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For people who love horses
Updated: 1 year 1 month ago

Trailer Loading Made Easy

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 19:13
Photo by Heidi Melocco

Your horse will load with ease if he’s trained to listen to you and trusts you as his leader.

“Your horse sees a trailer as a big black box; once he’s trapped inside, he could be attacked and killed by a predator,” notes top trainer/clinician Julie Goodnight. “You’re asking him to go against his instincts.

“You need to train your horse to walk in willingly and without hesitation. To achieve that, you have to make him want to do it.”

Here, Goodnight teaches you how to approach the trailer with confidence.

Equipment/help needed: Outfit your horse in a rope halter and long training lead. Although you wouldn’t want to haul a horse in a trailer in a rope halter, it’s highly effective for training. (Use a comfortable leather or breakaway halter for hauling.) Wear gloves. Prepare a training flag on a training stick. Ask an experienced horse buddy to help you.

Trailer prep: Ideally, use a good-sized stock trailer with a large entryway. Be sure you have enough room to turn your horse around so he can walk out while going forward.

Hook up the trailer to a truck to keep the trailer from tipping; if you can park it in a confined area (next to fences or walls), all the better.

Prepare good trailer footing, with rubber mats and shavings. Finally, prepare a bucket of grain, and be ready to reward your horse in the trailer once he loads.

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Step #1: Point Him Straight Ahead
Get ready to approach the trailer with your buddy safely placed and ready to help.

Photo by Heidi Melocco

Correct your horse’s nose by snapping the rope or pulling his head back to look at the trailer if he starts to look away.

Ask your helper to hold the flag in hand, and wait behind you discreetly and out of your horse’s kick zone.

Start well away from the trailer. As you walk toward the trailer, walk with a purpose, with a demeanor that assumes your horse will walk straight into the trailer. Your confidence will instill confidence in your horse, too.

As you step closer to the trailer, make sure your horse’s nose is pointed straight at the trailer. If he looks (or even glances) away, correct him by bumping the lead rope until his nose is back in front of his shoulders.

Each second that you allow him to look away from the trailer, he thinks he doesn’t have to go toward the dark, spooky place. Teach him that there’s no escape option. His only option is to load up.

If your horse moves away from the trailer, don’t circle him and approach the trailer again, or you’ll train him to avoid instead of approach the entryway.

Photo by Heidi Melocco

Step #2: Make Forward the Only Option
Ask your buddy to hold the training flag, staying out of your horse’s sight and out of kick zone. Your buddy’s sole purpose is to keep your horse from backing up.

Your buddy should focus intently on your horse’s feet. Any time your horse moves backward, your buddy should shake the flag vigorously, then stop the instant your horse’s momentum shifts forward. This will make backing up an unpleasant option.

Continue to guide your horse’s nose toward the trailer. Don’t allow side-to-side movements. Pull his nose back to the trailer, or snap the rope.

Photo by Heidi Melocco

Step #3: Allow Investigation
Approach the trailer, leading your horse. Walk toward the trailer, taking three to four steps in a purposeful fashion, then ask him to stop. Praise him, and let him stand for a moment and settle.

Starting and stopping help initiate your horse’s investigative behavior. His attention remains on you and what you’re asking of him, and he begins to look ahead wondering what he’s near.

Don’t rush or force your horse into the trailer. Allow him to make up his mind that he has no other choice. Be patient.

Photo by Heidi Melocco

Step #4: Load Up
After you’ve worked your way up to the trailer, ask your horse to step in. First, extend the training lead, and step into the trailer in front of him, well out of his way. He may leap into the trailer; you don’t want him jumping on top of you. Also, you don’t want him to think you’re blocking him.

Once your horse resigns himself to the fact that right, left, and back aren’t options, he’ll make up his mind to walk right in. Once he does, give him a small amount of grain from a bucket and lots of praise.

Leave your horse in the trailer for several minutes. This will teach him that the trailer is a safe place to be.

Step #5: Turn and Repeat
Teaching your horse to load into a wide stock trailer helps him to feel less claustrophobic, and allows him to easily turn around and walk out forward, so he gets used to the step. He’ll be more willing to back out once he’s walked out forward a few times.

Photo by Heidi Melocco

If your horse tries to rush out backward, don’t pull on his head. Instead, cue him to take one step at a time. Lead him a step forward, then ask him to stop, and praise him. If you need to, use the flag to slow his progress.

Once your horse has slowly exited the trailer, walk him away from the trailer. Then begin your approach again.

Each time you load, it should be a little easier. Once your horse is convinced the trailer is a safe place with tasty feed, he’ll be attracted to it like a magnet.

When your horse walks in willingly, feed him in the hitched trailer, with the back door shut, for about a week. Next, take him on a short drive.

By now, your horse should be eager to load, comfortable riding in the trailer, and happily and safely backing out.

Julie Goodnight lives in central Colorado. She trains horses and coaches horse owners to be ready for any event, on the trail or in the performance arena. She shares her easy-to-understand lessons on her weekly RFD-TV show, Horse Master, and through appearances at clinics and horse expos held throughout the United States. She’s also the international spokesperson for the Certified Horsemanship Association.

Heidi Melocco is a lifelong horsewoman, equine journalist, and top equine photographer based in Mead, Colorado.

Categories: Rider News

Thrush-Busting Tips

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 16:22
Preventing thrush is all about keeping your horse’s feet clean and dry. Picking them out daily is the first step. Photo by Heidi Melocco

There’s much confusion about moisture and hoof health, but one thing is for sure: Wet ground conditions alone won’t cause thrush.

Causes: Thrush is caused by an anaerobic bacterium, meaning that it can live without oxygen. Poorly cleaned stalls, urine-soaked and manure-packed footing, and wet, muddy conditions are major factors that predispose your horse’s hoof to thrush. Additionally, poorly trimmed feet — hooves with contracted heels or overly high heels that trap debris inside the foot and around the frog — also contribute to your horse’s chances of contracting thrush.

But the primary cause of thrush is inadequately cleaning your horse’s feet. Anaerobic bacteria can’t live and multiply in air and light, but if you allow your horse’s foot to become a dark, wet, unsanitary sanctuary for these bacteria, they’ll move in and multiply, even feeding on the frog tissue itself.

Symptoms: Thrush is characterized by a dark, sticky discharge and a foul, rotting smell. The frog may be covered with this discharge, or it may only build up deep in the frog’s grooves. Thrush is usually associated with poor frog growth and disintegration of the frog tissue.

Treatment: If your horse gets thrush, first ask you farrier to trim your horse’s

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hooves. He or she can leave the crevices beside the frog wide open, while paring away any obviously infected tissue. Then, pick out your horse’s feet every day, paying particular attention to the frog crevices, until the thrush has cleared up.

If your horse gets thrush, pick out your horse’s feet every day, paying particular attention to the frog crevices, until the thrush has cleared up.

Thrush is highly sensitive to air and drying, so trimming and cleaning will cure most early cases. However, if thrush persists, you can treat it with dilute bleach (about 50:50 bleach and water) or hydrogen peroxide. There are also several commercial applications for thrush, but ask your veterinarian for advice — sometimes these chemicals can be too harsh on the tissues.

Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD, is a Staff Veterinarian for Uckele Health and Nutrition, Inc., and is the owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions, a nutritional consulting firm. An Honors Graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, Dr. Kellon completed her internship and residency in Large Animal Medicine and Surgery at the renowned University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center. Her book, Horse Journal Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals, is available on HorseBooksEtc.com.

Categories: Rider News

Fencing Options

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 18:48

Safe, visible, and sturdy pasture fencing for your horse involves careful planning. Before investing possibly thousands of dollars in materials, put the effort into designing a fencing system that will work for your farm.

Planning Tips

  • Watch the budget. For large areas, save money by installing fancier fencing at the front and less-expensive fencing in the back.
  • Think sturdy. Smaller paddocks/pens need safer, sturdier fencing as horses who play hard — or get spooked — can run into a fence line before they even realize it’s there.
  • Determine center length. The standard is to have wood posts on 8-foot centers, but modern fencing materials allow you to extend the centers to 10 and even 12 feet.
  • Determine height. Fence height should be 48 to 54 inches — even higher if you have a big jumper or a good escape artist.
  • Provide a sight line. Provide a sight line along the top of a wire fence so the horses can see it from a distance. This can be something as simple as colored ribbons every few feet.
  • Round the corners. This design will make mowing easier and keep horses low in the pecking order from being trapped in corners by more dominant herd mates.
  • Consider a perimeter fence. A perimeter fence around the entire property is a great safety net.
  • Fence ponds. Fence around any ponds to keep horses from eroding the banks or walking out on ice.
  • Fence trees. Fence around any trees to keep horses from stripping the bark, and killing or disfiguring them.
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Fencing Materials

Once upon a time, there was a limited selection of fencing materials to choose from: wire, wood, maybe pipe. While these are still used extensively, new materials/technology offer us more choices.

  • Vinyl. The classic wood “estate fence” is now available in vinyl, but be aware that not all vinyl fencing is horse safe. Some of these rails pop right out of the posts when horses lean on them. They’ve also been known to shatter if hit. Flat, flexible vinyl strips reinforced with cables give a similar look for less money and they’re more forgiving if a horse runs into them.
  • Wire options. The thin electric wire of yesterday has given way to thicker, braided wire and narrow, woven mesh tapes that are more visible and less likely to cut a horse who gets spooked and runs through it. Avoid field fence or box wire; the openings are large enough for a horse to put a foot through. Better options are woven wire fences with small openings or diamond mesh. When the wire strands are woven or wrapped rather than welded, it won’t pop apart if a horse runs into it. Look for the words “horse fence” on the label.
  • Wood posts. Treated round or square wood posts are still the standard. (Avoid treated landscape ties.) Install them in a drilled hole using a tractor-mounted or hand-held auger. Or, find a contractor who’ll drive them into the ground. Set the posts down far enough to avoid heaving if you live in an area where the ground freezes.
  • Metal T-posts. It’s best to avoid metal T-posts, which can impale a horse. If you must use them for budget reasons, cap them with plastic caps. Several cap styles are available.

Added Value

Fencing depends on the needs of your animals, as well as your own aesthetic tastes. You’re not only investing in your horses’ needs, but you’re also investing significant capital into your real estate. You want to be happy with the results for years to come.

Nancy Butler is an avid horsewoman, long-time journalist, and freelance writer from Delaware.

Categories: Rider News

Your Horse’s Vital Signs

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 14:18
One place to take your horse’s pulse is behind his elbow. Place a stethoscope on your horse’s side, just behind his elbow, and listen for heartbeat.
Photo by Heidi Melocco

Have you ever been preparing to ride your horse and notice he’s just not quite right? The first step is to take his vital signs. This will give you insight into his condition and help you decide whether you should call your veterinarian or just keep a close eye on your horse.

It’s also a good idea to take your horse’s vital signs when he’s rested and feeling fine to determine what’s normal for him. Then you’ll have a baseline, which will help you determine any variances.

To learn how to take your horse’s vital signs, watch this instructional video from the Certified Horseman Association, as demonstrated by Michal Kays.

Below are a few guidelines.

Pulse
What’s normal: A horse’s normal pulse rate is between 30 and 40 beats per minute.

How to check: You can check your horse’s pulse in one of three places, as outlined below. Count the number of pulses; use a stopwatch or your own watch to keep the time.

  • Jaw line. Gently place your hand under your horse’s jaw line, allowing the blood to flow through.
  • Knee/fetlock. Also using your hand, find the digital pulse on the inside of your horse’s knee or at his fetlock just above the pastern.
  • Behind the elbow. Place a stethoscope on your horse’s side, just behind his elbow, and listen for heartbeat.
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Respiration
What’s normal: Normal respiration for a horse at rest is 3 to 16 breaths per minute.

How to check: Watch the movement of your horse’s flanks. You can also check respiration by watching his nostrils, but this isn’t as accurate, because he can snort, and his breath is harder to follow.

Temperature
What’s normal: A horse’s normal temperature ranges from 99.5 to 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. 

How to check: Check your horse’s temperature rectally, with a mercury or digital thermometer designed equine use. Here’s what to do.

Check your horse’s temperature rectally, with a mercury or digital thermometer designed equine use.
Photo by Heidi Melocco

Step 1. Attach a string. Attach a string to the thermometer, so you can retrieve it, if necessary.

Step 2. Prepare the thermometer. Warm up the thermometer with your hand, and use some kind of lubrication, such as Vaseline.

Step 3.Stay out of the kick zone. Stand to the side of your horse’s hindquarters, as shown in the video.

Step 4. Secure the thermometer. Clip or tie the thermometer string to the tail.

Step 5. Insert the thermometer. Lift up your horse’s tail, and insert the thermometer into his anal cavity. A mercury thermometer needs 2 minutes for a reading; the digital ones can be much faster.

Step 6. Move with your horse. Some horses will react when the thermometer is inserted into the rectum. If your horse moves, go with him. Be sure to keep your hand on him and on the thermometer.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mPJpCQGDgc

Click above for a video from the Certified Horsemanship Association showing how to take your horse’s vital signs.

Categories: Rider News

Discover Hidden Hills

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 01:35
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Here’s a photo gallery of Kent and Charlene Krones’ adventure in the hidden hills of Oklahoma. Photos by Kent and Charlene Krone.

Think Oklahoma is flat as a griddle? Think again! Visit southeast Oklahoma, and discover a world of evergreen- and deciduous-covered hills; clear, flowing streams; and good horse camps.

We set out with our 6-year-old Missouri Fox Trotters, Cowboy and Nate, to explore several horse camps in those Oklahoma hills.

Robbers’ Cave State Park
Robbers’ Cave State Park is located in the beautiful San Bois Mountains five miles north of Wilburton on Oklahoma State Highway 2. Robbers’ Cave has the distinction of being the first equestrian camp in Oklahoma. You can stay in cabins with fireplaces, the View Lodge, or the equestrian campground.

The upscale equestrian campground is intertwined by two loops of paved road and surrounded by large grassy expanses. All campsites feature picnic tables and fire rings; most sites have horse pens, electricity, and water.

Robbers’ Cave is located a few miles from its namesake campground. Several days each week, naturalists provide guided cave tours where you can learn about the area’s geography, plant life, early Native American legends, and outlaw tales.

Adjoining Robbers’ Cave State Park is a wildlife-management area. Together, these two regions provide roughly 60 miles of trails, all accessible from camp.

Park officials can provide you with trail maps. The trails are open year-around, except for a portion of the wildlife-management area, which is closed in the fall for hunting season.

Most trails are in good condition. Horseshoes are recommended, because some trails are quite rocky. In the summer, ticks and chiggers may be out, along with a few poisonous snakes. Autumn brings pleasant temperatures, fewer flies, and a palette of fall colors.

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Tapestry of Color
To our delight, we rode Robbers’ Cave in the fall when the surrounding tapestry of color was at its peak.

First, we rode the popular Dogwood and Big John trails. When we headed out, thick tendrils of mist wound around trees, and the mountains were still wrapped in a gray shawl. We were in for a good ride!

The Dogwood Trail passes a small pond on the left, goes up a forest-filled gorge, and climbs a ridge. From here, you can cross a road and ride to a panoramic spot that has a picnic table on the bluff overlooking Lake Wayne Wallace.

After pausing at this overlook, you may ride either the Rim Rock Trail or the Big John Trail to a series of switchbacks leading down to Junctions BB and B. We continued on Trail #2 to the northwest section of the lake, where the view and picnic tables make an ideal lunch spot.

On the Wildlife Trail
On another ride, we explored the wildlife-management area. We rode north out of camp and across the road to Junction J. We then proceeded across an overpass to Junction K and beyond.

The wildlife-management area is a region of pine- and deciduous-tree-covered hills. Again, some trails are rocky, but there are also flat, soft stretches.

We spotted deer lurking in the brush but didn’t see any bears, raccoons, opossum, or rabbits, which are also native to this area.

Birdlife is abundant in these Oklahoma hills. In addition to small birds and songbirds, we saw all three types of local woodpeckers on one ride: the redheaded, red bellied, and downy woodpeckers.

One fun feature to check out close to camp is the second largest pine tree in Oklahoma. Take the trail out of the north end of camp to the road. Turn left on the road, and watch on the left for a sign to the tree.

Horse Heaven Ranch
Horse Heaven Ranch is located seven miles east of Talihina on Oklahoma State Highway 63 East. Look for the big entry sign by the highway. Turn onto the dirt road; the ranch is within a mile.

The setting for this ranch is pleasing to the eye. The spacious campsites and tranquil lake are relaxing. The 32 RV campsites, spaced for privacy, have full hookups and two pipe corrals at each unit.

For folks wanting to rent a cabin, there are six luxury cabins, each with its own little horse barn. We enjoyed meeting Lisa Cheney and Emma Moldy, both from Texas, who were renting one of the cabins. They loved their fully furnished cabin, where they could sit on the porch swing and watch their horses in the barnyard.

The campground’s bathhouse is nicely designed. There’s also a full-size arena where you can warm up your horse before a ride.

However, the secret ingredient to making Horse Heaven a success is its smiling, hardworking, animal-loving manager, Elfie Bowling.

Using Horse Heaven's map, we saddled our horses and hit the trail. The map lists four main routes honeycombed with connecting trails.

Horse Heaven Ranch borders the Ouachita National Forest; there are five main entrances straight into the forest. One of these is the 35-mile-long Choctaw National Trail, which crosses Horse Heaven and continues into the national forest.

One of our favorite rides was the 3½-hour B Trail. Since it was fall, our path was lined with festive hues of scarlet and gold.

We meandered up and down the mostly gentle hills. Much of the trail is rocky, with some sandy stretches. Our trail culminated in a beautiful ridgetop view that we enjoyed while eating lunch.

More Oklahoma Horse Camps
A to Z Guest Ranch. A to Z Guest Ranch has it all, with cabins, camping, stalls, and plenty of room to roam. Trails wind over the Kiamichi Mountains, with panoramic views of southeast Oklahoma, water crossings, and more.

A to Z also provides rides for those folks without their own horses. One-, two- and three-hour rides are available. Plus, there’s a special four-hour ride with lunch that travels into the hills for incredible views.

Cedar Lake Equestrian Campground. Cedar Lake Equestrian Campground is nestled in the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. The campground has paved roads, electricity, and water; at some spots, there are pavilions and picket poles. A Cedar Lake Equestrian map is available to guide you through 70-plus miles of trails. Water is easily found on many trails in spring and fall, but less certain in the summer.

Indian Mounds Horse Camp. Besides offering you the peace and beauty of the wilderness, Indian Mounds offers complete camping facilities, including plenty of shady sites for RVs, horse trailers, and tents. Many sites have electrical hookups; restrooms and clean showers are centrally located. There’s also a lighted pavilion for gathering or organized events.

If you don't have your own horse, Indian Mounds will rent you one by the hour or for the day.

Wild Horse Trail Camp. For something a little different, head over to the Oklahoma/Arkansas border, and check out the Wild Horse Trail rides. This camp is open for specific multiday rides. Generally, there’s a ride in April to greet spring, a ride over Memorial Day, one in October to view fall colors, and finally, one in early December.

Kent and Charlene Krone combine their interest in photojournalism with a passion for horses. They enjoy sharing their horseback adventures in the United States and Western Canada. During riding season, you can usually find them on the trail, checking out new places to ride.

Categories: Rider News

Hydration & Cool-Down Tips

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 00:45
Discard the notion that allowing your horse to drink his fill will cause him to colic, cramp, or tie-up, says Lari Shea. Photo by CLIXPHOTO

It’s vital to keep your hardworking trail horse hydrated and cool, especially as the weather warms up this season. Here, endurance champion Lari Shea, owner of California’s Ricochet Ridge Ranch, gives you her top tips to encourage your trail horse to drink water on the trail and after a ride. Then she’ll give you important electrolyte guidelines. Finally, she’ll outline her safe, effective cool-down routine.

Hydration Tips

  • Let him drink on the trail. “Let your horse drink every time you come to water on the trail,” says Shea. “Encourage him to drink out of streams and puddles. Most water sources are fine.” Horses often prefer mud puddles to ice-cold running streams. Even though the stream looks cleaner, puddle water is warmer and contains minerals your horse might find appealing. Other horses prefer running water, as their instincts tell them this water is cleaner.
  • Allow him to eat on the trail. Allowing your horse to graze on the trail helps to keep him hydrated, as it encourages thirst during exercise. “Many riders don’t let their horses eat when on a long trail ride, but this is a mistake,” says Shea. “There’s no veterinary reason to keep a horse from eating along the trail. Regularly stop your horse and let him graze a few minutes throughout the ride, especially on long outings.
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Allowing your horse to eat will also keep his digestive system moving, which helps  reduce colic risk. “The intestinal flora in your horse’s hind gut, which aids digestion, starts to die off two hours after he has last eaten,” notes Shea. Back at camp or at the trailhead, dampen his hay and add water to his grain.

  • Allow him to drink after your ride. Voluntary drinking during the early recovery stage after exercise is critical for replacing the water and electrolytes lost through sweat. Discard the notion that allowing your horse to drink his fill will cause him to colic, cramp, or tie-up. “A hot, sweaty horse needs to rehydrate,” says Shea. “If you walk him until he’s cool to the touch without letting him drink, he may lose his incentive to drink.”
  • Offer tepid water. Studies have shown that horses will voluntarily drink more within the first hour after exercising if the water is about 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Monitor water intake. A normal horse of average size will drink 6 to10 gallons of water per day when he’s not working. If he’s working, he’ll need as much as five times more. Monitor your horse’s water intake, so you’ll know he’s drinking enough. To do so, count the swallows. It takes approximately 25 to 30 swallows for your horse to consume one gallon of water.

“Let your horse drink every time you come to water on the trail,” says Lari Shea. Photo by Heidi Melocco

Electrolyte Tips

  • Talk to your vet. If your horse has been working hard and sweating a good amount, he might need an electrolyte (salt) supplement to replace the salt lost in sweat. Talk to your veterinarian first. Your vet can tell you whether this is advisable for your horse and, if recommended, how much to give.
  • Make your own paste. If your vet gives the go-ahead to give your horse electrolytes, you can make your own electrolyte paste. Combine two parts regular salt (sodium chloride), two parts lite salt (potassium chloride blend), and one part dolomite powder or Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). Mix together. Put two tablespoons of the mixture in a tablespoon of water, then add one or two tablespoons of Maalox or yogurt. Administer by syringe into your horse’s mouth, per your vet’s instructions.

Cool-Down Tips

The quip “never let ’em see you sweat” certainly doesn’t apply to horses. Your horse creates a tremendous amount of heat when he’s carrying you on the trail. His body dissipates heat in two primary ways: (1) by sending heat to the blood in his peripheral circulatory system, where it flows near the surface and is cooled; and (2) via evaporative cooling of surface moisture (sweat).

When sweat evaporates, the energy exchange cools your horse. Of course, this works best when air humidity is low. If it’s hot and humid, evaporation doesn’t work as well.

“Sweating in itself isn’t a bad thing,” notes Shea. “What matters is how quickly your horse recovers and whether or not he’s dehydrated.

Allowing your horse to graze on the trail helps to keep him hydrated, as it encourages thirst. Photo by CLIXPHOTO.COM

“If your horse sweats a lot, he’ll lose fluids from every body system that contains fluids. He’ll also lose electrolytes. Every system slows down when he gets dehydrated.”

Your horse also dissipates body heat through by breathing in cool air and exhaling hot air. He loses a great deal of moisture with every breath.

Here’s how to help your horse cool off and stay hydrated.

  • Wet him down. You can help your hot horse cool off by wetting him down. Tie to your saddle a sponge and/or scoop cut from a plastic bottle. A one-gallon, zip-close plastic bag will also work. When you get to a stream or lake, apply water to your horse’s body.
  • Target the water. Focus on wetting the areas of your horse’s body where blood vessels are close to the skin surface, such as his jugular vein, belly, and his front and inside upper hind legs.
  • Scrape it off. After you apply the water, use the side of your hand or scoop to scrape off the water as it heats up. Keep replacing the warm water with fresh, cool water. This will help your horse sweat less, cool off faster, and stay hydrated.
  • Allow him to stand in water. On the trail, you can also let your horse stand in a stream or lake to cool down.
A champion endurance rider, Lari Shea has completed over more than 6,500 miles in 50- and 100-mile endurance races, placing in the top 10 in 95 of 106 races completed since 1988, and winning first place in 34 of those races. Shea also has more than 30 years of experience as a riding instructor under her belt, specializing in trail and endurance riding. She owns and runs Ricochet Ridge Ranch on the coast in California’s Mendocino County.

Categories: Rider News

Florida Paradise

Sun, 02/09/2014 - 16:07
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While much of the country gets blasted with winter storms, here in the Sunshine State, we enjoy some of the best riding weather of the year.

Here in Florida, we’re blessed not only with great year-round riding, but also with a large number of public and privately owned lands that offer riding trails.

Last winter, my friend, Jayne, and I took our horses for a three-day mini-vacation at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, located pretty much right in the middle of the state.

Clermont, known for its natural beauty, is called “the real Florida” by insiders. The area boasts rolling hills, numerous lakes, and fragrant orange groves.

Located off U.S. Route 27, Lake Louisa State Park is easy to get to from the Florida Turnpike. It encompasses nearly 4,500 acres and has six lakes; the largest is Lake Louisa.

Spacious Campground
Lake Louisa State Park’s equestrian campground is perfect! The camping fee is only $5 per person, and horses stay for free. This fee includes the use of all the trails. We had the place to ourselves.

My Arabian mare, Rain, and Jayne’s Tennessee Walking Horse mare, Sonata, had spacious, partially covered paddocks, each about 10 by 25 feet.

There are six paddock-duplexes situated around the large, pine-tree-lined, grassy campground. You may also bring your own portable corral, HiTies, and highlines.

There are fire rings, picnic tables, nonpotable water, a pavilion, and a self-composting toilet. For an additional fee, you can use the bathhouse, located at the main campground.

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Even though our girls had their nice paddocks, we also set up a highline so they could enjoy grazing time while ate our breakfast and dinner.

It’s so nice to camp right there with your horse and to have so much room for him to move about, something most equestrian campgrounds lack.

We enjoyed nighttime temperatures in the mid-30s and perfect daytime temperatures of 55 to 65 degrees under sunny, blue skies.

Riding Trails
As terrific as our camp was, we came for the fun trails! There are 16 miles of riding trails in the park; nearly all have great footing.

Trails range from lovely pine-tree-lined lanes to scrub palmetto woods to hardwood forests. You can enjoy long trots for miles and miles. Hills made for cantering offer beautiful views of park’s lakes and orange groves.

Lake Louisa State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, a 2,000- mile-long collection of more than 500 locations where avian habitats are protected.

We saw a lovely Great Egret flying in for landing on the shore of Lake Louisa, and glimpsed Wood Stork, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, and songbirds.

There’s also abundant wildlife. While crossing the bridge over Big Creek, we saw white-tailed deer and fox squirrels.

The first day, we arrived midday and enjoyed an eight-mile ride. On the second day, we logged 12 miles. On our final day, we did a quick six-mile ride, then left midday to head home.

Every day, we had a picnic lunch in an orange grove, letting our horses graze while we ate. Rain enjoyed a sampling of oranges, as well. The orange blossoms’ sweet smell enhanced our picnics.

We had such a wonderful time, we’ve decided to make this a yearly vacation.

So come on down, and enjoy the real Florida on horseback!

Categories: Rider News

Travelwise: 21 Ways to Save

Sun, 02/09/2014 - 15:31

Budgeting for a horse adventure can be a challenge, but you can enjoy trail-riding adventures near and far by using a little creativity.

Here are 21 tips to help you save money on your next riding adventure, plus eight equine-oriented ways to make extra cash for your trail-travel nest egg.

  1. Go in the off-season. Do you have your heart set on a vacation at that darling bed-and-barn in a resort area? Call up the owners, ask about their off-season rates, and plan your trip accordingly. You can save hundreds of dollars by vacationing when everyone else is staying home.
  2. Look for discounts. When planning a riding vacation, find out which destinations are offering discount packages. Call prospective destinations for discount packages, and visit their websites. Plus, do an online search for discounts.
  3. Form a trail-travel club. Find other trail riders who want to go on a riding adventure, and coordinate your schedules. By going with others, you can share both travel and accommodation expenses. Also, contact several prospective riding destinations to see whether they offer group discounts.
  4. Offer expertise. If you have expertise in an equine-related field, such as outfitting, horse/mule packing, horse camping, trail training, trailering, hoof care, horsemanship, or roping, offer to give a clinic at your chosen destination in return for a discount.
  5. Barter for services. Do you have special non-equine skills that you could barter for your accommodation or other fees? The guest ranch where you’ll be staying or the horse motel where you’ll be boarding may need someone to supply legal counsel, design a website, take photographs, or provide another service that may be your specialty.
  6. Apply for a job. If your schedule allows, get a seasonal job at a guest ranch or other equestrian destination. You’ll ride at your heart’s content and get paid for your trail knowledge.
  7. Leave your horse at home. There’s nothing like hitting a glorious trail on your own horse. However, riding vacations, where you use the facilities’ horses, can be a blast — and can be cheaper than hauling your own horse, especially if you’re going a long distance or wish to combine your riding adventure with another getaway, as below. This can be your chance to try out a smooth-gaited horse, or try a breed you’re thinking about buying. Be sure to research the horses the prospective facilities offer, and read the online guest reviews.
  8. Combine a riding adventure with a family getaway. Your family says Disney World. You have your heart set on a beach ride. Get the best of both worlds: You’ll do Disney, as long as you get spend a day or two riding at that great Florida beach-riding destination you’ve been reading about.
  9. Photo by William J. Erikson

    Combine a riding adventure with a business trip. Outside of every major city are trails awaiting exploration. Your company is sending you to San Francisco? Take an extra day or two and ride in the wine country, through the redwoods, or on the beach.

  10. Skip the luxuries. Instead of booking a vacation at a guest resort in an area where you’d like to ride, consider keeping your horse at a horse hotel in the vicinity, then staying at a nearby motel. You can then ride in the same area as if you were staying at the resort, but at a fraction of the cost.
  11. Do advance planning. Plan overnight stops for you and your horse in advance to get the best rates. Go online, and search for inexpensive but well-reviewed restaurants for meals along the way. Avoid buying snacks at convenience stores; instead, buy a big bag of your favorite chip or other road-trip snack, and put them in smaller, airtight bags before you go.
  12. Buy or rent a lightweight trailer. If you plan to bring your own horse on your riding adventure, save money on fuel by trading in your heavy steel trailer for a safe, aluminum-based model. If you’ll be renting a trailer, look for a safe lightweight one to help cut down on fuel costs.
  13. Rent a living-quarters trailer. Even if you have your own trailer, consider renting a trailer with living quarters for your riding adventure. Going this route may be cheaper than paying for hotel accommodations. You can also save money on a horse motel by keeping your horse next to the trailer in a portable corral. Or, invest in a trailer-tying system that allows him to lie down, such as the HiTie Trailer Tie System, available from EasyCare Inc. (www.easycareinc.com).
  14. Trade in your tow vehicle. Consider trading in your tow vehicle for one that uses less fuel. A diesel truck or even one of the new hybrids can pay off in the long run when it comes to fuel economy. Caveat: Make sure your new vehicle has enough power to tow your fully loaded trailer, plus everything you plan to throw in the truck.
  15. Get a smaller horse trailer. Another way to save money on fuel is to trade in your large trailer for a smaller, more economical model. If you’re only towing two horses and you have a three-horse or larger trailer, pare down to a stock trailer or a model that holds just the amount of horses that you plan to transport.
  16. Camp out. One very low cost way to travel with your horse is by camping in a horse camp with facilities or even a primitive campground. Tent camping with horses can be very rewarding. The best part is waking up in the morning and seeing your horse grazing outside your tent, then enjoying a cup of coffee made over a campfire.
  17. Photo by Kent and Charlene Krone

    Use public lands. National, state, county, city, and other public lands offer a variety of incredible riding adventures for little or no fee. Call ahead to find out the policy for equestrians. Some will let you ride on the land, but not camp overnight. Many now require certified weed-free hay or pellets to avoid introducing exotic plant species via the undigested seeds in your horse’s manure.

  18. Buy used tack. If you need additional tack before you head out on your adventure, consider buying gently used tack. Shop at a tack consignment store near you, or look on eBay (www.ebay.com), Craigslist (www.craigslist.com), and other online spots where used tack is sold. If you prefer new tack, keep an eye on clearance sales at your local tack store and online.
  19. Shop wisely for camping supplies. If you’ll be camping out with your horse, check out your local dollar store. You’ll find such items as buckets, spare towels, sponges, tack, zip-close bags, rubber bands, snacks, and a whole host of other camping-related stuff for a dollar each or less.
  20. Buy in bulk. Buy horse-care basics, such as fly spray, coat conditioner, and shampoo, in large bottles, then transfer them to smaller bottles for ease of use. Also, look for concentrated versions of these products, which are economical and easy to store, then add your own water.
  21. Use pelleted or fine shavings. If you’ll be bringing bedding along for your horse, buy pelleted or fine shavings. This bedding tends to last longer than other bedding types, giving you a bigger bang for your buck.
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Earn Extra Cash
Here are eight ways to make extra money in your spare time for your trail-travel nest egg.

  1. Board horses. If you have extra room on your property, consider boarding a horse or two to bring in extra cash. If you don’t have empty stalls, buy some inexpensive pipe corrals, and set up accommodations for a boarder. Do some research on creating a boarding agreement. Place an ad in the local paper and in your local tack store advertising stalls for rent.
  2. Half-lease your trail horse. If you’re like most horsepeople, you don’t have time to ride your horse as often as you should. If you half-lease your trail horse, you’ll not only get more exercise for your mount, you’ll also pocket extra cash each month that you can put toward your trail adventures. Advertise your horse for lease by word-of-mouth, and put up a sign, with a photo of your horse, in your local tack store.
  3. Sell a horse you no longer need. It can be difficult to give up a horse, but if you have one or two that are just hanging out because no one has time to ride them, consider selling them. Not only will you come away with money for your trip, you’ll also save funds on their upkeep.
  4. Sell spare tack. Get rid of any tack you have laying around that you haven’t used for a long time. Saddles, bridles, halters, and cinches can all bring extra cash. Sell your tack at a local consignment store, or list them on eBay or Craigslist well in advance of your trip, so you have funds in hand when you’re ready to leave.
  5. Photo by Heidi Melocco

    Become a Certified Riding Instructor. If you like to teach and can see yourself helping others learn to ride, consider becoming a Certified Riding Instructor with the Certified Horsemanship Association (www.cha-ahse.org). You can teach people on their own horses, or use your own horse, if he’s suitable for lessons. Be sure you have insurance to cover liability.

  6. Become certified with a natural-horsemanship clinician. Although obtaining a certification as a natural horsemanship clinician requires a commitment of both time and money, it’s well worth it in the end. Certifications are given by Linda Tellington-Jones, John Lyons, Clinton Anderson, Pat Parelli, and others.
  7. Become an equine massage therapist. If you like working around horses, and think you’d be suitable for body work, study to become an equine massage therapist. This requires schooling, but is an excellent way to earn extra money while also helping horses. You can do therapy work in the evenings and on weekends.
  8. Become an equine appraiser. Equine appraisers get paid to determine the value of a horse for legal or other reasons. In this profession, you can earn extra money in your spare time. The American Society of Equine Appraisers provides education and certification (www.equineappraiser.com).
Audrey Pavia is an award-winning equine journalist and competitive trail rider based in Norco, California. She’s the author of Trail Riding: A Complete Guide (Howell Book House imprint of Wiley; www.howellbookhouse.com).

Categories: Rider News

Winter Trail-Rides

Sun, 02/09/2014 - 01:57

PACIFIC REGION

Zmudowski State Beach, Monterey County, California

Closest city: Monterey, California.

Moss Landing at Zmudowski State beach provides riders with access to some of the most glorious coastline views in the world. The dunes at Zmudowski are mostly free of jagged rocks and ocean debris. The sand slopes gently from the ocean.

Travel distance: 25 miles.

Directions: From Monterey, head northwest on Olmsted Rd. Turn left onto Henderson Way. Turn left onto Garden Rd. Take the first right onto California State Route 68 West. Keep right at the fork, and follow signs for California State Route 1 North/Santa Cruz. Merge onto CA-1 North. Turn left onto CA-1/Cabrillo Highway. (You’ll see signs for Watsonville/Santa Cruz.) Turn left onto Struve Rd. Turn left onto Giberson Rd. Giberson Rd. turns right and becomes Zmudowski Beach State Park.

Terrain: The dunes at Zmudowski are mostly free of jagged rocks and ocean debris. The sand slopes gently from the ocean.

History: In 1950, Mary Zmudowski, a local Watsonville schoolteacher, donated the beach to the state of California. Her aim was to share her love of the ocean, fishing, birding, and horseback riding with locals and travelers alike. More recently, a natural preserve was opened to the public at the Pajaro River Estuary. The beach is currently operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

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Top ride: Look for Moss Landing from CA-1. This long sandy beach provides riders with access to some of the most glorious coastline views in the world. On this six-mile roundtrip ride, you’ll see a variety of wildlife such as seals, sea otters, and wild birds from the water line. You’ll take in the views along the shoreline, traipsing over sand dunes, and exploring hundreds of acres of artichoke fields.

Amenities: If you can’t bring your own horse, you can still ride on Zmudowski State Beach through Seahorse Equestrian Tours (831/763-7945; www.seahorseequestriantours.com).


Map: >Go to www.californiasbestbeaches.com/dunes/monterey_dunes_beaches.html.

Contact: California Parks and Recreation, (831) 649-2836, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=572.

SOUTHWEST REGION

Copper Canyon Trail

Closest city: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Travel distance: 50 miles.

Directions: From Santa Fe, take U.S. Route 84/U.S. Route 285 north to Espanola. Follow signs to Abiquiu and Chama. When you get to Hernandez, take 84 toward Abiquiu. After you pass through Abiquiu, look for sign for the elementary school, 1.5 miles north of town. Turn onto the elementary school property. Pass the school, and park on the dirt road. The trailhead is just behind the school.

Copper Canyon is a 10-mile-deep box canyon with dramatic rock formations. The canyon bottom is a wide arroyo, lined with steep cliffs in a variety of desert colors. Sage and mesquite are plentiful.

Terrain: Copper Canyon is a 10-mile-deep box canyon with dramatic rock formations. The canyon bottom is a wide arroyo, lined with steep cliffs in a variety of desert colors. Sage and mesquite are plentiful.

History: Copper Canyon is ancient gorge, created at the same time as the Grand Canyon. Rock formations in Copper Canyon range in age from 25 to 60 million years old. A fossil of the largest prehistoric insect on record was discovered here.

The canyon was given its name for the hand-dug copper mines still visible along the trail. The nearby town of Abiquiu was the home of renowned artist Georgia O’Keeffe. More recently, Copper Canyon has been a popular spot with Hollywood filmmakers.

Top ride: The Copper Canyon Trail follows an arroyo that cuts through a 25-million-year-old volcanic ash deposit known as the Plaza Blanca formation. As you ride, you’ll see rock formations that are millions of years old. Once you hit the fault line, the scenery changes to huge cliffs made up of tumbled rocks 500 feet thick, deposited here 40 million years ago in a flash flood. You’ll continue through the arroyo to a 60-million-year-old clay formation. Keep your eyes open for petrified wood, along with five hand-dug copper mines. One of the mines, about 90 minutes into the canyon, provides a good, shady spot to tie your horse and enjoy lunch. Keep riding for a couple more hours, and you’ll come to an artesian well.

Map: You can purchase a map at the United States Forest Service Espanola Ranger District (www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/santafe/recarea/?recid=75442).

Contact: Debbie Spickerman, president of the Backcountry Horsemen of Santa Fe, (505) 753-3531; www.bchnm-santafe.org.

SOUTHEAST REGION

Lady Hawk Farm

Closest city: Tampa, Florida.

Travel distance: 60 miles.

Directions: From South Tampa, take the Florida State Rd. 589 Toll North/Veterans Expressway ramp to Florida State Rd. 60 West/Clearwater. Keep right at the fork, and continue toward Florida 589 Toll North. Merge onto Florida 589 Toll North. Take the exit toward U.S. Route 98 South/Ponce De Leon Blvd. Merge onto US-98 South/Ponce De Leon Blvd. Turn left onto County Rd. 491/Citrus Way. Turn right onto County Rd. 480/West Stage Coach Trail. Turn left onto South Flutter Terrace, which becomes East Ridge Lane. Turn right onto South Forestline Ave. Lady Hawk Farm is located on the left-hand side.

Lady Hawk Farm is directly adjacent to Withlacoochee State Forest, which offers 40,000 acres of sandy, wooded, hilly horse trails. The area is known for its rolling hills within a pristine forest locale.

Terrain: Lady Hawk Farm is directly adjacent to Withlacoochee State Forest, which offers 40,000 acres of sandy, wooded, hilly horse trails. The area is known for its rolling hills within a pristine forest locale. The forest is home to an abundance of wildlife, including turkey, deer, tortoise, and a wide variety of birds.

History: The federal government acquired Withlacoochee State Forest from private landowners between 1936 and 1939. The USFS managed the forest until a lease-purchase agreement in 1958 transferred the property to the state of Florida.

Top ride: Lady Hawk Farm offers the five-hour Tillis Hill guided ride for trail riders on their own horses. The ride culminates with inspiring views of the Withlacoochee Forest from Tillis Hill, the third-highest peak in Florida. Stop for a break at the top of the hill, and enjoy your lunch while viewing a rock mine, water and contoured pines.

Amenities: If you prefer to leave your horse at home, the farm offers well-trained horses that suit riders of all experience levels. Facilities include a ranch-house cabin, playground, swimming pool, spa, and barbecue grills.

Map: None available.

Contact: Lady Hawk Farm, 10542 South Forestline Ave., Inverness, FL 34452; (866) 892-4797; inquiry@ladyhawkfarm.com; www.ladyhawkfarm.com.

Categories: Rider News

Crown of the Continent

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 01:10
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Click above for a slideshow of the Krones’ adventure in Montana's Glacier National Park.

Journey to Montana’s Glacier National Park, known as the Crown of the Continent. There, you’ll experience trails that take you through land inhabited by almost 300 species of birds and mammals, and more than 1,100 plant species.

Elevation ranges from 3,150 feet, where old-growth forests flourish, to more than 10,000 feet, where the hardiest alpine plants struggle to survive.

Glacier became a national park in 1910, through the efforts of farsighted people, such as George Bird Grinnell, cofounder of the Audubon Society and the Boone and Crockett Club.

Grinnell lobbied tirelessly for Glacier’s park status; he wanted to protect the glacier-carved peaks, turquoise and emerald lakes, and abundant wildlife.

Grinnell also coined the name “Crown of the Continent” for Glacier National Park. The park is now also called the “Crown Jewel of the Continent.”

Swan Mountain Outfitters
There are two ways to explore Glacier on horseback, on your own horse and with outfitters. The only licensed outfitter in Glacier is Swan Mountain Outfitters.

We visited with the managers, Erik and Aubrie Lorona. Aubrie told us their goal is to make horseback riding the highlight of a guest’s visit to Glacier National Park.

The Loronas maintain four corrals in and around the park, where they provide one-hour, two-hour, half-day, and full-day rides, as well as dinner rides and overnight trips.

Swan Mountain’s West Glacier Corral is located about two miles from the west entrance of the park. Several rides go out from here, including overnight pack trips. The overnight pack trip includes food and a stay in wall tents at the outfitter’s camp.

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The cowboy cookout ride features a fabulous steak dinner and a return to the corral with the setting sun.

Swan Mountain’s Apgar Corral is located inside the west entrance to the park. These trails meander through tall lodgepole pines and offer opportunities for riders to see bear, coyote, and deer.

The Lake McDonald Corrals are located on the west side of the park across from Lake McDonald Lodge. Trails here offer views of McDonald Creek and Lake McDonald.

An all-day, seven-mile ride from the Lake McDonald Corrals climbs 3,300 vertical feet up to the historic Sperry Chalet, built in 1912. You can reserve a night, complete with meals. When I first hiked to Sperry Chalet in 1972, the cost was $12.50 for lodging and dinner; now it’s $166 (rates subject to change).

The Many Glacier Corral is located on the east side of the park across from the Many Glacier Hotel. Swan Mountain Outfitters offers a number of rides in this area, from one hour to all day.

Stock Trails & Corrals
Generally, most trails in Glacier are open to horse use. There are some trails unsuitable for horses. Also, certain conditions can close trails, such as high bear activity or adverse weather.

For park regulations and a list of trails closed to stock, go to the Glacier website, click on “plan your visit,” then “brochures,” then “private stock use.”

Most of the trailheads in Glacier don’t have large parking areas. Get an early start to help ensure a parking area.

Hay is prohibited in the park, so leave forage at camp when you trailer in for each day’s ride. However, you may haul hay on Highway 2, which connects the east and west sides of the park.

There are several places near Glacier that you and your horse may stay. On the west side, you may keep horse at the Bowman Lake Corral. Access to this is a dirt road, which may not be suitable for large trailers. Check with the park service before attempting this drive.

From the Bowman Corral, you may ride to Lower and Upper Quartz Lakes, along Bowman Lake, and to Akokala Lake.

A more convenient place to stay on the west side of the park is Timber Wolf Resort in the town of Hungry Horse. Resort owner Phil Marshall is happy to share ride ideas.

The east side of the park has two places you can stay with horses. Campgrounds in this area that allow stock are Arrowhead Ranch, 11 miles east of Babb, and Johnson’s Campground and RV Park near St. Mary.

Gorgeous Glacier Rides
The two main riding areas on the east side are Two Medicine and Many Glacier. Two Medicine has three gorgeous rides.

Our favorite ride here is a trail to Cobalt Lake. After six miles of good trail and a 1,700-foot elevation gain, you reach a crystalline blue lake nestled among mountain peaks. There’s a handy hitching rail near the lake. This beautiful lake sometimes has small icebergs drifting in the water.

An easy ride with gorgeous mountain views is to Upper Two Medicine Lake. Take the trail on the north side of Two Medicine Lake and follow it about 4.5 miles to the upper lake. As you ride along, notice the irregular patches of snow, scattered like shards of broken pottery, on the mountaintops.

A third ride at Two Medicine begins from the north end of the parking lot and goes six miles to Old Man Lake. We were fortunate to do this ride when wildflowers were bursting with color, like mute fireworks in the meadows.

Old Man Lake is particularly photogenic. It’s situated at the base of the sculptured peaks that form the Continental Divide.

Many Glacier is our favorite area of the park. If you have time to visit only one region for trail riding, this is it. Many Glacier is a fabulous cirque, ringed by stately mountains mantled with glaciers. Historic Many Glacier Hotel, built in 1914, sits on the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake and welcomes visitors today just as it has done for the last 100 years.

Our first ride here took us on a trail in front of the Many Glacier Hotel. Back in the 1920s, as many as 60 saddled horses would await morning riders here.

To access the trail to Cracker Lake, go past the Many Glacier Hotel, the parking lot, and the Swan Mountain Outfitters’ corral. You’ll go 6.2 miles and ascend a 1,200-foot elevation gain to reach this pristine, alpine lake destination.

After the first couple of miles, notice beautiful Lake Sherburne on the left. After passing this lake, take the first fork to the right. The trail then begins switchbacking its way earnestly uphill to Cracker Lake.

After reaching Cracker Lake, proceed halfway down the lake on the left, and you’ll find hitching rails below a large rock. Climb up on the rock for lunch, and reward yourself with a year’s quota of high-country beauty in one spot.

Dramatic Mount Siyeh rises above the lake with Siyeh Glacier hanging precariously on the side. Glacial silt gives Cracker Lake its stunning turquoise color. Watch for mountain goats in the cliffs.

Poia Lake is another all-day ride. The parking lot for this ride is on the north side of the highway just before reaching Many Glacier Hotel.

The ride to Poia Lake has grand views of the entire Swiftcurrent Valley as you cross Swiftcurrent Ridge. The trail then drops down to Kennedy Creek and on to peaceful Poia Lake, the perfect picnic spot!

The last two rides take off from the Swiftcurrent Inn parking lot about a mile past the turn off to the Many Glacier Hotel. This is a congested parking lot, so arrive early. If the lot is full, there are usually places to park along Swiftcurrent Lake before reaching the Inn.

The ride up to Ptarmigan Lake from Swiftcurrent Inn is 4.6 miles with a 1,700-foot elevation gain.

Ptarmigan Lake is another turquoise jewel set in the mountains. You can see switchbacks across the lake going up to the famed Ptarmigan Tunnel that was driven through a rock mountain.

You can ride up to the tunnel, but space can be tight and this is definitely not recommended. A few years ago, a rider and his horse both fell to their deaths.

Our last ride in the park was from the Swiftcurrent Inn parking lot straight up the Swiftcurrent Valley. This is an easy, fun ride that goes 4.7 miles up the valley, past several lakes to the base of the Garden Wall. On this journey, we saw four moose and two grizzlies, all from a safe distance.

Once you reach the base of the Garden Wall, you and your horse can stand in a rock cirque and admire the silvery curtains of waterfalls cascading down the mountains. This amazing sight was a fitting closure to our time in Glacier.

Kent and Charlene Krone combine their interest in photojournalism with a passion for horses. They enjoy sharing their horseback adventures in the United States and Western Canada. During riding season, you can usually find them on the trail, checking out new places to ride.

Resource Guide

Arrowhead Ranch
(406) 338-5128

Glacier National Park
(406) 888-7800; www.nps.gov/glac

Johnson’s Campground and RV Park
(406) 732-4207;www.johnsonsofstmary.com/services/campground/campground.htm

Many Glacier Hotel
(406) 732-4411; www.glacierparkinc.com

Sperry Chalet
(888) 345-2649; www.sperrychalet.com

Timber Wolf Resort
(406) 387-9653; www.timberwolfresort.com

Categories: Rider News

Road Trip: The California Coast

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 00:49

My equine adventure along the California coast came about in an interesting way. I live in Ramona, in the foothills of San Diego County, California. We lost our corrals and shelter in the 2007 Witch Creek fire. So when Tecate, my bay gelding, needed a place to lay up following colic surgery, I boarded him in with my dear friend, Deb.

During Tecate’s convalescence, Deb and I talked about our “bucket lists.” Mine was to race a fully healed Tecate down a beach; Deb’s was to ride the historic 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. While cleaning the barn many a late evening, our trip was born. We decided to invite our friend Lisa, who’s always up for an adventure.

In early August, after Tecate received a clean bill, we hit the road with our ponies for a week of exploring the coast of California.

A Taste of California
Our first leg consisted of two nights in Pismo Beach, which is located approximately 320 miles north of Ramona. We stayed at the Pacific Dunes Ranch in the recreational-vehicle park; our horses were housed in comfortable pipe corrals with arena access.

The half-mile trail through the dunes led directly to the beach, where we found beautiful waves, long stretches of sand, and a bagpipe player! We were surprised that the beach also allowed cars and RVs, but our horses took this in stride as we galloped along.

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Two days later found us back on the road, heading up U.S. Highway 101 toward Monterey. As an amateur wine-maker, I wanted to stop at a winery. Wild Horse winery naturally caught our attention.

I called ahead and spoke to Leslie, the tasting-room manager, who assured me they could accommodate our large rig. When we pulled in, we were graciously greeted by Leslie and enjoyed tasting the various wines. We had a picnic, then headed north.

After a long haul through the mountains of Monterey, we stopped at the historic Holman Ranch. This ranch is made up of a hacienda, stables, and vineyard, all nestled in the rolling hills of Carmel Valley.

The staff welcomed us with open arms, and our horses enjoyed the well-kept facilities. We felt like rock stars. After settling the horses in, we headed over to Carmel, where we were booked at the Wayfarer Inn. We cleaned up, strolled around the cute town of Carmel, and had an early dinner.

Pebble Beach Ride
The next morning, we picked up the horses and hauled to the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. With lunches packed and a trail map, we set out to explore 17-Mile Drive.

Folks seemed surprised to see us riding along the golf course and beach drive, despite the fact that the equestrian center has been there since the 1920s. The deer took our riding party in stride.

We rode about 13 miles of the 17, enjoying the varied terrain, which included deep-sand trails, hard-packed foot trails, grassy footing, and even pavement when we were temporarily lost. The horses handled it all like the gentlemen they are, staying calm around cars, joggers, bicyclists, and golfers.

We hauled the horses back to Holman Ranch, then headed to Monterey for seafood on the pier at sunset.

Heading South
The next day, we took the boys out for a quick bareback ride on the historic ranch trails, enjoying the view of the valley, and surrounding mountains and vineyards.

We then headed back south on the 101. In Paso Robles, we stopped at Tobin James Cellars. This winery, built on the grounds of a former stage stop, has a Western flair, so we fit right in.

We pulled into Tejon Ranch around 7 p.m. At nearly 270,000 acres, Tejon Ranch is the largest continuous expanse of private land in California. It’s located along Interstate 5, approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles, on a hilly portion of the interstate known as the Grapevine.

We camped at Tejon overnight. We knew we’d be back to ride the trails.

The next day, we stopped for tacos in Lancaster, which is in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. We found a place called the Lazy T Ranch, built in the 1940s. It has a beautiful 40-plus-stall barn, arenas, and round pens, along with 85 miles of trail access.

We were again welcomed with open arms. The high-desert trails were perfect, as we explored the old stagecoach tracks in the evening sun, then retired to the onsite saloon.

The next day found us pulling back into San Diego, tired but happy. We were very proud of the adventure we’d accomplished, our horses, and the friends we’d made along the way.

For more information, contact: Pacific Dunes Ranch, (888) 908-7787 or (805) 489-7787,  http://pacificdunesranch.info; Wild Horse Winery, (805) 434-2541, www.wildhorsewinery.com; Holman Ranch, (831) 659-6054, www.holmanranch.com; Carmel Wayfarer Inn, (800) 533-2711, www.carmelwayfarerinn.com; Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, (831) 624-2756, www.ridepebblebeach.com; Tobin James Cellars, (805) 239-2204, www.tobinjames.com; Tejon Ranch, (661) 599-0741, www.tejonranch.com; Lazy T Ranch, (661) 947-2664; http://avlazyt.com.

Categories: Rider News

Top 5 First-Aid Kit Items

Tue, 12/03/2013 - 14:41
If you’re worried that your horse isn’t feeling well, your first step in being proactive is to check his temperature for signs of a fever. You can purchase a horse-sized mercury thermometer. Digital thermometers also work, but may be less accurate if you don’t insert them far enough into the rectum. You can also check his pulse.

Nothing is worse than trying to hunt down supplies when your horse is ill or injured. So a little pre-planning on your part — assembling your own first-aid kit — will make handling these emergencies go more smoothly.

The most common first-aid situations with horses are: (1) injuries of all sorts; (2) respiratory or other infectious diseases; and (3) colic. Your first-aid kit contents should reflect these situations.

#1. Thermometer.
This is item number one for your first-aid kit. Any time your horse is off feed, looking droopy, or acting out of sorts, take his temperature first. Even if he has obvious symptoms, such as a cough or diarrhea, your veeterinarian will need to know if your horse has a fever.

Traditional mercury thermometers for horses are five inches long, have a heavy plastic screw-top case, and a loop at the end. A heavy string or tape can be run through the loop and secured to an alligator clip or clothespin. This is clamped to the tail hairs while the thermometer is “cooking,” to prevent it from falling and breaking if the horse forces it out. Digital thermometers can also work, but cost at least four times as much and may not be long enough to get an accurate reading on a large horse.

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You can also check your horse’s pulse with a stethoscope.

#2. “Sharps.”
There are several small sharp implements you should store in your first-aid kit. First, you’ll need scissors to trim back long hairs overlying wounds and to trim bandaging materials to fit. Also, keep heavy shears (medium-weight garden shears are good) or sharp knife handy in the event your horse gets tangled or hung up. If your barn doesn’t keep shoeing equipment available, keep a sturdy pair of pliers in your kit to pull off loose or sprung shoes.

#3. Wound wash.
Gentle washing is the first step in removing surface contamination (dirt, plant material, hair, bedding, etc.) from a wound and reducing the number of bacteria on its surface. Unless there’s heavy bleeding that needs to be stopped first, wounds with obviously visible contamination should be cleaned by directing a stream of water above the wound and allowing it to run over the surface. Never direct water under pressure, even light hose pressure, straight onto a wound. This can actually drive debris or contaminants deeper into the wound or cut.

The initial water cleaning may result in a little bleeding. If this isn’t heavy, it’s to be expected from loosening surface clots. Ignore this, and proceed to cleansing. Betadine scrub, or another wound-disinfecting scrub made with povidone (“tamed”) iodine is a good choice, although some horses may be sensitive to it. A two percent chlorhexidine-based scrub is well tolerated even by sensitive-skinned horses. These surgical scrubs are widely available in farm-supply stores or online.

Leave the removal of materials deeply embedded in a wound to your veterinarian, to avoid triggering heavy bleeding. If you don’t have gloves, wash your hands with the surgical scrub, including under your fingernails, for a good five minutes before touching the wound. For the initial cleansing, use either gauze sponges or just your hands to gently work up a lather on the wound. Use very light pressure only. Leave the lathered scrub on the wound for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Never use cotton balls or roll cotton to clean a wound. These leave irritating fibers behind, embedded in the tissues.

Wounds heal best in a warm, moist environment. Topical medications, such as those shown here can help speed wound healing, prevent bandages from sticking, seal scraped tissues, protect from insects, and offer some amount of pain relief.

#4. Topicals for wounds.
Wounds heal best in a warm, moist environment. Simply covering a wound is a good way to fight dehydration of the tissues and trap body heat. (This is why our own cuts heal much faster underneath a Band-Aid.)

If you do choose to put a medication on the wound, what you use is largely a matter of choice. A layer of petroleum jelly on the wound-surface side of the first layer of bandaging works great in preventing the bandage from sticking to the wound. Others prefer antibiotic wound creams or herbal-based products such as aloe vera. If you use a Vaseline-impregnated wound dressing under a bandage, no other topical is needed.

On the other hand, superficial abrasions that ooze but don’t go completely through all skin layers may be best handled by a spray that will seal the tissues and protect them from insects. Sprays based on aluminum, gentian violet, and scarlet red oil serve this purpose well. If you have a large open wound that can’t be bandaged, consult with your veterinarian for the best approach.

One human product, Bactine, can come in handy with painful wounds. You can use it to desensitize tender wounds before working on them or to saturate sticking bandages before removing them. You can also use it as the sole dressing on superficial wounds and immediately eases the pain of sunburn on pink-skinned horses.

Keep a supply of sharp items in your first-aid kit. These come in handy for everything from trimming bandage materials to size to pulling a loose horse shoe or even cutting through a halter or cross-tie in an emergency situation where your horse may be hung up or tangled.

#5. Bandaging materials.
Whenever possible, injuries should be bandaged to keep them in a warm and moist environment and enhance healing. For the outer layer of bandage material, a self-adherent bandage, such as Vetrap or Co-Ban, Co-Flex, is ideal. These materials “breathe,” allow you to fine tune the pressure, and are disposable. You can use a pair of scissors or a knife (be careful!) to cut a vertical line through the bandage and open it up to remove it. Keep four to six rolls of Vetrap in your first-aid kit.

A layer between your outermost self-adhesive wrap and the wound dressing will help absorb drainage and pad the wound. Gamgee is a favorite for this. It’s a two-layered material, with a center of highly absorbent cotton wool and a synthetic outer surface that will resist sticking to the wound.

Keep at least one roll (12 feet) on hand. Gamgee can also be used to pack hoof abscesses.

For the early stages of healing of open wounds — when there is a high volume of drainage — use a Vaseline-impregnated gauze (available at drugstores) for the layer immediately over the wound. Without this, wound drainage may dry out between bandage changes and stick to even something like Gamgee.

As the amount of drainage lessens, you can switch to dry non-stick/non-adherent wound pads. Once drainage has ceased, or an open wound has granulated over to a smooth bed, this additional layer can be eliminated and the wound wrapped with only Gamgee.

Expert Tips

  • Saline vs. water. You may have read or been told that water should not be used to clean wounds because it can damage delicate exposed tissues. Saline is supposed to be preferred. However, several studies have compared saline, tap water, distilled water, or cooled boiled water in the cleansing of surgical wounds, injuries, and both fresh and old wounds. None of them found saline to be superior to plain water in preventing infections or speeding healing. However, if you’re using untested and untreated well water, bacterial counts may be higher than in municipal tap water. Keep a gallon of distilled water on hand to use as a final rinse.
  • Bandage removal. In the early stages of wound healing, the tissue is inflamed and very sensitive. Traction on the wound during bandage removal is often painful. To make this easier on the horse (and you), first saturate the area over the wound well with very cold water for both ease in loosening and to provide a numbing effect. Then cut open the bandage using a pair of scissors or a knife (be careful!). Cut a vertical line through the bandage, open it up, and remove it.
  • Storage solutions. Store your first-aid supplies separately from other supplies — such as grooming tools or medical supplies — yet all together in one place. They will then stay cleaner and be easier to find. An inexpensive plastic storage bin with a lid is a good choice. A covered toolbox also makes a good first-aid kit, and many prefer the handle for easy transport.

Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD, of Equine Nutritional Solutions in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, is an authority in equine nutrition and expert in the field of equine nutraceuticals. Her most recent book is Horse Journal Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals (Globe Pequot Press).

Categories: Rider News

Camp in Crater Country

Tue, 12/03/2013 - 14:23
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Click above for a slideshow of the Krones’ adventure in Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Inside the dormant volcanic crater at Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument lie two sparkling lakes, a spacious horse camp, and miles of trails. This monument is located 45 minutes south of Bend, Oregon, on Highway #97.

The area was created when a tremendous prehistoric explosion blew the entire top off of Newberry Volcano, leaving a 500-square-mile caldera. In 1990, the area was designated a national monument to preserve the volcano’s unique nature.

Within the caldera are two large, beautiful lakes: Paulina Lake, one of the deepest lakes in Oregon, and East Lake. Both are clear and nutrient-rich, and contain large populations of trout, kokanee, and Atlantic salmon.

Mountains ring the crater. Paulina Peak is the highest at 7,985 feet in elevation. At different points along the trail, you may drink in views of the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Bachelor, and Fort Rock.

Crater Rim Loop
The Newberry caldera has a good-sized horse camp with access to riding trails. We spent several days at the Chief Paulina Horse Camp, located two miles past the park entrance above Paulina Lake.

There are 14 sites with your choice of two or four horse corrals, plus ample parking for two rigs at most campsites. There’s no potable water for you, but stock water is available. From our campsite, we enjoyed morning coffee while gazing at Paulina Peak.

Of the several rides from this horse camp, the longest and most ambitious is the Crater Rim Loop. From the horse camp and back, it’s 24 miles if you ride all around the crater’s rim. This trail is popular with endurance riders who enjoy the challenge and tremendous views.

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To find the Crater Rim Loop, ride west of the horse camp on Trail 5, then turn left and pick up Trail 3. When completing the loop, the trail returns to this point, but on the north side of the road.

A word of caution: This trail is long with some difficult portions, and there’s no water.

More Rim Riding
You can also access a couple of shorter trails from the horse camp. Some of these involve portions of the rim trail.

One very steep, but beautiful trip is to Paulina Peak. Travel as before, west on Trail 3 and south on Trail 5. After this junction, the trail gains 1,300 feet of elevation in 1.5 miles. Your horse will need to be in excellent condition to handle this difficult climb.

Our equine partners, Buddy and Scout, got plenty of breaks, but both were wondering if we should consider going on diets!

Breathtaking views and an opportunity to look down on screeching hawks below signal your arrival. Soak in scenery that includes the Cascade Range, high-desert basin, the ranges of Eastern Oregon, two caldera lakes, and volcanic and forested landscape.

To complete this 11-mile loop, continue riding east on Trail 3 until you cross Rd. 500. Then follow the crater rim to the junction of Trail 7. Turn left on Trail 7 and left on Trail 6 to ride along the side of the Big Obsidian Flow. At the bottom, take Trail 5 back to camp.

We found the Big Obsidian Flow fascinating. On a sunny day, the flow appears as glittering shards of black glass. About 1,300 years ago, 170 million cubic yards of molten lava erupted from a vent and cooled rapidly, thus forming smooth, shiny obsidian.

Native Americans used obsidian glass for trade, which is why it can be found many miles from its original source. The glass was highly valued by Native Americans; they used it to make tools and arrowheads. At Newberry National Monument, obsidian collecting is prohibited.

Just before you enter the monument, you’ll find the varied and beautiful Peter Skene Odgen Trail. After you leave Highway 97, travel two miles, and turn left into Ogden Campground. Pull over to the large gravel parking lot near the campground entrance.

The Peter Skene Odgen Trail travels to Paulina Falls and then to Paulina Lake. As we rode Buddy and Scout up the trail, we enjoyed the freshness of pine-laced air and the sounds of Paulina Creek. Our horses enjoyed the gentle trail, which at times runs over overgrown logging roads. Our grateful mounts even started to rethink their riders’ diet plan.

A special treat near the end of the journey is Paulina Falls. Water hurls over a volcanic ledge and plummets 80 feet into the canyon below.

Shortly after the falls, we arrived at our destination and found a safe place to tie the horses away from the lake. It’s roughly 8.5 miles and a 2,000-foot elevation gain to this point.

Nearby are restroom facilities, a café, and a small store where we bought cold drinks and sandwiches.

Swamp Wells
We then trailered north of Newberry Caldera to try out another horse camp known as Swamp Wells. Located outside the monument boundary, this camp is accessed by turning off Highway 97

and onto China Hat Rd.

Follow China Hat Rd. about five miles, then turn right on Rd. 1810, and follow it 5.7 miles. Turn left on Rd. 816, and go 2.7 miles to camp.

Swamp Wells Horse Camp has five sites with metal, four-horse corrals. There’s no water. As the camp is low in elevation and there’s very little shade, it would be hot in the summer. Therefore, we’d recommend this camp for spring and fall use.

The roads and trails around Swamp Wells are relatively level with lots of opportunities to engage in faster gaits. We’d read about Boyd Cave, eight miles north of Swamp Wells. That became our destination. Armed with flashlights, we rode out.

Boyd Cave is technically a long lava tube. We climbed down a set of stairs leading into the cave’s cool depths. Dim lights of our little flashlights preceded us into the cave until we were enveloped by claustrophobic darkness — a subterranean world. We quickly turned around and climbed back up into the welcoming sunshine.

Cattle Ranch
Be part of history: End your experience in crater country with time at an authentic working cattle ranch. Long Hollow Ranch is located in Sisters, about 27 miles north of Bend.

This ranch has the distinction of being the last remaining dude ranch in Oregon. Pamper yourself with quiet relaxation and delicious meals, or immerse yourself in trail riding and cattle work.

Of great interest to many folks is the ranch’s cattle operation. In the spring, guests are invited to ride along on branding and roundups. Cattle are sorted for vaccinations and then moved through unspoiled country to summer pastures. In the fall, guests help drive cattle back to the ranch.

All guests interested in working with cattle are encouraged to participate in a cattle-orientation class. Here, you will learn cattle handling skills: how to “read their attitude,” how to move them, and how to turn them in the direction you want them to go.

We visited with Lizzie Schteiden, a vivacious wrangler with twinkling blue eyes, about the many riding opportunities at the ranch. Short rides, long rides, easy rides, challenging rides, and of course, sunset rides!

The dinner and breakfast cookouts are two favorite rides that guests come back to enjoy again and again. In both cases, guests mount their horses and ride to a scenic location for either a sizzling barbecue or a bacon-and-egg breakfast.

An outstanding feature of Long Hollow Ranch is its horsemanship program. First level is the ground-work lesson. This helps the rider gain the horse’s respect and control from the ground.

Next level is basic horsemanship, which covers safe procedures in leading, grooming, and saddling your horse. Arena time is given to work on beginning riding skills. Intermediate and advanced riders are given lessons that continue building communication between horse and rider.

Come on out to central Oregon to ride the crater, or visit a historic dude ranch. Explore unique and unspoiled country. It’s all here, just waiting around the “Bend”!

For more information on Newberry National Volcanic Monument, contact Deschutes National Forest, (541) 383-5300; www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/newberrynvm/index.shtml. For more on Long Hollow Ranch, call (877) 923-1901, or visit www.lhranch.com.

Kent and Charlene Krone combine their interest in photojournalism with a passion for horses. They enjoy sharing their horseback adventures in the United States and Western Canada. During riding season, you can usually find them on the trail, checking out new places to ride.

Categories: Rider News

Winter-Driving Tips

Tue, 12/03/2013 - 14:09
  • During inclement weather, double the normal distance between vehicles to allow more stopping room.
    Photo by Heidi Melocco.

    Invest in snow tires. During winter months, traction tires are recommended. Such tires must have at least one-eighth-inch of tread, and be labeled “Mud and Snow,” “M+S,” or “All-Season,” or have a mountain/snowflake symbol. See your tire dealer to find out which tires are best for your vehicle.

  • Carry chains. Comply with the chain laws in your area and the area you’ll be driving through.
  • Top off the tank. Re-fuel when your fuel gauge drops below the halfway mark.
  • Check the weather. Before setting out on a trip, check weather reports, and plan accordingly. In many states, you can dial 511 for travel conditions and road closures. Allow extra time for inclement weather. Be aware of changing conditions. Look ahead, and keep track of the driving conditions in front of you. Actions by other drivers can alert you to problems and give you time to react. Look out for black ice, which is hard to see.
  • Use your headlights. Always drive with your headlights on during inclement weather, even if it isn’t dark. In fact, drive with headlights on any time when trailering, regardless of weather, to increase your visibility.
  • Go slow. Follow this rule of thumb: “rain, ice, and snow—take it slow.” Slow down even more when approaching curves, ramps, bridges, and interchanges. Avoid abrupt actions, such as quick lane changes, braking, and accelerating.
  • Don’t become overconfident. Don’t be susceptible to the false security of four-wheel drive. While four-wheel drive may help you go, it won’t help you stop.
  • Increase distance. During inclement weather, double the normal distance between vehicles to allow more stopping room.
  • LED bulbs in traffic lights burn so coolly that snow and ice don’t melt off; this can obscure the lights completely, so be extra cautious. Photo by Rene E. Riley

    Brake gently. Stopping on snow or ice without skidding and/or jackknifing takes extra distance. Use brakes very gently to avoid skidding. If you begin to skid or jackknife, ease up on the brake, and steer into the skid to regain control.

  • Turn off cruise control. Avoid using cruise control on snowy, icy, or wet roads to help maintain control of your vehicle.
  • Watch for snowplows. Take extra precaution around snow-removal equipment. In some cases, the operator’s vision may be reduced. Give operators plenty of room, staying at least 200 feet behind them.
  • Use caution at wintry intersections. Cities across the United States are replacing their incandescent traffic lights with new, energy-efficient LED traffic signals. While these new signals provide brighter lights that last much longer and save a lot of energy, the bulbs burn so coolly that snow and ice don’t melt off. Instead, they can just accumulate on the light, which can obscure it completely. If you can’t see a traffic light at an intersection, treat it as a stop sign.
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Categories: Rider News

Winter Trail Gear

Tue, 12/03/2013 - 13:47

On-Trail Test ~ Ear Warmers

The HatCozy Photo by Sushil Dulai Wenholz

Description: The HatCozy is the invention of an Oregon equestrian who wanted a simple, effective way to keep her ears warm while riding, without giving up her cowboy hat. The result is bit like a cross between a slim pair of earmuffs and a headband. The HatCozy is made from Polartec fleece with a windproof layer of faux-suede fabric. A thin, adjustable, Ultrasuede strap with a small plastic buckle goes across the top of your head to keep the HatCozy in place under nearly any type of hat. It’s available in black or brown, in two sizes: small-medium (suitable for most women and children) and large (suitable for most men).
The tester: Equine journalist and year-round rider Sushil Dulai Wenholz.
Test results: While I typically ride in a helmet, not a cowboy hat, my problem is the same: How do I keep my ears warm without the fuss of a clumsy fleece helmet cover and without putting something on under my helmet that might affect the fit? I was curious to see if the HatCozy would be the answer.

As promised, adjusting the HatCozy for fit was a cinch. Just put it on with the curved portion facing downward on the back of your head (to accommodate a ponytail, if you wear one) and with the thin strap running from ear to ear across the top of your head. Pull the loose end of the strap to adjust the fit so your ears feel snugly covered. (You can find a video of fitting tips on the product website, but it really is as simple as it sounds.)

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I tested out the HatCozy during a variety of activities (such as grooming, riding, barn chores, and hiking) and with different headwear (such as a Western hat, riding helmet, and ball cap).

My finding: The HatCozy lived up to the manufacturer’s promises. It’s comfortable, it doesn’t affect hat/helmet fit, and keeps one’s ears warm from biting cold.

While the product felt a little looser around my ears than a knit cap, traditional earmuffs, or a headband-style warmer, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it kept out the wind. And I loved that I could leave the HatCozy in place when I swapped my cap for my helmet and vice versa.

Cleanup was a snap, too. For the basics (horsehair, dust), I just brushed it off with my hand. It’s also machine-washable.

Another handy feature: Since the HatCozy is small, lightweight, and foldable, you can store it in a coat pocket when you’re not wearing it.

If there’s a downside to the HatCozy, it’s this: If you’re riding with it on and you get too warm, you do have to remove your headwear to take it off. But that’s a minor drawback, and I’ll be keeping my HatCozy at the ready this winter. Cost: $29.95. Contact: Gambado Garment Co.; www.hatcozy.com.

Winter Riding Boots
Keep your feet—and legs—dry and warm even in soggy winter conditions: The Mountain Horse Rimrock High Rider Winter Boots feature a solid, waterproof foot with removable faux-fur insole and water-repellent leg shaft made of soft, flexible nylon and a warm, faux-fur lining. The adjustable hook-and-loop closure at the back of the leg shaft helps you customize your fit; reflective inserts on the back of the foot aid nighttime visibility. Dirt-repellent tread zones on the boots’ soles help prevent slippage in the stirrup. Available in youth and ladies’ sizes. Cost: $88.75 (youth); $99.95 (ladies). Contact: English Riding Supply; www.mountainhorseusa.com.

Fun Riding Socks
Combining fun and function, Over-the-Calf Peddies riding socks feature eye-catching colors and prints, along with a design intended to maximize comfort. Extra cushioning on the bottom of the foot and around the ankle provides comfort (and protection from typical boot pinch-points), while a lightweight panel on the top of the foot minimizes bulk and increases breathability. The stretchy, ultra-thin fabric over the calf allows for an easy fit under riding pants — or over breeches, if you’re so inclined. Available in women’s and girls’ sizes. Cost: $14.99. Contact: Noble Equine; www.nobleequine.com.

Insulated Riding Gloves
Made from sheepskin leather and lined with stretch fleece, these Insulated Pro Grip gloves keep fingers toasty when the mercury drops. A water-resistant finish helps you stay protected in dry or damp conditions, while a ribbed cuff adds to comfort while retaining heat. Cost: From $44.95. Contact: Ariat International, Inc.; www.ariat.com.

Winter Helmet Liner
Keep your ears toasty on winter rides without sacrificing safety: Troxel’s Winter Helmet Liner fits inside your helmet to combine the functions of winter hat and riding helmet. Cozy fleece-and-Lycra flaps reach down far enough to cover your ears. The liner fits all Troxel helmets; simply switch out the regular liner. Cost: $20.95. Contact: Troxel, LLC; www.troxelhelmets.com.

Categories: Rider News

Online Trip-Planning Guide

Tue, 11/19/2013 - 16:49
Dreaming of a riding vacation that delivers all that it promises? Here are some expert search-engine tips, based on three rider profiles.

Dreaming of a riding vacation that delivers all that it promises? Book your dream trip online! Here are some expert search-engine tips, based on three rider profiles.

Rider Profile #1
You’re an experienced weekly trail rider, but your spouse and two teen children ride infrequently. You seek a family-friendly California resort for a week of trail riding, as well as other activities.

When you start your online search, use the following keywords (search terms). Be sure to use the “advanced search” option to optimize your search. This example shows Google’s advanced-search prompts:

All these words: horse family vacation

This exact wording or phrase: California

One or more of these words: ride rides riding trails activities

But don’t show pages that have: ­­­­­­­­­­______

Note that the last search term has been left blank. After the initial search, your keywords might be refined so that future search results don’t show pages that have skiing, Disneyland, Legoland, holiday, holidays or other words that resulted in pages that weren’t suitable.

Rider Profile #2
You want to haul your gaited horse to a New England bed & barn for a long weekend of local, seasonal rides. Your

Once you’ve selected three or four potential destinations, contact knowledgeable people to find out the details that can make or break your vacation.
Photo by Heidi Melocco.
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initial search might be for:

All these words: bed and barn

This exact wording or phrase: New England

One or more of these words: trails rides riding

But don’t show pages that have: resort luxury lessons holiday camping

You can then change subsequent search terms to narrow in on destinations that suit your needs, based on the feedback you get from the initial searches.

Rider Profile #3
You and your partner are dedicated trail riders who want to fly to an adults-only facility in the Rocky Mountains that offers well-trained horses and a variety of trails for a four-day riding-intensive adventure. You might search for:

All these words: horseback riding adventure vacation

This exact wording or phrase: advanced

One or more of these words: Rocky Mountains  Rockies outfitter

But don’t show pages that have: family families children kids

Note that bed & barn facilities don’t always have dedicated websites. They’re more likely to be listed in directories of similar facilities (bed & barns, bed & breakfasts, inns with stables, etc.) or in area chambers of commerce websites. Refine your search multiple times, and chase down links.

For the ideal guest-ranch destination, talk to outfitters, backcountry rangers, trail bosses, and ride managers.
Photo by Kent and Charlene Krone

More Search Tips

  • Visit YouTube.com to find referrals, trail rides, and areas of interest. Try the keywords “horse trail rides” or “horse ride trip” to find places of interest that other people recommend.
  • Search “blog horse trails” or “blog horse ride” to find ride reviews, recommendations, and firsthand accounts. Specify the specific area or state you’d like to visit.
  • Follow links. Use your browser’s “bookmark” function, located on the top toolbar of the browser window, to store website addresses so that you can return to them later. (They’ll be stored under “bookmarks” in your browser.)
  • These websites will help you jumpstart your search: www.ranchseeker.com/; http://hwl.net; http://hiddentrails.com; www.horsetrip.com; www.gordonsguide.com.

Once you’ve selected three or four potential destinations, contact knowledgeable people to find out the details that can make or break your vacation. Send e-mails, and make phone calls. Contact outfitters, riding-vacation guides, backcountry rangers, trail bosses, and ride managers. Ask questions, and get personal referrals. Once you’re satisfied, then book your trip, and have fun!

Judith Houlding is a former intern for Active Interest Media. She recently completed her master’s degree at the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism. She resides in Boulder, Colorado.

Categories: Rider News

Gem of the Navajo Nation

Tue, 11/19/2013 - 02:56
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Dan Simmons, and his wife, Letha, shown aboard their Morgans at Monument Valley's North Window.

Photo courtesy of Dan Simmons

In the fall of 2010, my wife, Letha, and I had the opportunity to ride our Morgan Horses in Monument Valley for a week. This turned out to be the most awe-inspiring equine experience we’ve ever had. We returned in the fall of 2011.
Monument Valley’s entrance is in Utah just north of the Arizona border, though the majority of it is in Arizona. It’s part of the Navajo Nation and is administered as a park by the tribe. It’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
One can choose from among several individuals who organize these rides and coordinate with the Navajos who host them.
Our ride was put together by Blondie Bacal from Norco, California. We met her on the annual Tucson Saddle Club Tierra Bella ride in 2009, where we first learned about this ride. Our Navajo host and guide was Effie Yazzie.
Entrance into the valley is strictly controlled by Navajo Rangers, who pre-inspect your permits and documentation, including Coggins tests showing that your horses are negative for equine infectious anemia. The Rangers will then visually inspect your horses.
The reservation doesn’t allow alcoholic beverages. If any are found, the Rangers will make you dispose of them, and may give you a citation and/or eject you.
On this trip, Letha and I were joined by many of our fellow Morgan owners. Many rode gaited Morgans. In fact, the entire board of the Morgan Single-Footing Horse Association was on our ride.
Letha rode Ayla, her coming 5-year-old mare; I rode Dream Catcher Spirit Song, my 9-year-old mare. Letha and I have been in Morgans for several years. We’re now focusing on gaited Morgans.
Most of our Navajo guides also rode gaited horses — Missouri Fox Trotters.

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Navajo Songs
We arrived at the staging point near the entrance on a Sunday afternoon. After the Rangers inspected our horses and us, Effie Yazzie joined us. The Rangers then escorted us as we drove to our beautiful box canyon campsite around six miles away.
The initial steep descent into the valley, on a dirt switchback road, is a bit challenging, especially in a big living-quarters rig, but it’s very doable.
Once in the valley, all ride participants are required to be escorted by a Navajo guide whenever they leave camp, unless they’re driving back to the entrance.
The campsite itself is rather spectacular. We were nestled inside a large box canyon with high red walls.
We brought our own portable corrals, but there are also corrals available along the north wall for a modest price.
The Yazzie family provides water for the horses twice a day. With advance notice, they’ll provide water for camping rigs as well. On our ride, the Yazzies also provided three of our evening meals.
The Yazzies always joined our evening campfire to tell us stories of their life in the valley and its history, sing native songs, and teach us Navajo dances
One night, we enjoyed Navajo tacos at the Yazzies’ family compound, nearby. There, we were honored to meet Susie Yazzie, the family matriarch, who’s about 92 years old. She demonstrated the process of taking wool from their native four-horned sheep and making the beautiful wool rugs for which the Navajos are known.

Pristine Trails
Over the next five days, we rode every day. Saddle-up times were on Navajo time: nine-ish, nine-thirty-ish, etc. Just before we rode out, our guides would take turns singing a Native American song.
One morning, our guide, Nez, showed his sense of humor when he began singing, “One little, two little, three little Indians….” We all cracked up on that one!
The valley is colorful, with red rock formations and a surprising amount of green vegetation. Much of the area we rode through is inaccessible to motor vehicles, keeping it pristine.
Ride length was from three to seven hours, but the rides were all at an easy pace, with frequent stops to take photos and enjoy the spectacular scenery. When we stopped, Effie Yazzie told stories about our surroundings.
The trails ranged from easy to moderate in difficulty. One portion of the seven-hour ride is rated difficult, but there’s an easier alternate route.
In terms of terrain, some sections are rocky, but the vast majority of the trails have a sandy base, particularly on grades. There are even some genuine sand dunes.
On our seven-hour ride, we rode to a remote canyon with several fairly intact Anasazi ruins. It was a beautiful hideaway with lots of trees and a gorgeous view.
The variety of scenery we experienced was incredible: huge arches; narrow canyons barely wide enough to ride through; hidden ponds in the shadow of towering walls; rock monoliths; and vast open vistas.
Overall, I was most struck by the immenseness of the valley and its formations, as well as the sense of history.

For more information on rides in Monument Valley, call Effie Yazzie, (928) 209-0303). For more on the Morgan Horse Association, call (802) 985-4944, or visit www.morganhorse.com.  For more on the Morgan Single-Footing Horse Association, visit www.gaitedmorgans.org.

Categories: Rider News

The Trail Home

Tue, 11/19/2013 - 02:34
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The Highlands at Big South Fork

Photo by Sue Neff

Early each morning, P.J. Tomlian heads to her driveway to spot her Arabian mare and Paso Fino gelding. Then she hops in her golf cart to do the morning feed — her horses aren’t on her property, but down the road a bit at the barn.

Most days, there’s a good chance she’ll get some trail riding in, because she and a friend can trot right onto 35 miles of private trails on the edge of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau. Even better, a trailhead leading into the natural wonderland of Big South Fork National Park is just a nine-mile haul.

Tomlian lives in the Highlands at Big South Fork, an equestrian community in northern Tennessee that’s designed with trail riders in mind. As these living communities grow in popularity, so do the options for prospective buyers. If a community of horse owners and trail enthusiasts sounds like the good life, there might be an equestrian community out there that’s right for you.

Here, we’ll tell you what makes each community unique. Then we’ll share what two home owners have to say about their experiences. Next, we’ll give you eight property-hunting tips, with help from Sue Neff, trail rider, trail designer, and principal broker for Tennessee Recreational Properties, LLC.

And finally, we’ll give you the lowdown on seven outstanding equestrian communities geared for trail riders.

Unique Communities
No two equestrian communities are alike. Here are five factors that make each unique.

*Amenities. A community can be geared solely toward equestrians, but some may have excellent horse facilities along with amenities for golfing, fishing, and other interests.

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*Trails. Trails should be marked and well-maintained. Some communities feature trails that circle the perimeter, homes, and pastures; others have land set aside strictly for trail use. While some are for resident use only, others may allow public access.

*Cost. The cost of barn stalls and use of equestrian facilities could be included when you purchase a home or lot. Or, you may need to buy into a club or pay fees to have access to these amenities.

*Equestrian amenities. Communities may offer owners the option of using their purchased property for horses. But you may prefer to have the option of keeping your horse at a communal barn. The barn may require that owners care for their horses, or they may offer everything from daily care to training and riding instruction.

*Social aspect. Undoubtedly, equestrian communities are a way to build relationships with fellow trail riders. Some have organized clubs, trail rides, and events, while others are simply a great place to make friends and find trail-riding buddies.

A Community Barn
Like many outdoor enthusiasts, Tomlian and her husband fell in love with the Big South Fork region of Tennessee. When they moved to the Highlands in 2008, Tomlian resolved to take advantage of the natural beauty. She decided on a home where her horses could be nearby, rather than dealing with the commitment that comes with owning horse property.

“I wanted to ride!” she says.

While her husband was teeing off on the golf courses, Tomlian had no trouble getting to know her neighbors. “We moved down here not knowing a soul,” she says. “I liked the idea of having a community barn.” Before long, she’d been introduced to all the residents and had plenty of friends to ride with.

For Tomlian, the Highlands is the ultimate community experience, but she can see how it wouldn’t be the best pick for everyone.

The Highlands allows residents two stalls in one of the Owner’s Barns without boarding fees. Tomlian cares for her horses, including feed, turnout, and chores. She notes that depending on what time of day you’re there, the equestrian center can be fairly quiet.

Like many owners, Tomlian and her husband are retired. Often, residents use the Highlands as a winter destination, leaving some of the homes unoccupied for part of the year.

Year-Round Riding
Mary Anisansel moved to McLendon Hills in Moore County, North Carolina, from upstate New York. She and her husband moved to be near their daughter, but Anisansel also looked forward to riding whenever she pleased.

“Here, I can ride year-round!” she says.

It’s not only the milder weather that enables her to do just that, but also McLendon Hills offers eight miles of bridle trails through hilly woods and fields, with obstacles and water crossings throughout.

Anisansel says that she feels safe riding there, because trails are well-maintained and

well-marked, and it’s always easy to find a trail buddy. “I never have to wait around for someone to ride with,” she says. “There’s always someone that wants to go.”

Finding a community where she and her husband fit in and felt at home was of high priority to Anisansel. “McLendon Hills is not a snobby community — it’s very family oriented,” she says.

The friendly environment extends throughout the equestrian center, too. As a novice rider, Anisansel takes advantage of having an onsite barn manager and trainer, taking lessons when she needs help with her Quarter Horse/Paint cross.

Even when she’s on her own, Anisansel says more advanced riders are always willing to help out and give her advice. “You can really depend on people to look out for you,” she says.

This dedicated trail rider especially enjoys attending the Equestrians of McLendon Hills, a club that meets monthly and organizes trail rides, clinics, social events, volunteer opportunities, and more. “There’s always something going on,” she says with enthusiasm.

Property-Hunting Tips
To start your search, make a list of priorities in your ideal living situation. Narrow down the features that are most important to you, but be willing to compromise.

Do you want to keep your horse on your property? Are you looking for a strong community environment with organized trail rides and events? Do you prefer a quiet lifestyle that allows you to simply enjoy the equestrian facilities on your own?

Here are some tips to keep in mind while you’re on the hunt.
*Decide on your key factors. What elements of a future home are most important to you? Location, budget, specific amenities, and the time frame in which you’re hoping to buy may be at the top of the list. Establishing which elements are the most essential will help you to narrow down your choices significantly.

*Be willing to compromise. Maybe your dream home is in a community that requires you to haul your horse to a public trailhead. Or perhaps the offered pasture land isn’t as large as you’d hoped for. Keep in mind that all of your expectations may not be met within one community.

*Find a horse-oriented agent. Real estate agents who understand horses will be the best candidates for helping you find your dream community. Even better, “Find a Realtor that’s a trail rider,” advises Neff. “We understand each other.”

*Find a horse-oriented developer. This is important to keep in mind for safety reasons. Horse facilities have specific requirements, from barn ventilation to arena footing.

*Ensure longevity. Make sure the trails and horses are there to stay. Equestrian community planners set aside land for trails, parks, and horse property. Find out if there’s a risk that this might change with future development. When the agent mentions easements, conservancies, and preserves, what exactly does she mean?

* Go online. The Internet is a great place to browse equestrian-community websites. After you’ve done an initial search, get in touch with Realtors and community representatives who can give you honest and specific answers to your questions.

*Visit and ride! Find out whether the community you’re interested in has any special offers for prospective residents. Some allow opportunities for prospective residents to stay overnight in recreational vehicles. Or, find a nearby campground. If possible, test out the trails, or even public trails nearby, to see if the terrain is ideal for you.

*Find your community. There are many types of horsepeople who choose equestrian communities. For example, if you’re not interested in an environment where horses are trained for competition, find out before you make a commitment.

*Beware of buyer traps. If a community’s marketing materials say “trails at your back door,” find out exactly what that means. Or, ask a Realtor to find out for you. Keep in mind that property closest to horse-approved trailheads may be the highest in demand, especially if you’re looking for convenient access to public land.

Equestrian-Community Profiles
Here’s a look at several top equestrian communities designed just for trail riders.

  • The Highlands at Big South Fork, Jamestown, Tennessee. The Highlands is a planned community on 3,500 acres, with several new homes recently completed. Scenic lots range from one-half to two acres. Located just north of Jamestown, in horse-friendly Fentress County, this private, gated equestrian community is focused on trail riding. Owners enjoy access to two stalls in an Owner’s Barn, use of the guest barn, and 35 miles of private, state-of-the-art riding trails.
  • Long Branch Lakes, Spencer, Tennessee. The Equestrian Center is the centerpiece of Long Branch Lakes’ 1,000-acre Equestrian Village. The first phase of this center for horse-lovers includes an eight-stall barn, a companion storage barn, working pen, large fenced pastures, boarding, and professional instruction. Riders enjoy easy access to the community’s 30 miles of riding trails and those of the adjacent Bledsoe State Forest. Completed amenities include 30 miles of riding trails, lakefront pavilions, lighted roads with covered bridges, and recreational facilities. The community spreads across 5,000 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau, featuring wooded and lakefront homesites.
  • McLendon Hills, Pinehurst, North Carolina. Privately owned and operated, the McLendon Hills Equestrian Center is a state-of-the-art, full service equine facility available to both the public and property owners. While owners of mini-farm sites (three- to five-acre lots) may stable their horses on their own respective properties, all resident property owners are offered preferred rates and availability at the Equestrian Center. The 25-acre facility includes a 24-stall central barn with a climate-controlled rider’s lounge, three outdoor rings, a lighted riding area, and a hilltop arena. More than 20 acres are allotted for grazing. The community is surrounded by eight miles of bridle trails.
  • The Settlement at Thomas Divide, Bryson City, North Carolina. The Settlement at Thomas Divide adjoins the 500,000 acres of wilderness in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The community is located minutes from downtown historic Bryson City and Cherokee. Trail users can ride directly from the property to the Thomas Divide Trail trailhead to access more than 500 miles of trails. The horse facility currently includes a barn, an arena, a round pen, a parking lot with RV hookups, and approximately 26 acres of fenced pasture.
  • Three Runs Plantation, Aiken, South Carolina. Three Runs Plantation is private, equestrian-oriented residential community that offers home sites ranging from 4 to 20 acres. Thirty miles of marked and mapped trails wind through 2,400 acres of gentle, rolling topography, woods, and savannahs, and along two significant creeks. Portions of the trail system include gallop areas for training, cross-country schooling jumps, and trails for carriage driving. Amenities include jump and dressage arenas, schooling arenas, a clubhouse, an outdoor pavilion, a pool, and a cabana. Generous easements enable residents to access the trails without encroaching on neighbors; conservation easements protect the wetlands.
  • Walnut Creek Preserve, Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Walnut Creek Preserve’s development has been designed with riding, hiking, and nature study in mind. The community offers reasonably sized farm acreage surrounded by over 40 miles of trails. The Preserve’s 2,100 acres of forest and pastureland shelter a large variety of indigenous plant life, including several rare and one threatened species, as well as a wealth of wildlife. Only 25 wooded and equestrian home sites of an average 20 acres will be offered for sale, while the remaining acres of wilderness are protected by deeded conservation easement.
  • Wolf Creek Ranch, Woodland, Utah. Wolf Creek Ranch is located near Park City in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Each 160-acre estate is two miles around at its perimeter. The entire ranch stretches 14,000 pristine and peaceful acres, six miles from end to end. It features 60 miles of summer- and winter-use groomed trails. The 26-acre Equestrian Center includes a 28-stall stable with tack room, a hay storage barn, an equipment barn, and longing arenas. Ninety-five percent of Wolf Creek Ranch’s land is protected by a conservation easement. In addition, this low-density community shares seven miles of common border with the Uinta National Forest — a 2.2-million acre outdoor playground with a private access gate for residents of Wolf Creek Ranch.
Lauren Back is a freelance writer and television producer based in Denver, Colorado. A former hunter/jumper competitor and guest-ranch wrangler, she enjoys trail riding in the Rocky Mountains.

Equestrian-Communities Resource Guide

American Ranch

Prescott, Ariz.

(928) 777-0561; www.americanranchprescott.com

Auburn Lake Trails

Cool, Calif.

(530) 885-6526; www.auburnlaketrails.org

Bridlegate Ranch

Bandera, Texas

(877) 333-4218; www.bridlegateranch.com

The Galena Territory

Galena, Ill.

(815) 777-2000; www.thegalenaterritory.com

The Highlands at Big South Fork

Jamestown, Tenn.

(866) 731-7268; www.bigsouthforktrp.com/highlands

Long Branch Lakes

Spencer, Tenn.

(866) 615-6616; www.longbranchlakes.com

McLendon Hills

Pinehurst, N.C.

(910) 673-4951; www.mclendonhills.com

Rarity Bay

Vonore, Tenn.

(423) 884-3000; www.raritybay.com

Santa Lucia Preserve

Carmel, Calif.

(877) 626-8200; www.santaluciapreserve.com

The Settlement at Thomas Divide

Bryson City, N.C.

(828) 788-3648; www.thomasdivide.com

Three Runs Plantation

Aiken, S.C.

(888) 297-8881; www.threerunsplantation.com

Walnut Creek Preserve

Rutherfordton, N.C.

(828) 625-1122; www.walnutcreekpreserve.com

Wolf Creek Ranch

Woodland, Utah

(435) 783-6666; www.wolfcreekranch.com

Categories: Rider News

Ride the Riverways

Fri, 11/01/2013 - 20:06
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Click above to view a slideshow of Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence, Missouri. Photos by Kent and Charlene Krone

“There’s no ride like it in the United States!” proclaimed Bucky and Sherry Smith, veteran trail riders from Columbus, Missouri.

Our friends ride their Missouri Fox Trotters extensively throughout the United States. For them, Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence, Missouri, is special.

Bucky and Sherry invited us to “come on out” to the heart of the Ozarks and join them on the last ride of the season, held at the end of October.

So, Nate and Cowboy, our 6-year-old Fox Trotters, found themselves in a trailer heading to Missouri, 1,800 miles away from our Idaho home.

Over the years, we’d heard about Cross Country Trail Ride, LLC (www.crosscountrytrailrides.com). Every year, beginning each May, there are five all-inclusive riding packages.

The six-day package includes three meals a day; campsites with electric and limited water hookups; nightly music and dancing; a horse and tack sale; and daily organized trail rides, although you can ride your own.

Yet, what really made this ride memorable for us was the gracious southern hospitality we were privileged to experience.

Three things make the late-October trail ride special: thinning fall leaves, which make it easier to take in the views; only 500 riders instead of the usual almost 3,000; and the incredible, southern-style lunches cooked right on the trail.

Comfortable Campground
The spacious campsites in the 75-acre campground, set alongside the banks of Jacks Fork River beneath stately shade trees, exude serenity.

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There are 3,007 covered 7-by-10-foot stalls and a 63,000-square-foot indoor riding arena. You’ll find hay, grain, stall bedding, tack, and horse equipment at the onsite tack store.

The shower house is huge, with 20 units on each side. For folks wishing to shop, there’s a large, well-stocked Western store.

And for a small fee, trucks will empty your sewage tank when needed, a thoughtful-but-necessary service.

A large dining hall is run with clockwork efficiency. It’s located across from a dance floor and stage where much of the entertainment occurs in the summer.

In the summer, folks enjoy swimming, fishing, or floating down Jacks Fork River, a clear, spring-fed waterway.

Jim and Jane Smith and their family have operated this trail ride for more than 50 years. Their family recipes, which have been handed down for generations, are used in the trail cookouts.

Ride Prep
If you go on this ride, prepare your horse. This is hilly country, so he needs to be in good physical shape.

According to the onsite veterinarian we visited, the most common equine ailment on rides was tying-up. Horses that were out of shape or overweight suffered muscle cramps from overexertion.

Also, pack for conditions. The area’s late-October weather can be unpredictable; temperatures may swing between the 40s to the high 60s. Bring raingear, and apparel for warm and cold weather.

For the camp, bring a hay bag, water bucket, and stall-cleaning tools. An extension cord and water hose might also come in handy.

The Smith family gives their guests a great deal of latitude in the use of their private campground, but stays firm on one rule: No dogs allowed in May, June, August, and October. Guests violating this rule may be asked to leave.

Scarlet & Gold
Around 9:00 a.m., as horsemen gathered near the gate, the Star Spangled Banner boomed over the camp intercom, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Every riding day began in this patriotic manner. It gave all of us a moment to pause and feel thankful for our beautiful country and the incredible riding day ahead of us.

Although all rides go to the same area, they’re divided into three riding groups: fast; medium; and slow.

The fast group was fairly small and led by retired astronaut Tom Akers, a veteran of four space shuttle flights. Fast riders zoomed out at a brisk gait, horses and riders raring to go.

The rest of the riders divided themselves between the medium and slow groups. The medium group does some gaiting/cantering, while the slow group stays at a walk.

Organized riding began on Sunday with a two-hour “break-in” ride, during which we crossed the gently flowing Jack Forks River. Over the course of our riding week, we’d cross this river many times.

We rode primarily on old logging roads in the Ozark Mountains and cut trails in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

We enjoyed the remaining fall colors as we rode along. When we looked up, we could see blue sky peering through sheer curtains of tie-dyed scarlet and gold.

Deciduous trees, vines, and shrubs interlaced into colorful murals. Even the air had a pleasing, earthy fragrance.

Our ride leader had stressed the importance of always keeping the rider in front of you in view, because it’s easy to become lost in this country of hills and hollows.

Riding Upstream
On Monday, our first full day of riding, we went about 17 miles. This ride crossed the road to the west and went upstream of Jacks Fork River. We rode alongside the river, past dolomite rock cliffs, and up a scenic gorge.

Eventually, we reached a ridge where lunch was cooked and served. Much to our delight, we discovered our Missouri friends hadn’t exaggerated the gastronomical delights of the CCTR food squad.

At every lunch stop, we’d find a giant deep fryer and huge grill. One day, there was even a machine that cut up potatoes and onions so they could be fried on the spot. Everything is made from scratch from old-time Smith family recipes.

As we bit into delectable deep-fat-fried apple turnovers, we felt our taste buds swoon and fat cells expand. This riding week would leave us with more than memories!

Many participants on the CCTR have been coming for years, and there’s a comfortable camaraderie among them. As we rode along, we’d listen to sounds of laughter and gentle bantering.

Waters & Caves
We’d be remiss not to mention the fresh-water springs and resulting waterways. The CCTR campground is bordered not only by private land, but also by the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (www.nps.gov/ozar/index.htm), which covers 125 square miles.

This is largest concentration of first-magnitude springs, feeding the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. These waters are home to such wildlife as wild horses, bears, deer, and recently reintroduced elk.

Over time, the springs have carved out caves in the dolomite rock. Some of the larger caves are Round Spring Cavern, Devils Sink, and Jam-Up Cave.

On one day, a group of us visited Alley Spring, which feeds a turquoise lake. Alongside the lake, a scenic, century-old grist mill, known as Old Red Mill, was once the heart of a small community.

From here, their children could walk to the one-room Story’s Creek schoolhouse. In the summer, both buildings are open to visitors.

Attendance Buckles
If you attend the CCTR for five years, you’ll receive an attendance buckle. The more years on a buckle, the more value it has. Some folks have 50-year buckles!

We could understand why folks desired a long-term riding buckle. Fun riding on a good horse, amazing food, and fine friends to ride with — what could be better? Year after year after year!

Kent and Charlene Krone combine their interest in photojournalism with a passion for horses. They enjoy sharing their horseback adventures in the United States and Western Canada. During riding season, you can usually find them on the trail, checking out new places to ride.

Categories: Rider News

Trail Bits & Bridles

Fri, 11/01/2013 - 19:29
Hought Endurance Tack

What’s the best bridle — and bit — to use on the trail? The options are legion. Do you want a halter-bridle combo that allows you to tie up without carrying an extra halter? Do you prefer tried-and-true leather, or easy-to-clean synthetic materials? Does your horse seem to go best with a classic bit, but are you looking for a more innovative approach?

Here’s a roundup of trail-ready bits and bridles to help you choose the ones that work best for you and your horse.

Twisted-Snaffle Bit
Made with the same mouthpiece and ring weight as the company’s engraved show bits, the Plain Twisted Snaffle bit communicates via pressure on the lips, and hinge motion on the roof of the mouth and tongue; the twisted mouthpiece is intended to keep your horse light in the mouth, and is more severe than a smooth snaffle. Mouthpiece is five inches wide. Contact: Les Vogt, (877) LES-VOGT [537-8648]; www.lesvogt.com.

Four-Point Pressure Bit
The Mikmar Feather Bit with jointed mouthpiece, with its accompanying noseband and chinstrap, offers four points of pressure to encourage proper head carriage, collection, control, and relaxation. The shanks provide mild leverage, while the jointed mouthpiece gives you a lateral connection. According to the manufacturer, the bit is popular with gaited-horse owners. Available in widths of 5 1/4 and 5 1/2 inches. Contact: Mikmar Bit Company, (866) MIKMAR7 [645-6277]; www.mikmar.com.

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Grazing Bit
With a medium port and 6 1/2-inch shanks, the Metalab Black Satin Grazing Bit with Medium Port Mouth features leverage that creates a medium-to-strong effect and is intended for intermediate to experienced horses, according to the manufacturer. The curb bit’s mouthpiece measures five inches. The shanks’ backward sweep was originally intended to facilitate grazing. Comes in Black Satin. Contact: Partrade Trading Co., LLC, (800) 223-2102; www.partrade.net.

Multi-Use Hackamore
The Bob Avila Mechanical Hackamore works largely by applying leveraged pressure across the bridge of your horse’s nose. The curb-chain hangers angle out to prevent pinching. The 8 1/2-inch shank provides substantial leverage. Available with decorative shank embellishment. Contact: Professional’s Choice Sports Medicine Products, Inc., (800) 331-9421; www.profchoice.com.

Gentle Snaffle
Designed to decrease discomfort at the corners of your horse’s mouth by eliminating pinching, the seven-sixteenth-inch Smooth Sweet Iron Snaffle features extra three-inch rings that float independently to disperse pressure across your horse’s lip and cheek. Reins attach to the floating D-rings outside the cheek rings. Sweet iron encourages salivation. Contact: Reinsman Equestrian Products, (800) 548-2487; www.reinsman.com.

Parry Halter Bridle

Comfortable Trail Bit
The mild Myler HBT Shank MB 33 bit is designed for comfort. The design and curved mouthpiece allow your horse to swallow properly, while the short (five-inch) shanks further permit grazing while you’re on the trail. The polished, sweet-iron mouthpiece with copper inlay features a ported barrel and promotes salivation. Contact: Toklat Originals Inc./Myler Bits, (888) 486-5528; www.toklat.com.

Custom-Made Bit
Tom Balding Bits & Spurs makes custom-made bits with the mouthpiece/shank combination that works best for you and your horse. This option features a Billy Allen mouthpiece that’s hinged to allow independent lateral control; tongue pressure encourages responsive stops. Sweet iron with a copper roller encourages salivation. Edge pieces minimize bit “traveling,” reducing excessive pressure on your horse’s outside bars. The short shank measures 6 3/4 inches. Satin finish. Contact: Tom Balding Bits & Spurs, (800) 672-8459; www.tombalding.com.

Bit Training System
Does your horse fight or evade his bit? Whether your horse is a beginner or a veteran, Julie Goodnight’s Bitting System is designed to help you teach him to respond better to the bit and to carry himself easily. The 105-minute instructional DVD teaches you how to use the system — a long leather cord that you use in conjunction with your tack — and takes you through the training process. The Bit Basics DVD also discusses different bits and how they’re used. Contact: Julie Goodnight Horsemanship Training, (800) 225-8827; www.juliegoodnight.com.

Australian Halter Bridle
Classic Australian style of a classic trail bridle, this leather Halter Bridle makes for easy, safe tying on the trail. Your bit buckles on to the bridle’s connector straps; a lead line snaps to the ring under the jaw. Three rings on the reinforced cheek piece allow for alternate strap placement, and you can choose an easy snap connector or silent buckle connector. An extended crownpiece sits four inches behind your horse’s crown to help secure the bridle. Available in full or cob sizes, in light brown, dark brown, and black. Comes with solid-leather buckle-in-hand reins. Contact: Australian Stock Saddle Company, (818) 889-6988; www.aussiesaddle.com.

No-Bit Bridle
With its emphasis on pain-free steering and stopping, the Bitless Bridle uses gentle pressure on wide areas of your horse’s head to complement the cues you provide with your body weight, balance, and breathing, eliminating bit-avoidance issues. Works with direct or neck reining. Available in synthetic, leather-like Beta, nylon, Western-style leather, and English-style leather; reins sold separately. Contact: The Bitless Bridle Inc., (866) 235-0938; www.bitlessbridle.com.

Leather Halter Bridle
With the classic beauty of leather, the Trail Halter/Headstall features bit holders with snaps on either end, making it easy to change or remove the bit. Available in walnut, regular oil, black, and dark-oil antique colors, with brass or chrome hardware. Reins sold separately. Contact: Circle Y of Yoakum, Inc., (866) 235-0938; www.circley.com.

Heavy-Duty Aussie Halter Bridle
The leather Aussie-style Kimberley Halter Bridle with Reins allows you to convert your bridle to a halter in seconds when you take a break on the trail. Heavy-duty construction allows for durability, while the bridle’s brass trim catches the eye. Available in brown or black. Contact: Down Under Saddle Supply, (800) 395-8225; www.downunderweb.com.

Halter Bridle with Double Buckle
Made from synthetic Beta material, the Deluxe Add-On (with double buckle option) headstall converts from halter to bridle by snapping the bridle browband around the halter’s crown. Pinned rings are light, but strong, and reduce rubbing. The halter’s second buckle creates a separate, easy-to-replace crownpiece. Available in a variety of colors and accents, including reflective options, with solid-brass or stainless-steel hardware. Contact: Hought Endurance Tack, (800) 839-1164; www.hought.com.

Flexible-Use Bridle
Designed for distance riders, the Evolution is a refinement on the company’s popular Freedom Bridle: in essence, a headstall with long reins that can be configured in various ways to address your communication needs at any particular time. Attach the reins to the headstall in one particular way for a bitless bridle that applies pressure to the nose, cheek, jowl, and poll; another configuration creates a sidepull-type bridle. Or, attach a bit. Made from synthetic Beta, in multiple color options and custom decorative touches. Contact: Moss Rock Endurance, (719) 439-2472; www.mossrockendurance.com.

Weaver Halter Bridle

Tough, Easy-Care Bridle
The DuraTough Trail Bridle’s coated-nylon material repels water and makes for easy maintenance. Designed for the trails, the bridle stays soft and pliable in all weather conditions.  Available in black, brown, and hunter green, with solid brass hardware. Matching DuraTough reins sold separately. Contact: National Bridle Shop, Inc., (800) 251-3474; www.nationalbridleshop.com.

Adjustable Halter-Bridle
The bit attaches directly to the separate, adjustable crown strap of the Halter Bridle with Separate Crown Bit Hanger, allowing you to easily slip it over the accompanying halter on the trail; the reins (with snap ends) double as a lead rope. The halter-bridle’s soft, leather-like synthetic Beta material provides strength and ease of care; all hardware is rustproof. Comes in brown or chestnut black; trim overlays by special order. Caveat: Not recommended for horses that rub their bridles. Contact: Parry Harness & Tack, (407) 230-7370; www.parrytack.com.

Walking Horse Bridle
Designed for (surprise) the Walking Horse, the Walking Horse Bridle measures 43 inches from bit end to bit end (set at its longest hole), with a 16-inch browband. The crown and cheekpieces feature a roller buckle for easy adjustment. Available in black, brown, and golden, with brass or chrome hardware. Reins not included. Contact: Tucker Trail Saddles, (800) 882-5375; www.tuckersaddles.com.

Heavy-Duty Halter-Bridle
Made from doubled and stitched bridle leather to stand up to tough use, the Heavy-Duty Browband Halter Bridle features a 1 5/8-inch-wide crownpiece. Long bit attachments snap onto the headstall. The bridle comes with buckled-center reins and a curb strap; curb bit isn’t included. Available in mahogany with solid-brass hardware. Contact: Weaver Leather, (800) 932-8371; www.ridethebrand.com.

Eye-Catching Halter-Bridle
The Overlay Bridle/Halter employs synthetic Beta material for the look and feel of leather, but the ease of care of vinyl, while a decorative overlay adds panache. Your horse’s bit attaches to bit hangers that snap on and off the headstall’s cheekpieces for quick conversion between bridle and halter. Available in a variety of both neutral and bright base colors with several decorative overlay options. Contact: Wind Rider Tack, (800) 546-2740; www.windridertack.com.

Laurel Berger O’Connor, a Pennsylvania horsewoman, is The Trail Rider’s products editor.

Categories: Rider News

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