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Chain Links

By Margaret Freeman, June 13, 2013


We all have our favorite tools -- a treasured brush or hoof pick or manure fork or wheelbarrow that just seems to fit our hands better than the other stuff in the barn.? We?ll walk out of the way to get the tool we want rather than grab the one that's closest.

I have a thing about stud chains, which I've never seen anyone else obsess over.? It drives the other folks in the barn a little bit nuts, because I am always losing the thing and asking if anyone has seen it (or used it').? I've never really liked lead ropes with a chain attached on the end, even though I recognize the need, because the chain can get in the way? at times.? You can't really tie with one, and it's not safe to double over the chain if you want to shorten it because it can get caught on things (like hooves).? The only real use for a stud chain is to go over/under the nose but, if you don't need it for that use, then it's annoying.

My answer is to have a separate stud chain.? If I need it for leading, I hook it onto the end of my cotton lead rope (red, so everyone knows that's MY lead rope).? If I need it for longeing, it hooks onto the end of the longe line. Otherwise it hangs on to the hook in the front of my mare?s stall.? Woe to me if it's not there ? the thing drops to the bottom of any container the way your keys drop to the bottom of your purse and then it's impossible to find.

I started using the stud chain three decades ago when I took longeing lessons.? The instructor said it was much safer to use when longeing in a halter than a plain longe line, but the trick was to run the chain under the jaw, not over.? It works especially well for a horse that bucks or might have a tendency to run out the line. ?One quick tug and the horse is straight again on the circle.? Take the chain off and the line is good for other purposes, like ground driving.? Another use I have found for the chain is to double-secure my stall in show stabling, where the stall latches are often suspect.

The chain, however, seems to grow legs, and it's just not always where I expect it to be.? It seems that tack shops rarely stock a separate stud chain, at least the tack/farm shops around here.? I stopped off last week desperate for a new chain (before I found mine ? again ? at the bottom of my brush bag).? The tack shop lady pointed out that I could buy a lead rope with a chain on the end and then just cut off the rope.? Duhhhh!? Why hadn?t I thought of that before'? I think it actually might be less expensive than buying the chain as a separate item.? Well, at least now I have two.? For awhile.? ??????????

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Ice, Ice Baby

By Margaret Freeman, May 28, 2013


We've often written in ?Horse Journal? about how important cold therapy is, and I certainly have had my own experience with hosing and ice wraps, as most of us have.? I see and feel the difference that cold therapy and hosing have made to my horses with specific injuries, even though this doesn't come up as often with my dressage horses as it might with eventers, jumpers and hunters.

But the value of cold therapy recently struck home with me when I was dealing with a sore arch on my own foot.? Rest helped, certainly, as did a compression bandage.? But the thing that really helped the most with long-term relief from pain and swelling was an ice pack, which I'd stashed in the freezer for grocery trips on a hot day.? I put it on the floor under my desk and rested my foot on it as much as possible when I was using the computer.? It really worked!

Years ago, I bought a pair of Ice Horse tendon wraps when I saw them on a sale table at the tack shop ? just couldn?t resist.? I haven't needed them much for my mare.? However, when I was rehabbing my own broken leg a couple years ago after the cast was removed, I strapped one on my leg after I rode and walked around with it on while I did barn chores.? Sometimes I forgot and left it one when I drove home or even going out for errands.? It was so easy to use and helpful.

?I think I'm going to have to dig out those ice boots again, as I haven't used them since my leg recovered.? I owe it to my mare to use them more often, especially in warm weather, if only to make her as comfortable as possible when she works so hard for me.?

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Wellie World North'

By Margaret Freeman, April 24, 2013

Although the dressage center of the country shifts to West Palm Beach in the winter (not to mention the hunter/jumpers), my husband Henry and I never considered Florida when we were planning our ?retirement move a couple years ago.? I was raised in Oregon, and I just don't do heat well.? Actually, I was pretty determined to stay north of the Mason-Dixon Line, until Henry pointed out the excellent weather in the Tryon NC area, coupled with its reputation as horse-friendly.? We visited twice to see for ourselves, including in the heat of August, and made the move last year.

Now, in one sense, Florida is coming to us.

The partnership that runs the big shows in Wellington FL is all set to develop a 1,000-acre property just outside of Tryon, including a huge equestrian center that sounds a lot like Wellie World North.? I attended the informational meeting for local landowners last week and then the Polk County council meeting Monday where the necessary rezoning was passed.? All this has happened very quickly, because the property was purchased just late last fall, and plans are to go ahead and get facilities up and running by next year, if possible.? Since economic development in the county has stalled over the last few years, with nothing else on the horizon, this should be a huge boon in jobs for the area, whose main ?industry? already is horse-centered.? It looks like it will be win-win for everyone.

My big question is whether this will indeed turn into Wellie World North for the three seasons that horse show folks aren?t in Florida.? Will this be a pass-through area between the north/south migration or will people settle here ? and when I've been hearing about the terrible weather everywhere else in the country this year, I have been smiling to myself that I picked an area where year-round riding is no problem ? witness the very active two hunt clubs here that went non-stop the entire winter.? I really hope that it won?t attract just hunter/jumpers but, of course, ?more dressage shows, clinics, and trainers, so I can get my dressage fix by just stepping out my front door instead of always driving to an airport.

Tryon Equestrian Properties is owned by Mark Bellissimo and Roger Smith, central figures in Wellington ?Equestrian Properties and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.? Smith has lived in the area here for a decade and has been active in local horse activities, and Bellisimo says that he will also build a home here.? They purchased the property, which was designed originally as a golf/equestrian development but went under a couple years ago, for $11 million.? They also purchased other adjacent land that will give direct access to the equestrian facility right off a highway exit, so trucks/trailers have easy access and won?t need to wind though the community.

The development, in addition to the golf course and other recreational facilities, will have 800 dwelling units, a hotel, retail stores, heliport, and an RV park, where presumably horse show nomads can hang out.? The equestrian center will have a lighted stadium with seating for 6,000, covered arena and indoor arena.? While all this development appears contained in the White Oak property, it remains to be seen, of course, how much of it will eventually bleed into the surrounding farmland and how much it will change, or not change, the inherent character of the area.? One thing that may help preserve the rural nature is that the Tryon area is really not on a well-traveled path.? We're an hour north of Greenville SC and a couple hours west of Charlotte NC ? people still have to go out of their way to get here.

The Tryon area already has two very active horse show facilities: Harmon Field where mainly? hunter/jumper shows are held, and Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE), a multi-use nature preserve where a variety of shows, combined training events and even a steeplechase, are held.? Another chunk of land in nearby Green Creek is also owned by Smith.? Plans for an equestrian facility there have become stalled but the success of White Oak could revive that as well.

I am excited about the possibilities and keeping my fingers crossed that what makes Tryon such a nice place for me? the rural scenery, the friendly people, the inherent appreciation of horses ? will only be enhanced by even more horses and horsepeople around for me to enjoy.
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Snow and Blow

By Margaret Freeman, March 11, 2013

Did a quick trip up to Connecticut this weekend for Dressage4Kids'? Weekend Educational Program, which I've done every year since it started 10 years ago, and which I guess I haven't escaped just because I moved 1,000 miles south.? This was the makeup weekend since the original program was the weekend of the big 3-foot snowstorm there.? We originally had over 300 attendees registered, but this weekend we only had about half that number.? It was a great program as usual with fabulous speakers.? We also had 20 New England judges show up for an annual judges forum.

Cell phone messages were flying back and forth Friday as speakers were braving another storm.? One way or the other I spent 12 hours sitting, either on a car, on the tarmac, in the air and then waiting? at the airport for another 5 hours.? But, we all made it.? I was reminded again what it takes to be a healthy effective rider well into the Social security years when I got an email from Fern Feldman at 7:30 a.m., sending me a message from her gym as she was checking up on my flight.? Now, that might not seem significant, except I knew Fern had driven home to CT from skiing in VT Thursday night and was headed out to ski again on Sunday.? Fern has at least 5 years on me, but she rides two horses a day, including a grand prix dressage horse.? Golly, if I tried skiing now, I would just? break my body.? I guess working out every no matter what your schedule (or your level of tiredness), really makes a difference.? She had planned to pick me up at noon and then we were going to spend the rest of the day at my old barn with friends there, and I had dug out all my winter gear that I hadn't seen in a year. But, the weather ruined our plans again.? I was just glad to make it in.

Last week I missed a couple days riding because we had high winds here in NC, which is not a problem with the usual indoor arena in the north, no matter how cold, but with covered arenas that don't have sides, wind can really make a difference.? I decided longeing instead of riding would be the better? part of valor but I soon gave that up as well since I was getting a sand facial from blowing footing.? Most of the time I really love our covered arenas in the South, which are much cooler in the summer than either indoor or outdoor rings, and usually plenty warm enough in the winter since the temps rarely dip below freezing.? Serious wind, however, is another matter.
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Winter Confusion

By Margaret Freeman, February 15, 2013

I seem to be going through a disconcerting period of being neither here nor there.? I now live in North Carolina, where the weather is fine for riding, and even for showing (in my mind), but there are no ?shows here now.? Those will be starting up next month.? When I lived in the North (Fairfax County VA to New York), winter was for schooling.? With an indoor arena, I could put the pedal to the metal and work on new movements.? I was ready to hit the ground running for the spring shows in one way or the other.

The concentration of East Coast dressage shows in Wellington, Florida, in the winter has turned the calendar around for the people in the northeast, even to a certain degree for those who stay where it is cold.? Some of the people who go south now consider winter to be their show season and use the summer more for schooling.? This has had an impact on the summer shows since that means fewer entries.? Some who go south do so because there are wonderful opportunities for clinics and training.? They will return north for the shows, but there is now a 3- or 4-month gap in continuity for the trainers or students they leave behind.

My own calendar isn?t just about training and showing but also about judging and clinics.? I'm often on the road in the winter, but it isn?t for my own riding.? What also happens more in the winter are educational forums, and I'm often headed somewhere for one of those.? In fact, last weekend I was supposed to be in Connecticut for the Dressage4Kids Weekend Educational Program, but with 3 feet of snow from Blizzard Nemo due, I got a 6 a.m. call as I was getting in my car to head to the airport.? The suitcase is still packed because we hope to reschedule, but I imagine it might be hard to find an open weekend for everyone involved at this late date.

Anyway, I go out to ride and school each day, but I still don't feel the pull of the show season to motivate me yet.? Maybe it's because the flora here has me confused.? I planted some pansies at Christmas just to have some color in the front of the house, even though my soul was screaming at me that pansies are an Easter flower.? Now, in the depths of February, my pansies look better than they ever did for me up North in April.? The daffodils are up now, and I even saw forsythia blooming in December.?? Maybe I will feel better when the snowbirds get back and the shows get into gear.

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