Posts Tagged ‘Equestrian’

Even St. Patrick’s Day has its animal element. 

We attended a St. Patrick’s Day gathering where this young Irish setter, Kevin Rory (call name of Kevi), sported a Kelly-green shamrock cravat. And hoped for a morsel from the table where the theme was green, as in pesto, guacamole chips, spinach dip, minty green frosted brownies, green M&Ms and cupcakes frosted lime.

Kevin Rory is the fourth Irish setter for owners Bill and Carolyn, of Irish descent themselves. Kevi was quite the party gent, and that’s no Blarney.

Kevi came to Bill and Carolyn, who live in Oregon, through the Internet Irish Setter Rescue Group in Oklahoma. He was found roaming the streets when he was four months old.

The couple’s late Irish setters are: Toby, given to Bill as a gift by his aunt; Carnelian Dun Conor, a six-month-old pup with a genetic eye condition that the breeder was going to put down; and Donegal, a stray Irish re-homed by the Houston Rescue Group.

For many years Bill, Conor and Donegal marched in the Houston St. Pat’s Parade. (It’s a huge parade like those in Boston and Chicago.) All three sported green.

Of course, horses are a big part of Ireland and its history. So I had to find some Irish horse art, too.

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A typical winter dawn at stunning Running Mountain Ranch, site of the Open Barn affair on New Years Eve day. Photo by Tish Pollock

Now, this is the way to spend New Year’s Eve: On horseback with animal-loving womenfolk!

Good friends Tish and Stacy began musing about having a ring-in-the-new-year party shortly before Christmas. An open house affair was discussed. That quickly morphed  into the idea of an Open Barn  to be held  at Tish’s on New Year’s Eve day. Party central would be the covered arena at the hub of her sprawling working ranch. Running Mountain Ranch is a rural sanctuary in the coastal hills of Western Oregon.

Looking down on the Running Mountain Ranch barns and arena from a trail in the hills above the Open Barn party site. Photo by Tish Pollock

Tish’s barn stretches on forever and is full of her Arabians and the strapping  warm-blood show horses of boarders. What a treat to watch these big-boned steeds being ridden by Tish’s resident dressage trainer, Lynne Salewski. She makes these guys move with grace and glory.

Dressage trainer Lynne is silhouetted as she mounts Cobus, the Friesian that starred in the 2009 movie, "The Dark Horse." Poor guy, he's big and brave, except for the poinsettia you see in the background. It must have looked like a weird predator to him: It scared the easy-going horse to trembling. Photo by James Sherman

One of them, a  giant black Friesian named Cobus, is even a movie star. He and Lynne were in the 2009 movie, “The Dark Horse,” acclaimed at several international film festivals. And yes, Cobus was  the leading man.

Quite fittingly, Stacy affectionately refers to Cobus as the  Antonio Banderas  horse — after the famous dark-eyed movie star.

I think we all felt a little starlet-like riding our horses around such a grand facility.  Something was happening in every corner. Some riders were giving cutting horses a  “play-date” experience completely devoid of competition and cows. Others were having easy rides on tried-and-true trail horses. Some rode English, others Western.

My Gal Gallop pals astride on New Years Eve day.From left to right, Katherine, whose horse is named Boone; Stacy on Sparky; Kelsey on Tucker; Diane on Bobby; and me on Callie. Photo by Jim Sherman

Stacy was astride her prancing senior-citizen black Morgan, Sparky. He seemed to have the most spark of any horse that day; hence his name, we presume. There was a long-legged paint, Tucker, ridden by Stacy’s daughter, Kelsey; another paint called Velvet; and of course, my Callie, who was quite excited to be out of her usual environs.

Tish also raises bearded collies and is active in herding dog circles; hence, several dog handler friends  and their fast and focused dogs were on-hand, busily urging sheep and ducks here and there. It’s always a treat to watch these savvy dogs at work.

Tish raises bearded collies at Running Mountain Ranch. This photo was taken the day the herding switch flipped for young Rock. It was like he awoke from a nap and suddenly knew what he'd been born to do. Then off he went, sweeping and dodging behind the wooly trio as Tish (upper left) helped direct the ewes for him.

I think it’s safe to say my hands, gloved and all, were colder than they’d ever been after some of us struck out to make a few loops around the wooded hillsides and slopes.

When we got our chilly selves back to the barn, I dismounted, pulled off my gloves, held my hands under Callie’s muzzle, and let her warm breath defrost them.

Once the horses were groomed and blanketed, we headed for the party room – the office in the barn.  Fudge, cookies, ham, biscuits and other delicious traditional holiday snacks and good cheer were waiting. The riding now done (Drinking and riding are not a good combo when it comes to staying safe in your saddle and atop your horse.), Tish had  chilled champagne waiting as well as mulled cider.

Tish is known for attention to detail, and her touch was quickly evident at the Open Barn. She had red, white and pink poinsettias placed along the edge of the arena with the sky as background. And she’d made the cutest little cheese-ball snowman complete with scarf and a carrot nose –a mini horse treat perhaps?

Actually, it became a dog treat later that day when Tish was transporting the  too-cute-to-eat snowman from barn to home post-party. She left a car door open when she went to get something else to return to her  kitchen. A visitor hurriedly jumped into the car. It was  Maverick, one of her bearded collies. “Mav” had his way with the cheese ball until Tish returned moments later . Then he abruptly exited the car with a leap, telltale pieces of nuts and cheese flying off his silky, hairy lower lip.


These World War I - era sleigh bells were a Christmas gift from a friend who has known my animal-loving ways since childhood. Sleigh bells were commonly referred to as horse bells in Europe and rural America. Photo by Adam Sherman

The 30-bell strand was a  Christmas present from my oldest and dearest friend, Karen. I’ve been animal crazy since birth, I think. Karen, not so much. But she ALWAYS honors that about me. She and I do share a love of antiques and the history they carry forward. When she came across these World War I-era sleigh bells, she said she knew they were destined for me.

The bells were found in an old barn in Vermont. They’re extra-special and pretty hard-to-find, because they are circa World War I. Before the war, bells were created from brass. During the war, all brass was sucked into the making of shell casings, creating a brass shortage. Other available metals, especially tin and nickel, were used  as a brass substitute.

That’s how Karen knew these hushed-sounding  jingle bells were authentic — and antique: They have a gentler, more muffled sound than brass bells. Much lovelier to the ear in my book. I wonder what the horses would say about the bells’ differing sounds?

It was fun hearing the “oohs” and “awes” when I  showed them off during the ride after-party.

Tish, consider this as a tip of riding helmets and snow caps from us to you. Thanks for a blue-ribbon day. You throw a swell out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new party:  Dogs and horses concur.

The patina of the table contrasted with the deep, dark brown of the leather, reminds me of sunlight drifting into a barn through a hayloft window. Sun rays set the same mood in barns today. Oh the stories theses bells could tell about farming America in wartime. Photo by Adam Sherman

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Our circle of friends and their animals has been filled with ups and downs this week.

The first sign of trouble appeared in “kitten-land” run by barn cat, Lilly. After a week of nursing a kitten foundling along with her three much-older kittens, she made it clear she was done with the tiny baby.

While feeding the horses one morning , our barn (and Lilly’s) owner, Teresa, noticed the baby was not with the others. Lilly had deposited the little guy in a dark, hard-to-reach corner. He was cold to the touch but alive. Teresa put the baby and Lilly on a warm blanket in a small dog crate, hoping all would be well. Later that morning, when Ella Mae, who boards her horse there, arrived, this was how she found things:

“All three older kittens were in the cage [crate], and the orphan was stretched out sleeping (I thought) near the front of the cage.  Lilly was up on your saddle blanket where I noticed her yesterday for the first time since her babies were born.

“We assume she has decided to wean away from so much nursing and has given up on the weaker orphan. When I checked, he was cold to touch and barely moving.  I tried to warm him and put a drop of water in his mouth.  He was so weak and about dead.  Teresa got special formula, came home and got him and took him back to the bank where she works. She had to go to a meeting, so her coworkers fed the kitten, which took a bit of doing at first.

“Tonight I talked to Teresa and the baby was on her chest. I could hear him mewing.  His body temp is back up: He’s warm and taking nourishment. Teresa named him today:  He will be known as “Will” due to his strong will to live.”

I know Lilly’s behavior is related to Mother Nature and survival of the fittest: It’s still hard not to be mad at her. I feel like revoking her privilege of sleeping on my saddle blankets; but of course I won’t. Thank you Teresa, your colleagues, and Ella Mae for letting this little black baby cat get under your skin and into your hearts!


At the ranch next door, (home of friends and horse trainers Carmen and Norm Bryant, see April 28, 2011 post], a 32-year-old champion Quarter Horse mare had to be put down. That’s a ripe old age in horse years. The cause was colic, a painful intestinal ailment that often claims older horses.

Norm Bryant cutting on Superstar Sierra. This champion mare was nicknamed Little Bunny. Photo courtesy of Norm and Carmen Bryant.

She was known around the place as Little Bunny: Her registered name was fancier, Superstar Sierra. Carmen and Norm cared for and showed both her sire, Docs Superstar Bar, and her dam, Sierra Bunny. Little Bunny was one of the first – and last remaining—offspring of this winning pair.  In fact, her father was quite the sensation four decades back.

In 1977, as agents for R.B. Pamlin Jr., Carmen and Norm orchestrated the purchase of the three-year-old Docs Superstar Bar for $30,000. The young stallion lived up to his name and sired dozens of champions. In 1981, the handsome stud sold for $800,000 – a very large price tag back then.

Bay-colored Little Bunny spent her entire life with Carmen and Norm, as a filly, show horse, brood mare and, most recently, a retired reminder of the good horses, horsemanship, faith and hard work that built their life as successful, well-respected and sought-after cutting horse trainers and breeders. Acknowledging how blessed they were to have had Little Bunny and her dam, Carmen said, “We often admired the class and beauty of those mares.”

I will miss seeing Little Bunny in the band of mares and geldings nibbling away in the green pastures alongside one of my riding paths. May she rest in peace.


Mom Kiwi and her six born-today bearded collie pups. Congratulations Kiwi. Photo by Tish Pollock.

We have six brand new bearded collies bringing cuteness and cheer to our spot on the map. My friend Tish raises these special herding dogs (see Feb. 23, 2011 post): Her bitch Kiwi gave birth this morning.

Here’s what Tish said in a Facebook post, “Puppies are doing really well; two black boys, one brown boy, one brown girl and two fawn girls. All hit the ground strong and active, have had a great lunch, nice sleep, and enjoyed their first exposure to the warm blow dryer when Kiwi was dried after her bath. Kristen (a beardie fan/owner on hand to assist Tish if Kiwi needed widwifery help) has gone home, and we’re going to have another nap around here.”

THIS WEEK’S LESSON FROM THE ANIMALS: This, too, will pass. That’s a hard one to keep in mind; but a welcome ease rides its coattails.

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