Sunday, April 19, 2015

Midwest Horse Fair 2015 Part 2

Welcome to MORE HORSE FAIR coverage.
Time for some North Horse Awards! Like in Whose Line is it Anyway, the categories are made up and the points don't matter, but we have fun anyway.

Tackiest Tack!

It's like the Easter Bunny came and threw up plastic Easter "grass" on this breast collar.
Metallic pale green fringe, pink crystals, and pink, green, white, and burgundy beadwork. Ughhh.

Runner Up for Tackiest Tack

This is what happens when girls take too long to grow out of the pink and purple princess stage.

Honorable Mentions for Tackiest Tack

I have never seen a blue snake with a zig-zag pattern, but if one existed, I don't think he would appreciate being covered in asymmetrical gold and crystal plastic. The pink one is a little better, but boy am I getting sick of seeing chunky, blingy crosses on everything. Jesus was kind of a humble guy, not so much about gaudy displays that shout, "HEY GUYS LOOK HOW RELIGIOUS I AM!"

This set was priced at $40 at the 4H tack sale.

Confession: I kind of like this one. If I had seen this when I was 15, I would have wanted it.

Speaking of the 4H tack sale, did anyone else come out of there with PTSD? That disorganized, elbow-slinging, overcrowded madhouse was louder than a dance club but without the benefit of alcohol. It was like a "Where's Waldo" puzzle, except smelling of body odor and leather. Seriously, with all those big new buildings, we couldn't hold the sale somewhere else? Like, somewhere where trying to look at a bridle doesn't mean having to become physically intimate with three people and a wooden rack?

That spot of bare floor is an illusion-- it's actually just the compacted bodies of the fallen, stamped smooth by the crowd.

Most Colorfully Dressed Non-Costumed Fair Attendee

Every year I pick someone wild, but this year I'm giving it to the rather plain leprechaun cowboy. Why? Because I'm pretty sure he was here last year, dressed the same way. That hat is very unmistakable. Is his name Patrick Irishman? Does he just really like green? Maybe those are his saddle club's colors? WHO ARE YOU, GREEN MAN?

DQ'd because this is a costume, but honorable mention goes to this rodeo queen, who must go through a lot of makeup remover every week. If you stare at her hat/head too long, it looks unreal.

Worst Marketing

Let's say you spent $400 to put your stud on Stallion Avenue, and you made a display to further advertise his awesomeness. Which kind of picture would you choose to make the BIGGEST in the display?

A) Stallion participating in a show or competition
B) Stallion posing in front of a professional background
C) Stallion with good ground manners being gentle in a family setting
D) Stallion about to bite the face off of another horse

If you chose D, you took the same marketing course as this owner!
Do you think they offer pasture breeding?

The stallion is Stone Blue, a Tennesse Walker from Rock City, IL. He was more gentle in person.

Coolest Non-Famous People

Obviously there are lots of really cool people at the Fair, like Julie Goodnight and The One Armed Bandit. But I prefer my heroes unsung, so here are two gals living in obscurity that you should know about:

Stacy here is part of a Wisconsin group sort of like the A Team, but not-for-profit. The Blue Hills Mounted Search and Rescue volunteers spend hundreds of hours training to rescue humans they've never met, for no pay. They work closely with law enforcement, and specialize in methodically searching for evidence and people over rough terrain that ATVs can't navigate. Last August, they found an older woman who had become lost while backpacking. Each member is certified in CPR and First Aid, and they have training sessions to desensitize their horses to everything from rescue gear to rain slickers. Stacy herself is from Rice Lake. She says that more mounted search and rescue groups are needed in heavily wooded northeastern Wisconsin.

If you decide to start your own Search and Rescue, maybe you too can take a group photo this awesome.

Next up, this is Jenna Carlton, from North Pole. That's North Pole Arkansas, but we'll make her an honorary northerner this weekend if for no other reason than that I try not to offend badass girls with the upper body strength of grizzlies.

Jenna is beating molten metal into submission in the World Championship Blacksmithing horseshoeing competition this weekend. Oh, you didn't know that was a thing? Yeah, it is, it's at Horse Fair every year, but lots of people seem to miss the smallish tents in the parking lot on the side of the Expo Center. Go check it out! Just listen for the hammering noises and look for shooting flames. Be warned: sparks occasionally fly onto audience members, so no wussies allowed.

Last, but certainly not least:

These guys are so awesome, every time they perform all the bald eagles in Wisconsin cry tears of pure freedom. Don't take my word for it, just watch them. And stay tuned for Part 3 of my Midwest Horse Fair coverage!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Midwest Horse Fair 2015 Part 1

Ah, Midwest Horse Fair. Fun, sun, shopping and horses of course! After the first day, my brain is already fried. Consequently, Part 1 here is lots of lovely pics and fairly little blabbing. Don't worry, I'll fill you in on some of the presentations later. Now then, let's get started.

Two people in an RV in the camping area of the Fair were taken to the ER for carbon monoxide poisoning traced to their own leaky generator. Super kudos to the person who figured out that "horse hasn't been fed by 10am" = "maybe something's wrong." They may have saved the lives of the owners. News link here. (Update: the victims were Mr. & Mrs. Taylor of Taylor-Made Paints from Junction City, WI. Please send good thoughts to them, as they are in serious condition.)

Steampunk Freisians! The riders of the Friesian Heritage Horse & Sporthorse International Group all went as gorgeous fairies last year. This year, they absolutely rocked the sci-fi/Victorian look. If you aren't quite sure what the whole steampunk thing is, just imagine if the world of the 1800s was run by crazy scientists/adventurers like Captain Nemo, with lots of steam-powered gadgetry.

Some more Friesians, these less steampunky:

Update: this guy is Mystic Warrior, a Friesian Appaloosa cross. Thanks Christy!

Sooo beautiful! Thanks for giving us a great show, Friesian Heritage. Your horses are amazing.

Unfortunately, now it's time to move on to something a bit ugly.

While I was watching riders in front of the coliseum, an Appaloosa stallion was led onto the wood chip lane by a woman wearing a Wisconsin Appaloosa Horse Club jacket. She constantly yanked on the horse's nose chain, despite the fact that he was pretty darn well-behaved. This wasn't a couple of corrections, this was harassment. If the stallion so much as looked up at another horse coming down the lane, she quickly jerked down on his face. Moved slightly? Yank! Batted an eyelash? Yank! Stood fucking still? Yank! Now, the funny thing about someone constantly jerking a chain wrapped around your nose is that it tends to make you more agitated, and throw your head more, not less. And so it was with this stallion, whose name, by the way, is Totally Included, barn name Kenny. Kenny got a little jumpy. Not rearing, not kicking, not trying to run, just agitated. His handler's response? Start beating him in the chest and neck with the rope in her left hand. I could hear it snap and smack him hard from thirty feet away. By the time I got closer and got my camera switched to video mode, the worst of it was over. Kenny was breathing hard but being good. I started filming anyway, and sure enough, Kenny's bitch of a handler started hitting him again. Towards the end of the video, a woman in a white T-shirt approached and told chain-yanker-bitch I was filming, and to maybe tone it down a bit. 

At the end of the video, you can just barely hear one of the girls talking about my filming them, saying, "That's just because some people are ignorant... they don't know [inaudible] handle a thousand pound animal."

Actually, hon, yes I do know how to handle a horse, and it doesn't involve continuing to punish him when he is already standing still. That's the opposite of how to teach a horse to behave. And yes, some of you readers out there are crying, "Oh, but it's a stallion, that means he's so viscous and powerful, you have to treat stallions like that!" NO. No you don't. For proof, just visit the Horse Fair-- there are a couple dozen stallions walking around without a fuss, and without their handlers constantly yanking on their faces and hitting them.

The poor horse, Totally Included, AKA Kenny, is owned by Daryl and Tina Mahloch of New Horizon Farm in Brillion, WI. I don't know if Tina was the one handling him today or not. (Update: more than one person has said that it WAS Tina herself.)

OK, enough ugliness for a while. Let's look at some pretty, well-behaved, and well-treated (at least as long as I was watching) stallions that were also on the woodchip path: 

OK, a few more quick photos! Again, this is by no means everything from Friday 17th, much less Horse Fair 2015, so stay tuned for Part 2 (and 3? and 4?).

A good rider! The horse was a jumpy, but she got him calm without getting in his mouth, and did it one handed!
Update: this guy's a stallion as well! The rider is Kricket J.

The new buildings are so big, at one point I went into the same one twice without realizing it.

So huge! Pics from the Kids Korral coming soon, it was cute.

Horses are born with indents in their teeth, called "cups." The teeth wear down as a horse ages, erasing the cups.

Blingy dog collars: $80-$140.

So. Many. Strollers. Love the little kid eating her pony though. 

They scoot forward when you bounce, and really steer. They don't back up though. The big ones are over $200.

If you haven't been to the Medieval Times dinner show, go! It's a bit cheesy, but's it's very worth going once.
Drooling over this Bighorn endurance saddle, but it's out of my budget. Also not sure about the seat. 

Just want to say "thank you" to all the riders who were friendly, patient ambassadors for the horse world.

Madison Mounted Police! Love these guys.

More coming later-- stay tuned to!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Guest Post: Adult Beginners & Rider Fear

Today's blog post is written by guest Sanguinaria Gray! I like her writing style, and what's even better, she wants to talk about adult beginner riders and rider fear. That's brave.

Us horse people aren't usually known for being exactly, uh, touchy-feely. We can be catty and cliquish, and we tend to have strong opinions. It's scary as hell for new people to join the horse world. I never have, and never will, criticize anyone's riding, chosen discipline, or lack of knowledge (as long as those aren't outright abusive). But neither have I been very supportive of newcomers. It's time to fix that.

From now on, every Friday on my blog and Facebook page will be Freetalk Fridays. You can email me, message me, or comment with any question. Anything. No matter how dumb you think it is. I (and hopefully all of you reading this pretty please!) will try to answer it without even a soupcon of a smidgen of judgement or assumption. NOTE: That's really important guys-- I really want lots of people to get in on this and help answer questions, but on Freetalk Fridays there is no judgement. We can return to being snarky later. I have a few really dumb questions of my own that I'm hoping you all can help with! Got a question? You can email me anonymously, comment here below anonymously, or post your question on the North Horse facebook page, whatever you're comfortable with.

Now, without further ado, I am very glad to present S.G.'s guest post!

Adult Beginners & Rider Fear

I walked into the barn, and came face to face with the horse they put the beginners on. She's a 16 hand draft, but she's steady and broad and she knows her job. My ever-patient instructor explained grooming basics, then showed me how to put on the saddle. Did you know dressage saddles look really tiny on big horses? How am I ever going to stay on this thing? I wondered. Bridle goes on, and I'm handed a lead rope and pointed in the direction of the arena. Whatever have I gotten myself into?

This sounds like a similar experience to a lot of people learning to ride. But the difference between me and a lot of other new riding students is that I was 31 at the time. Adult beginners have a set of
challenges that younger riders may never have to overcome.

Challenge 1: We are not as flexible.
Unless you do yoga every day, chances are you've got a lot of stretching to do. It takes time, and sometimes, it hurts. Ankles, knees, groin...all those areas need to learn to stretch in new directions if you ever want to ride in proper position. This brings us to...

Challenge 2: Our muscles are not used to this. 
Even if we do other physical activity regularly, I can't think of another exercise that works our abs, back, arms, and legs like riding. Anyone who says "but you just sit there, how can it be hard?!?" has probably never ridden for more than a half hour, and then was probably not much more than a passenger. Even now, a year and a half in, I'm still sore the day after a lesson. On the other hand, keep up with riding and you will have a SPECTACULAR backside. Muscle tone, here we come.

Challenge 3: Pride. We're adults. Most of us are not used to being in the position of student.
My instructor is amazing, patient but firm, answers questions as they come, and never ever talks down to you, no matter what your age. But it's still very easy to fall into the trap of holding yourself to too high a standard. Down that path lies only frustration and disappointment. Similar to this is the trap of comparing yourself to other riders, especially younger ones. But the truth is, we all learn differently. We all progress differently. As long as you're willing to work hard and learn, it doesn't matter what calibre rider you are...but that's easier said than done. The best way to avoid this is probably to find a low-drama stable with a judgment-free atmosphere. That makes it far, far easier to leave your pride at the door.

But more than all these things, the hardest, biggest challenge is...

Challenge 4: FEAR!!
Unlike kids...adults know they are not invincible. We know bones break, concussions are possible, and that there's even a chance we could die. If we have families and kids, these consequences loom large. It's easy to say "I can't." It's harder to say "I have to try." It's even harder to make yourself try until you get it right or stop being terrified of it. This is what I have the most trouble with. It’s really easy to come up with excuses why you can't do it this time, why you'll wait ‘til next time...but then next time never comes. I, myself, am terrified of canter. It's big, it's fast, and yeah, I came off once. I got back on, though- my instructor made me, just as soon as I was sure I wasn't injured (readers, before you say it- if I had insisted that I was in no shape to get on, she'd have believed me). I am so, so glad she did. First- what I did wrong was right there, at the front of my brain. You better believe I made DAMN sure not to repeat that. Second, if you don't face the fear, you will internalize it.

And, here's the thing, guys- facing your fear makes you a better rider. You can't advance if you won't challenge yourself.

So. What can we do about these things, especially about fear? I don't have all the answers, but here are the things that come to mind:

TRUST your instructor.
Assuming you have a good one (if you don't, find one! If you don't have one at all, consider taking a lesson or two), they aren't going to make you do anything they know is going to end badly. They'll push you out of your comfort zone though. Then they'll bring you back into comfort. Then push it a little more outside, until gradually, that thing that used to scare you is just a normal part of riding.

PUSH YOURSELF. You are capable of more than you think. On the way home from the lesson containing "the incident", I started thinking, I don't want to do this anymore. Then...I realized that was dumb. I want to ride badly enough to start at my age, I can't let one incident prevent me from doing something I've always wanted to do. Yeah, your body will ache. Keep doing it- your muscles will get stronger. Do you have your own horse and you're feeling confident in your skills on your own? See if you can ride a school horse for one lesson. I can almost guarantee you that the nuances of this new horse will challenge you again. Even if all you do is the basics- you will learn SO much just by changing it up a little.

CELEBRATE your victories, no matter how small. Were you able to keep your horse in a trot for one whole lap in the arena for the first time ever? That's a big deal, acknowledge it! Who gives a crap if the 12-year-old next to you who's been riding since she was six can do some fancy-schmancy dressage moves on the expensive warmblood she has- YOU just had a breakthrough, and YOU are what matters. You're there for yourself. Because this is what you love, this is what you want to be doing.

I'm not perfect. I'm not even a great rider, though I like to think I'm slightly better than mediocre. I still struggle with fear almost every lesson- but I'm not paralyzed by it. Most of the time the fear is of the oh-god-it's-time-to-trot-again-holy-shit-her-trot-is-fast variety...but most of the time by the time I can get that thought out of the way, I'm settling into the rhythm and it's not quite so scary anymore. I hear, all the time, that I look terrified while I'm riding. What I want to tell people is "shut up that's my concentrating face". But they have a point- smile sometimes. Your whole body relaxes when you do.

Anyway- if you've reached this point, congratulations. Something tells me we might be in the same
boat.  Have you battled with fear? How did you overcome it? What do you need help with? I bet if we stick together, we just might figure this out.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Neglect, Karma, and "Bashing" Loeffelholz, Roelke & Bondowski

Happy Spring, ladies and gents. We here in Wisconsin know that the official date has nothing to do with the actual weather, but we can hope for the best.

Before I begin, I want to very briefly address two topics:

Some people have said that's it is "karma" that the two notorious Pleasant Prairie WI horse abusers were just found dead after a fire. I understand the sentiment. However, the idea that the universe or God or the devil has anything to do with justice in our mortal world is dangerous and utterly false. The only thing that guarantees whether or not a horse is saved, if an abuser is put on trial, or if neglect is allowed to continue, is YOU. You and I, our neighbors, our fellow humans are the only ones who can change laws, pressure authorities, lend a helping hand, donate hay, etc. We must not leave things up to karma, or to chance. God helps those who help themselves. WE must be the forces of kindness and justice. Remember that next time you hear about or see a neglect situation.

"Bashing on People Doesn't Help Horses"
I'm about to expose some neglectful Wisconsin horse owners on this blog post, and no doubt some readers will be upset about that. You should know, however, that it's not vindictive, and it's not because I think I'm perfect. Far from it! God knows I've been broke, depressed, and in need of a helping hand. I've had horses I should have done more for sooner. My farm is pretty rough. However, I'm not "bashing" on people who are just down on their luck, or just had one or two bad incidents. My posts are about the chronic cases, the ones who never learn their lessons year after year. The public  shouldn't be enabling people with a long history of neglect and hoarding, and I consider it part of my purpose to warn you about them. By giving money to these folks, by giving them sympathy, you may help a couple of horses for a little while-- but you also make it possible for the hoarders to continue hoarding and mistreating animals. And by NOT telling others about the misdeeds of scammers, abusers, and their ilk, you are harming horses. There's no need to gossip idly, but when you know something ugly, DO warn others nearby so that their hears and their horses aren't forever scarred by the evil they could have avoided.

OK, let's get started.

Atty Cynthia Fiene: Brooklyn Horse Abuser is Back!

Wisconsin attorney and horse rescue crusader Cynthia Fiene would like me to pass on a message to you all: the serial horse abuser Mary A. Loeffelholz (dob 10/1964) and Mary's daughter Melinda (Mindy) Gehin, are back to their old tricks again near Brooklyn/Belleville WI. You can read my original blog posts on their horrific deeds here and here, but here's a picture of one of their former horses that basically sums up the situation:

...and there are eleven horses like that on the property right now. I guarantee you, folks, the officials who have let this continue for YEARS will turn a blind eye unless we ACT. I know I am constantly asking you to call, write, and email about these situations, but public pressure is the only thing that seems to save horses from long, slow deaths here in Wisconsin. So please, please, contact one of the following people and say,

"Hi, I'm calling about the very thin horses near Brooklyn belonging to
Mary Loeffelholz and her daughter Mindy. What are you doing about this situation?"Call Patrick Comfert, Animal Services Leadworker: 608-243-0309
Doug Voelgi at Public Health 608-243-0360 
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi 608-266-2444
Town of Oregon executives Jerry Bollig 
608-835-7520 and Denise Arnold 608-835-3200

"Therapy Horse" & Others Allegedly Starved

April Roelke, residing on County Rd A near Grand Marsh WI, has been getting a lot of media sympathy over the death of one of her horses, Eagle. Eagle was found shot this week in his "pasture" (small front yard pen). No one knows if this was a revenge shooting (April apparently liked to trap and shoot neighborhood cats) or a "mercy killing."

Eagle was starving when he was shot. Even in the picture shown by the media, you can see how his backbone stuck up and the top shelf of his ribs were visible. Several people, including a neighbor, have told me that April has starved several horses to death over the past couple of years. Some of her own pics on Facebook seem to confirm this:

 While I do not condone vigilante justice, I don't think you should be donating money or horses to this woman. You might also want to contact Channel 3000 and tell them to delete or re-write their sob story. 608-273-3333.

Former Faux Rescue Seeks Homes for Horses

I am very glad that Cindy and Jim Bondowski are finally relinquishing their horses. Cindy is working closely with Kathy Bries, who has posted several ads to rehome the horses; you can see at least five horses below (click on the pics to enlarge). This is a fairly urgent situation, as the Bondowskis are being evicted and must be gone by April 1st. Call Cindy at 608-322-4068 if you can adopt.

Before you contact the Bondowskis, however, I feel that it's my duty to tell you how they got where they are. If they ask you for donations of any kind, or want to make a deal with you, please be aware of their history.

The Bondowskis, Jim and Cindy, used to have a rescue in Footville WI (near Janseville) called H.O.R.S.E. The "rescue" was more like a hoarding situation, with 40-60 horses on 3 acres.

I'm sure Cindy and Jim meant well to begin with, but they took on way more horses than they could take care of. Many local people reported thin, wormy horses with overgrown hooves on the property. Cindy purposefully bred a mare suffering with severe DSLD so her daughter could have the foal. Vet and farrier bills went unpaid, and though the Bondowskis asked for cash donations, they never got 501(c)3 nonprofit status. They maxed out retirement funds, credit cards, etc and were behind on their taxes. Jim collected disability, though he attempted to work as an untrained and unlicensed (illegal) horse chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist. Those who saw him work expressed serious concerns about his methods.

In Nov 2010 Jim and Cindy had a big barn fire, in which 24 horses died. Also burned up were most of the tack and all of the hay. Many people volunteered to help, donated money and hay, and there were local fundraisers done for them. Weirdly,
the Bondowskis didn't want to give up any of the remaining horses, despite having no feed or shelter for them, and despite the fact that many highly qualified adopters volunteered to foster or permanently adopt them.

After receiving around $300,000 in donations, plus hay and tack, the Bondowskis moved to Coloma, Wisconsin. They stayed there for several years under the name Enchanted Oaks Ranch. Now they are  being evicted from the property.

NONE of that is the fault of the Bondowskis' animals, and I certainly encourage you to give one of their horses a good home if you can.
Again, I post this information strictly so that anyone who buys from them knows the full situation. This information has been verified by two horse rescues and is provided for your protection, not their harassment. For more information on adoptable horses, call Cindy at  608-322-4068. The Bondowskis currently live at W11687 State Rd 21, Coloma, WI 54930.