Rabid Fox at Horse Heaven in Athens, PA

The rabies virus and resulting illness formed a fearful specter within the human collective conscious as early as 3,000 BC when first recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The disease raged through Europe and the Middle East transmitted to humans largely by dogs; century after century without a known cure. In 1885 two scientist, Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux, developed a vaccine for the dreaded disease and administered it to a 9 year old boy named Joseph Meister. The vaccine proved a success; resulting in saving the boy’s life. Since the discovery of the rabies vaccine the disease has been kept under control; although, still persists in wild animal populations.John Ballentine

The rabies virus can infect any mammal including horses, goats, cattle and of course humans. Exposure to the virus occurs from the saliva of an infected animal; either through a direct bite, contact with broken skin or open wound, or contact with eyes, nose or mouth. Once the virus has obtained entry to the nervous system it multiples in muscle tissue; the virus slowly migrates towards the brain. During this incubation period the animal cannot transmit the disease; however, as soon as the virus reaches the brain and salivary glands the animal begins to display symptoms and become infectious to others. Symptoms of rabies include aggressive behavior, loss of fear, daytime activity by nocturnal species, difficulty swallowing, restlessness, decreased activity, incoordination, coma and sudden death.

Grey Fox Dcrjsr_Wikimedia CommonsOn April 29th at 6:00 in morning Connie snapped her dog’s leashes to the dog run cable near the back porch. She hurried back inside to shower and get ready for work. After her shower, halfway ready for work, her hair wrapped in a towel and wearing a tee shirt; she came back to get the dogs.

Trixie frantically dug near the woodshed as Connie tugged at the dog’s leash. Suddenly, out of the hole popped an angry grey fox. The female fox chased the two dogs as Connie pulled on the leashes and tried to get her animals to safety inside the house. The fox darted onto the porch using a feedbox and cat house as part of its obstacle course. Within seconds, the fox leapt off the porch and attacked Connie’s’ black lab, Molly; pinning the dog to the ground by her neck.Trixie and Dexter

At lightning speed, Connie ran to the dog’s aid, grabbed Molly’s leash, unclipped it from the cable and pulled the dog to its feet and towards the back door. Meanwhile the fox followed the pair and tried to get into the house. Connie grabbed the towel off of her head and flung the wet cloth at the aggressive animal attempting to shoo it off the porch. The two, fox and woman, continued their strange dance for a few minutes until finally the fox jumped off the porch and headed for the woods not far from the chicken coop.

Finally, now that the fox had left, Connie returned to the house and finished getting ready for work. Without warning, the sound of screeching cats filled the air. Fearing a cat fight in the backyard, Connie hurried to find out what was going on. When she opened the screen porch door and peered out; she saw the fox in the midst of an attack on her two cats, Oscar and Dexter. The fox pinned Oscar to the ground and stood on top of the cat.GrayFox photo by Tim Ross

Connie rushed into the house screaming, “Wake up Johnn! Wake up, get out of bed and grab your shotgun!”

After mobilizing Johnn, Connie finished dressing for work and left the house. Meanwhile, the fox crawled into the cat house on the back porch. Johnn readied his shotgun and walked out the backdoor headed for the woodshed in search of the fox. Not finding the animal there, he returned to the porch as the fox climbed out of the cat house and stood momentarily by the back door. Johnn took aim and shot the fox.

A few hours later, I pulled my SUV into the driveway in front of the stables. Johnn, busy doing chores, told me about the fox.

“I called the Game Commission but they said they didn’t test animals for rabies. I’d have to cut off the fox’s head and take it to a vet,” said Johnn.

“That doesn’t sound like fun. Where is the fox now?” I asked.

“I put it in the chicken coop.”

I saddled Pepper and headed for Round Top Park. The early morning sun cast a soft light upon the landscape and the fresh, new leaves filled the air with the fragrance of spring. After my ride, I climbed into my vehicle and started to back out of the driveway only to see Connie driving up the road. She stopped briefly and explained she left work to see if she could locate the cats which had been attacked by the fox.

Connie called the Game Commission. Although they had no record of Johnn’s earlier call; when they realized a human had been exposed to the rabies virus two officers were immediately sent out to Horse Heaven.

One Game Warden retrieved the dead fox from the chicken coop while the other questioned Johnn.

“Could you have shooed the fox away?” asked the officer.

“No, it was on my back porch trying to get at my wife and dogs. It’s not normal for a fox to be out in broad daylight acting so aggressive,” replied Johnn.

“A few days ago we received a report of a strange acting fox from up the road, but we couldn’t find it. Where did you shoot the fox?”

Johnn pointed to a blood stained board on the deck flooring next to the back door, “Right there.”

The officers from the Game Commission left with the dead fox and the next day Johnn and Connie received news about the animal. The Dept. of Agriculture and the Game Commission called the Ballentines informing them that the fox tested positive for rabies; the Dept. of Health called and explained that Connie needed to get a rabies shot. Notice of Rabies Quarintine

Connie immediately called Robin her vet and explained about the rabid fox. The next day, Robin came out to administer rabies vaccine booster shots to all of the horses. The dogs and cats received booster shots too.

A few days later, the vet from the Dept. of Agriculture quarantined the dogs, Trixie and Molly, for 60 days inside the house; although, the animals could go outside if accompanied by Connie or Johnn. Due to the fact that Connie didn’t have a record of the cat’s rabies vacinations; the cats, Oscar and Dexter, were quarantine for 180 days inside the garage, away from all contact with humans and other animals.

Two yellow papers, taped to the window near the front porch, informed the pubic that the animals were quarantined. Besides the anxiety and fear of dealing with a rabid animal; Connie and Johnn financially were out $350 for rabies booster shots.

That brings a close to the episode of the rabid fox. Country living goes hand in hand with wildlife neighbors; sometimes a black bear after bird seed in your feeder, deer and rabbits nibbling your vegetables and shrubs and ever so rarely a rabid animal on a rampage on your back porch. If you thought country living was boring, think again; there is never a dull moment. Until next time – Happy Trails

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Colonel Jim Eskew and his Wild West Show in Waverly, NY

JE Rodeo Official ProgramNot far from Ballentine’s Horse Heaven, housed in a small building along a back road, stands a tack and saddle repair shop. The shop is run by a kind, elderly gentleman who knows the past and can make it come alive with local stories of horses, cowboys, western singers and rodeos. That is where I first heard of Colonel Jim Eskew and his Wild West Show in Waverly, NY.

Jim Eskew was an accomplished horseman and cowboy. Originally from Tennessee, he worked on ranches, Mulhall’s Wild West Show, Sparks Circus, and eventually, managed small rodeos. By 1933 Jim had formed his own Wild, West Show, which toured New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Several years passed and his rodeo grew prompting him to seek a permanent winter home for the traveling show.

JE Rodeo ProgramIn Waverly NY, two brothers, restaurateur and inn owners Ed and Bill O’Brian, felt Eskew’s Wild West Show would be good for local business. They brought their idea to the Waverly Board of Trade and Jim Eskew. After a year of negotiations, in July of 1939, Eskew accepted the boards offer; a 300 acre farm four miles outside of Waverly. In exchange for the property, Colonel Jim Eskew would remain there for at least 3 years and annually stage a Wild, West Show for the town.

Before long, Colonel Eskew, his troupe of performers and crew took up residency at the old Ralph Shock farm also known as the Loomis farm located between Talmadge Hill road and Lockwood. They renovated and enlarged the existing barn on the property and purchased an additional 300 acres from the adjoining Jenkins farm.

The Colonel brought to the ranch 150 head of livestock including brahma bulls, buffalo, cattle, bucking broncos and riding horses. He had a weekly payroll of $1,200; in today’s dollars that would be approximately $20,264. Colonel Eskew built cabins, bunkhouses, an Indian village, tack shop, livestock barns, areas to train animals, showgrounds and grandstands. During summers the JE Ranch hosted a camp for girls and boys. His Wild, West Show was the biggest performing rodeo East of the Mississippi. Cars clogged the narrow road leading to the showgrounds as hundreds of people flocked to view the show. Waverly became the ‘Rodeo Capital of the East’; business in the small town was booming.

Eskew Family, Colonel Jim Eskew, his wife Dolly, Tom and Jim Jr. little girl unknownEveryone in the Eskew family performed in the rodeo; the Colonel and his wife Dolly, as well as his sons Jim Jr. and Tom. The stars lined up to perform read like a who’s who in Hollywood. Top cowboy singing star Roy Rogers was a regular; other famous performers included Dale Evans, Sons of the Pioneers, The Cisco Kid and Pancho, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue, Andy Devine, Gene Autry, Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson.

Jim Jr. Eskew World Champion Trick and Fancy RoperColonel Eskew’s son, Jim Jr., was a star roper. He performed rope tricks on horseback including skipping rope while standing on top of his saddled horse. He became the Worlds Champion Trick and Fancy Roper when he competed and won the title at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in NYC.

The advent of World War II triggered the end of the rodeo; the Colonel’s sons left for war and his wife, Dolly, died. After the war a new type of entertainment took hold; television. The JE Ranch and Rodeo fell on hard times as crowds dwindled. Colonel Jim Eskew sold the ranch in 1957 and retired. He moved to Ardmore Oklahoma and passing away on February 23, 1965.

In Waverly the memory of the JE Ranch faded. There isn’t much to tell that it ever existed. The only remaining buildings are the main house and a single cabin. If you ask Waverly old-timers about the Rodeo chances are you’ll get a smile and a story; otherwise, Colonel Jim Eskew’s Wild West Show is pretty much forgotten.


http://www.astortheater.org/articles16.html; Elmira Star-Gazette, Thursday, July 13, 1939; http://www.ithaca.com/news/local_news/looking-back-on-the-rodeo-capital-of-the-east/article_20623189-3473-5724-ad0e-a9b9c7f6c531.html;
http://www.tiogahistory.org/Site/Waverly.html; http://tioga.nygenweb.net/rodeo.htm; http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~howardlake/amusement8/fraleysny.html; http://www.valleymorningstar.com/news/article_0030e1b7-d5b1-5714-9222-7cc6a5137b8b.html; http://www.tiogahistory.org/Site/Waverly.html; http://tioga.nygenweb.net/rodeo.htm

Note: Colonel Eskew brought the first quarter horses to the Eastern states; breeding the horses on his ranch. The sales from the horses totaled over $150,000 which would be in today’s dollars approximately $1,354,165.

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Hannah Hooton’s Latest Novel – ‘Making the Running’

MTR Front Cover Large w Bk 4 text 1I recently read Hannah Hooton’s newly released novel, ‘Making the Running’, the fourth book in the Aspen Valley Series. Although the novel may be described as adult, romance fiction involving horses and racing, this book is a bit more. Hooton’s characters, and their intertwining family relationships, wrestle with the psychological motivations which draw people together or push them apart.

The novel revolves around Kate; a groom and exercise girl working at Aspen Valley Racing Stables for trainer Jack Carmichael. Her deep attachment to the horse she cares for, d’Artagnan, at times overshadows her romance with two brothers, Ben and Nicholas. Kate finds herself involved with circumstances beyond her control and forced to make decisions which have long term consequences.

The racing and horse scenes are well written and illustrate Hooton’s firsthand knowledge of the events. The author’s familiarity with racing allows the reader an inside look at how races can be manipulated. In addition, ‘Making the Running’ delves deeply into broken family relationships, addiction, poverty, status and ultimately the universal battle between responsibility to one’s self verses family. The characters are very well developed and believable; exactly what one would expect in a Hooton novel.

After finishing the last chapter, I put down the book but the characters remained with me. As it is with novels that open up a fictional world which seem so real; I was left with the gnawing question “I wonder what these people are up to now?”

I highly recommend Hannah Hooton’s novel, ‘Making the Running’, to those who love horses, romance and psychological intrigue. The novel is a digital book and can be found at the following links:


*Note: The first novel, “Keeping the Peace”, in the Aspen Valley series is free on Hannah’s website, Hannah Hooton’s Website listed under Books.

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Equine Wellness Clinic at Rising Home Farm

Dawn and Buddy BellisMy SUV twisted around tight turns on the gravel road. I slowed the vehicle since frozen earth, coated with a thin layer of ice and dusted with snow, created hazardous conditions. The temperature hovered around 27 degrees; the windchill factor made the air feel more like 14. Early morning light filtered through grey clouds which occasionally released fresh snowflakes; tiny dry crystals that hung in the air, softly blown skyward towards the clouds which spawned them. Before long, I pulled my vehicle to a stop at my destination, Rising Hope Farm.

Horse trailers and trucks lined the driveway. I couldn’t see anyone but in the barn it was a different story. The Equine Wellness Clinic was underway with horse providers stationed along the central aisle; each manning their post next to a box stall. There is something about Rising Hope Farm which exudes safety, order, horse sense, and good planning. The Clinic was no acceptance to this rule; even though the barn was full of people, horses and providers, a claim, cool and collectiveness ordered of the day.Rising Hope Horse Clinic

Dawn and Kenny were drinking coffee when I turned to Dawn and asked,” Why did you organize the clinic?”

“Another stable sponsored a clinic and I thought it was a great idea. So, I contacted the equine providers and set the date. People spread the word. We have approximately 25 people in attendance and plan to have the clinic next year too.”

The one day clinic provided horse owners a wide variety of services; spring vaccinations, lameness exams, x-rays, ultra sounds, chiropractor, dental work, hooves trimmed or shod and massage therapy. Instead of scheduling each equine provider individually, horse owners had access to all services at one location saving time and money.Starfire Gets Breathing TreatmentDarian Coykendall at Sports Massage

Wildfire, Lou Anne Miller’s horse, stood quietly in the center aisle as Darian Coykendall of High Class Equine Therapy administer a breathing treatment. The horse had suffered from breathing problems for several years and Lou Anne hoped the treatment would help. The nebulizer was filled with Equisilver Vet Antimicrobial Silver, a natural solution which aids respiration.

Darian performs massage for horses and dogs. One aid she uses in her work is called a Theraplate. The machine, a raised massage platform which fibrates at various speeds, provides therapeutic treatment to a horse’s hooves and legs. The machine functions as a sort of foot massage for horses. We stood on the Theraplate and Darian turned it on. A pleasant tingling sensation moved through my feet to my legs.

Sasha Kone, Equine DentistIn the next stall I watched Sasha Kone, an equine dentist from Endless Mountain Equine Dentistry, fit a speculum onto a small horse. She opened the horse’s mouth, and then began filing rough edges off the animal’s teeth. Sasha began working as an equine dentist when she graduated from the Texas Institute of Equine Dentistry in 2005.

Anne Shaffer and ShadowI walked further into the barn and met Anne Shaffer standing in a stall with Shadow. During the past summer, Shadow had cut his knee open. The cut healed leaving a protruding bump. Before Anne began riding season, she wanted the knee x-rayed by a vet at the clinic to make sure that it was okay.

The two vets at the clinic, Maral Avetian and Megan Tiffany, attended veterinarian school together at Penn State. They have been practicing since 2012. Vet Megan Tiffany

Vet Maral Avetian

Maral x-rayed Shadow’s leg and found nothing wrong. She moved on to Sam Lantz’s horse Clyde. Several months ago, Clyde suffered an injury while barrel racing and had been lame ever since. Sam took his horse outside to the round-pen so Maral could watch how the horse moved.

Rob Wright Chiropractic CareI walked back into the barn and down the central aisle to a stall where chiropractor, Rob Wright, stood on a stepstool. He carefully aligned the bones in the horse’s back. Ron has worked as a chiropractor for the last ten years and learned his trade from his father. He works on approximately 600 horses a year. His advice to horse owners, ‘when something gets out of alignment have the chiropractor fix it right away. The longer you wait the greater the strain on the entire body besides being harder to fix’.

Kenny Bellis worked on a horse in the next stall. He was busy filing down and trimming the horse’s hooves. I looked down the central aisle and watched the people and horses for a moment, then said my farewells and walked outside.

I climbed back into my SUV and turned towards home. The wind had picked up. Snowflakes danced in the sky as if they were afraid of the frozen earth below. As I drove the lonely road, I thought to myself that the clinic was a fantastic idea which materialized into a well-organized event. Dawn Bellis, skilled horsewoman, deserves accolades for organizing and providing a place to host the clinic. Truly, a service to the community.

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Comanche – Only Survivor of the Little Bighorn

I began researching this article several months ago, and in doing so, stumbled across another story about cold war intrigue and the death of a president. Research is like that, you never know exactly what will turn up or where the information trail will lead you. In any case, Comanche was the first horse to receive a full military burial with honors. The second horse to receive such honors was Black Jack but that’s another story.Myles_Keogh

Comanche was not General Custer’s horse as legend and songs would have you believe. The horse became the property of the US Army in 1868 when the animal was purchased in St. Louis, Missouri. Shortly afterward, Captain Myles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry bought the 15 hand, buckskin gelding. The horse became his personal mount. While stationed in Kansas to fight in the Indian Wars, Keogh’s new horse was wounded by an arrow. The horse made a sound like a Comanche war cry but continued to carry Keogh in battle. Subsequently, he renamed the horse Comanche. ComancheeCuster-GrabillLR

In the spring and summer of 1876, Hunkpapa Lakota holy man, Sitting Bull, organized a gathering of Plains Indians at Ash Creek, Montana. By June, the meeting place moved to the Little Bighorn River. The encampment united Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. They came to discuss how to deal with whites in search of gold in the Black Hills and the Indian’s forced removal from tribal homelands to reservations by the US Calvary.

On June 24, 1876, Custer set out to engage the Indians in combat at the Little Bighorn. Custer divided his men into three battalions. Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen each headed a battalion while Custer led the third. The three battalions set out to encircle the Indian camp; Custer attacking from the north.

Things did not go as planned for Custer and his men. The Native Americans wiped out Custer’s battalion to the last man and captured their horses. Captain Keogh was killed and his horse Comanche lay in a ravine badly wounded. Two days after the battle Sergeant DeLacey of Company I and his men found the injuried horse; the only survivor on the battlefield. Keogh’s body sustained a bullet wound to the left knee which corresponded to a wound through the chest and flank of Comanche. This fact lead observers to conclude that horse and rider fell together in battle.

Although badly wounded Comanche was able to stand. He was taken aboard the steamer, the Far West, and transported back to Fort Lincoln in North Dakota where he recovered. Comanche’s injuries were extensive. He sustained three severe wounds; bullets penetrated the horse’s neck, front shoulder and hind quarters. The remaining four bullet wounds were superficial. After recovering from his injuries, Comanche was retired from active duty.

Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis, commander of the 7th Cavalry, at Fort Lincoln on April 10, 1878 issued the following order:

    (1.) The horse known as ‘Comanche,’ being the only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate struggle against overwhelming numbers of the hopeless conflict and the heroic manner in which all went down on that fatal day.
    (2.) The commanding officer of Company I will see that a special and comfortable stable is fitted up for him, and he will not be ridden by any person whatsoever, under any circumstances, nor will he be put to any kind of work.
    (3.) Hereafter, upon all occasions of ceremony of mounted regimental formation, ‘Comanche,’ saddled, bridled, and draped in mourning, and led by a mounted trooper of Company I, will be paraded with the regiment.

Thus Comanche became the lone hero and symbol of the battle at the Little Bighorn. Popularized as the heroic horse of Custer, Comanche, became well known to the public and a legend. comanche110425jd028-26websample_0

In June 1879, Comanche moved to Fort Meade, South Dakota where he was stabled in royal fashion. Eventually, the horse relocated to Fort Riley in Kansas. Twelve years later, Comanche died of colic at the presumed age of 29. He received a military funeral with full honors.

The Calvalry officer’s deep affection for Comanche moved them to have the horse stuffed. They contacted Professor Lewis Dyche at Kansas University to preserve the animal. Dyche’s fee was $400 and he retained the right to display Comanche at the 1893 Expostion in Chicago. The professor built an elaborate frame of wood, wire and clay on which to drape the horse’s hide. He finished his work preserving Comanche and waited for payment and transport back to Fort Riley.

It is unclear why the professor never received payment for his work; however as the result, Comanche remained at Kansas University Natural History Museum. The stuffed horse traveled to The Exposition in Chicago where it was widely viewed by the public. Currently, Comanche resides in a showcase at the university.

It would seem that with time Comanche’s legend would fade; however, Hollywood and the music industry saw things differently. Johnny Horton, country music and rockabilly singer, released ‘Comanche (The Brave Horse) in 1956. The song commemorates Custer’s last stand at the Little Big Horn and Comanche, the last survivor of the battle. Unfortunately, the facts are not totally correct in the song as Comanche was not Custer’s horse but poetic license has a way of clouding reality.

David Appel published ‘Comanche: The Story of America’s Most Heroic Horse’ in 1951. The book gave a fictional account of Comanche’s story; narrated by the horse. Walt Disney Productions based the film ‘Tonka’ on Appel’s novel. Released in 1958, the movie featured Sal Mineo and was filmed in Bend, Oregon.

And so Comanche’s legend lives on. Other books have been written about the horse’s life and I’m sure new ones will appear in the future. Meanwhile, the stuffed horse remains showcased at the Kansas University Natural History Museum.


http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/3312; http://www.midsouthhorsereview.com/news.php?id=5450; http://www.garryowen.com/comanche2.htm; http://www.infoplease.com/biography/var/comanche.html; http://custerlives.com/custer4.htm; http://horseandman.com/people-and-places/the-famous-horse-comanche/09/21/2012/; http://www.custermuseum.org/Comanche.htm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comanche_%28horse%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Armstrong_Custer; http://horseandman.com/people-and-places/the-famous-horse-comanche/09/21/2012/; http://naturalhistory.ku.edu/visit/exhibits/comanche; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Horton

Photographs: John C. H. Grabill – John C. H. Grabill Collection, Library of Congress, Reproduction number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-02554 This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsc.02554. Public Domain

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Horse Gear Outlet Video and History

A few weeks ago I received a friendly comment from Mandy at Horse Gear Outlet. Along with the e-mail she sent a video which advertised the company’s on-line site. If you’ve watched the video you can see why I was hooked: very entertaining and wickedly funny.

I have never ordered from Horse Gear Outlet so I can’t endorse them but from what I see they offer their products at a discount. The company’s mission statement is “We aim to be the on-line saddlery store of choice by offering quality products at reduced prices, fast shipping and superior customer service”.

Greg Grant Saddlery is a family owned and operated business. Greg and Patricia Grant began selling horse equipment and saddles in 1977 at their store located in Coopers Plains, Brisbane, Australia. Greg, a livestock auctioneer in North South Wales, established his agency selling in Cannon Hill. Before long the Grants expanded their business; owning five stores and becoming the largest supplier of horse riding equipment and saddlery in Australia. GregGrantSaddleryLogo

Greg and Patricia Grant, the founders of Greg Grant Saddlery, tragically died in a car accident December 2013 while on holiday in India. The company and business they founded passed into the hands of their family. The couple left behind daughter Amanda Innes, son Barton Grant, son-in-law Wroxton Innes, daughter-in-law Jeanette Grant and grandchildren, Sterling, Jasper, Clayton and Darcy.

The ‘Saddle Up For a Steal’ video was produced by Ride Free Media in Brisbane, Australia and released on the web in February. The production was filmed in four days at different locations; South East Queensland, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. Local actors played the parts for the shoot and the local horse community provided ranches, horses and riders. The video has created some controversy within horse communities, although, the intent of the creators was good-natured fun.

The company’s website can be found on-line at Greg Grant Saddlery. Recently a second website was created, Horse Gear Outlet , to move end of the line and seasonal items to make way for new stock in their stores. Additionally, their buyers seek out deals, past season stock and end of line merchandise at discount which allows the company to offer customers reduced prices.

Happy trails to all of my readers until next time – Pat

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Brittney Joy’s Experiences with Horses

Brittney with Che
Brittney grew up in Winona, Minnesota near Big Valley Ranch*. At the age of ten she packed her suitcase and headed for horse summer camp. The ranch stretches over 165 acres providing plenty of trails perfect for a young girl to explore on horseback. By the end of summer Brittney found herself hooked on horses; beginning an equine habit which escalated into a lifetime passion.

At twelve, Brittney began working at the ranch mucking out stalls and leading trail rides. Her parents surprised Brittney on her thirteenth birthday with a special gift; Austie a bay Quarter Horse/Saddlebred cross with a white heart on her forehead. The mare loved to run fast. She tolerated braids and ribbons woven into her mane and nickered for treats when she saw the young girl.

Brittney boarded her new horse at the Big Valley Ranch which became her home away from home. Each summer ripened into a horse lover’s dream of long trail rides and camping trips with friends amid nature’s tranquil beauty. Winters provided another type of adventure; riding bareback through the snow covered landscape.

Typically, those bit by the horse bug leave horses behind after graduating from high school, entering the age of young adulthood and college. No way was that going to happen to Brittney. She and a close horseback riding friend decided to take their horses to college. Austie walked into a horse trailer and arrived at her new home across the street from the equine facilities at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls where Brittany attended classes in animal science and marketing communications.

brittney with stella When Brittney graduated from college, she sold Austie to a local family with two young girls and bought an almost two year old filly name Stella. Stella and Brittney moved to Oregon. Time marched on, Brittney married, became the mother of two wonderful step-sons and of course continued owning horses. Brittney competed in horse shows; Western Pleasure, dabbled in reining and jumping in college and Western Dressage last summer. Recently, Brittney joined the American Competitive Trail Horse Association and began competitive trail riding. brittney 3

There is something about horseback riding which brings out the artist lurking within us. Perhaps it’s the immense beauty of riding through the countryside or the thrill created by racing up a hill astride a living locomotive hell-bent on speed. Whatever it is, many people involved with horses turn to writing or painting. Two years ago, Brittany sat down and began writing her first novel; a dream she had since high school. An avid reader, she was inspired by her experiences as a young girl riding horses and the Thoroughbred Series written by Joanna Campbell. As of this date, Brittney has written two novels in the Red Ranch Series: Lucy’s Chance and Showdown. The novels are written for teens and pre-teens. If you love horses and stories about them you can find her novels on-line at Amazon. You can also read more about Brittney Joy on facebook and her website.

Happy trails to all those who love riding horses or just love reading and dreaming about them.

*Footnote on Big Valley Ranch: The ranch was threatened by urban expansion as much of the surrounding acreage has been turned into housing developments. The owner, Gayle Goetzman, enrolled her ranch with the Minnesota Land Trust; a non-profit organization that oversees approximately 29,000 acres in the state. The ranch is now protected from development.

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Brittney Joy’s Novel, Lucy’s Chance, Red Rock Ranch Series

Red Rock RanchA few weeks ago, I received another request to review a novel; this time from a writer and horsewoman in Portland, Oregon. Again, I am not a book critic and do not routinely review books. However, I agreed to read and review Brittney Joy’s novel, Lucy’s Chance. How could I resist, considering the fact that I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and rode my first horse there.

The novel is set on a fictional ranch in the foothills of Oregon’s Mount Hood. The story opens when Lucy Rose begins her dream, summer job at Red Rock Ranch. Although she knows horses, Lucy has a lot to learn about ranch life. Casey Parker, a cowboy and co-worker, helps Lucy when her job gets tough. Although she likes Casey, her romantic interest is soon squashed by the pretty rodeo queen who has her eyes on the handsome cowboy. Things spin out of control when a wild mystery horse crashes into a trail ride Lucy and Casey are leading through a lush wooded trail high in the mountains. The horse returns to the ranch with them and Lucy takes on the responsibility of taming the wild steed. Where did the horse come from and what will happen to the beautiful animal?

Joy’s understanding of horse psychology adds a realistic note to an enjoyable book written for young people. Mystery and romance intertwine leading the reader through the novel. I enjoyed the book and recommend the novel to pre-teens and teens; especially those horse crazy girls who live, breathe and dream horses.

Lucy’s Chance is an on-line novel and can be found at the following link: Amazon. You can also read more about Brittney Joy on facebook and her website.

In the coming weeks I plan to write a short biography of Brittney’s adventures with horses. Until then, happy trails to all my readers.

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Rockin’ N Stables and Ranch, Athens PA

Trail Riders from Rockin' N StablesSaturday morning, October 18, promised a few raindrops and overcast skies. The weather, perfect for riding, was in the high 50’s. Pepper whinnied to her pasture buddies as I brushed her down and saddled up. I pulled on a rain poncho, just in case the sky decided to shower the earth. Stepping into the stirrup, Pepper and I headed up Murray Creek Road; on our way to meet up with Anne Shaffer and the riders from Rockin’ N Stables.

The morning landscape unfolded before me; dull grey, splashed with muted orange and red. Quiet engulfed the countryside except for an occasional rustle as mice or a squirrel hurried through fallen leaves. I reined Pepper onto Reagan Road and saw the trail riders coming my way.

Taking a Break - trail rideI joined the group and we traveled along graveled back roads towards Round Top Park. It had been a long time since Anne and I had ridden together. Once in the park, we headed down a trail off the road only to spot a hunter stalking small game. The road seemed safer so we doubled back to the one road which cut through the park.

At a scenic lookout the group dismounted, had a pleasant lunch, chatted and enjoyed the view of the valley far below.

On the trail ride, I met Monte and Nancy the new owners at Rockin’ N Stables. The place was undergoing big changes, not only in name, but with new programs, riding lessons, boarding and plans for the future. A few days after the trail ride, I found myself sitting in at their kitchen table talking horses.Monte and Nancy - Lunch Break Roundtop

Monte was born and raised in Honeyville, Utah; a small farming community in northern Utah not far from the Idaho border and skirted by the Wellsville Mountains to the east. He grew up on five acres of land. Horses were always part of Monte’s life; first his parents horses than his own. His grandparents managed a ranch which gave Monte a chance to experience ranch life.rockinNranch 909edited1

He watched as a young boy as his father trained horses. A tragic horse accident claimed his father’s life when Monte was 8 years old but that didn’t stop him from getting his first horse; a 3 month old Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred mix. In high school, he signed up for rodeo classes. The classes stressed roping and teamwork. The Box Elder County Sheriff’s Posse worked with the students when they practiced roping skills at the local fairgrounds.

Monte participated in rodeos through high school and joined the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Posse for a few years after graduation. He improved his knowledge of horses by attending clinics and gained experience by training horses. Monte developed as a trainer and now trains horses at Rockin’ N.

Although Nancy’s dad owned Arabs and ran a tack shop, her family moved a lot due to the nature of her father’s job. So she never had her own horse as a child. When she reached her early 30’s Nancy bought her first horse from a horse dealer. Cash, a Paint Quarter horse, proved an emotional wreak; she later found out the horse had been beaten with a 2-by-4.

The dealer upon delivering the horse gave her a parting word of advice, “ride that horse as much as you can. The more you ride him the better he’ll be.” And that’s just what she did. With patience, understanding, work and love Cash turned the corner from a difficult horse to a true companion.

Little girls sharing a  rideMonte and Nancy bought Round Top Stables last year and renamed the place Rockin’ N Stables. As newlyweds, they are building and planning their dream of managing a horse business. Monte trains horses and Nancy gives riding lessons to people of all ages.

Their mentor, John Mallory, an expert horseman gives private lessons once a month as well as providing advice to the couple. Lady’s night is every other Thursday from 6 to 8 pm. Every other Wednesday the arena is available to work your horse. Play dates are scheduled for social time and working horses on barrels and poles. In December or January there will be a Trail Challenge clinic to desensitize horses to spooky things on the trail and road such as mailboxes and bridges.

Every year, the stables will host an annual trail ride. Additionally, Monty and Nancy will sponsor a reception to thank people who have participated in events at Rockin’ N. The ranch has 40 stalls to stable horses. For a schedule of events follow Rockin’ N on facebook or call (570) 250-1038 to visit the stables at 3323 Wolcott Hollow Road, Athens, PA.

Father and Daughter waiting to competeA few days later, I attended Rockin’ N’s Halloween Party/Play Day. There were participants of all ages in costume, running barrels, playing horse games, hanging out and just having a good time.

I asked Nancy, “How have things gone for your business so far.”

“The group of people that come make everything worthwhile. They have become friends and help each other. They are amazing people, down to earth, friendly and make our events a family fun environment. Our moto is ‘Living the Dream’.”Halloween Party Participants at Rockin N Stables and Ranch1

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Hannah Hooton’s Adventures in Australia – Part II

Photo 1 - Billy - Outback Station AUSHannah spent a year traveling across Australia working with horses. The first leg of her trip brought her to Okehampton, a cattle station in New South Wales. She took ‘jackaroo courses’ for a week and learned how to muster or round up cattle. Billy, an affable Quarter Horse became her working partner. After a week on the course she became a riding instructor for the program and stayed another two weeks.

Photo 2 -Coolmore AUS Hannah packed her bags and moved on to Scone, an isolated town in picturesque Hunter Valley. The town was home to the Thoroughbred Breeding Headquarters of Australia. In search of a job, Hannah checked into a cheap hotel, rooted through a phone book and rang up every stud farm in the vicinity. She landed a job looking after mares and foals at Coolmore Australia. This began a six week stay and involved caring for some of the most well-bred horses in Australia.

Her day to day responsibly included caring for two mares; She’s Archie and L’On Vite. She’s Archie, although newly introduced to the race track, came in 1st in the South Australian Oaks and 2nd in the Melbourne Cup. L’On Vite’s personality left something to be desired as she proved to be nippy and often in a grouchy mood. However, Hannah felt the mare had the best bloodlines on the farm having Secretariat for a sire and Fanfreluche for a dam.

Paypacket 2005 AUS As Hannah’s dream job unfolded there were moments which were anything but jolly. She found herself stepped on, bitten, kicked and run over within a short period of time. The weanlings looked cute until one double barreled her in the chest resulting in a trip to the local hospital. The doctor seemed more interested in the farm’s celebrity stallion, Encosta de Lago, than her injury. Luckily, Hannah only had sever bruising and no internal injuries.

She moved on to a stable in Melbourne where she cared for several unraced two year old colts. Although she had been involved with horses her entire life here she came to realize how truly different equine personalities could be. She gave each a nickname according to their idiosyncrasies. Logic could be cunning, sneaking in a nip when Hannah wasn’t looking. Denny, the clown, enjoyed play. Hemmers hated getting up in the morning and lay moaning refusing to begin the day. Dennis nervously walked his stall making a mess; head shy, he proved difficult to bridle. Ross, beautiful and majestic, displayed noble grandeur. Showella foal 2005 AUS

Pastice 2005 AUSHannah’s big racing adventure came to a close at the end of an action packed year. Looking back, she remembered the pain, joy, exhilaration, delight, and perhaps on occasion fear of her jobs; racing strapper, groom, turf club secretary, race day vet assistant, Magic Millions auction vet assistant and many more. She left Australia with journals full of horse adventures.

Hannah traded her saddle in for Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and embarked on a career as a novelist. She received a degree in Writing and Film Studies and won two prizes at the university; one for top of her year and the other for the best dissertation/major project, which happened to be the first few chapters of Share and Share Alike.

Even though her riding days ended, she stays abreast with the UK racing scene by visiting the track. Hannah’s memories and journals give her novels detail; breathing life into her work. As of this date, she has written four novels. Currently, she is working on her next book in the Aspen Valley series. If you’re looking for an entertaining, light romantic novel involving horses try one of Hannah’s books. I don’t think you will be disappointed; I wasn’t.


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