter, softened 1 cup packed brown sugar 4 to 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place Brie on a parchment lined sheet and bake 7-10 minutes or until softened but not melting. While the cheese is baking, warm honey in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in chopped almonds. Spoon honey mixture over the Brie and serve immediately with a sliced baguette or crackers. Optional: Add a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme to infuse the honey. SMOKED SALMON SPREAD Half-pound smoked salmon, trimmings are fine 4 ounces cream cheese Juice of ½ lemon, about 1 Tablespoon 1 teaspoon horseradish 2 Tablespoons chopped chives In a food processor, pulse together the salmon, cream cheese, lemon juice, and horseradish until chunky but combined. Remove to a bowl and stir in chives. Serve with toast points or crackers.
Combine butter, white sugar, and flour. Roll dough 1/4-inch thick onto lightly floured surface; cut with a round cookie cutter and place on a nonstick cookie sheet or silicone mat. Place in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 6-7 minutes until golden brown; allow to cool. Spread jam onto one cookie, and then top with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Mix confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth to make Royal Icing. Spread Royal Icing on top cookie sandwich (ok if drips over the sides). Top each cookie with halved Maraschino cherry. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.
Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add 3 ¾ cups flour; mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead for 5 minutes, adding enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Roll to 1/2-in. thickness. Cut into 3x1-in. strips. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Prick all over with a fork. Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Tip: There are only three ingredients, so quality counts. Be sure to use salted butter to bump up the flavor and use the best butter you can. THE HIGHLAND SHEEP (No driving while intoxicated! Save this recipe, adapted from Town & Country magazine, for after the competition) 2 ounces Scotch 1 teaspoon honey 1 teaspoon lime juice One-quarter cup unfiltered apple juice Ginger beer Combine whisky, honey, lime and apple juice. Give a quick stir. Add ice and top with ginger beer. Garnish with an apple fan and cinnamon stick. NYHorseMag.com | 59
MASTER CLASS: HUNTER DERBY
One secret to success: ‘If you’re not sure about your eye and your distance, the answer is rhythm’
arly morning, the dew is on the grass and the horses are confused. They are outside, OK, but not in a ring. And there is grass, and hills – small ones, but they still go up and down – and there are big, solid obstacles they are expected to jump. Barrels. Logs. Coops. Even a casual spectator can see them nearly clutching their chest with their hooves. As for the riders, well, the clinician has a few bracing words for them. “It’s a shock to hunter people, but horses have been going up and down hills for millennium,” Barbara Lindberg says. “It can be done.” And indeed, by the time Lindberg has finished introducing them to the basic technique of navigating a derby course, both horse and rider are taking the how and what in stride. The U.S. Hunter Jumper Association introduced the hunter derby a decade ago, as a way to bring more athleticism and bravery into the show ring. It gives those who compete in traditional hunter classes a chance to jump the type of natural obstacles – with terrain changes and height options – found in eventing or fox hunting. “It’s not just going down a line, then another line, until the judge goes to sleep,” said Lindberg, a local hunter judge, Joint Master of Limestone Creek Hunt, and director of the Cazenovia College Equine Business Management program. “It’s getting horses back to grass; getting hunters to realize they can jump solid fences and not every fence has a flower box under it. “…In the beginning, over outside courses on grass, the jumps were always big and solid. There were no classes under three feet unless you were riding ponies. Basically, you learned to jump three feet when you showed, or you didn’t show.” While the derby course recalls that tradition with more difficult elements than a modern hunter class, it’s ridden, Lindberg said, with time-honored “style and grace. It’s not like the jumpers where you just get it done.” Most derbies are a two-round competition: The
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first round is closer to the classic hunter course, but longer and with elements such as bending lines and fences with long approaches. Components of the second, or handy round, include tight turns and rollbacks to demonstrate the horse’s rideability. In both rounds, there are options for higher fences to earn bonus points. Essentials in hand? Good. Lindberg offers these strategies for a successful round: Be decisive. “Horses can really hold only one thing in their minds at a time. Make sure that you’re the one who puts that one thing there. If you wait for them to decide, it’s too late.” Keep the beat. “It’s about rhythm; everything starts there. Get in a rhythm and stay there all the way – one- two, one-two – don’t let that change. After that, you can get into the niceties of distance, whether you can make the turn better. But that’s where it all starts. If you’re not sure about your eye and your distance, the answer is rhythm.” Pace yourself. “It’s not speed that gets us over the jump, it’s thrust. Be disciplined at the canter. When a horse speeds up to the jump, they’re trying to get out of the work of thrust.” Be constant. “Your object is to stay straight and balanced and true to your leg.” Ride strong. “Horses have been galloping on grass forever, but we’ve all forgotten how to do it. Going uphill you’ve got to remind the horse to keep pushing – power. On the downhill, you need to remind them their balance stays on their hocks. You might need a half halt. They’re not allowed to let gravity pull them down the little hill.” Stay in touch. “Shorten your reins. This isn’t a pleasure class.” Think it through to the end. “It’s not enough to just get over the jump. It’s about getting to the jump, going over the jump and riding after the jump. You want to think about how you approach the jump and staying straight after the jump. You can’t get over the jump and drop it … It’s not over until the fat horse sings.”
Photo at the Derby at Genesee Country Village by Emily Riden
ONE MORE THING Choose a riding program to point that horse-crazy kid toward a bright future
photo of a small boy hopping over a pint-sized fence at the Millbrook Horse Trials reminded us of the joy of discovering horses. Riding offers a child the opportunity to build self-esteem along with balance, coordination and strength. To find the right lesson program, start with the qualifications of the instructor and the standard set by the barn, says Ray Whelihan, associate professor in the equine program at SUNY Cobleskill. “The instructor and the technical skill of the instructor is key,” Whelihan says. “How do they present themselves? How a person dresses, their professional demeanor, is important.” Then, he says, take time to observe the facility and the way it operates. Watch a riding lesson to see how the instructors interact with students.
At the top of the list, see if safety is a priority. Helmets are an obvious point on any safety checklist; make sure that all kids are wearing them whenever they are around a horse, not just when they are riding. Other things to look for: How does the instructor speak to the students? Is the instructor’s full attention given to the lesson? Is the instructor on a cell phone at any time? Is the arena large enough for the student(s) in the lesson? Are different levels of horses available to students? “The suitability of the horse is important,” Whelihan says. Especially for beginners, a well-trained and wellbehaved lesson horse is necessary to provide a controllable, safe ride.
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“All our yesterdays are summarized in our now, and all the tomorrows are ours to shape.”
— HAL BORLAND
Ashado, a Hall of Fame mare owned by Godolphin, delivered a filly by Frosted as part of the National Museum of Racing’s Foal Patrol. This is the third year the museum, in Saratoga Springs, has offered the chance to peek at foaling season through a network of live webcams. PHOTO COURTESY OF GAINSBOROUGH FARM
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In this issue: Extreme Equestrians; New York's cowboy heritage; Hollywood on Hudson's horse wrangler to the stars; and a master class in hun...
Published on Jun 9, 2020
In this issue: Extreme Equestrians; New York's cowboy heritage; Hollywood on Hudson's horse wrangler to the stars; and a master class in hun...