2ND ANNUAL HEROES ON HORSES

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Heroes on Horses is back, and it’s getting around!  The event was so well-received last year at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, that not only have they kept it on the bill for 2017, but the NSBA World Show (August 19-20 in Tulsa, OK) has added the class and their special guest will be Taya Kyle, wife of former Navy Seal Chris Kyle.  What a fantastic way to bring attention to our Veterans!

 

http://gohorseshow.com/2017/08/wife-former-navy-seal-chris-kyle-will-guest-nsba-world/

 

I was honored to assist with one of the competitors last year at Congress, and to witness the event in person.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!  To see our organizations celebrating and supporting our “Wounded Warriors” participating in PATH, International programs is so special.  Therapeutic horsemanship programs are growing throughout the country as a reliable resource of assistance to our Veterans diagnosed with all manner of physical and non-physical injuries incurred during their service.  There are some things animals can do for us, that humans simply cannot.

 

 

The 2017 Heroes on Horses class will take place on Friday, October 13th at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.  The show takes place annually at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, OH.  If you’ve never been, you’re missing out.  If you have been, I know you’re already planning on returning.  For more information about the class, and all Congress events, go to their website:

http://www.quarterhorsecongress.com/heroes-on-horses

 

God bless our Veterans, and every soul that lends a helping hand, paw or hoof to them!

 

FORGING A NEW TRAIL

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This week I find myself at a crossroads.  It’s quite the opposite of the excitement from last week.  On Monday I was told my services were no longer needed at my job, so here I am, 40 and unemployed.

 

I’m fine.  We’ll be fine.  I always land on my feet, and this will be no different, it just came as a bit of a shock.  Well, it did and it didn’t, but that hardly matters now.  What matters is, I’m free to choose my own path again, and I’m looking forward, not back.

 

That being said, I haven’t made time to research a horse-related piece for you, I’m sorry for that.  But the number of people who have rallied around me tells me I’ll be charging ahead in a new direction sooner rather than later, and this blog will not suffer as a result.

 

So for now, let’s enjoy the break, and we’ll talk again soon!

 

K

A BIT OFF TARGET

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I’m straying from my usual subject matter this week, to share with you my recent experience in a new hobby.  My family took a trip to an outdoor range at a state park in November of 2016, that was my first real shooting experience.  Now, less than a year later, I’m a firearms owner, member of a ladies shooting club (The Well Armed Woman), and most recently, an NRA Certified Instructor in Basic Pistol.  So far, the only things in common it has with horses, is that it’s highly addictive, and expensive to do.  Needless to say, if you’d have asked me last fall, or any time in the past, if this is where I saw myself heading, I’d have laughed.

 

Under the watchful eye of Papa, while Mama loads up a magazine in the background

 

All my life, I’ve been able to say with 100% conviction, I am a horsewoman.  I’ve never questioned or hesitated with this, I know it to the depths of my soul, and I always will be.  I’m proud of it.  In the absence of having my own horses, I’ve dabbled in other hobbies, running, acoustic guitar, ballroom dancing…  but I’ve never BEEN any of those things.  I ran, but wasn’t a runner, I took guitar lessons, but wasn’t a guitarist, I love dancing, but I’m not a dancer.  They never became part of my identity like horses did, and still are.  It’s this line of reasoning that’s often kept me from trying new things, and being a perfectionist.  If I couldn’t master whatever the new skill or hobby was, right out of the gate, it would lose it’s appeal.  When I first picked up Dad’s .22 last fall, the journey it ended up being the first steps to, wasn’t even on my radar.

 

Owning a gun wasn’t anything I’ve been opposed to, but never having the means or resources, it stayed in the back of my mind.  My boyfriend and I have discussed it many times during the course of our relationship, but last fall seemed to be the catalyst.  After watching shooting after shooting being reported on the news every morning, and coming to the realization that nowhere is safe anymore, we finally decided to put thought into action.  I know nobody gets out of this world alive, but given the choice, I’d much prefer to have the means to defend myself against a violent attach and never need it, than die wishing I’d had them.  You only regret the chances you don’t take.

 

Getting started at our local range

 

My boyfriend gave me my first pistol for Christmas, 2016.  “Stella,” (because I name them all, since we do need to be well-acquainted it makes sense to me) is a Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver model 642.  She’s the one I trained and qualified for my Concealed Handgun License with, and the one I carry currently.  I know revolvers aren’t the first choice for personal protection, but it’s what I want at the moment.

 

I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded by amazing resources in the firearms industry.  We have a state-of-the-art range very close to home, staffed with amazing, knowledgeable people.  My shooting coach is a real gem.  I actually met him through training at a previous job where he coached on customer service.  Based on that experience, when I wanted to pursue my CHL, he was my first choice.  I still talk to and work with him regularly.  He’s a powerful voice in my head.  My new circle of friends in The Well Armed Woman is fantastic as well.  We have Instructors, RSO’s, beginners, and every stage in between, and they all have something to offer.

 

TWAW offers great learning opportunities to it’s members, like gun trial days where we can test many different firearms for purchase

 

Working with Coach, in preparation for my Instructor Course

 

After “Stella,” came “Rick.”  Springfield (get it, Rick Springfield? lol) was offering a great promotion over the last several months, with the purchase of a new firearm, you could send away for an additional four magazines, holster, and mag holster at no cost.  I wanted a traditional 1911 style .45acp, and found a great deal on him.  “Rick” isn’t fancy, he’s a Mil-Spec model, very simple, but very reliable.  Since I bought him in February of this year, I haven’t had a mis-fire yet.

 

After joining TWAW in April, I learned that not only was the chapter growing at a rapid pace, but the need for certified instructors was as well.  When the challenge was presented, I thought, “why not?”  Along side two other members of our chapter, we registered and began training for the Basic Pistol Instructor course taught by my local range.  The shooting qualification was the most intimidating, but I took advice from those who’d done it, borrowed Dad’s .22, and started practicing.  Our weekly visits to the range, quickly became two and three nights a week, and my skills improved.  I booked some time with Coach for a tune up, and just before our visit, my boyfriend surprised me with my own .22, a Browning Buck Mark Black Label, “Brownie.”  We got on like a house on fire, and my confidence grew.  The more practice time I got in, the more people I trusted and respected kept telling me I had it and I would do well, the more I started to believe them.

 

In the week leading up to our course, I expected to find myself stressed and anxious (no surprises there), but I was also becoming more emotional.  At first I chalked it up to nerves, but when I kept being caught off guard with tears, it dawned on me.  I’m emotional because I really care about this.  I’ve worked hard, and I’m becoming passionate about something again.  It means a lot to me, and I want to do well not just for myself, but for everyone who’s believed in me.  For the first time in a long time, I felt like I “was” something again.  I am a shooter, and I believe it when I say it.

 

I’m so happy that I was in the first group to shoot, on the first day in the morning, to get it over with and not allow myself too much time to stew.  I still have difficulty seeing at 15 yards, but I could rely on my ever-developing skills to get me through.  My first 10 rounds all found the target, but two were in the border area, so only eight counted.  I re-set and fired my next 10, all well within the target area.  A final score of 54/60 advanced me through the class.

 

The remaining pieces got easier as I went through them.  The basic handling and malfunction clearing felt clumsy to me, from lack of experience.  In hind sight I wish I’d taken the Range Safety Officer course first, but that will happen in due time.  The test after the first day wasn’t terrible, and I scored 100%.  The test at the end of the second day, was one I’d downloaded and studied on flash cards, so I finished quickly and scored 100% on it as well.  At the end of the day, our lead instructor asked if there was anyone in our class, any of us felt shouldn’t be recommended for the certification, we shook our heads no in unison, and he told us, then we all knew how we did.  Again, I was blessed to have great fellow IC’s (Instructor Candidates) and a great Instruction team around me.

 

Our class photo

 

I’d be a fool to tell you this makes me any level of a professional in the industry.  I’m hyper aware of just how green I still am, but I’m learning more every day.  Part of being an Instructor, is always being able to take instruction, and knowing that you don’t know everything.  I’m excited to see where the next turn on this road leads me (actually, it’s leading me to an Appleseed Project rifle camp with the new Ruger 10/22 I got to reward myself!).  One small step in my next big journey!

 

 

Proof of my accomplishment

My new badge of honor

 

JUST KEEP SWIMMING

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Yesterday off the coast of Virginia, a school of sea horses made their way to shore.  It actually doesn’t sound all that newsworthy, until you see the photos that accompany the headline…

 

 

The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim is a beloved spectacle on the Virginia coastline.  This year marks the 92nd.  Now well organized and managed by the respective local authorities, in the days leading up to the swim, the “Saltwater Cowboys” begin rounding up the herd and settling them in to their starting corral.  In an effort to keep the feral herd to a safe number, ponies are selected for sale from the herd on a yearly basis as well.  The ponies are vetted prior to their swim day, after which they get a chance to catch their breath before being paraded through town.  The auction follows the next day, where lucky buyers can purchase their own living breathing history.

 

 

More detailed information can be found on a number of websites.  I found the complete schedule here:  http://www.chincoteague.com/pony_swim_guide.html  Several news stations also report on the event, http://www.abc2news.com/news/news-photo-gallery/the-82nd-annual-chincoteague-pony-swim  This is definitely an event I want to add to my bucket list!

 

Legends say the ponies of Chincoteague and Assateague islands descend from the horses brought over from Spanish ships in the 16th-18th centuries.  More likely they’re a result of 17th-century colonists looking to escape livestock laws and taxes on the mainland.  Possibly a happy marriage of both.  However their story began, it’s still one that locals and visitors enjoy the re-telling of every year.  For me, it’s a combination of things I love, horses and the sea, and I can’t wait to see it in person some day!

PHOTO GALLERY: THE DECONSTRUCTION OF A BUDWEISER CLYDESDALE HITCH

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And it can happen faster than you can have a Domino’s pizza delivered.  We missed their arrival and hitching for the parade honoring the Newark area veterans, and their Hometown Heroes program.  Families can purchase banners that will hang on light poles in downtown Newark, honoring their veterans.  Matesich Distributing, and Budweiser supported the event with their Mid-West hitch’s appearance.

http://www.newarkadvocate.com/story/news/local/2017/07/14/hometown-heroes-budweiser/480328001/

 

In the time we were there, the hitch arrived back at their three custom trailers around 3:30 in the afternoon, and were ready to hit the road by 4:00 on the way to their next appearance.  To say it’s impressive, to watch the break-down of such an icon, is an understatement.  The horses and their handlers make it look downright easy…

 

Their custom rigs, ready and waiting

Arrival at the parking area

Coming to rest

Classic white, feathered feet

Enjoying a nice neck stretch

Clyde is safely returned to land

One by one, unfastened from the wagon

Each patiently waiting their turn (notice not even being held)

Harness to the left, horses to their trailers on the right

Up the ramp, into the shady trailers where fans wait to cool them down

Are we ready to go yet?

Hey, where’s my hay?

Getting sleepy

Once the horsepower is safely stowed, handlers remove ribbons and rosettes from the manes and tails

Finally the iconic red Studebaker wagon is hand-walked to it’s ramp

Then winched into it’s trailer

 

The entire operation runs so smoothly, it’s so well-rehearsed, when it’s all packed up, you think, is that it?  It doesn’t matter how old I get, at heart, I’m always going to be the little girl who loves to see the ponies.  These boys make me smile every time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALL’S FAIR

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This time of year is all about fair season.  Many of the counties in Ohio host their own fairs, other independent organizations host their own, but they’re all “home turf” to their respective local 4-H clubs, and often the last hurrah of the show season.  Beyond that, should your success have reached it’s peak, competitors can qualify to compete at the Ohio State Fair Junior Horse Show.

 

 

I bet you thought the state fair was just ferris wheels and funnel cakes…   In the week leading up to the main fair, horse showmen from all 88 counties who’ve qualified are invited to bring their A-game to the Ohio Expo Center and compete for state titles.  For the kids who only compete on the 4-H circuit, this is A VERY BIG DEAL.  While they don’t get the benefit of the full state fair crowds as spectators, they do get some pretty impressive bragging rights!

 

 

The state fair is typically the first two weeks of August, which means the Junior Horse Show is almost here!  Hopefully if you or your child is competing you’re already registered, but more information can be found on their website:  http://www.ohio4h.org/events/ohio-state-fair-junior-horse-show

 

In addition to the opportunity to compete against other horse and rider teams from across the state, it’s a chance for our young riders to see the bigger picture, and meet more like-minded young people.  I’ve always felt horses helped raise me to be a respectable adult, I still believe that to be true.

 

 

If you’re looking for something fun to do with your family at the end of the month, this is a great event to check out.  The competitors always love a nice crowd to cheer them on, and the certainly deserve it for all their hard work and effort.  Go see another side to the state fair you maybe didn’t even know existed!

 

A TIME TO LIVE AND A TIME TO RIDE

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While it seems a foreign concept to me, not all of us were born with the desire to spend our days in the saddle.  Some find this desire develops later in life, and they may find themselves wondering, where do I start?

 

The industry outreach program, Time to Ride, has recently hit the 100k human-horse connections milestone, in the very business of helping newcomers take their first strides on horseback, or in a horse-related business.  All this just since 2011!  Their goal was simple, but casts a wide net,  to increase participation in the horse industry in the face of major economic, demographic and cultural changes and challenges.  They’re making it look easy!

 

 

Everyone is busy.  It’s kind of a four letter word in my opinion, one that we often use to avoid engaging in something we don’t care for, or to put off something we’d rather not do, but at the end of the day, we’re all busy.  Nobody gets to “win” the competition, nobody is more important than another, but we can stop using it as a crutch.  Sometimes when you think you’re the busiest, it’s actually the best time to come up for air and take care of yourself, if only for a little while.  If you’ve ever considered adding horses to your life, but didn’t know where to begin, this is your opportunity to get a different kind of busy.

 

http://timetoride.com offers many ways to connect to existing horse owners and facilities in your area.  Their ever-expanding network can connect you with lessons and camps, trail rides and ranches, competitive sports like rodeo and showing, as well as clubs and organizations.  Age and experience are only details, there’s a horse in their program, waiting for you to saddle up and begin a new journey with you.

 

 

If you’re already involved with horses, but looking to make business connections, or considering launching your own horse-related business, they can help you with that too!    Learn about the American Horse Council Marketing Alliance and Time to Ride.  Create your own business listing with them, and take The Challenge, a contest that rewards businesses for introducing newcomers to horses.

 

 

You’re never too old, or too young, or too busy to try something new.  You just have to make the time to do it, and now seems like as good a time as any to get started, so giddy up!