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Wales Tale 


How to get taken

for a really good ride  


by Catherine R. Macaulay


I’d come seeking refuge from my hectic, urban lifestyle. I wanted to ratchet back, disconnect, hack out across the Welsh countryside, far removed from today’s existential epidemic of me, myself and I. Following a cramped, six-hour flight from Washington-D.C. to London, I met up with my riding companion at Heathrow Airport, both of us having coordinated our arrival times in advance.

Tossing our bags into a rental car, we were headed toward a trail outfitter in Mid Wales aptly named Freerein. Its self-guided tours enable riders to negotiate terrain the old fashioned way—by reading the lay of the land. No satellite-based GPS systems to direct us over the hills, no markers to keep us on course. We’d be riding completely on our own, equipped with a printout of directions. 

Having poured over Freerein’s candy-box assortment of trail packages months earlier, my riding partner and I had settled on a two-day trek across the Begwyns, a length of countryside with scenic, open terrain. Smooth and easy was my new mantra ever since I’d thrown out my back shoveling mulch. My companion was in even worse shape, having torn her rotator cuff from a fall off a horse. On the positive side, I’d requested a pair of push-button mounts when filling out Freerein’s pre-ride questionnaire. Level-headed and experienced—that was key.

Following a three-hour drive west from London, we arrive at Freerein’s base of operation near Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh river village that, at present, was overflowing with bibliophiles attending the annual Hay Festival of Literature & Arts. Contenting ourselves with a tidy lodging nearby, we fall asleep in a centuries old B&B, awaking the next morning ready for our trek, slightly apprehensive as to what the day might bring.

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Following your trek at Freerein, continue to explore the Welsh countryside via a different type of horsepower.


VHC's Guide to Exploring the Welsh Mid and Southlands


Attend top-rated horse shows, enjoy county fairs, visit Welsh Pony & Cob stud farms, descend into the mineshaft where Pit Ponies once hauled coal. Prepare to be amazed at the way Welsh horses are woven into some of the most storied and sublime landscapes in all the British Isles.


Go ahead, fall under the spell of this lyrical “land of song”. Enjoy the Welsh Mid and Southlands, equestrian style. Whether it’s jousting, jumping, driving, ploughing, racing on the flat or racing point-to-point, their calendar of equestrian events reflects a heritage spawned by the Welsh Mountain Pony and by a people born to prevail. Ladies and gents, start your engines.


To Serve and To Protect

                                                                                                                                    by Catherine Macaulay


With the recent retirement of New York Central Park’s last mounted patrol officer and his horse Trooper, the park’s bridle paths are virtually horseless for the first time since the late 1800s--their vast network given over to strollers, joggers and cyclists. 


While Central Park’s Enforcement Patrol has breathed its last, the New York Police Department’s Mounted Unit remains intact, however. Established in 1858, the 55-horse team is stabled in a new, $30 million facility located on Manhattan’s west side. The horses draw attention wherever they go—goodwill ambassadors one moment, a counter-terrorism detail another, always on call for protests, parades, concerts and street fairs.


It takes a special kind of horse to stand in a crowd of demonstrators, to remain rock solid with sirens blaring. It’s dangerous work, even with riot gear protecting their faces and legs. Rallies can turn ugly, shouts and screaming voices threaten from every direction. Last year, in Philadelphia, an Eagles fan was arrested for punching mounted police horses and officers.


Given the current blast of technologies, patrolling on horseback might seem a low tech if not somewhat obsolete method of law enforcement. Faced with budget cuts, cities like San Diego and Boston have disbanded their mounted units. Other municipalities have downsized. Yet, the numbers of officers still enforcing the law on horseback reflect their demonstrable value to police departments everywhere, if only as a public relations tool. There is something about a horse that’s approachable. Seeing a policeman or woman patrolling the streets astride a well-turned out mount is symbolic of the constable as peace keeper.

Today, there are mounted patrols in 40 states with Florida operating fully 18 units, California 13, Ohio 12, Michigan, 11 and New York 8. 

                                                     Virginia has 5 Mounted Patrol Units in existence:


                                                      Richmond, (est. 1894), with 4 horses & 4 officers

                                                 Virginia Beach, (est. 1985), with 11 horses & 10 officers

                                              Prince William County, (est. 2006), with 4 horses & 5 officers

                                                    Spotsylvania, (est. 2015), with 2 horses & 2 deputies

                                                     Portsmouth, (est. 1985), with 4 horses & 4 officers*

It’s not all smooth sailing. Some mounted units are being partially funded by related non-profit groups. Others, such as Spotsylvania, rely on deputies owning and boarding their own horses.


According to a report on the UK mounted police, the annual cost of operating equestrian units ranges between 14 to 25 percent more than for other support officers, or “about equivalent to the cost of keeping a horse.” However, the findings also reported “good value for the money,” given that on average, police horses provide 15 years of service, are highly mobile and generate a positive image for the department.

When interviewed, mounted officers unsurprisingly expressed the same sentiment. “Horses are like an ATV,” said Sgt. Jeremy Nierman, supervisor of Richmond’s mounted unit in an interview with last year. “We cover an amazing amount of ground and can go places that an officer in a car or on a bike can’t…the horses tell us when something’s not right…lift its head, turn in the direction of what it’s sensing and prick its ears forward.”

Given the emergence of drones and an arsenal of surveillance technologies, it’s unclear what the future holds for the mounted police. But one thing is certain. These brave four-legged troopers will keep doing their job in towns and cities across the world, serving in their own unique way, be it on patrol or incident control, and generating goodwill between the police force and the public—a great value on any given day.

Thank you for your service.


* News shared in this feature was researched from articles in, the New York Times, The Telegraph (UK), Wikipedia and a report entitled “Making and Breaking Barriers: Assessing the Value of the Police Units in the UK,” by Chris Giacomantonio, Ben Bradford, Matthew Davies and Richard Martin, RAND Corporation and University of Oxford, Santa Monica, CA and Cambridge, UK, 2015. Pgs. 119 & 140.

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Begin 2021 With the Stride of a Winner

It’s a new year. Time to don those racing shoes and hit the ground running. Whatever your goals might be in 2021, take your cue from some equine greats who ran their races with the stride of a winner. Photo Credit:


Considered the workhorse of the zodiac, the Capricorn equine is well-suited for both competition and sport. These animals love having a job and enjoy putting their all into excelling at whatever they undertake. Proud and determined, competitive by nature, they are solid performers in the show arena. Equines born under this astrological sign (between December 21 to January 20), are compatible with ambitious equestrian partners. However, an ever-loyal Taurus can make the most of their level-headed personalities as can a practical Virgo. One of the best matches for the Capricorn horse is the goal-oriented, ever-enigmatic Scorpio who can lift them from their fixed, more serious side. 

Happy Birthday Capricorns.

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Winter is here. It’s time to winterize and switch to rear wheel drive.


  Local Hero    by Catherine Macaulay 


He went by the names Burt, Buddy and Bo, depending upon how close you were to him and how far south of the Mason-Dixon line you lived. The world knew him as Burt Reynolds, a top ten Hollywood box office draw from 1973 to 1984. 


To me, he was my future husband, though he hadn’t a clue of my aspirations given that we had yet to meet. Still, I had hopes of riding off into the sunset with my handsome leading man. But then, I’d thought the same thing about Prince Charles.

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North Carolina’s wild herd of horses on the Outer Banks weathered Hurricane Florence just fine, even the new foal.

Riding Out the Storm

By Catherine Macaulay


Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park stepped forward during Hurricane Florence to helped care for nine horses arriving from coastal Virginia and North Carolina, just ahead of the approaching storm.


Vanning across heavily congested highways, owners arrived at the 150-stall facility in Herndon, Virginia, which is designated an emergency Virginia Equine Evacuation Site. There they were met by volunteers who helped care for their displaced animals.


Frying Pan Farm Park not only offered up its boarding facilities at no cost, but also partnered with Visit Fairfax, a non-profit, tourism organization, to provide food and lodging for the horses’ owners. The evacuation effort was further aided by the Virginia Department of Agriculture, which waived the vet inspection certificate normally required to transport a horse across state lines, provided owners could show a negative Coggins test during the past year.


The projected high winds and floodwaters brought Good Samaritans out from everywhere. They appeared on social media, tweeting free stabling opportunities. Others posted their available stalls and fields on Facebook. Jenny Fudge, owner of, delved into her nationwide database of horse boarding facilities and assembled a listing of some 300 barns willing to open their doors to evacuated horses.


“It’s crazy times right now, and we’re trying to offer an organized solution,” said Fudge to The Atlanta Journal Constitution in an interview. “Most horses live in a pasture all day and every day. Then an evacuation hits. It’s a big deal. These are their babies.”


While the full impact of Hurricane Florence on horses has yet to be assessed, other livestock in the southern flatlands were hard hit. According to North Carolina state officials, roughly 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 hogs were killed as rising rivers surged into the buildings where animals were being raised for market.


Livestock and companion animals were added to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) disaster and evacuation plans following the 2001 agreement between it and the Humane Society of the United States. However it remains to state and local agencies to manage a storm top to bottom within their affected areas. The overwhelming logistics of implementing any search and rescue operation broad enough in scope to encompass all those under siege has left some coastal towns with limited economic resources vulnerable to catastrophic loss and increased financial burdens.


Who To Contact to Help Out


US Equestrian provides financial assistance to horses stricken from natural disasters through its USEF Equine Disaster Relief Fund. Since its inception in 2005, it has donated more than $370,000 to emergency response groups and organizations, as well as to horses of all breeds and their owners. To support the equine victims of Hurricane Florence, give online at

For more information on the USEF Equine Disaster Relief Fund, contact Vicki Lowell,


The AAEP Foundation Equine Disaster Relief Fund also works to ensure the safety and care of horses affected by natural disasters. Since its inception in 2005, the charitable arm of the American Association of Equine Practitioners has donated more than $500,000 to aid horses of all breeds in disaster-related situations. The foundation also sponsors disaster preparedness training and education for horse owners, veterinarians and first responders. Gifts by mail may be sent to: Equine Disaster Relief Fund, AAEP Foundation, 4033 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511; (800) 443-0177 (U.S. only) or (859) 233-0147, or by giving online at


For further reading on the subject, try Horses of the Storm: The Incredible Rescue of Katrina's Horses of the Storm, by Ky Evan Mortensen, 2008, available in paperback on Amazon.


Editor's Note: North Carolina’s wild herd of horses on the Outer Banks weathered out the storm, even the new foal. According to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (CWHF), it appears as though the descendants of the Spanish Mustangs, first brought over by Spain’s explorers in the 16th Century, will continue to roam the Outer Banks. 


Sources for this article came from The Charlotte Observer, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, FEMA: Animals In Disaster, Fairfax County Park Authority, the AAEP Foundation, and

This Christmas, I Wish You Teddy Love

by Catherine Macaulay​                    ESSAY

Weeks go by without me thinking of Teddy and then a gray ghost of a day will settle over my thoughts and that old longing will come back to haunt me. I suspect that’s the way it runs with feelings of bereavement. Sooner or later, the grieving begins to evaporate under the drying agent of time and what you thought would last forever starts to dissipate, except for those days when memories stab at you fresh.


Teddy and I were devoted to one another for good reason. I was his meal ticket and he’d managed to wedge himself into my heart like some old shoe—worn in just the right spots. Aptly named Teddy Bear by his previous keeper, the comparison to the iconic plushy toy became apparent the moment I saw him. Likely a Maine Coon cat, he had round, expressive eyes that were patently endearing.  But there was something else, a certain largess of spirit, a genuine joie de vivre, his curiosity of the woods he roamed ever in bloom.

Cared for by a neighbor, he’d been neutered, fed and given shelter in her garage, along with a dozen other feral cats. Aware that Teddy was an exceptional individual, the woman had understandably tried to make him her indoor forever cat. But he’d flatly refused the gesture, preferring to wander the woodlands between our homes, curbing his freedom for a bit of food and lodging every now and then.

That all changed the moment he spotted me weeding between the hostas. 

Teddy waiting to be invited in.

Holiday wreaths made of carrots or peppermints lend a savory note of festivity to any barn. But seriously, what does any self-respecting horse really want for Christmas save a lush field, a blanket that breathes, a bit that fits and perhaps, a saddle that doesn’t pinch?  

In a word—treats. It matters not its size, shape or wrapping, taste is the thing. Read the comments below by some of those in the know.

Hunter Shirley, Virginia
I had a horse, Sandy, who loved Kit Kat bars. When he saw that red little wrapper and heard it crinkle he would whip his head around and literally attack me trying to get at the Kit Kat bar. He was a total garbage gut. Always in your pockets and was willing to try whatever you were eating or drinking. He drank several of my mochas. Naughty pony!

Roseanne Lafferty, Virginia
Cinnamon rolls from Harris Teeter. He'll crawl into your lap for them!

Laura Poff, Colorado
Peppermint puffs. They are softer than hard peppermints.

Patti Hallock, Colorado
My horse LOVES candy canes. Apparently, they are just the right combination of sugar and mint. Being the well-trained owner that I am, each year I dutifully go to the local drug store the day after Christmas and fill a shopping cart full. This ensures that I have enough for the year. He also enjoys savoring his canes by crunching them, letting them sit on his tongue, and then sucking on them until they disappear. His ears flop, his eyes shut and he tunes everything around him out for what we all call "Peppermint Nirvana."

Ellen Gregory, Mississippi
Stud Muffin Horse Treats. They are like horse crack!

Diana Kocunik, Illinois
My horses all have different favorites. My mare Annabelle's favorite treat is a Guinness Stout. In the summer, the favorite treat of my 34-year-old gelding Fiddle, and my 18-year-old gelding Storm is a pig pop. To make a pig pop, you take a freezable container and fill it with apples, carrots, bananas, grapes and peppermints (or whatever your horse prefers) and then top it with water, juice or Gatorade, leaving enough room for freezing without overflow. You freeze it until solid (normally overnight) and then dump it in a feed trough and let them go to town. It works as enrichment and as a cool treat.

Debby Moore Sween, Washington
Hands down...Nature Valley Oats ?N Honey crunchy granola bars...they LOVE them!

Jessica Kuchtenko, Florida
Where I work in the summer is a kid's summer horse camp. Each week's group makes treats for the horses and ponies they ride and the horses absolutely LOVE them! It is pretty fun because we chop up carrots and apples, put it with granola and some grain, then scoop it into ice cream cones before going out to the pastures to feed all the horses and ponies. The kids love it, I love it, and the horses probably think of it as their favorite part of each week!

                                                                                            Source: Practical Horseman magazine






          Oh, by gosh, by golly

   It's time for mistletoe and holly.


While spreading cheer to your equine friends, don’t forget to treat yourself to a little something under the tree. Below, are some ideas for self-indulgence, equestrian style.

A Horse of a Different Color

This 3D-Illusion LED lamp can shape light into the image of a horse head, creating an optical illusion of depth. What’s more, it changes color fully seven times. Eco-friendly, and low energy consumption, it’s great for children and for the child within us all. Available for $13.99 at Amazon Prime.


Nowhere does nostalgia hold sway over people’s emotions than it does during the holidays, and no one parlays that sentiment into market value quite like the drivers of retail. 

Toy manufacturers in particular are infusing the reassuring familiarity of yesteryear with a fresh new twist. For example: Mattel’s Hot Wheels, once so popular in the ‘60s, is roaring back under the tree with its 50-car pack; Hasbro is banking on a Nerf gun comeback; and the classic, 3D-action-adventure platformer game Super Mario 64 is exceeding all expectations, becoming one of the hottest selling video games of the season.

What’s an equestrian to do?    

Fear not, Horse-Opoly is here and appears to be a genuine chip off the old Monopoly block. When once we rolled the dice and took our chances buying and selling real estate, building houses and hotels on Park Avenue, today, we’ve only to put our saddle token on the board to renew our quest of becoming the richest player in town. Land on ‘get bucked’ and you lose; collect $200 when you pass GIDDYUP. Try not to get stuck paying the farrier. Using horses, barns and stables as currency, Horse-Opoly manages to slip in some fun facts about Shetland ponies, Percherons and Friesians and others, giving the game an educational twist. 

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells, Jingle all the way

Made of solid brass hardware, this jingle bell lead shank is printed on a polyester braid, then sewn onto 2 and 3 layers of accenting nylon. From: Red Haute Horse Equine Fashion. Price:  $27.99 (Made in the U.S.)
Available at:

MAVERICK: For the Person Who Has Everything

For the person who has everything—here’s Maverick, a Missouri Foxtrotter in need of a home. According to his bio, provided by the Middleburg Humane Foundation, this lovely paint, a former trail horse, is “a follower but definitely holds his own.” 

To help keep Maverick from having a blue Christmas contact Frank Bartol at


Day Tripper

Call time out from the hardscrabble politics of late and take a day trip to Mount Vernon, the home of our first president. Reconnect with your American roots, stroll the peaceful riverfront plantation that once belonged to George Washington. Tour his 16-sided treading track where he trotted his horses over wheat brought in from the fields, see how an equine’s pummeling footsteps could separate the valuable seeds from their hulls. Visit the General’s blacksmith shop, visit his tomb, his gristmill, the dock, see his tack, his saddle racks, his carriage and stable where he kept Old Nelson and Blueskin, his beloved war horses who carried him through the revolution, cannons roaring in their ears. 


To the left is Old Nelson, Washington’s favorite. Considered bomb proof, the 16-hand chestnut was a “splendid charger” according to observers, who would "run, neighing, to the fence, proud to be caressed by the great master's hands" whenever he visited him in the field at his plantation, according to Mary Thompson, research historian, Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.
Enjoy a meal at Mount Vernon’s atmospheric, period restaurant. The Inn is open every day of the year, including Christmas and New Year. Raise a glass to the man who helped frame this land in greatness, back when a diverse American citizenry held to the common ideology of a republic governed entirely by the tenets of freedom. 

The plantation, situated along the banks of the Potomac River, is located at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon, Va., in Alexandria. Leashed dogs are welcomed on the property. Washington loved animals. Do check the website for guidelines.

For those unable to visit the plantation, an interesting and thorough virtual tour is available for free at:

The Richmond Mounted Squad

They're the oldest police unit of its kind in the Old Dominion. Of all the holiday events now assuming their place across the Virginia stage, it is perhaps the Blessing of the Horses I most appreciate. Continuing a tradition that began in Boston a century ago, multitudes of people have once again gathered in Richmond’s fountain square to publicly acknowledge their debt to those who faithfully serve our material and emotional needs. Be they police horses, other work horses, pleasure horses, search and rescue dogs, companion animals in nursing homes or our own personal, devoted pets, they are the gifts who keep on giving.  

I am grateful to the Friends of the Richmond Mounted Squad for giving us just cause to assemble each December and show our gratitude to the source of so much comfort and joy.

            Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 

                                          - Catherine Macaulay

Don’t Let Your Trees Be Victims of the Mulch Volcano

Most farm owners know the basics of horse manure management and composting. But when it comes to mulching, some of us lay it on a bit too thick. It’s called the “volcano” effect and it can cause some troublesome side effects for your trees.


We’ve all seen them—those long-suffering trees with their trunks mulched halfway up to their lower boughs. It’s much like seeing an over blanketed horse sweltering under a full body suit of protective clothing.


In our desire to shield tree roots and shrubs from savage heat and winter freezes, we can pile it on too thickly, creating the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve—harming rather than helping a tree’s natural systems. By trapping too much moisture around the base of the tree, bacteria and fungus are given an ideal medium to grow. Furthermore, a thick layer of mulch can draw in insects looking for shelter.


In order to not overdo your mulching this fall, the Virginia Cooperative Extension offers a few tips:


  • Place one inch of compost around trees and shrubs. Cover with a mulch of shredded pine needles, straw, bark chips, or leaves two to three inches deep. The humic acid from the compost and decomposing mulch will penetrate the soil and change its structure. This help retain moisture, aerates the soil and improves its fertility.

  • Pull the mulch several inches away from around the base of the tree, forming it into the shape of a doughnut. This prevents wet mulch from touching the trunk. Mulch a diameter of four to five feet around the tree’s base, extending to its drip line.


In short, don’t smother or skimp when mulching your landscape. Give everyone the help they need to survive the winter, but do allow them to breathe.


For questions or for more information, contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension at 703-777-0373,

Miohippus (meaning "small horse") was a genus of prehistoric horse existing longer than most Equidae.  Miohippus species are commonly referred to as the three-toed horses.

Less is More When it Comes to the Horse

An article recently appeared in Britain’s Royal Society B magazine that bore out what every equestrian is hugely grateful for—namely that Equus has evolved into the well-balanced animal of today courtesy of a single-toed hoof, the likes of which first emerged onto Earth’s landscape around five million years ago.

     Modeling fossils from 12 kinds of extinct horse and then simulating the trotting, galloping and jumping motions on their legs, researchers at Harvard University were able to piece together Equus’ rise from his humble, three-toed origins to the peaceable grazer of today whose sizeable frame is balanced on a single-digit load-bearing hoof capable of absorbing the hard percussions of upper-level dressage movements, supporting hard lands over jumps and punishing furlongs.

     There’s nobody like today’s sport horse in the animal kingdom. Evolved from the 55-million-year-old family tree of Equidae, the horse is the foundation for the vast network of equestrian disciplines enjoyed by millions of five-toed human beings, singlehandedly creating an industry that, according to the American Horse Council Foundation, generates $10.6 billion in racing, $10.8 billion in showing and $11.8 in recreation—all disciplines and levels of enjoyment based upon a common footwork. Proof indeed, that less really is more.


Confessions of a Weed Whacker

by Catherine Macaulay


I detest weeds, if only on principle. Employing an aggressiveness better suited to a hostile corporate takeover than to a tidy country farm where fruit trees line the drive, weeds spread their greed via rhizomes, stolons, tubers, bulbs, seeds and tentacle roots, shooting them across the subterranean landscape in numbers too vast to count. By nature, they want it all—soil, water, nutrients.

Unfortunately, upon arriving at my former home in Tryon, NC, I found every type of weed imaginable grubbing off my pastures—sedges, grasses, dicots, perennials, biennials and annuals. But then a brochure came in the mail from the Polk County Agriculture Extension Service,advertising an educational seminar on pasture management.

That morning, I arrived at the lecture hall ready to soak up all knowledge about ridding myself of these unsavory types. The woman seated behind the registration desk smiled at me, then politely inquired if I were licensed.

                                                                                                                                                            CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ESSAY

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A Great Day at Great Meadow

By Catherine Macaulay, Editor


The day before the 2016 Virginia Gold Cup it rained, one of those lengthy downpours that saturates the ground and dampens a person’s spirits. Surely, the going would be slow on Saturday, the fields at Great Meadow waterlogged from the 4 ½ inches of rain that fell in the prior week. Attendees would surely be dressed in subdued colors befitting the dreary weather.


How wrong I was. They came in vast numbers, everyone wearing color, color and more color, arriving at The Plains by private jet from Dulles, in carpools from Washington, D.C., by bus from New York—an astounding diversity of race goers from an immensity of regions, all prepared to navigate a day so brilliantly delivered by volunteers and staff.


Nothing it seemed could dampen an atmosphere enlivened by jockeys in racing silks and thoroughbreds charging over the fields, mud flying. Gates opened at 10 a.m., and by noon the morning’s gray had fallen away to a carefree blue, as befitting the 91st running, held annually on the first Saturday of May. There were hat contests and terrier exhibitions, parimutuel betting and browsing of the retail tents. Open tailgates revealed some truly delectable feasts.


As always, the Gold Cup made great sport of the day, delivering classic Virginia racing to the cheering crowd who came to see a mixed card of steeplechasing and running on the flat, the Gold Cup’s $100,000 purse matched only by the Maryland Hunt Cup for timber racing.


This year’s feature event delivered pure gold for Irvin Naylor of Butler, Md., whose Irish-bred horse, Ebanour, carried Naylor’s green and yellow silks into the winner’s circle. Naylor also took away third in the same feature race, his 10-yr-old Personal Brew holding on for third.


The sun was shining for Naylor also in the David H. Semmes Memorial $75,000 hurdle (Gr. 2), his Irish bred Charminster pulling away from the others in a race that covered two miles and one furlong. (See photo at top right.)


Naylor graciously claimed he got lucky, but Cyril Murphy, who trained both wins that day, told Don Clippinger of the National Steeplechase Association’s News that “if he didn’t handle the ground today, he never would.”


What a day, what a party. If you didn’t get to go, enjoy the photo gallery to the right.                              

                                                       photos by Barry Rosenberg

All bets are on the Virginia Gold Cup

Spring is here, time for the 91st running of the Virginia Gold Cup, traditionally set for the first Saturday in May at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va.  


Considered the highlight of American steeplechasing, ranked alongside the Maryland Hunt Cup, this champagne sporting event brings together some of the country’s finest horses for an exciting day of racing over hurdles, timber and on the flat.


The theme of this year’s event, "Then and Now," reflects a competition whose roots are planted squarely in old Virginia hunt country. Dating back to 1922, the event began when a group of Virginia sportsmen organized a four-mile race between flags over the natural fences of Fauquier County.


In keeping with the organizers’ aim of drawing “the best hunters in America,” the Gold Cup continues to bring great chasers to Virginia largely through the efforts of Arthur Arundel, a Virginia newspaperman, philanthropist and conservationist. Arundel had bought a 500-acre site on an abandoned farm near The Plains slated for development, and rallied the support of like-minded individuals to the cause of establishing a permanent venue for the event. 


Of his accomplishment, Arundel said simply “what this generation and t-he Virginia Gold Cup are doing at Great Meadow is driven by harmony with its community, its traditions and its environment.”

His gift to the Virginia sport-horse community remains his legacy, and a continuing source of enjoyment to the more than 50,000 outdoor enthusiasts who come each year for a very special day in May.


Gates open at 10 a.m., with the first race set for 12:30 p.m. Make sure to watch the Jack Russell Terrier races at 11:30 a.m., and consider participating in the hat contest, judged at 2:15 p.m., in the paddock. Categories will include:


1. Best racing theme

2. Funniest/Most Outrageous

3. Most Glamorous/Elegant

4. Best Child (under 18)

5. Best men’s showing


Children 12 and under admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. For ticket sales information and directions, call 540.347.2612, or go to the Virginia Gold Cup website at

Arthur Arundel


* * * * *

The National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, VA, will be the final 2015 venue to host Art and Animal, the 54th annual Society of Animal Artists traveling exhibition. Sixty paintings, works on paper and sculptures of domestic and wild animals were chosen by the SAA selection jury to represent the Society's almost 500 members. The exhibition runs through Aug 30.


The opening reception is Saturday, April 25, 2015, from 5-7 pm. NSLM and SAA members free/$5 non-members. Contact or 540-6876542 #24.

Bella by Rikki Morley Saunders. Life size Lurcher laying, 2013, bronze, 18"H x 39.75"L x 14.75"W. Edition of 28.


Clothes Horse

By Catherine Macaulay


I wasn’t born a horse lover. Growing up, it was my older sister who held that distinction. Right from the start, Mary had the gift. She understood their sacred language, found pleasure in their company and accepted them for the magnificent creatures they are.


I can still picture her astride that big, black thoroughbred who was her favorite, her innocent face beaming, covered in a smile. But then, horses and Mary were one world.  For her, there was no better way to spend a day than climbing aboard her bicycle and peddling down the back roads to the local riding stable.


In contrast, I was content to rig twine about the handlebars of my bike in order to simulate reins and with crop in hand take off toward the lake, clearing imaginary verticals and double oxers along the way. I preferred cats, played with dolls, dressed prettily, attended her horse shows and climbed into the irons only occasionally, and only then aboard King—a sullen pony with no particular attributes save his naturally low clearance between the ground and me.


Things might have continued that way had Mary not urged me to scale greater heights, a suggestion to which I stupidly agreed, being the kid sister always tagging along for the ride. Before I knew it, I found myself perched atop a majestic-looking dapple gray horse named Sharman, struggling to hold onto my courage—that is until I caught sight of myself in the riding school mirror. It was then that I realized that I could look pretty good elevated in such a fashion, provided the horse was standing still.


CLICK HERE to read the rest of "Clothes Horse".

Virginia Trainer Honored by United States Equestrian Foundation

Bruce Griffin and Elis GV, USEF National Horse of the Year. Photo Credit: Jon McCarthy Photography

Virginia trainer Bruce Griffin was recently awarded the Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy for excellence in western pleasure from the United States Equestrian Foundation, (USEF). This marks the third time the Gretna-based rider has been named the USEF Equestrian of Honor.


“We are so blessed,” said Griffin, of Griffin Sport Horses, LLC in a statement.


Griffin has cause to feel doubly proud of his accomplishments this year. Elis GV, the

Friesian he helped bring to 11 World and Grand National Championships in 2014 was named USEF National Horse of the Year. The black, 2009 gelding (by Mintse 384 out of Berber Fan’t Nije Libben), is the first homebred for owners Beth and Jim Kornegay of Grandview Farm in New Smyrna, Fl.


Elis GV’s victories reflect a variety of disciplines that match Griffin’s own versatile career including wins in dressage, dressage hack, English show hack, hunter pleasure, western pleasure, western dressage, carriage pleasure driving, sport horse in hand, trail in hand, and working trail.


From Saddlebred to Virginia bred, from trainer to competitive rider, it’s Griffin’s career as a professional handler that’s most notably carved out the Virginia horseman’s reputation. According to an article that appeared in the American Trakehner Association’s Dec. 2009 newsletter, Griffin is a ‘gifted’ handler, the first American to be invited to handle stallions for the Hengstenkeurings in Holland, an event to which he continues to return, reportedly with a style that brings out the ‘magic’ in a horse. Over his 50-yr career preparing and presenting Friesians and Warmbloods, Griffin has won numerous top shows and championships here and on foreign soil. He’s twice been awarded the USEF Norm K. Dunn Trophy for Excellence in Halter.


 “Starting young horses to ride and drive is my passion!” he wrote on his website. “I grew up around walking horses, then began going to Gail Peterson’s Saddlebred/Arabian barn after school. Later, I continued my work with Arabians under the tutelage of Jeff Wonnell. Jeff, along with Barbara Cross, gave me my start in the Friesian world.


“I have been blessed with owners who believe in me and with talented horses that make me look good. The opportunity to work with a variety of breeds over the years has greatly enhanced my skills. Working with my wife and children in our family business and showing off our hard work in the show ring, where we have accumulated numerous national titles in multiple disciplines, is a dream come true.”

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The Virginia Horse Council Seeks Award Nominations for Equestrian Leaders in the State


Horses represent a significant industry to Virginia. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture, horses have an annual economic impact of $1.2 billion, its 215,000 equines and 41,000 equine operations combined, serving the Commonwealth by creating jobs, boosting tourism, stimulating retail sales and pumping more than $65.3 million into state and local coffers by way of taxes.


Yet, none of this would be possible without those Virginians who devote their time, efforts and expertise into serving our horse industry, many without fanfare or compensation.


The Virginia Horse Council is seeking nominations for its Annual Awards program. Please take a moment to nominate someone you believe to be deserving of recognition. It isn’t necessary to be a member of the Council to nominate an individual, group or business. The deadline for nominations is Feb. 3., for the following categories:


Lifetime Service Award—Open to anyone who has given more than 20 years of service to the Virginia horse industry and who has demonstrated a lifetime of commitment to advancing the industry, in tangent with the goals of the Virginia Horse Council.


Horseman/Horsewoman of the Year—A member of the Virginia horse community who has been actively involved with the industry for more than five years and who has made a significant contribution to improve and develop the industry in the Commonwealth in tangent with the goals of the Council.


Legislator of the Year—A legislator on the state or national level who has championed legislation for, or who has worked to, promote the Virginia horse industry. Or, who has taken a public stand against legislation that could be detrimental to the industry, and who has worked cooperatively with the Virginia Horse Council in these efforts.                      


Veterinarian of the Year—An equine veterinarian who has consistently striven to attain the betterment of the industry and who has provided “above the norm” dependable service to his/her clients. Can be in the fields of research, academia, or active practice.


Volunteer of the Year—A member of the Virginia horse community who has advanced the Virginia horse industry and/or devoted more than 10 hours of service to further the mission of the Council.


Trails Development—An individual, group, or government entity that advances the development, use, and protection of trails for riding.


Virginia Equine Group—An established breed, discipline, or riding organization that has achieved major growth or accomplishments to benefit the entire Virginia horse industry. These can include: breed recognition, growth in membership, or the conducting of a significant industry event.


Industry Support (business or company)—Any business, group or organization that consistently works to support the Virginia horse industry and the Council and who also works to foster the growth of the industry in the Commonwealth.


Industry Service (individual contribution)—An individual who consistently works to support the Virginia horse industry and who also works to foster the growth of the industry in the Commonwealth.


Award winners will be announced at the Council’s annual meeting at the Virginia Horse Festival, March 27-29, at Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Va. The Virginia Horse Council, a non-profit organization based in Blacksburg,Va., works to promote and improve the horse industry in Virginia, and represents all breeds.


For more information or to obtain a nomination form, go to 

You're not getting older, you’re getting better

Beezie Madden, 51, was named Rider of the Year by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)—America’s first rider to win the award four times.


The honor follows a record-making season cut short by a broken collarbone that took Madden out of the action for six weeks. Yet, aboard the scopey Cortes ‘C’, a 2002 Belgian Warmblood, recently named USEF International Horse of the Year, the New York-based rider bounced back in winning form.


“The horses I’ve had have brought me to where I m today,” said Madden, accepting the award.


Madden, who began riding at three in Milwaukee, Wi., today possesses more titles than Britain’s Prince Charles and continues to build herself an Olympian resume at a time when other competitors are winding down. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Madden when she was 48, conducted by In it, she discusses the importance of keeping fit.


More: So age is an advantage and not a disadvantage?
BM: You need a lot of experience in my sport to do well so, yes, age is an advantage. You need a lot of skills, and by this I don't mean just competing with your horse inside the ring. You also need to find private sponsors who can support you. You also need to find the right horse and then train it for at least five years before a big event such as the Olympics.

More: Do you find yourself training harder to keep up with the younger athletes, or is it the other way around?

BM: Sure, you worry a little more about your physical appearance as you get older, but because I do so much riding all of the time it keeps me just as fit as anyone out there.


More: What is your exercise and diet routine for staying so fit?

BM: I eat healthy. I don’t follow a strict diet because I travel about 330 days a year. When you are on the road you have to make do with what you have. But I always look for the healthy choices. As for exercise, I ride up to six times a week, and, depending on my schedule I go either early in the morning or at night for a workout. During the months I am in Wellington, Florida, there is a trainer I work with three days a week.


More: Is finding the right horse like finding a husband? Do you have to sift through a lot of them until you find the perfect one for you?

BM: (Laughs) Oh yeah. We travel all over the world and have people looking all over the place for that perfect young horse. When a scout says, ‘come look at this one’, I think we buy maybe one out of 20 that we meet. However, not every relationship works out. Maybe 2out of 10 relationships work out and then make it to a high-level competition such as the Olympics.


More: Even though you didn’t win a medal, do you still feel like a kid, going to the Olympics?

BM: Age is a state of mind. The worst thing you can do is not stay active.


For the full interview go to:

Beezie Madden and Cortes ‘C’—a powerful combination at any age. Photo credit: USEF.

Also competing at any age...

68-year-old Ian Millar, affectionately known as “Captain Canada” leaps across any age barrier following a recent win at the $50,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix CSI 2* aboard Ariel and Susan Grange’s Dixson during week two of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). In a five-horse jump-off, Millar and Dixson topped the class by 2/100s of a second over Brianne Goutal (USA) and Remarkable Farms LP’s Zernik.

They will be missed

An honor roll of the equestrians we lost recently


Let’s take a final glance back through the looking glass and remember some of the wonderful horse people that the Old Dominion lost recently. They will be missed.

MELVIN POE: Huntsman


Foxhunting’s beloved and knowledgeable huntsman passed away at his home at Ozark Farm in Hume, Va., last year. The Fauquier County native was both a colorful and reliable fixture on the Virginia hunt field, having hunted with the Old Dominion Hounds, the Orange County Hounds and the Bath County Hounds—the latter a private pack established by the late George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., in 1992. So vast was Poe’s breadth of knowledge about foxhunting and so amusing were his anecdotes that hunt people the world over turned to him regularly for his thoughts on the sport. Poe continued hunting his own pack of hounds almost up until his death at age 94. Photo by Betsy Burke Parker.

THOMAS VOSS: Steeplechase trainer


Described as “half-grumpy, half-cheerful, half-aloof, half-rich, half-poor and all horseman,” by Joe Clancy of The Outside Rail, steeplechase trainer Tom Voss of Monkton, Md., died suddenly at age 63. Having won five National Steeplechase championship titles as leading trainer of the year, Voss was known and respected as someone who could train both flat and steeplechase runners.  He once told the Baltimore Sun that "there is more action in steeplechase races, but there are more chances to race in flat races. I get the same kick out of both." Yet, it was the latter that provided Voss with his runaway success. Among the top horses he trained was 2010 Eclipse Award steeplechase champion Slip Away. In 2012, he won the National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races with Ballet Boy. His other notable horses include John's Call, Quel Senor, Your Sum Man, Florida Law and Welter Weight. Voss’s training standards and practices will be carried on by his daughter, Elizabeth, who has stepped into the role created by the absence of her father, keeping the family training operation, along with its racing initials, intact. Photo by Lydia A. Williams.

Learning to ‘Hit the Hay’ Midday


Horses are polyphasic sleepers, which means they sleep for short periods throughout the day. Studies reveal that upon average, an adult horse generally sleeps for up to three hours each day, both upright and lying down. Cats too, are polyphasic sleepers, which I suspect, is where the term ‘cat nap’ was derived from.


Humans, on the other hand, are part of the minority of monophasic sleepers whose days fall into two distinct periods—one for sleep, the other spent in an awakened state. Today’s accelerated lifestyle, however, seems to be stressing out we monophasics, encroaching on our valuable sleep time, the result being that, as a nation, the United States is becoming increasingly more sleep deprived.


Perhaps it’s time to take a cue from our horses, dogs and cats and join the more than 85% of mammalian species who’ve long ago mastered the art of getting through the day by the polyphasic way. The benefits are not insubstantial. Naps can increase one’s alertness and performance, according to the National Sleep Foundation. A study conducted by NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.


To aid in the catnapping effort, the Polyphasic Society has generously mapped out a list of guidelines. They are as follows:


  • Take short naps from between 15-26 minutes. If you awaken feeling groggy, you’ve slept too long. Short naps should leave one feeling refreshed and rested.

  • Nap at the same time every day. The stricter the schedule, the greater the chance of success.

  • Shut off electronic devices, dim the lights, stay away from the computer screen.

  • Practice. Sleeping during the day takes a committed effort. Don’t expect results overnight. Above all, don’t stress. The whole idea is to relax your mind and body.

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IN HONOR OF the first National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, would like to acknowledge the Richmond Police Department, Mounted Unit Squad, the oldest police unit of its kind in the Commonwealth, along with other Virginia law enforcement professionals who serve and protect us all. Caps off to: Sergeant John Barkley, Officer in charge of the mounted unit; Officer Dawn Lehmann Nunnally; Officer Amanda Acuff, and; Officer Freddie Mason.

January Calendar of Events


Exhibition/Trade Show


January 16-18 - The 19th Annual Maryland Horse World Expo

A three-day extravaganza of horse activities that offers a Parade of Breeds, a consumer trade show, demonstrations, and educational forums with speakers such as the Virginia-based eventer Stephen Bradley, dressage instructor and competitor Jane Savoie; natural horsemanship creator Pat Pareli, and others. Held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Md. For more info go to




January 13 - "Managing Pastures to Optimize Horse and Environmental Health"

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center will begin its 2015 Tuesday Talks lecture series with Dr. Bridgett McIntosh, an Equine Extension Specialist for Virginia Tech Animal and Poultry Sciences, providing horse owners and horse professionals with valuable insight and practical advice. Set for 7 p.m. in the Equine Medical Center’s library at 17690 Old Waterford Road Leesburg, Va. Contact Sharon Peart at 703-771-6842 or for reservations or more information.


​January 16 - “Equine Emergencies: What Every Horse Owner Should Know”

Morven Park is presenting a free seminar on how to best respond to a horse’s medical emergency. Dr. Jay Joyce, owner of Total Equine Veterinary Associates of Leesburg, and an expert in lameness diagnosis and treatment, will offer a hands-on demonstration on bandaging and wound wraps and show how to put together an equine first aid kit. Set for 7-9 p.m., the seminar will be at the Morven Park Equestrian Center’s Hofmann classroom, 41793 Tutt Lane, Leesburg. For more info, email Photo: Thomas A. Judd. 


In related Employment news, a search is now underway for a full-time director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. For details go to:




Mark your calendar for spring when riders from across the East Coast head to the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va., for the Virginia Trail Riders Spring Competition, set for April 8-11. There are three categories in which to ride: a 3-day 100 mile competition; a 3-day 50 mile competition, and; a pleasure ride. With 40 stalls available, entries will be taken on a first-come first-serve basis. The $250 entry fee  includes s stall for five days and initial bedding. For more info contact Carol Easter at 434-984-1212 or



January 17 - Hunter Show/LTD Horse Show

Morven Park indoor arena. For information, go to or email        


January 18 - Cassanova-Warrenton Pony Club Clinic

Morven Park Equestrian Center, Leesburg, Va.

For more info, go to


January 23-24 - Pat Ebersole Cavaletti and Gymnastics Clinic

Morven Park Equestrian Center, Leesburg. For more info, go to


January 31 - VADA/Nova Unmounted Clinic with Debbie Rodriguez

Best Western Hotel, 726 East Market St. Leesburg. For more info, go to

Equestrian humor at:

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New Year’s Day foal


An endangered Grevy’s zebra colt was born at the Denver Zoo in Colorado on New Year’s Day, and according to zookeepers, he’s "doing great".  A spokesperson from the zoo said the colt had yet to be brought outdoors for the first time, citing concerns over the recent cold snap that delivered snow and ice across the turnout yard.


Spoken like a true horse owner.

Get ready for the sport of skikjöring

The White Turf Races at St. Moritz

This year, I am departing from my usual rehash of tiresome resolutions that habitually make me feel badly about myself. Instead of resolving to work harder, lose weight, work out my body or re-evaluate my financial fitness I’ve decided to simply be fabulous in St. Moritz, watching the horses compete at the 2015 International White Turf races—albeit, virtually.


Take a moment to flip through the slideshow, travel the snow-covered hillsides, and get caught up in the whirl of talented horses making incredible sport in Switzerland. Allow yourself a fleeting, mental sojourn from the barn chores and the endless ‘to do’ lists that stretch clear through to spring. Join me on a trip to the White Turf equestrian games in Switzerland. At best, it’s an experience of pure light, at the very least, a reprieve from January’s universal dreariness.


Click here for the story and photo gallery of the White Turf Races.

Editor's Note

Klinger, a newly retired horse of the Caisson Platoon of the 3d United States Infantry, served in more than 5,000 full honor military funerals at Arlington National Ceremony. The Morgan-Percheron cross, known as the “gentle giant” also worked in programs for wounded veterans and with TAPS, a national nonprofit veterans service organization to help families of fallen soldiers. Klinger, A Story of Honor and Hope by Betsy Beard, is an award-winning children’s fictional book written about him.

America the Brave and its Horses of War


A horse-drawn delivery of a 20-ft fir tree pulled up to the White House just recently, hallmarking a 92-year old Christmas tradition that dates back to 1923 and President Calvin Coolidge, who ushered in America’s first national Christmas celebration with a call for patriotism backed by the U.S. Marine Corps Band and a local choir. The 48-ft-tree was appropriately festooned with 2,500 multi-colored electric lights all plugged into a hopefully reliable source.


Times change. The height of the White House Christmas tree was downsized in 2008. Its lights became more energy efficient LEDs. Today, a person need not even travel to D.C., to admire the lights as anyone with a computer can view the 2014 National Christmas tree lighting ceremony on demand. This holiday season, American girls are being empowered to design their very own White House tree at, which reportedly inspires future leaders to pursue their exclusive dreams with code. I’d write more about it, but I can’t figure it out. The whole thing seems to be written in code for a younger generation.


Yet for all the change some things, sadly, remain the same. The theme of this year’s White House Christmas tree ceremony was entitled “America the Brave,” an enduring commentary about the ever-presence of war. Trimmed with ornaments made by military children living on U.S. military bases all over the world, many of the decorations are cards with simple thank you notes written to soldiers serving overseas.


Some of those who’ve fallen have made the final ride to Arlington National Cemetery escorted by the Caisson Platoon of the 3d U.S. Infantry. Based in Ft. Myer, Va., the Old Guard, as they are called, escort departed soldiers from all branches of the military to their final destination amid a solemn, steady clip clop of hooves.


Across metropolitan Washington, D.C., horses are working for the military community through a variety of equine-assisted programs: the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, the Therapeutic & Recreational Riding Center, Loudoun Therapeutic Riding, the Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center and Maryland Therapeutic Riding. Through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), in Arlington, Va., horses are put to use helping children deal with the grief of losing a loved one that has served in the military.


Times have indeed changed. Through revolution, civil war and world wars, horses have dutifully remained our beasts of burden and helped to keep our country free. And they continue now as simple healers, their very presence serving as a gift of dignity and reassurance to those wounded psyches suffering from the trauma of war—fellow soldiers who stand in tribute to those who’ve given their lives in battle.


I would place one final note on the White House tree, addressed to America’s warhorse, the words, “thank you”, written on it.


Catherine Macaulay


A Virginia Rose and a Horse on the Mongolian landscape

A few months back, a 32-year-old year old aerospace engineer from Culpepper, Va. named Rose Sandler took off from Dulles Airport heading East toward the longest horse race on earth, the 621-mile Mongol Derby—a grueling test of a rider’s physical fitness and mental toughness.


Set against the harsh, Mongolian landscape, the equestrian challenge is riding in the extreme, one that pits amateur and professional contestants from around the world against an elemental challenge of extreme heat, rugged territory and a sudden, fierce, upwelling of storms, each contestant struggling to recreate the unforgiving life of a 13th century Mongolian pony express rider aboard small, feisty horses that lend dimension to the word “go”.


Consisting of a series of 25 relay stations placed along an unmarked route, riders navigate their way along the unmarked terrain using a GPS marker, switching mounts every 25 miles, an ocean apart from traditional horse racing and endurance riding, and a world away from anything in a rider’s lexicon of experience. For 10 grueling days, Sandler would immerse herself in the culture of the nomad, sleeping in the wood and felt tents of Mongolian herders, eating mutton and drinking fermented mare’s milk. Amid this unforgiving landscape, where nothing and no one is spared, she could rely on a tough sure-footed breed of horse that’s shaped the character of every Mongolian herdsman over the centuries, every nomadic tribe forced to war against the elements to survive. Allowed just 11 pounds of gear, the determined Virginian packed a whole lot of try.


“Rose is always up for anything,” said friend and mentor Rosie Campbell, Master of Foxhounds of Virginia’s Bull Runt Hunt. “She’s always willing to do new things. She’s brave and reliable, rides well on the flat and over a jump.”


Sandler had already hurdled the first challenge, having been selected from among 400 applicants worldwide—all seeking to meet the test being put to them by The Adventurists, a London-based company founded by Tom Morgan. Billed as the antidote to what Morgan claims is the tame adventure travel of today, the Mongol Derby takes adventure to the extreme while raising funds for charitable causes around the globe. Proceeds from this year’s race went to Cool Earth, a charity that supports the preservation of the Brazilian Rainforest.


Deplaning at Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, her kit and saddle in tow, Sandler was completely on her own. Under the weight limit, her high entry fee paid, she’d arrived ready to compete in a field of 48 riders, prepared to go to the edge. 


                                                                                                                                                                     By Catherine Macaulay


A horse's happy roll immortalized in stone


In a find straight out of Antiques Roadshow, a British woman recently discovered her late husband’s jade horse sculpture purchased in 1962 for 900 Hong Kong dollars was worth considerably more than she’d imagined during one of the public evaluations routinely held by Britain’s Mallams Auctioneers in Cheltenham, England.


Three telephone bidders later, the hammer fell at an auction price of £170,000 pounds for a piece of equestrian artistry just 8 cm in length. The horse, seemingly captured in mid-roll, dates back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).


One can only imagine why the horse was kicking up his heels. Perhaps at being born in a period marked by overall economic prosperity and stability, allowing the peaceable nature of Equus to labor in the fields rather than go hoofing it off to war. The preceding Yuan dynasty would also have given the horse cause to roll, the Mongol emperor, Kublai Kahn, having unified the disparate, warring territories of China and beyond into a relatively peaceful co-existence—relative being the key operative word.


But had the poor horse been foaled during Kublai’s grandfather’s rein, likely his future prospects wouldn’t have thrilled him. Genghis Kahn, a tough kid from a tough district in Mongolia, recognized the same resiliency in the Mongol horse and decided to parlay that stamina and strength into his dream to unite the Mongol tribes and conquer Russia to the north and China to the south.

Genghis Kahn’s mounted campaign literally ran the opposition off its collective feet. His army’s cavalry horses could travel further, run faster, subsist on less forage, were better bred for the rigors of war than were their counterparts in Asia. So intrepid were his small, nimble steeds, so skilled his herdsmen in the saddle and so brilliant the guerilla raiding tactics that following a mere 25 years of empire-building, Genghis netted himself a land grab that surpassed even Rome’s sweeping 400-year rule.


Following his victories, the Mongolian leader, who’d been born Temujin, was awarded the name Genghis, which translated, means Universal Ruler. The Mongolian horse needed no such apotheosis, having already been vaulted to a level of spirituality within the Mongol culture. Never one to underestimate his beloved horses in any endeavor, Genghis took no less than 40 of them to his death in 1227, presumably to lift him up onto the spiritual road ahead.  Nothing to kick up one’s heels over there.



“Cavalrymen carried a small sword, javelins, body armor, a battle-ax or mace, and a lance with a hook to pull enemies off their horses. The Mongols were devastating in their attacks. Because they could maneuver a galloping horse using only their legs, their hands were free to shoot arrows.” *

THE MONGOLIAN HORSE AT WORK. Ulak-kupkari is a popular game in Mongolia where hundreds of men compete on horseback for a goat carcass, which they must drive to the end of the field for a prize. These men were competing to win some live goats. American photojournalist Any Sigveland captured the event with artistry and flair, and was recently awarded the 2014 'Discovery of the Year'  at the IPA's International Photography Awards. 

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Equestrian humor at:

Photos by Barry Rosenberg

Pope Francis and the animal lover's Christmas gift


Pope Francis gave many Roman Catholic animal lovers the ultimate Christmas gift with his announcement that “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.”


With those words, the gates of heaven, long closed to even the most beloved pet, swung open in a gesture of compassion and goodwill that would make St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, take note. Christian theology has long maintained that animals are devoid of any individual consciousness and reasoning powers, thereby lacking in any immortal soul.


However one poses the immortal question, one thing remains certain, people grieve over the loss of a pet. Giving owners the space to mourn an animal’s passing represents the life’s work of internationally known folk artist Stephen Huneck. Behind the white steeple church of his Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, flanked by wooden animals, reads a sign “Welcome All Creeds. All Breeds. No Dogmas Allowed.” (Photos to the left.)


Inside the sanctuary, images of friendship are everywhere—they are carved into the pews and etched into the stain glass windows. They are reflected in the thousands of memorial notes pinned to the back wall, each a wish or a thank you to someone’s dear, departed friend.


And yet, somehow, bereavement is transmuted into a celebration of life under Huneck’s skilled hand and natural sense of wit and whimsy.  Tragically, the artist took his own life in 2010.  To view the online gallery of Stephen Huneck including his wood carvings, prints, and other gifts including his book “Even Bad Dogs Go to Heaven,” go to:

“A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as well as that of his fellowman, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that isin need of help.”

                        Dr. Albert Schweitzer,                          physician, humanitarian

"God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses." 

          R.B. Cunninghame Graham, in           a letter to Theodore Roosevelt,           1917

There's no place like home: Holiday Home Tours

HOLIDAYS AT JEFFERSON'S HOME--Monticello, the famed Charlottesville home of Thomas Jefferson, will be open for Holiday Evening Tours from Dec. 19-23, and again, from Dec. 26-30 beginning at 5:30 p.m. The tours offer visitors a rich insight into how the holidays were celebrated in Jefferson’s time. For reservations click on


If you can’t take a tour, decompress from the holiday stress with a long, restorative walk along the mountaintop grounds. Jefferson, an avid equestrian and a tireless proponent of exercise, said in his dairy of Aug. 19th, 1785: “Habituate yourself to walk very far. The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man. But I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained by the use of this animal. No one has occasioned so much the degeneracy of the human body. An Indian goes on foot nearly as far in a day, for a long journey, as an enfeebled white does on his horse, and he will tire the best horses. There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue.”


While at Monticello, walk or drive the mile-long distance over to Mitchie Tavern for lunch. The charming rustic tavern offers a selection of hearty 18th Century recipes. Its wine cellar, located in the gift shop adjacent to the restaurant, reveals the story of Virginia wines and sells a variety of local and regional wines as well as reproductions of colonial dolls, needlework kits, historical documents and pewter cups. Through the month of December, the shop is offering a $10 off coupon for every $50 spent. To print out a coupon click on

* * * * *

Peel off your barn clothes, leave your muck boots by the door and step into the Christmas spirit with one of the more  than 30 home tours available this season. Tour private homes and historic estates, enjoy a Virginia that’s all dressed up and decked out in her old grandeur.


Northern Virginia


Dec. 13 & 14 – Old Town Alexandria Candlelight Tours. Alexandria’s premier historic holiday event blends chocolate and history through special tastings, seasonal decorations, period music and tours highlighting chocolate through time. This year’s tour includes the Carlyle House, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, and the Lee-Fendall House. Sponsored by Mars Inc., headquartered in Mclean, Va., the tour is self-guided and the sites may be visited in any order. A free shuttle is provided running in a continuous loop between the sites. Admission: $20 adults; $15 seniors; $5 children ages 6-17. For more info, call 703-746-4242.


Dec. 13 - Hillsboro Christmas House Tours. Take a relaxing trip to the quaint countryside of Hillsboro to experience the Christmas in four beautiful, historic homes in town.


Dec. 13, 19, 20, & 21 -  Candlelight tours at the Oatlands, from 5-8 p.m. Established by George Carter in 1798, Oatlands Plantation, with its beautiful rolling farmland and exquisite gardens, remains a repository of more than 200 years of American history and culture. Its turned out in its finest during the holiday season. Leesburg.


Dec. 20 – For the first time, Mount Vernon will open its doors for an evening of holiday-themed fireworks and special programs. Step back in time and experience a festive holiday at George Washington’s plantation. Stroll through the historic grounds while being serenaded by local choirs. Watch as colonial artisans demonstrate the 18th-century process of creating chocolate. Visit a winter encampment and meet re-enactors from the First Virginia Regiment. For tickets, call 703-780-2000. For those interested in touring the mansion, Mount Vernon is also joyfully decking the halls for the entire month of December with themed decorations, including 12 Christmas trees, and historical chocolate-making demonstrations.


December - Celebrate the holiday season at historic Airlie House every Friday and Saturday throughout December from 4-8 p.m. Tour the formal gardens, wrapped in thousands of twinkling lights. Enjoy mulled cider and cookies. Free to the public. For more information, call (540) 347-1300. Airlie.


Central Virginia


Dec. to Jan. 4 - Victorian Holidays at Richmond’s historic Maymont Mansion.

Dec. 11, 18, 20 - Candlelight Tours at Poplar Forest, the early home of Thomas Jefferson.

Dec. 12 & 13 - Christmas Candlelight Tour, at James Madison’s Montpelier Station.

Dec. 13 & 14 - "An Old Virginia Christmas at Avoca", the home of Revolutionary patriot Colonel Charles Lynch. Altavista.

Dec. 13 & 14 - Patrick Henry's Colonial Christmas. Celebrate a simple 18th century holiday at Patrick Henry’s beloved “Scotchtown,” in Beaverdam.

Dec. 26 & 27 - Holiday Glitter: Monument Avenue After Dark. Enjoy the festive lights of Richmond’s Monument Avenue on this popular walking tour.


Coastal Virginia


Dec. 12 & 13 - The Historic Olde Towne Holiday Home Tour, Portsmouth City.

Dec. 13, 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. - Christmas tours of Shirley Plantation, Virginia’s first plantation. Founded in 1613 and carved out of the Virginia frontier, it has survived Indian uprisings, Bacon's Rebellion, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Great Depression, all under the leadership of one family.


Dec. 20 - James River Plantation Progressive Christmas Candlelight Tour. Christmas past comes to life during this special afternoon in Williamsburg's James River plantation country. Explore history and holiday traditions while touring Piney Grove (1790), Ashland (1835), and Ladysmith (1857). Enjoy the unique collection of Christmas decorations that spans five generations.  The tour concludes with hot cider and homemade cookies.

Dec. 20 & 27 - A Candlelight Christmas in Charles City

Dec. to Jan. 1 - Centuries of Christmas at Berkeley Plantation, site of America’s first Thanksgiving and the birthplace of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison.

Dec. to Jan. 4 - "A Colonial Christmas" at Jamestown Settlement, the museum of 17th-century Virginia.

Dec. to Jan. 4 - "A Colonial Christmas" at the Yorktown Victory Center, Virginia’s museum of the American Revolution.


Chesapeake Bay


Dec. 13 – 1774 - A Stratford Hall Christmastide, home to four generations of the Lee family.

Dec. 13 & 14 - Christmas on Cockrell's Creek House Tour


Shenandoah Valley

Dec to Jan. 1 - Christmas in the Manse, Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace, Staunton. 

Dec. 13 - Fincastle Holiday Home Tour and Marketplace.

Dec. 13 & 14 -Holiday Home Tours in Botetourt County - Towns of Fincastle & Buchanan

Dec. 14 - Candlelight Christmas Home Tour in Buchanan - From porch to parlor, each home on the tour is festively decorated.

Dec. 18 - 23 - Lantern Tours – Enjoy a tour around the museum by lantern light, Staunton.


Horse Bits



* Three Virginians have been newly elected to the National Steeplechasing Association’s 15-member board. They are: Alfred Griffin Jr., director of racing for the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup at Great Meadows in The Plains; W. Patrick Butterfield, longtime director of the Foxfield Racing Association in Charlottesville; and Virginia horseman and steeplechaser Charles Strittmatter, owner of Clorevia Farm in Flint Hill.


* Inducted into the Virginia Horse Shows Association Hall of Fame for 2014 are:  Jane Womble Gaston, Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Martin Jr., Tommy Serio, Julia Shearer, Max Tappero, along with “Marianna,” owned by Sara West and “Sir Thomson”, owned by Diana Dodge.


* Jeb Hannum, interim executive director of the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA), was introduced to the Virginia Racing Commission during its recent December meeting. Hannum, a former amateur steeplechase jockey, served as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association and was also a three-term commissioner to the Pennsylvania Racing Commission.

Based in Warrenton, Va., the newly-formed VEA is a collaboration of the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Virginia Gold Cup, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and the Virginia Harness Horsemen's Association, its goal to seek out new racing opportunities within the Commonwealth.


* Elinor MacPhail of Bluemont was just selected to the Eventing 25 Program, making her one of 15 riders from across the country participating in the 2015 season.




* In early December, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the three-year tax depreciation for racehorse owners. According to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the bill extends retroactively through the end of 2014 and includes several provisions that expired or were reduced at the end of 2013. It is expected to pass into law with President Obama’s approval. See more at:


* Congress also passed several provisions impacting the horse industry in its omnibus appropriations bill, which will fund the government through Sept. 2015. They include:


1.  A continued block of horse slaughter in America—The USDA is being prohibited from allocating funds to inspectors at meat processing facilities that slaughter horses, continuing a block that begin in 2005, except for a brief period in 2012 and 2013.

This comes at a time when the European Union (EU), is blocking imports of Mexican horse meat into EU-member countries, citing health safety concerns. The ban, effective March 2015, will affect 28 countries including France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Finland, Poland, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and the UK.


2. A $871.3 million appropriation to APHIS—The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is the agency responsible for protecting the U.S. equine industry and responding to contagious equine disease outbreaks. Funding for Equine, Cervid, and Small Rumiant health is set at $19.5 million, the same as FY 2014.

3. A provision to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from euthanizing healthy wild horses in its care or from selling wild horses or burros that results in their being processed into commercial products. 


4. A $697,000 appropriation for the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, a federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions. For more info, go to




* Deadline to nominate stallions for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA),  Incentive Fund has been extended to Jan. 31, 2015, without penalty. “We are focusing on ways to improve the Incentive Fund and one of the key recommendations was to reach out to stallion owners and offer them more time to nominate their stallions.” said AQHA Executive vice president Don Treadway, Jr., in a press statement.


* Deadline to register a Virginia-bred is Dec. 31. Submit application to the Virginia Thoroughbred Association at:




* AQHA announces a new zero-tolerance policy on the bronchodilator Clenbuterol, effective Jan 1, 2016. The medication, traditionally used in horses suffering from respiratory problems, has a history of being abused as an Anabolic steroid replacement when compounded, its muscle building properties capable of enhancing a horse’s performance. 

“If we are going to level the playing field, protect our horses, riders and the betting public, taking these steps to ban Clenbuterol completely and work with every racing jurisdiction is what is best for our industry,” said AQHA President Johnny Trotter in a press release. “We owe it to our fans, our horsemen, and, most importantly, for the safety and welfare of our horses to ensure our industry not just survives but grows for future generations.”

Rancho Paseo: Developed by Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lucas, and owned by weight loss icon Jenny Craig for many years, Microsoft founder Bill Gates bought Rancho Paseana for $18 million. 




Lady Gaga's $24 million Malibu horse farm: The Mediterranean-style estate features an eight-stall stable, dressage ring and a guest cottage.



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The annual Blessing of the Animals will be held Friday, Dec. 12, at noon in Richmond, Va. Horses, llamas, ducks, ferrets, sick cats, and therapy dogs—all are invited. If you can’t bring your pet, tuck a photo in your vest, all will be blessed and thanked for the difference they make in our lives. Meet the officers and horses of the Richmond Mounted Police, bring a carrot, give the unit’s 1,200 lb. ambassadors a taste of your appreciation for so tirelessly representing the department at schools, in parades, and across crowded city streets. The event, sponsored by Friends of the Richmond Mounted Squad, is being staged at the Shockoe Slip Fountain in front of the Martin Agency in downtown Richmond. For more information, call 804-543-9088. Photo courtesy of Friends of Richmond Mounted Police

HELP THOSE ANIMALS WITHOUT A HOME this Christmas by putting your own in the back of your car and driving to Purcellville, Va., for a professional photo with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 14, from 1-4 p.m. A $5 donation includes a 4x6 print. Photos will be taken at Pet Valu located at 120 Purcellville Gateway Dr., Purcellville. (540) 441-7637. All proceeds help the animals at the Middleburg Humane Foundation.

Volunteers Sought for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio


Riders around the globe might be hotly competing for a shot at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but the deadline is fast approaching for a spot on the 70,000-member volunteer team that will be underscoring the equestrian competition slated between August 7 and 19 at the National Equestrian Center in Rio.


With the excitement of participating behind the scenes at such an important sporting event against the glittering backdrop of Rio, I’m tempted to sign up—plus you get to wear a cool, blue Olympic jacket, and the organizers pay for food. There are quite a number of volunteer opportunities available, too:  


Press and communications—working with the press covering the event


Sports—helping in the warm-up sessions and at competitions


Customer relations—welcoming spectators and athletes from around the globe


Operational support—best suited for A+ organizational types


Ceremonies—assisting in opening and closing ceremonies


Transport—advising the public and athletes on how to reach their destination


Technology—not altogether certain what this entails, the site wasn’t operational at the time


Health services—employing one’s healthcare skills in a different working environment


Protocol and languages—interacting with people and athletes throughout their days at the Games


Requirements include: must be 18 years old (by Feb 28, 2016); available for 10 days during the Olympic and/or Paralympic Games; and willing to undergo training sessions, which may take up to three full days.


Anyone interested in volunteering for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games should contact: Deadline to apply is Dec. 15th.




Dec. 12 & 13. A CDCTA-sponsored jumping clinic with Jennifer Lee at Kissler Dressage, in Catharpin. Private sessions, $95, semi-private, be $70 per rider for CDCTA members. A $10 discount for current Pony Club members.


Dec. 13. Equine Education Day. A full day of equine educational seminars and clinics at the Virginia Horse Center including a judging clinic by renowned horsewoman Betty Oare. For more info, go to


Dec. 13. The final “Hear the Beat” show of the year. A farmer's market, Christmas bazaar, classes just for fun, and a chili dinner will be featured at the Virginia Horse Center. All proceeds will go to the Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding program, which serves those with mental, physical, behavioral and emotional issues.


Dec. 13. VA Hunters Horse Show Series at Frying Pan Park, Herndon, VA 703-437-9101,


Dec. 21. Hazelwild Farm Hunter Show, Fredericksburg, VA, 540-891-7101.


 Dec. 27 & 28. TWA Jumper Show at Hazelwild Farm, Fredericksburg, VA 540-972-1342,

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Photo by Cathette Plumer

Virginia equestrians enjoy a network of richly diverse trails that carry them over beaches, through woods, across mountain ranges, into national parks, state parks and wildlife management areas. Some trails are designed to build confidence in a young horse while others test one’s sense of adventure and fitness level. But to my mind, no trail is quite so enjoyable as that which combines Virginia’s heritage with the pure fun of hacking out.


The recent trail ride, (pictured left), sponsored by the Virginia Horse Council in conjunction with the Keswick Hunt Club and the Virginia Quarter Horse Association, took riders through 18th and 19th century hamlets, crossing over farms such as Clover Hill, Cismont Manor, Bridlespur and the storied, 600-acre Castalia Farm located in Keswick, Va. Set at the base of a mountain near a spring-fed stream, the property first unfolded in the hands of William Meriwether back in the 1730s—a gift from his father “Colonel Nick”. Meriwether named it Castalia after the alluring Greek mythological nymph whom Apollo turned into a spring fountain to inspire all who drank from her sacred waters. *


What began as a simple cabin gave rise to a plantation-style home built of wood and stone quarried from the surrounding land. A magnificent 70-stall stable reminiscent of old England was added. So graceful was their combination, so beautiful the surrounding hillside that upon riding by one day in 1894, New Yorker Murray Bobocock bought the farm on the spot claiming “he had found among the picturesque hills and fertile soil a genial atmosphere and a refined people.”* Castalia stayed in the Bobocock family for more than a century.


To find Virginia’s most popular horse trails and learn ways of lessoning your impact on the land, go to the Virginia Horse Council website.



*2 Historic Virginia, Roy Wheeler

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The Puissance—an extreme sport rolls back into town

Jessica Springsteen and Lisona prepare to re-enter the ring at the Washington International Horse Show after winning the Puissance. Lisona—by OBOS 004 Quality (OLD) out of Clady (ISH)—is considered one of Ireland’s top show jumpers. The bay mare was bred in County Meath by former Irish Army rider Comdt. John Ledingham. Purchased last year by Springsteen for an undisclosed sum, the two competitors proved themselves a winning pair at the Verizon Center, taking both the Puissance and the $20,000 International Jumper Gambler’s Choice. Team Ireland’s loss is America’s gain, but campaigned by the superbly talented 22-year-old Springsteen whose gaze is set toward the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Lisona will no doubt, prove herself a jumping billboard for Irish Sport Horse breeding. Erin Go Bragh.                             Photo by Barry Rosenberg

NOTHING BEATS A SEAT FRONT ROW CENTER watching quality horses compete for honors. Set the competition in the Nation’s capitol, add a dash of glitter, some military history, a breezeway of great merchandise and I’m a goner.


So it was for the 56th running of the Washington International Horse Show, a glossy spectacle of high-octane high-performance horsemanship exploding onto the Verizon Center arena amid the cheering of an electrified crowd exhibiting all the symptoms of patriotism on military night at the horse show.


Nowhere was that summit of equestrian dynamism more powerfully exhibited than during the $25,000 Puissance, appropriately sponsored by airframe manufacturer Boeing. A high jump for horses, the exhilarating climb over the traditional red-brick wall is the equestrian equivalent of high jumping, the very word Puissance means  “power” in French. Most horses don’t like the idea, many of them won’t do it, but watching those bold enough to try, a s