We currently have three horses at Wits End Farm. During the summer, they form the ‘pasture cleanup team,’ following the adult sheep in rotation through each pasture and removing sheep worm eggs and larvae as they graze. In turn, the lambs follow the horses; they are given priority access to the cleanest pastures because they are most affected by the worms. Good job, horses!
Oscar, my first horse, is a 23-year-old Maryland-bred thoroughbred. He came to Wits End Farm as a yearling, and I trained him myself.We have jumped, done classical dressage and have logged many miles on local trails. We foxhunted a few times until Oscar was passed by a mule. Suddenly, we were jet-propelled, and foxhunting became a steeplechase. He couldn’t allow a mere mule get in front of him! This autumn, Oscar and I will return to light work.
The photo at left shows Oscar and me when we were both young. Behind the tree is my great grey horse, Fred. More about him below.
Wallace is a 13-year-old rescued thoroughbred-draft cross who tries to be a 17-hand labrador retriever/lapdog. His greatest talent is opening latches; so far, kiwi latches have been Wallace-proof. In May, we attended a five-day Linda Tellington-Jones T-Touch Clinic nearby, where we learned so many wonderful things. The picture at right shows Wallace being lead through the labarynth, one of several ground exercises which help horses learn to think better and handle stress.
Shy Annie came to Wits End Farm rather by accident. I was looking for a ‘packer’ to help me return to riding, thinking of an eight-year-old gelding or something like that. At a sale barn, this 16-year-old paint mare asked me for help. We got on fine when I rode her for the first time, and I had her renamed by the time we were leaving the arena. (That’s always a bad sign when horse shopping.) Once I got her home, the vet chuckled when I scheduled a ‘post-purchase exam’; he said it was not the first nor the last one that he would do. We have returned to work and are having a wonderful time. At a recent Wendy Murdoch clinic (more about her below), Annie and I did some wonderful lateral work and then jumped. I don’t know which of us had more fun. Whatta girl!
My last horse pictured is no longer with me in this life, but his spirit will touch my heart as long as I live. In the early 1990s, for some unknown reason I attended the weekly horse auction at Front Royal, VA. It is probably the most notorious in the region; if you’re equine, you don’t want to end up there. A grey gelding caught my eye and he soon captured my imagination. Hip number 750, I got him for $600. I cristened hím ‘Fred‘, after my grandfather, before he was even on the trailer.
Photo at right: Fred was my friend and soulmate for 15 years.
Fred had moved pretty well at the auction, but the next day he was a little sore. (That’s a surprise!) My local vet diagnosed green ocelets and prescribed some field rest. Fred was rested for three months, and then reared when I attempted to mount him for the first time. We started over from square one, and using lunging and in-hand methods from Dominique Barbier, we soon began to enjoy each other’s company. A month later, we were doing our first mounted shoulder-in.
Dominique loved Fred as much as I did, calling the Anglo-Arab a “little Lippizaner” and saying he did high-level dressage movements in a naturally balanced and correct manner. Dominique chided me for giving such a talented horse such a common name, so he became ‘Frederick’ for the clinics.
Whatever I asked, he did for me with great joy. We took jumping lessons from Jimmy Wofford, who nicknamed him ‘Sparky’ for his speed and enthusiasm. We did 4th of July Parades and a trail ride where we ended going through Bull Run in flood stage. We went out bareback on moonlit nights and pretended to be long-forgotten members of Mosby’s Raiders. And we galloped across the neighbor’s field — to stop, I just loosened the reins.
Now, don’t ask my husband, Dave, about Fred. While Dave rode Fred a few times in the early years, Fred’s attachment to me grew, and in time he could not fathom why I needed a husband when such a fabulous grey horse was around. Fred misbehaved several times, and Dave, who is as easygoing a guy as you could meet, finally had to set some ground rules. In later years, they developed a grudging respect for each other, but it remained a bit of a guy thing.
Fred already had sarcoids when I got him at age six. We treated them and struggled for years to detox his system. A kick from another horse lead to final retirement, and I vowed to keep him with me as long as he was comfortable. By December 2007, the sarcoids finally affected his mouth and therefore his comfort chewing. He was 21 when I led him to our galloping field and handed the lead rope to the vet with the syringe. Moments later, he hurt no more.
Dominique Barbier Dressage
For many years, I have ridden French classical dressage with Dominique Barbier. I have hosted three-day clinics, and will do so in the future with a sufficient number of interested attendees. If you are interested, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Barn Philosophy
I try to keep the care of my horses as simple and as natural as possible. For several years, I have mixed grain for them on the farm, using the ‘Harmany Mix’ recipe of Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM. She is a renowned holistic vet who lives near me. I use the basic horse Dynamite product to top dress for vitamins and minerals, plus Redmond Salt and other self-dose mixes from Advanced Biological Concepts. I am a Dynamite dealer and would be glad to talk with you about their wonderful horse, dog and people products.
I am currently taking riding lessons under the visionary tutelage of Wendy Murdoch. I thank her for taking my riding to the next level, and for introducing me to the HeartMath Solution. My horses thank her, too. Click here to go to her website. Click here to go to the HeartMath website.
Here are some other helpful websites: