20 questions with Katie Gardner of Otteridge Farm in Bedford

Katie Gardner of Otteridge Farm stands with her Thoroughbred hunters Sunset Boulevard (left) and Frankly My Dear. Photo courtesy of Katie Gardner.

Katie Gardner of Bedford, Virginia, is a third-generation Virginia horsewoman.

“My grandmother was the lone ‘horse girl’ in her family, wrangled the purchase of a naughty Shetland pony, and taught herself to ride from watching silent Western movies during her 1920s childhood. The horse bug stuck, and someone let her ride their hunter at a local show when she was a teenager – and a legend was born,” Katie said.

Her grandmother, Eileen Beckman, showed her conformation hunter, Ramos, to considerable success and fame before she went overseas to serve in the Red Cross during WWII. After the war, and around having her family, she began teaching riding lessons and breeding hunter ponies.

Both of her daughters were riders. Katie’s aunt, Laura, did a lot of the pony starting and early showing, and her mom, Randee, was the equitation star of the family. Their ponies, Chantilly and Slipcover, are to this day remembered as two of the greats in the history of pony hunters.

“Nanny taught lessons and had camps and took children to shows for many decades, and to this day so, so many people in our area had some sort of childhood connection to her. She taught everybody! She also bred, among many others, Otteridge Black Hawk, who was the first, and to date, only, pinto pony to be Pony Breeding Champion at Devon,” Katie said. “Black Hawk had an incredible performance career and is retired with us at Otteridge Farm. Among Nanny’s many accolades are her inductions into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame (Chantilly is also in it, the first pony to be inducted), the Virginia Horse Shows Association Hall of Fame and the Wall of Honor at Upperville, among others.

“My mom has come into her own as a fantastic pony breeder, has bred her own Devon Grand Champion, and carries on the farm prefix mightily. She and I own and run the farm together, after Nanny’s death in 2010. I know that’s a long answer, but that’s the background on the world into which I was born. Hunters are in my blood,” she said.

Tell me about your business. What kind of services do you offer?

Mom and I own the farm together – she does the breeding and sales end, and I do the lessons, training and showing end. Her prowess in finding nice horses and ponies has benefitted my riders tremendously, and people often send us youngsters for myself and my riders to train and for Mom to sell. I start beginning riders and produce them up the levels through our local association into rated shows.

What would you like people to know about you and your work with horses and riders?

Firstly that I’m well aware of the legacy I inherited, that I take it seriously and wear it with pride. My grandmother was known for being tough, but always a lady. She demanded that her riders have nice manners and good horsemanship in addition to riding skills. She gave me the framework for my program: I have modernized it, but the basics of good correct riding are ever the same.

I’m a traditionalist, I’m a complete turnout nutcase, and I’m pretty old school in that it’s very important to me to turn out horsemen, not “clients.” I absolutely despise the “client” mentality that so permeates our sport. I’m going to teach you to ride, but you’re also going to learn to bathe, blanket, wrap legs, clean stalls, get a bad loader on the trailer, braid, lunge and break babies. And that, in my view, is how it should be. I think you get comparatively little out of the sport when you pay someone else to do all your chores, and I think there’s no possible way to have a close relationship with a horse that you have no idea how to care for and no context to know if that horse is “off” or having some sort of problem.

What makes your stable/business different than others?

I sort of started to answer this one above, but I would say that my specialty is producing well-rounded, knowledgeable and self-sufficient horsemen in an increasingly full-service world.

We recently attended the Lexington Spring Premiere and Spring Encore at the Virginia Horse Center, and one of my riders split the braiding duties with me. All the girls did their own bathing, care, stalls, feeding, and I never sat on a single horse either weekend. THAT fact is my pride and joy.

I really, really love that I have riders who can ride their own horses. It’s not my goal to show all my clients’ horses and rack up humongous bills for them; it’s my goal to mount these kids suitably and teach them to ride their own horses. Of course I do training rides; of course I’m ready to help if I’m needed, but my goal is for the kids to be able to do their own horses successfully.

Katie Gardner and Sunset Boulevard. Photo courtesy of Katie Gardner.

What do you look for when choosing a young prospect? Do you have favorite breeds or bloodlines?

Anyone who has been around me for 30 seconds knows I’m a diehard, absolute Thoroughbred fanatic. In 2021, the time felt right for me to add a young horse to my family, and I went to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, gained adoption approval, and waited until I saw something. I trust my gut and had zero concern obtaining a horse that way.

In October of that year, a 3-year-old with the Jockey Club name Ready to Show, by the great More Than Ready, was posted on their social media. With his stunning topline, big beautiful shoulder, correct legs, short little back and pretty face, I was sold instantly. There was no way a horse put together like he is would not be a beautiful mover and a talented jumper – and he is beautifully bred. I love Thoroughbred bloodlines.

I literally chose him from a photo, which is why it’s important to have a good understanding of conformation – and by that I don’t even mean looks, which are great, but functionality for the desired job. The brief video I saw later was an afterthought – I had already emailed my desire to adopt him. That horse shows as Sunset Boulevard and goes by “Max” – and has exceeded every expectation thus far. He was Champion or Reserve Champion at every show he attended his 4-year-old year, and his winnings at the Thoroughbred Incentive Program Championships in 2022 paid for most of our trip to Aiken for that show. He got to go to WEC Ocala this winter, and he’s continuing his development into what I hope will be a top Thoroughbred Hunter.

Can you describe your training/teaching philosophy?

I’ve talked a lot about my girls, so I’m going to shift to the horses for this question. We do a lot of young and green horses at Otteridge Farm, and I would say the most important thing I’ve learned is to meet the horse where they are.

We do an awful lot of “talking” and not nearly enough “listening” – and it’s much easier to meet the horse where the horse is than to demand that the horse come to where you are. They don’t all learn the same way, or at the same speed, and they don’t all fit in the same box. Sure, I have the same basic format I use when backing the babies, but once that very early learning has taken place, you really have to listen to the horse.

Of the four youngsters in my program currently, one is a super sweet but extremely cautious soul that has to be reassured and handled with a lot of calm patience, one is a very smart and athletic young mare with some previous baggage that left her reactive and a little anxious, one is a sassy little know-it-all coming to grips with the reality that she doesn’t in fact know it all, and one is a gregarious man of the people who has similar properties to the average mouthy wrecking ball. While some tools are universal, you just cannot approach all of those the same way. Every single horse you’ll ever work with in your life has something to teach you.

Who are your riding mentors? How have they influenced your riding?

Outside of my family, I have always loved Ellie Wood Keith Baxter and Betty Oare. Ms. Betty and I have been buddies since I was a little girl, and she is set apart as an example to me (and everyone else, let’s be real) of everything a living legend should be: She is the kindest, most gracious and charming lady, she has a moment and a genuine exchange for everyone and she’s a true sportsman, in addition to being one hell of a rider (and a GREAT judge!). She still works at her riding, rides multiple horses a day multiple days a week, and still really loves the sport.

Another rider I adore watching is Sandy Ferrell. Oh, if only I could borrow her quiet, waiting upper body and hands for just one afternoon!

Closer to home, it would be our neighbor Anneliesa King. She’s known me since I was a walk-trot baby, accepted me as a professional the minute I aged out, and is always so encouraging and positive. I’ve loved being at shows with her as an adult and fellow trainer, and spending time together at the rail watching our students. I love watching her ride her wonderful (Thoroughbred!) mare RF Piper and am always happy to cheer for her even when she beats me!

Tell us about your first horse/pony.

She was a Shetland/something-or-other cross, buckskin, 11.3 hands, and went by the auspicious name of Candy. She had been a barrel pony, but she also jumped, and if you jumped an outside line away from home you were good, but as soon as she rounded the turn she knew she was supposed to sprint back to the gate! Maybe not ideal as a hunter pony, but she was safe and so much fun and I loved her dearly. Home movies reveal a lot of galloping, grinning, chaotic fun, so I think she filled her role beautifully.

If you could ride any famous horse from history, who would you choose?

Gonna have to go with Secretariat, but only because Aspercel and The Pie are not real.

What is the best piece of riding advice you were ever given?

“Don’t ride the head down, ride the back up.”

What is your proudest horse-related moment?

There are so many special wins, special trips, and rewarding experiences so far in my life with horses that I’m going to take the risk of sounding cheesy and answer more generally that it’s the fact that my horses love me and are always, always, always glad to see me. They know exactly how valued and appreciated they are.

Do you have a favorite horse movie or book?

I loved “The Saddle Club” and “Thoroughbred” series as a youngster; I think the “Thoroughbred” series was especially formative for me. As far as movies, “The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit” or “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.”

You’re headed to a horse show. What’s one item would you never leave home without?

Clean tack. I have never one time in my entire life left for any kind of away from home riding without cleaning my tack first, and I plan to keep it that way. I detest seeing grubby tack at a horse show.

What advice would you give new/young riders?

For new riders, but most especially their parents: Even if you don’t know anything about horses, if you get the feeling that the situation is unsafe, it probably is.

Thoroughly vet the trainer you allow to be responsible for your formative riding education, as that person will play the most important role in your development in the sport, and few things are more damning for the rider than having to be re-taught with years of riding experience because they started out with an incompetent instructor.

Do a trial lesson before you commit to anything. Look at the condition of the horses and the facility. Skinny horses, dirty stalls and the like do not bode well for what’s going on at that barn. Remember that absolutely anyone with access to a horse can call themselves a trainer and take your money, so be vigilant in your homework and invest in someone with the skills and the background to benefit your child. To me, it is equally important that the trainer present themselves in a manner that you feel comfortable with as a role model for your rider, because this person can and will have a great deal of influence. You need to be comfortable that they will use their powers for good, in and out of the saddle.

Secondly, do not, and I mean do NOT, even consider buying a horse if you aren’t working with a professional. Horses are expensive, require a lot of knowledgeable care, can be dangerous, and no beginner needs to own their own horse – and no average parent can competently buy a horse for their child. Invest in riding lessons, and lots of them, with a good barn, for a long time, before taking the plunge into ownership.

If you could try any other riding discipline, what would it be?

I have literally always wanted to ride a really good, really fancy, really spicy five-gaited Saddlebred.

What is your favorite local horse show or event? What makes it special?

It’s not local local, but the Deep Run Hunt Club’s Field Hunter Trials is probably my all-time favorite. Hunter Trials are the perfect combination of the competition of a horse show and the tradition of foxhunting, and the “outside course” element of jumping solid obstacles in a rolling field is something that has disappeared from horse shows. It’s so much fun, and you have to be a little gutsy to do it well, which I personally enjoy quite a lot.

What one thing would make the Roanoke region a better place for equestrians?

Major upgrades of footing, jumps and facility at Green Hill Park. It could be a better and more versatile horse show venue than it is, but it desperately needs modernizing in management and equipment. I believe that the cross country course is a total hidden gem, however – it’s absolutely breathtaking up there.

Katie Gardner riding Frankly My Dear. Photo courtesy of Katie Gardner.

Tell us about the best horse you’ve ever ridden.

That’s the easiest question so far. Frankly My Dear is my bay Thoroughbred partner of the past 15 years, a giveaway after a modestly successful racing career, whom I didn’t vet, didn’t try and never met until he was in the farm driveway. He turned 22 a couple weeks ago. You name it; we’ve done it, and he’s won it. He’s been a racehorse, a show hunter (primarily), a jumper and a field hunter. He’s great side saddle, Western and bareback. I can jump a course on him bridle-less. He’s beautiful, and in fact has won many in-hand classes and championships.

We share a brain, we read each other perfectly, and he is the greatest thing on four feet. He once won a Handy Hunter class out of 54 entries, and the Handy is always our favorite thing to do together. None of the work I do with Thoroughbreds would have happened if Frank hadn’t paved the way. He’s the OG, the GOAT, and the absolute joy of my life. I don’t expect to ever meet his equal.

What is your favorite characteristic in a client/student?

I’m going to assume this is not limited to riding, so my answer is: being a team player. That sounds so generic, but as a tie-in to my earlier answers about horsemanship and self-sufficiency, we do not have barn staff. That means that every day, regardless of if we’re at a show, or if I have five horses to ride, or seven lessons to teach, or whatever the case is, we are still responsible for the twice a day care of the barn. My girls are very, very good about helping when they’re done riding — and if everyone does one chore it doesn’t take any of us very long! Not paying barn help keeps our costs way down, and I’m able to pass those savings on to my families, but the tradeoff is that there’s a general expectation that everyone helps. The best fit for my program is someone who feels like they’re ALL all our horses, and I’m so grateful to say that that’s exactly what I have.

If you weren’t in the horse business, what do you think you would be doing right now?

Sitting in a nice, quiet, indoor, climate-controlled, clean, wonderful-smelling library, coffee at hand, working on writing projects related to my other love: Old Hollywood.

Chris Byron named C.R. Roberts Professor of Clinical Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech

By Virginia Tech

Chris Byron, associate professor and head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, has been named the C.R. Roberts Professor of Clinical Veterinary Medicine by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The C.R. Roberts Professorship in Clinical Veterinary Medicine was established by Kent C. Roberts to honor the life and contributions of his father, Clarence, a veterinarian who began his career as a hard-working dairy practitioner in upstate New York. Clarence Roberts went on to forge a career in corporate veterinary medicine, retiring as president of Sealtest, a division of Kraft Foods.

The professorship recognizes teaching and research excellence. The appointment is for five years and is renewable.

Byron joined the veterinary college in 2014 after completing an equine surgery residency and becoming board certified in veterinary surgery. He worked in both academia as well as private practice as an equine surgeon prior to coming to Virginia Tech.

Byron excels in all mission areas—teaching, research, and outreach—of a land-grant university. His clinical and research interests include pathobiology and treatment of osteoarthritis in horses as well as multidisciplinary research in the development of cancer treatments and identification of surgeon performance metrics. He has authored or co-authored more than 80 manuscripts, abstracts, and book chapters. Byron advises and teaches both graduate and professional students, and has a strong record of research productivity as seen by serving as principal investigator and co-principal investigator on grants totaling more than $4 million.

Byron has administrative and leadership experience as the equine section chief and Large Animal Medicine and Surgery Service chief in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg, as the Large Animal Medicine and Surgery representative on the Veterinary Teaching Hospital Board of Directors, and as the Large Animal Medicine and Surgery clerkship leader. He was named head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences earlier this year.

A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, Byron received his bachelor’s degree and his D.V.M. degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree while completing a residency in equine surgery from Michigan State University.

Southwest Virginia collegiate team takes third at IHSA Nationals

Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College took home the yellow ribbon at the 2023 IHSA National Championships held recently at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The young team was made up of one junior, six sophomores, and one freshman, with only two of the riders having ridden at the Nationals before.

The team’s riders included:

  • Mia Sisson of Warren, Rhode Island, third in Intermediate Flat
  • Kendall Madison of Westtown, New York, champion in Limit Flat
  • Sierra Smith of Olathe, Kansas, third in Limit Over Fences
  • Maddie Whitley of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, in Novice
  • Thomas Carter of Asheville, North Carolina, fourth in Introductory
  • Emma Gurley of Rutherfordton, North Carolina, sixth in Intermediate Over Fences
  • Lindsay Show of Newark, Delaware in Open Flat
  • Derek Holt of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in Open Over Fences

IHSA offers individual and team competition in hunter seat equitation, western horsemanship, ranch riding and reining at more than 400 member colleges and universities and 10,000 members in 47 states and Canada. The top two teams from each of eight zones compete for the national title.

This year’s teams were:

  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Sacred Heart University
  • Long Island University
  • Skidmore College
  • Centenary University
  • University of Delaware
  • Goucher College
  • Emory & Henry College
  • Savannah College of Art and Design
  • University of South Carolina
  • Otterbein University
  • University of Findlay
  • Purdue University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Stanford University
  • University of Southern California

Membership in IHSA means that college students can participate in horse shows regardless of their experience or financial status. Students compete from beginner through advanced with suitable, provided horses, eliminating the expense of horse ownership.

The organization was established in 1967 by Robert “Bob” Cacchione as a sophomore attending Farleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey. Some of the most notable riders in show jumping and Western disciplines competed in IHSA including Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden.

Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry were national champions in 2022 and 2019. Before its closure and the equestrian program’s move to Emory & Henry College, Virginia Intermont College were national champions in 2007, 2005, and 2004.

Individual competition

IHSA Nationals also includes individual competition. Area riders included:

  • Clare O’Brien of Washington and Lee University in Intermediate Equitation Over Fences
  • Mallory Francis of Hollins University, sixth, in Intermediate Equitation Over Fences and fourth in Equitation on the Flat
  • Marran Vansickle of Sweet Briar College eighth in Limit Equitation Over Fences and Limit Equitation on the Flat
  • Elyssa Parker of Hollins University in Novice Equitation
  • Margaret Saunders of Liberty University in Open Equitation on the Flat
  • Charleez Simcik of Virginia Tech in IHSA Hunter Seat High Point Rider Over Fences (Cacchione Cup)
  • Lauren Daniel of William and Mary, seventh in Intermediate Equitation on the Flat. Daniel is from Rocky Mount, Virginia.

Hollins University horses carry riders to top of the IHSA class

At the recent Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association National Horse Show, horses from Hollins University carried their riders to national IHSA titles at the Kentucky Horse Park.

  • Eloquence carried Mea Handy of George Mason University to a first place in the Individual Limit Equitation Over Fences. The bay gelding also served as the mount for Julia Mallia, who dominated Team Novice Equitation for the University of South Carolina.
  • My Way’s rider, Elise Sigety of Skidmore College, took home the win in the team competition.
  • In Team Open Equitation on the Flat, Alexander Alston from SCAD stepped to the top of the podium as champion after riding Allmyso.

Meanwhile, Hollins riders didn’t do so bad themselves. Mallory Francis placed fourth in Limit Flat and sixth in Intermediate Fences. Elyssa Parker finished ninth in Novice.

Hollins University owns 30 horses for all skill levels. Riders compete in ODAC or IHSA shows or may compete in local and national horse show on their own horses or horses owned by the university.

Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center to add dedicated emergency and critical care team

A woman dressed in blue scrubs uses an instrument against a horse's neck as she and a man watch a computer screen.
Sophie Boorman, clinical assistant professor of equine surgery, scans a patient at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va. Photo by Andrew Mann for Virginia Tech.

It has been widely known in the equine community in recent years that students in veterinary colleges throughout the country are choosing to steer away from equine veterinary medicine. 

In 2021, the American Association of Equine Practitioners highlighted this plight, sharing that only a small percentage of veterinary graduates were entering the equine profession. Even more disturbing is the fact that 50 percent of these graduates will leave the equine profession within five years. 

This issue has caused some serious outside-the-box thinking at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine as well as other veterinary colleges and private equine practices throughout the country that wish to sustain emergency and elective services that they currently offer to clients.

Michael Erskine ’84, DVM ’88, the Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC), is acting co-chair on a subcommittee of the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability, which focuses on the demands of emergency coverage. At the recent 2022 association convention in San Antonio, Texas, Erskine moderated a roundtable and presented a lecture on this topic. 

Since the equine medical center opened its doors in 1984, its clinicians have been expected to offer outpatient and elective treatments and cover 24/7 emergency and critical care services. This expectation causes clinicians and clinical support staff enormous stress and fatigue, affecting not only their work-life balance, but also their ability to cover daytime scheduled appointments in a timely, efficient way. Due to the continuing increase in the emergency and critical care caseload, this is not a sustainable situation.

The equine medical center has seen a substantial increase in emergency and critical care cases in recent years. In fiscal year 2022, emergency cases increased by 21.5 percent over the previous year, amounting to 739 emergency cases treated during the 12 months. There has been much discussion as to how to continue offering the current high level of emergency while being supportive of the expectations levied on clinical staff.

“To sustain emergency services at the EMC, we are planning to create a dedicated emergency and critical care team,” Erskine said. “This team will be focused around specially trained equine clinicians who have completed advanced training in both emergency medicine and surgery.”

Read more….

Lee County horse camp wins grant

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has awarded a $10,000 Seed Capital Matching Grant to Rock Bottom Horse Camp, LLC in Lee County.

Rock Bottom Horse Camp, LLC offers lodging for horses and their owners who are touring the area. The business is owned by John and Erin Miele and currently has one full-time and one part-time employee.

In addition to the stable facilities for horses, the camp, located in Ewing, also offers five RV sites and three tent sites. Four new 10×14 stalls have been constructed with four more planned. Future plans call for the addition of a bathhouse.

Read more at Cardinal News.

Palomino quarter horse gelding tops Great American Ranch & Trail Horse Sale at $77K

With nearly 100 horses parading through the sales pen at the 2022 Great American Ranch & Trail Horse Sale, it would be hard to not find something you like. From 12-hand ponies to 17-hand Friesians, ranch-bred and trained quarter horses to loudly colored paints with impressive show records to draft crosses with miles of trails behind them, their resumes varied nearly as much as the medley of colors they came in.

And as much as we all know that color doesn’t make a good horse, we also know that buyers can’t resist a flashy horse. Make it a blue roan or a palomino and that’s the true icing on the cake.

For the past two years, the feathered feet of Gypsy Vanners stole the show. But this year, it was a palomino quarter horse named “Newt” that drew the highest bid. Heza Triple Peponita, a 2017 AQHA gelding consigned by Triple R Stables in Ohio, sold for $77,000. The winning bid came over the Internet, where the sale is live-streamed. Watch a video from the bidding.

Hip No. 50, Heza Triple Peponita, during the trail competition. He was the sale high-seller at $77,000.

The Great American Ranch & Trail Horse Sale is unique. It gives sellers a chance to show off their horses (or potentially broadcast any shortcomings in the horse’s training). Sale horses compete for cash and prizes. But potential buyers are winners, too, as they get the chance to watch the horses face unfamiliar obstacles in an unfamiliar, noisy environment.

At this year’s sale, many of the sale horses competed in either the trail horse competition, the ranch horse competition, or both — betting their horse’s training will shine through even in the difficult environment of an indoor coliseum.

Trail course obstacles include stepping over logs, crossing a bridge, weaving through tree branches, passing a campfire, ground tying while their rider disappears into an outhouse, and loading onto a trailer.

Ten finalists then return the next morning for a harder version of the course and perform a freestyle routine that shows off the horse’s unique abilities.

While the top-seller placed seventh, it was a North American Spotted Haflinger, Tigers Sweet Gentry, who quietly plodded through the course and with guns blazing in the finals came away with the championship. He later sold for $40,000. Reserve champion was Hip No. 25, TRS Loud Sensation, who sold for $25,000.

Tigers Sweet Gentry won the $2,000 Trail Horse Competition.

The ranch horse competition is held on Friday afternoon and includes completing a ranch horse pattern with stops, spins, and lead changes as well as boxing and penning a calf, before attempting to rope the calf.

This year, a flashy sorrel named Play Berry took home top honors. He later sold for $30,000.

Play Berry receives his prizes for the Ranch Horse competition win.

Trail Horse Top 5

  1. Hip No. 76, Tigers Sweet Gentry, 2017 North American Spotted Haflinger, sold for $40,000
  2. Hip No. 25, TRS Loud Sensation, 2010 APHA gelding, sold for $25,000
  3. Hip No. 33, Southern Living, 2017 AQHA gelding, sold for $32,500
  4. Hip No. 55, Ima Yella Skippa Kid, 2018 AQHA gelding, sold for $17,000
  5. Hip No. 40, Wranglin in Rio, 2016 AQHA gelding, (no sale)

Sale high-sellers

  1. Heza Triple Peponita, #50, (AQHA) $77,000
  2. RW Shotgun Blue, #23, (AQHA) $45,000
  3. (tie) Ollie, #35, (grade) $40,000
  4. (tie) Rio Angelical 77, #36 (AQHA), $40,000
  5. (tie) Tigers Sweet Gentry, #76, (Spotted Haflinger), $40,000
  6. St James of Glen Grace, #18, (Gypsy Vanner), $38,000
  7. Buckeyes Joe, #27, (Gypsy Vanner), $37,000
  8. EQHR Blue Fire Boots, #58, (AQHA) $34,000
  9. Southern Living, #33, (AQHA), $32,500
  10. Tyson, #3, (grade pony), $30,000

Budweiser Clydesdales to appear in Roanoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The Budweiser Clydesdales

Update: The Budweiser Clydesdales may not appear in Saturday’s parade because of inclement weather. While the parade is set to be held rain or shine, the iconic eight-horse hitch does not appear in snow or rain. Both are in Saturday’s forecast. Parade officials remain hopeful that the weather will remain clear enough to allow the horses to participate.

“Eight tons of champions,” the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales, will be featured March 12 at Roanoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The famous bay draft horses were scheduled to appear in 2020, however the parade was canceled because of the pandemic. Now, they will make good on that promised appearance. The eight-horse hitch will pull their bright red beer wagon, complete with Dalmation, through downtown Roanoke’s streets starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.  The parade travels from Jefferson Street to Campbell Avenue, ending at Williamson Road.

The Clydesdale’s appearance in Roanoke is one of hundreds made annually by the traveling teams.

The horses are stabled at Hollins University but are not available for public viewing before or after the parade.

One of the Clydesdales, Ivan, was on hand for a meet and greet at Healing Strides of Virginia in Boones Mill on March 7.

Clydesdale Handler Grant Johnson explained the qualifications required for a horse to become a Budweiser “gentle giant” to WDBJ7 in 2020. “One of them is they have to be a gelding. They have to be bay in color, have a black mane and tale, white blaze face, and with Clydesdales there’s always the famous white feathers. They have to have four white feathers,” he said.

They also have to be at least 18 hands. Before greeting the masses, the Clydesdales go through four to five years of training.

“We want horses that are calm, have a good disposition, and can handle noises and crowds,” Johnson said.

Virginia Horse Council plans annual educational seminar

The Virginia Horse Council will hold its annual educational seminar and meeting at 9 a.m. on March 12 at the Virginia Horse Center.

The seminar will include two sessions. The morning session will feature Dr. Allison Faber Marshall of Full Circle Veterinary Care, who will discuss the benefits of Chiropractic Work and Acupuncture. The afternoon session will feature Chris Wiley of CW Wiley Custom Saddles. He will talk on Western saddle fit.

The cost is $30 for members and $40 for non-members, includes lunch and an individual one-year membership. Tickets can be purchased in person at the event.

For more information, visit the Virginia Horse Council’s website.

A flood of love, grief, disbelief after death of Botetourt County horsewoman

The Roanoke Valley equestrian community was left reeling last weekend as word spread that one of their brightest stars had died.

Tabitha Thompson, 39, of Fincastle, died Friday after she was hit by an SUV while riding her bike on Route 11 just north of Troutville.

Thompson was a longtime horsewoman and active in horse shows and other equestrian activities throughout the Roanoke Valley and beyond. For several years she organized and ran the popular Cross View Farm Horse Show series at Green Hill Equestrian Center, building a show that provided hundreds of local riders a chance to compete. The show series offered classes in many disciplines while keeping a fun, supportive atmosphere at the forefront of the competition.

She, herself, was an avid rider, competing in AQHA and APHA shows around the region including the APHA Eastern National Championship, the AQHA Level One Novice Championships, and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress with her bay mare Too Tuf To Be Fancy, who she called Lila.

View the gallery below to see the many photos that featured Thompson and her mare Lila in Roanoke Equestrian over the past several years.

Thompson’s is lovingly remembered for her penchant for helping others. An outpouring of love filled social media as friends, family, and acquaintances shared memories and utter disbelief at her passing. Many told stories of how she had made them not just better riders, but also better people. Others shared stories of Thompson’s generosity, of times she even offered her own horses or riding facilities to help others succeed. In stories of how her infectious positivity inspired so many, words such as “sweet,” “caring,” “kind,” and “selfless” were repeated again and again.

Thompson was well-known in other circles as well. She touched countless lives as a beloved nurse, working for many years at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. She had recently graduated from the nurse practitioners program at Duke University School of Nursing. She was also an avid runner, competing in the Blue Ridge Marathon and other running competitions.

The Silver Snaffle Horse Show series, set for April 9, July 2, Nov. 19 at Green Hill Park Equestrian Center, will be held in Thompson’s memory. A special showmanship challenge will honor Thompson’s love for that class, using the pattern that she performed at last year’s Quarter Horse Congress. For more information on how you can help support the show, click here.

Read Thompson’s obituary here.

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