LITTLE BROWN JUG

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Hey there!  In prep mode for vacation this week (which means no post for next week, Oct. 1), so I’m keeping it brief.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t something exciting to write about though!

 

Today at the Delaware County Fair in Delaware, OH is the 70th running of the Little Brown Jug!  The LBJ is the premier pacing classic for three year old Standardbreds.  I’ve not yet had the opportunity to attend, but it’s on my horsey bucket list for sure.  Fellow equine enthusiasts all recommend it.

 

LBJ

 

For more information and tickets, check out the website…

http://www.littlebrownjug.com

 

Until we meet again in two weeks, happy trails!

 

K

 

TRAVELLER’S TRAVELS

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I don’t remember which grade in school I read the book “Traveller,” by Richard Adams, but it left a mark.  As a daughter of a history buff in general, and a Civil War buff in particular, I’ve always enjoyed learning about how our country came to be.  During school years, when classmates were at Disneyland or Myrtle Beach with their families on breaks, we were taking road trips to the major battlefields of the Civil War.  It never occurred to me that I was getting the short end of the vacation stick, I loved it!

 

A well-worn copy of that book is still in my possession, and I read it from time to time.  It was one of the first examples of the horse’s point of view (apart from Black Beauty, which is heartbreaking in every version) I can recall, and continuous inspiration to me when I get the opportunity to “chat” with horses now.  As Traveller recounts his tale to the barn cat, Tom, I’m always impressed by his simple and honest viewpoint.  Highlighting that horses tend to take more factual impressions, rather than emotional.  His feelings of solidarity to his master and his task are admirable.

 

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In Adams’ book, Traveller (spelled by General Robert E. Lee in the traditional British fashion with two L’s, rather than the American with only one) recounts his personal history and impressions to a barn cat named Tom.  Born in 1857, an American Saddlebred originally named “Greenbriar” after the county in Virginia where he was born, now West Virginia.  As a colt he won prizes in the local county fair in 1859 and 1860, eventually becoming the horse recognized for his courage in battle at 16 hands high (64″ at the withers), with an iron grey coat, black points, and flowing, dark mane and tail.

 

In the spring of 1861 Greenbriar was purchased “as a good serviceable horse for use in the war,” for $175.  General Lee took an immediate liking to him, often endearing him as “his colt,” and purchased him from the Confederate Army in February 1862 for $200.  Greenbriar’s name was changed to Traveller, and the pair began their legendary, lifelong friendship.

 

lee and traveller

 

Traveller was much admired for his gait, strength, spirit, and above all, courage.  The nature of the American Saddlebred is to be spirited, and Traveller was a proud example of the breed, while still maintaining stoic bravery and intelligence under the stress of war.  Mrs. Lee’s cousin, Markie Williams, had asked General Lee if she could paint a portrait of his steed, the General replied…

“If I was an artist like you, I would draw a true picture of Traveller; representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest, short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth, and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat and cold; and the dangers and suffering through which he has passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts through the long night-marches and days of the battle through which he has passed. But I am no artist Markie, and can therefore only say he is a Confederate gray. “

 

After the war, Traveller went with Lee to Washington College in Lexington, Virginia.  When Lee died in 1870, Traveller was draped in black crepe and led behind the funeral cassion in honor of his fallen master.  The following year he stepped on a nail, and developed Tetanus.  With no known cure at the time, Traveller was put down with a bullet.  He was initially buried at the college, then later unearthed by persons unknown and his bones were bleached for exhibition in Rochester, New York, in 1875/1876. In 1907, Richmond journalist Joseph Bryan paid to have the bones mounted and returned to the college, named Washington and Lee University since Lee’s death, and they were displayed in the Brooks Museum, in what is now Robinson Hall. The skeleton was periodically vandalized there by students who carved their initials in it for good luck. In 1929, the bones were moved to the museum in the basement of the Lee Chapel, where they stood for 30 years, deteriorating with exposure.

 

Finally in 1971, Traveller’s remains were buried in a wooden box encased in concrete next to the Lee Chapel on the Washington & Lee campus, a few feet away from the Lee family crypt inside, where his master’s body rests. The stable where he lived his last days, directly connected to the Lee House on campus, traditionally stands with its doors left open; this is said to allow his spirit to wander freely. The 24th President of Washington & Lee (and thus a recent resident of Lee House), Dr. Thomas Burish, caught strong criticism from many members of the Washington & Lee community for closing the stable gates in violation of this tradition. Burish later had the doors to the gates repainted in a dark green color, which he referred to in campus newspapers as “Traveller Green.”

 

traveller%20stone

 

Traveller’s story has been diluted through the generations sadly, kids today are taught more about how to be tested than they are about our country and it’s historical heroes.  It’s my hope that he’ll continue to be recognized for his service, and I’ll continue to appreciate the impression he made on me, with the assistance of Richard Adams, when I share my equine interviews with you.

 

statue-of-general-robert-e-lee-on-his-horse-traveller-mountain-dreams

IN SEASON

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Fall is a gorgeous time of year for trail riding, especially here in the midwest.  The leaves are turning, the weather is finally pleasant again without sweating yourself silly or wearing so many coats you can’t move. The bugs are retreating, and hunters are all prepping for another season, or seasons.  Yeah, nothing spoils a nice, relaxing trail ride like gun shots ringing out, a frantic deer darting across your path, followed by angry hunters stomping as fast as their layers of camo will allow to chase after their near miss.  Meanwhile your horse has wet his fur, you’re clinging sideways to your saddle, and you’re THIS close to needing those emergency pants you keep in your tack box, for a variety of reasons.  Good times…

Let’s go over a few things to refresh yourself and your barnmates on for the season.  First, and most importantly, education and awareness.  The easiest way to avoid a surprise confrontation with a hunter or hunting party, is to avoid them.  Captain Obvious would be proud!  Check your local depart of wildlife and county calendars for which hunting season are open and when.  Familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines, and plan your rides around the times when risk is greatest.  If there’s only a short hunting season in your area, and you’re fairly certain there won’t be any random hunters who accidently stroll onto your riding property, it might just be best to delare a moritorium on trail rides until the season closes.  Here in Ohio, we have season for guns and bows, seasons for youth and adults, and for several animals.  If you can’t shut down for the duration, at least make a point to know what you could be riding into.
Be aware of property lines, and make sure all no trespassing signs are up to date.  Save the riding for daylight hours only, and if hunting is allowed on the property you ride on, be sure to know who you might expect to bump into.

Remember, even if they aren’t currently being hunted, deer are usually on the move as farm fields get harvested, so you could see more woodland animal activity on your rides, and that always has the potential to surprise your horse.  A well-turned-out hunter is as good as a ninja in your horse’s eyes.  Just because you can see the guy in the tree stand, doesn’t mean they have, and it certainly doesn’t mean the flying ninja isn’t going to come after you and kill you and or your horse!

If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.  Dress for success when you hit the trails.  Brightly colored clothing, reflective gear, and anything else you can think of that at a glance screams, “I’m not a deer, and neither is the critter I’m sitting on, so please hold your fire!”  While in general, hunting is a fairly safe activity, we hear stories every year of people, livestock, sheds, all being “mistaken” for deer or other game and being on the receiving end of a slug.

 

I hate to see headphones or earbuds around horses, they create lots of opportunities for danger, and especially now, when all senses need to be on high alert.  Extra noise though, isn’t a bad idea.  A small radio, or even jingle bells fixed to your saddle can entertain, while making other animals and nearby hunters aware of your presence.  Even the most experienced hunter probably can’t think of a time when they caught a deer or turkey strolling through the woods with a boom box on their shoulder, so in theory at least, it should be a good indication that you’re human/a non-target.

 
When possible, leave a note with contact information, the time you left, who you’re with, and the time you plan to be back.  If you’re only going for a short cool down ride, and haven’t been seen for a few hours, that can be the best way to get a search party out looking for you.  Pack your cell phone or walkie talkies if you’re riding in bad service areas.

Lastly, safety in numbers.  If your horses are just going to be turned out in a potentially hazardous area, try to dress them in bright colors again, and make sure they have friends.  If you want to trail ride, try to not go it alone.  Horses just can’t tell a story like Lassie used to if you get hurt and they have to return to the barn alone.

 
There’s no reason to not take advantage of the change in scenery, but there’s every reason to be extra safe when you head out, to make sure you can enjoy more of it on your next ride!