On July 2, 2018, Randolph College President Bradley Bateman announced that the board of trustees voted to close the Randolph College Riding Center in Lynchburg. A fundraising effort to save the center failed to raise the $7.1 million needed.
The riding center, which sits on 100 donated acres and houses 40 horses, 26 of which are school horses, on average required $350,000 a year to operate.
Bateman said that declining interest in the riding program was also a factor in the decision. This year’s team had 25 riders, including four who rode at the IHSA National Finals this year.
The riding program will officially close in July 2019. The school will continue to offer the equine studies minor. New homes will be found for the 26 school horses next summer, Bateman said.
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.
First its location changed. Then the class list dropped a large portion of the classes and became a show for Saddlebreds. And now the name is disappearing, too.
The Roanoke Valley Horse Show left the Salem Civic Center for a rebirth at the Virginia Horse Center in 2016. But that rebirth became more of a high-speed evolution. The hunter classes were gone by 2017 and the name had been tweaked to Roanoke Shenandoah Valley Horse Show. A Grand Prix would no longer cap off the weeklong schedule. And the support of Roanoke area businesses also was lost as the Roanoke Valley Horseman’s Association passed off the event to new hosts.
This year, the show will run just four days — June 20-23 — at the Virginia Horse Center. And Roanoke appears to be disappearing from its name. The artwork for the show lists it as the Shenandoah Classic Horse Show.
Lots has changed but there will still be plenty of high-stepping action if not high jumping action. And it is inevitable that even some of our most treasured horse show events will change over time, particularly as horse shows face the challenge of dropping participation.
Meanwhile, the Roanoke Valley Horseman’s Association is scheduled to hold a one-day community horse show at Green Hill Park Equestrian Center in Salem this summer. Watch for more details on that event.
In 2015, college officials shocked alumni and students alike when they announced the school, including its esteemed equestrian program, would close. Alumnae saved their beloved school, and the college’s tradition of riding excellence was saved with it.
On Saturday, May 5, 2018, Makayla Benjamin, a senior, became the riding program’s first winner of the Cacchione Cup at the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The USEF/Cacchione Cup is awarded to the National Individual Hunter Seat High Point Rider.
Benjamin, of Leesburg, Virginia, is one of 24 riders from across the nation who qualified to compete for the Cacchione Cup, with three riders coming from each of the eight regions across the nation.
The last Vixen to compete at nationals in the USEF/Cacchione Cup was Olivia Smith in 2014. Smith placed ninth overall. Benjamin joins Smith and Jodie Weber as Sweet Briar riders to have competed for the USEF/Cacchione Cup since 2006. Weber finished fourth in 2006, while Smith finished 33rd in 2013 and ninth in 2014.
Past Cacchione Cup winners are:
2017: Katherine Steiner – Centenary University
2016: Chase Boggio, Tufts University
2015: Elizabeth Hay, College of Charleston-South Carolina
2014: Alexandra Carleton, University of Vermont
2013: Cori Reich, Centenary College
2012: Kels Bonham, Savannah College of Art and Design
2011: Marissa Cohen, Centenary College
2010: Lindsay Sceats, Mount Holyoke College
2009: Lindsay Clark, Centenary College
2008: James Fairclough II, Drew University
2007: Whitney Roper, University of Virginia
2005: Ashley Woodhouse, Skidmore College
2004: Tara Brothers, University of South Carolina
2003: John Pigott, University of Vermont
2002: Laena Romond, Mount Holyoke College
2001: Amanda Forte, Brown University
2000: Hally Philips, Tufts University
1999: Lindsay Phibbs, Skidmore College
1998: Jennie Chesis, Cazenovia College
1997: Kelly Anne Taylor, Centenary College
1996: Kara Treiber, University of Findlay
1995: Kim Peters, Lake Erie College
1994: Daniel Geitner Sainy, Andrews Presbyterian College
1993: Parris Cozart, Hollins College
1992: Christine Kilpatrick, University of Virginia
1991: Kelly Mullen, SUNY Stony Brook
1990: Claudia Barth, Mount Holyoke College
1989: Charlotte Sprague, Hollins College
1988: Kelly Mullen, SUNY Stony Brook
1987: Heidi Bossow, Hollins College
1986: Peter Wylde, Tufts University
1985: Heidi Bossow, Hollins College
1984: Beezie Patton, Southern Seminary College
1983: CeCe Williamson, University of Virginia
1982: CeCe Williamson, University of Virginia
1981: CeCe Williamson, University of Virginia
1980: Ann Sipperly, SUNY Stony Brook
1979: Mary Buckley, Colby Sawyer College
1978: Luanne Richards, Penn State University
1977: Pam Carson, Adelphi University
1976: Suzie Horrigan, Colby Sawyer College
1975: Jean Oberg, SUNY Stony Brook
1974: Mary Webster, Bennett College
1973: Mark Weissbecker, University of Massachusetts
1972: Duncan Peters, University of Connecticut
The Virginia Tech Hunter Team is making Virginia proud in its first trip to the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association Nationals, held this year at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Eleven Hokies are in Harrisburg representing Virginia Tech. Four are riding individually and eight are riding as part of the team competition. One rider is competing in both the individual and team categories.
Virginia Tech had several riders already seeing success on the first day of competition.
Carolyn Rosazza was named Reserve Champion as a team rider in Novice Equitation on the Flat & also receives an honorable mention as an individual in Advanced W/T/C. Rachel Burton placed ninth as an individual in Advanced W/T/C.
Tanner Paige Price placed sixth as an individual in Intermediate Equitation Over Fences. Meanwhile, Nichole Jones received an honorable mention as a team rider in Novice Equitation Over Fences. Claire Elise Arnold received an honorable mention as a team rider in Intermediate Equitation on the Flat.
IHSA Nationals features 450 men and women from across the U.S. and Canada competing in hunter seat equitation and Western horsemanship in a range of levels from Walk-Trot through Open. The riders have competed throughout the season to qualify and will vie for team, individual, alumni championships and the coveted USEF/Cacchione Cup and the AQHA Western High Point Rider national final.
Randolph College in Lynchburg also sent three riders to Nationals. Makayla Benjamin, of Sweet Briar College, is representing Zone 4 in the Cacchione Cup Finals. After the over-fences portion of the competition on Friday morning she was in third place.
Hollins University is hiring a Director of Equestrian Program and Head Riding Coach after the retirement of longtime director Nancy Peterson.
Peterson, who turns 79 this month, told the Chronicle of the Horse in April, “I just thought it was time. I have not been coerced or pushed or pressured to do this. It is my decision. I’m really happy with it. I just feel like it is time for new leadership and somebody else to come in and take over the program—[someone] who’s younger maybe and more energetic, more stamina than I’ve got. The only expression I can use is, ‘It’s time.”
Peterson arrived at Hollins in 1972. Since then Hollins riders have earned 19 Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association individual national championships, four Fitch Trophy/Cacchione Cup Individual National High Point Rider titles, 21 Old Dominion Athletic Conference titles and two IHSA national team championships.
As the weather warms and the sun starts to feel just a bit warmer, daydreams shift to the promise of another great season of trail riding and hours spent on a favorite horse climbing the Blue Ridge Mountains or cantering along a river at James River State Park.
Last weekend (April 13-14, 2018) in Virginia, both fabulous weather and plans for great trail rides converged at the Virginia Horse Center for the Great American Ranch and Trail Horse Sale as 120 horses, hundreds of buyers and even more spectators gathered for another sale.
Unique to this sale are the competitions open only to consigned horses. The ranch horses go first on Friday afternoon in a class the requires them to perform an AQHA ranch horse pattern and then box and rope a cow. On Friday evening, another class of horses tackles a trail course that features obstacles such as logs, a bridge, brush, a campsite complete with campfire and a bear, an outhouse in which they must ground tie outside while the rider steps inside and a horse trailer that the horse hops inside. It also often includes a few surprises like a live animal. This year it included a goat along the trail. Horses may only enter one of the competitions.
After the Top 10 performers from Friday night came back for the Trail Horse finals on Saturday morning, Steve Meadows of Virginia and Ima Sweet Machine (Hip No. 10) took home the top prize in an especially strong group of finalists. Meadows’ 2008 black gelding then later sold in the sale for $30,000. The Reserve in the trail class went to John Roberts riding Marion G. Valerio’s AQHA gelding Get Your Shine On. He later sold for $11,700.
The ranch horse competition is in just its second year at the sale. The class showcases the working ranch horses and their ability to work cattle. In his first year consigning horses to the sale, Tanner Keith of Virginia had three of the Top 5 horses. Winning the class was Keith’s Hy Rem Cowboy, Hip No. 68. Later in the sale his price did not reach the reserve. Reserve champion was Keith’s RobPaulPayPeter, Hip No. 111. He later sold for $6,600.
While many years a champion for the competitions is also the high seller, this year it was pure beauty that took the sale by storm. Hip No. 45, GG Jonah, a gorgeous 2008 black Gypsy Vanner gelding consigned by Buckeye Acre Farm of Ohio stirred hearts all across the country before the sale. And it was a series of phone bids that sent his sale price to $40,000, topping this year’s sale. A video of the bidding can be found here.
Horses really are available at all budgets. Some prices came in at less than $2,000, many ranged between $3,000 – $8,000, and then top sellers brought more than $10,000. Some of 2018’s top sellers included:
Training any horse is no easy task, but for the trainers who take part in the Extreme Mustang Makeover events around the country, the challenge is made even more difficult by four-month time limit and a horse that’s never been handled.
Rob West, of New York, says he has found his true calling in showcasing the potential of Mustangs. “It just doesn’t get any better than this. I am given a lump of clay to mold and sculpt the way I see fit, until I have a masterpiece to present 120 days later. … We take these scared wild animals and we ask for their trust. And guess what? They give it to us.”
If you were at the 2016 Extreme Mustang Makeover at the Virginia Horse Center, you may remember West and his red roan mare, Moonshine Lady. Their Native American-themed freestyle routine featured the mare jumping over barrels while a tarp flew overhead, earning them a Top Five finish. Moonshine Lady then was purchased at the competition’s auction by a family in Virginia. But that was not the end of West and Moonshine’s story together.
Not long after going to her new home, the mare jumped her pasture fence to escape a new pasture mate and disappeared into the dense woods. West, tipped off by a fan in Virginia that had heard about her disappearance, traveled to Virginia to help find his beloved partner. (See Rob’s account of training the mare, competing, learning that she was missing and how she ended up going back to New York with him by clicking here.)
The story of how the trainer traveling to Virginia to help find the horse he trained touched New Freedom Farm founder Lois Fritz. She later contacted West and they formed a friendship. Now the Buchanan, Virginia, nonprofit, which helps veterans suffering PTSD find healing through horses, has announced it will be hosting a Westang Equine Confidence Building Clinic on April 28-29, 2018.
The clinic’s basic goal will be to make a braver more confident horse and rider. The clinic is open to all disciplines and horses. There will be an trail obstacle course and a chance to have fun playing equine soccer on your horse. All experience levels are welcome. There is limited space available. The 2-day clinic will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
The clinic costs $150.00 for both days and includes daily lunch. One day clinic is $85.00. Private sessions on Friday afternoon or before or after each clinic day available for $50.00/session. Audit only (includes lunch) $20.
Veterans who want to ride in the clinic are half price and veterans who want to come and audit the clinic are free (includes lunch). Call 540-855-1158 or email email@example.com with questions or for more information.
$50 nonrefundable deposit due by April 10 to secure a spot.
We spoke to Rob about his start in the horse industry, the challenges of training a wild horse and his equine teachers/partners along the way.
Q: Tell me about your business. What kind of services do you offer?
I work mostly with both troubled or problem horses with issues ranging from bucking and rearing to bad ground manners and starting young and most times unbroke horses. Although I do not refer to my method as breaking. I call it gentling. When done right, it can be a nice experience for both horse and rider. Q: When did you get started in horses? What is your riding background?
I started riding at the age of 3 and got my first Shetland pony “Cupcake” on my 4th birthday. My mom wouldn’t allow me to show until I was about 9 years old. Her idea was that I should love the horse first and showing came second. I am glad she was so wise, because that’s exactly what happened. I then began barrel racing and gymkhana gaming shows. I instantly loved it and excelled at it. Q: What makes your stable/business different than others? What’s your specialty? What do you take the most pride in?
My specialty seems to be that I can gain the trust/respect of a horse almost right away. The horses bond with me and love me to a point that they can overcome their fears by putting their faith in me. My business is very much like a lot of others. All sorts of obstacles and desensitizing tools to make a more bombproof horse, but I believe its how I deal with the horses that makes my barn different. When it comes down to brass tacks, I care. I never started this as a business. I started helping horses because they needed it, and I care so much about them. When I see a distressed horse my heart goes out to them. The thing I take the most pride in is that I can speak to these horses in their language. I can regain their faith in humanity even if we don’t always deserve it. I believe that every horse that I encounter and work with is all the better for it. Q: Can you describe your training/teaching philosophy?
My philosophy is simple. Make deals and don’t break them. Offer a horse an option and reward it with release of pressure or with praise. NO HAND TREATS. Your horse will not love you because you give him mints. He will however begin nipping and pinning his ears because you aren’t getting the treat when he wants it. I can’t say enough how important praise is. Q: What is your favorite characteristic about Mustangs?
Its hard to pick just one. They are loyal to a fault. They will also do anything you point them at. Once you have a Mustang’s heart they will literally walk through fire for you. Q: What is the most difficult part of training a wild horse?
The hardest part for me is far and away letting them go. I try to build a wall and not get attached by telling myself that I am training someone else’s horse for them, but it doesn’t work. I am devastated every time I say goodbye. Q: How did you learn about New Freedom Farm?
The founder Lois messaged me after hearing I drove from New York to Virginia to find a mustang that I trained that had gone missing. We became instant friends with a mutual respect for each other’s passions. Q: What will be the main goal taught to the riders at the clinic at New Freedom Farm?
I try to keep an open mind and invite whatever is presented to me, but I always strive to have both more confidant horses and riders in the end. I want to show how we teach our horses on the ground first and then transfer that to the saddle. Its safe and effective. Q: Who are your riding mentors? How have they influenced your riding?
I don’t have a trainer that I follow. However I have picked up quite a bit from many of them. Like I’ve said before, I am a student of the horse and they teach me more than any other person ever has. On the national level I admire Monty Roberts and Guy McLean. I also had the pleasure of being guided by some people as a child that were great horseman like my neighbor Joan Norman and another strong influence named Richie Fisher. Q: If you could spend the day riding with any horseman, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
I would have to choose Bobby Kerr. I have met him twice and I just love what he does for
Mustangs. He is a talented horseman and a showman of the highest caliber. We have similar ideas and a flair for a wow factor filled performance in our freestyles. I am not at his level yet, but I am on my way. Q: What was your proudest moment in the saddle? My proudest moment has to be finding my lost mustang Moonshine Lady after she was missing for eight days. We covered many miles and exhausting hours. She heard me speaking on my cellphone and came out of the dense woods to find me.
And like magic, all of a sudden, Moonshine turned right toward me from the darkness of the thick woods. I had begun recording her walking toward me. She heard me talking to Mike on the phone, and came to my voice. As I videotaped her, I called her name. My voice cracked and I just lost it crying my eyes out. It was the most beautiful moment in my whole life with horses. I saw the love and trust as she looked at me as if to say, “What took you so long. I was scared.”
— Rob, on finding Moonshine
Q: Do you have a favorite horse movie or book?
My favorite horse movie is “The Black Stallion.” When I saw that movie with my mom as a boy, I have to admit that I wished it could be me stranded on that island with that horse. Q: What is the one item a rider shouldn’t leave home without when attending your clinic?
Probably their cellphone or camera. Its amazing how much you forget. So if you can record it, or have someone else record it for you, then you can always go back over it later or for years to come. Q: What one piece of advice would you give new/young riders?
Enjoy your horse. Don’t get caught up in showing and pressure unless you like that. Its supposed to be fun, so make it pleasurable. Q: If you could try any other riding discipline, what would it be?
I have tried many, but I really do like Dressage. Mounted shooting is a blast, too. Q: What is the best thing about riding/training horses?
I look back on some people and horses alike that are happier because they met me. I love to get their success stories all the time. I mean some were at the point of selling their horse or giving up riding altogether and I was their last ditch effort. That makes me smile. Q: What would be your idea of a dream vacation?
I want to travel the United States with my horse trailer and just trail ride every inch of it. Q: What horse industry/riding trend do you wish would go away and never return?
There are way to many to list but the dying crab canter in western pleasure riding really
bothers me. That is changing at this point though. Q: Tell us about the best horse you’ve ever ridden. The best horse I have ever ridden is whichever one I am riding at the time. As corny as that sounds, they are all so amazing. I often refer to myself as an architect that has to carefully uncover each precious artifact. Each horse has those hidden treasures. Q: If you could ride any famous horse from history, who would you ride?
Secretariat. From what I’ve heard, he was all heart.
A quarantine has been lifted at a Bedford County, Virginia, farm after a veterinarian reported eight horses affected with Strangles. The horses first showed symptoms on Dec. 21, 2017, including cough, discharge from the nose, swollen lymph nodes and fever.
Strangles is an infection of the upper respiratory tract found only in horses, donkeys and mules. Strangles does not spread through the air, but it is highly contagious. It can be spread by an infected horse touching another horse or indirectly through tack, shared drinking water or feed, clothing, hands and other pets such as barn cats and dogs.
Twelve horses were put under quarantine at the Bedford County farm, but only the original eight horses showed signs of the disease during that first week. All of those horses have recovered and have been free of symptoms for the past three weeks.
One of the things I love the most about living in the Roanoke region of Virginia is having the Virginia Horse Center just a short jaunt up Interstate 81. The first class horse facility brings top competition and horsemen to our region each year, and 2018 will be no exception.
If you are a fan of natural horsemanship, one of the very top clinicians will be visiting the East Complex on Oct. 5-7, 2018. Buck Brannaman was the inspiration for the movie and novel character Tom Booker from “The Horse Whisperer.” He was also the equine consultant on the film. A documentary about Brannaman called “Buck,” directed by Cindy Meehl, won the U.S. Documentary Competition Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Brannaman will hold Foundation Horsemanship and Horsemanship classes at the October clinic. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Brannaman’s website lists clinic costs at $700 for three days of class participation as a rider and an auditing fee of $30 a day.
The classes offered are described as follows:
This new class is for the green rider or a green horse who may feel the need for additional groundwork prior to riding. During each of the three-day sessions half of the class is dedicated to working the horse from the ground in preparation for riding, with the second half of the class horseback.
For the green horse and rider already comfortable in the snaffle bit along with aged horses needing continued work. This is the first stage of progressing into the bridle with all basic movements introduced. All levels of riders – no matter what discipline – will benefit. The class features strictly dry work – no cattle. All maneuvers stress the vaquero style of riding and are appropriate for horses from first level snaffle to experienced bridle horses. Hackamore horses welcome.
Brannaman, of Sheridan, Wyo., spends much of his year on the road holding clinics around the globe. For instance, his 2018 schedule includes stops in Australia, Italy and throughout the U.S., although most stops are in the Western U.S.
“I often tell people in the clinics, the human possesses the one thing that means more to the horse than anything in the world, and that is peace and comfort,” Brannaman told ABC News in 2012. “That’s all they want.”
The trainer grew up a child of abuse, terrified of their widowed father who forced him and his brothers to perform trick roping.
“The horses at that time in my life, they saved my life,” Brannaman told Weir. “The horses did way for me than I did for them. So they were my friends, and they were sort of my refuge. So it’s interesting that I’ve been given the opportunity to spend the rest of my life making things better for the horses.”
Brannaman is known for his quiet approach to gaining respect from horses. He emphasizes that respect and fear are not the same thing. He was for many years a disciple of Ray Hunt, one of the founders of the natural horsemanship movement, and also inspired by Tom and Bill Dorrance.