Friday, November 2, 2018

Why is mud a problem for horseback riding?

- Mud sucks in horses feet and rips off their horseshoes. When horseshoes are removed improperly sometimes they can tear a chunk of the hoof wall with them causing damage to the hoof.
- Strain from pulling feet out of mud can cause pulled tendons and ligaments
- Horses can sprain their fetlocks and other joints when they slip in the mud
- Grit in the mud can scrape horses' fetlocks. These scrapes during wet weather and ongoing muddy conditions are prone to fungal and bacterial infections that can scab and become very painful (commonly known as 'Scratches').

- Muddy riding is a slow and painful drudge through the muck on an obviously unhappy mount. Our rule of thumb is that if a guide doesn't want to be paid to do it, we don't want people to have to pay to do it.
- Riding through mud is a rough ride as the horse strains to get through the deep muck. This rocky roller coaster can be disconcerting for novice riders.
- While horses rarely slip and fall, there's added risk of slipping in the mud. Even if the horse does not fall a good slip could possibly unseat a rider.
- Horses naturally tend to avoid mud puddles and try to walk around them. While experienced riders can keep them walking straight through the mud pits, it may be harder for a novice rider to keep them on the trail. The result is some "trail creativity" and even some bruised knees from the trees.

- Continued use of a muddy trail results in muddy spots becoming wider, deeper and longer with ongoing use.
- Damage to trails caused from mud often cannot be repaired without excavation help ranging from a simple shovel to skidsteer and gravel.

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.