Horseback riding contractor ends rides at Explore Park

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

Local Arabian breeder nominated for 2018 Breeder of the Year award

A Fincastle-based farm’s breeding program has been in the national spotlight. Wiloma Plantation  was nominated for the 2018 Breeder of the Year award by the Arabian Professional and Amateur Horseman’s Association.

“We think we have a breeding program that will keep getting better,” David Bandy told the Fincastle Herald recently.

The Bandys have been breeding horses for more than 40 years. The farm normally has three stallions and about 15 to 20 mares. Each year, they raise between five to eight foals. Besides Arabians, the farm also breeds Hackneys and Saddlebreds and outcrosses.

Recently, several of the Bandys’ horses have seen success at shows. The horses include: WP Corporate Image, WP Imperator Furiosa, WP Gold Boom, WP Corporate America, and WP Fashionista.

 

According to the Wiloma Plantation website, their breeding program “is based on a careful blending of Crabbet and Polish Arabians to produce maximum motion at the trot along with extreme length of neck combined with flexion at the poll. In addition, Hackney horse bloodlines through the Halstead and King horses, Hackney Pony blood through Heartland and Dun Haven lines, Dutch Harness Horses from the Ritsma Breeding Program, and Saddlebred horses whose bloodlines trace back to Wing Commander, Sultan’s Santana, and Oman’s Desdemona Denmark are being bred as purebreds, as well as being outcrossed on the Arabian horses. Utilizing these three programs will produce a blend of the best attributes of each breed resulting in the ultimate Half Arabian, as well as great purebred individuals in each breed.”

 

 

David and Cindy Bandy bought Wiloma Plantation in 1987. The farm of 130 acres features an 1842 house that is on both the Virginia and National Historic Registry.

David Bandy, a graduate of Virginia Tech, is president of Spectrum Designs,  which offers offering full-service architecture and engineering and is based in Roanoke. He previously served as the president of the Roanoke Valley Horse Show.

Their daughter Rachel, who graduated from Hollins University, has followed in her parents footsteps and is a horse show judge and exhibitor.

Hollins University hiring assistant riding coach

Hollins University is hiring a full-time, year-round assistant riding coach.

The assistant coach teaches riding classes throughout the academic year, but also helps prepare team riders for shows, and assists with the care of the horses and facility as needed.

Additionally, this position works with the Admission and Marketing offices on program recruiting including attending events, facilitating social media outreach, coordinating campus visits for prospective student riders, and helping them through the application, admission, and enrollment processes. The assistant coach also helps in the direction and planning of the summer riding camp.

Hollins University in Roanoke is one of the nation’s strongest equestrian schools.

Think you might have what it takes? Hollins University says successful applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in education, equine science, or a related field; a minimum of three years of successful experience with the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and collegiate competitive equestrian teaching/coaching at all levels; understanding and working knowledge of ODAC, IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association), SWVHJA (Southwest Virginia Hunter/Jumper Association), and other equestrian organizations and their rules and policies; understanding and working knowledge of horse health; Microsoft Office proficiency; and a valid U.S. driver’s license with minimal violations.

Candidates must have effective teaching methods; demonstrated horse and rider safety skills; ability to articulate the benefits and unique experience of a liberal arts institution for women; excellent leadership, role-modeling, organizational, communication, and interpersonal skills; and demonstrated success working with diverse populations.

Applicants must also have abilities to work well with student, campus, alumnae, and equestrian organization constituencies; work independently and as part of a team; and drivea horse trailer. Must also be able and willing to travel by air and ground and to work evenings and weekends. Applicants with experience in collegiate admission or marketing and those with knowledge of the Hollins riding program are preferred. Final candidates will be subject to criminal history and motor vehicle background checks.

Qualified candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, salary requirement, and contact information for three references to hollinshr@hollins.edu. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

Flanagan Stables closes doors

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Flanagan Stables, a premier dressage stable near Christiansburg, Virginia, has closed its doors. Flanagan Stables offered many shows, clinics, lessons and more through the years.

Instructor Lynn M. Jendrowski said she is moving her business to a smaller facility in the area. She will be available for clinics and traveling to farms to teach.

The 35-acre facility along Interstate 81 is up for sale, priced at $695,000. The facility includes a 24,000 square foot outdoor arena with sand/rubber footing, 14,700 square foot indoor arena with sand/rubber footing, a large round pen, newly renovated stable area, a heated viewing room and large pastures.

 

Eileen Beckman of Otteridge Farm in Bedford inducted into Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame

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Eileen Beckman was inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame on Sept. 15, 2018 at Virginia Tech. Photo courtesy of the Lynda McGarry

Eileen Brent Beckman, of Otteridge Farm in Bedford, Virginia, was inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame last week at Virginia Tech.

Beckman, well-known for breeding and raising champion hunter ponies, was nominated for the honor by the Virginia Horse Council.

Born in 1918, Beckman was not raised in a horse-riding family. But the love of horses still prevailed. In the 1940s she bought and rode a thoroughbred hunter, Ramos, to great success. After serving in the Red Cross — where she met her husband, Carl — and living in Chicago for a bit, she would move to Virginia and establish the famed Otteridge Farm. There at the base of the Peaks of Otter, she taught riding lessons and bred champion hunter ponies.

Beckman is a founding member and past president of the Virginia Pony Breeder’s Association and also is in the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame.

Eileen Beckman on Ramos
Eileen Beckman on Ramos.  — Photo courtesy of Off Track Thoroughbreds

Beckman was a firm believer that breeding success lied in researching pedigrees. She told The Chronicle of the Horse in 2007, “In the beginning, I really had no idea what I was doing. I would look and see what everyone else was doing and just give it a try. But I think that I’ve been blessed with a pretty good eye. My husband used to say, ‘Eileen you come home with the worst looking things and they turn out just fine.’ ”

Among the farm’s many success stories were Otteridge Dreaming Of Blue, Otteridge Dress Blues, Otteridge Black Hawk, Otteridge Pow Wow, Otteridge Foxtrot, Otteridge Up In Lights and Otteridge French Twist.

Otteridge Farm has always placed a great emphasis on breeding ponies with great temperaments and that can be handled by children. Poor temperaments are not tolerated in their breeding program and there are no stallions standing at the farm.

Eileen Beckman died in May 2010 at the age of 91. Otteridge Farm’s tradition as a top-notch breeding program continues, with Beckman’s family, including daughter Randee Beckman and grand-daughter Katie Gardner, at the helm.

Related stories:

Tack, supply and apparel store coming to Towers Shopping Center in Roanoke

A new retailer at Towers Shopping Center in Roanoke will carry horse tack and supplies and related accessories including clothing and boots.

Everyday Outfitters will operate as a second location of Western Ways in Forest, Va. Western Ways has been in business near Lynchburg since 1972.

The new Towers store will be located between McAlister’s Deli and Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts. It is expected to open by the end of the year.

Related stories:

The Roanoke Times: 2 new businesses sign leases at Towers Shopping Center

Warner introduces legislation to prevent horse soring to produce exaggerated gaits

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Thick pads can be seen on a Tennessee Walker horse being shown at a Roanoke area competition in 2015. Legislation introduced by Virginia Sen. Mark Warner would prohibit the use of pads and soring to produce the walking horse “big lick” gait.
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This horse also was competing at a Roanoke area show in 2015 while wearing thick pads and chains, both legal horse show equipment.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is taking again aim at “soring,” a practice used by some trainers to create the exaggerated high-stepping “big lick” gait seen in Tennessee Walker show horses.

On May 24,  U.S. Sens.  Warner and Mike Crapo of Idaho introduced bipartisan legislation to help protect horses from the abusive practice.

Soring is the practice of intentionally applying substances or devices to a horse’s leg to make each step painful. While soring already is prohibited under federal law, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General (IG) report has found that some horse trainers often go to great lengths to continue the practice.

“For more than 400 years, horses have been a part of Virginia’s culture. But despite a federal ban, horse soring — an act that deliberately inflicts pain on these animals— continues in some segments of the walking horse industry,” Sen. Warner said. “This bipartisan bill will finally put an end to this cruel and abusive practice.”

 

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act would:

  • Eliminate self-policing by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if the show’s management indicates its intent to hire one. Licensed or accredited veterinarians, if available, would be given preference for these positions.
  • Prohibit the use of action devices and pads on specific horse breeds that have historically been the primary victims of soring. Action devices, such as chains that rub up and down an already-sore leg, intensify the horse’s pain when it moves, so that the horse quickly jolts up its leg.
  • Increase the penalties on an individual caught soring a horse from a misdemeanor to a felony which is subject to up to three years’ incarceration, increase fines from $3,000 to $5,000 per violation, and permanently disqualify three-time violators from participating in horse shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions.

In 2017, the USDA Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) incorporated some of the major tenets of the PAST Act in a rule meant to strengthen certain aspects of the Horse Protection Act. However, the rule was not finalized before the end of the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration halted that process. The PAST Act would codify these changes into law.

Numerous groups have endorsed the bill, including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Horse Council, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The PAST Act was introduced in previous years by Sen. Warner and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

One method of soring involves using chemical agents such as mustard oil, kerosene, and other caustic substances on the pasterns, bulbs of the heel, or coronary bands of the horses, causing burning or blistering of the horses’ legs to accentuate their gaits. Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is sometimes added to increase the effect. The treated area is then often wrapped in plastic while the chemicals are absorbed.

Other methods of soring can include pressure shoes, where the hoof is trimmed  so that the sole is in direct contact with the pad or shoe.  The horse may then be  ridden on hard surfaces on the over-trimmed hooves, until they are very sore.