The Comical History of My Stints as an Equestrian Charity Volunteer

By Posted on 3 Comments 4 min read 397 views
Photo by mcmoody/iStockphoto
Photo by mcmoody/iStockphoto

Horse mystery novelist Kit Ehrman recently blogged about having a case of “horse withdrawal.”

I know what she means. I’m in the same boat, more or less.

I’m in no position to own a horse. Both my physical and financial health would be better off if I didn’t even take lessons.

Besides, I don’t have the time anymore. I have the typical, modern over-scheduled life.

I used to ride before I had a scary health situation. Now, the idea of sitting to a trot is enough to keep me away from the saddle. So, as a consolation, I started writing about horses.

But, at times, there is no substitute. There’s nothing like the warm breath from a soft muzzle. Or the soft fur of a winter coat. Or the satiny sheen of sleek summer coat.

Helpful horse people give me lots of suggestions, like they did for Kit in the group blog Equestrian Ink.

One suggestion is to work in a barn for a local trainer. Working as stable help is a time-honored way to get riding time. Let alone horse time. Young William Shatner reportedly did it.

(Ed. note: I’ve driven myself batty looking for the source to cite for a link. I know he once said that he worked as a stableboy so he could ride. I remember reading that. If you can find it, post it in the comments. All I can offer you in return, though, is Internet glory in my comments section.)

But I’ve been too sickly to participate in manure management. My husband made me promise, “No saddling. No mucking.” I all but swore to it with my right hand up, as if I were taking a pledge. Even though I’ve always prided myself on the fact that, once I became tall enough to do so, I saddle my own mounts, thank you very much.

Once, a tack shop owner offered up another suggestion, to volunteer at a horse rescue. Or a therapeutic riding stable.

I’ve tried both. I wish I could report warm fuzzy feelings. Let alone link to these deserving groups. They work hard on wispy shoestrings budgets of both staffing and funds. But if I identify them now, I can’t tell you the funny stories. Believe me, you’ll see why soon.

The Therapeutic Riding Stable Misadventure

Once my health situation stabilized, I jumped at the opportunity when a local therapeutic riding stable opened up its volunteer program. It does so once every year, only in the spring because it’s easier to train volunteers for the season all at once.

However, when I showed up ready to work, I wasn’t ready physically. I didn’t have my strength up yet. Plus, even if I had volunteered just to groom, I would have to break my promise to DH about the saddling.

But the deal-breaker for me was that I needed to be able to either lead the horse during the sessions or walk along to help the rider as a walker. After all, the more reasonably fit volunteers who could help would give more clients a chance to ride. And that’s the whole point.

So. because I couldn’t keep up on foot with a trotting horse, I was dismissed. I cried bitter tears of frustration, but I understood.

The Horse Rescue Deflater

Option number two: I picked a somewhat local horse rescue that’s really too far for me to visit regularly. No worries. I could write press releases and do online public relations. A board member said that she would serve as my contact.

But she didn’t grasp that print publications and other community activities boards often need months of lead time for submissions. She would send me updates for event notices the week before the event. Sometimes, even the night before. I came to wonder if my distance from the rescue may be putting me a bit out-of-touch to serve as a spokesperson.

I finally got to attend one event that I had promoted in various outlets for months. I arrived oddly pleased for once to have trouble finding a parking space because there were so many cars. I overheard guests marveling at “such a great turnout.” When I finally tracked down my contact, her first words after “Oh, hi,” were not “Great turnout” but “Where’s TV?”

Thus endeth my year in horse rescue PR.

Now, I realize that It’s Not About Me. I should Just Suck It Up and Do It For The Horses. And I’m not proud that I found myself with more generosity of spirit than I could manage in practice.

But the bottom line is that, if you don’t fit into what these time- and cash-strapped organizations need, then they treat you like any other harried human resources manager does.  It’s “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” time.

So, it’s back to writing about horses. Following various competition circuits. And the occasional bit of equine tourism. All of which I will share with you at one point or another.

It’s not such a bad gig. After all, there’s “no mucking and no saddling.”

In the Pink with KP Equestrian and Tiny Dancer

By Posted on 5 Comments 2 min read 377 views
Photo by doubtfulneddy/iStockphoto
Photo by doubtfulneddy/iStockphoto

Note: Photo not of merchandise from the KP Equestrian collection.

I’m either too provincial as a Yank or too old or too out-of-touch to have heard of Katie Price, aka “Jordan,” a British supermodel-merchandiser who excites headlines and gossip “across the pond.”

Price seems to be the UK’s version of a madcap mix of Cindy Crawford, Pamela Anderson and Martha Stewart.

And more pertinent to our purposes at The Horsey Set Net, she’s launched an equestrian-inspired clothing line for both horse and rider called KP Equestrian.

It’s a sportswear line that you could wear — and match with — your horse at the barn, if you were so inclined. And had a horse.

Currently, the dominant available color is hot pink. Or shocking pink across the pond.

Fashionistas will recognize the color as “Schiap,” inspired by designer Elsa Schiaparelli from the Nars cosmetics line.

But I also recognized the color and the motif from an episode of MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16.”

That episode’s belle of the birthday was Mary from Mississippi. Mary went all out with a Vegas-theme party for which she would dress as Barbie. But she didn’t want Barbie’s fabled pink Corvette. As an experienced show ring competitor, Mary wanted a Tennessee Walking Horse named Tiny Dancer, who had charmed her at her trainer’s barn.

As the finale for the show, pardon the spoiler, Tiny Dancer was led up to her party all decked out in a matching ensemble of hot pink blanket, leg wraps, halter and lead shank. Kind of like Barbie’s pink Corvette, but more fitting for Mary’s interests.

Except for the lack of a logo, Tiny Dancer’s attire reminds me a lot of KP Equestrian’s horse wear.

Equus Rides Again on Broadway

By Posted on 6 Comments 2 min read 414 views
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Equus stars Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths

It’s not “Harry Potter Meets My Little Pony,” by any stretch of the imagination.

Not only is there a highly-publicized nude scene, but Peter Shaffer’s play “Equus” is a dark, edgy drama.

If you have a vivid imagination and a tendency to be squeamish, you might not want to click on this link about the play.

And if you don’t think you can handle the synopsis but you’re still wondering what the play’s about, here’s a one-line summation.

“Equus” is about psychotherapy sessions with a mentally ill young man who has blinded six horses with a hoofpick.

So, not only is Harry Potter Naked, he plays a troubled character who’s done some shocking things.

So, why do I have tickets? Prurient interest, perhaps?

Honestly, I may have passed because of the fanfare and hysteria over the nudity. But preparing this article gave me an insight that I might get to see a something special.

No – not that something.

I love to watch great drama. Plus, I live a short train ride from New York.

Reviews about the London production have noted that Radcliffe has the acting chops to deliver such a demanding role. The supporting cast in New York also includes stage and screen veteran Kate Mulgrew.

I figure that, if I don’t need at least a glass of pinot noir after the play to soothe my rattled nerves, then I haven’t gotten my money’s worth. I’ll let you know what I think after I see it.

Because great drama is supposed to engage the emotions. Serious drama and fiction have spelunked into the depths of human emotion and behavior for eons.

Playwright Peter Shaffer has said that the play, first produced in 1973, was inspired by a real incident. Scholars have noted deep mythological, psychological and sociological references woven into the play.

My tickets are for late October. And, no, I won’t be taking binoculars for a better view from my seat up in the mezzanine.

A Derby winner at the Travers anyway?

By Posted on 1 Comment 1 min read 386 views

Just because Big Brown is passing up Saturday’s Travers Stakes doesn’t mean that TV viewers won’t get to see a Kentucky Derby winner on TV.

Travers contender Tale of Ekati might be ponied by, at one time or another, 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.

Yes, as a 3-year-old, Tale of Ekati was born the same spring that Funny came to fame.

Funny Cide, a gelding, didn’t have a second career as a breeding stallion ahead of him. So, his trainer Barclay Tagg gave him a second career as one of his stable ponies.

So, if you spot footage of Tale of Ekati with a chestnut pony, that pony could very well be Funny Cide. And, better yet, the ESPN announcers might tell us if it is. Coverage begins at 4:30 pm EDT.

As I said before, this August is a big month for coverage of equestrian competitions.

Championship Horse Shows on the Web

By Posted on 0 Comments 1 min read 356 views

The Olympics may be winding down, but August is still a great month for equestrian competitions. Two major American show horse championships are in full swing this week with live pay-per-view webcasts.

But horse show fans without broadband and/or on a budget won’t be left out. Each event offers updates that don’t involve video stream downloads.

On the Saddlebred scene, the World Championship Horse Show, live from the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, is under way now and runs through Saturday, Aug. 23, when champions are crowned.

But, if you want to get some updates but the idea of a video stream gives you a headache, you can catch up by checking in on the American Saddlebred Horse Association for photos.

Also underway live is the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The Celebration’s website has a link to the pay-per-view but also offers results for the videoless.

However, if you can watch video yet you don’t feel like forking over the dough for the Celebration pay-per-view, you can watch daily updates on What A Horse , a cable channel and Internet show about the Tennessee Walking Horse. Usually a paid subscription forum, What A Horse will offer free views of its Celebration updates.

As the horse show center ring announcers often say, “This is your gate call. It’s horse show time.”

The Newbie’s Guide to Watching Dressage

By Posted on 4 Comments 2 min read 582 views
John Rich/iStockphoto
John Rich/iStockphoto

When you finally know what to look for, watching dressage really is more exciting than watching paint dry.

After all, the casual viewer easily figures out jumping and cross country. In those faster-paced sports, the horse and rider must run an obstacle course faster than anyone else and not touch, let alone knock down, any of the jumps.

But the much quieter sport of dressage looks harder to figure out. At first glance, all we see is a horse and rider team moving across or down an arena. The two don’t seem to be doing anything exciting. And the rider seems to be sitting still, not doing much of anything.

So, how does the horse know what to do? And how do we tell who’s winning?

Making the performance look effortless is the point of dressage. Bottom line? The goal is perfect form between horse and rider.

Dressage is judged subjectively, like gymnastics or figure skating. The horse must show flexibility while moving through its gaits with grace and rhythm. The horse must also demonstrate confidence and trust in the rider through its response to cues that should be imperceptible to observers.

Probably the most accessible dressage event for newbies is the musical freestyle, in which the horse and rider can appear to be dancing to the music.

Most of the work happens before the show in the years of training and conditioning. All of the movements are natural to the horse and done willingly upon request from and under the control of the rider. The horse must feel confident and protected by the rider, whereas the rider needs to anticipate the horse’s reactions to what’s liable to be a new environment for the horse.

The result is a horse that prances, skips, glides and travels sideways, all prompted by the silent cues from the rider.

In some ways, the dance you see in the arena isn’t the only dance that’s there. A lot of dressage involves the dance between minds.

P.S. – Thanks, Marti.