Friday, January 18, 2013

New Challenges | 2/18/2013

Jodi Hemry Eventing

by Pam Gleason 

“Each horse is different,” says Jodi Hemry. “When I’m training a horse, I try to tailor the individual program to the horse and do what works for him – something that works on one horse isn’t necessarily going to work on another one. I really try to listen to the horse, and do what he is telling me.”

In June of this year, Jodi, an event rider and trainer formerly based in Ridge Spring, started her own business, Jodi Hemry Eventing LLC. Her operation is currently located at Bridle Creek Equestrian in Aiken, adjoining Red Oak Farm, which is owned by Phillip Dutton, the Olympic eventer. There, she is giving lessons, working with horses for clients and training her own competition horses.

“A big part of my business is selling horses,” she says. Jodi takes in sales horses for training, and has discovered that she has a knack for finding them the right homes. Her success as a matchmaker relies on the same philosophy of listening to the horse and finding him the right job.

“I’m not just limited to eventing,” she says, noting that one of the great things about being in Aiken is that there are so many different disciplines in town. “I might get a horse that has evented, but that doesn’t really enjoy running around a cross country course. That horse might do well in the hunter/jumper ring – he might be happy to jump four feet all day long. Sometimes I get a horse that is a really lovely mover, but isn’t all that enthusiastic about jumping. I might sell that horse as a dressage horse.”

Whatever the discipline, Jodi is always thrilled when she has made a good match, which relies as much on finding the right rider as on finding the right job for the horse. There is a little bit of mystery in this: the horse has to be suited to doing what the rider is hoping to do, but a good match always depends on chemistry.

“There are times when a rider tells me about what they have done and what they are looking for in a horse, and I’m not sure if they will get along with a particular horse or not. But then they come out and ride, and you can see right away that it is going to work. They just click, and you know it’s going to be a really good pair. You can see it on the rider’s face and you can see it on the horse’s face. That makes me really happy.”

Jodi, who is originally from Montana, was first exposed to eventing when she was in college at Colorado State. She graduated with a degree in business, and then one of her riding instructors encouraged her to pursue a career in horses. She took a position in Massachusetts as a working student with Torrance Watkins, a member of the 1984 gold medal-winning U.S. eventing team. From there, she went to work for Bruce Mandeville, a Canadian Olympic eventer who spent his winters in Aiken. Bruce brought her to Aiken in 2003, and she liked it so much she never left.

Today, in addition to selling horses, Jodi also competes and coaches her own students. She has had considerable success in both arenas. One of her students, Amy Boyle, was the United States Eventing Association Preliminary Amateur event rider of the year in 2011, on her horse Skip to My Lew.

“I really enjoy teaching,” says Jodi, who focuses on imparting good basic skills and on giving her students confidence in their abilities. “When my students have a successful event, or when they move up a level or jump something for the first time, it’s a real sense of accomplishment. It’s always great when they do something they didn’t think they could do.”

In her own riding, Jodi works with Kim Severson, an Olympic medalist and a regular on America’s international teams. Jodi has brought horses along to the two-star level and hopes to compete in the Advanced division in the future. In the short term, she is focused on getting her horses ready for the upcoming season, and expects to compete in one- and two-star events in 2013. She says that she loves eventing for its challenges, as well as for the fact that it produces wellrounded horses.

“I really like that the horse is trained in more than one discipline,” she says. “You get the dressage training, which is the basics. You get the galloping for the cross country, and then the technical skill that you need for the stadium. I think the horses enjoy the cross training, and I think they benefit from it. It’s challenging, but I enjoy the challenge.”

Jodi Hemry Eventing LLC currently has a number of horses for sale, and has room for a few more students. Jodi says she would like to take in more horses for training or for sale, and that she expects the market for event horses to be good this winter. She is looking forward to a busy season in Aiken doing what she loves: teaching, training, competing and just being around event horses.

For more information, visit the website: www.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Equine Rescue of Aiken | 1/11/2013

A Horse Community at Work

Story and Photography by Gary Knoll



The most successful communities are the ones where people recognize that they are a community and that they are obligated in some way to that community. When people say that Aiken is a horse community, they mean more than that there are lot of people here who love horses. In Aiken’s horse community, people come together to help other horsemen as well as horses in need. You can see this aspect of the horse community at work every day at Equine Rescue of Aiken, a 90-acre 501c3 nonprofit facility where horses find new lives, new homes and new hope.


In 2010, Chris Miele and her husband moved from New Jersey to Aiken to retire. Their home is not far from the rescue, which is at Haven Hills Farm on Aiken’s Southside.

“I had always worked in an office my whole life,” says Chris, “And I really wanted to enjoy more time outdoors. When we first moved here, I joined an old ladies knitting group, but it really didn’t do anything for me. I walked around my neighborhood every day. I saw the beautiful horses at the farm on top of the hill. I really wanted to see what was going on over there. It took a lot of courage for me to go there, something usually way out of my comfort zone, but I did.

Chris Miele and Shadow
“And we are sure glad she came,” says Jim Rhodes, who is the CEO of the rescue. “Chris is here four or five days every week. You see her come in and then she’s off like a flash, and before you know it she has cleaned buckets and watered 60 horses. She does what she’s comfortable doing and she’s learning more about horses every day.”

“Tell how you first touched a horse,” says Jim to Chris.

“I was scared to death,” Chris admits. “It was hard for me to do at first and now I’m much more comfortable around the horses, and I really feel I need to come out here every day. I love it!”

It wasn’t long after Chris started helping at Equine Rescue that she felt a bond growing between herself and a black mare named Shadow. Chris puts a halter on Shadow and takes her for walks and to get brushed, whatever else she needs to have done. When you see Chris with Shadow you can tell they are both very much at ease in one another’s presence.

The main mission of Equine Rescue of Aiken is to find new homes for horses that need them. The rescue works with federal and local agencies and local horseman and horse owners, providing horses in need with a safe place to live until they can be adopted into forever homes.

“Not all horses are adoptable,” says Jim. “We understand that, and those that make it here will always have a safe place to live.” Although some horses are adopted right away, some will spend the rest of their lives at the rescue.

Rescuing horses might sound like something you would find on a dream job list, but it’s not quite so simple.

“We have about 60 or 70 horses here right now,” Jim explains. “We also have dogs, and miniature donkeys. Most of what we actually do is re-homing, or repurposing animals. By far, most of our animals are just simply regular horses of every size and breed imaginable. Their old owners are just like everyone else – financial or family circumstances make getting rid of their animals a necessity. It can be a devastating event for all parties. We also deal with Thoroughbred racetracks across the East Coast and are continually finding homes and new jobs for off-the-track Thoroughbreds. The first step is to bring the horses in. Then they are evaluated by our staff, and our army of volunteers and given whatever attention they need.”

With 60 horses on the property the amount of daily work involved is incredible, but Jim’s team of volunteers are a force. As many as 20 people a day contribute their energies. Some do jobs such as feeding or cleaning water buckets. Some brush and talk to shy ponies. Some pick up poop, trim grass or load hay. When you are at Equine Rescue of Aiken, the first thing you notice is how nice it is for the horses, and how many people you see doing so many different things all to make sure the horses have a chance to find a new job, a new life and a new person to love them.

Some of the horses at the rescue come from bad circumstances and need extensive rehabilitation before they are adopted, but others just need a new situation. There are green horses off the track, seasoned trail and riding horses, even event and jumping horses. When most people imagine a rescued horse, they probably think of an animal that is old or infirm. But most of the horses at Equine Rescue of Aiken have unlimited potential. They just need a chance.

Highfields Event Center

“Down the centerline,” a man says from the side of the arena. “X, halt. Salute.”

A stocky chestnut mare with a golden red flowing tail and intricately braided mane, Mary trots down the center of the arena towards the judge’s box. The judge, a blonde woman, watches the horse and rider as they make a sharp left turn and then another. She whispers comments and scores to the scribe sitting next to her. The rider, dressed in a dark red polo shirt, breeches and shiny black boots, is a very quiet rider, and the pair moves with great purpose. As the mare picks up a right lead canter, her ears prick straight back and then fling forward, as far forward as ears can go. It is obvious that this is a practiced pair - they are not perfect yet, but they both have a sense of calm determination. The pair completes the dressage test and the rider, Lauren Admire, exchanges a few cordial words with the judge before turning and walking back up the centerline. She pats her horse on the neck and looks up at the man reading the test, her husband Steven. The two smile. Lauren wins the class.

“Mary wasn’t always so solid,” says Lauren. “She was a neglect case. When she came to the rescue, she was extremely malnourished and in generally poor condition. My husband and I had just relocated here and I was volunteering at Equine Rescue. There was an immediate bond and I ended up adopting her. I board her at the rescue - it’s such a great place to keep your horse. We have spent this year competing in intro level dressage classes all over and we have quite a few blue ribbons. It’s been amazing.”

Life at the Rescue

Jim Rhodes and his wife Debbie live at the rescue and are devoted to animals. In addition to rescuing horses, they also work with dogs and have adopted out over 100 puppies over the last year. This fall, they are finding homes for dogs and horses seized in a raid on a puppy mill in Edgefield. They always have new horses coming in, and expect to bring in more off-the-track Thoroughbreds over the winter. A number of Aiken’s polo players know to look to the rescue for their next polo prospects. Eventers know this is a good place to find horses with the ability to run and jump.

“We have just completed a pretty major upgrade to our facility,” Jim says. “The rescue is growing and we are looking at new ways to fund our efforts. We put in all new run-in sheds, and a new barn with its own paddocks. We have added a temperature-controlled tack room and hot and cold wash racks for boarders. We have miles of trails, a lighted arena, jumps. We now have more room and facilities for full time boarders, and can offer great places to keep your horse for people coming to Aiken for equestrian events. It’s a fun place to board your horse, with groups of friendly horse loving people around.”

“We have the greatest community of horsemen in the country,” continues Jim. “What makes our community work so well is its professionals. When we have a horse come into our rescue for whatever reason, an incredible group of people band together and do whatever is needed. Dr. Jamie Carter takes care of our worming needs. Dr. Sabrina Jacobs of Performance Equine Vets, Dr. Sarah Thompson from Estella Equine Vets, and Dr. Lisa Handy from Carolina Equine Clinic take great care of our animals, many times for free or at greatly discounted rates. We could not survive without their knowledge, generosity and charity. Much of our feed and hay is donated or sold to us at discounted rates. Merchants and horseman like Charlie Herrick and his company Banks Mill Feed, Pace Kneece of Aiken County Farm Supply, Boots Bridles and Britches, Lydia Rose at Aiken Saddlery and so many more, allow us to feed and care for our animals with the very best products available. Daren Haeusler, our blacksmith, comes in and takes care of hooves and shoes. Julie Robins of Julie Robins Natural Horsemanship works closely with our horses and volunteers, helping them become better horses and horseman.

“Equine Rescue of Aiken is one giant community of horse lovers. We are so lucky for all the blood, sweat and tears our community gives us for the care of our horses. None of this would be possible without the unbelievable vision and generosity of Isabella and Dick Furland, the owners of Haven Hill Farm, who let us use their magnificent property to help horses.”

Equine Rescue runs on volunteers and donations, and there are many different ways to contribute. Money, time, a bag of dog or horse food – anything helps. Most of the local feed stores will add a bag or two of feed to their customers’ bills to give to Equine Rescue. Everyone is welcome at the rescue, from experienced horsemen to people who are just curious about horses.

“You can adopt, or foster a horse or a dog, sponsor one, volunteer,” says Jim. “And if you are coming down for the winter, or you’re just looking for a nice place to keep your horse, we’ve got the perfect setup for boarders. Rent our new barn and be close to everything - Hitchcock Woods, Highfields, and all the eventing and polo facilities. It’s a great place to be.”


North Carolina

Lindsey and Michelle Hampton live with their children Grace and Robert on a 1,000- acre property in North Carolina, not far from the Albemarle Sound and the barrier islands of Cape Hatteras. They farm wheat, corn and soybeans and also put up some hay. Today they share their home with two horses from the rescue.

“I have always had horses,” says Michelle. “My kids and I love to ride. I was on the Internet looking for a horse for our son, something he could trail ride and show in local shows. I found Equine Rescue of Aiken, and we found Sara there. We adopted her in 2008. Then, in 2010, I called Jim and told him we were looking for another horse, and now we have Diamond.

“We love our horses, there is no way to gauge how much we get from having them. They have have been on trail rides, horse shows and even in parades. Equine Rescue does such a wonderful job - I can never say enough about how much they do to help the horses.”

 This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Remembering Billy Haggard | 1/4/2013

A Sportsman's Life

By Mary Jane Howell

He lived a life that only a privileged few enjoy, and yet, perhaps, Billy Haggard’s true self was revealed when he was confined to a wheelchair, a quadriplegic for the final eight years of his life. Billy, a consummate horseman, started coming to Aiken in the 1960s and moved here permanently in 1973. When he died in January 2004 at the age of 76, he was mourned as one of Aiken’s last original Winter Colony gentlemen. 

William D. Haggard III was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1927, to a family whose lineage included doctors who helped found the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. His early days were not easy – his mother died when he was 4; his father, eight years later of a stroke. Billy was raised by his grandmother, who had the family chauffeur drive him to school each day. Little did she suspect that his classmates taunted him for his method of arrival and departure, but they did, mercilessly.

Fortunately he discovered a surrogate father in Calvin Houghland, a successful businessman and sportsman from nearby Brentwood, Tenn., who had a passion for horses and was one of the founders of the Iroquois Steeplechase. At Houghland’s Bright Hour Farm, Billy had his early lessons in horsemanship, and the foundation was laid for his lifelong love of foxhunting and steeplechase riding.

After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Billy returned to Tennessee where he attended the University of the South. Upon graduation he took up the life of a true sportsman – he was one of those fortunate men who played three sports a day and then dined at a friend’s house, went to bed, and repeated it all the next day.

“Billy was not a natural athlete, but he worked hard at becoming the best at whatever sport he took up,” explains his widow, Janet Haggard Harkins. “He loved taking lessons, and was never too proud to listen. Fortunately he had the money to hire the best people to teach him, whether it was in shooting or riding or court tennis.”

When he was in his 20s, Billy dedicated himself to equestrian sports. He hunted, rode steeplechase races (he was the leading amateur rider in 1957) and was an enthusiastic three-day event rider, who was selected for the U. S. eventing team. On one particular weekend in late October of 1956, Billy found himself exactly where he loved to be, in a whirlwind of social activity with horses at the center of it all. He and his grey gelding Trecla were at the hunter trials at Indian Hill Farm on the outskirts of Cincinnati. There was also the Camargo Hunt Ball to attend, which he did with a horse-crazy teenaged girl named Lefreda Williams. Lefreda’s grandfather was Oliver DeGray Vanderbilt, Master of the Camargo Hounds for many years. Life magazine covered the ball, the hunter trials and the ensuing social activities in a story entitled “Cincinnati Socialites follow Rigorous Ride with a Late Dance.” Billy was pictured jumping Trecla, one of the few horse photos in the multi-page spread.
The weekend ended up being more than anything Billy could have dreamed, however: it was the weekend that he was introduced to a horse that would change his life, the big grey gelding Bold Minstrel.

Bold Minstrel was 5 and he was owned by Lefreda Williams.

"I had been competing Bold Minstrel in small shows – just over baby fences,” recalls Lefreda. “Of course I was a wise teen who knew everything and I would tell people that this was the best horse I had ever sat on. At 18, mind you! Billy was on the team, and I was just an aspiring event rider, so I showed him my horse. What happened was that he got Bold Minstrel and I got his 11-year-old Trecla, and we were both happy.”

For Billy, Bold Minstrel was the horse of a lifetime. The gelding was the epitome of versatility, excelling as a show hunter, foxhunter, event horse, and a show jumper. He earned medals in three Pan Am Games and one Olympic Games in two disciplines, a feat unmatched by any other horse. He was the perfect partner for Billy, who was never content with mastering one discipline. Billy rode Bold Minstrel in the Chicago Pan Am Games in 1959, sharing the team silver and finishing ninth individually in eventing. Four years later in Sao Paulo they placed sixth and helped the eventing team earn gold.

Between their performances in the Pan Am Games, Billy and Bold Minstrel tackled the world of show hunters, earning the Reserve Championship in the conformation division at the National Horse Show in New York.

When the team was picked for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Billy and Bold Minstrel were on the roster as alternates. Then, on the flight to Japan, Mike Plumb’s mount Markham had to be put down. Billy sent Bold Minstrel as a replacement.

“I didn’t know Billy at that time, but he told me years later that when that phone call came he had his fingers crossed that team wanted him as well as Bold Minstrel,” says Janet. “And when they only wanted the horse he was gracious and humble enough to concede. He flew to Japan with his horse and cheered for Mike Plumb and the rest of the team.” The U.S. brought home the silver medal.

After the Tokyo Olympics, Billy lent Bold Minstrel to his good friend, the show jumping legend William Steinkraus. At the time, Billy and his second wife Holly Houghton were living in Far Hills, New Jersey, not far from the United States Equestrian Team headquarters in Gladstone. Steinkraus was working in New York as an editor for the Winchester Press and could usually only ride on weekends.  

Bold Minstrel was 12 at this point and for the next five years he competed with Steinkraus in numerous international show jumping events. The duo won more than a dozen major international competitions, including the Grand Prix of Cologne. In 1967 Bold Minstrel competed in his third Pan Am Games, this time in Winnipeg, earning a team silver in show jumping.

That same year, Steinkraus and Bold Minstrel set a puissance record of 7’ 3” at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. Later, after Billy had settled in Aiken, he had a shelf built in his library that was 7’3” and placed the puissance trophy on top of it.

When asked about his relationship with the big grey horse, Steinkraus explained it this way: “How would I characterize Bold Minstrel? He was a very versatile horse because he was a wonderful combination of superior heart, brain and body. He was very smart, very brave and very athletic, and we used to say that he probably could have medaled in all three Olympic disciplines along with winning all those show hunter classes. When I first rode him, he was certain that he knew more about jumping fences than I did, and he made a lot of unilateral decisions even though it was I who got to walk the course and know in advance what was coming. However, later on when he started to listen, if I made a mistake, he would often generously cover up for it. Billy wanted badly to replicate him somehow and kept looking, but Bold Minstrel was strictly one of a kind. I never ran across another horse like him, either.”

After Bold Minstrel retired from competition at 18, Holly hunted him, mainly in Pennsylvania: “He was absolutely the nicest hunter – just fearless in the field. He would jump anything, of course, and always seemed to really enjoy himself.”

Billy’s next big horse was Main Spring. Although he had retired from competitive riding, Billy still loved to bring along young horses. Main Spring also developed into a talented jumper, and Billy lent him to Steinkraus who went on to win a team silver medal with him at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. In 1974, Frank Chapot got the ride, competing in England where he and Main Spring took the individual bronze medal at the World Championships at Hickstead and won the King George V Gold Cup.

Billy’s life was not just about the horses, however. One of the reasons he loved Aiken so much was that he could play court tennis and go bird shooting. He had great pals here, including Jack Seabrook and Pete Bostwick.

“Billy was world-class as an equestrian, wing shot and in racquet sports, especially court tennis,” says Cot Campbell, who is president of Dogwood Stable and was one of Billy’s college classmates. “Some of those disciplines he was cut out for – some he was not. The latter group he conquered by sheer grit and tenacity. He insisted on superiority and he would accept nothing less.”

Another longtime friend, Austin Brown, says that he always “admired Billy for wanting to do things right. If he rode he had a perfectly turned out horse and the proper clothes, and it was the same for shooting or any other sport he did.”

Austin Brown and Billy competed against each other for years as amateur steeplechase riders before going their separate ways. Austin rode, trained and owned steeplechasers before taking a variety of leadership positions in the sport. Austin called Billy “Hags,” while Billy referred to his friend as “Brownieburger.”

Carriage driving was another activity Billy learned once he had settled in Aiken. He would often be seen around town seated in a Meadowbrook cart and driving a grey horse named Good Day. He wouldn’t think twice about negotiating the drive-through of his local bank with a horse and carriage.

Billy was also keen on another unique mode of transportation – his World War II Jeep that sounded as if it was still on military maneuvers. The only companion that would ride with him in the jeep was his Jack Russell, Idi Amin.

“Those two were perfect companions,” recalls Janet. “When Billy would park on Newberry Street to play court tennis he would leave Idi in the passenger seat, fully expecting that she would stay put. He never would believe that the minute he went through the door, Idi jumped out and ran around town, completely wild. She could judge – the way dogs do – when it was time for him to leave, and she would always be back in her seat.”

When he was in his 60s, Billy began to miss competing his horses. As much as he loved shooting and court tennis, there was a void in his life. While many men his age were taking up golf, Billy took up show hunters.

“By that time, so much in equestrian riding had changed,” says Janet. “The horses he had were Olympic-style jumpers. Switching to hunter jumpers, a more controlled ride, he had to learn a new way of sitting; it was a lot more precise.”

Under the tutelage of Danny Robertshaw, the Camden trainer, it wasn’t long before Billy was again in the show ring. Then, in February 1996, Billy was taking part in the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla. His horse went down in a freak accident in the warm-up ring. Billy, severely injured, was airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach where the prognosis was bleak.
“I flew down immediately,” says Janet. “His sons and brother had flown down as well and it goes without saying it was a very dire time.”

Although he was given no more than a few days to live, Billy had other plans. There were no experts to call upon – this was one lesson he would have to do on his own. Although he was paralyzed from the neck down, he found that indomitable spirit deep within and rallied, much to the surprise of his doctors. After one month he was moved to Atlanta where he began a strenuous regime of therapy at the Sheppard Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Center.

“Billy had a wheelchair that he could move by blowing into a tube – it’s nicknamed the sip and puff chair. It took a lot of work, but he never complained. He also had to learn to talk again – but his spirit never wavered. I was far more depressed than he ever was,” says Janet. After four weeks of rehab and therapy work, the doctors at Sheppard gave the go-ahead for Janet to bring Billy back home to Aiken. With the help of Janet and Joachim Beltran, who had been his groom, assistant and friend before the accident, Billy learned to navigate through the rooms of his 1850s home and eventually he could take himself on “strolls” around the neighborhood.

“Billy always said that if he had been moved to a nursing home he wouldn’t have lasted a year, but he lived for eight years after that accident, and it was because he was in the town and the house he loved,” Janet says. “People were around every day and he thrived on all the comings and goings. Some of his friends read to him, others would play the piano. When the Australian riders were training in Aiken before the Atlanta Olympics, they made a big point of coming by to visit Billy. “

“One thing that always sticks in my mind about Billy in those final years was that he never talked about himself,” says Austin Brown. “He was far more interested in what I had been doing. Here was a man who had every right to be morose – and he was just the opposite.”

During his lifetime Billy had amassed a large collection of sporting books – tomes that he had purchased on his various trips around the world. Many were leather-bound, first editions; others were several hundred years old. All were valuable. He worried about the future of his collection and he was insistent that the books be kept together. The books are now at the University of South Carolina’s Cooper Library in the Billy Haggard Sporting Books Collection.

Billy died on January 5, 2004. Both William Steinkraus and Cot Campbell gave eulogies at his funeral. Perhaps Campbell summed Billy up best when he spoke these words:

“It could be that Billy’s greatest claim to fame in the early part of his life was that he brightened up any situation in which he found himself. He was fun. He had a great sense of humor, a wonderful wit, manners, style, and panache… but in the latter part of his life, his claim to fame was indisputable. After his terrible injury, with the support from his family, he resigned himself to his plight, and he fought the good fight with incredible courage, with indomitable good cheer, and with enormous character and class.”

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.