Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone, I hope you had a nice day. If Easter is not your holiday I hope you had a nice weekend. Enjoy a few pictures from the farm!


Traveller and Norman grooming

Gus and Romeo

Silver and Faune

Elfin having a good roll

Baby and Apollo

A pretty relaxed scene of nappers . . . 

. . . Dutch, Africa and Wiz napping . . . 

 . . . while Murphy napped in the hay with Sebastian behind him

Bergie and Stormy

Toledo and Johnny

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Johnny and his mom have a strong bond, and their story of how they came together is proof of the healing power that horses have. In her own words below, Johnny's mom so eloquently states that Johnny came along at a time in her life when she needed another soul to love, and he gave her a purpose and a reason to leave her house every day.  Below Johnny's mom tells us about their journey together in her own words.


Johnny came into my life 6 years ago.  I tried him at a horse show in St. Louis in February of 2007.  I had tried several horses in January and several others in February but as soon as I rode Johnny I knew he was the one.  His show name was Gianni but the girls at his barn called him Johnny and it suited his personality.   He was a 12 year old Dutch Warmblood hunter.  I thought he was the most beautiful horse I had seen and loved his way of going. 

Johnny in the show ring with his trainer

Johnny and his mom

 Johnny was discovered by a trainer at a stable in Aspen, CO in January of 2007.  I suspect he was taking some time off from a previous injury as he made his appearance in St. Louis with an extremely long coat of hair and heavy duty borium shoes.  The trainer who had him at the show promptly “beautified” him.  We believe he had previously done the AO’s or the AA’s and an injury in his back end sidelined him.  We proceeded to vet him and determined he would be fine to do the job I needed, which was the 2’6”/2’9” divisions.

Johnny exploring his new digs on one of his first days with us

I had lost my beautiful 16 year old daughter, Paige, in a commercial plane crash the previous August.  A love of horses was a significant bond for us. I desperately needed another soul to love and take care of.  Obviously a horse could never fill that hole in my life but Johnny gave me a purpose and a destination every day that got me out of my house.  Looking back I now know that even though I thought I was taking care of him all those years I now realize that he was taking care of me.   

Johnny grooming with Murphy

Johnny and I had lots of good years together.  We did horse shows, clinics, trail riding, and hours and hours of lessons with friends at the barn.  He was such a sweet guy and always nickered when he heard me come in the side door with flip flops on (I know, not a good idea), loved, loved, loved having the underside of his neck scratched, and thoroughly enjoyed when the chiropractor came to work on him.  He feasted on carrots, apples, and peppermints.  The ladies at my grocery store could not believe all of the treats I purchased for my horse!  

Johnny and friends hanging out

Johnny and Africa grooming

Johnny also had special grazing privileges at our barn.  Our farm is mostly surrounded by a fence but if a horse wants to escape, they could.  Johnny would go out on the big grass field in the center of all of the turnouts and I would sit in a chair at the barn and watch him.  When he had his fill of grass he would saunter to his stall for his water and hay.  He loved that he was in charge!  

Johnny and Lighty on the run

Wiz and Johnny on the run

When I first got Johnny his way of going was very heavy in the hand.  His weight tended to be on his front end.  He wanted to pull to the jumps and I was okay with it at the beginning.  In time he improved but the real turning point was the fall that he injured his right hind suspensory and then had several months off.  When it was time to bring him back into work I rode him with a dressage trainer through his rehab. We worked on getting him to use his back end more effectively and carry himself.  In hindsight it was a blessing.  He became an absolute delight to ride and he became very light and responsive to my hand. 

Johnny leading the gang across the pasture

Through the years we showed in the Adult Hunter divisions.  We were very successful and competitive in those divisions but I finally realized that while I had loved being a show mom for my daughter all of those years, I got way too nervous when I was the one in the ring.  Usually my classes were later in the day so by the time I showed I was a bit ragged from the worrying!  I finally realized that showing just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Johnny and friends (Murphy, Dutch and Sam) on the run

hanging out with his pal Lighty in the woods

As the years went on jumping became more of an issue for Johnny and Ithink his old injuries were bothering him.  We did joint injections in order to keep him comfortable, but he finally let me know after 4+ years that it was too hard for him to keep jumping.  I purchased another horse to jump and just kept Johnny to flat because I still enjoyed riding him and he was comfortable with that.  We enjoyed another 6 months of riding before it was clear that his nice lofty trot and lilting canter were becoming very flat and labored.  That was when I knew that it was time for the next phase of his life, retirement!

Johnny and Africa 

Sometimes Johnny needs to rest from all the galloping around he does. Here he is the first napper on the left

I am blessed to have had this wonderful horse in my life. Johnny will always have a special place in my heart.  I feel so happy that he has found such a wonderful place to live out his sunset years.  


We met Johnny and his mom a year ago when Johnny made the trip from Kansas to join us for retirement.  
Johnny went through a lot of changes in his early days with us. I have written in a previous post about the various behaviors we see when new horses are being integrated into a group. Johnny was one of those horses that made us wonder and worry as he slowly found his way into the group. In about 90 days Johnny went from hiding in a far corner of the pasture, to hanging out on the fringes of the group while regularly being flustered and run-off by the chargers, to eventually becoming a very dominant and bossy personality who lives to play. 

 Johnny and Lighty being goofy

Johnny and Lighty making silly faces; life is so hard

Johnny is flourishing in his retired life with his friends, and as you can see from all of his retirement pictures in this post he loves to run, play, groom, hang out and generally be right in the middle of the action. He definitely sees himself as a big man on campus which is a far cry from his first few weeks with us.  We have been fortunate to welcome this special horse into our farm family.  We hope you have enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about Johnny!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

And then it decided to snow...

Accumulating snow is enough of a rarity in southern Middle Tennessee that we usually look forward to it. Once or twice a year we get somewhere between a dusting and a few inches and we've covered in many other posts the childish glee and associated travel apocalypse that comes with each snow fall. Snow typically doesn't wear out it's welcome down here because it has the good sense not to fall very often, to limit itself in quantity when it does, and to further limit itself by falling only during winter months, ie. December, January and February. We had a couple of very light dustings, but basically we had no snow at all in middle Tennessee this winter.

So you can imagine our unpleasant surprise when we woke up this morning and it was snowing. To be fair the forecasters said it was coming, but neither Melissa or me took their comments very seriously. Although we put blankets on all the horses a few days ago we did so more as a precaution than because we thought there was any real need. Despite a cool, wet and cloudy month we really haven't had any cold weather for some time. As we were putting all the blankets on we both commented multiple times that it was ridiculous and most probably a considerable waste of time.  March on the cusp of April is very much spring time here in the mid-South. It features budding and leafing trees, blooming shrubs in a variety of colours, green grass, copious amounts of warm sunshine, pleasant temperatures and lots of spring flowers. It does not feature leaden skies, brisk, cold winds and snow.

I came to Tennessee several years ago to marry Melissa. One of the many added bonuses that accrued with my move south was living in a place where springtime came in March instead of May. The normal high at our farm on March 25 is 67 degrees, so yesterday's high of 35 degrees was 32 degrees below normal. Today's high was only 27 degrees below normal. This may or may not be a record, we're not sure yet, but if it isn't it will be close.  Definitely not the type of record we want to be setting.


Lighty and Sebastian (B-Rad and Darby in the background) eating breakfast in the snow. Click on the picture and make it bigger and you can see the snow flurries coming down. This is just wrong in late March.

Norman and Cuff Links grazing in the snow flurries

Noble, Merlin, Fabrizzio and Walden; we briefly had a few isolated patches of snow on the ground this morning as you can see in this picture. Again this is just wrong in late March.

Elfin and Homer; see the snowflakes falling in this picture

Faune, Romeo and Lotus waiting for breakfast under a grey sky

Africa and Johnny

Dutch and Renny

Cinnamon, Maisie, MyLight and Calimba

surprisingly napping seemed to be a popular activity today; Asterik and Lotus


Tony, Hemi and Baby

Toledo and Kennedy

Hemi and Thomas eating the same blade of hay a couple of days ago. It was cold and windy but at least it was sunny.


Snappy and Slinky

Calimba and Maisie

Sunday, March 24, 2013

In Memory of Winston

It is amazing how quickly things can change sometimes.  A few weeks ago Winston was a healthy retiree, happily going about life on his terms.  If you had told me then that the decision to euthanize Winston would need to be made soon I never would have believed you. However that is exactly what happened, as Winston developed some complicated health issues seemingly overnight, and after multiple vet visits at the farm, followed by a stay at the clinic, Winston was euthanized a couple of days ago.  

Winston being delivered to his new home shortly after his mom purchased him. That is the owner of the farm from which she purchased Winston holding the leadrope.

Winston and his mom at a horse show in Florida

Winston had enjoyed retirement with us for four years, although he and his mom had been together for ten years.  Winston’s mom had ridden and shown as a child when she was growing up on Long Island. As happens with many people she stopped riding when she went away to school and life took her in other directions. Like a true horseperson she eventually found her way back to riding after a long absence. 

afternoon grazing with a friend

everyone looking very interested in something

When Winston's group made the move to our new farm a couple of years ago he was one of the first horses to walk off the trailer. He liked to go go first.

Winston is a Thoroughbred and actually started his career as a racehorse. He was bred by Loblolly Stable and his sire was Vanlandingham. Vanlandingham raced in the 1984 Kentucky Derby.  During the Derby he fractured his pastern in his right front leg, and was out of racing for the next 13 months. However Vanlandingham returned to racing the next year and ended up being an Eclipse Award winner.  

grazing with friends

an early morning grazing session before the fog had lifted

napping with Faune

Unlike his sire Winston had a fairly short career as a race horse.  His Jockey Club name is the rather unfortunate name of Pig Trail. Given that his dam’s name was State Coed I have no idea where the name Pig Trail came from.  Racing under the name of Pig Trail, Winston actually managed to win a couple of races at Turfway Park.  However his calling in life was not to be a race horse, and he was sold off the track and moved to the northeast where he began his career as a show hunter.

waiting expectantly for breakfast one morning

nap time again

Winston leading the gang across the pasture

Winston’s mom went through a major life change in the time period right before she purchased him. She found herself in one of those painful periods of life where everything changes when her husband passed away.  A friend of hers was riding and she began going along to the barn with her to watch and to enjoy being around the horses. 

Faune, Winston and Lotus made a pretty picture together

having a playful afternoon with his friends

Winston and Romeo hanging out

After seeing her there several times and watching other people riding, the instructor at the farm asked her if she would like to ride herself. Of course she said yes, and she found herself back in the saddle after an extended absence.  Riding gave her something to enjoy and to focus on as she dealt with the changes her life was going through. In addition to taking lesson she began going to the gym and working out so she could be in the best shape possible for riding.  

making his way across the pasture with Faune and Titan

Winston loved to hang out in the woods

Winston and Titan were almost twins

After a few months of lessons, including starting to jump again, her instructor asked her if she would be interested in purchasing a horse for herself. Once again the answer was a definite yes, and the search for a horse began. Before they went to see Winston she had already looked at a few other horses that were not the right match for various reasons. When they went to the farm where Winston was living she knew she wanted to purchase him from the moment they first met.  She told me when she first saw Winston they shared a long moment where he studied her and she admired him.  She had an inner dialog with herself and told herself “don’t fall for a guy just because he is good looking.”  However everything went perfectly when she rode Winston and soon a vetting was arranged and Winston became hers.  

trotting across the pasture with Faune, Romeo and Asterik

early morning grazing with Romeo

At that point Winston was 13 years old and had been showing as a hunter in the northeast for several years. He had actually been sold to someone else a couple of months earlier, but that purchaser had ended up returning him to the farm as the young rider who had bought him ended up not getting along with him and fell off of him several times. Everything worked out perfectly for Winston as he ended up finding his forever home with his new mom.   The first thing Winston’s mom did was to change his name from Pig Trail to Winston. She was a history major in college and one of her favorite historical figures is Winston Churchill. So Winston is named in honor of Winston Churchill. I think the name Winston suits him and his personality much better than Pig Trail.

Winston with Faune and Romeo

Winston and his mom spent their first few years together in New Jersey, riding and showing. Winston was nicely trained and very experienced by the time she bought him and she said he was a real pleasure to ride. She described him as being very light to the aids and that you could almost think what you wanted to do and Winston would do it. The one thing Winston did not enjoy was trail riding. His mom said that when she would start down the trails that Winston would walk along for a few minutes, and then he would start trying to turn around so they could head back to the arena.  

Winston was not stranger to the vet during his tenure with us. He would go long stretches with no issues, and then he would find a way to do something to himself.  The pictures below are from a trip to the clinic a couple of years ago where he was x-rayed (above) and scoped (below).

His mom never tried to push trail riding on Winston because, as she said, “if Winston was not happy, I was not going to be happy.” I have to admit I laughed out loud when she told me this because it describes Winston perfectly. We found that the trick to living with Winston was that he needed to think he was getting his way and doing what he wanted to do all the time. Just like Winston’s mom said, if he wasn’t happy we were not going to be happy. We always had to make sure that Winston had at least one friend standing right next to him when he saw the farrier and when he came into the barn for any reason. 

grazing with friends

enjoying the snow with Asterik

Winston and his mom moved from New Jersey to Florida after they had been together a few years. They continued their partnership in Florida, riding, attending horse shows, and enjoying each other’s company. His mom told me that Winston’s trainer in Florida told her that when they went to horse shows they really needed to get Winston two stalls instead of one. Not because he was a big horse, but because he needed one stall for him to stand in and the other stall for his ego. She said his ego was so big there could not possibly be room for it and Winston in the same stall.

enjoying retirement with his friends

After a few years of riding and showing in Florida Winston started having a harder time holding up to the workload. They scaled back their riding, but after awhile it became obvious that the best choice for Winston was retirement. His mom was referred to us by her veterinarian who had another client that had a horse retired with us. Four years ago, in the spring of 2009, Winston made the trip to Tennessee from Florida and joined us for retirement. 

Winston made the most of his retirement years

Winston leading a charge across the pasture

Winston, indeed, had a huge ego and overflowing self confidence from the moment we met him, and it never waned. He definitely saw himself as a big man on campus. He became very strongly herdbound to his group of friends within about five minutes of meeting them. He quickly got to the point that he hated being separated from them for even five minutes.  On the days when it was his turn to see the farrier we had a certain routine with Winston. If he had to stand in a stall and wait Winston would get himself so worked up the farrier almost could not work on him. Winston trained us quickly and we always made sure that we led him in from the field and right up to the farrier, who worked on him immediately so that Winston did not have to wait for even one minute. When he was done Winston went back outside right away, no standing around in the barn waiting before or after his turn. Like his mom said, if Winston was not happy no one was going to be happy, and he trained us well.

I took this picture on Winston's first day with us 4 years ago

most of the time Winston had absolutely no complaints

We spent the last four years catering to Winston’s expectations, and it certainly feels very different to not have his large ego dictating how we go about certain tasks. However I have no doubt that Winston is carrying on in his usual style and that he is still expecting things to be done his way, and only his way.  Winston was a lucky horse that had a great life from start to finish, and I am sure it never occurred to him that life could be any other way.