Have you ever seen someone at a show and wondered, how do they have all that?  People who knew Rita Crundwell of Dixon, Illinois must have scratched their heads many times.  An FBI investigation lasting several months finally provided the answer. Rita had embezzled $53 million over her 20 year career as the City of Dixon Comptroller.  Her story is being told now in film,, by



I guess when your gut tells you something doesn’t add up, a Comptroller’s math might not add up any better…




In honor of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, a little clip compliments of The Telegraph, and a re-share of a previous and very popular post from last year…


Americans love a good royal story, and I’m no exception. I can scroll through photos and news clips all day, fascinated by their lives. The one I continue to be most enchanted by is Her Majesty, The Queen. I won’t even pretend to be up to snuff on royal protocol as to the proper way to discuss her by name and title! Truth by told, even if we met in person, I’d probably end up locked in a tower for wanting to give her a hug like we were old friends, my filter doesn’t seem to catch the little things like that…


Also note, I submitted requests to interview some of the royal household guard horses, and was declined. Evidently, like their human counterparts, British horses keep a stiff upper lip as well.


Queen’s Elizabeth II’s love of horses and riding, like most little girls, began at a young age. She was first given a Shetland Pony named Peggy at the age of four, and started riding at the age of six. An avid equestrienne was born! Her life and career have continued to be “hoof in hand” with horses since, and she’s still riding to this day, at 89, in all her elegant splendor. I have to admit, seeing the photos that pop up in the news, of she and Prince Phillip riding together, with her stylish scarves knotted around her silver hair, make me smile. Once a horsewoman, always a horsewoman.




The Queen inherited many Thoroughbred’s from her father, King George VI after his passing, which she continues to race and breed.  On her other properties, she breeds Shetland Ponies, Fell Ponies, and Highland Ponies, but the Thoroughbreds tend to make the most headlines for her.  As an owner, her racing record includes over 1600 wins, and she’s the first monarch to have won the British Flat Racing Champion Owner title twice, in 1954 and 1957.  She also have three races named for her:  The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes, The Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, and The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.  I found this photo of her at Ascot, a moment of freedom that only can be found in a saddle…




In 1969 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police gifted her with a black mare named Burmese, who The Queen grew quite fond of.  She rode the mare in every Trooping the Colour (aka the Queen’s Birthday Parade) from 1969 to 1986.  From 1987 on she participated by carriage.  Burmese passed away in 1990.


queen and burmese


The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, a unit of the British Army, is probably the best known of her string.  Breathtaking in parade, and imposing in person, it’s the first image that comes to mind when we think of British Royals and horses.  Comprised of black horses acquired almost exclusively from the Republic of Ireland, all standing at a minimum of 16 hands, and grey horses used by the State Trumpeters a minimum of 15.2 hands.  All are carefully selected by the Riding Master, the Regimental Veterinarian, and members of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.


The horses are usually three to four years old at time of purchase, and depending on their temperament, will endure eight to ten months of training before they’re considered ready.  The royal guard horses are set apart by markings of the regiment’s initials on a front hoof, and their army number on a rear hoof.


Troops parade at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Tuesday Oct. 27, 2009, during the arrival of India's President Pratibha Patil at the start of a State Visit. The first woman to serve as President of India, Patil, will stay for the duration of her three day state visit at Windsor Castle as a guest of the Queen.(AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, pool)

Troops parade at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Tuesday Oct. 27, 2009, during the arrival of India’s President Pratibha Patil at the start of a State Visit. The first woman to serve as President of India, Patil, will stay for the duration of her three day state visit at Windsor Castle as a guest of the Queen.(AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, pool)


Among her royal duties, The Queen still enjoys hosting the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show and watching her granddaughter, Zara Phillips, also a noted equestrienne, compete.  It’s said The Queen reads the Racing Post every morning over breakfast.


Cheers to you your majesty, I salute you for our shared passion for horses.  Long live The Queen!





At The Shane Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship where Dad and I volunteer sometimes, I have the profound honor of working with Stevie.  He’s a veteran of their program, and a celebrity among his riders and adoring fans, not that he’d ever tell you that.  He’s as humble as his service record is distinguished.


I spoke with him, with the assistance of farm owner, Karen Sanchez, about his career as a therapy horse.  Here’s what he had to say…


-Give a brief biography, age, length of service at The Shane Center, etc.

My registered name is Half Diamond Styvi (pronounced Stavay).  I came to Willow Farm on  May 21, 2010. I was born April 24, 1997 in Tofield, AB Canada. Interestingly my great grand sire is Grabb who was imported from Norway and stood in Colorado. My Dam’s Grand Sire was named Knut and Dam’s Grand Dam was named Siri. Thanks to a generous donation, I was purchased from a lady near Columbus who only had him about a month—she purchased me from a family who had 7 children. They wanted me for trail riding but I didn’t care to keep up with the gaited horses her friend rode and even preferred to stay back at camp by himself munching hay on the picket line.

Karen seems to think I’m worth my weight in diamonds, and changed my name a little to “Stevie” so it was easier for the kiddos to pronounce.



-Do you have any specialties you’re known for?

I’m pretty good at at sensing changes in riders . . . sometimes the handlers think I’m just being pokey or stubborn, sometimes refusing to move.  Then low and behold, my rider will have a seizure. The more stubbornly I hold my place, the bigger the seizure. I’m a big fan of “hugging”. If anyone on the ground with me hugs me, I’ll wrap my neck around them and hug back.  Sometimes I’ll even sneak a hug on someone who isn’t expecting it… hee hee hee!  I find sometimes humans don’t even know they needed a hug until I lay one on them. Patience is one of my strongest skills, I’ll wait for days if it suits me. I also like to play with my humans if I think they’re getting a little lazy or not paying attention—and it helps me get the human to work up a sweat while I just stand or move a few inches. Now if there is food involved, that’s another story!  There is a spring in my step and maybe even a few bucks as I gallop out to the pasture after acting like I am so tired I can’t possibly make it one more lap around the arena. I’m also excellent at teaching students how to ride a transition from trot to canter—I am very smooth and will just canter one or two steps unless you ask for more.


-You work with all manner of students, and all manner of physical and non-physical injury/illness.  What do you find the most challenging/rewarding?

Honestly, I love everybody, especially those that are a bit afraid or nervous. I find the riders who are learning to canter and learning to say trot for 5 min. the most challenging because well why should I work that hard? I mean if you are going to expect me to work up a sweat, I am going to expect you to be able to steer AND give me the cue to go forward AND have a clear focus AND determination all at the same time. If you can only do one thing at a time I will test you—if you can steer well then super I will stop trotting, if you have a great aid for trot, GREAT, I will trot and turn across the arena—I mean it is a long way around so why not take a short cut? Once you get all your ducks in a row then I am a dream machine—soft, light, easy to go and well my favorite WHOA (did I feel you shift your weight? I had better stop or slow down just in case you were losing your balance.  OH sorry you were just adjusting your foot in the stirrup? I thought you were going to fall off).

I have a talent for helping people develop patience and problem solving skills. I mean maybe you think I’m being stubborn but how can you get mad at such a sweet face or a hug? When riders do start to get frustrated or angry, I put on my puppy eyes or Elvis lip. I like teaching people to have multiple strategies to solve problems. I also teach them to have clear expectations. You wanted to go faster but used a pretty big cue, well I will offer to canter  a few steps to see if that causes you to suddenly make me slow down. You are learning to mount independently and you get me all lined up at the mounting block by yourself and you are ready to hike your leg over, I will take 3 very slow well placed steps backwards and just a few inches away . . . most riders will then run up and down the steps to keep re-aligning him until I show them how to use the driving game, STAY on the block, and use clear focus and intent to get him to stand still. You get him going faster and are able to keep him going but OOOPS there is a barrel right in the way . . . On the flip side, a student who is maybe afraid or having trouble getting on I stand like a concrete statue and then walks as if I’m walking on egg shells . . . another student who might think they are getting a little big for their britches takes me out to the playground on line and asks me to jump the log, I’ll act like a 3 year old Arabian snorting, tail up, jumping and kicking up my heels, and maybe even getting them to release their grip on the rope so Ican display my airs above the ground—I mean it puts the Lippianizars to shame!


-Do you have a favorite student or activity, maybe one you really connected with?

Every student is my favorite . . .   My most favorite lesson activity is when the instructor hides carrots or bits of apples around the arena and the rider has to ride to different obstacles to help me find them. I love a good demolition derby, to knock over, push aside, and thoroughly investigate the props to ensure there are no treats hidden there. There is one student who doesn’t talk much at all but says my name loud and clear . . . when the humans are on break I am told she just won’t stop saying “Where’s Stevie?”


-When off duty, who’s the crowd you run with, and what do you like to do?

My herd includes Knut & Toby, Mack and Ghibson. Ghibson is a big show off and Mack is his chump. Toby & Knut are easy to intimidate with a swish of my tail or flick of my ears. When Ghibson is not around I rule the roost and am not afraid to push my weight around to get the choice pile of hay. Going to the big pasture is my favorite—eating grass. I might kick up my heels and get the heck out of dodge to get to the pasture but 2 feet in I can slide to a stop and my head is down grabbing mouthfuls of sweet green goodness while the others are running around all fancy smancy like. Why waste all that energy? I mean you might need it for keeping warm or stocking up because 3 times a day is just not enough feedings in my book.



I need a few details to complete the nomination form, but as soon as I have them, I’ll share the link so you can nominate him as well, for his outstanding achievement in the role of Equine of the year!  Thanks to Stevie and Karen for taking the time to talk with me, and sharing your story with my readers.  Who doesn’t love a hero?