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A Way Forward in the Horse World

One of the popular memes going around right now for horse people is that daily life does not look much different pre or post COVID-19.  It is just the norm that some professional and amateur riders spend most of their days alone with their horses riding and training anyway.  Some have had a breather in their work schedules allowing extra time to spend with their horses and riding.  With the Stay at Home order lifted this month, what does that mean for horse people?  What do any kind of horse gatherings look like – in the near future at least?  How do we do all that we can to promote the best possible outcome for continuing to have the “freedom” to take our horses to competitions and the other gatherings that we would typically be enjoying by now?

It doesn’t matter if we agree with or not all of the restrictions and protocol that we have been living with and the new ones that will be added.  In order to do all we can to move forward and be able to start and sustain trail rides, competitions, rodeos, horse shows, gymkhanas, events and more, we just absolutely have to do our absolute best to follow the protocol. 

Equestrian Sports Productions President Michael Stone stated, “The most important thing we have to realize is we just have one chance to get it right,” he said. “When we kick off, we have to do it correctly.”

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is the major governing body over many disciplines including Olympic disciplines who will have mandatory and recommended best practices outlined in the USEF COVID-19 action plan.  While many of our local competitions are not at this level, the USEF has put a lot of thought into the plan and it is a way for many of us to move forward within our disciplines, even if it is trail riding, as there is excellent protocol to follow.  Some of the key elements of the plan include risk assessment; temperature monitoring of volunteers, officials and staff (upon arrival); social distancing; banning spectators from competitions; limiting the number of entrances and exits; requiring all entries to be completed online; and using posted orders of go and published ride times to prevent groups from accumulating at the arenas. Participants will have to sign a revised waiver and release of liability and assumption of risk and indemnity agreement. Not to mention, individuals can be removed from the grounds for failing to adhere to the requirements by the organization or officials.

Some other ideas for competitions are text messaging apps to send out a mass text in case of a storm, where it could be recommended that people shelter in their car rather than the barns or public areas.  In addition, final scores, placings and scoresheets could also be delivered via text or email.  Larger horse events plan to build in buffers, like an empty stall, between participants, not to mention foregoing any kind of parties or gatherings.

USEF team physician Dr. Mark Hart addressed the most basic question of all: Is it even safe to consider going back to competitions? His answer: yes and no.  “Equestrian sports are inherently safer than some other sports because we don’t have contact with other people,” he said. “In equestrian sports—barring a couple of our disciplines such as vaulting and para—we can maintain social distancing. Do we overwhelm a local medical system with our sport? We’re not showing that we’re impacting the local medical providers that way.”

It boils down to personal responsibility and remembering the big picture.  We are blessed and fortunate to be spending time with our horses and friends by now.  We may be enjoying a beautiful sunny day in Colorado while other parts of the world are under tremendous stress.  We need to be sensitive to that so that we are not a burden or hurt our “new freedoms”.  Horse people are already used to putting others first as we strive to put our horses needs above our own.  On a practical level, good practices should begin at home, at the barn and continue at the horse event of whatever kind.

As John Madden stated about his own barn at the onset of COVID-19, “We’re already wearing masks, social distancing, cleaning things,” he said. “It’s important to develop good habits of disinfecting. Go through your day and think about what happens. Who’s going to feed the horses? Who’s opening the stall door? Where will I put disinfecting devices? Are we going to keep the air moving in different places? Do I need to buy extra equipment so I can keep everything separate?”

A life of solitude and horses sounds pretty ideal most of the time, but every now and then it is good to get together with our horse friends or work on our riding and competition goals to make us better for our horses.  So strap on those masks, hand sanitizer in tow, 6 feet apart and stay home if you are sick horse folks and help escort this renegade virus out of town.  Of course, don’t forget to wash your hands!

COVID action plan and waiver is available on the USEF website, as well as many other resources.  www.usef.org/media/coronavirus-resources.  Heather McWilliams © 2020

Seeking to Save the Jeffco Fairgrounds

The threat of the closing of the Jeffco Fairgrounds came as quite a shock to the local community when it was announced mid-January that the County Commissioners had abruptly decided to close the entire facility in order to cut the budget. After what was described by opponents as “a sweeping override of existing County revenue limits that will result in a higher tax burden for Jeffco property owners and residents”, the admittedly (by proponents) poorly written Ballot Issue 1A to remove the restriction of TABOR (tax payer bill of rights), failed 55% to 45% at the ballot box last November.  Additional county budget cuts included $5 million for the Sheriff’s Office. 

For those unfamiliar, TABOR is an amendment to the Colorado Constitution passed by the voters in 1992. Among its many provisions, TABOR removed from the legislature (and all other levels of state government) the power to enact tax legislation. Instead, it requires any new tax measures to go to a vote of the people. The law also requires that any amount over collected be given back to the tax payers the following year after over collection. Jeffco hasn’t issued TABOR refunds for years, but has used excess tax revenues to reduce mill levies, lowering taxes in the process.

If Ballot Issue 1A had passed, taxpayers would have opted out of TABOR for seven years, allowing Jefferson County to raise property taxes which they presented as a means for the county to get out of debt. The TABOR refund would have gone toward the county budget which they calculate has a $12.5 million dollar budget shortfall.  The Jeffco Fairgrounds currently has $1.8 million dollars in annual operating costs and brings in about $450,000 in revenue. Many previous and current users of the fairgrounds site the high costs to rent the facilities as limiting factors to more use.

This discrepancy between income and operating cost is not unusual at many, if not all of our state’s fairgrounds. Is it a priority of a fairgrounds to be income producing?  Do any of our local parks, recreational fields for sports and open spaces turn a profit?  Of course not, they are there serving the community and the wildlife that call our area home.  Does Denver County look at Washington Park and decide the space and land could make more income for the county if they used the buildings for office space or use the land in ways that assure a profitable ledger?  Of course not, Wash Park is there for the pleasure of anyone who wants to enjoy it and the experience it offers. Our parks and fairgrounds are there for the enhancement of our state and our connection to nature.

One alternative to closing the facility has been to turn the upper area of the fairgrounds with the Event Center indoor arena, rodeo arena, and the Silver Spur outdoor arena over to Open Space to manage.  That is somewhat of a solution, but then there would be no stalls, educational buildings, exhibit halls, etc., to utilize alongside those spaces.  It would seem that the best solution to preserve the fairgrounds for all groups, would be to keep it whole. 

Jeffco Fairgrounds aerial from Denver.org

In response to the potential closing of the fairgrounds, a local group called Friends of the Jeffco Fairgrounds has formed.  Many dedicated people and like-minded organizations have come forward to share their stories and the history intertwining the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and their experiences at local county meetings. The fate of the fairgrounds may feel like a local and isolated issue, but it reflects a more national divide between the urban and rural settings.

Friends of the Fairgrounds seeks to have all groups represented that have utilized the resources at the fairgrounds in the past and present for not only agricultural purposes like 4-H, livestock events, equestrian events (including Westernaires); but also for dog events, gardeners, beekeepers, craft fairs, book fairs, the Jeffco Action Center, Rotary, emergency wildfire evacuation, and sports organizations among others. 

The goal of Friends of the Fairgrounds is to save the fairgrounds for all future generations to have facilities available for the purpose of learning about agriculture and to be an agricultural and equine recreation center for the county.  They plan to offset the operating costs that are not available to government agencies through grants, raised funds and sponsorships.

Friends of the Fairgrounds states:  Agriculture should be accessible to everyone. For some of us it is a livelihood, for others our recreation. For everyone there should be an opportunity for understanding where our food comes from.  Historically, across the country, County Fairgrounds serve as a hub for these activities and a gathering place for the community. This facility is also an essential location for animal and human evacuation in the event of a disaster. Yes, urbanization cannot be denied but neither can urban farming, youth opportunity, equestrian recreation, Colorado heritage and this amazing group of people. We cannot wait on a shifting demographic to consider our interests. Losing the fairgrounds will increase the urban/rural divide that much more.

The Friends of Jeffco Fairgrounds mission:

  1. Operate the facilities of the fairgrounds in Jefferson County, Colorado; easing the burden of county government
  2. Develop educated, open-minded, compassionate and competent youth
  3. Decrease the urban/rural divide
  4. Promote western heritage, accessible agriculture and equestrian activities

What can we do as Jeffco residents to help? 

  • Keep the momentum going to support the fairgrounds in front of the county and show our continued interest in keeping the fairgrounds whole and usable.
  • Show up to support any meetings.
  • Reach out to the County Commissioners to show your support of the fairgrounds and its value to the community.
  • Anyone with an interest in the fairgrounds needs to work together as one cohesive group. 
  • If you have legal expertise in non-profits and government or other skills that could be helpful, contact Friends of the Fairgrounds.

Emails for the County Commissioners:

Lizzy Szabo, [email protected]

Casey Tighe, [email protected]

Lindsey Dalkemper, [email protected]

Find Friends of the Fairgrounds on Facebook for the latest on meetings, information and contact information or email them at [email protected]  Heather McWilliams © 2020

We ALL Need Horses – Part 2

Last month we explored the importance of keeping horses woven into the fabric of our daily lives, not just for horse enthusiasts, but for all people to be able to have access to the many therapeutic benefits of being around horses as well as to enjoy them in our landscape.  Horses in our communities gives way to open spaces, aesthetic landscapes and the connection to that wild freedom that all horses have. 

As we discussed last month, we are in a disruption in the horse culture calling for horse people to take a hard look at our current structures and organizations.  Nothing brought the disruption as quickly into the spotlight in the past few weeks as did the potential closing of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.  The fact is, no matter what the agricultural tradition was in the past in our communities and counties, the voices for the horse and agricultural are in the minority.  The most important question now is, what can we do now to advocate to keep horses in ALL of our lives? 

Get involved with organizations that support the entire horse community like the Jefferson County Horse Council and the Colorado Horse Council (CHC).  The CHC advocates for the social, economic and legislative interests of all horse breeds and people within the State of Colorado, the US and worldwide.  They also put on the annual Rocky Mountain Horse Expo.  An annual membership in organizations like these ensure that the equestrian voice is heard on a larger scale.  Membership in the CHC provides horse owners with a liability insurance, not to mention the ability to get the cool “Support the Horse” license plates!

Additionally, get involved with national and local organizations that support your discipline.  For a nominal fee every year, join that organization annually to help support local events like shows, rides, clinics and other educational opportunities.  Being a member of these groups, whether you ride at one of their events or not, keeps you up to date on what is going on and shows the organization your support.   Or join a local board like the Jeffco Advisory Committee the oversees the Jefferson County Trails to advocate for equestrian use of the trails.

Volunteer for trail stewardship, shows, events, clinics, and expos to keep them viable.  Those on the inside know that these events are not money makers by any means but are there to support horses in general (RM Horse Expo), disciplines or activities in our area.  Not to mention, you will a great time and  meet a lot of great people.  Plus, they are very important gateway events to promote and invite the up and coming horse enthusiasts to.

Show up to ride on the trails and park in the oversized parking spots to show that there is a need for them.  Go to the trail forum meetings put on by Jeffco Open Space for all trail users. Currently, the number of equestrians that show up to have a voice in trail use is about 1-3% of the room full of bikers and hikers.  If we want to be able to continue to ride our horses on the trails, enjoying all of the beauty that surrounds us with them, we need to show that we are interested. 

When on the trails, be an ambassador for ALL trail riders.  Clean up horse poop in the parking lots, keep your dog on a leash and stay on the trails, or if they are muddy, horses and bikers should stay off of them to help sustain the trail condition and prevent erosion.  For up to date trail information, go to:  www.jeffco.us/1531/alerts-closures.  For ideas for trail, arenas and other riding opportunities, go to:  www.jeffcohorse.com/trailsarenas.

Horse ranch in Rural Alberta Canada

Enter trail rides, events, clinics and shows put on by local people and organizations.  Go to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo coming up February 28-March 1,2020.  For $15 you can spend the entire day with 450+ horses, watching 40+ clinicians and a plethora of disciplines at 7 venues throughout the NW Complex in Denver.  Not to mention the horse vendors, art, and organizations that you can learn about, support and join.  The line up this year is not to be missed, go to www.rockymountainhorseexpo.com for the full schedule. 

If you have horses, invite those horse interested friends or kids you know over just to brush and be around the horses.  Sometimes we forget that you don’t need to ride, just being with horses is a surreal experience. 

Stay Informed and support current issues like the fairgrounds.  There is a website set up for the most current information regarding the Jeffco Fairgrounds at www.jeffcohorse.com/alerts.   Attend the critical meetings.  Regarding the trails, the Jeffco Advisory Committee meets at 6pm on the 1st Thursday of every month at the Jeffco Open Space Admin Offices in Golden.  Sign up for the Jeffco email list to learn about upcoming trail forums at www.Jeffco.us/814/Open-Space. 

It is critical we Work together with ALL horse people to advocateto keep horses in our communities.  One key issue that seems to come up often is the need to collaborate across all disciplines to not schedule over each other’s events.  For example, if there is a local event like a poker ride in your community, it would be short sited to schedule another trail ride, gymkhana or event at the same time.  Plus, the sight of a bunch of friendly equestrians showing up at a trail or event makes an important statement to the public.  This schedule issue begs the need for a statewide horse calendar that would need to be updated by each and every organization, taking some effort, but it would benefit all of them.  Horse people don’t typically have a problem traveling a distance to attend something they are interested in and a general calendar would help everyone bring in more participants and awareness.

Without our own individual and group efforts to advocate for the importance of the horse in our communities, horse people will lose the privilege to ride on public trails, across private lands, access to local boarding facilities, access to public riding facilities and ALL people will lose access to the majestic horse.  What can YOU do to support the horse in our community?  Heather McWilliams © 2020.“When I bestride him, I soar. I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes” — Shakespeare

Heather McWilliams (c) 2020

We ALL Need Horses – Part 1

 “Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity? Here where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined.” —Ronald Duncan

Since the beginning of man, any culture that found and tamed horses rode to the front of civilization.  They were faster, could move farther and had the muscle to farm the ground.  The horse was a necessity to life whether you lived in the city or country.  Over time, in civilian life, the automobile and train took the place of the horse.  In farming, the tractor and in the military, tanks and trucks.

Just within the last 50 years, our own mountain community had numerous horse breeding farms, boarding facilities, and horseback riding stables, horses in back yards were commonplace, boarding facilities were thriving with boarders, adults and youngsters eager to be with the horses.  When Troutdale in the Pines was in its hay day, horse races were held on Upper Bear Creek Road.

But there is so much more to horses than their utilitarian uses.  Their majesty, beauty, energy, raw reflection of our own energy, connection to the earth.  As Sharon Ralls Lemon states, “The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.”  The truth is, the more technology we have and the more urbanized we become, the more critical it is to have horses woven into the fabric of our communities.  No other domestic animal can instantly transport anyone to the present and wash the rest away. 

As we would expect, the U.S. horse community as a whole has morphed and transformed over time.  Horse people understand the necessity of the horse and they are integrated into their lifestyles.  Although, not everyone understands the important of horses in our communities or economy. 

To understand the impact of the equine industry, the American Horse Council in conjunction with The Innovation Group conducted The 2017 Economic Impact Study of the U.S. Horse Industry.  The $122 billion equine industry is a growing segment of the U.S. economy, employing 1.74 million people,

Grazing horses at sunset, plateau Ukok, the junction of Russian, Mongolian and Chinese boarders

The study found that the care, business and recreation surrounding the 7.2 million horses in the country generated $79 billion in total salaries.  Additionally, around 80 million acres of land is reserved for horse-related activities.  In other words, the horse industry is doing well and has an important impact on our communities.

At the same time though, clubs and organizations are losing members, equine events struggle with volunteers and entries, boarding facilities are being sold or are strained by development and water issues, non-horse people are buying horse properties, trail riding struggles with parking and safety.  We are in a “disruption” of our local horse industry, but the disruption does not have to be a bad thing.  If looked at in the right way, a disruption can cause us to re-evaluate and re-organize our existing systems and transition them to succeed in the current climate.  If we want to keep our local horse facilities – public and private, trail access, and open fields adorned with horses, horse people need to respond to the current disruption and not just realize what we had once it’s gone. 

Having horses in our communities enhances the landscape.  When people come to visit the west, they expect to see broad expanses, blue skies, mountains and horses.  Farms and ranches that keep horses and cattle work to care for and steward the land and create a healthy ecosystem.  Those open spaces increase the value of the homes and communities around them.  Check out and join the Equine Land Conservation Resource (elcr.org) for resources regarding trails and horse community models throughout the U.S.

The economic study also found that 38 million, or 30.5%, of U.S. households contain a horse enthusiast, and 38 percent of participants are under the age of 18.  In a recent study in Colorado, 640,000 people that did not have a horse were interested in having an equine experience.  How do we get horses in front of the 30.5%?

It has been scientifically proven that horses help humans physically, mentally and emotionally.  Equine therapy has become a critical treatment and therapy for PTSD, learning disabilities, physically disabilities, emotional and social learning.  Urban and sub-urban communities must be able to be within reach of horses and horse facilities to utilize the benefits of the horse, not have them crowded out for more houses.

What is it going to take to keep the horse woven into the fabric of our communities?  It will take horse people committing to the horse community to keep it healthy.  Disciplines and riding interests need to be set aside, and horse people need to come together as one united community.  We have to see the big picture of the entire horse community that ultimately affects all of us.  We need to get involved, stay informed and show up.

Come back next month to explore solutions and ways to respond to the horse industry disruption and where we go from here.  Please email me at [email protected] to share your ideas.

Heather McWilliams © 2020

The Story of Oliver

From the moment Oliver was placed in his spot at the southeast corner of Evergreen Parkway and Stagecoach Blvd, he became a popular community icon.  Carefully woven from wire and painted to withstand the elements, Oliver was created by Jeff Best of Devil’s Rope Studio in Clare, Michigan (www.devilsropestudio.com). 

In 2016, Jeff Best received a call from a gentleman who had seen his barbed wire draft horses on display in the city of Mt Pleasant, Michigan for an art competition.  The gentleman asked if Jeff could make a full-size Friesian that looked like his wife’s horse Oliver to give to her as a Christmas present.  With that, Oliver was born.  With their permission to use the name Oliver, Jeff created a brother Oliver who traveled 1400 miles in the Spring of 2018 to his new home for the year in Evergreen, Colorado. 

Not long after, Oliver’s popularity reached back to Jeff in Michigan.  Jeff explains, “In the fall of 2018, I was competing in an art competition in Grand Rapids Michigan called Art Prize 10.  This is an international art competition that attracts hundreds of thousands of art enthusiasts from all over the country.  I typically stay with my piece during the three-week exhibition, so I talk to many, many people during my stay.  One particular day I was talking to a person that asked me if I made anything but wildlife. I responded that I indeed did and had a large Friesian horse in Evergreen, Colorado.  Just at that moment a lady just happened by and overheard the conversation.  She said… ‘is that horse you speak of named Oliver?’   I responded with I’m sure a perplexed look, ‘why yes, it is’.  She continued, ‘I’m from Evergreen and I drive by Oliver every day as I head to work’.   What are the chances that this lady would be walking by me just as I talked about a horse sculpture I made in Evergreen and then know the sculptures name while being 1400 miles from home?  It was a pretty amazing event for me and warmed my heart thinking of the wide influence Oliver has had in such a short period of time.“

According to Dale Glover of Sculpture Evergreen, Oliver was originally brought to Evergreen as one of the temporary pieces for Sculpture Evergreen’s annual sculpture walk. Most temporary pieces stay in place for one year, from June 1st to June 1st. Since 2019 is the 25th anniversary year of Sculpture Evergreen, they had a goal of increasing awareness of the organization in the Evergreen community. They picked Oliver as the symbol of the anniversary celebration because of his prominent location.

Next the fundraising effort was kicked off in January 2019 to purchase Oliver and add him to the permanent collection, now at 37 pieces around Evergreen. The fundraising effort for Oliver was a little too successful and didn’t allow much time for promotion, raising the funds in about 3 weeks!  In addition to the purchase of Oliver, they budgeted for the improvement of the site that will be completed in late June. 

In order to continue the promotion of Sculpture Evergreen and celebrate their 25th year, Jeff Best delivered a Baby Oliver to Evergreen the first weekend of June.  This new 6′ tall Baby Oliver (the original Oliver is 8’) will be raffled off by Sculpture Evergreen throughout the summer at the Lake Concerts, Evergreen Rodeo, Summerfest, Evergreen Fine Arts Festival and a few other events. Baby Oliver will be at each of those events, so people can stop by their booth, check him out, and buy tickets! Tickets are $25 or 5 for $100. The drawing will be held at the Boogie at the Barn October 25th, but ticket buyers do not need to be present to win.  Funds raised will be used to continue expanding the collection of outdoor sculpture throughout the Evergreen community.  You can also contact Dale Glover directly for tickets at [email protected] or call 425-260-9399.

Oliver is just one of the many sculptures around town that is a part of the Sculpture Walk created by Sculpture Evergreen in 1999.  This yearly competition brings a lively diversity of high-quality sculpture to the mountain area. Artwork is selected from many submissions and then loaned to Sculpture Evergreen for a year. Each of the artists whose work is selected is paid an honorarium and awards are given to those voted by the public as the favorites.

A trail map showing the locations of the permanent sculptures and Sculpture Walk art is produced each year and widely distributed throughout the greater Evergreen area. A map of the sculptures is also available at www.sculptureevergreen.org.  The “Guide by Cell” feature enables viewers to use their cell phone for a self-guided tour.  Each sculpture has a plaque with the Guide by Cell number (303-562-0435), and the sculptures unique number. The tour provides a narrative about each sculpture, the artist’s inspiration, what to look for and why.

Each of the sculptures is for sale, and some have become part of the permanent collection, thanks to donations from individuals, grants from the (SCFD) and Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) and others. Sculpture Evergreen is also indebted to the generous property owners who allow sculptures to be placed in accessible and scenic locations throughout the community.  Oliver found his prominent spot when Andrew McWilliams, Managing Broker and part owner of RE/MAX Alliance Evergreen and Conifer recognized the potential of the location and contacted Sculpture Evergreen about using it for an installation. 

In addition to Baby Oliver, Jeff Best delivered a Bugling Elk that is now located at the Lutheran Church on Meadow Drive.   He stated, “I’m so blessed to be selected to come back to Evergreen once again this year.  Bringing Baby Oliver and well as a large Bugling Elk.  Evergreen has been very good for me and my work at Devils Rope Studio.  I’m a truly blessed man.” 

Look for opportunities throughout the summer to buy tickets and own your own Oliver!

Heather McWilliams © 2019

Summer Schedule 2019

CAMPS FOR KIDS

Double Header Performance Horses, Evergreen. dhphorses.com

June 17-20 and July 8-11, Monday – Thursday, 9am-2pm, $400

C & C Equine (find on Facebook) 5930 Bluebell Lane, Evergreen. Crysten 720-891-5914.  Drop-ins and lessons on non-camp weeks welcome. Complete horse emersion camps for ages 5+.

June 24-27, July 8-11, July 22-25, August 5-8.

CLINICS – ALL DISCIPLINES

Abbe Ranch Jumping Clinic – May 9-12 (sign up ASAP!!!, 2 and 4 day options) 9998 S. Perry Park Road, Larkspur.  abberanchevents.com/2019-clinic.  One of the best cross country jumping clinics in our nation.  Beautiful facility, horses love it here, top notch instructors, safety is main concern, 2 lessons daily with lunch lecture.  Grouped by skill level.  Many people camp out with their horses.  NO DOGS.

Working Equitation Clinic/lessons with Allison Mazurkiewicz. Hosted in North Evergreen. Scheduling special days for garrocha games, drill team work and additional challenge obstacles. Christina [email protected]  April 20, garrocha play dayClinics/Lessons – May 7th rain date May 21st, June 18th rain date June 25th, July 9th rain date July 23rd, August 6th rain date August 13th, September 3rd rain date September 24th.

Working Equitation/Dressage Clinics with Steve Kutie at Mount Falcon Equestrian.  Contact Nicole at [email protected]  Great opportunity to ride consistently with this sought after clinician.  Internationally competitive WE rider and trainer as well as reining and working cow horse.  kutieperformancehorses.com April 27 & 28, May 25 & 26, July 8 – 15, August 10 & 11

Fundamental Horsemanship (all discipline) with Kip Fladland.  July 26, 27, 28.  2, 3 day classes, $450/class.  Jeffco Event Center, Golden.  Morning class, Fundamental Horsemanship, 9am-12pm.  Afternoon class Horsemanship I, 130-430pm.  Kip is a well known clinician and disciple of Buck Brannaman (traveled with Buck for 5 years), Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance.  I have done this clinic twice and highly recommend it to any discipline.  True emersion and you will come out a better horse and rider team.  Foundational horsemanship that will find any holes in your training and solidify your relationship and communication with your horse.  Kip is fun, encouraging and the real deal.  Kips wife is an international Dressage trainer and he understands and appreciates all disciplines.  Two participant dinners during the clinic weekend.  Heather for more information and sign up 303-638-0994, [email protected]

GREAT PLACES TO GO RIDE

Spring Gulch Equestrian Park – Open Year-Round.  7am-830pm. 9490, US-85, Highlands Ranch 80129. $5 day fee or $25 annual pass, $5 donation if you use the jumps.  This is a hidden gem right near Murdochs on Santa Fe (you cannot see from road due to a dam), so close to the foothills – if you haven’t been there, you will be amazed it was there all along. 105 acres of trails, including cross country jumps of all sizes, banks and ditches.  Lovingly cared for by the Mountain States Eventing Association.  Occasionally closed on horse event days. 

Equestrian Skills Park – Open Year-Round.  1045 Lower Gold Camp Rd, Colorado Springs 80905.  Enter at Norris-Penrose Event Center and follow signs to Skills Park Parking, equestrianskillscourse.org.  Incredible new trail skills course park.  RV camping and stalls overnight at Norris-Penrose Event Center. 

GYMKHANAS / OPEN SHOWS


Buffalo Bill Saddle Club
Indiana Equestrian Center 76th and Indiana St. Arvada. June 29  and September 15  Gymkhana & Fun Events OPEN TO THE PUBLIC to ride or watch!    Registration begins at 8 am Events start at 9am. Riders 18 and under are required to wear a helmet. See the website for more details www.BBSCGolden.org or [email protected] Due to insurance restrictions most events are members only.

Double Header Summer Gymkhanas, Evergreen – schedule at:  dhphorses.com

Conifer Area Gymkhana Series, Conifer, McKeever Arena.  June 2nd, July 14th, Aug 4th.

Open Horse Show July 13th, Conifer, McKeever Arena. On Facebook at ConiferGymkhana.

Colorado Stock Horse Association Open Shows, Indian Equestrian Center, Arvada. Coloradostockhorse.com.  May 5, June 2, July 14, August 11, September 8.

More areas on Facebook at Colorado Open Horse Shows

PAIR PACES

April 27 (sign up ASAP!!!)  Pine Ridge Pony Club and Arapahoe Hunt Combined Test and Pair Pace at Spring Gulch Equestrian Park in Highlands Ranch.  [email protected] or find on Facebook under Pine Ridge Pony Club.

RANCH SORTING

Evergreen Ranch Sorting Association, Pine Junction.  Find on Facebook.  Mostly Saturdays May-October.  Fun, educational, supportive and close-knit group. Contact Jerry Toman 303-674-5096 [email protected]

SOCIAL/EDUCATIONAL GROUPS

Intermountain Horse Association meets September-May.  third Tuesdays of the month, 6:30pm at Beau Jo’s in Evergreen, for pizza and social time, meeting and program to follow. intermountainhorse.org

TRAIL RIDING

Overnight Horse Camping Trips – mtnhomes4horses.com/overnight-colorado-horse-trips/

Trail Riding – mtnhomes4horses.com/time-trail-riding/.  See also Margi Evans’ Riding Colorado Book Series.

Poker Ride:  April 27, Bear Creek Regional Park (Equestrian Skills Course), Colorado Springs. equestrianskillscourse.org

Trail Riding Clinic:  May 19, 7:30am -12pm North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC) Clinic.   Learn about competitive trail riding at Greenland Open Space, Larkspur.  Competitive ride will follow clinic.

Diane Wingle, [email protected], 303-847-7006

Poker Ride:  September 7, Alderfer 3 Sisters OS Park, Evergreen.  intermountainhorse.org. $35, adult IHA member; $45, adult non-member; $20, accompanied minor rider; $80, 2 adult family. Fee includes lunch.  Proceeds will benefit a local horse organization. For information or to volunteer, contact Carolyn Knapp-Nelson, [email protected] or 303-674-8853. 

Heather McWilliams © 2019 Questions?  303-638-0994

A Cure for Star

As with children and other animals, horses cannot “tell” us what is bothering or hurting them.  All we can do is watch and listen to what their body language is telling us.  Through trial and error and sometimes exhaustive medical treatments, alternative therapies and natural remedies, we come to the end of our own resources and knowledge.  We listen to the advice of professionals, experts, others who may have had similar experiences.  We “throw the pharmacy at them” to see if something, anything will make even a small change, or help diagnose what it’s not.  But with horses, unpredictable physical behavior is dangerous, often leaving us with only one reasonable option.  This is the story of retired lawyer and local horsewoman, Deborah Carter, who would not give up on her beautiful 3 year-old Quarter Horse filly, Star.

On August 16th, 2017, Deborah Carter picked up Star from 3 months of training as a cutting prospect.  Star had some retained baby tooth caps that needed to be removed as well as a cough, runny nose and a mild lameness.  After a trip to Littleton Equine Medical Center, a new set of shoes and a couple weeks at home, Star was back in great shape.

Two weeks later, at morning feeding time, Star started  frantically leaping, bucking and twitching in her stall.  After Deborah pulled off the fly sheet, Star began  to settle down.  That same day, another horse in the barn was covered in hives.  After discovering and removing a nearby wasp nest, and some frantic internet research, Deborah suspected that wasp sting venom might be to blame for the behavior and the hives.  

Star had some time to recoup and then resumed her  groundwork, lunging and riding.  Her first day with a rider, she started violently spasming, whirling around, leaping, and was clearly terrified.  With the rider and tack removed, she continued to spasm and twitch in her stall for hours.  Upon consultation with her vets, and discussion of the possibility of the neurotoxicity of wasp venom, Deborah gave Star IV Dexamethasone and added Vitamin E and magnesium to her diet.

Over time and with only turnout and no forced work, Star appeared to be improving.  However, Deborah quickly discovered that even a mere touch at the base of her neck or withers could trigger the hyperactive neuromuscular response. Star understandably was becoming quite suspicious and defensive.  This once trusting and affectionate mare, was not able to control or overcome this condition.

A team of vets led by Dr. Erin Contino of Colorado State University’s Equine Orthopaedic Research Center Vet came to Deborah’s Silvertip Farms for further evaluation and diagnosis of the cause of Star’s puzzling symptoms.  Star exhibited the same behavior Deborah had been observing, even when the veterinarian would merely point in the general direction of her withers or neck without contact.  A brief lameness and neurologic exam was performed, bloodwork, X-rays of Star’s cervical spine and withers, all with unremarkable results. The plan was to commence a course of the nerve pain medication and anticonvulsant, gabapentin, and then a trial of corticosteroids if the gabapentin did not work.  All treatments were completed with no success.

CSU returned for further evaluation and to test Deborah’s latest theory that perhaps pelvic pain was the culprit.   A reproductive exam revealed no significant findings other than that Star was in heat. The new plan:  administration of the hormone, Regumate, to suppress Star’s heat cycles as well as Reserpine, a long acting sedative, to see if that might make a difference.

Leaving no stone unturned, Dr. Contino recommended the “complementary” medicine options of chiropractic evaluation and adjustment as well as acupuncture, where a liquid, typically Vitamin B-12, is injected into acupuncture trigger points in order to gain a longer term effect  Through all of the different medications, supplements, hormone treatments, techniques, not to mention concoctions of herbal supplements, Star’s condition remained the same.

Star had become defensive and dangerous in her stall.  Deborah was thinking that her only option may be to euthanize this stunning young mare, but she continued to search for a way to help her.  “I learned of the experimental use of Botox in treating laminits in horses, and thought maybe blocking signals from the nerves to the muscles might help, but ultimately agreed with Dr. Contino that Star’s fasciculations had become too dispersed to even know where to inject.  And then I discovered CBD.”  Deborah came across credible stories of Cannabinoid or “CBD”, the non-psychoactive extract of the cannabis plant,and its effectiveness in treating anxiety, inflammation, and pain.   Since the other alternative was euthanasia, the vets were supportive but not familiar with the use of CBD in horses or the appropriate dosages or delivery.  Friends and colleagues had some experience with CBD dog treats for their pups’ separation anxiety, but were of little help when it came to CBD for horses.  So Deborah set about to blaze her own trail.

Due to federal regulations, there exists little scientific research in the use and efficacy of CBD.  But reports of experiential results abound.  With increased knowledge and a supply of pure CBD extract from a top Colorado extraction company, Deborah designed a treatment plan for Star.  After literally one day of a fairly high dose of CBD  Star was almost symptom free.  Next day, next dose, the same.  Over the last year, Star has continued to improve on an ever-reducing dosage of CBD.

After long months of unsuccessful veterinary diagnostics and treatments, Star’s response to CBD was shocking, and both Deborah and Dr. Contino became more than intrigued by  the benefits of CBD.  Says Dr. Contino, “We exhausted all reasonable traditional veterinary diagnostics and treatment options for Star and then some, even trying some uniquely creative and unconventional ones.  After all but giving up and then seeing the remarkable improvement Star experienced with CBD, I have become a true believer in the promise of CBD to help many of our horses.”

Not long after Stars dramatic turn for the better, Deborah and her enterprising son Sam began their own trials of CBD in horses, dogs, cats and people, an undertaking that led them, with consultation from lawyers, financial advisors, Ph.D. chemists, and others to launch Trove LLC, their own CBD company with the highest quality CBD products for people and animals (www.TroveCBD.com).

Amazingly, through our evolutionary development, mammals (including humans, horses, dogs and cats) have been hardwired to gain the benefits of the cannabis sativa plant through our endocannabinoid system (ECS).  The ECS is a complex signaling network within the mammalian body that functions as a lock and key mechanism when cannabinoids are introduced into the bloodstream. These receptors are present throughout the body, and are the reason why cannabinoids can have such diverse and profound effects.  With the recent research, development, and experience, CBD has made a name for itself as a natural means of supporting the immune, musculoskeletal, digestive, and nervous systems.  CBD is also non-psychoactive,non habit-forming, and well tolerated.

Deborah’s tenacious desire and desperation to save Star led her down new paths and opened up a treasure trove of a new kind of therapy.  Star continues to improve, and Deborah hopes that she can eventually return to her under saddle work. But if not, Star is beautiful, happy, pain-free and alive.  Check out TroveCBD.com for more information on CBD and the full line of Trove products for people, horses, dogs and cats.

Heather McWilliams © 2019.

Land Preservation with the Track System

Green grass is here, but how do we keep our horses from overgrazing every blade in the first month and turning our property into a dirt lot?  There is hope!  A few years ago I read an article about a Texas A & M military reenactment group who were using a track system at their five acre base to keep their horses fit for their weekend duties.

Forward to a couple years ago when we moved to our new property.  It was a blank slate with no fencing or any horse amenities.  We requested an evaluation from Colorado State University Extension Agent Jennifer Cook, who is a grasses and grazing specialist, to come over to look at the natural state of our property and to advise us on how to best steward and preserve our land while the horses also enjoyed the property.  One of her suggestions was a track system.

There are certainly exceptions, but in general, the arid Colorado climate flora cannot sustain continuous grazing.  So how do we keep the horses happy, healthy and living the way they were designed to live which is walking and grazing throughout the day? The track system!  The principle behind the track system is to sacrifice smaller areas in order to save larger areas while keeping the horses moving and grazing.

The track system can work on most any size of property.  In our case, we designated one pen with the water and shelter that the horses have access to all day, and we shut them in there at night for our own peace of mind and so we are more likely to hear them if anything is amiss.  The back gate from the pen opens to the track, which is a 12’ wide thoroughfare that makes a circle perimeter around about 6 acres.  We also created two other wide areas along the track for feeding hay.  The recommended track width is 6’ to 12’ wide.  The narrower width will keep them moving more, but wider will provide more escape routes from dominant horses.  We have three horses on our track and the 12’ width seems to give horses that know each other plenty of room to negotiate.

In the morning, we put hay out in the two larger areas and open the gate to the track.  The horses spend their day walking the track to the hay and coming back to the water.  This time of year there is a little grass that comes up on the track, but the track and the pen are essentially sacrifice areas where the traffic is too heavy to grow much vegetation.

The area in the middle of the track we have divided into three pastures that we use to rotate the horses through for an hour or two each day.  That time decreases or may even cease if the grass heights get too low, but they still have the track to keep them walking and busy.

Ideally, we would have slow feed hay nets around larger hay bales in the feeding areas, but that does not work where we are with the elk and deer.

We have noticed an increased level in the fitness of the horses and are amazed at how they walk the track most of the day, sometimes “doing the loop” at a gallop just for fun.  It is a great way to keep your horses fit if you don’t get to ride as much as you would like.  You will find they move a lot more then they do in an open pasture.

 

Materials are flexible.  We have seen more permanent tracks or just electric fencing.  We chose cord electric fencing and T-Posts with caps over the majority of the track to try it out.  We picked cord over tape because it does not catch the wind and snow like the tape.  Starting with the “temporary” fencing gives you the flexibility to change the width and maybe the route.

Pasture Paradise by Jaime Jackson

Benefits of a track system:

  • Sacrifice small areas to save large areas for grazing
  • Ease of grazing management
  • More stimulating environment for horses
  • Prevents boredom and vices
  • Preserves the beauty of your property
  • Keeps horses moving all day
  • Mirrors the natural environment by horses walking, eating smaller amounts at a time
  • Keeps horses fit

The track system can work in all different climates and for different purposes.  If the majority of your land is used for arenas or barns, the track system can be a great way to use those smaller spaces and corridors for exercise and turnouts.  We have utilized our track system for over two years now and it has been revolutionary for our horse keeping and land management.

Heather McWilliams © 2018

For more information:  http://www.all-natural-horse-care.com/paddock-paradise.html

Paddock Paradise – A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding by Jaime Jackson

Pen sacrifice area with water and shelter

Track area made from cord electric fencing, note green grass on either side.

Working Equitation in the Foothills

Hear the word “equitation” and many horse enthusiasts think of a class judged on the rider’s form and effectiveness.  In reality, the definition of equitation is just the art and practice of horsemanship and horse riding. From there one could say, Working Equitation (WE) is the art and practice of horsemanship as it applies to the tasks that horses help people perform on the ranch.  While WE is an international sport originally pioneered by Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France, it is hitting its stride in the United States.  The first international competition was held in 1996 and then in 2004, the World Association for Working Equitation (WAWE) was established to govern the sport.  WAWE rules are used for all international competitions, but each individual country has its own rules for domestic competitions.

Working Equitation was formed to celebrate and showcase the horse and rider partnership with a foundation in classical horsemanship and the use of the horse in ranch work.  The sport seeks to support and allow countries to stay true to their own historical types of horsemanship, as well as working traditions and their traditional tack and attire.  Of course in the United States, that is a very diverse group with a melting pot of traditions and styles.  At local competitions you will see all shapes of saddles and styles of dress.

In the United States, Working Equitation competitions offer five performance levels to accommodate horses and riders at various stages of training: Introductory, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Masters. The Masters level is the international standard of the sport.

In each level there are four trials or tests that are put together at a competition.  First, the Dressage trial consists of a test where collective marks are given for movements considering the horse’s impulsion, submission, and quality of gaits, as well as for the rider’s position and effective use of aids.  As with classical Dressage, each level builds upon the last and prepares the horses training for the next level.

The second trial is Ease of Handling, which applies the skills performed in the Dressage test to an obstacle course.  Each obstacle is given a score of 0-10 paying attention to the quality, ease, symmetry and geometry of the obstacles and transitions in between in light of what is looked for in the Dressage phase.

Third is the Speed trial which is often the horse and rider’s favorite, as well the spectators.  This phase takes a part of the same obstacle course as in the Ease of Handling phase, but time becomes the key component with time penalties being added for errors.

Finally, the Cow trial tests the ability of horse and rider pairs to work cattle individually and with a group of 3-4 horse and rider teams.  The objective is for each rider to individually sort, cut, and herd a pre-selected cow from the herd and then as a team herd the selected cow into a designated pen.  Due to the logistics of having cattle at an event, not all competitions have the Cow trial.

At the end of the competition, horse and rider pairs receive scores based on their placing in each of the trials, and then the scores are tallied to determine the overall placings.

Allison and Rosa

Over the past few years there have been a growing number of WE enthusiasts in the foothills.  Indian Hills resident Christina Turissini has been the force behind organizing lessons, clinics and play days for WE.

The foothills group started when Christina won a free group lesson from Allison Mazurkiewicz at a High Country WE event which resulted in bringing Allison to our area. Allison is excited to see this group flourish with regular clinics and advance in the sport. The Foothills group has a wide variety of horses and riders which makes her clinics educational for all, whether riding or watching.  Allison’s aim is to be an ambassador for the sport and spread the fun that is WE.  Allison competes up to the Intermediate level, holds an “r” judge card with the Confederation of WE (as well as holding a board position), is a member of WE United and is a founding member of High Country WE (created in 2014), who puts on several shows in Colorado every year.

Allison states, “Working Equitation requires you and your horse to work together as a team in a soft, fluid manner. As an instructor and trainer, I find the obstacle course an effective way to teach horses and riders how to focus and gain confidence in skills that might be new to them. The obstacles bring home the lesson of flat work training into everyday riding as a tool to improve your horse for any job you have them do.”

She goes on to mention, “students that have fear or confidence issues learn to focus on a task thereby reducing anxiety levels. The rider and the horse learn to perform something new and come together as a more confident team and are often more relaxed by the end of the lesson.”

Claire and Bitta

Local Claire Gosnell and her horse Bitta, an 11 year old Tennessee Walking Horse have been training and competing in WE since 2013.  Claire has found WE to be a great way to strengthen the horse and rider bond, as well as their communication in a powerful way.

Claire explains, “we enjoy all four phases of the sport. Dressage has helped develop collection, working from the hindquarters, soft feel, communication and precision. Working the obstacles is just flat out fun. Whether it’s working a gate, side-passing a pole or spearing a ring from a bull’s nose with a garrocha pole with precision or at speed, it has made us both a better horse and rider pair.  My favorite though is the cattle phase – the ultimate objective of WE.”

Whatever you do with your horse, WE has something you can use.  Jumping, Dressage, trail or western, WE touches on a part of your training.  Horses and riders can see the reasoning behind the flat work and doing obstacles adds an interest to schooling in the arena, plus WE creates a well-rounded horse and a confident rider.  2018 © Heather McWilliams

For WE information in the US, go to www.weunited.us and www.confederationwe.us.  Make sure to like the Foothills CO Working Equitation Facebook page (High Country Working Equitation too) for the latest on upcoming clinics and play days.  Contact foothills group founder, Christina Turissini at [email protected] and Allison Mazurkiewicz, Tall Grass Horsemanship at [email protected]  Mt. Falcon Equestrian is bringing in WE trainer Steve Kutie for clinics as well, see kutieperformancehorses.com/about and email Nicole at [email protected]

Please Join Us! Benefit for Bob Benefiel November 19th!

It is not what happens to you in life, but how you respond to it.  This sentiment has been said many ways, by many people, but Bob Benefiel is a living example.

Bob and Jody Benefiel moved to Evergreen in March of 2006 and shortly thereafter, he joined the Evergreen Rodeo Association.  Bob was President of the ERA from 2012 – 2015 (2 terms as president), Vice President 2010 – 2011, Head of Security 2008 – 2009. He was also on the Board of Directors for 2015 – 2016.  Bob was also very involved with the ERA Royalty Program and traveled thousands of miles to local rodeos in Colorado and Wyoming as well as the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas as an ambassador for ERA.

On August 17, 2017, Bob was bucked off his horse.  Immediately after the fall, Bob was unconscious and not breathing, he then started breathing on his own.  911 was called and his wife Jody held his cervical spine until EMS arrived.  He was taken by ambulance to Elk Creek Elementary School where he was met by the AirLife helicopter and flown to St Anthony Hospital.  It was determined that he had suffered a severe spinal cord injury that was caused by a herniated disc at C2 & C3 that was compressing his spinal column.  He also had 2 additional cervical vertebrae that had stable fractures.  He underwent emergency surgery that same night and was then admitted to the Neuro Trauma ICU at St. Anthony Hospital.

On August 24, Bob was transferred to Craig Hospital with a central cord injury with permanent damage to his spinal column at the level of C3 & C4.  He is considered to have incomplete paralysis.  At the time of admission to Craig Hospital he just had movement of his big toes and thumbs.

At Craig Hospital, Bob had an intense rehabilitation schedule from 8am-4pm daily.  He did not stop there.  Anytime he had a space in his schedule, he found an opening in the therapy schedule to fill it in.  In each part of his therapy appointments he pushed his limits and went beyond what was required that day.  Bob told everyone at Craig that HE WOULD WALK OUT OF THERE!  With his dedication, grit, determination and of course the attitude that this was the time to COWBOY UP, he made huge strides daily.

Any free time outside of therapy, Bob spent talking and encouraging other patients to keep trying.  Bob’s focus and optimism throughout his journey has been infectious to all of those around him.  His attitude made such an impression on the Craig staff, Bob has been asked to return to give talks about his accident and his recovery.

Incredibly, although not surprisingly to his friends, family and staff at Craig Hospital, Bob did just as he said he would and walked out of Craig on November 2nd.  He will continue outpatient therapy 3 days a week and looks forward to returning to the saddle soon.

Bob and Mark Johnson Celebrating Bob’s November 2nd release from Craig Hospital!

On November 19th from 2-6pm, please join your community at The Little Bear in Downtown Evergreen as we gather to support and raise funds for Bob and Jody.  Be ready for a spectacular afternoon with your community and the band, Barely Gettin’ By.  Bob and Jody’s life has understandably completely changed.  Jody left her job to be available to help support and care for Bob on his road to recovery.  They have sold their home and moved into a rental until they can find the right new place to hang their hats.  In addition to the medical bills that continue, their home will need adaptive equipment and possible modifications.  See you there!

Notes from just a few of Bob and Jody’s friends!

The day before I went into surgery for breast cancer, Bob knew I was going to be down and out for quite sometime and it would a very long time before I was back in the saddle. He wanted to make sure I went into surgery with one last good memory. It was a cold December day, but we hauled our horses down to Chatfield (where we were hoping it may be a little warmer) and had one final ride. We froze our butts off, but we had a great ride. It was a moment that meant so much to me and a memory I will remember and cherish always. Bob has a heart of gold and would do anything to help someone out or to put a smile on a sick girls face! I keep a quote on my desk, to keep me going on tough days. “Grit…..Facing challenges with courage and strength, and working through them, no matter how difficult they appear.” Bob has true grit and I am so proud to call this strong, courageous, kind man my friend. – Jessica (Austin) Strain

Those who know Bob are used to seeing him on the back of one of his horses or traveling the state promoting the sport of rodeo and helping aspiring royalty and other young competitors achieve their dreams.  Often he hauls his own horses for these kids to borrow for a contest or attends just to lend his support and advice to nervous young competitors in the warm up arena.  Bob is truly a tireless giver.  Many adults and children alike in our mountain community have been the recipient of his warm and unlimited generosity.  The road to recovery from his accident has been long and arduous and the expenses significant.  Bob has worked day and night to be able to hug his friends and grandchildren and hopefully mount his horse once again.  Please join me in giving back to a man who gives so much to the equine community yet asks for so little in return.  May God bless you in your generosity.  – Mary Tribby

Bob and Jody have been a huge part of my life since I met them back in 2014 when I started my reign as the 2015 Evergreen Rodeo Princess; I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. Bob is selfless, passionate, and the best spokesperson for both the Evergreen Rodeo and our mountain community. He has put so much time and effort into helping and supporting our community over the years that it’s the least we can do to help him and his family in their time of need. – Lauren Hladik