Area Pony Clubs Make a Splash (Newtown Bee)

Wilton Pony Club Rocks!

Wilton Pony Club

Check out this wonderful article from the Newtown Bee about Beach Day:
http://newtownbee.com/lisa-unleashed-area-pony-clubs-make-a-splash/

beachday Wilton Pony Club Members at Jennings Beach

Lisa Unleashed: Area Pony Clubs Make a Splash

by Lisa Peterson, Newtown Bee

Scattered sunshine, a very low tide and a panoply of ponies populated Jennings Beach in Fairfield this past weekend. It’s rare to see more than one or two other horses out on the beach during a ride despite Jennings being one of the few beaches that allows horses (and dogs) access from October 1 to April 1 each year.

But upon arrival in the parking lot, we were greeted by several horse trailers, which was unusual. Once on the beach there were ponies and people everywhere! Large ponies, small ponies, and one very small pony with a flaxen mane and tail. Too cute for words! Where did this pony herd come from? A quick glance at one…

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Red Ribbons at the Redding Horse Show

“At virtually any daylight hour on almost any road in Redding, children in hard hats can be seen riding their ponies or horses to and from practice fields, pony club meetings or any of the many other horse gatherings in the town.” 

This was the scene in neighboring Redding according to Norwalk’s The Hour newspaper dated Aug. 10, 1976.  The reporter was painting a picture of the equestrian community as preparations were being made for the 17th Annual Redding Horse Show which was considered to be “one of the most sought-after local shows in Connecticut.”

Located on Cross Highway at the intersection of Route 58, the large pasture opposite Christ Episcopal Church dubbed Karraker’s Field, was used only once a year for the horse show. In fact, “…both the outside course and the ring are in such perfect condition that both horse and rider are able to perform at the peak of their abilities.”

The Hour continued, “The outside course is long and rambling, offering a true test of a hunter and with the added benefit of No Dust and good footing because of its infrequent use.” The show boasted a trophy and six ribbons in each class.

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Karraker’s Field ~ Site of the Redding Horse Show, a popular show in the 1960s & 1970s

This stop on the local horse show circuit was an annual fundraiser for the Boys Club of Redding, whose club house – built in the 1950s and destroyed by fire in 1996 – was down the road. The show even made The New York Times Horse Show Calendar each year. On August, 26, 1979, it read, “Today – Redding, Karraker’s Field, Redding, Conn. Regular, local, special and children’s working hunters; pleasure horses, equitation. 8:30 am.”

Riding the Outside Course

At the 1978 Redding Horse Show, I rode that outside course aboard Speculation my bay Thoroughbred fox hunting mount. This course, like most others at local shows at the time was held in a big field to simulate hunt country. But unlike the others which were up and down hills, around tighter corners and held daunting, solid stone walls in three heights, this one was flat, with well cushioned grass and lovely fences spread so far apart, each one was a long approach.

Redding Horse Show Riding Ring Ruins

Looking past the old riding ring towards the outside course

We were entered in one of the local hunter classes, maybe 20 or so entries. We neither practiced nor made an entrance circle. Simply, we picked up a gallop and off we went across Karraker’s Field in search of the first fence. In the middle of this pastural oasis was the judge’s stand, a wooden platform with a single folding chair from which to officiate.

There the judge watched as Spec and I galloped freely from obstacle to obstacle. No counting strides between coops and split rail fences. As we turned towards home, the red barn and riding ring cam back into sight. We had a blast! We won a red second-place ribbon.

Later that day we entered an equitation jumping class in the ring boasting perfect conditions. We loved the tight turns in that little ring. We had a blast! We won a red second-place ribbon. Finally, we entered an equitation flat class. Spec, a high-energy horse, was settled enough to for me to put in a red second-place ribbon performance.  My girlfriend from New York City had come to visit and proudly displayed my three red ribbons off the back pockets of her blue jeans. She was my surrogate trainer for the day.  Red ribbons waving in unison with her sashay.

Visiting Karraker’s Field

Two years ago I stopped at Karraker’s Field, a mere 36 years after my red-ribbon day for a look around. In the ensuing decades, the horse show had ended and the land donated by the Karraker family to the Redding Land Trust as open space. It was a peaceful place, yet the ghosts of horse shows still lingered. In the middle of the outside course, a collapsed judge’s platform lay hidden beneath a mound of prickers.

 

 

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The grass from the long and rambling outside course had made its way into the ring, only a post and hinge remained of the in gate.

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Only two corners of rotting fencing reminded me of the riding ring with the perfect conditions. The reminders of the Redding Horse Show seemed doomed to disappear into the dust.

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Then, last Fall the old red barn where entries were taken and numbers handed out for the horse show had a face lift thanks to a local boy scout. According to the Redding Land Trust site: “There is a corner in Redding Ridge, at the intersection of Cross Highway and Route 58, that has long been celebrated as Karraker’s Field, from the days when young riders assembled there for local horse shows to the open fields now preserved by the Karraker family’s gift to the Redding Land Trust. When Cooper LeBlanc, a member of Redding’s Boy Scout’s Troop 15, was searching for a needed community project to tackle in order to earn Scouting’s top badge of merit – Eagle Scout – he spotted a rotting red barn covered in weeds in the historic field.”

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Karraker’s Field Barn ~ recently fixed up by the Boy Scouts

When I drove down Route 58 on Monday, the barn with it’s bright red exterior called out to me, instantly igniting memories of my red ribbon horse show. I could even feel the wind on my cheeks as we galloped the outside course. Thank you Cooper LeBlanc and Troop 15 for preserving reminders of the Redding Horse Show.

The Fancy Ponies of Sweetbrier Farm

 

You never know who you are going to meet in the horse world! This week I interviewed a woman for an article I’d been assigned to cover for a horse magazine. As usual the first question is, “Where did you start riding?” And to my amazement she answered, “Sweetbrier Farm in Easton.” Here is where my jaw dropped, smile followed and my reply was, “So did I!” We checked our dates and thought we might have ridden there at the same time.

Then I started rattling off the names of school horses, Missy, Briggy, Worthington and Miller. Then she named some ponies, Bonnie, Sprite. And then I offered up the name of my favorite pony, the one who gave me my first blue ribbon — Marvel-Us.

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Marvel-Us and Me: Fall 1971 Sweetbriar Farm Schooling Horse Show, Reserve Champion

“Marvel-Us!” she quipped. She remembered that pony too. In fact, she had ridden her, once. As she recalled it, the pony would respond differently to each rider. Those who were nervous or tense, got the speedy treatment. Those who were calm and confident, got the dream ride.  She told the tale about how she watched as someone tried to ride Marvel-Us, getting the speedy treatment. Then she got to hop on during the lesson, and briefly got to experience the dream ride.

Missy and Marvel-Us

My memories of Marvel-Us, where just that, Marvelous! I first climbed aboard this little white pony mare as a 10-year-old. But I didn’t get to ride the dream pony at first. Fresh back from learning to ride at summer camp, I clearly remember my first lesson at Sweetbrier aboard this bay mare named Missy. I had mastered the walk-trot at camp, even showed in the lead line class at the camp show. But the wise instructor felt I was ready for that first canter. Missy obliged, a new riding thrill emerged and I was on my way.

Along that way, I learned to master the canter on an old horse named Miller, who was a retired racing trotter. There is nothing quite like trying to ask a horse to do something he was clearly trained not to do at any cost. But we persevered. Then we started tackling the cross rail jumps on those tried and true school masters, like Worthington and Briggy. As a child you are not quite aware of things like the horse’s age, but I do know that when I asked how old Briggy was, they told me, “Ancient.”

Fancy Ponies 

But then one day I got to ride Marvel-Us. I remember how effortless things seemed, like picking up the canter on her versus Miller, the king of trotting. Eventually, after another year I was able to join the advanced lesson on Saturday mornings. It was filled with fancy ponies like Dark ‘N Fancy, owned by the Humphrys, the farm’s owners. He was always ridden by a red-haired girl named Emily. This very cute large pony, was black with a speckled white blaze all the way down to his nose. His white stockings on his rear legs were matched up front by a near sock and what looked like a white splash on his remaining far leg just below the knee. His nickname was “Too Big” and I can still hear Emily call out to him as “Toooooooo Big.”

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Sweetbriar Farm Riders at the Fairfield County Hounds Thanksgiving Day Hunt at Greenfield Hill, circa 1973. From left: Lisa on Gingersnap, Emily on Dark & Fancy, Gerri on her horse, and Holly on Fleet Nancy

There was also Sprite, a dapple grey pony that loved to jump and occasionally stop! I do recall one of my worst spills coming off that pony, right on top of a very sturdy and hard vertical jump, landing on my back, like a gymnast performing a flip. But the first time I ever rode her, the barn let me tack her up myself. So proud was I as I entered the ring to mount up, before the instructor came over to explain I had put the saddle on backwards. Other ponies that joined us in that lesson were Bonnie, a cute bay pony mare, and BeBell, a rambunctious alibino pony, who was actually Marvel-Us’ daughter! Once I rode in a pairs class at a horse show on Marvel-Us with BeBell ridden by a girl named Diane.

And then Marvel-Us gave me the gift of our first few horse shows. Our first was a  schooling show at Sweetbrier, in the fall or winter, it was cold and the show was indoors. But bless you Marvel-Us as she took my novice seat around one of those egg roll jumping courses. It was my first blue ribbon. Later, next spring, took me to my first away show, a local recognized show, where we also garnered a blue ribbon in the pleasure pony class.

It was Marvel-Us who set me on the path of lifetime riding and a love of horse shows. Just like many, many other little girls who passed through the Sweetbrier gates in search of that dream ride. In fact, during my recent interview with the barn owner for that article, she admitted that seeing all those fancy ponies at Sweetbriar fueled her imagination to grow up and bred fancy ponies herself. Thanks Marvel-Us!

Riding An Old Schoolmaster ~ Being in the Moment

The ancient word Yoga means to yoke or bind, or more literally the union of the body and the mind. Horseback riding is very much like yoga as it involves a union between horse and rider, proper breathing, and a variety of positions that bring physical strength and stamina, not to mention awareness, to our riding. As we ride our goal is to create balance and to be present in the moment with the horse.

In my mind, nothing forces you to be more present in the moment than riding a horse. It is nearly impossible to be thinking about work, shopping or cooking dinner while you are trying to navigate a 1,000-pound animal around a ring, down a steep path or over a three- foot jump.

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Mikey & Me at our first horse show in 2011

Riding involves channeling the horse’s energy and using your consciousness to communicate with him. You want the horse to direct his energy into a positive outcome, like flexing and bending or collecting and extending or even jumping! You want the rider to be communicating with the horse. When the flow of energy between horse and rider is at its best, you have balance. When you have a perfect ride, you know it because you know exactly what it is suppose to feel like. We’ve all had them and they all dwell in our subconscious memory.

Schoolmasters to the rescue 

At some point in a rider’s career, they have ridden a well-trained horse. Nothing is more enjoyable than effortless communication with a well-trained horse. Many a show horse, such as a Thoroughbred jumper I used to lease, can no longer handle the demands of  higher jumping divisions and has to take a step down to a lower level of riding. It happens to all horses as they age, they wind down their athletic abilities and with it comes the lower fences and eventually just flat work.

These equine teachers are called “schoolmasters” and they are worth their weight in gold. A pleasure to ride, they teach novice riders what perfect riding feels like for the first time. They give veteran riders a perfect ride, when they have forgotten what it’s like from riding horses of different schooling levels.

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Mikey & Me getting ready for a jumping lesson in 2013

As riders our peak ability is determined by the horses we ride. I spent most of the year flat riding a young horse. I hadn’t been on a schoolmaster in about a year. Every rider benefits from taking a step back once and a while. Whether you are training young horses or just pleasure riding, it’s important to get on that schoolmaster that knows everything and can remind you where you need to be. Jumping a schoolmaster can really remind you of where your proper position should be and where it is in reality.

Being Mikey 

For me, that schoolmaster ride came last Sunday, on my former lease horse, a bay Thoroughbred named Mikey. Visiting Fox Hill Farms again and seeing Barb and Jane and all the horses was so much fun. It was pleasant outside, about 45 degrees and no wind, so we opted to have our jumping lesson outside.  At the posting trot I was instantly reminded about his ‘big bouncy trot’ and how I have to post lower to the saddle to keep my position and really use those calf and core muscles I’ve been ignoring lately. During walking breaks, I would ask him to do a laterally movement here, an outside bend there, just to keep him listening and active to my leg.

Mikey reminded me to sit tall with my shoulders back, keeping that straight line from my shoulders through my hip to my ankle. To me working at the walk is like yoga. You are putting yourself into the correct positions and holding them, building physical strength. As I held those correct positions, Mikey the schoolmaster obliged with supple movements and easy transitions.

In riding, just like in yoga, we should practice awareness over action. For example, a horse trots too fast, we post faster to keep up with him — that’s action. An external force upon us that we are reacting to. If we practiced awareness instead, then when a horse trots too fast, we would be aware – internally – that we need to slow the pace, and we would post slower and lower. Our schoolmaster is well-trained and knows this cue and would come back to the pace that is ideal. He has taught us, reminded us, how to have awareness on horseback.

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Mikey & Me enjoying the sun in 2015

We can also be caught up in doing rather than being. Jumping horses can be a lot of doing rather than being. Mikey excels at teaching me to be in the moment around the course. He teaches me to breathe, to relax, to clear my mind before we begin. As a schoolmaster he reminds me to set my pace, maintain it and leave it alone. Being not doing. To make proper turns and keep straight lines when jumping, Mikey teaches me to keep the proper position with eyes up, sitting lightly, hands soft and following. Being ready for the next jump, not doing the next jump. Just being Mikey brought me back into awareness, into that perfect position and gave me a much-needed perfect ride. Afterwards I gave this old schoolmaster two big carrots as a thank you!

New Year’s Hope

There are two paths we take as one year passes into the next; one looking forward to the coming year another looking back on what just transpired. Some face firmly in one direction or the other, some do both, a moment of reflection before planning another year. I used to take that two-faced approach, looking back over my shoulder then looking ahead to the unknown. This New Year’s ritual I found mostly depressing as it forced me to focus on what I didn’t accomplish looking back. Then along with setting new goals for the future I found myself putting the same items back onto the resolution list all over again. So, I stopped doing it! Instead I followed my dogs’ advice, which was staring me right in the face, usually after they just licked it.

No Resolutions
My dogs’ advice is simple. Live in the moment. When you spend a great deal of time observing your dogs, you watch them in a variety of moments. I watch them eat, I watch them sleep, I watch them play. I watch them steal bones from each other. I watch them run outdoors. I watch them ‘nest’ before lying down on a blanket. And to borrow a phrase my grandmother, “When we work, we work, when we eat, we eat and when we sleep, we sleep.” This phrase used to come up when someone tried to do something like read at the dinner table or take a nap in the afternoon. In fact, to her, all waking hours were devoted to either work, eat or sleep. Kind of like my dogs. And if you notice that when dogs are eating, they are not trying to play or do basic commands like sit or down. They are focused on the getting to the bottom of the ceramic bowl, to eat every morsel in sight so they can lick the bowl clean and find that blue paw print on the bottom. Then, the bowl is picked up, and eating is done. Fully lived. Finished. Forward. All of us should aspire to live life this way.

So like my dogs, I too live in the moment, I don’t dwell on what just happened and try not to think too far into the future. This has worked out pretty well for both me and my dogs. It also includes not making any resolutions because that would be focusing way into the future where what I’m planning to stick to may never actually happen. Actually, sticking to those resolutions has never happened. So watch and learn from your dogs and discover how they live, from moment to moment to moment. By doing this they create a journey of life moments that flow with ease and take no emotional baggage with them. Besides baggage is heavy, cumbersome and we tend to trip over it. I find their zest for life curious as dogs also thrive on routine, while us humans tend to get bored by routine, especially a dull routine. But to dogs, that routine is again nothing more than lived moments, enjoyed to their fullest, and then moved on to the next one.

All puppies need love!

All puppies need love!

Hound Hopes
While I don’t make resolutions anymore, I do still have hopes. Buy my hopes are bigger for all dogs and the owners who love them. Here are my New Year’s Hopes for 2015 and that if you find yourself in these moments, no matter how good or difficult, embrace them fully.

– To be in such a still place with your dog – so close, so connected – that you feel the canine-human bond and it becomes the moment.
– To be reminded of the joy your dog feels during the daily walk, evening playtime, couch potato hour watching TV, weekly grooming, and fun training sessions and you don’t let those moments slip by.
– To be considering getting rid of your dog because you made a bad judgement in getting it – and it was just too hard to keep the dog – that you changed your mind in a moment to keep the dog and work it out.
– To be in the position of having to say goodbye to an old or sick dog and you finally found the right moment to do so – and you did with grace and compassion.

A Breeder’s Choice

Happy Birthday Jazzy & Linx!

AKC Dog Lovers

By Lisa Peterson

Eight years ago today I whelped a litter of puppies.  This morning I received an email from the owners of one of those puppies. It boldly declared “Happy Birthday Jazzy!” as it has for the previous seven years. As the breeder of Jazzy, I knew in my heart that this puppy I had planned, whelped, raised and lovingly placed with new owners, had made her way into their hearts.

As a breeder, the most difficult part of the whole process is not the endless hours waiting for the delivery, not cleaning up mountains of newspapers and what’s inside them, but making sure they go to a good home. And not just a good home, but the right home. Each breed presents unique temperaments that must be matched to its new family. Then on top of that, each individual puppy in a litter presents unique characteristics that must…

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Watch AKC This Week

My Norwegian Elkhound puppy Adele took some time this week to join me in New York City at the American Kennel Club to talk about our experiences in the 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy Competition. Now that she is 6 months old, she is practicing for the “big dog” shows.

AKC Dog Lovers

Enjoy AKC This Week, which shares buzz around recent and upcoming shows, news from the dog world, and interviews with members of the fancy.

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The Gorgeous Sourmug: 5 Ways of Looking at a Bulldog

AKC Dog Lovers

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AKC Gazette, “Times Past”:

  1. “There are some who compare the dog Cerberus, the monster that guarded the entrance to Hades, with the original conception of the bulldog. This, of course, is fanciful. Time has so molded his disposition that, today, he is as different from his past as that bloodthirsty bygone age is different from our own kindly humanity. The bulldog is the sweetest dog on earth, and to gain that epithet he has come a long way.” —Josephine Rine, AKC Gazette, April 1928

  1. Many schools and universities use the Bulldog as their mascot, but Yale’s Handsome Dan was the original. The first in a long line of Handsome Dans came to Yale in 1889. He was immortalized in the “Bulldog” fight song, written in 1911 by undergraduate Cole Porter.

When the sons of Eli break through the line,

That is the sign we hail,

Bull-dog! Bull-dog! Bow, wow, wow…

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Riding to Hounds In America

The first Saturday of October when leaves turn gold and scarlet red and the air crisp, my thoughts always turn to riding to hounds and the start of the formal season. My first formal meet gathered at Greenfield Hill Church green, where some of the Fairfield County Hounds had assembled for a Thanksgiving Day hunt. Donning formal attire, black hunt coat, white stock tie fastened with a gold pin neatly tucked under my chin and white knit gloves, I was aboard my chestnut pony Gingersnap. We took off to the sounds of the huntsman’s horn to his hounds. Soon we were galloping down country lanes, jumping stone walls and having a fine day on this “drag” hunt. The pack had come down to Westport to reenact the hey day when they hunted the area from 1923 to 1968 when they left their home base of the Fairfield County Hunt Club to points north in Newtown, where the land was still open and wild.

Leaving the kennels on Huntingtown Road, Newtown, Connecticut ~ 1978

Leaving the kennels on Huntingtown Road, Newtown, Connecticut ~ 1978

Hound History

Two years later I went on my first authentic fox hunt in Newtown leaving from the kennels on Huntingtown Road, once again aboard Gingersnap. This thrill ride lasted hours, followed by a robust hunt breakfast and solidified my love of riding to hounds forever. As part of my continuing education about this sport, I was asked to read “Riding to Hounds in America: An Introduction For Foxhunters.” This slim curious pamphlet was originally published in 1962 by the Chronicle of the Horse magazine. The chapters first appeared as magazine columns written by William P. Wadsworth, MFH (that’s Master of Foxhounds). Chapters include Preliminary Matters, Hounds, Organization in the Field, The Fox, The Hunting Day, Hunting Etiquette, and Glossary of Foxhunting Terms.

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I poured over every single one of the 47 pages until I was sure I could behave properly in the hunt field. It is beautifully illustrated with those amusing drawings by Custer Cassidy, depicting everything from ‘Most beginners who hunt are ‘over-mounted’’ to the ‘working hound’ and his friend the ‘loafing hound.’ It pages are filled with advice from, greet the Master with good morning, never point your horse’s hind end at the hounds, and keep away from the hounds, at least 10 yards. I was so enchanted by the sport, I wrote a high school paper about it, the book and earning my colors with Fairfield as a junior member aboard my by TB gelding Speculation.

Donning my Fairfield County Hounds hunt colors with Speculation at Golden's Bridge Hounds Hunter Pace ~ 1993

Donning my Fairfield County Hounds hunt colors with Speculation at Golden’s Bridge Hounds Hunter Pace ~ 1993

Beyond the endless etiquette, it contains a bit of hound history. Wadsworth writes, “Hounds are hounds, not dogs.” He continues, “We know hounds  were bred for sport in the time of the Assyrians. We know that hounds were bred for stag hunting in the eighth century by the French nobility. We are fairly sure that these hounds were imported into England by the French after the conquest of 1066, and we believe that these stag hounds were the foundation stock of the hounds used to hunt stag and later fox. By the 17th century foxhunting had eclipsed stag hunting in England, and foxhounds have been bred as foxhounds ever since.”

Waiting for the hounds at a check during cubbing season

Waiting for the hounds at a check during cubbing season

Babble, Riot and Feathers 

All sports have jargon, and riding to hounds is no exception. We all know that the fox carries his “brush” when he leaves his “covert” and has “gone away.”  Listening to hounds “speak” while following the “line” of the fox as runs towards his “earth” is fun but sometimes the fox may “double back” to confuse the hounds whose “nose” has deceived them. But if a hound or a “couple” starts to “heel” they are making a backwards embarrassing mistake.

Hounds must not “dwell” or “babble” or “riot” since they have shown they are hunting nothing or something they shouldn’t be. And the worst insult to a hound’s sensibility is to draw a “blank” or to “check” because the hounds have lost the “line” hopefully only temporarily. A hound “marks” the “line” and will “open” the first time he “gives tongue” but once hounds reach a full “cry” you know that they are on the “line” until they start “feathering” for attention that the quarry has been found. And, did you know, a hound will actually “honor” when he “gives tongue” on a “line” that another hound has been hunting? See how easy it is to speak fox hunt? And one final piece of advice from Wadsworth, don’t ever jump a “panel” on a “lark” as it will annoy the landowners.

Jumping a panel coop on Hundred Acres Farm, Newtown, Connecticut aboard Speculation

Jumping a panel coop on Hundred Acres Farm, Newtown, Connecticut aboard Speculation