Friday, May 27, 2016

Ask the Judge

Questions about Dressage
With Amy McElroy

Amy McElroy is an FEI competitor and a USEF R judge, qualified to officiate at any USEF recognized show at all national dressage levels. She rides, trains and teaches at Fairlane Farm in Aiken and judges between 15 and 20 dressage shows and events each year. In her popular Ask the Judge column, she answers readers’ questions about dressage.

Dear Amy,

I just imported a lovely 4-year-old warmblood. I was interested in trying the Young Horse tests. Could you tell me how these are different from standard dressage tests and who is eligible to enter?

Sincerely, Too Linda


Dear Linda,

Congratulations on the purchase of your new horse. I am glad you are considering entering the Young Horse tests, which are a great way to introduce horses to the competition arena. In these tests, your horse can gain experience while competing against other horses that are only his own age. There are separate tests for 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds. The only requirement to enter a Young Horse test is that the horse must be the specified age on January 1 of the competition year. This means that this year, you and your horse will be eligible to compete in the 4-Year-Old class.

The 4-Year-Old tests are roughly equivalent to First Level tests and they are performed individually in a 20-by-60-meter arena. They have from 14 to 18 movements. Some examples of movements that you would see in the trot are 10-meter half circles, lengthenings, serpentines and the stretch circle. All trot work may be ridden rising or sitting, unless otherwise stated on the test. In the canter, requirements include the 15-meter circle and canter lengthenings. No collection is required at this level.

The Young Horse tests are performed the same as standard dressage tests, but they are evaluated differently. Unlike in a standard dressage test, each movement does not receive a numbered score. Instead there are five overall categories that you will be judged on. They are: Walk, Trot, Canter, Submission, and General Impression. You will be scored on a scale of one to ten with decimals to the tenths. You will also receive a final, overall score.

Another difference is in the way your results are presented to you. In a regular dressage test, you may pick up your scoresheet after the class is over and examine it in private. In the Young Horse test, you are invited to stay in the ring after your final salute. The judge will then verbally present your scores in each category, along with a brief commentary and analysis of your horse’s gaits, training and potential. Spectators are welcome to listen, making the Young Horse test educational for them, for you and for your horse.

Here is what the scores mean: 9-10 is for top horses with good training; 8 is for good horses with good training; 7 is for good horses with a few mistakes; 6 is for good horses with big mistakes, or an average horse. 5 and below is for serious problems, or horses without enough potential excel in dressage.

If you are riding in a 4-Year-Old test, you should be in a short jacket and wearing protective head gear. Your horse must be ridden in a snaffle bridle. Other dress and equipment requirements follow the regular dressage rules.

What are judges looking for in a 4-year-old horse? According to the FEI judge’s guidelines, they want to see natural balance and engagement, willingness to go forward with impulsion, willingness to accept the rider’s aids and minimum negative physical or mental tension. “Uphill tendencies” are a bonus.

Let’s look at the five categories and how they will be scored. (Adapted from the FEI Guideline for Judges)

The Walk: the judge will be looking for rhythm, relaxation, activity and a ground-covering stride. The horse should be going freely forward with a clear four-beat step. The topline should be relaxed. 

The Trot: the judge will be looking for rhythm, regularity, natural cadence, elasticity, looseness, suppleness, a swinging back and the ability to bend the joints of the hindquarters. There should be a clear moment of suspension in the gait. 

The Canter: the judge will be looking for rhythm looseness, suppleness, natural balance, an uphill tendency, and the ability to bend the joints of the hindquarters. The gait should be a clear three-beats with a definite moment of suspension, and the canter should be the same in both directions. 

Submission: the judge will be looking for contact with the bit, obedience, straightness and responsiveness to the aids of the rider. This category is about the education and the rideability of the horse, and assesses whether he is on the right path in his training and at an appropriate level for his age. 

General Impression: this category assesses the horse’s talent, potential and presence. The General Impression is about the quality and natural ability of the horse: horses that get a high score would be ones that demonstrate the potential to be successful at the highest levels. For this category, the overall performance is more important than the details of the test.

The Young Horse tests are intended to evaluate the horse’s potential and are not about the rider. These tests were developed to showcase horses with the talent to rise to the top, but they are also a fun and informative way to get a horse started on his competitive career.

Not all shows offer Young Horse tests as a separate class, but it is often possible to ride a Young Horse test in a “test of choice” class. In addition to being a great introduction to showing, a Young Horse test is a good way to prove that your horse is training at an age-appropriate level. I highly recommend giving it a try.

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

World Champion Jeffrey Pait

Quarter Horse Trainer in Aiken

Story and Photography By Pam Gleason

Ask Jeffrey Pait, a World Champion Quarter Horse trainer, about his life and career, and he will give all the credit to the horses.

“We’ve been very blessed,” he says. “The horses have been really, really good to us; they have given us our whole lives. And I have been fortunate enough to grow up in the horse business, and to work in it, and to raise a family and make a living.”

Jeffrey and his wife Bronwyn relocated to Aiken in January 2013. At the same time, Jeffrey, who had been a private trainer for a farm in Sparta, N.J. for 26 years, started his own business, Pait Show Horses. Jeffrey grew up in North Carolina, and had always wanted to return to the South. As Bronwyn explains it, the couple has friends in the Quarter Horse business, Patty and Dale Frick, who had bought a 40-acre horse farm in Aiken, but weren’t using it.
“Patty and Dale sat down with us at the [Quarter Horse] Congress, and they said, ‘I want you to come look at our place.’ And so we did.”

The Pait’s daughter, Abigail, was already in South Carolina, where she was a student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and a rising star on the school’s equestrian team.

“We came down one Saturday morning, spent the day here, went into town Saturday night, got back up the next morning and went back into town,” continues Jeffrey. “Abigail came too, and we drove around, and there wasn’t even a decision. We had made up our minds before we got back to the airport the next day.”

“It all just fell into place perfectly,” says Bronwyn, who is a New Jersey native. They made their move soon afterwards, bringing along some of their own horses as well as a number of horses for their clients. The move was a good one in every way. The business is thriving, and the Paits and their clients have been enjoying everything that Aiken has to offer. “We love it here,” says Bronwyn.

Carrying on a Family Tradition

Jeffrey Pait was raised in Bladenboro, NC with Quarter Horses in his blood. His father, Eldon, was an American Quarter Horse Association judge who conditioned several champions and instilled a love of horses in Jeffrey, as well as in his two younger brothers, Jamie and E.H. The whole family grew up riding, training, showing and caring for Quarter Horses. All three brothers stuck with it, each becoming not just a professional AQHA trainer, but also a World Champion.

“They say we’re the only three brothers in the Quarter Horse business that all showed at the same time and were all World Champions at the same time,” says Jeffrey. While the younger brothers train and show in the Pleasure division, Jeffrey is dedicated to halter horses. He breeds them, trains them, shows them and judges them. In fact, his judging services are so sought after that he has officiated at shows all over the United States as well as overseas – in England, Germany, Italy, Australia, Mexico – anywhere that Quarter Horses are popular.

According to “Judging Halter: A Standard of Reference for AQHA Judges” the purpose of the halter class is to “preserve American Quarter Horse type by selecting individuals in the order of their resemblance to the breed ideal and that are the most positive combination of balance, structural correctness, breed and sex characteristics, and muscling.” Correct conformation is the main factor in making a champion, and most top halter horses do not compete in any other discipline, and may not even be broken to ride. They need to be trained and conditioned as well as expertly groomed and prepared. A careful exercise program ensures that they are fit and trim in the halter ring, and also that they will feel good about themselves and have the presence and charisma that can only come from a healthy, happy horse.

The Pait method is founded on keeping horses in the best possible mental and physical condition. “We start by getting them healthy. We worm them, vaccinate them, get them on a consistent feeding program and exercise them on a regular basis,” says Jeffrey. Since the horses are generally not ridden, exercise usually comes in the form of ponying them either from another horse or from a gator. “We do a lot of jogging, a little loping,” continues Jeffrey. “One thing we do with our halter horses that a lot of other people won’t do is we turn them out a lot. We think they need to go outside and be horses. It’s important to let them have some free time to do their own thing.”

Every show horse in the Pait stable has his or her own individual feeding, training and care regimen – there is no “one size fits all” here. “Each horse is different,” says Jeffrey. “I like to do my own feeding and I feed grain three times a day. I like to look at them myself every day and let the animal tell me what they need. Certain horses respond better to oats, or to senior feed. Sometimes they need a little more exercise; sometimes they need a little less. If you listen to them, most of the time, they will tell you what they need.”

In addition to conditioning, halter horses also need to learn how to perform and show themselves off in the ring. This means that they must learn to stand squarely on all four feet, to hold their heads in a position that shows off their necks to the best advantage, and to present themselves proudly to a judge. Although in the end, the class is about conformation, showmanship can make a big difference.

“It’s just like with people,” says Jeffrey. “Some horses have a natural ability, just like some people were born to walk down a runway, and others weren’t. The ones that weren’t, you have to enhance a lot. There are certain little techniques you can use to get them to prick up their ears and position their heads correctly, maybe to stretch a little more, or to break at the poll. It all depends on the horse. Presentation can be a big part of it. You need to look like you are out there to win.”

What does Jeffrey look for in a horse? Balance is always the number one consideration. He also stresses that horses must look fit and trim and as though they can do something. In the past, the halter division was sometimes criticized for rewarding horses that were overly muscled, or too fat. Today’s halter champions have a more agile look. “You always want them to look like an athlete. They don’t need to look like beef cattle.”

Rewards of the Business

Jeffrey enjoys showing horses, and he has 11World Championships to his name. In 2015, he had the highest number of points of any professional showing in the halter division, and was invited to join Team Wrangler, a partnership between Wrangler, the clothing company, and the AQHA created to promote educational outreach in the Quarter Horse world. As part of Team Wrangler, he will travel around the country giving various talks and clinics to promote Quarter Horses and the halter discipline. In addition, he currently sits on the board of directors of the South Carolina Quarter Horse Association.

Although he is quite competitive himself, he says he gets his biggest satisfaction from seeing young horses under his care grow up and go on to great things, as well as from watching his clients succeed in the amateur divisions.
“I really enjoy bringing the young horses along, watching them mature and seeing what they turn into once we have enhanced them and trained them to stand and show,” he says. “I like to see the customers win, or do really good with a horse they have raised themselves from a baby. To me, that is the most rewarding thing. Give me enough money and I can go out and buy the best horse, but to raise a foal and have it turn into something, that is a lot harder to do.”

Today, the Pait stable includes three new foals with bright futures, as well as a couple of retired horses and a strong contingent of promising and successful show horses of all ages. These horses are owned by clients from across the United States – from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and Arizona as well as North and South Carolina. The clients come to Aiken on a regular basis to visit their horses, practice their handling techniques and to take their horses to the shows.

And they have found success, winning World Championships and Select World Championships in several different divisions. “Our little group has done well,” Jeffrey says. “We’re really tickled with all of them.” The highlight of the year was when Jeffrey’s client Ina Ginsberg showed Hez packing Heat to the World Championship title for 3-year-old geldings at the 2015 Adequan Select AQHA World Championship show on September 3 in Amarillo, Tx. Ina, who is 80 years old and a cancer survivor, has been showing Quarter Horses in hand for decades and had been Reserve World Champion seven times. She lives in Carefree, Arizona with her husband Arnie and has been training with the Paits for three years. This was her first World Championship title.

“Her winning was really nice for her,” says Jeffrey. “She really loves horses, and she loves showing. And to see someone that age, who has been reserve seven times, do that good, it was a really big deal for all of us.”

And what does the future hold for the Paits? They would like to keep showing and doing well for their clients and their horses. They are also eager to promote Quarter Horses in Aiken and surrounding areas. One way they are already doing that is by showing Aiken to their existing clients, who have a universal love for the Paits’ new home town -- this is already beginning to put Aiken on the Quarter Horse map. They also hope to encourage more showing and more involvement with the Quarter Horse Association in this area.

“There aren’t many halter horses here, but there are cutting horses and reining horses and barrel horses, and we have met more and more people who have Quarter Horses. We’d like to grow it a little more,” says Jeffrey.

“The more horse people we have here, the better for all of us,” adds Bronwyn, who was very involved with the AQHA when they lived in New Jersey.

As far as their own business plans, the Paits want to stay small so that they can continue to give each horse and each client individual attention, helping horses to fulfill their potential and clients to achieve their goals. And like any passionate horseman, Jeffrey is always on the lookout for the next great horse.

“When you look at one and he hits you, you know right then,” he says. “If I’ve got to really, really look at a horse and figure out what I like about it, I know I need to keep looking. I see a lot of nice horses, but great horses . . . You know when you see them and you get that feeling – I’ve only had it five or six times – they hit you, boom, and you know it. You need to get this one, no matter what.”

-Three Runs Plantation Equestrian Blog. Re-published article from The Aiken Horse.
This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Terry Houghton of Marrinson Stables

Creating a Piece of Paradise

By Pam Gleason, Photography by Gary Knoll

Marrinson Stables may be one of Aiken’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away on 88 acres about 25 minutes from downtown, it is an intimate boarding stable with a focus on quality care and a drama-free atmosphere. The stable offers miles of trails, dressage and jumping rings and a supportive group of boarders who enjoy one another’s company almost as much as they love their horses.

“We all sometimes have a crisis in our lives,” says Terry Houghton, who runs the stable for its owner, the businessman Ralph Marrinson. “Our boarders tell me that when there is something difficult going on in their lives, they can come here and feel happy. Mentally, it’s a really good place to be.”

Terry was born and raised in California, where she made a living at the racetrack.

“When I was growing up I was just crazy for horses,” she says. “We didn’t have any money, but I ended up with a little pinto horse that I paid $175 for – his name was Dash of Pepper, and I rode him and showed him.”

Terry went to Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif. and considered becoming a veterinarian. She hadn’t really thought of making a living riding, but while she was in college, a racehorse training center opened up nearby and they were advertising for help. She applied for a job.

“They told me you needed to have an exercise license to ride, and I didn’t have one, so they stuck me in the breeding barn. They would have professional exercise riders taking out the horses, but they didn’t pay as well as at the racetrack and they were out in the middle of nowhere, so no one stayed around for very long. Eventually, they got desperate for help and they asked me if I would get on a few horses for them, and I said okay. That’s how I started riding racehorses.”

As Terry gained experience, she got on some better horses and soon found herself hooked. Before long, she was riding at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, just outside of San Francisco.

“It was a strange place for a racetrack,” she says. “If you looked one way, you could see the San Francisco Bay and if you were up in the grandstands you had the most incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge. When there were regattas, you could see the boats sailing by. But if you looked the other way, you could see that the track was literally on the side of Route 80, the massive highway going up to the Bay Bridge. We’d be on our horses, and we could look out and see people’s faces in their cars as they went speeding by. It was crazy.”

At Golden Gate, Terry became familiar with every aspect of racing, as a rider, as a trainer, and as an administrator. She dealt with issues ranging from immigration law for the workers to the politics of gambling in the state of California. It was a great job, she says, until the industry began to change. The beginning of the end was when California stopped classifying racing as agriculture and began treating it as entertainment. This initiated a cascade of changes that made it more and more difficult for the sport to survive. Expenses skyrocketed, but purses did not. It became clear to Terry that it was time to find a new career.

At the same time, her mother was ailing and her husband had been diagnosed with a neurological disorder that turned out to be ALS. In 2003, Terry’s good friends, Christine and Dr. Kerry Ridgway, who had recently relocated to Aiken from California, encouraged her to come out for a weekend.

“I came and I fell in love,” she says. The weekend that she visited, the painted horse statues that adorn Aiken were being unveiled and there was a festive, equestrian atmosphere downtown. In the weeks preceding her trip, she had been in contact with Lisa Hosang, a realtor with Carolina Company, and Lisa took her for a trail ride in the Hitchcock Woods. That was what sold it. “It was just so beautiful.”

Terry was not expecting to buy a house, and she had given Lisa a list of requirements that she was pretty sure would be impossible to meet. But before she went back to California, Lisa took her to a home on a quiet street in the 302 equestrian corridor with everything she needed.

Back on the West Coast, Terry made what she thought was a low offer on the house and it was accepted right away. The die was cast. Two months later, in January 2004, she and her husband, mother, son and daughter relocated to Aiken.

Terry didn’t have a job when she arrived at her new home, but soon pieced together a living working in a law office, a veterinary office and as an exercise rider at the Aiken Training Track. Her skill and experience on the track made her a standout, and it wasn’t long before she was hired as the assistant trainer for Tim Jones, who was the Aiken trainer for Stonerside, a major racehorse operation then owned by Robert and Janice McNair, who also owned the Houston Texans football team.

“It was a great job, and they were wonderful people and they had some phenomenal horses,” she says. “The whole program was just class all the way through.”

When the McNairs sold Stonerside to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Makhtoum, the ruler of Dubai, in 2009, Terry became an employee of the Darley, one of the largest racehorse stables in the world. Meanwhile she was caring for her mother and her husband, both of whom were terminally ill. It was a busy and a stressful time in her life.

After a few years, Darley’s interest in its Aiken operation began wane. In 2012, the management announced that its employees were going to be seasonal instead of year round. Almost simultaneously, Terry heard that Ralph Marrinson was possibly looking for someone to run his stable as a business. She was interested, had a few interviews, and was soon hired as the manager.

At the time, Marrinson stable had a single boarder, and no clear identity in the Aiken horse community. Terry came in, supervised some changes and updates to the facility, and began working to bring in clients.

“Mr. Marrinson is one of those really neat people to work for,” says Terry. “He’s a very good businessman, but he also wants this place to be special. If there is something that needs to be done, all I have to do is call him and tell him about it and it gets taken care of.”

Today, three and a half years after she came to Marrinson, Terry has the satisfaction of knowing that she has helped to create a unique place. It isn’t a show barn or a competition barn. Marrinson’s boarders are horse lovers who mostly ride on the trails and come to the barn because they love their horses. There is a community spirit and a sense of camaraderie. One boarder, Kitty Corbett, is a driving enthusiast, and even gave Terry and her new husband, Nils Pontenstein, a romantic carriage wedding at the stable last June.

“There was a real need for a place for people who just want to ride their horses and love them,” says Terry. “We take really good care of the horses, and we have a very hands-on approach. For so many of these ladies, their horses are their babies, and we recognize that and we go the extra distance to give the best care we can. And we’ve been so lucky too, with the group of people we have – sometimes they organize rides together, go to the Hitchcock Woods. They all work together, and do things like raise money for the animal shelter or the SPCA. I have met so many wonderful people.”

“We have our own little piece of paradise out here,” she continues, joking that her boarders don’t want to let too many people in on their secret. “Because we have a Ridge Spring address, sometime people imagine that we are too far from town to be convenient. But once they make the trip, they realize that we aren’t that far away. And once people get here, they just love it. It’s a really good place.”

-Three Runs Plantation Equestrian Blog. Re-published article from The Aiken Horse.

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

Friday, May 6, 2016

Blue Ribbon Meadows

Boarding, Training, Rescue in Wagener

By: Pam Gleason, Photography by: Gary Knoll

When Barbara Jacobs and Leslie Farne relocated from Katy, Texas to Wagener, S.C. last summer, they did not travel light. In addition to themselves, their four French bulldogs and their two African Grey Parrots, they also brought along 22 horses, 18 of which were rescue horses that they saved over the years.

“These aren’t the kind of rescue horses that you adopt out,” says Barbara. “These are the kind that you keep – they’re old, some of them have no teeth, they can’t be ridden. These are the horses that everyone forgets.”

“It was kind of funny,” adds Leslie. “Because we had to rent a whole Brookledge van for them. So we had these 20-to-30 year-old rescue horses walking up the big ramps into the van and looking around to say ‘this is nice!’ And you had to think that the same van was probably just used to haul fancy show horses.”

Barbara and Leslie run Blue Ribbon Meadows, a business that provides boarding, training and lessons alongside their 501c3 charity Blue Ribbon Equine Rescue. Back in Texas, Blue Ribbon Meadows was a 100-acre facility with six barns, many acres of paddocks and a full eventing course where they ran USEF as well as unrecognized competitions. The new facility in Wagener is considerably smaller, situated on 33 acres that encompasses houses for them and for the people that work for them, stabling for the horses as well as pastures and paddocks and riding areas. There are two arenas with professional GGT footing, one of them under cover, and there is access to miles of trails.

The rescue and show horses divide their time between pasture and turnout. This year, Blue Ribbon is also home to a number of polo ponies on winter break, which occupy one of the farm’s big grassy pastures. There are a few other client horses, including show horses and retired horses.

“Our rescue horses have always been treated exactly the same as our show horses,” says Barbara. “That’s how we’ve always done it. Everyone gets the same care. They’re all handled twice a day, and they all have stabling. They all get wormed, vaccinated, groomed, bathed, blanketed, massaged – whatever they need. We feed the old ones four times a day, and all their feed is soaked, so they might get soaked beet pulp, soaked alfalfa, soaked timothy hay. And you can see that none of them are skinny, even the 30 year-olds with no teeth, because they can absorb what we are feeding them.”

The oldest horse that Blue Ribbon ever had lived to 39. “We got him when he was 30, says Leslie. “His owner had passed, and the son called us up and we went and got him. He ended up living for nine more years.”

Barbara, who has been teaching, training and competing in showjumping, eventing and dressage since she was very young, says she got her first rescue horse in 1980. She is originally from Long Island, and that was where she obtained a horse named Katrina from the slaughter buyer. Katrina was skinny, and so she fattened her up, rehabilitated her and eventually found her a new home. Barbara’s rescue operation started there and continued to grow alongside her teaching and training business. At Blue Ribbon Meadows in Texas, she and Leslie took in horses destined for slaughterhouses in Mexico and elsewhere, along with some from the Amish auctions in the Midwest and abuse and neglect cases confiscated by the Houston SPCA. They say that they can care for as many as 30 rescue horses at one time, as long as they have the funds to do so.

“It always bothers me when a rescue takes on more horses than they can afford to feed,” says Leslie. “If we have the money to feed 20 rescue horses, that is how many we are going to have.”

Blue Ribbon Equine Rescue is partially funded by income from the training and boarding business and partially by donations. Since moving to Aiken, Barbara and Leslie have found that their donations have dropped off – few local people know about their operation. They are hoping to change that.

“In the Houston area there were about seven horse rescues,” says Barbara. “There are always horses needing rescue, so the more rescues you have, the better. When there is an obvious abuse and neglect case, people do step up to donate and help out. But one thing that people forget about is that once that horse is rescued, he doesn’t go away. Even if he isn’t skinny or sick any more, he still needs care and he still needs food, and he might live a long time. Just because he is with a rescue, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t need any help.”

She adds that if people want to contribute but are not comfortable sending money, the rescue is happy to take donated feed, blankets or vet care. “We get our feed from Aiken County Farm Supply and we have our vet work done by Sabrina Jacobs at Performance Veterinary Services. So someone who wanted to help out could donate a bag of feed or a bale of alfalfa, or a couple of teeth floatings.”

As far as the future goes, Barbara says that she and Leslie are looking forward to growing their business and their rescue in Aiken, getting more clients for boarding and training and becoming an established part of the horse community.

“I’d like to have a really awesome sanctuary for these old horses and a very private dressage and eventing stable,” says Barbara. “I love teaching. Teaching to me is art –it’s like painting a picture. It keeps me up at night if a lesson didn’t go that well and I’m always thinking about how to make it better.”

Barbara, who is a cancer survivor, says that she teaches all levels, but that adult beginners are her favorite pupils. “If they have anxiety, I completely understand that. When I was younger I might have been ‘Today we’ll go jump that truck – it’ll be fine.’ But now I completely understand anxiety, and I can help work through it. The only thing I don’t understand is people not wanting to put the time in to their goals. If your goal is to ride and you want to show and you’re not willing to get on and do the work, I don’t understand that. If the trot is your Olympics and that is what you want to do, that’s fine. But if you want to show and compete at a higher level, you have to put the time in.”

Barbara and Leslie and all their animals are enjoying their new home. “I love it here – the people are so kind and the climate is so mild,” says Barbara. “And the horses love it too.”

The last statement certainly appears to be true. Barbara and Leslie have a few warmbloods, including a dressage schoolmaster that is available for lessons. In addition, there is Barbara’s 6-year-old appaloosa, a surprise bonus from rescuing an unexpectedly pregnant neglected mare. The rescue horses are a diverse assortment of individuals, from mini donkeys, to retired Standardbred racehorses, former equitation mounts and various animals brought back from the brink of starvation. One rescue horse, Danny, a sprightly 30-year old gelding of uncertain breeding comes happily to the edge of his paddock to pose for a picture.

He pricks his ears at Barbara, eager for attention, and she greets him enthusiastically. “We love our rescue horses,” she says. “How could you not? How could you not rescue?”

For more about Blue Ribbon Meadows, visit www.blueribbonmeadows. com. To donate a bag of grain or a bale of hay: Aiken County Farm Supply: 803-649-2987. For veterinary services, Performance Equine: 803-641- 0644. Blue Ribbon Meadows is at 2820 Old 96 Indian Trail, Wagener.

-Three Runs Plantation Equestrian Blog. Re-published article from The Aiken Horse.

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