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.

The Great American Trail Horse Sale adds ranch horses to name, competition schedule

Ranch horse competition champion Stars Stripes N Spike boxing his cow.

The Virginia Horse Center recently hosted The Great American Ranch and Trail Horse Sale, drawing nearly 170 sale horses and hundreds of potential buyers together from April 7-8. While the weekend centers around the auction of well-broke trail and working horses, it is much more than just a horse sale. Many of the horses also vied for $1,000 Ranch Horse competition or the $2,000 Trail Horse competition the day before the sale.


Click here to find a gallery of photos from the sale. We are still uploading photos from the weekend, so check back if you don’t see what you are looking for.

The trail horse competition includes eight obstacles, six of which the consignors know such as loading and unloading from a horse trailer or crossing a bridge, and two surprise elements. This year’s surprise included an adorable yet formidable donkey and the ringing of a hanging dinner bell. The course also included live chickens in a cage nearby a tent campsite, log crossings, an outhouse that required the horses to ground tie while their riders answered the call of nature and walking through brush.

All of the horses handled the course well, but only 10 could return the next morning for the trail finals. The finals included some of the same obstacles as the preliminary round, a few twists on the old obstacles, plus some new obstacles. And after each tackled the obstacles, they were given the opportunity to show off their horses in a freestyle routine that showcased the horses’ abilities. Some did reining spins and stops, illustrating their horses’ great handles, others jumped over logs, dragged barrels and spun flags and ropes over head.

In the end, a flashy 2013 sorrel APHA gelding, Doug Only Wishes, consigned by Marion G. Valerio and trained and ridden by John Roberts Performance Horses rose to the top of the 70 trail horse competitors and took home the winner’s paycheck.

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Doug Only Wishes won the Trail Horse Competition.

This year, the sale also included a ranch horse competition. Horses could be shown in either of the two competitions, but not both. The ranch horse class was meant to show the horses’ abilities at working with cattle and performing ranch-type tasks. One at a time, each horse completed a working pattern, then boxed a cow and then illustrated the ability to be used to rope the cow.

Topping the class of about 15 was Hip #18 Stars Stripes N Spike, a 2004 sorrel AQHA gelding consigned by Odel & Susan H. Grose of North Carolina. He later sold in the sale for $14,500, the No. 4 high-seller. The high-seller of the sale was Hip #10 Shiners Spinning Top, who was reserve champion in the Ranch Horse Competition. The 2010 gray AQHA gelding, consigned by Steve Meadows, sold for $25,000.

Shiners Spinning Top

Gaited horses were showcased on Friday night as well in a “Gaited Horse Show Off” just prior to the start of the trail horse competition.

Besides all the competitions, horses for sale, and the general excitement surrounding the auction, the Coliseum’s concourse was packed with vendors and shoppers including booths from World Class Saddlery (who also sponsored the Ranch Horse Competition), Lucky B Trailers (who sponsored the Trail Horse Competition), Bar C Designs, Cats Tack, Cavalor Care Products, Fisher Tack, Hidden West Jewelry, In Stitches, Richard Toms and many more.

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Incredibly Kool sold for $16,000.

Some other stars of the sale included Hip #56 Buckeye’s Lottery Diamond, a 2014 Gypsy Vanner/Haflinger cross tri-colored paint gelding, who sold for $20,000. He was consigned by Buckeye Acre Farm. Standing 14.3 hands high, he rode and drove.

Hip No. 24, Incredibly Kool, a 2013 sorrel gelding sold for $16,000. The proven show horse had more than 80 halter points and 30 grands and reserves.

Top 10 high-sellers:

  1. Hip 10 – Shiners Spinning Top, $25,000
  2. Hip 56 – Buckeye’s Lottery Diamond, $20,000
  3. Hip 24 – Incredibly Kool, $16,000
  4. Hip 18 – Stars Stripes N Spike, $14,500
  5. Hip 88 – Marissa, $13,500
  6. Hip 27 – Bo Jack BB King, $12,500
  7. Hip 70 – Mr Montana Peppy, $11,200
  8. Hip 46 – WR Missn Dash Jet, $11,000
  9. Hip 36 – Home on the Range, $10,500
  10. Hip 26 – Cowboys N Margaritas, $10,000

Prices were mixed throughout the day and went down to under $2,000. But many of the horses sold in the $4,000-$7,000 range. And several consignors didn’t get what they were looking for and “no sale” was announced at the close of the bidding. While some announcements of what the seller was looking for brought grumbles of disbelief from the crowd, at least one got what they were looking for and ended up with a sale afterall.

Next year’s sale and competitions will be April 13-14, 2018, at the Virginia Horse Center.


Continue reading “The Great American Trail Horse Sale adds ranch horses to name, competition schedule”

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

Riding through the campground.

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

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

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

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

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


Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table as well as electrical hookups.

Campground as we go out on an evening ride.


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

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

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

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

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

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Is ACTHA in crisis?


ACTHA runs on the concept of six miles, six obstacles, six judges. Photo by CC.

“Casual competition, serious fun.”

The American Competitive Trail Horse Association has gained great popularity in recent years, attracting all levels and genres of riders to its obstacle course events. It offers arena and trail challenges across the United States, with some of the proceeds from each ride going to local horse charities. The organization also plays up that its events are a great way to give jobs to horses that otherwise might just stand in the pasture, and therefore also give them value.  Legions of people have flocked to this wonderful concept, enjoying their horses and challenging themselves while making new friends along the trail. And plentiful sponsors have flocked to them as well.

But rumors have been swirling about problems at the American Competitive Trail Horse Association.

Hosts are reporting that they haven’t been paid for putting on ACTHA rides. ACTHA staff is reporting that they have been laid off. And riders report that they aren’t receiving year-end awards. In fact, there is a Go Fund Me page set up to help get awards to the riders.

“I am a laid off ACTHA staff member.  ACTHA is in the middle of a major crisis.  Many competitors never received their year end prizes. I have volunteered my services to embroider the State Top Ten sheets and ship to winners, but these need to be shipped to me and then shipped to each individual competitor. Estimate at this time for shipping alone is $1120.

I have the first box of sheets and hope to start shipping them out this week as the embroidery is finished, but as much as I’d like to pay for shipping myself, I can not do so. 

Should we collect more than the amount needed, excess will go from my own account directly to pay for other, as yet unpaid for, awards. 

Please give as your own heart desires.”

ACTHA’s FAQ page on its website seems to allude to the issues.

On ACTHA’s own website, on the FAQ page, in bold lettering it reads “ACTHA LIVES! Details later today (1/20/16).” However, details cannot be found. Efforts to get those details from ACTHA have so far gone unanswered.

The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, one of ACTHA’s most popular rides in the East, has no ACTHA rides scheduled this year and its rides are scheduled with Equine Trail Sports, which is very similar to the ACTHA model. A search found several other former ACTHA rides that have switched to ETS, and they encourage participants to register with the ACTHA number so that their 2015 points will transfer to ETS. “We will be riding with Equine Trail Sports for the next few rides,” one ride host said of their upcoming events.

ETS confirmed that ACTHA points transfer to their awards system. “Effective 01/01/2016, ACTHA Placement Points earned through 12/31/2015 fully transfer into ETS’s Carrot Award Program.”

However other rides, like with Elite Equestrian Events in Randleman, North Carolina, are moving ahead with their ACTHA rides.

ACTHA’s future does look uncertain. Watch closely to see if they can right the ship.

UPDATE, Feb. 8, 2016: ACTHA ride hosts are reporting that all rides scheduled last weekend (Feb. 6-7), across the U.S., were canceled due to the organization’s lack of liability insurance.


GET YOUR HORSE FIX: Equestrian events this weekend near Roanoke, Va. (April 11-12)

We’ve got the Easter holiday behind us and Spring has taken hold in the region (thank goodness!). Now it’s time for the horse shows to really get into full swing. This weekend is headlined by a horse auction.


  • The Great American Trail Horse competition and horse sale is this weekend in Anderson Coliseum. The annual auction will be at noon on Saturday and is held for trail horses of all breeds and budgets.  Find a catalog here. Photos/Videos of many of the sale horses can be found here. The unique feature of this sale is the $2,000 added, trail horse competition starting at 7 p.m. on Friday. The competition is open only to the horses consigned in the sale. The top 10 horses will be selected to come back Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. for the finals. Friday will also include demonstrations. See a schedule here.
  • In the center’s East Complex, The Lee Jackson Classic (APHC) will be hosted by the Senandoah-Blue Ridge Appaloosa Association. Judges are Tony Burris, David Johnson, & Gayle Matson-Kozak. The Lee Jackson is the only regional Appaloosa show held in Virginia and offers classes for youth, non-pro, games, heritage, over fences and non-pro walk-trot and ranch pleasure. Find a class schedule here. 


The Franklin County Equestrian Club will host its Spring Fling Horse Show at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ginther Farm in Sontag. The show is Blue Ride Horse Force sanctioned. Get a class schedule here. Chuck Nifong will judge.