Anne’s “War Horse” Shadow

Shadow is 24 years old—for a horse that’s getting on in years. In human years, he would be 70 years old. So, Shadow is no youngster. Yet, he is a very lucky horse. From the age of 6 months, he has always been Anne’s horse. Like humans, horses play many different roles in life. Some horses are regularly auctioned, moving from home to home. Others find themselves in rescue homes because of neglect by the owner. Or for the fortunate few, some horses have forever homes.

At 2:00 in the afternoon on Jan 31, 2024, Anne got a call from Dawn at Rising Hope Farm. She told her that Shadow had an accident and tore off the side of his front left-inside hoof. Dawn found him by the round bale, hay feeder standing in a pool of blood. As a result, Anne raced to the stables, half expecting to put her horse down.

Shadow has a history of hoof problems. In fact—in 2023 his right front hoof became abscessed, resulting in a long crack running from the top of the hoof to the bottom. The crack never healed, so her farrier made a flexible, flip-flop half-rubber shoe to reinforce the hoof.

Besides hoof problems, in 2014 Shadow was diagnosed with melanoma, an incurable cancer. The disease caused him to develop polyp-like bumps inside his mouth, along his tail, and inside his intestinal tract.

In 2022, he came down with a mysterious illness that two vets attributed to a tick-borne disease. His throat was swollen, he had yellow snot flowing out of his nose, and he found it hard to swallow. Then a couple of other horses in the barn became ill with the same malady. Another veterinarian, Michelle, was called and she discovered that the horses had Strangles, a communicable disease.

Strangles is a common disease among horses and is frequently fatal. The disease infects the upper respiratory tract, resulting in inflammation of lymph nodes in the pharynx, larynx, and trachea. Because of the swelling, the airways oftentimes become obstructed which can lead to death.

So, when Anne made her way up to the stables her thoughts were clouded with apprehension and the possibility that Shadow’s luck had run out. When she arrived she realized the prognosis wasn’t good, the wound was ripe for infection. The days that followed were crucial for Shadow’s survival. Anne knew that a rigorous routine of cleaning, sterilizing the wound, and wrapping the hoof would make the difference between life and death for her horse. Thus began a struggle to save Shadow’s life—requiring Anne to spend many long hours each day in the care of her horse.

Shadow’s health improved. Now, he was confined to the barn as his hoof began it grow back. About three weeks later, the farrier, Lee Morris, looked at the hoof and knew exactly what to do. He had seen the same thing on a horse he shod in England several years prior. Therefore, he gave Shadow a specially made, round shoe to reinforce the hoof.

Three months passed, and Shadow found himself confined to his stall in the barn. Anne supplemented his diet with CEP Hoof Rx which contains a blend of vitamins, minerals, and multiple amino acids to improve overall hoof health.

Although the injury was severe, Shadow never became lame, and Anne could ride him. Yet, she was concerned that in the fields his wound could become infected. Needless to say, Shadow became restless while he watched the other horses enjoying themselves in the pasture. After all, April brought fresh, green grass and warm weather.

Now that his hoof hardened and had mostly grown in, Shadow joined the other horses in the pasture.

Fortunately, Shadow survived, and Anne nicknamed him her “War Horse”. They look forward to many adventures together as the season changes—summer is not long away. I wish them both, a long life—and of course—Happy Trails.


Copyright © 2024 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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Pepper’s Sudden Death

On Tuesday night, February 27, 2024, Pepper died from a tragic and yet bizarre accident. As usual, Connie let the horses into the barn to feed them and bed them down for the night. After she fed Pepper, Jupiter, and CJ, she turned out the barn light and went to her house. At that time nothing was wrong with Pepper. Except for an injury, she sustained over a month ago, to her back leg. Yet the cut on her hock was healing and didn’t seem to bother her.

Everything was much different in the morning when Connie came to feed the horses and let them out to pasture for the day. CJ and Jupiter were whining and pacing in their stalls. And when she went to Pepper’s stall the horse’s hay was uneaten. She found a gabbing hole through the wall just under the hayrack. Pepper was lying on the other side of her stall’s wall, in the sawdust room. A stud and part of the wall lay on top of her. Pepper was in an odd position pinned up against the wall. But Pepper was still alive, although her breathing was shallow. Quickly, Connie ran to her neighbors for help. Bo and Angie followed Connie back to the barn. They managed to remove the boards and free the horse. Then Bo fixed another stall, and they moved Pepper into it.

When the vet came, Pepper was not doing well. Her breathing and heart rate were low, and she had blood in her stool. Bo waited with Connie for the vet to come. When the vet arrived, she suggested the most humane thing to do was to put the horse down which she did. As Pepper lay motionless, Bo covered Pepper with a blanket. Thus, came the sad end to a beautiful horse, a horse with a long history.

Pepper’s life was often shrouded in mystery. When Connie adopted Pepper from a rescue organization, she was under the impression that the horse had been taken from an Amish farm in Ohio along with twenty other horses. But Connie always thought there was more to Pepper’s story, so after we talked about it during the summer of 2011; I began to investigate. The first thing I did, with the help of my daughter Emma, was to take a picture of Pepper’s lip tattoo. Which led to revelations, as soon as I contacted Anne at the United States Trotting Association (USTA).

Pepper was born on April 14, 1992, in Big Rock, Illinois. She was a Standardbred, a pacer, and her registered name was Mr. Bill’s Jill. She had run 60 races, won 9, came in second 12 times, and placed third 6 times. She raced for three years and retired on May 1, 1998, when she was 6 years old. Connie adopted Pepper from the Harness Horse Retirement & Youth Association in Loganton, PA on 10/9/01. What happened to Pepper from 5/01/1998 to 10/9/01? Here was another mystery.

Anne at USTA suggested I contact Pepper’s last listed owner, Donald Landfair. I spoke with his wife Virginia who said her husband sold Mr. Bill’s Jill to a man named Mr. Brown. I said goodbye to Virginia Landfair, and I hung up. I didn’t seem to be any further ahead. Was Pepper on her way to a slaughterhouse when she was rescued?

Connie called Marlene Lantz who ran the horse rescue that she adopted Pepper from. She had an answer, finding another piece of the puzzle. Connie’s emailed me the following:

‘Hi, I just talked to Marlene Lantz, the one who ran the rescue program here. She said that it was an estate. The guy who owned the horses had died a couple of weeks before she went out there. There were a number of horses that had to be put down out there. Personally, she picked up 9-10 horses and brought them to her place.

She vaguely remembers a black walking horse with a bit of color that had to be euthanized there since he was in such bad shape. There were work horses, Standardbreds, and all kinds. They had to euthanize at least 10 while they were there. Since they were in such bad shape and couldn’t even get up. She felt that the horses there hadn’t been cared for long before the owner died.

She didn’t remember the owner’s name but Brown did not ring a bell. The estate was near Youngstown, Ohio, near the hills of Pennsylvania. There were no stops. They brought the horses directly here and they were all adopted out in 2-3 weeks of coming here.

She had no stallions on her property. She doesn’t have any of the records since she is out of the program. So, Pep must have been bred at that farm. She doesn’t remember for sure if it was Amish or not. I remember that is what I was told. Hope to talk to you sometime over the weekend. Connie’

The missing piece of the puzzle about the stallion was important since Pepper was one month pregnant when Connie adopted her. Now, here was a mystery about Pepper’s life that was never fully solved. Who was CJ’s sire? We never found out, except the sire was a stallion, who was euthanized in a pasture in Youngstown, Ohio. CJ was born in Connie’s pasture, and he was never far from Pepper. He was traumatized by his mother’s death. It was a few days later when I visited the barn that I saw sadness in his eyes.

So, Bo and Brian Wood dug Pepper’s grave not far from the barn in an open field. When Connie took me to the barn to see where Pepper had crashed through the stall, she showed me where Pepper was buried. At the time, a small herd of about 8 deer stood not far from us. Quizzically the deer watched us and then moved on, crossing the road. Connie plans to place a plaque to mark the grave. In the meantime, CJ seems to be adjusting to the loss of his mother, a mother who was always at his side. Now, he and Jupiter are the only horses left at Horse Heaven, and they stay close together in the pasture. Time marches on, the older one gets the closer death lurks, or perhaps death is always ‘around’ we just choose not to notice it. In any case, Pepper will be greatly missed. She was a fine horse and a good friend.

Copyright © 2024 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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Quilting at Horse Heaven

Whenever I visit Connie at Horse Heaven for a chat—I always notice the beautiful quilts which hang on her walls. The quilted wall hangings brighten up each room with imaginative motifs. Connie Ballentine has been quilting for over thirty years. But of course, quilting is not the only thing Connie does—the care and maintenance of Horse Heaven takes up a large part of each day. So, quilting has become an activity she does in her spare time.

Connie gets her ideas for a quilt first by picking out the fabric and finding a pattern, then the concept for the quilt starts to take shape—all are part of the creative process. She not only makes quilted bedspreads and wall hangings. She often gives her quilts as gifts at baby showers, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Also, she has made quilted handbags, quilted jackets, and quilted wallets.

Her lifelong friend, Lynn Verratti, introduced Connie to quilting. She met Lynn in 1973 when Connie taught Respiratory Classes – Lynn was one of her students.

To learn quilting, Connie took classes in Sayre and Towanda and made a Sampler quilt. In a Sampler Quilt, each block has a different pattern. The one Connie made was entirely hand stitched. She began machine quilting ten years ago, starting out small with crib quilts and moving on to full-sized bedspreads and wall hangings.

Connie made a quilt for her in-laws, Dorothy and James Ballentine, on their 50th wedding anniversary, December 18, 1991. The anniversary quilt has a centerpiece square with two cross-stitched hearts united. Also, she made a square for each of their children, Paul and Johnn—Connie’s late husband.

In addition, Connie has used applique in making quilts. In the wall hanging featuring cats, each cat has been cut out and sewn onto the quilt. Now, Connie is expanding her quilting aids. She purchased a Grace Cutie Tabletop Quilting Frame which fits on a table. The frame holds the fabric and allows free motion in any direction. So, Connie can use her sewing machine for free-form topstitching—making quilt loops, arches, straight lines, and other designs with ease. This will make working on large quilts simpler and less time-consuming.

Connie has exhibited her quilts at the Troy Fair in PA and won several ribbons for her work. She feels that quilting is an art form that produces a unique, decorative, and/or usable “product”. Also, quilting offers a meditative, relaxing activity after a busy day of working with the horses, on the farm.

Lynn and Connie have been friends for a long time. Even though Lynn left the Valley and moved to the Pittsburgh area, she and Connie have stayed friends. They meet at least once a year to visit quilt shows and fabric shops in Lancaster, PA.

They are both avid quilters and Lancaster has become a yearly adventure. Besides visiting local restaurants and talking, they attend quilt shows. Fabric shops are another destination where they hunt for unique fabric designs. In Lancaster, quilting is center stage—offering over thirty fabric shops with unique designs and quilting materials. Besides the great variety of fabric, the prices are reasonable, making the trip not only fun but economical. So, once a year Connie packs her suitcase, climbs in her car, and heads to Lancaster to visit her friend Lynn.

These days, Connie quilts at home and exchanges ideas with Lynn. In the meantime, the Valley has other quilters, who get together. My Brother’s Keeper, a volunteer organization, works on making knitted hats, mittens, scarves, quilted blankets, and sleeping bags for homeless people. Also, The Endless Mountain Quilt Guild is another organization dedicated to quilting. Both organizations meet at the Methodist Church on 118 South Main Street in Athens, PA.

Copyright © 2023 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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Housesitting at Horse Heaven

Last weekend I found myself housesitting at Horse Heaven. As with any small stable or farm taking time off even for a day can prove difficult. After all, the daily routine of chores that must be done doesn’t allow much time for being away from home. There is a constant demand to feed animals and clean stalls. But Connie, the owner of Horse Heaven, was having a birthday and friends had invited her for an overnight celebration. So, I volunteered to help and stay over at the house to do chores as well as doggy sit Louie, a terrier, who couldn’t be left alone. After all, dogs are happiest at home with a friend.

I packed my overnight bag with pajamas, a change of clothes, and of course a good book to read. My husband, Moe, volunteered to help with the barn chores too. When we arrived at Horse Heaven, Connie went over a written list of chores that needed to be done. The list was valuable since so many little jobs had to be remembered including feeding the birds on the back porch.

Then, just before we said our farewells, Connie looked down at my sneakers and suggested I wear her boots if they fit. She purchased the boots after breaking her wrist while walking across the street to the barn last year on a snowy day. Not only did the boots have good tread, but she had also fitted them with ice cleats. The cleats are designed to grip ice and snow.

Moe and I watched Connie drive away down Murry Creek Road. Then, we walked to the barn to finish the morning chores. Moe got right to work loading horse manure into the wheelbarrow, and I gathered a load of hay for the horses. After the chores were done, Moe left for home, and I settled in at Connie’s house with Louie.

The next morning started early at 5:30 when Louie needed to go outside. I dressed and let the dog out only to be surprised by seven deer near the back porch eating birdseed. Of course, Louie started running and barking at them. The only problem for the dog was he had a rope that wouldn’t allow him to chase the deer. The small herd with white tails held high crossed the street and ran uphill to an open field next to Connie’s house.

As I waited on the porch a banditry of chickadees descended on the birdfeeder. Along with the chickadees came house wrens, blue jays, and a downy woodpecker. I looked across the backyard covered with snow to the mountain ridge and heard the roar of a stream not far away. It was still dark outside, as the sun had more than an hour before rising. When I looked toward the sky the stars seemed to hang like sparkling diamonds above the treeline.

In due time, the morning sun peeked out from the hillside where the deer had run. I slipped on Connie’s boots and headed for the barn to feed the horses and let them out for the day.

It wasn’t long before Moe arrived to help again with the chores. But before we started cleaning stalls, Moe gave the horses treats, and then, I let them out of their stalls. The horses exited the barn single file and headed toward the pasture beyond. As the horses walked by me I thought that they all were doing well although getting older. Pepper is the oldest at thirty, but still active. Time goes by while birthdays turn the clock another year.

Before long, Connie returned from her mini vacation filled with news of her birthday experiences. And soon Moe came to pick me up. We said goodbye to Connie and Louie and climbed into Moe’s truck. As we drove away toward home, Horse Heaven loomed large in the rearview mirror.

Copyright © 2023 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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Farewell to Johnn Newton Ballentine



For the last few years, Johnn experienced declining health issues. He passed away suddenly on the eve of October 5, 2022, at 79 years old. He left behind his wife of 45 years, Connie Kulsicavage Ballentine. Connie and Johnn were married on August 6, 1977, 45 years ago. They lived in town until they saw advertised a 36-acre farm in Athen’s Township, and decided to purchase the property in 1984. Originally, they called the farm the Ponderosa.

The Ponderosa started out with two horses, Johnn’s Belgian, Champ, and Connie’s Morgan, Molly. Besides the horses the farm included pigs, laying hens, cattle including a bull, geese, a bunny, and barn cats. The farm developed into a small business that included selling eggs, cheese, and other products. As the years rolled by, the Ponderosa changed, and along with the change came a new name, Horse Heaven. The Ballentines began operating a stable, which included an outdoor arena, riding lessons, and boarding horses. Johnn was central to Horse Heaven as he maintained the barn, took care of the horses, baled hay and maintained the outdoor area.

I met Johnn when I leased Connie’s horse Pepper. When I came to the barn to saddle up, Johnn was usually there doing barn chores, mending fences, tinkering with the well’s pump, cutting wood, or working on a piece of equipment in his machine shop. The years took a total on Johnn, In 2019, Johnn’s horses, Sam and Myrtle passed away. He missed his horses, and at the same time, his health gradually declined until he was no longer able to work in the barn or his shop.

Johnn was born in Wallace Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania on October 9, 1942, to James M. Ballentine and Dorothy Erma Draper Ballentine. He grew up on a farm in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and attended Downingtown High School. After high school, he became a certified welder and an employee of North American Car in Sayre, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his wife, Connie Kulsicavage Ballentine, son, Creig Ballentine of Elverson, Pennsylvania, daughter, Cherin Leinweber of Tucson, Arizona, step-grandson, Michael Leinweber, brother, Paul M. Ballentine of Ulster, Pennsylvania and uncles, Thomas Ballentine of Coatesville, Pennsylvania and Hank Ballentine of Tennessee.

When I would come to the stables to ride, I usually spoke with Johnn about ordinary stuff, the weather, or the horses. I’d always said goodbye when I left for home and Johnn invariably would answer “Okey dokey”. This is my final goodbye. He will be missed by his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Note: If you follow the links within the article you will find more stories about Johnn or run a search using his name.

Copyright © 2022 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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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) Public Domain


Copyright © 2019 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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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
After we’ve had our say.
My horse’s hooves tap rhythm at a steady speed
As we fade away into the deep, dark woods.

Copyright © 2019 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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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.

Copyright © 2019 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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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.

Copyright © 2019 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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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

Copyright © 2019 Patricia Miran All Rights Reserved

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