Gone with the wind: New London Horse Show series closes its 2016 season

An over-achieving mini leaps one of the hurdles in the field set up for trail and mini jumping.

The New London Horse Show held its final show of its 2016 series on Oct. 22 at Coyote Crossing Cattle Company in Bedford County.

The October show was on a beautiful, sunny fall day, except for the unrelenting winds that blew hair bows, arena dust, and anything else not weighed down. Cattle Crossing Cattle Company has a nice, spacious arena with deep footing. The arena is nice and wide and more square than at most shows. There is also a small warm-up arena as well.

The grounds around the arena is rolling hills and the parking is in surrounding pastures and down the hill from the arena in a field. The parking seemed a little bit tight, often inside fenced areas. Larger rigs that are hoping for a pull-through parking spot won’t want to arrive late on a busy show day and may find the parking a little awkward. There was a little shade, but the area was mostly open fields and likely gets very hot in the summer. There are some covered stalls but reserve early if you want to get one as they are limited.

The show, judged by Wendy Snyder, has a wide variety of classes for English, Western, Minis and more. The classes and competition seemed to be appropriate for various levels including beginners. English classes are scheduled at the beginning of the day before switching to Western in the late afternoon. The show is Blue Ridge Horse Force sanctioned and in 2016 partnered with Sprouse’s Corner Ranch Horse Show series for a circuit championship award in five divisions. The circuit championship prizes were an embroidered jacket and an embroidered cooler for the winning rider/horse combination. Proceeds from the show benefit local organizations. October’s show benefited St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Green Hill Park Equestrian Center’s Halloween Fun Show more treats than tricks


Green Hill Park Equestrian Center hosted its annual Halloween Fun Show on Sunday, Oct. 30, and mother nature decided a treat was in order for the competitors, offering up a gorgeous fall day that was warm and sunny.

The turnout to the show was fantastic with many of the classes having to be split. Many competitors dressed up in Halloween costumes for both them and their horses and the costume classes were packed. Classes all day had at least 5 and usually many more entries.


Phillip Dutton wins Virginia Horse Trials CIC2* on Fernhill Revelation at Virginia Horse Center

Philip Dutton and Fernhill Revelation. Photo by Brant Gamma Photo

Rio Olympics individual bronze medalist Phillip Dutton piloted both the Revelation Group’s Fernhill Revelation and David Garrett’s Corazon to double-clear rounds on cross country to finish in first and second place in the Virginia Horse Trials CIC2* out of 38 starters last weekend at the Virginia Horse Center.

More than 500 horses across 30 divisions competed at the Virginia CCI/CIC and Horse Trials last weekend at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington and the first winners of the week emerged.
“This is Fernhill Revelation’s first FEI competition in the U.S. since importing him from Ireland, so we are thrilled for his owners to take home the win this weekend,” Dutton said. “He already has a lot of experience at the three-star level with his previous rider Fraser Duffy, and we’re looking forward to bringing him out at that level in the spring. He has an incredible amount of talent and is definitely a horse for the future.”

Hannah Sue Burnett and Cooley Dream jumped clear in show jumping but added four time penalties on cross country to drop from second to a third-place finish overall. Boyd Martin and Kyra finished on their dressage score of 43.5 to move up from 11th place to fourth overall. Mara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville C, leaders after dressage, added one rail in show jumping and four time penalties on cross country for a fifth-place finish.

Sydney Solomon and Early Review C, owned and bred by Laurie Cameron, led the Area II Intermediate Championship from start to finish, adding only 9.6 cross country time penalties for a final score of 50.9. Sydney, 19, is a working student for Dutton and says she finds herself constantly improving under his watchful eye.

“[Early Review C] is a fiery little thing. She can definitely get hot and excited easily but she really wants to do it. She’s willing and honest,” Solomon said. “Show jumping was amazing; she did not touch a rail. Sometimes we have trouble making the stride when she gets spooky [on cross country] but today she was forward and good the whole time.”

Early Review C, also known as “Coco” is a graduate of the USEA Young Event Horse Program. She competed at the East Coast Championships as a 4- and 5-year-old with Lillian Heard and won the Safe Harbor Award two years in a row, which is given to the most amateur friendly and rideable horse in at the championships. Sydney has been riding Coco for the last year and is hoping to compete her at the Bromont CCI2* next year.

Tracey Bienemann and Geoni finished second in the Intermediate Championship, adding 23 penalties in show jumping but completing cross country fault free.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg were the ultimate winners of the Open Intermediate division. In second place after show jumping on 30.8, they produced one of only three double-clear cross country rounds to move into the top spot. Martin also finished third on Santos after finishing only 1 second over optimum time on cross country for a final score of 45.1.

Jennie Brannigan and As Cool As Ice moved up from third after dressage and show jumping to finish second in Open Intermediate on a 38.4, adding 3.2 penalties on cross country.

CCI2* division

Lindsay Kelley and Cooley Cruise Control, a 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse jumped the only double clear round in the inaugural CCI2* division to hold their overnight position and win on their dressage score of 51.8.
Boyd Martin and his homebred Ray Price, an 8-year-old Thoroughbred/Warmblood owned by Windurra USA and Amy Lindgren, dropped a single rail to finish second.

Woods Baughman and his and James Baughman’s 9-year-old Thoroughbred Montesquieu made a steady climb up the leader board, placing 13th after dressage, moving up to sixth after a double clear cross country round and finishing third overall with just one rail down in the final phase.

Kim Severson and Ringfort Fighting Chance won the CCI*-A division. Photo by Brant Gamma Photo.

Kim Severson and Ellie Brown’s Ringfort Fighting Chance led CCI*-A from start to finish, adding nothing to their dressage score of 40.6 to top the 39-horse division in the 11-year-old Irish Thoroughbred’s first FEI appearance.

Martin was second again in the one-star competition, this time with Barry, a 7-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Martin and Windurra USA, finishing on their dressage score of 43.0. Plain Dealing Farm’s 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse, MTF Cooley Classic, was piloted to third place by Lucia Strini, adding only two time penalties for a final score of 43.8.

Cornelia Dorr and the elegant chestnut, Louis M, likewise led the CCI*-B division from the start. Dorr, 18, and her 11-year-old Rheinlander gelding scored 40.2 in dressage and added only four penalties in show jumping to finish with the only final score in the 40s out of 20 talented juniors and young riders in the class.

Charlotte Collier and Parker Collier’s 10-year-old Holsteiner, Clifford M, moved up from sixth after dressage to finish second on 50.5. Will Zuschlag and his 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, RF Southern Command, added only time penalties in show jumping to finish third overall on 51.0.

Area II Championships and Adult Team Challenge

Virginia Horse Trials was pleased to once again host the Area II Championships. New this year was the addition of Junior Championship classes. Congratulations to the 2016 Area II Champions:

  • Intermediate: Sydney Solomon and Early Review C
  • Junior Preliminary: Katherine Christopher and Frodo of the Shire
  • Open Preliminary: Allison Springer and Fairvoya S
  • Junior Training: Olivia Hayes and Beaujeste
  • Training: Colleen Rutledge and Paul Just Paul
  • Junior Novice: Charlotte Stillfried and Pepper
  • Open Novice: Leslie Chelstrom Lamb and Quinn Lane
  • Junior Beginner Novice: Annabelle Kress and Batteries Not Included
  • Open Beginner Novice: Lauren Chumley and Nikolas

The Area II Adult Rider Team Challenge has long been a popular activity at the fall Virginia Horse Trials. This year, 17 teams made up of adult riders from Areas I, II and III competed in a friendly team competition at the Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels.

“My team and I are very pleased with the success of the competition this week and grateful to all the riders, owners and volunteers for their participation. For me it’s about providing a high-quality but personable event that makes everyone who attends feel special,” said VHT organizer Andy Bowles.

“This event is the final competition of the year for many riders and we hope it will continue to be a destination event for eventers around the country. Thank you to everyone who makes Virginia Horse Trials an important part of their year. We will see you at the next one in May!”

Virginia Horse Trials under way at Virginia Horse Center

The Virginia CCI/CIC and Horse Trials began today at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia, when the CCI* and CCI2* competitors presented their horses to the ground jury during the First Horse Inspection.

Virginia Horse Trials is hosting three FEI divisions this week — an Adult Team Challenge, Beginner Novice through Intermediate horse trials, and is also the site of the 2016 Area II Championships for the second consecutive year. With close to 550 horses on the grounds, it is one of the largest events in Area II.

“We are thrilled with the turnout for this year’s fall event. We have about 50 more entries than we did this time last year and it’s great to see the event growing and a positive response to the new CCI2*,” VHT organizer Andy Bowles said. “A lot is going on between the FEI classes, the Adult Team Challenge and the Area II Championships, but we have a great staff here to help everything run smoothly and we are looking forward to a great event.”

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Dressage begins Friday for the CCI*/CCI2* and Intermediate competitors, but the first nine horses in the CIC2* went down the centerline this afternoon. Olympian Boyd Martin was the first to enter the ring on Christine Turner’s 9-year-old mare Kyra. “(The entries) are impressive and it goes to show how strong the sport of eventing is in America at the moment. I’m excited to be a part of it,” he said.

Martin will compete a total of eight horses in the Intermediate and FEI divisions and said he was thankful the VHT organizing committee added another CCI2* to the calendar. “The venue is well suited to a CCI. It’s a big open space with undulating country and the jumping and dressage is always top notch here.”

Martin will ride all of his entries on the cross country course on the Oak Hill side of the road, a track which is designed by John Nicholson of New Zealand. VHT is the only event in the U.S. where Nicholson designs. “It’s good to have a bit of variety,” Martin said. “The course will have a different flavor than our usual American course designers. That’s good. We’ve got to get used to different types of questions.”

Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion Ryan Wood has brought five horses to VHT as a wrap up to the fall season. Wood has one FEI ride, one in the Preliminary Championships and three horses competing at the Training level. “It’s a good event for the young horses to get experience,” he said. “It’s a good strong course for the one-star and a good test to set them up to go Intermediate and (aim for) a spring two-star.”

The Beginner Novice through Preliminary horse trials and Beginner Novice through Training Area II Championships cross country courses on the Horse Center side of the road have been designed by John Michael Durr. His work was featured first during the May Horse Trials as part of the VHT Course Designer Mentor Program. This weekend he unveils fresh tracks and a variety of newly built fences.

The Area II Adult Riders Program is once again hosting an Adult Team Challenge, a friendly team competition open to riders from any Area that are aged 21 and older. A total of 18 teams will compete together at the Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels, vying for neck ribbons and medals for the top finishers and enjoying several scheduled social activities throughout the weekend.

Follow Virginia Horse Trials on Facebook for photos and updates throughout the event. Live Scores can be found on Event Entries by clicking here.

It doesn’t get more perfect: Fleetwood Community Center Trail Ride is a must-do


History, horses and a community of trail riders came together at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Massie’s Mill, Nelson County, Virginia, in the middle of October for the fall version of a  twice-a-year ride that is nothing short of spectacular.

Held each spring and fall in April and October, the Fleetwood Community Center Trail Ride, benefits an old school that was built in the 1930s and now functions as the heart of a community. Adjoining landowners give permission for their beautiful lands to be used for the ride. For three days, riders transverse about 5 different trail options, marked by ribbons. The rides are self-guided: Meaning there’s no trail boss at the head of a long string of horses like on many organized trail rides. Riders can move along at their own pace and in the peace of the woods.


Friday’s ride: 8 – 10 miles

Saturday: Short ride: 15 – 18 miles; Long ride: 22 – 25 miles (may include steep grades)

Sunday: 8 – 12 miles

Driving up to the school, the view is the first thing to greet participants. Purple-tinged mountains loom in the background, filled with promise of a great ride to come as you drive up Route 56, just less than a 2-hour haul from Roanoke. Be ready to meet new friends. Everyone was very friendly and eager to say hello, chat, and wish you well on your ride.

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Because the ride relies on agreements with neighboring landowners, it is very important that participants follow the trails as marked and the rules of the ride. Rides are capped at 150 riders and preregistration is required. The ride is often full well before the ride’s weekend, so don’t wait to register if you are sure you want to participate. This year’s fall ride included about 140 riders.

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While the ride is a nice relaxing day in the woods, it isn’t for beginners. For one reason, you’re going to be in the saddle for awhile. Rides run from 10-25 miles depending if you choose the short or long ride. Expect to spend your day riding. Even lunch is served out on the trail. There are water crossings. Most have very easy entrances and exits, including crossing of the Tye River. Others require more careful maneuvering. After 100 horses go across, some of the crossings turned to deep, sloppy mud that an inexperienced horse may struggle with making a smooth crossing. Just like the riders, horses should have some conditioning. There are long, steep climbs and descents, and it’s a long day. Shoes are recommended for the horses. Some of the trails are rocky.

Waiting in line for breakfast in the former school’s gym.

Meals are included in the $80/rider fee to ride. At this year’s fall ride, Friday night’s dinner was BBQ, Saturday’s lunch on the trail was burgers and hot dogs, and Saturday’s dinner was fried chicken. Breakfast included eggs, sausage, bacon and fantastic biscuits with gravy. And a large selection of desserts was available as well. You won’t be hungry at this ride. You may want to have something ready to snack on after Sunday’s ride. After you return in the afternoon, no lunch is served.

The fall ride also included an art show with art by local artists available for purchase. Plus a professional photographer, Anthony Antscapephoto Demarco, is along the trail is capture a keepsake of you and your horse along the trail. The photos can be viewed/purchased by clicking here.

Trailers are parked in the mowed field around the school. There are no stalls; horses are kept in portable corrals brought or put up by riders. There are no electric or water hookups for trailers and generators must be turned off after 10 p.m. So warm clothes, blankets and maybe a propane heater are great ideas. The fields are wide, open and flat. There’s a new wash stall built to spray off sweaty horses after the ride.

If you like to trail ride, the Fleetwood Community Center Trail Ride should be on your bucket list. The views are spectacular and you are sure to make new friends along the trail.

A photo taken by Antscape Photo of Juliet and I crossing the Tye River.




Floyd horseman, former Virginia Horse Center president Steve McBroom dies

Steve McBroom

The Virginia Horse Center Foundation community is mourning the loss of one of its founding members, Stephen “Steve” Cushing McBroom on October 11, 2016.

Stephen McBroom was born on September 5, 1952. A lifelong horseman, McBroom was widely regarded as the “Champion of the Virginia Horse Industry.” Along with his wife, Diane Craun McBroom, he owned and operated Owl Hollow Farm in Floyd, Virginia, where they raised and trained many successful show horses, including champion Morgan stallion, Van Lu Starbuck.

McBroom served on the board of the Virginia Horse Center for 14 years from 2000-2014. While always maintaining a position on the board, McBroom was president of the Virginia Horse Center from 2006 until 2014 and helped to guide the VHC in its transformation from a public to private organization.
Van Lu Starbuck
McBroom was inducted into the Virginia Horse Center Hall of Fame in 2010 in recognition of his dedicated leadership, professional achievements, and passion for the Virginia horse community at large.
Stephen McBroom is survived by his wife, Diane Craun McBroom, his daughter Emily June McBroom Stilley, and his son Michael Ross Agee McBroom.
A celebration of Steve’s life will take place on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 10 a.m. in the Floyd County High School Gymnasium in Floyd VA.
A foundation is being established in Steve’s honor. In lieu of flowers, the family requests future donations to this foundation be considered, details of which will be announced at his life celebration.

Little Fork Volunteer Large Animal Rescue Team helps Botetourt County horse trapped in hayloft

Phoenix up in the hayloft.

Phoenix, a 16-year-old palomino gelding owned by Carol Pugh, is getting national attention online after a bad choice left him stranded in the hayloft of his Botetourt County barn over the weekend.

His owners tried unsuccessfully to lead him back down the stairs after finding him stranded upstairs. Nothing they tried would convince Phoenix to go back down those stairs that they figure he scurried up in an attempt to get away from a herdmate he had gotten into a disagreement with.

After several hours of trying to get the horse down the stairs, the owner called in extra help. Botetourt County’s animal control has training in large animal rescue, but they don’t have all the equipment required. So Little Fork Volunteer Technical Large Animal Rescue Team was called to help with getting Phoenix out of his predicament.

While awaiting the rescue team to arrive, the owner also contacted Dr. Tarah Satalino of Windover Equine Services and took Phoenix feed and water and keep him calm while the team traveled the three-hour drive to the farm in Blue Ridge, Virginia.


After arriving at the farm, the team called for assistance from the local fire and rescue crews and animal control officers. Dr. Satalino also arrived and was briefed on what was needed. Assistance arrived from three Botetourt County animal control officers, seven FF/EMS personal from Botetourt County Fire and Rescue and three firefighters from the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Company.

The team formed a plan to move a sedated Phoenix onto a rescue glide and slide him and the glide down the steps and outside to safety. The team set up 2-ton chain hoist by chaining it to one of the main posts that supported the building. A secondary safety system was rigged using a rope and pulley system. This system was anchored to a different large structural posts further back in the barn near the rear wall. Once the rigging was complete, the team performed a “dry run” of the system to be sure that it would work.

Dr. Satalino administered ketamine in a dosage that would be used for surgery so there would be no chance that Phoenix would struggle during the rescue.The team was concerned that Phoenix might slide off the rescue glide once on the stairway, so they rigged him to the board as securely as possible using carabiners and webbing.


Once heavily sedated the horse was moved onto the rescue glide and it was pulled to the head of the stairwell. This took some time and Dr. Satalino advised that we needed to move quickly. It was decided to disconnect the chain hoist system and to use the rope system for lowering. Four people pulled the glide down the stairs with the rest of the crew operating the rope system. As Phoenix started down the stairs the hobbled legs were drawn towards his body and there was just enough room for him to slide down on his side. His front hoofs hung up partway down and as expected he slid down near the bottom of the board but did not come off of it. At the bottom he was turned on his back for a short amount of time so that he could be pulled through the doorway and outside to safety.

Once outside the rigging and equipment were removed and Phoenix tried to stand. He stumbled around and fell to the ground in respiratory arrest. The vet performed an emergency tracheotomy and Phoenix began to breath again and was eventually moved back inside.


Phoenix is now OK and that the trach tube has been removed.

The incident has renewed calls to help get Botetourt County Animal Control the equipment needed to perform large animal rescues.


Virginia Horse Trials to host first CCI2* event at fall championships Oct. 27-30

John Michael Durr, course designer for Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses at the Virginia Horse Trials. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The Virginia CCI/CIC and Horse Trials has several changes coming to its fall event at the Virginia Horse Center. The Oct. 27-30 competition serves as the 2016 Area II Championship for Beginner Novice through Intermediate levels. The Virginia Horse Trials team is also preparing to host their first CCI2* in addition to the established CIC2* and CCI*.

One new component of the championship will be the addition of junior divisions at all levels except intermediate. For divisions that finish on Sunday, awards will be given out in the competition rings at the conclusion of each class.

With the group’s FEI course designer John Nicholson as his mentor, John Michael Durr designed the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training and Preliminary courses on the horse center side of the road. Nicholson designed the two-star, one-star, Intermediate and Preliminary Championship courses on the Oak Hill side of the road.

The competition will once again include a Adult Rider Team Challenge this year. Adult riders from any area are invited to compete in the challenge, and you do not need to be a member of the USEA Adult Rider Program to participate.

Riders who are competing in the Area II Championship at Virginia Horse Trials may also be a member of a team for the challenge. However, all members of the team must compete at the same level. The challenge is for Beginner Novice through Preliminary teams only. Team ribbons will be awarded through eighth place and Area II Adult Riders will receive a gift sponsored by Sagmae.

Include all stabling requests on your entry form and mail to the event secretary. Email Donna Bottner (drbottner@gmail.com) with your team information or request to be placed on a team.

Visit www.vahorsetrials.com and the Omnibus page for more information about the fall Virginia CCI/CIC and Horse Trials. Get your entries in: the closing date is Tuesday, October 11.

Virginia state parks are for horse lovers: James River State Park

Riding through the campground.

Feeling like you need a new place to trail ride? Several of Virginia’s state parks offer horseback riding trails. And one of the nicest is James River State Park in Gladstone, Virginia.

James River State Park is a little bit of a drive, about 2 hours from Roanoke. But the roads are all good and it’s an easy haul. The park has a campground dedicated to equestrians. Laid out in a circle, campers/trailers are parked in reserved spaces up through the center of the loop and the stalls are all at one end.

Large box stalls include a hay rack and bucket holder already installed. (Personally, I’d rather the hay racks didn’t have a little tray at the bottom where your horse’s nose can mingle where a strange horse’s once was. Sanitation spray would not be a bad idea for a quick wipe.) Most had a good amount of wood chip bedding at the bottom and required nothing to be added. There are muck rakes and wheelbarrows provided for cleaning stalls. If you go during the summer, watch which stall you choose. The stalls on the far side of the loop (away from the park road) get more direct sunlight and are hotter then the ones along the turn and on the side closest to the entrance.

Water, with hoses attached, is also available at a couple of places near the stalls. However, at least when we were there, the water pressure through the hose was very poor and spraying the horses off after a ride was difficult at the stalls. A separate, shady picnic area not connected to any of the camping spots is available near the stalls.

The pull-through campsites are all spacious and allow two trailers to park side by side and share a space. There is plenty of room no matter how large your trailer, as the pull throughs are very long. The question for some of the spaces is if it makes more sense to share a driveway or share the grassy area with a picnic table and fire ring. While my riding buddy and I were parked in the same driveway, that meant our picnic tables were removed from one another. It was incredibly hot the weekend we were there, even in September, and because of that the lack of shade was very noticeable. During the afternoon, most people were driven into air-conditioned trailers or into the river. This is not a campground you go to because you want to feel like you are sitting in the woods. But as the campground matures, this will improve as there are young trees planted. Some of the campsites are more level than others. Our trailer unfortunately sat at an angle no matter where it was in the site.

Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table as well as electrical hookups.
Campground as we go out on an evening ride.


The bathhouse is toward the center of the campground. It is more modern than many of the bathhouses I have seen at campgrounds and very clean. Showers are private and spacious. The bathrooms are in a separate room.

Advance reservations are a very good idea for this park as the HorseShoe Campground is very popular. But while our weekend was considered full a few weeks out, it certainly was not full during our stay. Most of the stalls were empty and several of the camping spots were too. None of the tent pads were taken. So it may be worth calling each day as the weekend approaches for cancellations. Horseshoe Campground, open from the  first Friday in March to first Monday in December annually, has full electric hook-ups, there is also a primitive horse campground, open year-round, near the river where you can picket your horse. No generators are allowed in that campground.

Riding trails leave right from the campground and you can easily ride for several hours before looping back. I would recommend shoes or boots for the horses. While the trails next to the river (the park has 3 miles of river frontage) are lovely and soft for a canter, the trails going down of the mountain were rocky and my mare with just front shoes did struggle on the difficult terrain. Horses should be prepared to cross wooden bridges and a little water, but the trails are good for any level of rider and horse.

The views riding along the James River can’t be beat. Lovely wildflowers accompany riders through woodlands and fields. Riders are not allowed to take the horses in the James River at any point and all access points are blocked. This was a particular shame on our hot weekend.

And riding isn’t the only activity at the state park worth checking out. Fill your afternoons with kayaking, tubing or fishing. There’s an outfitter where you can rent a tube or boat right at the boat launch. The park also has a gorgeous picnic spot right along the river. Not really into camping? The park also has several beautiful cottages for rent. However, a spot must also be reserved next to the horses and someone must stay with the horses. Day riding is also available with separate parking.

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New Freedom Farm making dream of healing humans through horses a reality, to hold grand opening Oct. 8

Lois Fritz with Liberty and “CatDog”

Lois Fritz knows firsthand about the healing powers of horses. After a series of difficult times, military service and personal losses, the forensic nurse found herself in a spiral of depression and anxiety and in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder. When she became an empty-nester, those symptoms worsened, and her therapist suggested she try something new. That’s when, at 40, Fritz first felt the healing touch of horses.

Her first time in the saddle launched Fritz on a whole new path in life. Soon, she was the owner of Chip, a horse given to her by her then-fiance. Levi followed. And then Dutch, Eli and, last of all, a yearling mustang named Cecilia. Fritz was living in New Jersey but wanted to move to Roanoke, where her mother-in-law lived. After the death of two family members, Fritz realized life was too short to not follow her dreams.

About a year ago, she and her five horses arrived in Buchanan, Virginia, where she and husband Mitchell, affectionately known as “Mr. Budget” to thousands of Fritz’s Facebook fans, found a place where she could share her recipe for healing.

While other programs rely on therapy models and specific paths to recovery, Fritz believes that what veterans suffering from PTSD often need is no rules and the freedom to just live in the moment.

“Horses were the only thing that made me calm,” she said, of her own experience.

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The program at her New Freedom Farm follows the “no-plan plan,” she said. Veterans are given the chance to come to the farm and be present in the moment, enjoying the peace of spending time with the four-legged residents. But the humans aren’t the only ones who have known trauma.

It began in March with a call that 10 Thoroughbred broodmares, heavily pregnant, were in a kill pen in Pennsylvania, days from slaughter. Their owner had declared bankruptcy and sent the 10 mares to auction together. As she had no experience with foaling, Fritz was reluctant to take on the responsibility of a broodmare about to give birth. But with empty stalls in her new barn, she agreed to take in one of the mares and give her a safe place to foal. That mare, Maybelline, who was rescued by a Vermont rescue called Gerda’s Animal Aid, would quickly go from being a temporary foster to an adopted forever resident of Fritz’s farm.

Maybelline, 16, registered in the Jockey Club as Murphy’s Code, had been injured in her first race. She was royally bred — by Pleasant Tap and out of Royals Galore, a granddaughter of Nijinsky, and was bred every year since her retirement from the track. It was a Facebook comment made about Maybelline’s “new freedom” that ended up giving Fritz’s farm its name and forever cementing Maybelline in its story.

The mare gave birth a few weeks later, on March 29, to a filly named Liberty. The foaling was difficult, and the Fritzes had to make several trips to the Harry T. Peters, Jr. Large Animal Hospital at VA-MD Vet Med at Virginia Tech over the next few weeks for both the mare and foal. Today, Liberty plays happily in her paddock at the farm but still has myriad health problems, including a slight wry nose, an undeveloped lung, and a compromised immune system that will forever limit her future.

Through Maybelline, the Fritzes’ eyes were opened to the plight of kill pen horses and particularly pregnant mares set for slaughter. Soon they were called on again to help a heavily pregnant mare in a Pennsylvania kill pen. This time, it was a bay Tennessee Walker that needed their help. The Fritzes opened their hearts and their barn to the soon-to-be mom.

With no background information on the mare, they could only guess when she would foal. Fritz took to sleeping in the barn, waiting for the new arrival. For a month, she slept outside the mare’s stall. On the 33rd night, Fritz checked the mare, who seemed no different than she had for all the nights prior, so Fritz decided to go to the house for just a few hours. When she returned, there was a surprise waiting to meet her: a beautiful bay filly, already dry and standing with her mom. That foal would be named Silver Justice, after Fritz’s rescue mentor, Gerda Silver, who runs Gerda’s Animal Aid. L’Oreal has developed a special bond with one of the farm’s most loyal volunteers, Emma Beard, who has started riding the mare and taking riding lessons herself.

Emma Beard and L’Oreal

Then came Martha and George Washington. Martha was a loudly colored paint mare who was in a kill pen in Louisiana. She was not heavily pregnant, but she had a young foal at her side, George. In just two hours, $1,600 was raised to get Martha to safety. And then, a Facebook follower paid the mare’s “bail” to get her out of the kill pen. Fritz took another chance and agreed to give her a home at New Freedom Farm. Martha arrived sick. She had no milk for her very dehydrated foal. She had many skin wounds, rain rot, an eye infection and swellings. At first, George had to be bottle fed until the mare’s milk came back in. With medical attention and plenty of love, both mare and foal have been brought back to health.

Most recently, New Freedom Farm rescued two scruffy ponies, Patriot and Lincoln, also from the Bastrop kill pen in Louisiana. Lincoln in particular was very ill and had to be rushed to Virginia Tech with fluid on his lungs and a high fever. But on the trailer ride to Blacksburg, about an hourlong journey from Buchanan, his lungs cleared and his fever disappeared. While his sudden turnaround has not been explained, he thankfully has been healthy ever since. Although it is obvious the ponies haven’t been handled much, they are doing well and enjoy when children visit.


Among all that outpouring of love for horses in desperate need of kindness, The farm also took in a couple rescues — Maury and Piper — from Gerda’s Animal Aid to help lessen the rescue’s load.

All those rescues were accompanied by the juggling of five quarantines, each 28 days long. Buckets of bleach, isolated pens and visits from the vet became everyday activities at the farm that had never intended to rescue a horse. It now has 19 horses, ponies, mules and donkeys under its care.

The mares and their babies now safe in the paddocks, attention has again shifted to the original intent of New Freedom Farm. On Saturday, Oct. 8, a ribbon-cutting and grand opening will be held at the farm, which was granted its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status on July 1 and is now regularly receiving visits from veterans and police officers.

Scheduled to be held rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 6118 Lithia Road in Buchanan, the grand opening will feature a patriotic opening ceremony, flag raising and Disabled American Veterans honor guard, vendors, a special performance by horse trainer Amelia Efland of Stem, N.C., live music, raffles, a silent auction, demonstrations, and children’s activities with the Botetourt County Farm Bureau Women. A BBQ lunch will be available for $8. Some of the vendors/organizations will include Harmony Farm Sanctuary, Angels of Assisi, Barn Cat Buddies, the Lions Club, Botetourt County 4-H Horse and Pony Club, Scentsy, Spurrs Big FixCowboy MagicRockingham Co-Op, Gil Murray Photography, Mike Lee StudiosBotetourt County Horseman’s AssociationPerfectly Posh, and Paris Emporium. The silent auction will include items from far and wide, including a special edition Breyer horse model of an Arabian connected with Amethyst Acres of Buchanan. Admission is free.

New Freedom Farm in Buchanan, Virginia

Two of the rescued mares will take part in the opening ceremonies under saddle. L’Oreal and Martha both proved to be broke saddle horses. Maybelline is also trained, but Fritz explained, “Well, she was trained to be a racehorse… ” to describe how she did under saddle. All the residents of New Freedom Farm will be on hand to greet visitors.

Silver Justice

Donations to New Freedom Farm are tax deductible and help pay for care of the rescue horses and the work with veterans. The Fritzes keep their own expenses separate from that of New Freedom Farm, including the care of their original horses. The farm also has six volunteers and is always looking for more. New Freedom Farm has attracted a few sponsors in Spurr’s Big Fix and Cowboy Magic. The farm often holds fundraising efforts for their many needs such as hay drives, fencing efforts, and T-shirt and hat sales.

What does the future hold for New Freedom Farm? The Fritzes hope to build more fence and run-in sheds for the pastures plus a picnic area for visitors to use. The three foals will eventually go to training.  And, most important, more veterans will be coming to the farm to find a little peace.

For more information and find out how you can help, find New Freedom Farm on Facebook or visit its website.

Lois Fritz with Liberty (left), Silver Justice and CatDog