Southern Equine Expo 2018

Another Southern Equine Expo is in the books. It was hands down the best one yet. The lineup of speakers and clinicians was fabulous. Since I spent most of the weekend in the Miller Club helping speakers, I had the chance to hear all of the wonderful presentations throughout the weekend. I can’t share everything, but I’ve included some highlights and
The Trailmeister Robert Eversole is a Southern Equine Expo favorite. A retired Marine and PATH instructor, he’s a top notch speaker and a great guy. He’s passionate about trail safety and brings his knowledge and experience to life with that passion. His website Trailmeister.com has a plethora of information for trail riders, including trail guides and reviews of trail equipment. He gave four talks throughout the weekend: ABCs of Trail Riding, Horse Camping 101, When the Sh*i Hits the Fan, and GPS for Trail Riders. The real joy of having Robert Eversole as a speaker, though, is the gracious and humble way he interacts with everyone who has a question or wants to share a story.  I was very glad to see him back this year!
CPT Tim Finley‘s presentation of “In the Arena: 1,000 Click of Beautiful Hell” was a personal favorite. He’s an exceptional serviceman, leading by example. I heard his presentation three times throughout the weekend, and I still teared up at the end. His story of competing in the Mogul Derby is as touching as it is remarkable. I won’t share the details and spoil it for anyone who hasn’t heard it yet. CPT Finley is currently completing a book To Live with Honor, which I highly recommending grabbing as soon as it’s available. Like Robert Eversole, he is a gracious and humble man. He was accompanied by his lovely wife, who is also a joy to speak with. Continue reading

The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals

A few months ago, I was named the USA Representative for the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (AWSA), whose purpose is getting animals on the agenda of the Christian Church. Founded over 30 years ago, the organization is called to make Christians and others aware of the need to care for the whole of creation, and in particular God’s creatures, and believes that God has given us a responsibility towards sentient beings with whom we share God’s world. Their activities include the following:

  • Encouraging churches to include animal welfare concerns in their prayers.
  • Encouraging and helping churches to hold animal blessing services and to be aware of the need to care for God’s creation.
  • Through education and lawful action, advancing the conservation and well-being of animals.
  • Co-operating with other organizations, religious and secular, that have similar aims.
  • Production of Animalwatch (free to members) containing articles and information about animal welfare issues, interests, and events and providing a means by which the members can share ideas, stories, and concerns.
  • Publishing a series of pamphlets about animal issues, ensuring that materials are balanced and theologically and scientifically sound.
  • Helping to arrange major services and events focusing on animal care.
  • Promoting awareness through exhibitions, meetings, talks and preaching.

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Palm Partners Western Dressage Clinic

I recently won an essay contest, for which I received a spot in the Western Dressage clinic with Palm Partnership Training on Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14. I’ve been a fan of Lynn Palm’s for many years. I was thrilled to watch her lectures and clinics at Southern Equine Expo a few year ago and was thoroughly impressed with the progress my horse and I made in a private clinic I was able to take with her over the summer.
Based on my experience with Lynn and what I heard about Cyril Pittion-Rossillon, I was beyond excited to be traveling to Florida for two days of riding at their farm. The trip far exceeded my very high expectations! I was half in tears as I drove away Saturday night, because I wanted one more opportunity to tell Lynn, Cyril, and Marie-Frances just how much I appreciated the experience. I sent a thank you note, but it feels woefully inadequate.
I arrived Thursday evening at Fox Grove Farm, where I was settled into a cozy room at the Fox Lodge near the covered arena by Marie-Frances Davis, but not before Lynn took the opportunity to say hello, show me the show barn, and ask about my progress with the mare I brought to the clinic over the summer. The house was ready to go for visitors with food in the fridge, fruit on the table, and more than enough clean towels for my housemate and me. Continue reading

Biomechanics and Western Dressage

Last month, my BFF and I took a Saturday and made a four and a half round trip to Chattanooga for a lesson with Amy Vanner at Training and Riding Academy of Chattanooga. Amy is a Level 1 Coach with the International Society of Rider Biomechanics. Amy and I had talked some following the inaugural Rally for the Rescues competition but officially met at Southern Equine Expo 2016 where she was assisting Colleen Kelley.
I was interested in riding with Amy for two reasons: her training philosophy and her training with Colleen Kelley.  One of the struggles I’ve had in regaining my confidence is that I’m not the athletic, balanced rider I used to be. Biomechanics can certainly help with that.
I’ve also had a lot of frustrations with young natural horsemanship trainers who don’t practice good horsemanship.  While Amy practices some natural horsemanship techniques, her training is also grounded in the best principles of classical horsemanship.  Her training focuses on progressing horse and rider at the correct pace for the team rather than any outside expectations.  She refuses to use tack to cover up training deficiencies and refuses to push horse and rider too far.  Many trainers will do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal within a preset deadline, which just isn’t good horsemanship. Continue reading

Lynn Palm Clinic

Photos by Kathy Zeigler Art & Photography.
170625-110Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a clinic with Lynn Palm at Clearview Horse Farm in Shelbyville, Tennessee.  I love attending events at Clearview.  It’s not only a great location, but it’s a quick 20 minute drive down mostly country roads for me.  Easy haul!  In this case, I’d been anxiously awaiting this weekend for months.
I first met Lynn at Southern Equine Expo in February of 2016.  Her lecture on Dressage geometry was tremendously helpful in explaining how to calculate the size of your circle in an arena.  What impressed me the most about Lynn was her focus on the rider.  So often, we forget that 99.9% of the time WE are the problem.  I also found that she had a way of telling you the truth without being mean or hurtful.  In teaching, that is a tremendous gift.  The truth is hard to hear but absolutely necessary if you want to grow.
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Meet Goose

Goose is the newest member of the family. He’s a three year old large standard donkey, who came to us from Volunteer Equine Advocates in Gallatin where he was known as Festus.  He was having trouble finding a home because most people wanted a donkey as a small livestock guardian, and poor Goose doesn’t play well with small animals.   We were looking for a donkey who would make a good companion for Comanche when Buttons and I started showing next year, so Goose was the perfect fit.

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Meet Buttons

Buttons (aka All Buttoned Up) is a 5 year old registered Pinto mare.  She’s been a part of the family since day one.  She is the one and only attempt we’ll ever make to breed a horse!  Way too much stress when there are so many good foals in need of a home.  That being said, I’ll never regret having her.  When she was 7 weeks old, we lost her dam Penny.  Buttons is all we have left of her.

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Meet Manche Man

Comanche (aka Mohawk Warrior) is a 12 year old registered Appaloosa gelding.  Of all the animals on the farm, Comanche has been with us the longest.  My daughter–with a little help from her grandparents–bought Comanche from Calico Mule Ranch in Hohenwald in the summer of 2009.  We were looking for a horse that would take care of her and build her confidence.  Despite a rough start, he became exactly that.  He challenged her some, forcing her to step up and ride, but he always took care of her.
In 2011, I lost my mare Penny when she broke her leg in the pasture.  In the months that followed, I lost my grandmother, my father, my brother, and my dog.  During that time, I really bonded with Comanche.  I spent a lot of time grooming him and crying on him.  When another horse came into our lives, Kelsey moved on, but I couldn’t part with Manche.

When I lost my confidence, he helped me get it back.  I could trust him to take care of me.  I still have ways to go, but he’s there for me every step of the way.  I recently had the opportunity to go to my first show in two years.  Since we don’t have an arena, it’s been difficult to get any consistency on my horses, so I decided to take Manche.  I knew my steady eddy would step up and be there for me.
I was a nervous wreck when I got in the saddle, but Manche had my back.  Our first class was terrible.  Completely my fault.  I was nervous and didn’t ride the test.  By the second test, I was conquering my nerves.   We ended up getting first and second.  More importantly, we had a great time.  Comanche took care of me yet again!
One of the things that keeps me motivated in our renovations is how happy Manche is to be at home with us.  He’s done so much for me.  I love getting to give him the life he deserves.

Equine First Aid

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an Equine First Aid class with Simply Beginning Horsemanship in Centerville, Tennessee.  The instructor Amanda Tidwell is certified by Equi-First Aid, and the course uses a veterinarian-approved curriculum.
I signed up for the course after meeting Amanda and hearing her speak at Southern Equine Expo.  It’s been over 20 years since I’ve had any training in equine first aid, and now that our equines are at home with us, I have to be prepared to be their first responder in the event of an emergency.
I had clear goals in attending.  First, I wanted to have the information I needed to update my first aid kit. Second, I wanted to get up-to-date in my first aid knowledge.
The course exceeded my expectations.  We had a lot of fun, learned, and got hands-on practice.  We left with a manual for reference and a certification good for 3 years.  More than that, we walked away confident that we could handle emergencies on our farms.  As an added bonus, Amanda fed us a beautiful, healthy lunch.  (Side note…  I always cringe a little when someone provides lunch, because it’s usually something processed and unhealthy.  Not so this time!)
Topics covered included

  • Prevention & safety
  • Evaluating your horse for pain
  • Stretching your horse
  • Taking vitals
  • Covering a variety of wounds
  • How to communicate to your vet in an emergency
  • How to accurately calculate your horse’s weight
  • Signs of colic
  • Hoof diseases

Since the class, I’ve started updating my first aid kit.  I’ve checked my existing supplies to makes sure everything is still operational.  I’ve purchased a larger tape measure, because I discovered that mine only went to 60 inches.  Not enough to measure my horses!  I also purchased a stethoscpope, digital equine thermometer, and analog equine thermometer.
I’m working on getting normal vitals for both of our horses and our donkey.  I’m also regularly practicing my first aid techniques.  I don’t want to have to think about what to do in a crisis.  I want the knowledge and skill to be at the ready.  I am hoping to enroll in one of Amanda’s advanced classes and even get certified to teach the course myself in the Fall.
I highly recommend signing up for one of Amanda’s upcoming classes.  The information and experience is worth twice what she charges!  She has classes scheduled for May 7. June 4, and July 2.

Another Great Expo

The Southern Equine Expo is over.  I’m completely exhausted, but oh so grateful for the experience.  For an introvert, talking to people for 3 days is draining, but I’m already looking forward to next year.  As usual, the expo featured wonderful horsemen and horsewomen from a variety of disciplines.  Because I had the opportunity to moderate the lecture series, I was able to interact with some of these amazing members of the horse world and come home inspired!
Colleen Kelly of Rider Biomechanics:
I have admired this spunky Australian for years.  The work she is doing in helping riders developer better seats and give horses better, more balanced riders would be more than enough to earn her my esteem, but she has also worked to develop coaches who can continue her work and continues to advocate for helmet awareness.  Her lecture was informative and funny, and she is as gracious and generous as she is knowledgeable.  If you’re interested in learning more about Biomechanics, contact Level 1 Coach Amy Vanner at Training & Riding Academy of Chattanooga.
Amanda Tidwell of Simply Beginning Horsemanship:
I’ve been seeing Amanda’s ads on Facebook for a couple of months now, thinking “I really need to take that class!” We recently brought our horses home, and it’s been nearly 20 years since I studied First Aid.  Not only did Amanda reinforce the need for that class, but she really inspired me to want to help get the word out in the horse community that we all need to be prepared to help our horses in an emergency.  Her presentation was standing room only and for good reason.  The information is important, and Amanda is an excellent teacher.  I’m signed up for her April 2nd class and am looking forward to getting certified to teach equine first aid myself.
Celisse Barrett of Equestrian Chaos:
Celisse and her husband John are remarkable people.  They brought me to tears with their stories of teaching trick riding to disabled children.  The pride they take in their students is so heartwarming.  They see these children as part of their family and are doing remarkable work in helping these children believe in themselves and achieve more than they dreamed possible.  I didn’t get a chance to catch their show, but as a fundraiser for their school and therapeutic riding program, I will definitely pay to see it any time I can!
Samantha Szesciorka of the Nevada Discovery Ride:
This exceptional woman was such a treat.  Anyone who knows me knows I hate trail riding, so there’s no way I would ever long ride, but I loved listening to her stories from the trail.  As a passionate long rider, she also has great advice for other long riders.
Jennie Jackson of 4Beat Dressage:
I admire what Jennie Jackson does for the gaited horse community.  I love listening to her talk about Dressage.  Even as someone who doesn’t ride gaited horses, I still learn something.  I love to watch her ride.  One of my closest friends participated in her clinics and learned so much, she’s still on cloud nine.
Steuart Pittman, President of the Retired Racehorse Project:
I love what this man is doing for Thoroughbreds in this country.  When I was a teen riding hunters, people were turning to European warmbloods, and more and more Thoroughbreds were heading to the slaughter houses.  Now that the slaughter houses in the US are gone, many of them are ending up in rescues or worse…  Headed to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered.  People like Steuart Pittman are changing that by raising awareness of the versatility of these horses and helping young trainers build skills and gain experience.
Julie Goodnight of Goodnight Natural Horsemanship Training:
If you’ve been around horses for more than 5 minutes, you’ve heard of Julie Goodnight.  Not having a TV, I don’t spend much time watching trainers on TV.  I’ve never seen her show and had no idea what a skilled teacher Julie is.  I loved her two lectures on equine language and building confidence, and I love even more that she rocks a riding helmet!
Dr. Johnny Haffner, Associate Professor at MTSU:
This was my second time hearing Dr. Haffner’s lecture on Equine Dentistry, and I learned as much the second time around as I did the first.
If you haven’t been to the Southern Equine Expo, clear your calendar for the last weekend in February next year.  You won’t be disappointed!