Nov 22, 2016

3 Great Rescue Dog Books for Kids

By Kim Ablon Whitney

Like most horse-people, I love dogs almost as much as I love horses. Particularly rescue dogs. In reading books to my three kids, I've found several wonderful books about rescue dogs. 

Of course there are heaps of great dog books. But here are three you may never have even heard of. These three books aren't overly saccharine and don't beat you over the head with messages. They're just delightful books about dogs that found their forever homes.

1. Dogku by Andrew Clements (ages 4-8)
Your kids might not get the funny title but they'll love this simple story, all told in haikus, about a dog named Mooch who finally finds his family.

2. Before You Were Mine by Maribeth Boelts with illustrations by David Walker (ages 4-8)
This book gives young children a concrete sense for what adoption centers do to help dogs and why dogs might have found their way there in the first place. I read this one to my daughter's class when we had a fundraiser for the local dog adoption center. And each time I read it to her at home I nearly get a little weepy.

3. Just A Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer (ages 8-12)
This is a chapter book about a Great Dane mix and the family who needs him to hold them together. Although there are lots of laughs along the way, trust me, you're going to need a hanky for this one too. 

Kim Ablon Whitney and her family have the most wonderful hound-mix rescue dog, Macie.

Nov 14, 2016

10 Trends in the Eq Finals Over the Years

by Kim Ablon Whitney

It's been nearly 25 years since I rode in the equitation finals. 25 years! Besides being nearly impossible to believe, from the results of the interceding years, I've noticed some trends.

1. Boys win proportionally more times than girls. Approximately 12 male riders of the 276 total riders competing in the Medal Finals in 2016 were male. That means that 4.3% of the riders in the class were male... which makes it even more statistically surprising that a male won (T.J. O'Mara).

A quick glance at the last few years reveals many male winners (Spencer Smith, 2014 Medal; Geoffrey Hassling, 2014 USET East; Michael Hughes, 2014 WIHS, 2013 USET East; Jacob Pope, 2012 Maclay & USET East, Chase Boggio 2011 WIHS).

This was pretty much the same during the late 80's/early 90's (Peter Lutz, 1991 Maclay & USET East), McLain Ward (1990 USET East), Ray Texel (1989 Medal & Maclay), David Olinynyk (1989 USET East).

Why do boys win so often? Is it because they stand-out from all the girls? Is it because they tend to be physically stronger? Is it because boys are less likely to stick with riding if they aren't the best?

2. Professionals' kids have an edge toward the win. It's all those hours at the barn and horse shows. These kids eat, sleep, and breathe horses. They're winning today (McKayla Langmeier, 2015 Medal; Kelli Cruciotti 2015 Medal; Spencer Smith; Michael Hughes; Hunter Holloway, 2016 Maclay; Samantha Schaefer, 2011 USET East; Schaefer Raposa, 2011 Medal).

And they were winning 25 years ago (Nicole Shahinian, 1990 Medal, 1992 Maclay; McLain Ward; Kelley Farmer, 1993 Maclay).

If anything, the results show that professionals' kids are more likely to win today.

3. Riders get on a roll. Win one, win another. T.J. O'Mara took the Medal and USET East this year. Hunter Holloway won the WIHS and then the Maclay. Victoria Colvin won the USET East and the WIHS last year. Lillie Keenan won the Medal and the Maclay in 2014. Going back a little further there were remarkably four years in a row where the same rider won the Medal and the Maclay Finals: Megan Young (2004), Brianne Goutal (2005), Maggie McAlary (2006), Kimberly McCormack (2007).

Double winners from my time included Ray Texel, Hillary Schlusemeyer (1996 Medal and USET East) and Peter Lutz.

Generally, I noticed double winners are more common today. Perhaps the pool of talented riders is not as deep today?

4. There's always next year. They finished in the top six, even placing second one year, and came back and won the following year or the year after that. See Kelley Farmer, Hillary Schlusemeyer, Matt Metell, Kimberly McCormack, Lillie Keenan, Kelli Cruciotti, Victoria Colvin, Hunter Holloway.

Overall, riders also seem to place one year and come back to win in the following years more often now, possibly because riders are pushed to do the big eq earlier and therefore spend more years competiting in the division.

Hunter Holloway finally took first place. 

5. Horses are a key part of the win. If you look at the top ribbon-winners over spans of 5-8 years you'll see some familiar horse names--then and now. Then: Glen Owen (Laura Tidball Balinksy, Laura O'Connor, Steve Heinecke), French Leave (Sandy and Karen Neilsen), Black Ice (Nichole Shahinian, Karen Chandler); Kandi (Shahinian, Craig Shegog); Gulliver (Karen Kay, Carlee McKay), Sight Unseen (Jennifer Clarkson, McLain Ward); Loophole (Cheryl Wilson, Samantha Darling). Now: Patrick (Lucy Davis, Charlotte Jacobs, Victoria Colvin, Catherine Tyree); Ivy (Haylie Jayne, Zazou Hoffman).

If anything the same horses pop up more often 25-plus years ago than they do today--perhaps because eq horses don't last as long today due to heavy year-round competition schedules and intense drilling.

6. It's all in the family. Siblings took top ribbons in the Finals then and they take top ribbons in the Finals now. The Ashes, The Nielsens, The Chandlers, The Jaynes, The O'Maras.

More recently, we've also seen children of former ribbon-winners placing in the finals--Sophie Simpson, Lillie Keenan, Charlotte Jacobs, Lucy Deslauriers, McKayla Langmeier.

7. It takes a village. Looking back at the results from 1992, there are one to three trainers listed for each ribbon-winner. For this year's medal, two riders had only two trainers listed. Three riders had six trainers listed and two trainers had seven trainers listed!

Trainers listed in 2016

Trainers listed in 1992.

Why? Probably because barns are bigger these days and have so many more trainers. Sometimes a rider will have separate training staffs at separate barns for the equitation and the jumpers and both staffs need to be acknowledged. It's also because as a rule riders no longer prepare their own horses and even the assistant-assistant trainers that prepared the horse need to be recognized.

8. Money is important. No naming names here. But then and now, riders from families with incredibly deep pockets are often in the top ribbons. Talent and ambition are important, but so are the funds to bankroll the horses, the shows, and the training.

9. But working students can still pop up for the win. Then: Andre Dignelli. Now: Jacob Pope, Zazou Hoffman.

10. You don't have to win a final to go on to greatness. If the past is any predictor of the future, there are lots of great riders who came close but didn't win a final, or didn't win as many as they were predicted to, who have gone to be top professional riders. Just look at Molly Ashe Cawley, Candice King, Richard Spooner, Aaron Vale, and McLain Ward.

Special thanks for for their comprehensive listing of equitation finals results through the years. 

Kim Ablon Whitney is the author of The Perfect Distance, a novel about the equitation finals.

Nov 2, 2016

Horse Show Etiquette Do's and Don'ts -- Part II, Courtesy & Safety

By Maggie Junkin

There's nothing I enjoy more than horse showing. Let’s keep our horse shows safe and enjoyable for all.

Do: Pay attention in schooling rings. Clearly communicate with other riders.

Don’t: Crowd others, both in the schooling ring and in the hack class. Leave space in the model.

Do: Have ringside awareness. Be considerate. Don’t make loud noises or sudden movements while a horse or pony is on course.

Don’t: Ride with a group of friends spread across chatting and unaware. Make it safe for vehicles and other horses to pass.

Do: Walk your animals on the horse paths.

Don’t: Text and ride. If it’s that important, pull over. Instagram and snapchat can wait.

Do: Drive responsibly with scooters and golf carts. Be patient and use caution while passing horses.

Don’t: Ride without your helmet.

Do: Use commonsense when bringing your dogs to a horseshow.

Don’t: Leave your dog unleashed and free to roam.  Over the years, I have seen a few dogfights and several dogs that were hit and killed.

Do: Be courteous and clean up after your dogs. Please do not allow your male pups to water your neighbors tack trunks and barn set-ups.

Don’t: Tie your dogs in communal barn aisles or in areas where they are underfoot of the horses.

Do: Take your dogs safely with you to the ring. If not, leave them securely crated in the shade, or better yet in a stall with water, dog beds and a fan.

Maggie Junkin competes in the Children’s Hunters with her horse, Tommy Bahama. She lives with her family, 5 dogs, and 3 cats in Jenkintown, Pa.

Oct 5, 2016

Horse Show Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts for the Junior Rider

by Maggie Junkin

I'm thirteen years old and have been horse showing since I was four. I started doing the rated hunter shows when I was seven.  It hasn’t been that long, but long enough for me to have a few pet peeves. So here they are... my list of Do’s and Don’ts for the Junior Rider.

Do: Say please, thank you, and excuse me.

Don’t:  Be entitled; the world doesn’t owe you a thing.

Do: Be thoughtful and courteous to horse show personnel. Most work longer days than you do.

Don't: Forget to congratulate fellow competitors when they do well.

Do: Wish others Good Luck… and mean it.

Don’t: Critique others ringside for all to hear. 

Do: Pick up after yourself. No trashing the show grounds.

Don’t: Whine, scream or throw tantrums. No one wants to hear it.

Do: Thank your parents.

Don’t: Cry unless you are hurt or bleeding. (Disclaimer: Unless you have had the worst trip of your life, then sneak into the nearest porta potty and break out the tissues.)

Do: Show good sportsmanship.

Don’t: Show a temper.

Do: Be prepared. Get up early, stop by the ring and take photos of your courses and learn them. Be ready.

Don’t: Hold up the ring when after what felt like a 100 trips, they are finally ready to jog.

Do: Thank your trainer.

Don’t: Talk back to your trainer.

Do: Thank your siblings if they got dragged along.

Don’t: Gossip or spread rumors.

Do: Love your pony or horse even when things go wrong. I would like to see the big kiss or pat on the neck of an animal that missed a lead, knocked a rail, or spooked a little in the corner. Love them even when you don’t win!

Don’t: Create drama.

Do: Thank your parents, again.

Don’t: Obsess about your score or placing. Furthermore, don’t worry about your competitor’s scores either.

Do: Set personal goals and conquer them.

Don’t: Take your anger out on your horse.

Do: Be humble. Some of us look up to you!

Don’t: Blame your horse or pony for your mistakes.

Do: Be a positive role model.

Maggie Junkin competes in the Children’s Hunters with her horse, Tommy Bahama. She lives with her family, 5 dogs, and 3 cats in Jenkintown, Pa.

Sep 26, 2016

Things My Trainer Says

by Maggie Junkin

My trainer says the craziest things sometimes during my lessons.  I'm often thinking, "Did he just say that? It wasn’t that bad... was it?  And what did that even mean?"

To my trainer:  Thanks for keeping it real, keeping it fun, and expanding my vocabulary! Here are just a few of my favorite sayings and their definitions.  

You are sitting there like a lump on a log!
Well… I guess that’s self-explanatory.

More RPM!
What’s RPM? Is that short for "Rider Possible Meltdown?" Or is R.P.M. that 80’s rock band my dad liked? Definition: Revolutions per minute, a measure of speed. What? I don’t even drive yet!

Ah, go faster. I get it, another word for RPM.

What are you? A Kamikazi?
After looking up that definition (suicide pilot) my answer is definitely, “No, not intentionally.”

One, two, three, four, ONE!!
Usually I am off pace, again.

Steer the Boat.
I’m trying. My boat has his own ideas.

Thank your horse!
Translation: pat him, he saved your sorry butt.

You Donkey!
This is usually directed at my horse, not me. I score a “get-out-of-jail” pass this time.

Get out of the corner, get out of the corner, GET OUT of the CORNER!
Yeah, I sometimes get stuck in the corner.

Don’t Dillydally.
Dally diddle? Dilly Daddle? What on earth did he just say? Definition:  Dillydally: to move slowly or waste time. Okay, I’ll accept that.

Definition: Very good or pleasant.  Interpretation: “You actually maintained pace, found all 8 jumps, and didn’t mess it up.”  It’s a good day!

And finally my all time favorite...

Stop doing the Watusi up there!
A whata what? Defintion: A solo dance that was a popular dance craze in the 1960’s.
“No, Really? I didn’t really look like that? Did I?"

Maggie Junkin is a 13 year-old hunter rider.  After showing in the ponies, she has moved on to horses recently and is showing in the Children’s Hunter Horse Division on her horse, Tommy Bahama. She is committed to animal rescue. Her favorite rescue to support is Danny and Ron’s Rescue. Maggie trains with John Mastriano of Tustin Farm in NJ. She lives with her family, 5 dogs, and 3 cats in Jenkintown, Pa.

Sep 15, 2016

Before "Then"

By Maggie Dana

Night before show. Remind Mum about snacks. Tell Dad not to worry like he always does. Obsess over whether bits and stirrups are shiny enough after using all of Mum’s metal polish. Get knickers in a knot when you discover you’ve run out of saddle soap and have to use Neatsfoot oil on your saddle. Will stain your jods, for sure, but nothing to be done. No stores open after 5 o’clock and it’s now 9 p.m. Not that any of the local shops would carry saddle soap, anyway.

Lay out show clothes: cleanest shirt you can find, stain-free tie, buff jodhpurs with baggy thighs, brown paddock boots with buckles and straps (zippers are so much cooler). Sigh over tweed jacket and wish, yet again, you had a black or navy one like the rich kids did. Steam brown velvet hunt cap with kettle one more time. Set alarm for five o’clock.

Next morning: Surprise sleepy pony with grain and hay before dawn. Brush him like mad. Attempt checkerboard patterns on his rump that all fancy show ponies have. Give up. Pick out his feet, brush them with gucky stuff that gets all over your hands. Plait (braid) his mane and wish they didn’t look like the sausages you’d have eaten for breakfast if your stomach wasn’t already in a massive twist.

Check leather school satchel (1950s version of a knapsack). Load up with snacks (thanks, Mum), brushes (mine and his), show schedule, lead rope, and flashlight. It’s still dark. Race back into house, swap grubby togs for show clothes. Bang on parents’ door. “I’m off.”

Tack up more-or-less clean pony. Remember to put halter on top of bridle. Set off—alone. It’s a seven-mile hack to the show, but at least it’s not raining. Not too much traffic, thank goodness. Negotiate center of town. Bus drivers toot their horns and wave. Risk a brief canter on the A-40’s median strip with cars zooming past on both sides.

Eight-thirty. Show grounds ahead. Find secretary’s tent, get number, and meet up with best friend. She’s hacked in from the other direction. Compare snacks, then swap. Her pony eats my orange. Glare at riders with horse trailers, grooms, and spindly-legged ponies that look like miniature Thoroughbreds.

First class: Best Rider. We lose. Then comes Best Show Pony. Lose that one as well. Trot into ring for Best Turned Out Rider and Tack . . . and win it! Good grief. That Neatsfoot oil is amazing. Happily ignore stony looks of show pony riders and their grooms. Parents show up with lunch. Watch jumping, then mount up for gymkhana events (had no idea at this point that I’d end up in the States where gymkhana isn’t part of all horse shows).

Best friend places second in (pole) bending; we manage third in apple bobbing race. Not a bad haul. Red (first in England) and yellow ribbons. Pack up and head home. Another seven-mile trek. Dad worries, of course.

Ten o’clock that night. Light wavers in the distance. Dad is out there, worrying, in the middle of the road. Assure Dad you are okay. Untack pony and brush him off; feed hay and grain. Kiss wonderful pony, then stagger into house and remember you’ve forgotten to do your homework.

* * *

Maggie Dana was a British teenage Pony Clubber, circa mid-1950s. She's the author of the Timber Ridge Riders series for young readers who love horses.