Sweet Briar College receives $1 million gift to update stables

sweet briar
Sweet Briar College photo

Thoroughbred horse owner, philanthropist and son of a Sweet Briar College alumna, Richard C. Colton Jr. has given $1 million to the women’s college to support the renovation of the college’s stables, which will be named the Howell Lykes Colton ’38 Stables in honor of his mother.

Colton’s donation will enhance Sweet Briar’s ability to cultivate scholar-athletes who are accomplished leaders and supportive team members — and to maintain a nationally-ranked program that attracts top riders, instructors and trainers. The renovations should be complete by September.

“At Sweet Briar,” said the college’s president Meredith Woo, “one third of our students identify as riders, whether for competition or recreation. Their participation in the program helps them learn lessons of perseverance, discipline and teamwork. We are committed to supporting the excellence of our riding program and I thank Dick Colton for his tremendous generosity, which is an important part of that commitment.”

Mimi Wroten, director of the college’s riding program added, “I am extremely grateful for this gift. The renovation of our stables will allow us to continue the legacy of providing exceptional horse care and a superior experience for riders of all levels.”

Colton is glad to be able to support the school his mother loved so much. “To this day, my mother’s life and what she did with Sweet Briar has definitely impacted us,” Colton said. “We really admired Sweet Briar. Being part of its comeback is honoring my mother and has been a wonderful part of my life. Also, Sweet Briar is really well-known for its riding and I want to help keep it up.”

Colton’s mother, Howell Lykes Colton, was a member of the Sweet Briar Class of 1938. She was a member of a number of clubs and organizations on campus, and also served as the student head of riding. “My mom was a very intelligent woman and Sweet Briar was a great asset to her life.” Colton told us. “She was wise beyond her years. I think she would have excelled in the school even in today’s generation.”

Sweet Briar has become something of a tradition for the Colton family. Although Colton wasn’t able to follow his mother to Sweet Briar — he graduated from Washington & Lee in 1960 — his sister, Keenan Kelsey ’66 did attend and both have been generous to the college.

Sweet Briar started its formal riding program around 1920, making it one of the oldest and most distinguished programs in the United States. For the past two years, the riding team has been very successful. In 2018, it competed in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championship for the first time. Also that year, Makayla Benjamin ’18 won the prestigious USEF/Cacchione Cup, which recognizes the nation’s best collegiate rider each year. In April 2019, the team made history by competing beyond the opening round of the NCEA National Championship for the first time. In November 2019, the Sweet Briar team was ranked ninth over fences in the initial NCEA Rankings, alongside powerhouse schools like the Auburn University, the University of Georgia, Baylor University, Texas A&M, and Texas Christian University.

New Life Equestrian Center at Shadow Ridge Stables to hold open house Dec. 22

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Shadow Ridge Stables in Wirtz is now under new management.

Huxley Greer of New Life Equestrian Center at Shadow Ridge Stables says a lot of work has been done to ensuring the facility is ready to provide top quality boarding, training, lesson, clinics, shows, and more! Visitors are invited to check the facility out at an open house on Dec. 22nd from 1-3 p.m.

An overview of amenities include:

  • Laundry services for boarders
  • Outdoor arena with excellent footing, lights, and sound system
  • 12×12 stalls with rubber mats and fans
  • Miles of amazing trails
  • Hot and cold wash stalls with fans and heat lamps
  • Heated tack room with individualized lockers
  • Variety of turnout options
  • Pasture board that offers comfy sheds with fans
  • Staff that lives on-site

All disciplines and levels of riders are welcome.

For those interested, an FEI event and dressage trainer is available on site for lessons, but boarders are also welcome to bring in outside trainers.

New indoor arena at Virginia Tech’s Leesburg equine center will help diagnose lameness in sport horses

indoor rendering
Architectural rendering of the interior of the Steven and Jane Hale Indoor Arena, furnished by Blackburn Architects P.C.

“Well, Doc, he sometimes takes an off-step when the ground is too hard.”

 “He trips and stumbles when the footing is deep.”

“She seems off. Maybe.”

Equestrians of all disciplines dread that sinking feeling when they know something just isn’t right with their horse’s performance. Lameness can be notoriously hard to diagnose. But now, veterinarians in Virginia are getting a new tool to help evaluate sport horses. Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, recently broke ground on a new indoor arena designed to help evaluate lameness.

The arena will have three types of surfaces under one roof where equine athletes can be evaluated by a variety of specialists to diagnose possible physical problems affecting the horse’s performance.

The arena will be connected by a breezeway to the recently renovated Youngkin Equine Soundness Clinic, which also offers advanced imaging, therapeutic podiatry, and acupuncture among its services. The clinic also uses a wireless motion-analysis system to locate lameness.

In it’s 35th year, the equine medical center is working to become the premier equine medical center on the East Coast. It offers advanced specialty care, 24-hour emergency treatment, and diagnostic services for all ages and breeds of horses.

To schedule an appointment, refer a patient, or inquire about the center’s sports medicine or other clinical services, please call 703-771-6800 or email emcinfo@vt.edu.

outdoor view rendering
Architectural rendering of the exterior of the Steven and Jane Hale Indoor Arena; furnished by Blackburn Architects, P.C.

 

Virginia horse tests positive for Equine Herpesvirus-1, euthanized at Vet Med in Blacksburg

By Virginia Department of Agriculture

A horse admitted to the Virginia Tech’s large animal hospital has tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), the virus that causes Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy.

The horse was admitted to  Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg on Nov. 17 showing neurologic symptoms. The horse’s condition then deteriorated and it was euthanized on Nov. 18. A test came back positive for EHV-1 on Nov. 20.

In conjunction with the State Veterinarian’s Office of the Virginia Department of Agriculture, all exposed horses at the hospital were immediately isolated from the rest of the hospital population with strict biosecurity protocol and placed under quarantine.

All quarantined horses are being monitored twice daily for fever (temperature over 101.5 F) and other clinical signs. The hospital remains open and able to admit patients needing veterinary care.

The farm where the index case resided before going to VMCVM has been placed under quarantine. Horses at this farm are also being monitored for fever and clinical signs. The State Veterinarian’s Office has contacted all other horses that may have been secondarily exposed while at the teaching hospital.

There is no cause for alarm concerning the general horse population in Virginia. EHV-1 is a virus that is present in the environment and found in most horses all over the world. Horses typically are exposed to the virus at a young age with no serious side effects. A large percent of horses carry the virus with no clinical signs for the remainder of their lives.

EHV-1 routinely causes upper respiratory infection in young horses (weaning, yearlings, and 2 year olds) resulting in depression, a snotty nose, loss of appetite and a persistent cough. 

Rarely, exposed horses develop the neurologic form of the disease. Neurological symptoms include incoordination that can progress to the inability to stand, lower leg swelling, the inability to urinate or pass manure, urine dribbling and reduced tail tone. Horse owners with concerns should contact their veterinarian.

Studies have shown that the virus doesn’t live long in the environment, but transmission via coughing or sneezing can occur over a distance of up to 35 feet. Direct contact with infected horses as well as contaminated feed, equipment, clothing, and tack can also spread the disease. 

The Equine Disease Communications Center Biosecurity web pages equinediseasecc.org/biosecurity have more information on best practices for disease prevention in horses and VDACS has more information on EHV-1 at vdacs.virginia.gov/animals-equine-herpes-virus.shtml.

New equestrian consignment shop opens in Roanoke

There’s a new spot to shop for horse lovers in Roanoke!

Tack of the Town, a consignment shop specializing in tack and equestrian apparel, has opened in Willow Tree Antiques & Primitives, across from Walmart on 220 in Clearbrook. The shop is located in the back left corner of the store.

From tack and apparel to gifts and other items, the shop offers a wide variety of new and used items for all disciplines, including saddles. Items are taken on consignment by email tackofthetownva@gmail.com or call Alli Eakin at 540-797-6797 to schedule an appointment. Drop offs are by appointment only. Consignment agreement forms can be found here.

 

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.

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

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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.