Horseback riding contractor ends rides at Explore Park

Explore+Park+SignReba Farm of Bedford, Virginia, has asked to end their lease with Explore Park, citing lower participation than they expected for the riding program.

Horseback riding was just one of several services that were recently brought to Explore Park in Roanoke County as part of a revamp of the 1,100 park. Other services also include camping, disc golf, tubing, kayaking and other outdoor activities.

Roanoke County Parks & Recreation Director Doug Blount told The Roanoke Times that “the decision to end the lease was amicable.” The county partners with the farm for other programs such as Camp Roanoke.

Roanoke County says it hopes to find someone new to provide equestrian programs in the fall.

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Road trip, anyone? Horse racing returns to Virginia on Aug. 8

colonial
Colonial Downs named its turf course after Virginia-bred Triple Crown champion Secretariat.

Horse racing is about to make its return to Virginia.

Colonial Downs will hold its first races since 2013 on Thursday, Aug. 8. Colonial Downs will hold 15 race dates this year from Aug. 8-Sept. 7 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Gates open at 4 p.m. and post time for all race days is 5 p.m.

Hundreds of horses are making their way to the track, which opened its barns on July 25. The public is welcome to watch the horses train every morning from 6-10 a.m. 

General admission is free and includes apron access with track and paddock-side viewing, covered bench seating and access to the Paddock Bar and Homestretch Hospitality tent.

Colonial Downs, located between Richmond and Williamsburg in eastern Virginia, boasts the widest grass course and the second largest dirt track in North America.

The highlight of the racing season will be on Saturday, August 31 with the return of the Virginia Oaks and Virginia Derby. Flat racing is coming back to its Virginia roots, with an approximate $7.5 million in total purses.

Over the years, the Virginia Derby has been won by Eclipse Awards Champions Kitten’s Joy, English Channel and Gio Ponti. Hall of Fame-trainer Bill Mott and Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans have each saddled three winners of the Virginia Derby.

The first Saturday of the meet, Aug. 10, will feature four stakes races on the turf course for Virginia-bred horses, with each race carrying a $100,000 purse.  Those races are: the M. Tyson  Gilpin for fillies and mares at 5 ½ furlongs; the Meadow Stable, also at 5 ½ furlongs; the Nellie Mae Cox for fillies and mares at one mile and the Edward P. Evans at one mile on the turf.

The 2019 Colonial Downs meet will close September 7 with six stakes races totaling $550,000. Five of those events are Virginia-bred flat races and one is an open Steeplechase. There will be three races carded at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf: the $100,000 Jamestown for 2-year-olds; the $100,000 Punchline for 3-year-olds and up, and the $100,000 Camptown for fillies and mares. The two route races on the program will be the $100,000 Bert Allen at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds and up, and the $100,000 Brookemeade for fillies and mares, also at 1 1/8 miles.

The $50,000 Randolph D. Rouse Steeplechase for fillies and mares will be run at 2 ¼ miles over national fences.

Horse racing has deep roots in Virginia

Virginia has a long racing tradition. The first printed account of a Virginia horse race appeared in the Virginia Gazette of Williamsburg on Dec. 14, 1739.

An Englishman, J. D. G. Smyth, who visited Williamsburg in 1773, wrote of horse races. In “A Tour in the United States of America,” published in London in 1787, he reports:

“There are races at Williamsburg twice a year; that is, every Spring and Fall, or Autumn. Adjoining to the town is a very excellent course, for either two, three or four-mile heats. Their purses are generally raised by subscription, and are gained by the horse that wins two four-mile heats out of three; they amount to a hundred pounds each for the first day’s running, and fifty pounds each every day after; the races commonly continuing for a week.

“There are also matches and sweepstakes very often, for considerable sums. Besides these at Williamsburg, there are races established annually, almost at every town and considerable place in Virginia, and frequent matches, on which large sums of money depend; the inhabitants almost to a man being quite devoted to the diversion of horse-racing.”

Botetourt teen to compete with state 4-H Hippology team

Rachel Buchanan

A Botetourt County teen has made the Virginia State Hippology Team and will travel with her teammates from across the commonwealth to Perry, Georgia, to compete at the Southern Regionals.

Rachel Buchanan, a rising sophomore at James River High School, qualified in her first year of eligibility at the senior level — despite having no coaches or a local Hippology team to help her prepare.

Buchanan has been a 4-H member since kindergarten. She competed for several years with former Botetourt County Hippology and Horse Judging coaches Cindy Bandy, Rachel Witt and Dr. Charlotte Dietz before that team dissolved.

Outside of 4-H, Rachel shows in hunter/jumper competitions and volunteers at Botetourt County Horseman’s Association events along with her family.

Travel costs for each team is steep, and 4-H has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help offset costs of the state team’s travel. Going to the Georgia event will cost about $660. If the team wins, they will compete at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in October in preparation for the Eastern Nationals in Kentucky later in the fall. The Virginia team was reserve champions at last year’s Nationals.

The crowdfunding campaign ends June 16. Please click here to contribute.

 

Minimum Costs for Teams

Southern Regionals – Perry, Georgia

  • $160/team – Entry Fees
  • $100/hotel room – minimum 3 nights = $300
  • $200 travel/meals = $200

Total = $660/team

All American Quarter Horse Congress – Columbus, Ohio

  • $200/team – Entry Fees
  • $150/hotel room – minimum 3 nights = $450
  • $500 – travel/meals = $500

Total = $1,150/team

Eastern National 4-H Horse Round Up – Louisville, Kentucky

  • $300/team – Entry Fees
  • $175/hotel room – minimum 2 nights = $350
  • $300 – misc fees (food, travel, supplies) = $300

Total = $950/team

Total MINIMUM cost to send all educational teams to regional and national contests = $20,520

*does not include practice sessions throughout the year or coaches travel

Virginia Tech Helmet Lab turns attention to equestrian helmets, starts crowdfunding campaign

Written by Eleanor Nelsen  |  Virginia Tech

Since the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab launched in 2011, their staff has fielded a steady stream of calls from players and parents who need to buy a helmet and want to know which models are most effective. Some of those calls are about traditional contact sports — football, hockey. But a lot of them are about a topic you might not expect.

“Since we started the Helmet Lab, I’ve gotten more phone calls about equestrian helmets than I have about any other sport except football,” said Stefan Duma, who founded the lab and today directs the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.

“So we know there’s interest. And when you look at the injury numbers, they are staggering.”

Current estimates put the annual U.S. tally of injuries associated with equestrian sports around 50,000; head impacts account for the largest portion of that total.

Duma explains that the basic physics of riding a horse ratchet up the risk of head injury.

“When you’re on a horse, that puts your head about 8 to 10 feet off the ground. If you come off the horse for any reason, whether you’re thrown or you just fall, you end up with a much higher impact injury than people might expect,” he said.

The Helmet Lab is currently raising money through Virginia Tech’s JUMP crowdfunding platform to fund testing for the gear designed to protect riders from those impacts.

Most serious riders wear specialized equestrian helmets. But as for many sports, equestrian helmets are certified through a simple standard pegged to a very high impact-energy — the kind associated with catastrophic, and potentially life-threatening, head injuries. The pass-fail standard doesn’t provide consumers with any information about a helmet’s ability to protect a rider against milder — but still serious — injuries like concussion, and it doesn’t distinguish between a helmet that passes with flying colors and one that barely squeaks by.

“Equestrian sports have an unusually high risk of head injury, and I don’t think that’s widely recognized. Per exposure, there’s a higher risk of head injury than playing football or hockey or racing cars.”

Two helmets can pass the same standard and perform very differently, and consumers currently have no way of knowing that information.

“There is tremendous room for improvement not only in how helmets are evaluated, but also in utilizing advanced helmet technology,” Duma said.

That’s where the Helmet Lab comes in. Customized pendulums, drop towers, and other equipment recreate impacts experienced by athletes in a variety of sports — so far football, hockey, soccer, and cycling, with others in the pipeline. These sophisticated devices allow the lab’s researchers to test helmets and other protective headgear under realistic conditions, evaluating which models are most effective at managing the impact energy responsible for concussions and other head injuries.

The most visible outcome of this research has been the lab’s five-star helmet-rating system. The Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings have given consumers an independent, evidence-based tool to guide purchasing decisions; they’ve also driven innovation in the helmet industry by providing a more granular metric for evaluating different models against each other using test methods that are reproducible in the lab and relevant on the field.

Now, the group hopes to extend this model to equestrian helmets. They’ve already conducted preliminary tests, measuring the performance of six different helmet models with respect to the existing standard. All six helmets passed, but the results revealed wide variation in performance and significant room for improvement: the best equestrian helmet was still far less effective at managing impact energy than top-performing football helmets subjected to the same test. The researchers presented the data at the World Congress on Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland, in 2018.

The next step is to extend the testing, running additional trials and developing the same kind of bespoke testing protocols and equipment that they have for other sports. The crowdfunding campaign will help cover the purchase of helmets and defray the cost of testing.

This is the helmet lab’s second foray into crowdfunding. In a previous project, 84 donors pitched in to raise $10,000 toward the purchase of padded headbands marketed to soccer players. The result was the first independent ratings ever published for soccer headgear, which gave consumers a new source of information and, incidentally, helped raise awareness about how effective this type of headgear can be.

Now, the Helmet Lab and their donors have another opportunity to make a difference for athletes.

“Equestrian sports have an unusually high risk of head injury, and I don’t think that’s widely recognized. Per exposure, there’s a higher risk of head injury than playing football or hockey or racing cars,” Duma said. “That, to me, is the big story — and that there’s so much room for improvement.”

APHA Eastern National Championship entries give hope for growth of series

One of the great things about having the Virginia Horse Center in our backyard is the region gets to play host to some of the best equestrian competitions in the nation. Last weekend promised to be another one of those times with the APHA Eastern National Championship pulling into the facility for four days.

Competition was top-notch with quality horses being shown as one would expect of such a show. But the entries perhaps were a bit lighter than one would have thought of a national championship show.

APHA reports that the show drew 126 horses in 13 divisions. Most classes had fewer than 10 entries. So while it the show was run beautifully and had truly spectacular prizes, it didn’t, in the end, feel like a big show.

The show was aimed at bringing top-notch competition to new areas of the country.

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“By taking the excitement of a top-level event and bringing it closer to our Eastern Paint Horse exhibitors, we hoped to invite new faces to dream big and compete for these prestigious titles and awards,” Senior Director of APHA Events Holly Slaughter said. “We were thrilled to welcome several exhibitors competing with APHA for the first time, along with strong numbers in many divisions.”

The turnout and enthusiasm at the Eastern event indicate the growth potential for the National Championship series, APHA Executive Director Billy Smith says.

The Western National Championship is set for October 16–19 in Las Vegas.

“The interest shown for both our 2019 National Championships indicates a gap existing within our horse show landscape,” Billy said. “These national shows fulfill a need for regional exhibitors seeking the thrill of a prestigious championship-level event located a little closer to home. We’re optimistic about this series and look forward to growing them further in the future.”

Find class results, results by judge, scribe sheets and complete high-point and all-around placings here.

Solid Paint-bred entries stand out at APHA Eastern National Championship

Tabitha Thompson of Fincastle and her mare Too Tuf To Be Fancy.

Written by APHA News

Solid Paint-bred exhibitors are shining bright at the Eastern National Championships, held March 22–24 at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia. The inaugural National Championship boasted more than 100 per-judge entries across Open, Youth, Amateur and Amateur Walk-Trot Solid Paint-Bred divisions by Saturday afternoon. Preliminary entry reports for the show are more than 800 per judge.

With bountiful opportunities to compete, solid Paint-bred exhibitors like Tabitha Thompson, of Fincastle, Virginia, enjoyed demonstrating their horse’s versatility. Tabitha raised Too Tuf To Be Fancy, a 2012 bay solid mare by The Ultimate Fancy and out of Hosan Forties (QH) since she was a weanling. The duo demonstrated their versatility at the Eastern National Championship Show, competing in Amateur Solid Paint-Bred halter, showmanship, ranch, equitation and showmanship events.

“We’re here to do a little bit of everything,” Tabitha laughed. “I only live 30 minutes away, so coming here was a no-brainer. The show has been great; we’ve gotten a couple of trophies and a few placings. I’m pleased with how we’ve done!”

High interest and a strong regional community of active solid Paint-bred exhibitors led to expanded class offerings, Senior Director of APHA Events Holly Slaughter says.

“We had great enthusiasm and interest from solid Paint-bred owners in the area. After reviewing the large number of class requests and examining participation in the area, we were excited to offer a full slate of solid Paint-bred classes—including Solid Paint-Bred Amateur Walk-Trot,” Holly said. “We’re excited for the turnout, and we hope to continue to grow our solid Paint-bred classes at future National Championships.”

Youth exhibitor Maryann Johnson of Drewryville, Virginia, took to social media to encourage entries; a member of Rock Solid World Tour, a Facebook group dedicated to organizing and encouraging solid Paint-bred exhibitors across the country, Maryann and fellow exhibitors created a spreadsheet of their planned entries to share with others.

“Networking is huge,” she said. “The spreadsheet let others know who was coming and in what events, so that they could better decide if they should make the trip. We communicate heavily on Facebook to see who is coming, and it really works!”

Maryanne brought Zippos Sweet Te, a 2010 dun solid mare by Zippos Goldn Mover and out of Blues Cup Of Te (QH), to the Eastern National Championship Show. Though they’ve seen great success at regional APHA, 4-H and Open shows, Maryann says the cost and distance makes attending the APHA World Championship Shows difficult. The National Championship brought the prestige and excitement of a top-level show to her area, she says.

“This might be as close to a high-level show as we can get—and it’s right in our backyard!” she said. “The turnout has been great, too—it’s fun to compete against other Youth [in the Youth Solid Paint-Bred division]. We like to win, but we also like to have a lot of fun.”

Inaugural APHA Eastern National Championship draws big dreamers to Virginia

Written by , Paint Horse Journal 

Excitement buzzed in the crisp air as the inaugural Eastern National Championship kicked off March 22, at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia. Designed to bring more top-level opportunities to Paint lovers in different areas of the country, the 2019 Eastern National Championship is already seeing strong turnout and entries; Paint lovers from all walks of life are in attendance, dreaming of good rides and the coveted championship trophies.

Cheyenne Davis of Bedford, Virginia, is one such dreamer, and she spent 10 days prior to the National Championship counting down to the big event on Facebook, reflecting on her progress and memories with Stripes Little Swan, a 2003 bay overo gelding by Jedi Stripe and out of One Black Filly (QH).

“I have a tendency to think about backing out of things, so I thought that a countdown would make me really excited—and not nervous—about being here,” she explained. “Because I am excited to be here! It feels like such a blessing to have this kind of opportunity for ‘Levi.’ ”

Cheyenne’s aunt, Brenda Spencer, purchased Levi at an auction for $900 as a yearling. First intended as a pony horse on the racetrack, Levi instead became a stellar trail-riding mount before spending several years out to pasture; he didn’t begin his transformation into a show horse with Cheyenne until his 9-year-old year.

With hard work, determination and a strong support group cheering on their progress, Cheyenne and Levi soon stepped up to APHA competition, where currently compete in Amateur Walk-Trot all-around events.

“We showed our first Paint show in 2016, and we even won a couple of our classes—I was so excited! I’m just this girl from ‘Nowhere, Virginia,’ with a $900 horse,” Cheyenne laughed. “We won a whopping three APHA points at that first show, and I was so proud; I’m still proud of those points.”

When the Eastern National Championship Show was announced, Cheyenne knew it was a can’t-miss opportunity to show off how far they’ve come.

“I wasn’t planning on coming at first but the more I let it stew, the more something was telling me that I just had to come to this national show,” she said. “My plans are to take him to the APHA World Championship Show someday, but I’m not sure if that will happen; the National Show is my chance to give Levi the opportunity he deserves to do something big. I’m really excited; I’m just so happy to be here.”

The 2019 Eastern National Championship continue throughout the weekend; stay up-to-date on show entries and results by downloading the Cinch Horse Show Tracker app, available for Apple and Android smartphones. Find candid photos, updates and more via APHA’s Facebook and event page.

Extra Dirty Martini and Randy Wilson win 2019 Virginia Maiden

Horse and rider receiving winners check.
Extra Dirty Martini and Randy Wilson won the 2019 Virginia Maiden at the Virginia Horse Center.

With a big pot of gold up for grabs just in time for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, about a dozen horses took to the Coliseum at the Virginia Horse Center on Saturday, March 16, for the 2019 Virginia Maiden — a Western Pleasure class for horses 3 and over who have never been shown.

In a format that is familiar to many who attend the largest of stakes classes such as the World Show, the horses were introduced one by one as they jogged down the center of the arena in front of the judges before the class began.

Vying for a total purse of $33,810, the class was formerly known as the Hylton Maiden Western Pleasure Class and is designed to encourage owners and trainers from pushing their young horses too hard.  The class has been the highest paying Western Pleasure futurities in the nation for the past several years.

The class is run like a slot class, with a $700 pre-entry fee due Feb. 15. After that, the entry fee increased to $1,000.

This year, it would be Extra Dirty Martini, a son of The Best Martini, that would take the win. Bred by University of Florida and out of Certain Mouseketeer, Extra Dirty Martini was ridden by Randy Wilson and is owned by Jennifer Moreau.

Complete results:

 

  1. Extra Dirty Martini, owned by Jennifer Moreau and shown by Randy Wilson; $9,000
  2. Shez Slippin Around, owned by William Hodges and shown by Bret Parrish; $6,000
  3. Tennessi Whiskey, owned by Rusty and Katie Green and shown by Dawn Baker; $4,200
  4. Moonlite Imagination, owned by Dawn Baker and shown by Brian Baker; $2,400
  5. (5/6 tie): Only Na Lexus, owned by William Dean Oliver and shown by Jay Starnes; $2,100
  6. (5/6 tie): ShezaEzRockinGoodbar, owned by Mac McGinnis and shown by Dustin Milsap; $1,680 and $1,500 for being the highest placing Intermediate Rider
  7. PSU Certain Hope, owned by Penny Osburn and shown by Christina Bantner; $1,560 and $1,500 for being the highest placing Limited Rider
  8. Invitation Bronzed, owned by Nicole Stickney and shown by Jeff Long; $1,350
  9. No Doubt Ima GoodOne, owned by Lori Partridge and shown by Brian Rastall; $1,320
  10. (10/11 tie) Jessica Rabbit, owned by Alexandra Chavez and shown by Andrew Sharp; $1,200
  11. (10/11 tie) Drunk On Ur Love, owned by Stephanie Windecker and shown by Jessi Irion

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Virginia Horse Council to hold annual meeting and seminar in Blacksburg

horse council seminar flyerThe Virginia Horse Council will hold its annual meeting and seminar on March 30 at the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Educational sessions will take place throughout the day, beginning at 9 a.m. Cost to attend is $20 for council members and $25 for non-members. Lunch is included.

Sue Fanelli, chairman of the Virginia Horse Council board, will talk about the council’s Cruelty and Abuse Project at 9 a.m. Other topics throughout the day include Equine Cushings Disease, law requirements for horse owners, mud management, veterinarians expectations for standard of care, and a Make a Horseshoe lab. Speakers include Jill Deegan, Dr. Scott Pleasant, Carrie Swanson, and Paul Papadatos.

The day will also include vendors, a silent auction and networking opportunities. For more information, contact info@virginiahorsecouncil.org.

Roanoke Valley Horsemen’s Association to host 12th annual Equine Vet Forum

vet forum

The Roanoke Valley Horsemen’s Association will hold its annual Equine Vet Forum on Sunday, March 24, at the Pine Spur Hunt Club in Vinton, Virginia.

This year’s forum will feature Emma Jeffries from Blue Valley Vet, who will talk about hauling, and Tony Hutchins, of Pell Animal Clinic, who will talk about Tick Borne diseases.

Admission is free and membership in RVHA is not required.