Mares of Diomedes

The story of the Mares of Diomedes is part of a much larger Greek myth; the legend of Hercules. As with many myths there are different versions; so if this version isn’t the one you know and you would like to share; please leave a comment.

Hercules was the son of the Greek god Zeus, and Alcmene, a mere mortal. This made Hercules a demigod; half god and half human. At the same time Zeus conceived Hercules, Amphilryon, Alcmere’s husband, impregnated his wife with a son, Iphicles. Thus heteropaternal superfecundation twins were born to Alcmere; each conceived by different fathers.

It seems Zeus had a habit of producing children with mortal women by using trickery. Zeus’s wife and queen of the gods, Hera, became angry and revengeful because of Zeus’s adultery. She developed a hatred for the resulting off-spring of his philandering behavior. Hercules specifically came to know her wraith.

Zeus declared that the soon to be born, Hercules, would become the ruler of the Mycenaean kingdom. Nevertheless, Hera, in a rage prevented this from occurring and instead another baby boy, Eurystheus, became ruler of Mycenaea. Still not satisfied, Hera plotted to kill baby Hercules by sending two deadly snakes to do the job; however, Hercules possessed tremendous strength and strangled the huge reptiles. This did not stop Hera, she continued to plot against Hercules.

The baby grew into a dynamic and courageous man. Hercules married King Creon’s daughter, Megara. The newlyweds began a family and had three sons. Hera, ever plotting against Hercules, drove him insane and he killed his family. When the madness faded, Hercules realized what he had done; he became overwhelmed by grief and suicidal. He decided to travel to the Oracle of Delphi and find a way to atone for his sins.

Located on Mt. Parnassus, Delphi was a religious sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo and home to the Oracle of Delphi, Pythia. After Pythia heard Hercules’s account of what happened, she fell into deep meditation. Afterwards, she told him to go to the city of Tiryns and follow the commands of his cousin, King Eurystheus. If he would do this he would no longer feel guilty for killing his family.

The king ordered Hercules to complete twelve tasks which became known as the Twelve Labors of Hercules. King Eurystheus had no great love for Hercules and wanted him to fail. Each task the king made harder than the previous. The eighth labor he gave to Hercules was to capture the man-eating mares owned by King Diomedes, leader of the warlike tribe of Bistones. The mares were named Podargos (swift), Lampon (shining), Xanthos (yellow) and Deinos (terrible).

King Diomedes did not like strangers or wanders in his kingdom. He devised a way to rid himself of unwanted visitors by tearing them apart and feeding them to his horses limb by limb. Due to their immense strength, the mares were kept chained to bronze feeding-troughs. Their diet, being unnatural, caused them to be vicious and uncontrollable; fire radiated from their nostrils.

Hercules sailed with a group of young volunteers across the Aegean Sea to Thrace on the shores of the Black Sea in search of King Diomedes. He and his companions entered the king’s stables, overpowered the guards and stole the horses. They made their way toward the sea; however, King Diomedes realized what had happened and set out after Hercules. As Diomedes’ soldiers grew closer, Hercules turned to fight; leaving the horses in the care of young Abderus.

Unfortunately, the horses bolted dragging the young man after them. By the time Hercules defeated King Diomedes and returned; his friend had been eaten by the mares. In a rage, he cut the dead king’s body into pieces and feed it to the horses. After the horses ate the king’s corpse, they became calm and docile. Hercules roped the horses’ mouths shut, loaded them on his ship and set sail for Mycenaea.

Hercules brought the mares to King Eurystheus thus completing his eighth labor. The king dedicated the horses to Queen Hera. It’s unclear where the horses ended up; some say they became permanently calm and were released to roam Argos. Another version states that the mares were taken to Mt. Olympus where they were freed and eventually eaten by wild beasts.

*Note – to compile this story I combined information from several different versions of the myth. If you are interested in the actual (sometimes conflicting) myths follow the sources I have listed below.

Painting by: Jean-Baptist-Marie Pierre (Paris 1714 – Paris 1789)


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Autumn on Horseback

Time has a way of speeding by you if you’re not careful. Before you know it, summer is gone and autumn arrives with finality. We have had a nice stretch of riding weather and the landscapes have been extremely beautiful; a lot due to the warmer weather and abundant rain; keeping the grass greener than green. Yet the nights have been cool letting the trees change into their annual coat of fall colors.

A few days ago, I headed up to Round Top Park in Athens, PA for a quiet and solitary ride. The day was inspirational. However, today is another rainy day; giving me the opportunity to sit down and write a poem about my ride through the autumn woods.

Autumn on Horseback
by Pat Miran

Trees painted yellow gold, pumpkin orange and fire red;
Wind, sweet and crisp as a sip of fresh apple cider,
Blows a balmy gust
A playfully seductive prance
As the brittle leaves dance an explosive dance
A jitterbug on old oak, maple and willow branch.

Overhead the ether blue beyond blue,
Bright, light azure, blended cerulean,
It weaves and whispers among the trees;
It winks and makes melody with the dried leaves;
An operetta pulsating with a chorus of color.

Rifle-shots rip the air and the mare startles.
Is it target practice or a rogue hunter?
Nobody’s fool
The deer have vanished,
Ghosts of the autumn woods.

The horse’s hooves crunch littered leaves,
Gravel sparkles silver, embedded in baked clay;
The roadway twists, turns and climbs a ridge,
Crisscrossed and slashed by shadows
Black skeletons etched into the earth.

The horse tilts her head and listens,
Stops, snorts and stares up the road.
Secret footsteps cut the silence like an ax;
We wait in the road for the unseen tracks
Of something or someone who is coming.

Round a blind turn comes a woman dressed in plaid,
Red and black,
Her eyes hidden by a shadow cut across her face
And her dog barks and jerks the leash and barks again,
A ray of light reveals the road and she is seen.

A rule of gossiping ramblers in the backwoods
A nexus of news, weather and trails
The leaves quiver, whisper rumor and take heed
And then its over,
My horse’s hooves tap rhythm at a steady speed
As we fade away into the deep, dark woods.

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Sam Gives Up the Ghost

Sam, a Belgium, the oldest member of the herd came to Horse Heaven in December 2011 from a horse dealer in Monroeton, PA. Although upon his arrival, Sam experience bullying from the herd; within a few months he bonded with the other horses. Sam and Myrtle often waited together by the barn door to come in for the night.

No one knew Sam’s exact age. The former owner’s vet said around 12; the horse dealer’s vet guessed Sam to be in his 20’s. After a horse gets his permanent teeth it becomes hard to tell exact age. Without papers, a horse’s age becomes a guessing game. Connie’s vet put Sam’s age closer to 30.

The horse dealer assured Johnn and Connie that the old Belgium had been ridden; and in fact a 9 year old rode Sam at the Troy Fair. It wasn’t long before Johnn became attached to Sam. He enjoyed the draft horse temperament and ability to perform farm work. Johnn had owned other Belgiums; Champ and Myrtle. Each horse had its own personality and idiosyncrasies and each horse had a special place in Johnn’s heart.

Several people rode Sam; including me. Cristina came in the spring of 2012 to learn basic horsemanship. Sam, gentle and quiet, proved easy to brush and saddle in his stall. In fact, he relished the barn atmosphere. The horse proved to be ‘barn sour’. Although, with much encouragement Sam did amble up the road for awhile until he tried to stop and return to the barn. After, Cristinia returned to school and her studies nobody rode Sam.

In 2015, Sam developed a small fleshy growth in the corner of his eye. Johnn monitored the abnormality and tried medication; however, within a month the pinkish mound of skin grew 50% of its original mass and transformed into a walnut sized tumor.

Connie scheduled an appointment with their vet, Robin Rodgers, to have the tumor removed. Robin carefully cut out as much of the tumor as she could. Without performing a biopsy, Robin couldn’t determine what type of tumor she had extracted; though, she suspected ocular-squamous-cell-carcinoma. Without chemotherapy there was always the chance that some cancer cells remained and the disease would return.


Years passed by and there was no visible return of the disease. Sam seemed fine and in good health; although, advanced in age. No one knew for sure exactly how old Sam was; somewhere between 20 years and 40. In human years that put Sam between 60 and 120 years old. For an old horse, he was doing pretty good.

Since Myrtle’s death on December 3, 2018, the Valley had constant rain. Spring brought more rain and prevented me from riding. Then on April 15th Connie called me to say Sam had died during the night and he was in his stall; not to panic if I saw him as Johnn was arranging burial.

There had been no sign of illness or difficulty in moving; Sam simply died in his sleep. Of course all kinds of thoughts run through your mind; did the cancer take his life, eat away his liver even though he appeared perfectly healthy; or did his attachment to Myrtle bring him sorrow and his will to go on living simply vanished; or his advanced age, near 120 in human years, laid him low? Of course, there are no answers to these questions. The fact is Sam lived a good life and died quietly and painlessly in his sleep. As with every life, death leaves a void. Sam will be missed at Horse Heaven.

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Myrtle’s Final Hour

Rain, rain, rain and more rain..someone said to me the other day we’ve had rain constantly since February 2017. Of course there have been the sunny days with no rain, but not enough days without rain to dry out the pasture. Year round, we have mud, mud and more mud. Johnn got his tractor out and tried to drain the mud; which helped. However, after awhile the mud came back; deep mud, ankle deep mud. Of course, mud normally occurs in spring; however, we are not talking just about spring; we are talking fall, winter and summer too!

Where there is grass; it’s wet. The water table is very high creating a problem with multiple springs in the pasture. The grass is wet. Last fall someone told me their backyard was full of mold; that’s right the grass was molding!In fact, several schools had to close because of a mold problem.

In November, I visited the stables, rode CJ and saw Myrtle. She looked in perfect health and nosing around for a treat. Fast forward one month, Connie and Johnn noticed Myrtle lying down in the field during the day; definitely not normal for her. She had a lot of mucus draining from her nostrils; so Connie called the vet who gave her an antibiotic.

After several days on the antibiotic Myrtle wasn’t getting any better. During Connie’s nightly horse check she noticed Myrtle take a turn for the worst; and called the vet. The antibiotic didn’t work; whatever bacteria caused the infection must have been resistant to the antibiotic. Fearing doom, Connie drove in the middle of the night down gravel back roads to the vet’s home to get a different antibiotic. A few days later, Myrtle was down in her stall, not moving; she died during the night.

Johnn bought Myrtle when his Belgium, Champ, died in February 1995. Johnn and Connie went down to Ulster, Pa to look over the horses owned by Mr. Cole; a horse dealer. Johnn picked out a caramel colored yearling filly from all the other Belgiums in the field.

When Myrtle was four years old, Johnn sent her to school at the home of an Amish farmer in Leraysville, PA. A few weeks later Connie and Johnn had to call in the vet; Myrtle had shipping fever. Shipping fever is inflammation and fluid build up in the lungs; common when horses are transported for long distances. The vet gave Myrtle a shot for the fever and a few days later Myrtle felt fine. The farmer hitched Myrtle up with his 3 mules and trained her to pull a wagon and bale hay.

At the end of summer, Myrtle graduated from schooling with the Amish farmer and came home to Horse Heaven. Johnn hitched an arena drag to her harness and off they went to smooth and level the arena. Myrtle was so well trained that all he had to do was walk behind her holding the reins. She knew what to do.

Then there came a time when the arena wasn’t being used, the grass began to grow, and Myrtle didn’t drag the arena any longer. Myrtle spent most of her time between the barn and pasture. When Sam, another Belgium, arrived at Horse Heaven; she chased him around the pasture until he knew his place in the herd. Myrtle and Pepper were very attached. When I rode Pepper; her good friend, Myrtle, whinnied and stood by the barn door until she returned.

Myrtle died at age fifteen. Her unexpected death on December 3, 2018 surprised us; as she always was healthy and active. The caramel colored Belgium will be missed by the humans and horses at Horse Heaven.

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Clara Barton and Horseback Riding

Clara Barton and Babe 1903 photo Library of Congress by Clara Barton Drew2

Clara Barton, the youngest of five children, born to Captain Stephen Barton and his wife Sarah on Christmas day 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts. At the time of her birth, her siblings ranged in age from 17 to 11 years old, making Clara truly the baby of the family. By the time Clara was five she found herself surrounded by adults and teenagers, which lent to her feeling uncomfortable and shy with children her own age.

The Barton family lived on a large farm; Clara’s father also bred and sold horses. She learned to ride at age five when her brother David picked her up and placed her on a young horse, broken only to a halter and bit. Once David put Clara on a young colt, he jumped on another and the two galloped off across the fields.

Sometime later when she was ten; her father gave Clara a brown Morgan horse named Billy. Her agility in the saddle increased along with her sense of adventure. She rode in all kinds of weather, often out-riding her companions; leaving them ‘in the dust’, far behind.

Around the age of nineteen, Clara became a school teacher. Her father recognized that teaching placed a heavy emotional burden on his daughter. To help her relax and take her mind off her job; he gave Clara a spirited saddle horse. She often saddled her horse and rode alone, galloping through the wooded country lanes and forgetting the stress teachers often feel. On other occasions Clara rode with her daredevil cousins and friends.

Clara taught school for many years; establishing good rapport with her students; influencing the rowdy boys who attended her classes to focus on their studies. Her students came to admire and respect her; many of the boys she would meet again on the battlefields of the Civil War. When the union soldiers, wounded and dying saw Clara coming to their aid; they thought they saw an angel. Soon Clara came to be known as the ‘Angel of the Battlefield’.

Before the Civil War started in 1854; Clara moved from teaching to a job in Washington, DC with the US Patent Office. In 1857, President Buchanan opposed women working in government and eliminated her position. However, when President Lincoln came into office she was reinstated; although, at lower pay.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, troops from Massachusetts, New Jersey and Herkimer County, NY came to Washington, DC; more than 75,000 soldiers camped in the capital district. Clara meet many former friends and pupils among the troops and resolved to help with the war effort.

Realizing that the government had sadly overlooked medical needs of the wounded; she actively solicited supplies. Women sent her clothing, soap, material for bandages, canned fruit and whatever else they could ship to meet the soldier’s needs. At first, Clara stored the goods in her apartment but when she found herself overwhelmed by the boxes rented space in a warehouse. She used a wagon to transport the supplies to hospitals, ships and trains loaded with wounded men from the battlefield.

As the war raged on, Clara was granted permission to make her way onto the battlefield with her supplies. She aided doctors with the wounded and nursed the dying; helped transport the injured by ambulance wagons to distant hospitals.

Near the end of the battle of the Second Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia Clara assisted in loading the wounded onto a train headed for hospitals in Washington. A few rebel scouts appeared in the distance then disappeared. A Union officer rode up to Clara and asked if she could ride a horse bareback. After answering “yes” he shouted, “Then you have another hour. ” Clara realized that she would have to ride bareback an unfamiliar horse many miles through enemy lines to reach the capital. There would be many times when Clara would have to race for safety on a Calvary steed, but not this time. Fortunately the men were quickly loaded onto the train. Clara and the other workers leapt into the boxcar as the engine quickly pulled away from Fairfax Station. As she watched from the train, Confederate horsemen galloped to the station and burned it to the ground.

In 1863, David Barton, Clara’s brother, received an appointment from the Senate as a quartermaster. Towards the end of March, David received orders to report to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Clara received permission from the War Dept. to accompany him on their mission to join the 18th Army Corps which prepared to bombard Fort Sumter. Stationed on the Sea Islands, a chain of narrow lands cut by marshes and creeks with many inlets; the Bartons found little military action and light duty.

Clara met and became romantically involved with Colonel Elwell; quartermaster in charge of horses, equipment and supplies. They shared a love of horseback riding; both exceptional equestrians. With access to the best horses in the army’s stables, they galloped along the beach as waves splashed against their horses hooves; often stopped to pick blackberries astride their mounts and occasionally chased sea turtles across the sandy shore. Totally infatuated, they wrote poems and love letters to each other; disregarding the gossip their relationship created.

At Hilton Head, Clara also met Frances D. Gage and her daughter Mary. The Gages came from Ohio to take charge of one of the contraband plantations on Parrish Island. Frances, the mother of eight children, advocated for feminism, temperance and the abolition of slavery. She wrote articles for The Ohio Cultivator under the pen name Aunt Fanny. Clara volunteered to help Frances with the freed blacks; taught reading and brought gifts of clothing and food. Long after Clara left the Sea Islands she would fondly remember Frances and all she learned from her.

The arrival of General Gillmore quickly changed things; he organized the troops in an attack on Fort Wagner situated on Morris Island. Clara saddled her horse, packed an ambulance with supplies and headed for the battlefield. Meanwhile, Colonel Elwell prepared for battle. A battle which led to his injury as well as many causalities sustained by the troops.

Clara and Mary Gage assisted the surgeons and nursed the fallen soldiers. After Colonel Elwell recovered, he too attended to the wounded. Although the troops lacked adequate supplies and provisions; General Gillmore pushed his men forward. He eventually managed to capture Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter, however, never gained access to Charleston.

After the war, Clara helped locate missing soldiers and marked thousands of graves with the names of the fallen. Then, she set out on the Lyceum lecture circuit; talking about her experiences during the war and women’s rights. Speaking to audiences throughout the country, catapulted Clara to national fame. During this time, she meet Fredrick Douglas, Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton and many others involved in movements for women’s rights and the fight for black enfranchisement and equality. By 1869, Clara found herself exhausted and in poor health. Following her doctor’s orders, Clara set sail for Europe to recuperate.

She traveled throughout Europe. In Geneva Switzerland, Clara met the Grand Duchess Louise of Baden during the Franco-Prussian War. She helped organize military hospitals and sewing factories for women working for the war effort. After the war, Emperor Wilhelm awarded her the Iron Cross of Merit. Clara and the Duchess remained lifelong friends.

In Switzerland, Clara learned about the International Red Cross and dedicated the rest of her life to establishing the organization in America; writing pamphlets, lecturing and lobbying politicians. Finally on May 21, 1881, the American Association of the Red Cross was formed and Clara was elected President.

For some years, Cuban revolts against Spanish rule aroused the interest of the United States. The U.S. backed the Cuban rebels. When the USS Maine, a Navy armored cruiser, mysteriously exploded and sank in Havana Harbor; the U.S. declared war. At the start of the Spanish–American War, Clara age 77, traveled to Cuba to set up Red Cross stations. The stations provided provisions and medical help for both sides of the conflict. Her last horse, Babe, was given to her in Santiago, Cuba during the war by a correspondent of the New York World.

Clara set-up Red Cross emergency stations during times of natural disasters such as forest fires, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. She organized the relief for the 1884 flood on the Ohio river, the 1887 Texas famine, 1888 Illinois tornado and Florida yellow fever epidemic. At the Johnstown Flood in 1889, 50 doctors and nurses responded to the disaster. In 1900, she came to the aid of Galveston hurricane victims and established an orphanage. During all these emergencies, Clara personally visited, directed and helped at the disaster site; managed the operations of the Red Cross at the scene of the disaster; not from behind a desk at headquarters.

Times change; as the Red Cross grew into a national relief organization, some board members began to feel the need for new leadership. In 1902, Mabel Thorp Boardman led an internal rebellion to overthrow Barton as president of the American Red Cross. The dissent succeeded and Barton left the Red Cross in 1904. At that time, Clara proposed that the Red Cross establish a training program for first aid; however, she was overruled.

By this time, Clara, although angry and humiliated, became resigned to retirement at age 83; however, that was not to be the case. Edward Howe approached her with the idea of establishing a non-profit organization for teaching first aid. In 1905, they established the National First Aid Association of America, with Clara honorary president. The group developed the first, training programs and first aid kits designed for fire departments, schools, churches, community groups, factories and ambulances. Their hope was to have a training program in every American town. The organization rapidly grew; establishing training programs across two-thirds of America.

In 1908, the society faced a serious challenge from the Red Cross. Under the leadership of Mabel Boardman, the Red Cross moved to take over the First Aid Association. This action on the part of Red Cross reinforced Clara’s earlier feeling that Boardman sought to expropriated associations when well established. Although, the First Aid Association administrators wished to fight the Red Cross takeover; Clara counseled against litigation. Her personal experience sited the enormous political power behind Boardman and the Red Cross. In 1909, the First Aid Association disbanded after the War Department backed first aid training by the Red Cross.

After being forced from the Red Cross and the demise of the First Aid Association; Clara retired to write an autobiography at her home in Maryland. She wrote ‘The Story of My Childhood’ published in 1907 while still working for the First Aid Association and intended to write a complete book on her life; but never did.

Clara didn’t always have an easy time; many times people tried to prevent her from moving forward with her patriotic humanitarianism and determination to help wounded soldiers, bring needed supplies onto the field of battle, aid natural disaster victims and set up the Red Cross in America. Some said it wasn’t a woman’s place and wished to be rid of her; even so others supported her effort.

Clara, an expert rider, owned many horses and enjoyed riding all of her life. Would Clara have founded the Red Cross if she hadn’t been a skilled horsewoman? Probably not, since riding enabled her to go onto the battlefield, bring medical supplies and aid to the wounded. In addition, learning to ride gave her a sense of adventure and accomplishment which helped her fulfill her patriotic vision of aiding in times of war and disaster. Babe, her final horse, lived at Glen Echo with Clara until Clara’s death at 91 in 1912.

Clara Barton and Babe 1903 same

Note: Sometime shortly before her death, Clara cut a hole in the wall of her home at Glen Echo. She stuffed her personal papers and journals inside and covered the hole. Her house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966; later in 1974 the house became the Clara Barton National Historic Site . During a renovation of the building a wall was torn down and Clara’s personal writing and memorabilia were discovered. The new information on Clara Barton’s life became available to the public. Elizabeth Brown Pryor utilized this information as well as other sources to write ‘Clara Barton Professional Angel’ published in 1987. Much of the information and interest in writing this article stemmed from reading Pryor’s book. The book is well written and researched besides being an enjoyable read. I highly recommend it if you want to learn more about Clara Barton. Happy Trails

Sources:; Clara Barton: A Centenary Tribute to the World’s Greatest Humanitarian by Charles Sumner Young;;;;;;;;;;;;

Book – Clara Barton: Professional Angel by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, 1987, University of Pennsylvania Press. pgs 95, 79-86, 110-118, 120-123, 134-137, 159-171, 357-364

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Farewell to Gene Fletcher

Gene FletcherSpring of 2013, Gene Fletcher retired as farrier due to health reasons. From that point on, he struggled with disability; in and out of the hospital and finally succumbed to cancer June 2, 2018. He was 38 years old and left behind a loving wife, Kate.

Gene served in the 26th MEU Marine Corp, Engineer Platoon in Afghanistan. After leaving the military, he attended Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center in Waverly, WV where he studied to be a farrier. Upon completing his training, he became a farrier in Pennsylvania, trained horses and gave riding lessons. He taught an on-line class through Alfred State College; part of the New York State University system.

He completed Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans at Syracuse University; a foundation dedicated to helping veterans network, set-up or expand their own businesses. In addition, Gene was involved with Hunters for Healing a group dedicated to helping disabled veterans.

Gene was the farrier at Ballentine’s Horse Heaven where I had the pleasure of meeting him. He shared his knowledge of horses with those who listened. Some people cross your path in life and are never forgotten; Gene will be remembered by many. He was a true horseman and will be missed greatly by his wife, family and friends. May his soul unite with the other riders of the wind and he rest in peace.

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Rockin’ N Stables Update

I first met Monty and Nancy in November of 2014 on a trail ride through Round Top Park. At that time, they had just purchased the old Round Top Stables and had big plans to turn the place around and make a go of it. They named the new place Rockin’ N Stables.

Fast forward some three and a half years to May, 2018; Anne Shaffer called to remind me of the annual spring trail ride with Monty and Nancy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the ride. A few days later, I stopped by Rockin’ N Stables for a visit.

Monty and Nancy

Monty and Nancy

I could tell you about the events Nancy and Monty host at the Rockin’ N. The Little Buckaroo Rodeo for kids as young as 7, with sack races, bronco-style sheep and calf riding, announcer Kirk Warner, a food truck and vendors; annual fall and spring trail ride to Round Top Park; summer and winter barrel racing competitions; weddings and children’s parties.

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33104613_2129710110375906_5297424800463978496_n Rock n Stables

33146701_2129710607042523_1531859549940613120_nrock n stables

33097371_2129710800375837_4987551139214917632_nRock n stables

Or I could tell you that Rockin’ N recently hosted a clinic with Laura Trumpower on barrel racing, horsemanship and horse health. And that Nancy teaches horseback riding on a one to one basis, and Monty relies on years of experience when he trains horses at the stables. Also, there are stalls to rent on a monthly basis.

All of this is true, but maybe more important are the two people who pull everything together, make everything work, put in the long hours of planning and organizing; the sweat and tears behind the scenes that makes everything work at Rockin’ N Stables. Of course that would be Nancy and Monty; our hats are off to you for a job well done. For more information on Rockin’ N Stable go to their Facebook Page. Happy Trails

Nancy giving a Riding Lesson

Nancy giving a Riding Lesson

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Pinhooking, Racehorses, and Hannah Hooton

Horse racing is a business, sport and a passion. Thoroughbred horse racing consists of many practices and terms; pinhooking in particular is a common strategy. The basic idea is to purchase a thoroughbred foal at auction and sell the horse when it becomes a yearling. Since buying a thoroughbred can be a pricey gamble; people often pool their money and take a share in a foal; hoping to turn a profit when they later sell the horse at auction.

Tattersalls Auction in Newmarket - UK

Tattersalls Auction in Newmarket – UK

Tattersalls auctions was founded in 1766 by Richard Tattersall; today headquartered in Newmarket with another auction house at Fairyhouse just outside Dublin, Ireland. The international firm offers thousands of thoroughbred horses for sale every year. At Tattersalls prices can soar to millions when the ultra-rich compete for a prospective horse.

Racing enthusiasts in the UK often pool their funds and invest in a thoroughbred at Tattersalls December Foal Sale. That’s exactly what racing romance author, Hannah Hooton, and five of her friends did last year. Each member of the group had their own reasons for purchasing the foal; for Hannah it was the fun and the experience which comes with owning a racehorse.

It all started, when Hannah went for a drink with a good friend, Will. He was the manager of a stud farm in Newmarket and invited Hannah to join the pinhooking group. Each member of the group had clear responsibilities. Will, Dee, and Laura took on the day to day work of looking after the foal. This included breaking the horse to bridle, lunging work, grooming and daily care. Another member was a vet. She was instrumental in choosing which foal they would buy and care for the horse if injuries were sustained. The final two members, Hannah and Laura’s mother, were silent partners.

The group had been perusing the Tattersalls Sales Catalog for a couple of months; looking for potential foals. They analyzed each horse’s pedigree and price. Foal’s sired by stallions with a tried and tested reputation were too expensive for the group. They earmarked eleven foals. A filly sired by Swiss Spirit, who’s foals had not yet distinguished themselves on the track; looked promising.

Jolie Feb 17 4 Before the foal went into the auction ring at Tattersalls; the group’s vet called the filly out to have a closer look at the horse. The concern was the filly’s protruding top lip which the vet suspected might indicate something wrong with the foal’s jaw. It turned out it wasn’t anything to worry about; the group bid on the foal and won. Because of the protruding top lip, they decided to call the filly Jolie, named after Angelina.

Jolie Apr 17 8 The months passed by. Hannah enjoyed the exhilaration of owning a horse again. She visited Jolie every few weeks, watched her progress in training, and took lots of pictures.Jolie Jun 17 7

Jolie Jun 17 13

Owning a racehorse can be risky. Young horses can break a leg playing around with other horses in the pasture. Also, disease or complications from an illness can render a horse useless at the track. Fortunely for the pinhooking group, Jolie remained sound and healthy through the ten months of their ownership.

Hannah also followed the track record of Swiss Spirit’s offspring. His first crop of two year olds were an unknown quantity in the breeding shed as their first time on the track came after the group had purchased Jolie. If his progeny did badly then Jolie’s sale price would reflect that, but if they did well, the opposite would occur. In the first few weeks of the racing season the 2 year olds he had sired were at the top of the leaderboard. This would prove lucky for the pinhooking group when they put Jolie up for auction.Jolie Sep 17 9Jolie Dec 16 and Sep 17Jolie Oct 17 7

October came and Jolie returned to Tattersalls. The pinhooking group watched as Jolie was led into the ring and the bidding began. Hannah had throughly enjoyed owning a share in Jolie and would be happy to just break even on the sale. The auctioneer called out the bids and the price grew higher and higher. The pinhooking group watched as the bidding stalled at 6,000 guineas, then continued to 9,000 ($12,500 US dollars). Since the group had purchased Jolie for 3,600 guineas, they were all very pleased with the outcome of the sale.

The ups and downs of owning a racehorse can be exciting; like any risky endeavor there within the thrill lies. For Hannah it was sad to see Jolie go; although, she planned to follow the horse’s racing career.

A bitter sweet feeling washed over Hannah as she watched Jolie leave the ring with a new owner. Yet she knew the buyer, a very good trainer local to Newmarket, would take excellent care of the yearling. He created a racing syndicate for Jolie, which meant the yearling would be owned by another group of racing enthusiasts. Thus came an end to Hannah’s pinhooking experience, until the next future auction when the group decides to buy another foal.

*Note: Hannah has several romance novels on the market involving horse racing. I have reviewed two of her novels ‘Making the Running’ and ‘Share and Share Alike’. Hannah has a great deal of knowledge and experience with horses, which give her novels depth, laced with interesting detail. She has many other novels available as digital books or hard copy. Her novels can be found at the following link:

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Deb Twigg and SRAC in Waverly NY

horse knockerhorse knocker2

A few days ago, I received a call from an old friend; Deb Twigg. She had found on eBay a brass doorknocker in the shape of a horse’s head and thought of me. Deb invited me down to Crooked River Co-op on Broad Street; which she owns and operates. As a gift, Deb presented the doorknocker to me. The doorknocker was a real beauty; made in Waynesboro,Virginia by VA Metal Crafters, copyright 1949.

I met Deb in 2007; when my daughter, Emma, and I volunteered at SRAC. The museum and archeology center had recently opened to the public. For a brief time, I served as a board member. In the fall of 2008, I was volunteering at SRAC when a fellow volunteer told me about her experience helping rescued horses in Newfield, NY. That’s how I came to volunteer at Meadow Gate and meet Pam Watos. It’s remarkable how we are all connected.

Deb Little League image1 (3)Deb grew up in the “Valley” which comprises Athens, Sayre and Waverly. Like so many other small towns in that time period, it was still safe to play in your neighborhood after dark which the kids did every summer night. All the neighbor kids came together.

One favorite “homegrown” game the kids played they called “Gun Tag”; a loose game of tag. To begin with everyone put a foot in a circle, then the kids would chant a rhyme; ‘engine engine number nine going down Chicago train fell off the track do you want your money back’or ‘bubble gum bubble gum in a dish how many pieces do you wish’ or ‘strawberry shortcake, cream on top, how many boyfriends do you got? 1,2,3,4,5 your it’; and of course the old favorite;’eeny meeny miny moe catch a tiger by the toe’.

The game proceeded as follows: the person who was ‘It’ would say “BANG I shot you ‘Phil or whoever’; then, “Phil” had to go to his front porch and sit until someone came from hiding and yelled “Jail Break!” Being chosen ‘It’ proved a thankless job; people sneaking around and running past you in the dark, then once someone was caught, only to see them set free to the sound of ‘JAIL BREAK’. The kids also made up their own yodel, OOOO-AHS; to taunt the person who was it. Nobody could ever guard the porch and find everyone, so it was an endless night of running after people in the dark for that one person who was ‘It’.deb twigg - Little League1

Once Deb hide an extra coat and hat in the bushes as a disguise to fool the person who was ‘It’. She theorized that if the person who was ‘It’ couldn’t recognize her; he/she wouldn’t be able to call out her name and ‘shoot’ her.

At age eleven, Deb became the first girl Little League player in Sayre, PA. The only girl to make the team the first year girls were allowed to play with the boys.

In the fourth grade, Deb’s class studied native American history. The class field trip took the students to the Tioga Point Museum. The museum housed a diverse collection of artifacts created by early American settlers, Native Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, Polynesians, Micronesians, Europeans and peoples from the Middle East. At that time, Native American skeletons were also displayed which added an eerie atmosphere for the young students.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a federal law, enacted on November, 16, 1990, made it illegal for federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to have human remains, funerary objects and sacred objects. The law insured that these artifacts and human remains were returned to Native Americans. So the skeletons were removed.

Tioga Point Museum

spanish hill After the visit to the museum, the students headed for Spanish Hill. Although today a private residence sits on top of the hill, during that time period people often visited and explored Spanish Hill. The students raced to the summit, Deb in the lead; straight up the hill a distance of 230 feet.

Standing atop Spanish Hill, the students were awestruck by the incredible silence which engulfed them. Amazed at how far they could see; the students looked down at the highway far below them. All the kids except one, decided to run around and play games. Duncan, always excluded and picked on by the other students, retreated to a wooded area and played by himself under a tree.

On that particular day, Duncan’s lonely climb and exploration payed off; he found a fully grooved, Native American ax. He became the hero of the day; all the kids gathered around. The teacher had an arm around him in congratulations as Duncan proudly held the ax. It became Duncan’s day! A memory that Deb never forgot.

Native American Fully Grooved Ax

Time moved on and Deb grew up. In the 1990s, she purchased a house at the base of Spanish Hill. The memories of her childhood experiences had faded. Everyday, as she worked on her computer; she looked out her window at Spanish Hill. Often, vultures circled the summit. One day, Deb searched the Internet for local history and discovered the description of a Native American village called “Carantuoan” which fit the description of Spanish Hill.

Deb decided to call up the Tioga Point Museum and ask them what they knew about Carantuoan and Spanish Hill. The person on the other end of the line listened to her question and quickly responded, “Spanish hill is not Carantouan and there are no giant skeletons!”

Surprised by the response, Deb felt challenged to find the answers to the mystery surrounding Spanish Hill and the Native American village Carantuoan. Not one to turn away from a problem, Deb called the president of Carantouan Greenway, Marty Borko. He explained to Deb that Carantouan Greenway simply used the word Carantuoan. There was so much controversy surrounding Carantuoan and Spanish Hill that if Deb ever figured it out; he would really like to know what the truth was.

And so, Deb set out to find answers. She went to every museum and library; photocopied every report, speech, and article she could find about Spanish Hill over the last hundred years. She immersed herself in the documents; people and events seemed to jump off the pages as she read.

louise welles murray7

MoorheadDeb formed deep opinions of the people she read about; they became important role models in her life, even though, she never met them and they had long passed away into history.

The people who inspired Deb were many. Louise Wells Murray who founded the Tioga Point Museum in 1895. Also, Ellsworth Cowles who worked with Louise as a young man and discovered a village site below Spanish Hill in 1933. There were also villains in Deb’s opinion; Warren K. Moorehead, George Heye, and others who did their best to plunder the Valley archeology sites and confuse local history.

Ellsworth Cowes & Son Dick Cowles - 1933 Palisade Village Site

With Deb’s new found knowledge, she visited ‘Pennsylvania Archaeology Research List’, which at the time had an open forum. She started commenting on Spanish Hill and all the things she had learned. To her surprise, the other participants ripped her comments to pieces. One commenter in particular asked Deb, “Why hadn’t you read Pennsylvania State archaeologist, Barry Kent’s book? He stated that Spanish Hill is nothing more than a glacial mound and that locals believing otherwise was simply folklore and myth.”

Deb purchased Barry Kent’s book, ‘Susquehanna’s Indians published 1984. Her recent research helped Deb discover exactly where she felt the state archaeologist had gone wrong. This became the motivation for writing her own article, completely referenced. Deb submitted the article for peer review to The Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology. In the winter of 2005, her article was published.

wooly mammoth dig1Her studies led her to people who had memories of the excavations at Spanish Hill; Dick Cowles and Ted Kier. Dick Cowles helped his father, Ellsworth Cowles, discovered the village site below Spanish Hill. Ted Keir also excavated the site at Spanish Hill; in addition, he worked with the local Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s to preserve the Hill as a historic site.

In 2005, Deb, Ted Kier and Dick Cowles became co-founders of The Susquehanna River Archaeological Center of Native American studies, SRAC. To house the center, they purchased the old Philadelpia Sales building on Broad St. in Waverly, NY in the winter of 2007. The plan was to preserve all of the archaeology of the region that they could and move forward with continued research. They felt that local collections were in dire need of preservation and that more research needed to be done. In addition, they wanted to provide a place where ideas and information could be shared; as well as, a place to educate the public about local Native American prehistoric and historic past.

This past year, Deb lost a good friend and co-founder Ted Keir. Dick Cowles is now 93 and still conducts tours in the museum every Thursday. SRAC also has two archaeologist on staff and excavations to uncover more answers are underway. The center is staffed 100% by volunteers and the doors are open five days a week. It is Deb’s wish that SRAC lasts for years to come and that the community will continue to support the center in the future. She hopes that like Louise Wells Murray, the museum she helped create will be Deb’s legacy to future generations.

If you haven’t already met Deb stop by SRAC. The center’s location is 345 Broad St. Waverly, NY and hours are 1-5 PM Tuesdays – Friday; 11 AM – 4 PM Saturdays. To contact the center by mail: SRAC, PO Box 12, Sayre, PA 18840 or email at or call 1(607)565-7960. In addition, comments are always welcomed.

Ted Kier, Debb Twigg, Dick Cowles touched2
(right to left) Dick Cowles, Deb Twigg, Ted Kier

Sources: Tioga Point Museum, photo taken by Doug Kerr; Ellsworth and Richard Cowles, photo in family collection

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Beloved Stallion – Fade Away

Fade Away and Barb What is it about horse crazy girls who turn into grown women? The one’s who dream of the perfect horse and continue hoping to find one; even though, we all know that perfect animal may only be a figment of our imagination. And yet the search goes on; we know what to look for; the guidelines have been laid out in novels and films.

The 8-year-old girl in all horse eccentric woman still hopes for that perfect steed. Ask any young rider ‘What kind of horse would you like to ride?’ and the answer you’re liking to hear is something like – “a black stallion of course”.

So what happens when you find that ‘black stallion’? Pure joy; that’s what Barb Barnes felt when she purchased the nine-year-old stallion, Fade Away, in 2011. He had the perfect disposition; calm and intelligent. The stallion proved a good trail horse and excellent around children. Fade Away sired three foals at Windy Ridge; a colt and two fillies.

The years rolled by; Fade Away developed breathing problems and COPD. Barb tried many remedies, but the years took their toll on the stallion. During the fall of 2015 pollen filled the air creating difficult conditions for the horse. Fade Away’s breathing became excessively labored; with each breath his rib-cage heaved and his nostrils flared as he tried desperately to breath. After extensive treatments, Barb felt she had no choice but to put the stallion out of his misery.

Time goes by, but some things are not forgotten. Some memories dwell in the heart and soul as well as the mind. For all of us who had the good fortune to meet Fade Away; the beautiful black Arab stallion; we will never forget his gentle grace.

Fade Away - 2011

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