Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Southern National Draft Horse Pull

It was at the 2006 Southern Draft Horse Pull in Raleigh, North Carolina that I was part of the largest attended horse event I’ve ever seen at the Hunt Horse Complex. The place was packed with over 2000 spectators. They were there to see a contest of strength and stamina between the gentle giants of the horse world.

Southern National Draft Horse Pull has been the grand finale of The Southern Farm Show for nearly thirty years. When the producers of the farm show announced they would not be hosting the show this year Rob Hall and Calvin Davis went to work to make sure the tradition of the Southern National Draft Horse Pull will go on as scheduled for the first Friday of February, 2012.

Calvin Davis brings to the event many years of experience in the equine community.

Rob Hall, is a media and marketing professional. He has produced many events, including bluegrass festivals and horse shows. Both are draft horse owners.

Top contenders from all over the country will be invited to compete. Spectators will also be treated to a mule coon jumping contest and the Double Bar L Shooters of North Carolina will demonstration the sport of cowboy mounted shooting.

Draft horse pulling is a contest that requires brute strength and stamina. It traces back to the earliest times of domesticated workhorses when farmers challenged one another for whose horse could pull the heaviest load. One thing led to another, other farmers got in on the action, and rules were devised. The rest is history.

To compete, draft horses and draft mules must be in top condition. They are worked daily and great care is paid to their nutrition. Proper fitting of the horse’s equipment is important. Harnesses need constant adjusting since the horse’s weight and muscle tone change with the conditioning.

Gates open at 5PM, show begins at 6PM. Tickets are $10 per person. Children under 6 are free with a paying adult. You can save two dollars if you buy tickets for the pull at the Southern Farm Show on the NC State Fairgrounds Wednesday, February 1-Friday, February 3rd. For more information contact Calvin Davis 919-732-7542 (H) or Rob Hall 336-599-4039 (H) 336-503-7183 (cell).

Fans can find out more on Facebook at or print out a flyer at

Monday, December 19, 2011

Does My Horse Need a Blanket in Winter?

There is a nip in the air and the tack shops are displaying winter horse blankets. So, does my horse need a winter blanket at all, and if so, how do I decide which features are important?

Most horses are protected from cold weather by their own coat; the one nature gave them. If the horse is in good health and is carrying its natural winter coat, has a good body weight, and has shelter from the wind and elements it is probably fine without a blanket in winter. Do they really need to be blanketed in winter? Most of the time, no.

On the other hand, a very young horse, or old horse has less resistance to the cold and can benefit from a blanket, as well as a horse that is underweight or in poor health. Obviously, if a horse is shivering a blanket is in order, or when the temperatures drop below what is normal for the region. Horses that are pastured year around and have minimal shelter will also benefit from having a turnout blanket.

It is when we humans interfere with Mother Nature that blankets are most necessary. Show horses that are kept under lights and/or clipped to preserve a fine coat and broodmares under lights to control their heat cycles, will certainly need to be blanketed when the temperatures drop.

Horse owners who are concerned that their horses will be cold in the winter sometimes forget that a horse can become over heated if the blanket is to heavy, or if there is a warm break in the weather. Check under the blanket and if the horse is sweating, then obviously it is too warm. On warm and sunny days take the blanket off, or replace with a lighter weight blanket. Most new blankets are lined with a smooth, breathable fabric to minimize sweating.

Once you've made the decision to blanket your horse there are several more decisions to make while shopping. There are two types of winter blanket: stable and turnout. These come in three weights: light, medium and heavy. If the weather in your region is variable a light or medium blanket combined with a blanket liner is a good choice. The liner, usually made of flannel or fleece, can be used with the blanket in the coldest weather, and then removed when the temps are more moderate.

A stable blanket is just what the name implies, a blanket designed to be used on a horse while it is indoors. If you only need to blanket at night while the temps are lower, or if your show horse stays indoors most of the time the less expensive stable blanket, which is usually not waterproof, is adequate.

If the horse is turned outdoors a turnout blanket is needed. The turnout is waterproof, and made to withstand more abuse. Leg straps help keep the blanket from twisting when the horse rolls.

Horses that stay outdoors in all weather may need a blanket that covers the neck or the addition of a hood. The high cut blanket gives extra protection from the elements. Horses that have been body clipped will need a hood to cover the head and neck. Another feature to look for is elasticized neck openings to give a snugger fit, thus keeping rain from running under the blanket.

Horses are hard on their clothes, so durability is am important feature of a good winter blanket. A high denier fabric, rib stop weaves and reinforced stress points will lengthen the life of the blanket. A good fit will make the horse more comfortable and its blanket will last longer. Blankets that feature a gusset at the shoulder will allow full movement of the front legs without stressing the blanket.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

North Carolina's Own Horse Magazine: Carolina Hoofbeats

The North Carolina Horse Industry produces goods and services at well over a billion dollars. The State ranks eighth in the nation for the number of horses, and all one hundred counties have some type of horse activities going on. Now there is a magazine that will cover North Carolina’s horse industry, Carolina Hoofbeats. It is a trade magazine where horse enthusiasts can learn about the events and news of the industry, read helpful how-to articles and stay abreast of the newest advancements in horse health and care.

Rose Cushing (pictured at right), publisher and owner of Carolina Hoofbeats, comes well equipped with a background in journalism and business to make this venture a success. The magazine will publish both a print and online version. The print version will be released every other month with a circulation of 10,000. It will be a quality, full color, slick magazine available by subscription or picked up in tack shops and feed stores across the state.

The Online magazine will be published monthly. Cushing has pulled professional writers from the horse industry as regular contributors and invites readers to submit stories, photographs, and their horse events. She wants Carolina Hoofbeats to be the place people immediately reach for to learn what horse activities are going on in their area. All types and breeds of horses, riding disciplines and equine activities will be represented in the publication.

I am thrilled to be a contributing writer and photographer for Carolina Hoofbeats. I will write a regular column called “All Horses Great and Small” as well as some feature articles. In my column I will feature those “other” equines, the ones that do not always get space in horse magazines: miniature horses, draft horses, mules, hinnies and donkeys. I will also write about North Carolina’s official horses, the Colonial Mustangs, which roam free on our Outer Banks.

Other contributing writers are Beth Collins, Certified John Lyons trainer from Shelby, NC, Bob Benedetti, author and sports writer from Irvin, TX, R.L. Adams - Equine Attorney from Raleigh, NC, Sarah Blanchard has been an instructor, trainer and author for forty years, Tammi Thurston, Executive Director of the Martin Community College Equine Program and her husband Paul who owns Thurston Quarter Horses, Dottie Burch, Attorney on the Board of Directors of the N.C. Horse Council, and Eileen Williams, author and freelance writer based in Rocky Mount, NC.

Carolina Hoofbeats is also going to be the premier publication for horse businesses to advertise. With such a large circulation with the print version, plus the online magazine, advertisers are going to get a big bang for their buck. The first issue will be out November 1. To learn more about Carolina Hoofbeats or to arrange for advertising visit the website at or contact the publisher by emailing

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wild Horses at Island Farm, Manteo, NC

My daughters, Julia and Dineane, and I visited Island Farm in Manteo, NC this past Thursday. Island Farm is a living museum teaching about farm life on the Outer Banks in the nineteenth. We had a grand time touring the furnished two-story house, watched a weaving demonstration, and we invited to touch and pick up anything we wished to examine closer.

Outside, Gloria Abbs demonstrated how clothes were washed and my daughter was good natured enough to give scrubbing on a washboard a try and let me photograph her.

The farm is really a working farm, with chickens, sheep, and cattle. Crops include sweet potatoes and corn. There is a vegetable garden, herbs and a beehive for the sweet tooth. We took an ox drawn cart ride around the grounds and the driver told us about the history of the farm.

Before leaving we had a nice chat with Jennifer Frost, who we’d met on entering when we bought our passes. She told us that in the pasture across the road from the main farm were two of Corolla’s wild horses. The horses are descended from sixteenth century European explorers and colonists. The horse have been an important part of the history and culture of the area ever since.

The farm took the horses on because the wild herd needs culling from time to time to keep the herd at a healthy and manageable size. But sadly, one of the two mares is there because some evil-minded person shot her with an arrow. She is no longer able to survive in the wild.

I just cannot comprehend a human being doing something like that. And it not the only time the one of the wild horses has been injured, even killed, at the hands of some violent and evil person. There are reports of horses being run down and hit by vehicles on the beach and even shot by gunfire. Others have become sick or died from eating trash or inappropriate food left out by beach visitors. The wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs, historically known as Banker Ponies, have survived four hundred years on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They have made it through hurricanes and very harsh living conditions, but it is feared human beings and the rabid development of the Outer Banks will be their undoing.

The two horses, both fillies, at Island Farm, are named Gracie and Bow. You can see them as you drive to Manteo on highway 64, in a pasture where an antique windmill has been erected. It is directly across the road from the Island Farm entrance. It cost $6 per person the tour the farm and is well worth the price. You can spend as much time as you like, and there are always new demonstrations and different things to see.

To learn more about the Corolla Wild Horses go to

To learn more about Island Farm go to

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Restraining Horses

A sedative-containing gel for sedating horses is now on the market under the brand name Dormosedan . It costs about $25 per tube and is administered under the horse’s tongue and is absorbed through the mucus membranes. The sedative is detomidine, one of the more common drugs used to sedate horses. Until the gel form came out the drug was given by injection either in the vein or muscle.

I learned about this new product when a miniature horse owner posted the link to an article about it on a forum. The post created a lively discussion about using a sedative to restrain horses for procedures like clipping. There were those who had used it and were very pleased with the results, others couldn’t understand why anyone would resort to sedation a horse, a miniature in particular, to clip or trim hooves. The argument went back and forth, both sides making good points.

There are various ways to restrain a horse: holding them by the halter, holding up one foot, nose or ear twitching, and tranquilizers are among the most common. I really only had one horse that I had to sedate to clip her ears, my Arabian mare, Miramar. She fought us tooth and hoof when we tried the common method of twitching. Twitching a horse involves squeezing the horse’s nose with one of three kinds of tools – metal or “humane” clamp, rope or chain. The rope or chain is a loop on the end of a stick/handle. One slips the loop over the horse’s nose and twists it tight; apparently distracting the horse’s attention from the work being done to the pain it is feeling. It really is barbaric, but effective. The “humane” twitch works like a clamp, but basically does the same thing. So, it is no surprise that horses would opt out of being twitched given their druthers. But, most horses seem to forget previous twitching and allow the handler to slip the twitch onto their noses. My mare was smart enough to remember what that tool was all about and she was not about to let us do it without a fight.

Miramar reacted just as violently to having clippers anywhere near her ears. No amount of patience or tricks like putting cotton balls in her ears to block the buzz of the clippers mattered. We even tried blindfolding her, but as soon as she heard the noise it was all over. I spent hours just letting her listen to the clippers, inching closer and closer, but as soon as I got near the ears there was the explosive reaction from my beloved mare. It seemed to be a reflex reaction, like blinking your eyes if someone sticks a finger in it. Tranquilizing her was the only way to get her bridlepath and ears clipped for a show.

Our miniature horse was opposed to having his feet trimmed and his legs clipped. But he was only 19 inches tall and I could always manage to hold him still against the wall of the wash stall while my farrier trimmed his little feet or my grand daughter clipped his legs. Domino got better about the leg and foot handling with time. I never felt I needed to use any other kind of restraint. Had he been a bigger miniature, say 30-36 inches, or if I were working alone, it may have been a different story.

To read about the gel form of detomidine follow the link to the article in The Horse magazine. Talk to your vet about the advisability of using it on your horse. There are some concerns about it being absorbed through your own skin when you administer it, where it is safe for pregnant mares or for stallions. Discuss it all with your vet.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It Started with Rawhide and Gunsmoke

A local TV station has begun the new season of vintage shows with two of my old favorites: Rawhide and Gunsmoke. I think those old cowboy shows of the late fifties and early sixties may be responsible for my love of horses. I lived in town and there was no hope of having a real pony. But that did not stop me from galloping around my neighborhood. My grandfather lived two doors down and had a huge front yard. That yard was the neighborhood playground. I rode my horse, Leafy, for hours as I rounded up cattle and fought off the bad guys.

My first bicycle was outfitted just like a cowboy’s horse. It was tan, had suede fringe on the handlebars and suede saddlebags fitted across the rear wheel. It even had a matching rifle scabbard. Now I could really “ride like the wind!”

It wasn’t until after I was grown and married with children that I had my first horse. Then we jumped in “whole hog” as we say here in the south. Two horses and two ponies entered our lives; lives that were never the same after horses. Everything revolved around the horses – building fences and shelters, feeding, cleaning, and spending money on the horses.

For thirty years horses were the center of my existence. I went to school and got an AAS degree in equine technology, ran a boarding and lesson barn and bred Arabians for a while. I am “retired” from horse ownership now. I got old, the children grew up and moved on and it just didn’t make sense doing all that work for very little money alone. I miss the people as much as the horses.

I guess that explains why writing became important to me. I enjoy sharing what I have learned about horses with others. That teaching part of me was a huge part of what I loved in the horse industry. I never stop learning. Writing opens doors to me to learn more and more. Then I can share what I’ve learned with you, the reader. Then you readers share your stories with me, and I never get tired of hearing them. At every book event, at the coffee shop, and through comments on my blogs and social networking someone tells me a story about a horse in their life. It is wonderful, this bond we have with one another because of horses, animals that have been our companions and helpmates for centuries. Learning and sharing, it is a never-ending loop and I am glad to be a part of it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Does My Horse Eat Poop

Why Does My Horse Eat Poop

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gone to Kindle!

I am excited to announce that Pale as the Moon is now available in Kindle! My publisher, Faithful Publishing, has been researching and working on it for a few weeks. We feel like the time is right and hope that Kindle will make Pale as the Moon more widely available, and affordable ($4.99) to young readers everywhere.

If you do not have a Kindle e-reader not to worry. Kindle books can be downloaded onto your computers.

Pale as the Moon is the story of a Paspatank girl and her bond with a wild horse. The story is set on coastal North Carolina in the 1500 and ties into the lost Colony mystery.

Originally published in 1996, the book was recommended by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and selected by Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader Program. It still can be purchased in paperback book form from Faithful Publishing, and other online bookstores, as well as your local bookstore.

An Independent Spirit will also go Kindle soon. Stand by for that announcement.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Getting Published Today: An Interview with Publisher, April Fields

My children's historical fiction novels, Pale as the Moon and An Independent Spirit, are published by Faithful Publishing. The company owner, April Fields, and I met on a writers website, and then in person at a writers retreat. She is a creative and innovative lady and I feel blessed to have her as my publisher. Read my interview with her to see what I mean:

Getting Published Today: An Interview with Publisher, April Fields