Sunday, December 31, 2017

Making Baby Plans for 2018!

As the new year rolls around we are making plans for babies!

Expected in 2018 is only one baby. This is a very special baby because it is Dan's baby. Dan bred his appaloosa mare, Winterfell to our stallion Sierra to birth a personal horse for himself. With the Appaloosa and Paint Cross, this baby could turn out almost any pattern and color!

Our breeding list for 2018 is just one mare: Aspen. We plan to breed this beautiful appaloosa mare outside our barn to a friend's Arabian stallion, Pikhasso, sometime later this spring.

More about Pikhasso >>
Aspen Skipping Stone



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hector Half Hundred Endurance Race 2017

Call us suicidal, but we brought 10 students and 4 staff members, a total of 14 riders, to the Hector Half Hundred this year!

As our local race, the Hector Half Hundred offers three route options through the Finger Lakes National Forest: 18 mile Introductory Ride, 30 Mile Limited Distance Race and the 50 mile Endurance Race.

This year we had 12 horses compete in the introductory ride while Jen and Erika, as instructors, competed in the 30 and 50 mile races.

The Painted Bar Stables Team:

50 Mile Competitor

Erika Eckstrom & Rainbows Poco Spade

30 Mile Competitor

Jennifer Van Dusen & JPR Rock On

15-18 Mile Competitors

Cody Middaugh & Spock the Mule
Katie Shaw & Dun B A Whiskey Bandit
Nicholas Bonsignore & Chief

Randall Lam & Captain
Teresa Fico & Bonita Ponyta

Laura Engel & JKGs Awesome Desmond (aka Kasper) 
Pete Engel & Aspen Skipping Stone
Elizabeth Dorward & Just a Smudge
Laura Dorward & Panda Paws
Kasiia Gurdak & SS Sultani (aka Nymeria) 

Shao Pei Chou & Pepsi Poco LeoDandy
Colin McNaull & Bachelors Foolish Blonde (aka Dutchess)

The entire event was a MAJOR community bonding experience with some real successes throughout the community. Many of the riders had never competed at distance riding before. For some of our adult teams, it was their first time going on new trails without a staff member leading the way.

A huge accomplishment was also Erika and Jen being able to compete independently for the first time and to not have to accompany riders and to truly represent the barn.

Jen placed 2nd in the 30 mile race out of 28 starting riders. The only rider to beat her was, in Jen's words "a beast!"
See the 30 mile results >>

This was Erika's first ever 50 mile endurance race. Erika not only completed the ride with Poco, but placed in 8th out of 39 starting riders!
See the 50 mile results >>

See the videos of their ride below:

More Photos from the Hector Half Hundred >>

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Northeast Challenge Endurance Race in Maine

We took four amazing teenagers to Buckfield, Maine with us for a back-to-school endurance race competition. We learned from the Biltmore vacation that ground crew was absolutely needed so we were lucky enough to have both Jamie VanDusen and Randall Lam join us on the adventure.

Horse and Rider Teams for the event: 

Erika Eckstrom & Joli's Hero
Kathleen Clifford & Rainbows Poco Spade
Jadyn Lauper & SS Sultani (aka Nymeria)

Jennifer Van Dusen & JPR Rock On
Tristin Rose Morley & Merlin's Beard
Ava Van Dusen & Meagan's Fire Storm

Photos of both Painted Bar Stables Teams
We headed out on Friday. The first thing I learned very quickly was that it is completely different traveling with teenagers than adults! I thought it would be harder - because after all, teenagers have a bad rep! However, no more than 20 minutes into the drive all of the teenagers were fast asleep. No coffee breaks, no emergency stops - just quite moments punctuated by funny jokes and sing-a-longs! 

Yale Polo Facility
I would travel with a bunch of teenagers ANY DAY! They totally deserve a better reputation in society!

We overnighted with my dear friend, Branden Van Loon who is the head coach at the Yale Polo Facility. 

Having access to his fields and being able to stretch out our horses legs before the race was infinitely valuable! 
We arrived in Maine the next day to set up camp for ourselves and horses. Because we were a large group - most people travel with one or two horses - we got an entire field to ourselves.

The camp consisted of temporary electric fencing for each of the horses with a portable solar charger that we had been charging in the bed of the truck the entire drive. 

Everyone brought their own camping equipment. I'm wise enough at this point to realize the extreme value of a folding cot! 

We fed the horses and then packed our gear for the following day, making sure our "hold suitcase" was at the hold point for the next day.

That evening the NE Challenge staff hosted an absolutely AMAZING pig roast for competitors and their ground crews after the debriefing meeting. Most rides provide a dinner before or after the race, but this race really stepped it up with this pig roast! 

With our bellies full and our brains loaded with maps and advice from the ride directors we headed to bed to be ready for the following day!

Ready for the Race!

The next morning we were ready and lined up for the race. Jadyn and Kathleen were set for a competitive try at the race and Ava and Tristin were more focused on successful completion. 

I always call the first mile of any endurance race "Sh$# Show Mile" because of the absolute chaos that heads out with the stampede. All of the horses are fresh and ready to go, riders' nerves are at a high, and there's a nice open trail ahead to run down. 

Because of that Team Live Long and Prosper set out first with the leaders of the pack while the other team waited for the stampede to pass before they headed out.

The trails through the hills of western Maine are beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous trails with great footing and nice m
ix of trails an sandy roads. The views, the brooks, the woods and everything are perfect. 

At the halfway hold, all of the horses looked in good spirits and health, however Tristin had a bit of a snafu cooling Merlin down, making him pulse out just over the limit and require an extra 15 minutes of cooling before he was allowed to head back out on trail. 

Team Live Long and Prosper had an absolutely fantastic race with all three riders tying for 2nd place. We were
 able to get all of the team horses to the finish safely, in competitive timing, and to not only get horses pulse down in time at vet checks, but they all pulsed down WELL BELOW the required limits of 64bpm at the halfway hold and 60bpm at the finish.

I was also very impressed with how Kathleen and Jadyn were able to support Hero and my
 first race together, with him only being off the track 1.75 years. I seriously couldn't have done this race without them! The three of us took turns leading, all leading almost equally. As one horse got tired another would pull up so that the leader could fall back and drag. Impeccable teamwork and horsemanship.

Team Painted Bar Stables Red had a good race as well. As the younger contingency of our team it was definitely a bit harder for them, but they all finished the race amid cheers from the crowd! 
I was also SO IMPRESSED that lessons were learned from the halfway hold and how quickly Tristin and the crew was able to get Merlin's heart rate to drop by 18bpm when she came in at the finish. 

Overall, the Northeast Challenge in Buckfield, Maine was a phenomenal race. Every one of our six horse and riders completed the 30 miles: Erika, Jadyn and Kathleen tied for 2nd, Ava and Jen tying for 13th and Tristin finishing in 15th. 

Tristin won the "Turtle Award" as the final completing rider, but I was so impressed at how well they rallied at the halfway and that they not only finished the distance but were able to complete the final vetting well within the standards. Hurrah to the rookie horse with the rookie rider! To finish is to win!!

The people here are phenomenally supportive of my mission, bringing a gaggle of teens and 6 horses across state lines to compete. It makes me happy people realize what an accomplishment it is to not only compete successfully but to do so with horses and students in tow.

Top Competitors in the 100 Mile Race
Congratulations not only to these top placing riders of the 100 mile race, but to all completing riders! We were all in awe of you and your abilities. For those who don't realize what this takes, they left camp at 6:00am Saturday and the final rider came in at 5:10am Sunday. A special shout out to our own locals, Pam Karner who competed solo with no crew and tied for 1st and Libby Llop who came in 4th.

I think it says loads to the next generation to watch these competitors, young AND old do the impressive accomplishment of doing 100 miles. 

Results from the 100 Mile Race >>


Joli's Hero after the Race
When the girls all told me that they were choosing not just my top pick for mounts, but my second, third AND FOURTH pick, I didn't know who I was going to ride! I needed a horse that could not only complete the 30 miles but keep up with the horses they had chosen!

Hero has only been off the track for about 2 years, and I have only owned him for 1.5. This spring, while we could do nice peaceful 1 hour trail guide rides, at that point we couldn't ride longer than 5 miles without a meltdown and subsequent crab walking, especially in the road, and spooks were a regular occurrence. 

After a full summer of training, Hero completed 30 miles with only minimal fatigue. His health scores were optimal, with a little interference in the hind fetlocks and just a small amount of gassiness in the gut. The entire ride and now he has been eating and drinking and perky. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017


I encounter a LOT of different opinions working with the hundreds of locals and thousands of tourists that come through my barn doors. Many of these opinions conflict with each other. As a result I am always trying to negotiate between multitudes of different people with different viewpoints. 

While your opinion is COMPLETELY your right to have, the one thing I cannot stand is denial. People need to OWN their opinions in order to have productive conversations about them. 

You can't start a sentence by saying I'm not something and then saying something that shows repugnance of an issue that defines that thing. 

It's like saying:
"I'm not judgmental, but you look ugly today."
"I'm not racist, but I would never let my daughter date a black guy."
"I support transgender rights, but they can't be in a certain bathroom."

The English language just doesn't work that way and it makes you look like you're in denial instead of trying to find where you stand in the middle on your support or lack thereof. Own your thoughts and try to figure out how they relate to the world around you.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Camp Kid Dilemma: Being a Good Citizen of the Equine Economy

It invariably happens every single year. You get a kid that comes to your riding camp that takes lessons at another stable in the area. You're relieved because at least they have horse experience and potentially even some skills; however, you're also nervous because there's a lot of 'manners' you now have to maneuver through.

Working with adults that ride at other stables is pretty simple. They are adults and they maneuver through the manners along with you. However, children don't do that. It's all up to you!

Here's my rules for maneuvering:

    It's never a good idea to insult another barn, but especially not to children who won't understand where your disagreements may be coming from. Moreover, those children may parrot what you said. Those barns are working hard to keep people interested in horseback riding and providing services to the industry. No matter how much you disagree with their training philosophies, barn management style, or business model.
    Instead, the proper answer to anything you disagree with is: "At our barn we do things like this because ________."
    It's important to explain WHY you might do things differently. Even though they are children they should understand why you choose to do the processes you do and they can make their own choices outside your barn as to what they think.
    Do NOT use your camp to steal children away from their home barns! Do you want more students? Do you love the kid and wish you could ride with them more? Well, yeah! Obviously you want to ride with those awesome kids and wish you could share your knowledge with them! That's what instructors do! But it is inappropriate to kidnap them from others in the industry.
    Even if the kids say outright "I like your barn/horses/lessons better. I'm going to quit the other barn," it is inappropriate to respond with an enthusiastic "YAY!".
    The appropriate answer is always: "You are welcome to ride here whenever you want. Talk to your parents about it and make sure you think about your goals. We are here for you when you need us." By saying that you leave the door open (because it is!) but you make the child realize they need to make choices and talk with their parents about their goals.
    Kids do enough comparing without your help. You never want to compare your barn to another barn because all barns are DIFFERENT! We have different priorities, different philosophies, different horses, different management styles, different budgets, different facilities, and maybe even use different riding styles. But everyone in the industry is doing the best that they can!
    When you get kids from other barns that are riding on their hands, leaning too far forward, have unstable legs, can't keep a posting rhythm for the life of them, or have major fear issues because of past experiences DO NOT ASSUME anything about the barn they came from. Those kids often do not necessarily have those problems because of the instruction they are receiving, often their instructors are trying to correct those problems as well! Don't blame the instructor, understand that learning is a process.
    And remember, you have students that drive you nuts too and have problems YOU are trying to correct!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

FLX EquiTrek 2017

We headed out out in the finger lakes national forest for our three day adventure. Seven riders, two guides, nine horses, to camping sites, and over 50 miles of trails.

The weather was perfect for our adventure with medium temperatures and nice sunny days. The first day was a 25 mile trek from the Painted Bar Stables to our remote farm, The Elkins Equine Park at the north end of the Finger Lakes National Forest.

At the Elkins location we set up a rough camp and with the support of Luca Pandolfi, made both a gourmet campfire dinner. The next morning we discovered how to make campfire french toast and then headed back down the trails.

The second day we rode 15 miles, exploring different trails as we routed back south to camp at the Backbone Horse Camp. On the way we stopped for lunch in one of the northern fields. Video of Luncheon on the Trail >>

The third day completed the trip with a 10 mile trail ride.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Welcome baby Loki!

Loki was born on May 10th and is now owned by our very own Jen Schrage.  

Loki is full brother to Thor, his mother being Crystal and father Sierras all The Gold. He looks JUST LIKE his big brother in so many ways. From his solid Palomino color to his wide forehead it's going to be pretty hard to tell Loki and Thor apart in the future as he gets bigger!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Biltmore Challenge Endurance Race

After 1756 miles of driving, 7 states, and riding over 50 miles in 4 locations we finally made it home from our adventure to North Carolina! 

On Wednesday, May 3rd we packed up the trailer and headed down to North Carolina with our amazing teams of horses and riders. 

Photos of our team:

Erika Eckstrom & Rainbows Poco Spade
Logistics Coordinator

Jennifer VanDusen & JPR Rock On
Team Leader
Reka Reisinger & Merlin's Beard
Team Optimist
Lorraine Moyer & Bachelors Foolish Blonde (aka Dutchess)
Danielle Winterton & SS Sultani (aka Nymeria)
Laura Engel & Double My Scotch

We were supposed to head all the way to North Carolina on a big 12 hour journey the first day, but unfortunately we ran into a couple of snags on the way:

Sheered Trailer Cable
The trailer cable somehow got loose and unplugged while we were headed down the highway.  By the time we could pull off the cord had been dragged and sheered down to the wires.

Luckily there's a Tractor Supply Company every 30 miles or so and we were able to go get a new plug and wire it back together in the parking lot!

As we headed back down the road, we only made it another hour before the truck lost power and was unable to continue forward. We were stuck on the side of the road with our 6 horses! 

Luckily just before the journey I had made sure my USRider plan was ready to go. USRider provides 24/7 nationwide roadside assistance for you and your horse, unlike AAA which will not service diesel vehicles and cannot tow trailers. 

USRider hooked us up with a wonderful tow guy who had a connection to an auto shop where the owner also happened to have horses on site. Little did we know that we were about to meet some of the most generous and kind people who also happened to own the most FANTASTIC auto shop we have ever seen. 

Windview Truck & Trailer Repair was an absolutely beautiful shop specializing in high end semi-trucks. They have some of the best truck
The gorgeous view from the pasture at Windview
technicians in Pennsylvania and have won numerous awards, including national awards for best paint job. Their skilled hands were immediately obvious!

Not only did they get our truck in for repair, but they also gave us a glorious grassy pasture for our horses, let us use their camper to spend the night so that we all had a bed to sleep in AND they let us use their Jeep so we could head to town for dinnerWe also had the luxury of being able to ride around on their beautiful farm and the surrounding roads. 

Click here to see a video from that ride!

The culprit for our adventures is this very specific lift pump. When it broke it caused the PV pump to go as well. 

The pump we replaced it with had to be the exact one (different than the more typical stock) and Evan at Windview Truck & Trailer Repair had to drive over an hour away to get us the only one in stock in the entire of Pennsylvania.

Once the part was back at the shop it only took an hour or so to get the truck finished and we were off, heading down to our house in North Carolina. 

While we had missed the Friday race, the gang at the Biltmore was nice enough to let us enter in the Saturday race instead! We actually lucked out because it had been raining all day Friday and was miserable and the weather was better for the Saturday race.
Second Loop
First Loop

The route we were to take was the Orange East loop, followed by the Black Bridge Access and then the Yellow West.

The Orange East loop takes you through the more manicured portions of the estate. The trail consisted of wooded trails and jaunts through rolling lawns. Basically it was like riding on a golf course - every equestrian's dream!

View of the Biltmore Castle over the reflection pond
The Black Bridge Access was the only portion of the entire journey we got to do twice, once on the way out and then retracing it on the way back in. This graveled trail takes you past the reflection pond as you head for the bridge to the west side of the estate.

The west side of the estate is less manicured with more wooded access trails meandering you up to the top of the mountain.

Roughly 25 miles into the race you come to the vineyards that produce grapes for The Winery At The Biltmore Estate. At the top of the mountain, the views are awe inspiring. 

Riding past the Biltmore Estate castle! 
It isn't until mile 28 or so that you end up on one of the most beautiful views of the Biltmore: the view of the castle! This view is only accessibly by horseback or by booking the site for a wedding. That's it! Equestrians are incredibly lucky!!!

The trails were pretty rough - with all of the rain from the days prior the mud was deep and it was quite slippery. Many of the horses from the day prior had come up lame from the slippery footing in the hilly terrain. For us we decided it wasn't about winning, it was about finishing. 

Of the 45 starting riders, only 33 finished with most of the 12 non-finishing horses coming up lame. Erika (25th), Jen (27th) and Lorraine (30th) all placed. Danielle completed the entire race, however was considered non-finishing because Nym's back and legs were sore on one side. Reka and Laura planned from the start to only do the first half of the race.

The next day, after sleeping in and resting, we took the horses to Dupont State Forest for a slow, easy ride to stretch the horse's legs. 

Unfortunately when we got there the parking lot was full of cyclists and hikers leaving little options for parking. By some miracle and to the amazement of the crowd, Erika was able to park the 6 horse trailer by backing into a double pull through spot between two cars. 

The trails were perfect for a follow up ride - level sandy trails taking us past waterfalls and down to a swimming hole for the horses! We couldn't have asked for a better post-race ride!

Painted Bar Stables Biltmore Endurance Team at Dupont State Forest

Poco is so happy to have a well bedded stall and a good nights rest.

Heading back north, we overnighted at the Bed & Breakfast at Penmerryl Farm. Dan and Erika had overnighted here the previous fall and knew it was the perfect spot to finish the epic journey.

The horses each had their own deeply bedded stalls to sleep in and us humans had a wonderful log cabin. The trails around the farm were simple and beautiful to ride the following morning.

All of our horses have been amazing troopers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Subtle Prompt, Not a Full Leg Whomp

People have a lot of problems riding slower horses.


The biggest problem is that they are USING TOO MUCH LEG! Unlike riding the feisty thoroughbreds where you need to have all leg, all the time to give them a squeeze of reassurance, these more deliberate, unhurried athletes require a lot more leg CONTROL!

That's right, control not strength!

You can't kick a leisurely horse forward - and often they will actually slow down at the audacity. They want specific cues, at specific times; a subtle prompt instead of a full leg whomp. They don't want to be nagged, they don't want to be over cued, they want a timely and purposeful communication.

What this means is that they need you to be able to hold your leg to them with a gentle contact. This means you need to have stabilize your leg holding it in AND out at the same time. You can't just death grip onto these slower horses and call it good!

You also need to be able to manipulate different parts of your legs to cue different things, understanding how to get support from your upper thigh, yields from your calf, and momentum from your heel - AND USE THEM INDEPENDENTLY! Keep in mind that often:

  • heels mean go,
  • kicks mean sass, or a mental shut down!
  • calves mean leg yields, but not go!

You'll also find that people who "toe out" in their riding tend to be better at riding slower horses. This is because their heels are the point of contact and they don't have the full leg contact that can feel nagging to horses.

 Am I saying to ride with your knees out like a frog and your toes pointed out like a ballerina? NO! I'm saying that you need more control of your leg so you know if you're putting pressure on the calf (leg yield, support) or on your heels (go button!).

It is no surprise that often these steady horses are more fond of being ridden with spurs - and I mean properly with spurs not prodding them with them! Leg flexibility of riders is just one of the reasons these horses tend to do better being ridden with spurs (even just bumper spurs) because they are heel extenders for when you just can't get your leg to bend quite around that way. But more specifically, spurs can localize cues more specifically than an entire blunt foot.

PROBLEM #2: MISREPRESENTATION OF SLOWER HORSES The main obstacle to get over with slower moving horses is changing vocabulary.

Descriptive but not accurate vocabulary: Slow, Lazy, Plodding, Sluggish these words are more appropriate for describing day to day changes in a horse's behavior, not the overall speed of a horse.

More accurate vocabulary for non-forward horses: unhurried, deliberate, leisurely, unrushed, steady, measured, relaxed, cool-headed

Once you change your vocabulary you realize that you can more easily appreciate the horse's personality and understand how to work with them! I mean, who doesn't want to work with a relaxed and deliberate companion?!


Often these more deliberate companions are also more in tune with a rider's balance and seat. They make the best bridle-less companions as a result because they will respond to the slightest adjustment of your weight.

Thinking that speed comes only from legs is a huge problem for many of these horses. If you're kicking with all your might but your seat is dead and heavy, they will more likely listen to the breaks in your bottom than the momentum in your heels!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Welcome baby Rogue One!

Rogue One was born on a very cold March 5th winter night. She was the surprise baby that we did not expect when we purchased Mystique from auction in the fall of 2016.

Rogue is a healthy HUGE bay filly. Her mother is a Percheron and we believe her father to be an Amish Belgian. We expect Rogue to be very large as she matures!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Horse Blaming and Shaming

Time to review the horse blaming and shaming lesson! The best horse in the world is the horse between our legs.
Riders always tend to put shift blame towards horses. Please do not blame horses but instead remark on the failure to communicate - a two way channel. None of us would ever blame our peers, our co-workers, our teammates in sports, our spouses and boyfriends the way I hear people casually blaming horses.
Horses do not fail. Humans fail horse. 

Failure from a horse is almost always the riders fault for not setting the horse up for success. With chunked goals and good communication any horse is a winner. But with selfish expectations or badly timed cues, lack of finesse or brazenness a frustrated horse can become a scapegoat. Horses need to tell when riders are doing it wrong, their honesty is a teaching tool.
Even when it is not the rider's fault it is still human error for not preparing the horse previously through schooling and conditioning, therefore causing the horse stress and frustration. Through less blame and more focus on physical and mental development (even within one session) a horse will relax and be a better teammate.
We need to take ownership of our horses that we ride on. Syntax, sentence structure and spin can make or break a horse's reputation FOREVER.
If anyone in our community has repeated problems with a particular horse please post it in our private group for discussion or alert me or Jennifer Marosek VanDusen. We look forward to remedying the relationships through lessons (or therapy!) and schooling.

Spooking: Is it the horse's fault?

Did the horse spook, or were you already making the horse nervous placing it on edge and making it susceptible to surprises?

Something important to think about is the cause and root of a horse's behavior. Often it seems that people put the blame on the horse by defining it as the horse's weaknesses instead of realizing that it is in fact their own weaknesses causing the problem. 
A team is only as good as its weakest link. Be careful how you think of horse's behavior. 

I've even seen the most beginner-level and consistent horses spook when someone is overly neurotic, passive, continually wavering, indecisive, meek or otherwise not very good at human-ing.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Set Up a Practice

There are many jobs that recognize the need for continual updates to your skill sets in an ever improving quest for personal development. 
For instance you PRACTICE medicine and you PRACTICE law. You definitely want your doctor to be on top of the latest drugs and methods, and I would hope my lawyer knows of new updates to laws. 
What would it be like if we approached every career like this? With the linguistic use of "practice?"
And more so, what if we recognized that we also must "practice" happiness. And love. And kindness.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dentist Day: Merlin's Mouth

Merlin's mouth was a hot mess with sharp points and ulcers in the cheeks, not to mention ramps and accentuated transverse ridges. And this photo doesn't even show how needle sharp his canines were or the diagonal bite of his incisors!!

This was probably Merlin's first proper appointment EVER. We purchased him early last fall and at 7 years of age we think the only attention that he ever received previously was to have his wolf teeth removed.

Merlin and Nym tied for worst teeth of the day with Panda coming in a close second.