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Colorado Horsecare Foodbank FUNdraiser Coming September 28th!

Sell the cow, buy the sheep, but never be without the horse.  – Irish Proverb

Sign up at www.horsefoodbank.org for this years HAY BALES & HORSE TALES!

Chuck and Gail Ridings’ will again host the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank fundraiser Hay Bales  & Horse Tales at their Lucky Penny Ranch in Hangen Ranch.  What a treat as a horse nut to be able to see such a beautifully groomed and cared for ranch in one of our picturesque horse neighborhoods!  The location is perfect for horse lovers from our region to gather and support the vital services being performed by the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank.  Come join us again this year!

Juliana Lehman started this non-profit 501(C)3 foodbank to help keep horses in their homes during times of financial hardships through food grants as well as resources for interim help with needs such as veterinary and hoof care.  Locals Kelly Hendricks and Ellen Storeim joined Juliana as founding board members.

How can you help?  During this economic environment as well as with the drought and fires throughout the west, hay will be in short supply this year and into next for sure.  There are five different ways that you can get involved year round:

HAY:  The foodbank is always looking for people who grow, haul or have the equipment to hay or can sell your hay to the foodbank at a low cost.

EQUINE RELATED SERVICES:  Farriers and veterinarians can offer services at no cost or a discount to foodbank clients.

TIME:  There are events such as Hay Bales & Horse Tales and other areas for volunteers to get involved and offer as much or as little time as you have available.

FINANCIAL:  Of course financial donations are always helpful for buying hay or helping horse owners during times of hardship to take care of their animals.

FUNDRAISERS:  The Colorado Horsecare Foodbank has put together three unique ways to support them.

Hay Bales & Horse Tales is in the fall with destination locations, live music, great food and beverages as well as a silent and live auction full of horsey and non-horsey items.

Flowers for Food starts before the last snow as foodbank volunteers start growing hearty local and unusual flowers and plants in two area greenhouses.  Then in the spring they offer amazing planters and baskets at competitive prices.

Horseshoes & Barbeques is a series of trail rides and even some cattle drives at exclusive locations around our area.  Look for each years offering on the website in the spring.

Thank you to the Ridings’ and all of the people who put together such an amazing evening for the horses and their people!

Colorado Horsecare Foodbank – horsefoodbank.org, juliana@horsefoodbank.org – 5178 S. Elk Ridge Road, Evergreen, CO  80439

Heather McWilliams © 2013.

Horse Travel – Holland

Most of the travelling in my adult life has been thanks to horses.  I spent three summers working in Kentucky at three different Thoroughbred breeding farms and the Keeneland Sales.  A plane flew me and a few other folks with forty one horses from Louisville, Kentucky to Dublin, Ireland to work on a stud farm for six months starting Thoroughbreds for racing.   Then to the very small town of Amherst, South Dakota to work at an Angus cattle operation that also bred Quarter Horses and Miniature Horses.  Another horse job pulled me south to Quarter Horse country in Whitesboro, Texas for almost four years.  A friend invited me along to go horse shopping in Holland – How could I say no?!

When people would ask me where and why I was going, the response was always, “don’t we have horses here?”  Of course we do!  The horse we were searching for was an upper level Dressage horse.  While America has caught up in many ways with the European breeders of warmbloods, the pool of horses to look at, I learned, is much greater across the Atlantic.  I realize I may have lost a few readers in that last sentence with the word “warmblood” – here is the definition:  Warmbloods are a group of middle weight horses that originated primarily in Europe when draft type or “cold blood” horses (i.e. Percheron, Clydesdale) were crossed with light saddle horses or “hot bloods” (i.e. Thoroughbred, Arabian).  Warmbloods excel in disciplines like Dressage, Jumping and Eventing.

A couple trips within the United States resulted in only a couple horses to look at and nothing that was “the one”.  So off to Holland where their specialty is the Dutch Warmblood.  Horse shopping overseas is somewhat familiar to my friend, so we had connections and over thirty horses, in about ten different locations to look at across Holland, in just five days.  The main horse broker that we were working with was very familiar with foreign buyers.  She has a website full of pictures and videos of her own horses as well as any other horse she knows of that may fit her clientele.  She has sold horses to some of the top Olympic riders and was entertaining clients from Russia, Spain and Denmark at the same time we were there.

Holland3We arrived in Amsterdam in the morning, picked up our rental car and were met at the airport by one of our hosts.  He handed us a list of about ten horses that we were to look at that day.  We followed him to the first stable, changed into our riding clothes in the bathroom, just in case we might hop on one, and I started my education of buying horses in Holland.  At each place, the horses were braided, groomed, warmed up and ready when we arrived.Holland1

More prominent than I have seen before when looking at horses is that horses of a certain age are expected to be at a certain level of training and to have been to several shows with an expected level of success.  There is not a lot of room for error when you are comparing so many horses in a short period of time.  The horses that were not up to the level of their peers, were easy to pass over.

For the most part, each horse we rode I could get a feel for all of their gaits, training and disposition.  We did go to one barn that specialized in high volume auction sales.  These lovely horses had the pedigree and looked fine going around with the auction riders, but once we rode them, the holes in their training were evident.  In other words, they were held together by the riders to look good, but did not have the training to go with it.

We also had the chance to stop by a Dressage show for an afternoon.  It was a one day show and I was impressed with the number and level of riders.  Shows around Holland are often and very high quality.    Dressage is a national sport here with many fans of riders and non-riders alike.  The top Dressage riders in Holland are celebrities like American football and basketball players.  The many large shows draw thousands of spectators to a festival-like production.  At this regional show, the riders comfort and familiarity with showing was evident as they casually showed up in time to warm up, ride their test, hung around for the awards and then headed home.   From what we could see as we drove around Holland, horses are commonplace in backyards with a Dressage arena to go with them.  Every now and then there was a jump or two, but the jumps were always accompanied by the Dressage letters around the perimeter of the arena.


The countryside was strikingly clean and beautiful with rows of manicured trees and grassy fields.  The pastures were divided up into smaller sections by ditches for rotational grazing with an odd gate here and there.  Without seeing the ditches of water, the gates appeared to be serving little purpose.  Each village we passed through consisted of lovely stone, brick or stucco homes and barns with wood accents.  The yards were meticulously groomed and tended.  We were fascinated by almost every window we passed having two of something – two plants, two vases, two flowers, two baskets and we couldn’t find an explanation from any of our Dutch hosts.

And the horse trailers… Granted they don’t have the hills that we have, but I saw only fiberglass trailers, many of them one horse, pulled by a menagerie of economical small cars.  I also renewed my love from Ireland of the horse lorry – truck and trailer all in one.  We even toured some lorry’s with living quarters. Someday!

The Dutch were friendly, brilliant hosts and I decided to put my phrasebook away because they spoke such excellent English.  As an added bonus, I sat next to an outdoor gear designer on the plane who was designing a new horse blanket that is more fitted, comfortable and horse friendly – Look for this innovative new blanket design – you will know it when you see it!  Heather McWilliams © 2013.

Horse Sense: A Short Documentary with Local Connections

In a film inspired by Golden/North Evergreen resident Cathy Carpenter Dea, several of our neighbors were involved in the making of, Horse Sense – A Short Documentary, highlighting and honoring advances that have been made at Colorado State University.  Advances that have not only helped to improve the lives of our equine companions, but in humans as well.

While on her journey to help her horse Jericho, Cathy Carpenter Dea began working with Dr. Jeremy Hubert at CSU, but when he returned to Zimbabwe, Cathy was referred to Dr. Chris Kawcak.  During their first conversation about the hock surgery Jericho was facing, with the voice of a road weary mother wanting only the best for her child, Cathy asked him, “are you the best?”  To which Dr. Kawcak humbly answered, “No, Dr. McIlwraith is.”

Dr. McIlwraith was originally drawn to CSU years ago because of the work they were doing to improve the chances of survival for horses suffering from colic.  Over time, however, his expertise in orthopedics has made him a foremost expert in equine joint research.  Colorado State’s advances in procedures and techniques used for horses continue to be the precursor to human orthopedics.

Dr. McIlwraith invented the arthroscopic surgery that was performed on Jericho, while Dr. Kawcak is pioneering key research seeking to prevent and treat catastrophic injuries in equine athletes. Dr. Kawcak is the Head of the Equine Section of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.  By the way, of the elite group of veterinarians in the world board certified in Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, CSU boasts five on staff.  Dr. Kawcak assisted Dr. McIlwraith during Jericho’s surgery and has been the key expert monitoring his recovery.

During Cathy’s time with Jericho and Dr. Kawcak at CSU, she realized what an exceptional resource we had right here in Colorado for our horses and couldn’t figure out why this was not common knowledge to everyone involved with horses everywhere.  Colorado State University has the #1 Orthopedic Research Center, the #1 Equine Reproduction Laboratory and the #1 Equine Science Program and of course one, of the top Veterinary Teaching Hospitals in the United States.

Gifted with creativity, marketing savvy and a love for horses, Cathy was inspired to put together a proposal to present to Dr. Kawcak to help honor, raise awareness of CSU’s top equine programs as well as help build new facilities.   Just one year later, that proposal reached the screen, and Cathy’s son Cort Carpenter was a key player in making it happen.

At the time, Cort was a screen acting/business major at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University (he graduated this past May with Honors).  He introduced Cathy to his professor Jeff Swimmer, a specialist in documentary films and Swimmer was inspired to help make the film because of the science, horses and human–horse connection.   In addition to his direct work on the film, Cort was a key liaison between the Dea Family Foundation and Colorado State University.

The last of the filming was completed on July 31, 2012 and the months of September through December were spent on editing.  As they were watching the film come together, Cathy and some other key people recognized that the film would really benefit from a well-known and respected narrator.  It just so happened that Cathy’s husband Peter Dea had been friends with John Hickenlooper back when he worked as a geologist.  Once approached with the idea, Governor Hickenlooper agreed and was honored to be a part of the film.

All of the components of Horse Sense were coming together, but Cathy couldn’t shake the idea that there needed to be a theme song to go along with the film.  She shared her vision for the documentary and mentioned the need for a song to her friend Pete Martinez, Evergreen resident and Nashville singer/songwriter.  Later she found out that idea of the song had stuck with him.  Months after their conversation, Pete called Cathy and asked if she was still interested in a song for the horse documentary because he had been working on one.  As the song progressed, Cathy and Pete had long phone conversations about horses and the influence horses had on humans across time.

Pete performed The Horse for the first time during the opening of the Dancing With Horses program this past January at the National Western Stock Show.  Then during the premiere of Horse Sense February 18, 2013 at the Denver Museum of Natural and Science Phipps Theatre, Pete gave a live performance before the film started.  The museum graciously donated the use of the theatre and all of the proceeds to CSU.

With the intention of raising awareness for the incredible programs for horses at CSU and to help raise money to build a new Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Rocky Mountain PBS aired Horse Sense on May 9th this year.  If you missed it, go to www.horsesensedocumentary.com for more information and for a link to watch the film.  For a $50 donation, you can buy the film and The Horse song on CD.  You will recognize our local Dressage trainer Allison Dechant and Indian Hills Equestrian Center as well!

Over the next several months, this column will feature some of our locals involved in the making of Horse Sense.  To help support equine programs at CSU contact the Office of Development, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, 970-491-0663, cvmbs-giving@colostate.edu. Heather McWilliams © 2013.

Our Extreme Cowgirl

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Sandy Clayton’s place sits on the rolling hills along Hwy 86 outside of Elizabeth and just before you get to the rural community of Kiowa, Colorado.  Like most of the places along 86, Clayton’s is an acreage property with a modest house and more investment in the horse improvements.  For the past two years, the Clayton’s give host to a Craig Cameron week long Working Horsemanship clinic and then finish the week with an “Extreme Cowboy Race” on Saturday.

This year, for the first time ever, our own Heather McWilliams got it in her mind to enter Summer and join the contestants.  Summer – our (technically Asher’s) American Quarter Horse  mare is 17 and the mother of 5 foals, a competition Reiner/Eventer/Gymkhana/working cow horse and all around great South Dakota ranch bred gal – would have the opportunity to add another discipline to her growing repertoire.

Asher and Heather took the opportunity to camp overnight on the grounds so the morning would be a little less hectic, then Shay and I headed out from home just after his morning nap to join them.  I was told not to worry about finding the place along the road to Kiowa – the instruction was to simply “look for the horse trailers”.  Sure enough, upon topping one of the many rises in the road along that stretch, I saw gleaming aluminum and steel, lots of white paint, and horses with riders scattered across the pastures to my right.

Parking the car, Shay and I set out to find Heather and Asher among the array of trailers, trucks, riders and spectators.  It had the beginnings of a hot Colorado morning, a slight breeze in the air, but the temperature was already 75 F by 8:30 a.m.  As we passed the cook cart, the air was heavy with smells of breakfast burritos and fry oil mixing with the scent of pungent fresh horse dung.  Nice.

There were several classes of competition, from 1st Timer to Professional, and Heather had entered both the Novice and the Non-Pro divisions.  Like almost all Western Discipline riding events, strangers meet and become fast friends as the kinship of the horse life and love create quick and fast bonds.  So during the course of the day, spectators and waiting competitors all cheered each run, exhorting riders through tough obstacles and encouraging them both when they failed and succeeded.  Every horse was a “nice horse” and every rider a “pretty good hand”.  That said, every rider also had a passion to win.

Heather was the 11th rider in her first class and as the waiting riders bunched at the entry gate to the course, me and the boys headed for some rare shade along the fence so we could watch for her and cheer her on.  This also gave Shay the opportunity to meet and greet with the array of dogs wandering by looking for pats.  I saw a German Shepherd, an Aussie, a Parsons Russell Terrier, at least two Cattle Dogs, one or three mixes and there also was the – Corgi headed with the ACD body – friendly girl who was available for adoption to a good home.

Before terribly long it was Heather’s turn.  The first challenge was to put Summer through an obstacle that consisted of a vertical PVC rectangular frame with Styrofoam swim tubes reaching inward horizontally and almost touching in the middle.  The horse could not get through without feeling those fingers sliding down her flanks.  Summer had to think about it – needed some extra encouragement – then walked right through.

Following beyond were challenges like: wooden teeter totter bridge; maneuvering through an “S” curve of traffic plastic traffic style barriers; walking into and through a pit with a noisy tarp at the bottom and humming spin wheels on each corner; a freestyle pattern of the rider’s imagination in the arena; various jumps and then – of course – roping the stationary plastic steer head.  Heather and Summer did really well.  After all, it was their very first such event.  By the way, competitors have no idea what the course will look like and which challenges have been picked until a walk through just before the day begins.  Each class has a different course with a different count of challenges.

Soon it was lunch and everyone gathered around the cook cart for freshly made burgers, brats, a ramped up cheese steak sandwich with jalapenos called The Canyon and thick, rough cut potato fries.  New acquaintances and old friends alike jabbed and jawed at each other while waiting to place orders and then even longer as each item was subsequently made to order.  One rider had traveled from as far as Kansas; several folks came from the Western Slope and another competitor used to live nearby but now calls Missouri home – for whatever reason that may be.

After lunch a youth class went and finally it was time for Heather’s second round of competition, with the Non Pro’s.  This course with 13 obstacles also started with a run through the swim tube fingers, then a canter around the barn and trips through tube fingers hanging and swinging from overhead: then a set of three jumps and into a roping arena to kick a huge red and white soccer ball down and between cones set up at the other end.  After the soccer ball the horse and rider had to ride over a tarp on the ground that was being actively soaked by a large donut shaped sprinkler attached to a garden hose.  I was pleased to see that Summer was the first in her class to actually get through this one – the horses  before deciding this set up was too weird and scary.  This time the rider had to drag two tires attached to a rope around a cone that and now the plastic steer head moved!  It was attached to a motorized (and squeaky) arm that sent it into a circle.

What a day!  Heat forgotten.  Beautiful horses, kind and gracious people, friendly dogs and rare shade from the sun.  Heather and Summer won a ribbon in the Non Pro group – Yay!

You may have heard of the Colorado Corral/MtnHomes4Horses.com Ranch Race.  Well, the seed was planted for that idea in Heather’s mind while watching a video of one of these Extreme Cowboy Races.  Heather explained it all last month, but you will want to mark your calendars and join us for our fourth year on September 14-15th.  Either as a spectator – or a competitor.  It should be cooler day  – maybe fewer friendly dogs.  But kind and gracious people, beautiful horses, and maybe even a cook cart.  Andrew McWilliams (c) 2013.

For more about Hall of Fame trainer Craig Cameron and the Extreme Cowboy Race Association, visit http://craigcameron.com and http://www.extremecowboyraces.com.