Category Archive 'Horses'
27 Apr 2012

Explaining the Horse

Nicole Cliffe does a great job of explaining the human-equine relationship and why it has certain fundamental and basic problems.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time around horses, you may have the idea that they are like dogs and cats (really big, dangerous dogs and cats). This is untrue. YOU are like dogs and cats, in that you are a predator. Let’s not get sucked into the canines/intestines/primates-eating-fruit aspect of our disputed status as omnivores. The fact is, if someone says to you “hey, let’s try this new brunch place that has amazing cocktails,” there’s a decent chance you’ll say “great, meet you there.” Your dog feels similarly. New things are fun! That is because you are a predator.

Prey animals do not think new things are fun. New things, if you are a prey animal, usually mean a swift death. Horses are like deer. They see something unexpected, they freeze for a second, and then they book it on out of there. They don’t like to leave the herd. They have no interest in breakfast cocktails. If you try to take your horse to a new brunch place, you need to convince them that a) you’ve been there before, b) there are no cave trolls at the brunch place, c) there will be other horses at the brunch place, and d) you will be a royal pain in their ass until they quit dicking around and agree to go to the brunch place. …

Horses are sublime. They’re gorgeous mythical beasts that emerge from antiquity to destroy your bank account and break your collarbone. They’re fragile. They’re dangerous. They need new shoes every six to eight weeks. They eat your heart. They fall in love with your vet, and deliberately colic themselves in order to spend more time with him.

You are not vitally important to your horse, not really, not like you are to your dog, ever. They never figure out who you are, and why you do the silly things you do. You have to forge a relationship with your horse while knowing that, given the chance, they’d probably rather hang out with their buddies than spend time with you. But then, one day you pull up to the barn, and you realize that your horse has memorized the sound of your car, as opposed to other people’s cars, and has wandered over to the gate to greet you.

It makes you feel lucky. Not just “oh, God, I can afford to do this idiotic sport” lucky, which you should feel every day, but some kind of stupid semi-spiritual lucky, because you’ve managed to connect with an animal ten times your size, and convinced them to ignore every instinct they possess in order to let you clamber onto their back and stick a metal bar in their mouth. It’s crazy. It doesn’t make any sense.

You’re a horse-person now. Maybe it’ll pay off when the zombies come, and the gas pumps stop working.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

25 Nov 2011

Cabinet Minister & Wife Competed in World’s Most Grueling Horse Race

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Owen and Rose Paterson riding in the Mongol Derby

Alright, we have to admit it: the Brits really do have some politicians superior to ours.

Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson was keen enough to compete, accompanied by his wife, in this year’s Mongol Derby, a thousand kilometer (621.37 miles) charity race over the Mongol steppes modeled on Genghis Khan’s postal system. Riders have to change semi-wild ponies three times a day in an attempt to cover roughly 40 miles per diem.

The Telegraph reports that the Patersons did successfully complete the race, and survived with quite a story to tell.

Owen and Rose Paterson are competing for words to describe their summer holiday. “It was absolutely awful,” says Rose. “The food was beyond terrible,” chips in Owen.

This year, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his wife did not play safe. On a whim – their children called it “midlife crisis” – they took part in a 1,000-kilometre race for charity, across the desolate steppes of Mongolia on semi-wild horses. “Anything to avoid security guards,” Owen semi-joked when I spoke to him in July for a Weekend article published just before they set off.

“Anything” turned out to be grimmer than their worst imaginings. Injury was likely and death a possibility, warned The Adventurists, organisers of the race. But, as the Patersons left for Ulan Bator to start the Mongol Derby in August, they had only the haziest notion of what lay ahead. “If we had had any idea we would have turned around and gone straight home,” says Rose. …

[T]hey arrived in the Mongolian capital in early August with too much equipment and no experience of using a satnav – which was all that stood between them and 10 sub-zero nights in the open air as they hurtled across the wilds, recreating the postal network that had held together Genghis Khan’s vast 13th-century empire.

The start close to Ulan Bator was deceptively luxurious, featuring showers and a relatively benign landscape. “We were all smiles as we set off,” remembers Rose. “The views were fantastic. On that first day we thought we might be among the winners.”

But the race, they discovered, was a deadly mixture of terrifying and dull. Some days they rode for 14 hours through freezing fog, unable to see anything. Guided by a handheld satnav, which Owen set to “direct route”, they found themselves travelling extra miles, on top of the allotted 40 a day, through swamps and over mountains in order to arrive at the pony-swapping stations three times a day.

“The worst leg of each day was the last one,” says Rose. “If we missed the ger (Mongolian for yurt) we would have spent the night outside, with no food or drink, taking turns to hold onto the ponies.”

So prone were the ponies to wander, that they could not even get off to pee between pony swap stops. If the animals had bolted, the couple would have lost everything, including their passports.

Bleached bones dotted the steppes, and the landscape was pitted with marmot holes in which the ponies could break their legs. “We were constantly attacked by packs of dogs. At one point the ponies bolted and we galloped flat out for miles, knowing that if we fell off the dogs would eat us,” says Rose.

The most surreal moment occurred during the August riots back home, when Owen received a message that Parliament had been recalled. “Standing on the steppes, shouting into the vet’s phone under the stars, I had to tell the whips I would not be able to make it because I was 15 hours from Ulan Bator.”

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16 Oct 2011

Memorial Planned For US Mounted Special Forces

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A memorial to mounted US troops who accompanied Northern Alliance forces in the conquest of Afghanistan, providing direction and support to fighters allied with the US in avenging the 9/11 attacks, will be installed in the vicinity of Ground Zero on Veteran’s Day.

Afghanistan demonstrated that the world features plenty of terrain impracticable for motorized transportation, proving that the age of horse-mounted military operations will never really be over. The closing of the US Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley in 1947 was proven in 2001 to have been premature.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

12 Sep 2011

8 Week Old Filly Tempo Gets Her First Bath

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10 May 2011

Horses Coming Back to Central Park

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Riding to the Park from the old Claremont Stables

Before the Claremont Riding Academy closed in 2007, you mounted your horse at the stables located between Amsterdam & Columbus on West 89th Street, then rode on city streets, crossing major traffic on both Columbus Avenue and Central Park West in order to arrive at the trails in Central Park.

The rental horses were typically plugs, and left the stable reluctant to move faster than a slow walk, but coming back they would often (in the manner of horses) completely change character, and the rider would be glad that Claremont always supplied them with a double-bit.

Horseback riding in Central Park diminished over the final decades of the last century. The city cut back on maintaining the riding trails, and opened the equestrian trails (sigh!) to pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists, leading to a ban on cantering.

What do you know? Civilization actually survives in New York City. Some of the people in authority recognized that a major city park lacking horseback riding was missing something important, and they remembered that the Park had been originally designed to incorporate riding trails.

The New York Post reports that the city fathers will be making an effort to restore the availability of horse rentals in Central Park.

Since the closure of Manhattan’s last stable, Claremont Riding Academy, in 2007, it’s been next to impossible to ride off into the sunset without riding the subway to another borough first.

The 4.2 miles of bucolic bridle paths winding through Central Park, around the reservoir and under bridges, are now mostly used by joggers and dog walkers, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told The Post.

“People will keep walking and running there, but we also want riding — which has been done in the park for most of the past 150 years — to be restored,” he said. “The bridle paths are an essential part of the park’s design and riding is one of its oldest forms of recreation.”

After Claremont closed, the city did sign a deal with the Riverdale Equestrian Centre, to offer trail rides by appointment, but those were infrequent and only done on weekends, Benepe said.

The city now wants a more permanent riding concession.

Each day, horses will be brought to the North Meadow Recreation Center, located in the center of the park near 97th Street, from one of the outer-borough stables.

Prices and hours will be determined by a bidding process and regulated by the city, Benepe said. Proposals are due next month.

City stable owners say it’s a shame the bridle paths have gone to waste.

“These parks were designed to be seen from horseback,” said Walker Blankinship, 40, president of Kensington Stables in Brooklyn.

I used to work in the city, years ago, and some week days I would rise very early, put on my boots and breeches, and ride the subway up to Claremont on the Upper West Side.

The first time I did it, I did not bother bringing a riding crop, and I found my rental horse, appropriately named “Drifter,” unwilling to to do anything. He also (very impolitely) kept trying to run me into low overhanging branches and to scrape me off on the trees. So I finally took advantage of the proximity of those branches. I broke one off, and began employing it as a crop. Drifter bounced around a bit and tried sunfishing, but when he found that didn’t work for him, he settled down to doing his job, and actually began changing gaits. I even managed to get one nice jump out of him.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

26 Apr 2010

2010 Maryland Hunt Cup

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Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh

Weather turned this year’s steeplechase season upside down. The Maryland Hunt Cup was last weekend, and our own Blue Ridge Hunt races, normally second after Casanova’s, were postponed (because of all the snow) and are still coming up.

This year’s Maryland Hunt Cup was exceptionally eventful, full of dramatic refusals, and featured an unexpected ending, proving how much more unpredictable timber races can be.


Baltimore Messenger

9:59 video

20 Sep 2009

2009 Blue Ridge Fall Races

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Photo: Karen L. Myers
Roddy MacKenzie leads at the moment on Triton Light in the Banbury Cross and Foxboro Farms Maiden Hurdle, but Jacob Roberts (3rd from the right) on Maximize went on to win

Karen and I were working yesterday at the Blue Ridge Fall Races a charity event held annually the last three years for the benefit of our local hospice organization.

Click on the above picture for a link to Karen’s preliminary photo essay

07 May 2009

The Tragedy at Palm Beach

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Workers raises tarps to spare spectators the sight of fallen horses at Palm Beach International Polo Club

On April 19, 21 polo ponies recently arrived at the Palm Beach International Polo Club to compete in the U.S. Open Polo Championship suddenly collapsed and died. Why the horses belonging to the Venezuelan Lechuza Caracas (Caracas Owl) died was at the time a mystery.

This ESPN 13:13 video investigates and explains the tragedy.

Polo ponies are routinely given vitamin supplements to help them recover from the stress of match play. The Venezulan team was in the habit of using Biodyl, a French dietary supplement containing Vitamin B12, Potassium, Magnesium, and Selenium. Unfortunately, Biodyl is not FDA-approved, so the Venezuelan team could not import their own vitamins into the United States.

Instead, they had a local pharmacist compound the equivalent of Biodyl, but something went wrong with the prescription, and the horses received a lethal overdose of Selenium.

I would take this incident as evidence of the unintended consequences of unnecessary regulation. Do we really need Big Brother telling us what dietary supplements we can give our horses?

Typically, the ESPN reporters conclude with calls for more intensive regulation.

26 Jan 2009

Horse Culture Dying in Southern California

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Bad news from the LA Times:

A flurry of recent stable closures has generated talk where equestrians gather about whether the Southern California horse culture can survive the sprawl of suburbia and its relentless appetite for onetime ranch land.

In December, a collection of ramshackle stalls near the city of Industry abruptly shut down, forcing out a small group of Mexican immigrants who had boarded their horses there at low cost.

The stables had been a gathering place for vaqueros from Zacatecas and Guerrero, and the closure prompted some of the families to give up their horses altogether. The loss follows the disappearance of many other stables along the San Gabriel River watershed.

Weeks later, officials in Orange County announced they might turn the county’s Fairgrounds Equestrian Center into a parking lot — the latest of many Orange County casualties. “There used to be stables all up and down the Santa Ana River, more than 20,” said Jim Meyer of the advocacy group Trails4All. “Now there are two left . . . and one of them is up for sale.”

The picture in other urban-adjacent areas around the state is similar.

Earlier this month, the Cevalo Riding Academy in San Jose closed its doors — the land prized for homes over equines even in this post-bubble environment.

Other stables giving way to homes or parking lots include the Wild Horse Valley Ranch in Napa, the equestrian showgrounds at the state fair in Sacramento and San Diego’s famed Miramar Stables, said Deb Balliet of the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource, an advocacy group based in Lexington, Ky.

It’s happening all over the country, but California “is being really hard hit,” Balliet said.

09 Sep 2008

Horses’ Teeth and the Indo-European Homeland

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Andrew Lawler describes an interesting approach to linguistic archaeology.

Measuring teeth from dead horses in upstate New York seems an unlikely way to get at the truth behind some of the most controversial questions about the Old World. But David Anthony, a historian and archaeologist at Hartwick College, discovered that by comparing the teeth of modern horses with their Eurasian ancestors, he could determine where and when the ancient ones were ridden. And answering that seemingly arcane question is important if you want to explain why nearly half the world today speaks an Indo-European language.

The origin of Indo-European tongues has roiled scholarship since a British judge in eighteenth-century Calcutta noticed that Sanskrit and English were related. Generations of linguists have labored to reconstruct the mother from which sprang dozens of languages spoken from Wales to China. Their bitter disputes about who used proto-Indo-European, where they lived, and their impact on the budding civilizations of Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Indus River Valley are legion.

That contentious debate, says Anthony, has been “alternately dryly academic, comically absurd, and brutally political.” To advance their own goals, Nazi racists, American skinheads, Russian nationalists, and Hindu fundamentalists have all latched on to the idea of light-skinned and chariot-driving Aryans as bold purveyors of an early Indo-European culture, which came to dominate Eurasia. So the search for an Indo-European homeland is now the third rail of archaeology and linguistics. Anthony compares it to the Lost Dutchman’s mine—“discovered almost everywhere but confirmed nowhere.”

Read the whole thing.

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

07 Aug 2008

2008 Olympics Equestrian Events US TV Schedule

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Date: Program–Time (EST) on Channel

Aug. 9: 3-Day: Dressage–2:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. on USA
Aug. 11: 3-Day: Cross- Country–6:00pm-8:00pm OXYGEN
Aug. 12: 3-Day: Stadium Team Gold Medal Final–6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on OXYGEN
Aug. 13: Dressage–6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on OXYGEN
Aug. 14: Dressage Team Gold Medal Final–6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on OXYGEN
Aug. 15: Show Jumping–6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on OXYGEN
Aug. 16: Dressage Individual–5:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. MSNBC
Aug. 17: Show Jumping Team Gold Medal Final 1st Round–10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m on NBC
Aug. 18: Show Jumping Team Gold Medal Final Round–6:00pm-8:00 p.m. OXYGEN
Aug. 19: Dressage Individual Gold Medal Final–6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on OXYGEN
Aug. 21: Show Jumping Individual Gold Medal Final–10:00am-1:00 pm on NBC

09 Mar 2008

The Winner

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Melanie Williams, winner of the Sheila Baldwin Burke Memorial, looked happy yesterday.She rode to victory on Flying Horse Farm’s Analyze, whose trainer was Jazz Napravnik.

Racing was temporarily interrupted in mid-afternoon by a thunderstorm featuring lightning and hail. Spectators, horses, and riders scurried for shelter. Fortunately, the storm passed fairly quickly, and it was possible to complete the final races.

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