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Enter at A

By Cynthia Foley, January 03, 2015

Much like the breeding of a champion horse, the development of Horse Journal began with a vision, a picture of what we wanted to do with our creation. We knew the publication would be consumer-oriented, driven by its content, not by advertisers. We were determined that it would be highly informative, offering expert guidance. And it had to be authoritative.


We entered the publishing arena led by creator Timothy Cole, the talented editorial director of Belvoir Media Group, and J. Michael Plumb, eight-time Olympic equestrian and three-day eventing legend. This formidable combination of publishing genius and equestrian brilliance produced the first issue of Michael Plumb's Horse Journal in February 1994.


As that first issue whisked its way to subscriber mail boxes, Margaret Freeman, our associate editor, and I joined the team. With constant coaching from Tim and Mike, we cultivated Horse Journal's content, building its muscle and strength, listening to our readers, and finding select contributors with proven expertise.  We matured, gaining readership every month, growing at a pace faster than ever anticipated.


Over the years, our performance had its highs and its lows. The publication name eventually changed to Horse Journal to reflect our commitment all equestrian disciplines. With hard work, we stayed ahead of the curve in the rapidly changing publishing market. Of course, not all our changes impressed our judges - our sport-bra review in 1999 even shocked our own publisher - but we forged ahead. At our peak, we evaluated over 1,500 products a year.


It would be difficult to name everyone who made a difference in Horse Journal, as so many amazing people contributed over the years. However, there are a few without whom we never would have achieved success:


Although I spent over eight years as part of The Chronicle of the Horse, under the direction of the highly respected Peter Winants, my education in publishing didn't really begin until I met Tim Cole. Still editorial director at Belvoir, Tim is a gifted writer, and his creativity in publication development is unparalleled. Tim's quick wit and smart business sense kept Horse Journal powering forward. He knows how to create impulsion and balance.


Of course, working closely with Mike Plumb has been one of the highlights of my life. I have never met anyone with a greater instinct and talent for horses. At times, I often found myself forgetting to take notes when I was talking with him, as I became wrapped up in the essence of what he was saying. His love of horses and natural ability was evident with his every word.


Associate Editor Margaret Freeman's direction was invaluable. Her equine experience, wisdom and writing/editing talents kept us moving in a straight line, head up and eyes focused on our next challenge. I can recall more than one time she literally saved an issue by catching a critical error just before we went to press. Her commitment was mind-boggling. No matter where she was -- including covering the equestrian Olympics five times during that period -- we always met deadlines.  I remember going over proofs by phone late at night, and at times she was in an airport between flights. She would call me during her breaks when she was judging dressage shows and never complained about scrambling to find fax or Internet service when she was abroad. Horse Journal would not have been the same without her, and neither would I.


Eleanor Kellon VMD, Veterinary Editor, was also an integral part of our success. A fighter for the little guy, she took the bit and ran with it when she joined us.  Over the years, Eleanor opened consumer eyes to problems with joint nutraceutical labels and ingredient levels and proved to everyone that magnesium supplementation for insulin-resistant horses was a no-brainer. And, in perhaps one of the greatest equine consumer articles ever written, Eleanor made the public aware of the potential dangers of feeding organophosphates to horses.


When John Strassburger, former editor of The Chronicle of the Horse, joined us as Performance Editor, he revitalized our copy and produced training articles that reached a broad audience. With his determination that horses are horses, he re-affirmed the value of sensible, reliable training methods and created a loyal following. There isn't an equestrian journalist on earth who can hold a candle to John's talent and dedication.


In 2010, we became part of the Equine Network, a massive, powerful conglomeration of equine holdings, including EQUUS, Practical Horseman, U.S. Rider and more. Around that time,  Grant Miller DVM and Deb Eldredge DVM took over our veterinary content, focusing heavily on horse-owner education and the value of wise product choices. We again forged ahead as a leader in practical veterinary care, product evaluations and recommendations.


But, despite this amazing team, our niche began to erode. Print publications everywhere were struggling and, as the economy crashed, people dropped subscriptions and sold horses. Our subscriber base slowly disintegrated. We couldn't compete with look-alike product reviews in other publications and the information-monster Internet that was crammed full of opinions from anyone who cared to share them - whether they could spell or not.


Last year, our publisher moved us from print to digital, and we became a subscriber-only website. The hope was that we would meet the demands of a digital-crazed nation and be more readily available to subscribers making buying decisions in tack shops. In many ways, it was fitting for Horse Journal, as we always prided ourselves on taking chances, and we gave it our best shot. However, the gut feeling of our editors prevailed:  People like to read on paper.


So, as we make our final turn around the arena, I thank our loyal subscribers for their support over the years.  Horse Journal has been an indescribable part of my life, and this exit is melancholy for me. I will miss you, our readers, and I encourage anyone interested to communicate with me at  


As we promised in our initial issue, these last two decades have been "a helluva ride." I'm proud of what we did, and I'm grateful I had the chance to be part of it.  Thank you.


Halt. Salute. Exit at A.

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Adorable Christmas Video

By Cynthia Foley, December 10, 2014

I stumbled on this video. It's an ad for cards, but the two little Shetlands are so adorable, I couldn't help but share it.  They are spitting images of two ponies we had as kids - Cheyenne and Flicka. I hope it brings beautiful memories back to you, too.


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A Quiet Barn: Better Than a Tranqulizer

By Cynthia Foley, November 28, 2014

On Thanksgiving eve, I had to make an extra trip back to the barn to do something I forgot to do. Of course. The busier I am, the more it seems I have to get done and the more stressed I become. And the more stressed I am, the more likely I am to forget something. Holidays . . . Good grief! It's a season of frenzy.

So, my mind was on overload, and I forgot something. I had been thinking about what I still needed to get done for the big dinner the next day when I put the horses in and fed them. Now, I wasn't in a good mood. It was my own fault, but I was just plain bitchy.

I left the dogs at the house, as I was in no mood to deal with their "nonsense." They had enjoyed playtime in the barn just a half hour before when I went up to the barn the first time that night.  So I stormed up to the barn by myself.

I pulled open the barn door and stepped inside. Immediately, my mood changed. My stress vanished. The horses were munching hay. They looked up at me then went back to their hay. The barn was beautiful. Quiet. Unrushed. Warm. Inviting. Full of love. I just stood there and took it all in. I became relaxed. I was revitalized.

I'd never experienced such an abrupt change of mood. It was as if the "barn gods" knew what I needed and made sure I got it. 

I completed the task I had to do and then paused one more time, just to look around and take it all in again. I returned to the house in a very happy mood, full of even more reasons to give thanks the next morning.




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Happy Thanksgiving

By Cynthia Foley, November 25, 2014

Our girls enjoying their hay.
Our girls enjoying their hay.


As I think about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, my thoughts do not turn to a big meal or football or the Macy's Parade or Christmas shopping. I think about the past year, the upcoming year, and how - despite all the stresses and worries - I'm lucky to have my wonderful horses, a dream job, and good family and friends, 

Thanksgiving for me is an attitude. It's trying to see the glass half full. Focus on the good stuff. Sure, I'm looking forward to the day off from work, but there's more to it than that. I'll dawdle in the barn in the morning, I'm sure, because I don't have to be at my desk at a certain time. Maybe I'll straighten up the tack room or do some dusting. Or, after the horses have been turned out, I'll just sit down with the barn cat and give him some extra attention and brushing. He's already caught a couple of mice this fall, so he's doing a great job and I want him to know I'm grateful.

I'll forget worries about our financial health in 2015 and chronic illnesses loved ones are battling that I cannot do anything about. I'll just focus on what's good in my life, especially our horses. I can't imagine my life without those deep-nicker greetings when I enter the barn or a quick head rub before they head out to the pasture for the day.  

Our girls - Sally, Kelsey and Paz - have no understanding of what it takes to maintain a healthy barn, good nutrition and perfect care, but I know anyone reading this does. I'm thankful I can maintain that. We horse lovers of lesser wealth make a lot of sacrifices through the year to be sure our animals live like royalty, and I'm thankful I am blessed with a husband who doesn't mind me doing just that. 

As I clean the stalls on Thursday, I'll think about my life. I'll consider what I'm thankful for, such as the dirty stalls.  A too-clean stall can mean a sick horse.  I'll be thankful the horses are out rolling in the mud, as it shows they're feeling good. I won't mind the extra currying.

I'll be grateful that we've only had one bale of bad hay so far this year - probably a bale I stored too close to an open window. And I'm very thankful for that full loft of hay.

Thanks will be extended to my neighbors with a wave and a hello for putting up with horse sounds and smells without a complaint (although they have expressed thanks to us for using fly parasites for the last several years). We all need good fences and good neighbors.

And I'll be thankful for all of you who help make Horse Journal what it is - a powerful consumer advocate that helps real horse people maintain their budgets, make wise buying decisions and take care of their horses properly and frugally - and I thank you for sticking with us as we moved to a digital format. And that means I'm giving thanks for our wonderful Horse Journal staff , too - Margaret Freeman, John Strassburger, Grant Miller DVM and Deb M. Edlredge DVM - who willingly share their expertise and genuinely care that our readers get the individualized attention they deserve. I could not do this job without them.

Yes, there's a lot to be thankful for this November 27 - but, as long as there are horses in our barn and the ability to care for them, giving thanks will always be at the forefront of my mind..


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Benefits of Barn Work

By Cynthia Foley, November 12, 2014

Credit: Thinkstock
Grooming and throwing hay are part of the fun.

A friend told me today that her daughter made her school's volleyball team. She was surprised by the feat because the family wasn't a "sports" family. Oh, they're accomplished, all right. Both parents are successful doctors, and the kids are equally brilliant and have made their mark in things like music and, of course, horses. But the sports team thing was a first.

Still, she said, her daughter is strong and fit. How could she not be with a barn full of horses and other animals to take care of, she said?  When you're a horse kid, you learn early on to carry 50-lb. feed bags and toss hay. You don't consider the physical benefits of all that work. And that got me thinking . . .

As a kid, my dad used to tease me that I was as muscled as I was because all I did was ride (no, I don't look as good as that now). My legs were hard and muscled - not pencil thin elegant like some of my classmates - but I wouldn't have had it any other way. All I wanted to do was horses. Still is. Every spare hour and every spare dime goes to the horses. (Yes, I'll talk more about barn building in upcoming blogs.)

I know I'm fit. I know I could weigh less, especially as I battle middle age, but I have strength and endurance. Have you ever seen a non horse person try to gracefully put a saddle on a horse's back, especially a Western saddle? It's not pretty.

Like you, I'd bet, I've developed other handy skills that many people lack, like knowing how to mend a fence, fix minor plumbing issues and handle other barn emergencies. I'm sure I'm not the only horse person who can hold a bandage against a bleeding horse with one hand while dialing the vet's phone number with the other. And most of us can drive with the best, especially when it comes to backing a trailer into a tight spot. 

We mow, throw hay bales, carry bedding, clean stalls, fill and hang water buckets, drag arenas, move jumps or set up a dressage arena - all part of having a horse and your own barn. Hard work, they call it. A thorough grooming - "spa day" for the horses - will leave you wearing more dirt than the horse and an ear-to-ear grin as you look at your beautiful steed. I guess work doesn't seem like work when you love it so much. 

Riding itself is a fitness builder. I remember Mike Plumb, three-day Olympic champion and renowned trainer, telling readers in the early days of Horse Journal that, if they can't ride several horses a day, try to find a place to swim, as it's the best non-horse sport we can do to increase our physical condition for riding. That's because it also involves the entire body.

My favorite riding instructor, Ellen Stanton, said students were often amazed when they learned how much work riding well really is. And she was right. If you find that long-rein walk break during a training session is just for the horse's sake, you aren't putting enough effort into your riding.

Yes, it's work. And it gets more difficult every year. But we don't care. Life wouldn't be worth living without it.



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