Follow Up on Rabid Fox Attack and Sam’s Cancer

GrayFox photo by Tim Ross

Time has a way of passing faster than one can believe. Last April, a fox trespassed and attacked Connie, her dogs and cats. Johnn shot the fox. Sure enough, after the Game Warden had the animal tested for rabies the results came back positive.

Connie had rabies shots. The dogs and cats were quarantined. Since Connie didn’t have proof that her cats, Oscar and Dexter, received rabies shots; they were quarantined the longest, for six months. Connie locked the cats in her garage with food, water and cozy bedding. She checked on them often; unfortunately, they were outside cats and used to wandering around the property, hunting mice and exploring all the things small felines enjoy exploring.

The garage proved hot, humid and suffocating. The cats complained and complained; meowed, paced and cried to be let out. The hot summer days dragged on and on, but fortunately the cats showed no signs of the dreaded disease. Finally, on a beautiful fall day in October, the imprisoned cats were set free. They dashed out of the garage, free at last.

The dogs fared much better as they did have papers stating when they received rabies shots. Trixie and Molley were confined to the house and not allowed to wander off the property. Connie and Johnn kept a close eye on them. The months dragged on and on. In July, the dogs proved to be rabies free and their quarantine was lifted.

Sam - December 8, 2011 Sam had surgery for ocular-squamous-cell-carcinoma last summer. The vet, Robin Rodgers, removed the mass of diseased cells. She felt there was a good chance the cancer would reappear. Johnn treated the eye with an ointment and returned Sam to the pasture the next day.

Winter came; rumors spread through the local horsey grapevine that one of the horses at Horse Heaven had died; probably Sam. In the meantime, Sam recovered from his surgery. Everyday Johnn examined the eye, looking for signs of the cancer. He found none. The horse made a complete recovery and so far doing well.

Until next time – Happy Trails

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Sam’s Eye Surgery

Several months ago, Sam developed a small fleshy growth in the corner of his eye. Johnn watched the abnormality and medicated it; 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. Tumor Before Surgery

The morning sun battled with thick clouds creating a haze over the stables; rain threatened. John, Connie and I waited inside the barn for Robin to arrive. Sam stood peacefully in his stall not realizing he was scheduled for an operation. Before long, Robin pulled her car into the driveway.

Sam Cross-tiedRobin prepared for surgery. Johnn snapped two lead ropes onto the horse’s halter to form crossties.

Eye surgery

Sam received tranquilizers. Robin numbed the eye to stop the lids from moving, and then, she fastened a protective blue cloth over the horse’s eye. Robin sutured the eye open and carefully cut out the tumor.

Tumor RemovedOriginally, Robin felt that the third eyelid was involved; however, she discovered that the tumor had grown deeper into the conjunctiva, but did not involve the third eyelid.

Sam’s advanced age, somewhere around thirty, ruled out any further procedures. Although, Robin removed as much of the tumor as she could see there was always the chance that some cancer cells remained resulting in the disease returning. With a younger animal, chemotherapy or radiation treatments would be used to illuminate the remaining cancer cells; in this case the horses’ immune system would have to take care of any remaining illness. Without performing a biopsy, Robin couldn’t determine what type of tumor she had extracted; however, she suspected ocular-squamous-cell-carcinoma.

Sam and Johnn After Surgery3Ocular-squamous-cell-carcinoma on the eyelid generally appears as a pink mass. Horses with non-pigmented skin areas are more likely to development this type of cancer. Appaloosas, Paints, Halflingers, and some draft horses including Belgiums are more susceptible to the disease.

Sam and Robin Surgery 025Robin explained that in some cases a tumor may be benign and not actually cancerous. A foreign body such as dirt or a splinter could have caused the growth.

Dissected TumorAfter removing the tumor, Robin placed the lump on a sheet and bisected it looking for some type of foreign body at the center of fleshy mass. She discovered none.

“Either it will come back or it won’t. Only time will tell. Hopefully his immune system will be able to fight off whatever cancerous cells are left”, said Robin. “If the tumor comes back in a couple of months, the cancer will probably metastasized to his liver or lungs.”

Sam remained on stall rest for a few days and then returned to the pasture. The days and months passed by. Johnn kept a close watch on Sam’s eye. The cancer didn’t return and the horse remained in good health. With some luck, we all hope that the old Belgium will beat the cancer and have many more years of life at Ballentine’s Horse Heaven.

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Sara Rummel’s Encounter with a Mountain Lion

Sara Rummel

Sara Rummel

A few weeks ago I met Sara Rummel at the Dandy Mini-Mart in Van Etten, NY. A very composed and capable horsewoman; she told me the details of an attack on her horse Denahi and the sighting of a mountain lion several days before the attack.

In the Finger Lakes region of NY State winter days are short; sunset in the early part of February 2015 occurred around 5:20. The daytime temperature ranged in the low 20’s with nighttime temperatures dipping into the single digits. Snow storms passed through the region; wind forced snow into deep piles where it froze on creek beds, pastures and woodlands. On such an afternoon, Sara rode her horse, Denahi, down a partially wooded area on her way home from visiting with her Mother. The short cut led through the woods and connected Crumtown Road with Emery Road.

An old, pasture fence paralleled the trail for some distance, ending just before the path cut across Sulphur Springs Creek. As Sara approached the creek Denahi began to act up and she almost fell off. She urged her horse forward but again the animal refused to move. Sara realized something had spooked her horse, so she stopped and looked around. She glanced to her left and spotted a mountain lion running back and forth along the fence line. The big cat turned, stared at Sara and her horse, then slowly walked towards them. The horse and rider stood motionless; then suddenly, the mountain lion turned, leapt the fence and disappeared into the woodlands. Sara slowly walked her horse forward, crossed the creek, and when she felt safe, pushed Denahi to a canter; leaving the trail behind at Crumtown Road.

A few days later on the night of February 5th, the thermometer dipped to 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Denahi and the rest of the herd, consisting of 10 horses, roamed the open pasture; bordered by trees and brush. At 6:00 that evening, Sara put a round bale of hay out for the horses to eat. Everything was still, except for the quiet sound of horses munching hay and Sara’s boots walking through the snow. A full moon rose into the sky by 7:20, illumination reached 98.25% making visibility excellent and deep shadows crisscrossed the frozen land.

Injury - morning of Feb 6, 2015

Injury – morning of Feb 6, 2015

The next morning Sara walked out to the pasture to feed and check the horses. Denahi stood by the round bale feeder but something was wrong. Some creature or object had torn the flesh from her horse and created a large wound. A gash ran down his buttock, the flesh torn off and the muscles ripped apart. Near-by the blood stained snow exposed where the horse had fallen, laid during the night and then struggle to his feet. Denahi's injury

Before long, Denahi boarded a horse trailer on his way to Cornell University Equine Hospital; part of the University’s College of Veterinarian Medicine. Sara backed her horse out of the trailer and waited for the team of vets to care for her horse. The vets sutured Denahi, applied an antiseptic dressing called silver wound kote, and inserted two tubes to drain the wound. Sara asked the vets if a mountain lion could have attacked her horse, but was told the injury was probably made by a barbwire fence.Denahi - injury just before he received sutures

Denahi with Sara at Cornell Vet School waiting for surgery

Denahi with Sara at Cornell Vet School waiting for surgery

Sara having seen a mountain lion only a few days before the attack had reason to believe that her horse was injured by one. A large animal track, near where her horse had been injured, was frozen in the snow. She contacted the DEC, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, an environmental protection and regulatory agency and reported a possible animal attack. An agent came to the farm, looked at the paw print but told Sara he could not tell exactly what animal the track belonged to; but in all likelihood it was a coyote.

Denahi - drainage tubes

Denahi – drainage tubes

Four days after Denahi’s surgery, a vet from Cornell arrived at Sara’s place to check up on the horse and remove the drainage tubes. The wound did not look good; broken open and oozing infection. The vet said there was nothing more that could be done for the horse.

Sara refused to put her horse down and decided to fight for Denahi’s life. Sara had been posting pictures on Facebook since the injury to her horse occurred; explaining the injury and its progression. One friend commented after hearing that the wound was not healing that Sara should try Underwoods Medicine; a spray on antiseptic. Sara took her friends advice and applied the ointment every day for 3 months without washing the wound.

Underwoods Medicine worked, the wound healed remarkably well. After 3 months of stall rest and no exercise, Sara started to walk Denahi slowly and then introduced him to turnout. Denahi returned to a pasture close to the house. He has the company of an old mare and some cows. Everyday his wound gets better and soon there will be no sign that it was ever there.

Silver Wound Kote

Silver Wound Kote

Injury Opens Up

Injury Opens Up

Wound Heals March

Wound Heals March 15

Denahi's injury as of July 1

Denahi’s injury as of July 1

"Those Eyes" photo of a mountain lion taken by Art G at Philadelphia Zoo

“Those Eyes” photo of a mountain lion taken by Art G at Philadelphia Zoo

As of this date, the story ends here. What happened on that moonlit night in February nobody will positively know; however, one can speculate. Officially, mountain lions do not exist in New York State. When one is sited the authorities will tell you it wasn’t a mountain lion, but a bobcat, coyote or maybe even an ordinary house cat. Farmers, horse people, hunters, loggers, hikers and anyone else who venture into the woods in the Finger Lakes region of New York State or Northeast Pennsylvania will tell you differently. In reality, the animals have been sighted throughout the Northeast. Just mention mountain lions and you will hear of an encounter with one of the big cats. In fact, Anne Shaffer and I saw one while riding in the spring of 2010 near the PA State Game Lands – Number 239, on Chamberlain Road.

How did the animals get here? Everyone has a different theory, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone entering the woods should be aware that mountain lions exist in this region and should take precaution. The Desert USA website suggests the following if you encounter a mountain lion:

1. Do not approach a mountain lion
2. Gather and protect children
3. Keep eye contact and back away slowly, DO NOT RUN, – an act that might trigger a mountain lion’s pursuit instinct
4. Act aggressively, look large, wave arms, shout, throw stones or branches
5. Give the mountain lion an avenue for escape
6. If attacked, try to keep facing the mountain lion and fight back with your walking stick, pepper spray, stones – any weapon that comes to hand.

Be safe and happy trails to everyone. If you have encountered a mountain lion or have a story to share please leave a comment. Comments are always welcome.


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Johnn’s Horse Champ



Times change; people and horses grow older and eventually die. Life at Horse Heaven, in this regard, is no different than anyplace else. A few weeks ago, I talked with Johnn as I stood in Pepper’s stall and brushed down the mare. While cleaning out his desk, Johnn had come across a few pictures of the first horse he owned at the stables. As we chatted, he shared with me the story of Champ.

Years ago in 1987, Connie and Johnn saw an ad in the Pennysaver listing a Belgium horse for sale. The morning of September 5th the two headed for the NY State Fair in Syracuse; on the way they planned to stop and have a look at the horse.

The couple pulled into the drive near the barn. The young man selling the horse explained that he was headed for college and his father couldn’t keep Champ. He brought the horse out for Johnn and Connie to look over. Champ stood about 16.5 hands and weighed between 1900 to 2200 pounds; by any measure truly a large horse.



The teenager explained Champ’s training. When logging the father and son first chopped down and topped the trees; to haul the logs out of the woods they used the draft horse. They would lead Champ into the woods and hitch a chain to a log. Champ pulled the log down the logging trail until he reached the truck. One man went with the horse to load the log onto the back of the truck, while the other waited in the woods for Champ to come back. All day the draft horse worked between the two men; walking back and forth up and down the logging trail by himself. If the man in the woods moved to another location, all he needed to do was whistle for Champ to find him.

img021Connie and Johnn purchased the horse and brought him back to their farm. Champ joined Connie’s horse, Dolly, and the beefers in the pasture. Johnn cut trees and Champ hauled logs. The years passed by uneventful until one dark night in early winter. The horses came into the barn for the night and Johnn noticed that Champ’s right-hind hoof looked strange. The shadows crisscrossing the stable made it hard for him to get a good look at the hoof, so he hurried to get his flashlight.

Johnn shone the light onto the hoof. He saw a round hole in the hoof wall; a stone had worked its way from the bottom of the hoof and come out through the front. The discovery surprised Johnn as Champ never exhibited any sign of being lame or in pain.

Champ footIt took a month of stall rest and soaking the hoof in Epson salt, 3 times a day for the hoof to heal. Champ didn’t complain; he simply munched hay, soaked his hoof in the bucket and waited for Johnn to take it out. Johnn often grabbed a coffee in his office while he waited for the solution to work on the wound. By the end of the month, the hoof wall had regrown and the horse returned to the pasture.

A few more years passed by, then one dark night in the cold of winter Johnn opened the barn door for the horses to come into their stalls. Champ fell down on an icy patch in the pasture and couldn’t get up. He struggled and stuggled; first pulling his front feet into position to stand, but his hindquarters refused to follow and he slipped back to the frozen ground.

At first Johnn didn’t know what to do; however, he decided the horse needed to brace himself to get off the ice. Johnn opened the pasture gate, and then, went to the shed where he housed his tractor. He climbed up onto the tractor, sat down and turned the machine on. Slowly, he drove into the pasture and approached the fallen horse. Placing a harness on Champ, Johnn bolted a long chain from the tractor to the horse. Moving slightly forward, the tractor steadied the animal; not pulling Champ but giving him support. The huge horse pulled his front legs up to stand; Johnn easied forward slightly with the tractor and Champs back legs sprung forward bringing the horse to a standing position. Johnn turned off the tractor, jumped down and took hold of the horse. He walked Champ to his stall, looked him over for injuries, and finding non, bolted the stall gate and turned in for the night.

Champ and Dolly

Champ and Dolly

The next morning arrived as cold as the day before. Johnn made his way from the house down to the barn and stood before Champ’s stall. The horse lay in the dry sawdust and again could not stand up. Johnn hurried into his office and called the vet.

The vet arrive and entered Champ’s stall, examined the horse, shook his head and turned to Johnn. “Either his hip is out or his back. It’s a common problem with Belgiums. Unfortunately there isn’t anything I can do about it.”

Johnn looked at his horse laying in the stall, unable to get up and in pain. “Then you better put him down. I don’t want him to suffer.”

To witness the death of a friend and faithful companion is no easy task. The vet prepared the drugs and filled a large needle as he prepared to euthanize the horse. The drug, once injected, quickly shut down the horse’s central nervous system and rendered Champ unconscious. His heart stopped beating and he no longer drew a breath through his large nostrils, but lay motionless.

The vet packed his equipment and left the stables; leaving Johnn alone in the barn. The winter wind picked up and a few snowflakes fell. Johnn needed to bury Champ, but didn’t own a backhoe, so he called his brother Paul.

“Sure I can come down and help you with the horse,” said Paul. “Do you mind where he’s buried?”

“No,” replied Johnn.

“Then let’s bring the horse up to my place. I have a spot where the ground hasn’t froze yet.”

In a short time Paul arrived at the stable. He parked his flatbed truck in the field across from the barn. Johnn opened the pasture gate, drove his tractor through the pasture and into barn. Then the two men struggled with the dead, 2000 pound horse; finally securing one end of a heavy chain around the animal and the other end to the tractor. Once that was done, Johnn dragged the carcass out of the stall, through the barn, and crossed the road to where the flatbed truck waited. The two men positioned the dead horse at the end of the truck and Johnn drove his tractor alongside the vehicle. Champ came to a stop on the truck bed and the men secured him with a heavy chain.

The two men hopped into the truck and headed up the road. They passed a Mom and Pop luncheonette/gas station on their trip to Paul’s property. The business owner stood in front of his store as the truck with the dead horse slowly drove past.

Paul parked the truck on a secluded section of his property, next to a backhoe. The two men decided where the grave would be, and then, Paul climbed into the backhoe, started it up and dug a huge pit. When the grave was dug, the men secured a chain to the dead horse and the backhoe. Paul started up the backhoe and pulled the carcass off the truck. Slowly, he lowered Champ into his grave, and once there, covered the horse with dirt until he was buried.

Paul drove back to Johnn’s place, dropped him off and then turned around and headed home. On his way, he stopped by the Mom and Pop luncheonette for gas. The owner, curious about the horse he had seen on the back of Paul’s truck earlier, walked up to him and asked, “Didn’t you have a horse on the back of this truck?”

“Why yes I did. You see that horse is so big we can’t put him into a regular trailer. The only way we could transport the horse was to train him to lay down, quiet and not move while on the back of the truck. As long as that chain lies over the horse, he won’t move a muscle. Then when we want to get the horse off the truck and unload him, all we have to do is pick up the chain and he gets right up. We put a lead rope on him and back him off the truck.”

“That’s amazing,” said the store keeper.

Paul climbed back into his truck and smiling drove away home. The winter sky cleared a bit as the wind parted the clouds. Somewhere deep in the woods deer found shelter while the black bears hibernated waiting for the season to change. In the meantime, Dolly mourned the loss of her pasture buddy.

“That’s quite a story Johnn,” I said.

“Champ was a good horse. The best trained horse I ever had.”

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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.

Sources:; Elmira Star-Gazette, Thursday, July 13, 1939;;;;;;;

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.


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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