Monday, July 28, 2014

Miami's Mounted Police Patrol Turns Heads In Little Havana

A great summer post.  :-)  ~Declan

Miami’s mounted police patrol turns heads in Little Havana

Miami police officer Eduardo Pérez doesn’t patrol the neighborhood in a sleek squad car. He’s not on a motorcycle either. Pérez’s partner against crime is a tobacco-colored horse named Panchito.

Pérez and Panchito, a Morgan, draw stares from locals and tourists alike as they clomp on the streets and sidewalks of Calle Ocho in Little Havana. On a recent patrol, a child stepped forward.

“You can touch his nose. It’s the softest part,” Pérez told the child, who got close enough with his father to have a picture taken.
Pérez and Panchito are part of Miami’s mounted police unit, a patrol of 12 horses, nine officers and a sergeant. They watch over the city’s neighborhoods seven days a week.

The mounted police have “totally changed” Callo Ocho, said Miguel Ramos, who works at Máximo Gómez Domino Park on Southwest 15th Avenue.

In addition to preventing crimes, a single mounted officer can do the work of 10 officers on the ground when it comes to controlling crowds, Pérez said.

Miami’s mounted police unit goes back to 1937, when Sgt. Leroy Shelton initiated the program as an experiment with a few officers to patrol certain areas of Miami. The police department made the unit official a decade later under Police Chief Walter E. Headley after a group of businesses donated horses to the unit.

Many people find an officer on top of a horse more approachable than one sitting inside a patrol car with closed windows. In turn, the officer has a better view of the street.

“On the horse, the officer reaches almost 10 feet high, which allows him to see farther than an officer inside a vehicle,” said Pérez, who begins his day at 6:30 a.m. at the Lummus Park stable, 360 NW Third St., where he bathes Panchito before going into the heart of Little Havana.

“We also patrol at a slower pace than a police vehicle, which allows us to observe and listen to our surroundings in detail,” Pérez added.

The job of the mounted police, however, goes far beyond a regular patrol. Besides mixing it up with the tourists, mounted officers help with traffic control, assist pedestrians across the street and educate kids on safety. They make arrests — for burglaries, robberies and anything else that happens on the streets, including confronting rowdy drunks.

“Everybody knows Panchito,” said Pérez, who estimates he made 11 arrests in May.

Panchito’s real name is Striker, but since he began his rounds on Calle Ocho, Pérez and area residents decided to give him a name more with the flavor of Little Havana’s identity.

“People in this neighborhood have memorized my schedule,” Pérez said. “If they see me in the area, they know I am watching and, in certain circumstances, it works as a strategy to deter crime.”

Neighborhood residents are thankful. One woman gives the officer three cut apples and three peppermint candies for Panchito every day.

The gestures are not limited to Calle Ocho. Pérez received a Christmas card sent from Denmark, with a photo of Pérez, Panchito and the Danish family visiting Miami.

Pérez also has received awards for improving the quality of life of Little Havana residents.

“He deserves it more than anybody else,” said Corinna Moebius, co-founder of the Little Havana Merchant Alliance and a tourist guide. “His presence has a positive impact on tourists, and saying hello to him every day on the street makes me feel safer than I would feel with a police officer who stays all the time in his vehicle.”


Read more here:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Creating Model Horse Tack

This is AMAZING artwork!! So much talent!! ~Declan

Creating Model Horse Tack: It’s the Little Things in Life

According to Breyer, “Each individual Breyer model is prepped and finished by hand, and then turned over to the painting department for hand painting and detailing. In all, some 20 artisans work on each individual model horse, creating an exquisite hand-made model horse that is as individual as the horse that inspired it.”

What could possibly be done to make Breyers any more beautiful?

That’s easy. Adorn them with handcrafted, customized tack.

Prepare to be blown away.

Introducing Rachel Fail. Horse lover. Mom. Professional Breyer tack maker. Each of her tack sets is customized to fit a certain Breyer horse’s body and its discipline needs, and is intricately and meticulously designed to ensure upmost quality. (Where was she all of my childhood?)

Look at the teensie horn, and the teensie tassels!
Look at the teensie horn, and the teensie tassels!

For Rachel, it’s the little things in life. Literally. The passion may be specific, but it came from a common childhood captivation: the collection and adoration of Breyer horses. Like most other horse crazy kids, Rachel grew up loving and caring for her own Breyer herd. So, not surprisingly, this is where she got the inspiration to start making little things for them as she got older. When she was around 9 or 10 years old, she successfully made herself a teeny western saddle.

I want. I want I want I want.

But, as many kids so often do, Rachel stopped collecting Breyer models. Life went on: she graduated high school, moved out, and got married. After a number of years, she decided to go back to her parents’ house to clean out her room. It wasn’t long before she stumbled across her first little homemade saddle. “This is cool,” she thought, and put it up for sale on ebay. It quickly sold for $80. Surprised, she decided to keep making more, and honed her skills to include crafting bridles and breastplates as well.

So so pretty…I can't.
So so pretty…I can’t.

When she made the choice to get more involved, she realized just how big of a hobby Breyer tack making is: there is an entire network of people out there who specialize in the trade. As her interest grew, she found that her fascination was really centered on leather craftsmanship.
Even the cinch has intricate detailing!
Even the cinch has intricate detailing!

When she got into the business in 2008, making mini masterpieces was really something she just did at home when she wanted some downtime that was also a bit lucrative, since she was busy riding and working as an accountant at the time. But the more she did it, the better she got at it. When she had a baby a year and half ago, the increased time she spent at home was also an opportunity to become more productive in her artwork. Tack making is an enjoyable way for her to work from home but still spend time with her little girl.


“I’ve always been fascinated with arts and craft types of things, but this is so cool because my love of horses and my passion for the whole equestrian world can be miniaturized,” she told me.

Oh, my heart.

And that’s something she really appreciates, since having real horses is no longer an option for the time being.

“Two and a half years ago my husband joined the United States Coast Guard, so we can’t have horses at the moment because we move too much. They’re not in the cards right now, but this is an outlet for me to do my horse thing. And there are so many amazing people in the hobby,” she explained.

Apart from her beautiful works of art, what really struck me about Rachel was her incredible humility in spite of her talent. She spent a large part of the interview highlighting the many great resources the industry has for anyone who wants to get involved, and the admiration she has for those who spend their time supplying tack makers like her.

Interestingly, it turns out that there’s actually a market for selling materials made specifically for custom Breyer adornments.

Rio Rondo is a wonderful site,” Rachel said. “A woman started it back in the ‘90s, and basically created it as a place for model tack making. It’s wonderful. You can actually buy your own model tack set with little pieces of hardware that you assemble yourself for $25. I buy a lot of my supplies there: tiny English stirrups with treads, bits, buckles…there’s a whole world of model horse collecting out there. Tandy Leather was also a big company I used frequently. I use what’s called petite calf skin hideit’s much thinner than regular leather. Actually, the thinnest cowhide you can buy is tooling leather. Regular tooling is 2-3 oz, but it’s too thick for the scale of model horse sizes. So I buy petite tooling, which is about 1-1 ½ oz.”

The english saddles even have tiny billets!
Her english saddles even have tiny billets!

Although Rachel doesn’t show Breyer horses herself, she sells her tack to people who are passionate about the hobby, who are usually members of the National Model Horse Show Association (NAMSHA). There’s actually a showing circuit that people follow, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to put their beautiful horses on display.

The art is in the details.
The love is in the details.

“The cool thing about the model horse world is that a lot of the same principles apply to real life,” Rachel said. “The judges are real sticklers for everything being positioned and arranged just the way it should be. You need the correct bit, the right equipment for the discipline…it really requires a lot of knowledge about the real thing. It’s a very good educational tool for people who might never have that opportunity in the real world.”

Have you ever even seen something this small that's also this beautiful and detailed and homemade?
Be still, my heart!

Rachel really only takes custom tack orders, from customers who know exactly what they want for a particular horse in mind. But every once in a while she’ll make a piece and put it up for offers on Ebay.  Most of her sets sell in the mid-$300 range, and the main miniature tack marketplace is Tack makers like her are at the higher level of their industry, and put their effort into making their tack as realistic as possible. For that reason, custom orders are more their style: if they put it on a public market, the bidding wars would get absolutely ridiculous.

Is it weird that I already know what I want for my birthday and for Christmas for the next 7 or 8 years?
Is it weird that I already know what I want for my birthday and for Christmas for the next 7 or 8 years?

“Many tack makers go for quality over quantity,” she said. “On average they’ll make about 10 sets a year, and I usually make slightly over this number.”

This year has been especially prolific for Rachel—she’s made 16 spectacular sets. But that doesn’t mean she spends any less time on her works of art: each set requires about 20 hours of work to meet her standards. Sometimes they may even take 30 hours, depending on how many hiccups she runs into in the creative process. Designing and creating these little things can be infuriating!

One must be incredibly scrupulous when taking on a project, to say the least. Rachel takes a razor blade to shave the back of the leather off, which is extremely time consuming and has the potential to be quite maddening if she cuts through the leather.

A saddle in the works.
A saddle in the works.

“You just have to practice, practice, practice,” she explained. “I’ve done it for countless hours, and sometimes even my knife slips and cuts through the leather, and then I have to start all over. It can be so frustrating because you’re dealing with things on such a tiny scale, and if they’re not perfect you have to start over and redo it.”

One of the things Rachel is especially stringent about is the symmetry of her products. She emphasizes its importance on her most recent blogpost:

“Symmetry. One of my favorite words having a tad of OCD. Nothing is more important in a saddle’s structure.  It’s a chain reaction if one piece is out of place.  When the pommel is crooked, that makes the seat crooked, which makes the upper skirt crooked, etc.  Imagine spending countless hours tooling something and then having it look sloppy when put together! It’s a slippery slope that can ruin all your hard work, so it’s important to take the time and assemble it symmetrically.

Rachel's example of an impressively symmetrical work of art.
Rachel’s example of an impressively symmetrical work of art.

“I make marks on the upper skirt before assembling it to make sure both my rear conchos are symmetrical. A hint: It’s a lot harder to make accurate measurements when it’s already being put together. Make sure that the horn is centered on the gullet, and the rear cinch is mounted symmetrically, and your saddle will look neat and clean!”

From Rachel's website: "“Here’s my first gaming pad, which I had a good reference photo for. I got to put my sewing skills to the test, and the result was a good mini version of what I set out to replicate.  I took a small piece of the green leather to a fabric store and matched it to a quilting square so the lime greens match perfectly. Making a pattern for the saddle pad, I sewed the edges (inside out) leaving a place to turn it (always on a straight edge to make it easier), and then used a black accent thread to "quilt" it onto felt.  I sewed it onto a larger piece of felt and then trimmed it down to fix exactly.  The wear leathers and corner pieces are glued on with tacky glue (great for fabrics!).”

From Rachel’s website regarding the set above:

“Here’s my first gaming pad, which I had a good reference photo for. I got to put my sewing skills to the test, and the result was a good mini version of what I set out to replicate.  I took a small piece of the green leather to a fabric store and matched it to a quilting square so the lime greens match perfectly. Making a pattern for the saddle pad, I sewed the edges (inside out) leaving a place to turn it (always on a straight edge to make it easier), and then used a black accent thread to “quilt” it onto felt.  I sewed it onto a larger piece of felt and then trimmed it down to fix exactly.  The wear leathers and corner pieces are glued on with tacky glue (great for fabrics!).”

Needless to say, this lady knows what she’s doing.

Getting Into It  
So, how does one get into this business? Rachel adamantly encourages anyone who is looking to start the hobby, and she’s anything but competitive–her blog posts are dotted with tips to help aspiring tack makers succeed, and she readily shares her insights and techniques.

She’s also more than happy to point people in the right direction when it comes to buying materials.
“There are tons of good resources for supplies for people who want to get into it,” she explained.   “I suggest that people order a western saddle starter kit from Riorando,” she said. “I do all my English saddles myself and design the patterns by hand, but Riorando has a decent western saddle with all of the leather and everything you need for just under $30. It’s not a high end set, and you have to invest in tooling leather and the tools for making them, but there are a lot of really good resources out there. There’s such a community of hobbyists out there—more than I even thought was possible.”

Forget dressage? She would never.
Forget dressage? She would never.

And, she said, once you get into the business, you develop an eye for picking out designer tools.
“I found that earrings work perfectly for crystal centered ponchos. I couldn’t figure it out, but they really do the job,” she laughed. “You can’t just go to the store and get hardware, but after doing this for a while you get to where you just have miniature goggles on all the time! You can use this for that, that for this…”  

Rachel’s completed work includes dozens of sets, and I don’t know about you, but I WANT THEM ALL.  If you want to see them all, click here to view her entire collection.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Parker Teens Rescue Horses From Slaughter

Here is another really amazing story for you guys!!  I'm so glad people are out there doing everything they can to help horses!!! These kids are a great inspiration!~Declan

Parker teens rescue horses from slaughter

Allison Sylte, 12:04 p.m. MDT July 22, 2014  As posted on

PARKER – A group of teens with special needs was able to rescue four horses and a donkey from a livestock auction where a majority of the buyers would have shipped the animals to Canada or Mexico – where they would have been slaughtered.

The group of teens is called Drifter's Hearts of Hope. They used the money they earned from selling heart-shaped molasses and oat horse treats to buy the horses and donkeys last Wednesday.

"Everyone needs to be able to make a difference," group leader Jacqui Avis said in a news release.

"Teens with special needs experience people helping them. It's important for these amazing teens to be able to be the helpers."

The horses have been taken to a pasture east of Parker that community members donated to the group. To get the property ready, the teens and their parents spent several nights fixing fences, weed whacking and clearing debris.

The teens will meet the horses on Thursday. The hope is that the horses will eventually get adopted, giving Drifter's Hearts of Hope the chance to rescue more animals in the future.

"I love the horses and being able to help them," Patrick Zimmermann, a member of Drifter's Hearts of Hope, said in a news release. "I like that we can save their lives."

Horse's Tale Completes Cinderella Story

This is a really inspiring story!  Enjoy!!! ~Declan

Horse’s tale completes Cinderella story

The message of rescuing dogs and cats can be seen and heard many different places.

But one animal that is often forgotten when it comes to finding a good home are horses.

Thankfully however, some people, like Woodbury teen Maddie Kanda, haven’t lost sight of that message.Since last April Kanda, who is a full-time post-secondary education option student at Inver Hills Community College, has been fostering an 8-year-old Arabian mare named Raayna.

“I wanted to do something over the summer that would give a horse another chance,” she said. “I wanted to use my time and skills to help another horse find a forever home.”

Kanda is fostering Raayna through the This Old Horse rescue in Hastings.

As part of fostering Raayna, Kanda will be competing in this year’s Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse, a competition that challenges young horse trainers to showcase untrained rescue horses in hopes of becoming adopted.

“Any work I would put into it would definitely give a horse a better chance of getting adopted,” Kanda said.

A princess in need

Raayna, whose name means princess in Arabic, came from a farm in Crow Wing County where she was one of four Arabians on the property, including her foal Johnny.

All four horses were starved and neglected.

When the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation seized the horses in December of 2013 as part of neglect case, Raayna and Johnny were the only two horses to survive.

Horse body condition is ranked on a scale from one to 10 with one being extremely emaciated and 10 being extremely obese. Raayna was about a two. A healthy horse is ranked at about a five.

Johnny had a slightly better body condition than Raayna and the best explanation, Kanda said, is that the mother horse gave any food and water that she did receive to Johnny before taking any for herself.

“She put his life before her own,” Kanda said.

Also, Johnny, who is 3, was still nursing off of Raayna which was taking away a lot of her nutrients.

“Horses typically stop nursing after a couple months,” Kanda said. “But, because they weren’t separated and weren’t being fed, they didn’t have any reason to stop nursing.”

Raayna was also suffering from pneumonia when she was rescued.

Eventually Raayna and Johnny were moved to This Old Horse in Hastings since the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation had run out of room.

Raayna and Johnny not only received food and water, but both horses received medical attention in hopes of preparing both of them for the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse.

Challenged as a trainer

Through the Trainer’s Challenge, inexperienced trainers are paired with a rescue horse for about 100 days, to work with and present at the University of Minnesota’s Leatherdale Equine Center.

The only criteria for the horses are that they have had minimal human contact, never been ridden and are halter broke.

Horses and trainers showcase in five different categories – halter, pleasure, trail and obstacle, freestyle and veterinarian/farrier.

The basic skills a horse should learn include: standing quietly for a farrier and veterinarian, load and unload quietly into a trailer, stand patiently for tack and untacking, trotting in hand and being able to be ridden on the rail and on the trail.

Trainers are awarded $10,000 in cash and prizes.

This year’s Trainer’s Challenge for the Unwanted Horse will be Sept. 20 at the Leatherdale Equine Center at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Kanda, who has a horse of her own, first met Raayna in March after they were assigned to each other through the Trainer’s Challenge.

“When I first went out to meet her she was a little nervous,” Kanda said. “She was still getting used to the whole idea of being a horse again and having food and water.”

When Kanda first moved Raayna to her stable at Majestic Pines Farm in Afton, the two spent a lot of time just getting to know each other.

“She was still worried about food and water,” Kanda said. “That’s hard to get out of a horse that’s been starved and neglected.”

Besides just getting healthy, Kanda said she worked with Raayna a lot on moving past her worry.

Not only was Raayna worried for herself, she was worried about all of the other horses who came in and out of the stables.

Kanda said the worry probably was an after effect from leaving Johnny.

“It was hard leaving Johnny behind because they had gone through that whole ordeal together – there’s a pretty strong bond after that,” she said. “Now, she’s so worried about protecting everyone.”

On average, Kanda said she typically works with Raayna daily for about two hours.
“It’s nice to be able to watch her relax and not have all that worry,” she said. “She doesn’t even look like the same horse because her features have totally changed.”

For the Trainer’s Challenge, Kanda said she is very eager to showcase everything that Raayna has been able to overcome and accomplish. A few of her specialty tricks are jumping and dressage, or dancing.

Whether she wins anything in the challenge isn’t the priority for Kanda. The priority is finding Raayna a home.

The silent auction at the Trainer’s Challenge is specifically reserved for pre-approved owners.

“I’m sure there will be tears,” Kanda said, “but it will be so nice knowing that Raayna will be going to a good home and a place to live out the rest of her life.

“I’m sure I’ll be sad, but it will be so rewarding.”

Kanda said she might consider participating in the Trainer’s Challenge again in the future.
“I find it really easy to connect to horses,” she said. “The connection you get with your horse is different than with dogs and cats – the bonds are so strong.”


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Horses Find Home with Seniors

This is a GREAT story for both the horses and the seniors!  ~Declan

Horses find home with seniors

As posted on CBC News Posted: Jul 15, 2014 2:34 PM AT Last Updated: Jul 15, 2014 2:34 PM AT

Seniors and horses
Seniors and horses 1:50
A seniors residence in Summerside, P.E.I. has built a paddock to keep miniature horses on the property.
The home is finding the horses are a benefit to both the seniors and their families when they come to visit.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Teen With Cerebral Palsy Gets to Ride Horse of his Dreams

What an AWESOME story!!  ~Declan 

Teen with cerebral palsy gets to ride horse of his dreams

Posted: Sunday, July 6, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 10:35 am, Sun Jul 6, 2014.
Nicholas Thomas meets Shy Boy at Monty Robert's Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, 17, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak. He attends Severna Park High School.

Catherine Thomas speaks for her 17-year-old son.
Nicholas was born with triplegic cerebral palsy, which leaves him dependent on a communication device that says things out loud for him when he pushes buttons with pictures of objects.

So his mother is his voice. She’s vibrant and boisterous.
But Nicholas, who lives mostly in silence, has a hero who is another strong, silent type.
It’s a typical day at the Thomas household in Severna Park, and Nicholas is watching “Shy Boy,” a documentary made by the BBC in 1997. He has watched it every day for 13 years, when he first received the tape after seeing Shy Boy’s trainer, Monty Roberts, in person.
Catherine explains: Shy Boy is a wild horse that Monty Roberts tamed. Roberts, who wrote a book titled “The Man Who Listens to Horses,” doesn’t believe in using violent techniques to break horses.
Instead, he believes humans can communicate with horses in their own nonverbal language. Shy Boy returned to Roberts even after being accepted back into a band of wild horses.
Nicholas felt a link with a horse that communicates without words.
“The hardest disability (Nicholas) has is the inability to communicate, because he has so much to say,” Catherine said.
Last Christmas, Catherine asked Nicholas what he wanted.
He said he wanted to ride Shy Boy, using his communication device. Catherine told him that was impossible — Shy Boy might not even be alive anymore.
“He became so adamant and persistent and would not let it go and would get quite upset if I said it was impossible,” she said.
So eventually she resorted to Google and found Roberts’ website. There was a video of a now 21-year-old Shy Boy.
Nicholas went “through the roof,” Catherine said.
On Christmas Eve, she emailed Roberts.
Dear Monty:
I have a son with cerebral palsy and he does not speak. He has been riding since he was 2 and I attribute his ability to walk to riding. He has a great seat on a horse and has bonded with so many over the years.
He is now 17. When he was around 4, you came to Maryland and did a demonstration. We were there. Nicholas has a poster of Shy Boy on his bedroom wall that you signed. We also got the Shy Boy video and it has been playing in our house for the last 13 years, daily. He loves Shy Boy ...
For Christmas this year, once again he has asked to ride Shy
Boy ...
Have you ever had such a request before? I know you must think I am crazy, but if there is the remotest possibility of Nicholas being able to meet you and ride Shy Boy — even if just for a few minutes — I would make the journey to your farm. ...
I hope this reaches you, Mr. Roberts. Have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to receiving your response.
A hopeful mom,
Catherine Thomas
Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas meets Shy Boy at Monty Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms, in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak. From left, Shy Boy, Monty Roberts, Nicholas and Catherine Thomas, Nicholas’ mother.

Meeting Shy Boy

On New Year’s Eve, Catherine received a response from Roberts’ daughter, who asked for a video of Nicholas riding.
She sent one. Three months passed. And then, an invitation.
But in the meantime, Nicholas had a tough spring. He had his first seizure and underwent two surgeries.
The promise of Shy Boy kept them going, Catherine said.
She nailed down a date of — June 23 — to go to Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms. The two flew to Los Angeles and made the 3½-hour drive to Solvang, Calif.
She assumed Nicholas would get to the farm, spend five or 10 minutes on the horse, and then leave.
Instead, she said, “We were treated — I say like royalty, but also like family.”
Roberts said children with disabilities come to the farm several times a week to see the horses.
“Therapeutic riding in many many instances becomes the No. 1 activity of joy for these otherwise almost joyless people, who find life extremely difficult,” he said.
Roberts said that the morning of Nicholas’ meet-and-greet with him, he nearly forgot about it.
“I saw him in the yard and saw how profoundly challenged he was, and all of a sudden it was the most important thing in my life,” he said.
Roberts gave them a demonstration, and then Nicholas met Shy Boy.
“It was almost like they were speaking volumes with no words,” Catherine said.
Shy Boy never took his eyes off Nicholas, she said.
First, Nicholas looked down, as a sign of respect to the horse, and the two connected. Then Shy Boy reached up and nuzzled Nicholas with his nose.
Everyone, Catherine said, had tears pouring down their cheeks. It looked like two old friends meeting, she said.
“Nick doesn’t show an awful lot of emotion. He’s not a big smiler, he’s not a big crier or anything like that,” she said.
When they moved to take Shy Boy to the arena, Nicholas looked back at his mom.
“I saw that it had totally moved him — tears in his eyes,” she said.
Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas rides Shy Boy, who is being led by Monty Roberts at his Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak. He attends Severna Park High School. Nicholas' mother, Catherine Thomas, watches at left.
Nicholas rode Shy Boy for about 15 to 20 minutes. Roberts talked about the benefits of therapeutic riding. They went to the stable where Shy Boy was resting and Nicholas spent a long time just sharing time with the horse.
When the two said goodbye, Nicholas blew Shy Boy a kiss and said “Bye-bye Shy Boy.” The horse lifted his head and nodded in response.
Catherine said the trip made her understand something about her son for the first time.
She spent his entire childhood trying to fix his cerebral palsy, she said. She tried to make sure he could walk, enrolled him in therapy and did anything she could think of to help him.
Now, she said, she understands that “he lives in a place that’s simple, full of joy. His dreams do come true. Most people can’t say that.”
When he needs to say something, Nicholas looks at his mother and touches his neck, before clicking onto his communication device.
But sometimes he doesn’t need to — Catherine will look at him and know what he wants to say. Her husband, Vince, says she’s inside Nicholas’ head.
Catherine said she’s so used to saying Nicholas’ words out loud for him41 that she forgets to appreciate his silence.
When Nicholas met Shy Boy, that changed.
“I had to stand in his silence,” she said. “I’ve never really stood in Nicholas’ silence before and in that moment, I did.”
Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas meets Shy Boy at Monty Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak.

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas rides Shy Boy with the help of Monty Roberts, at Roberts’ at his Flag Is Up Farms.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Miniature Horse Could Be Smallest in the World

Meet Cotton Eyed Joe!!  :-)  ~Declan

Miniature Horse Could Be Smallest in the World

Posted: Jul 07, 2014 6:50 PM EDTUpdated: Jul 07, 2014 8:26 PM EDT  As posted on

by Mark Bellinger


COFFEE COUNTY, Tenn. - In one mid-state community there is a small horse getting a lot of attention. If all goes as planned he'll make it into the record books as the smallest horse in the world.
The miniature horse's name is Cotton Eyed Joe and he lives in a big red barn out in the middle of nowhere between McMinnville and Manchester.

His owners, Tony Teal and Teresa Hinds run a mobile petting zoo.
Last year one of their miniature horses gave birth.
Teal said, "He came out healthy. The only problem he has is being ornery."
Cotton Eyed Joe is small even by miniature horse standards.
The veterinarian told the owners Cotton Eyed Joe is the tiniest horse he's ever seen.

Teal said, the veterinarian said to him, "Have you all ever checked on smallest horse in the world?" I said, no. I never thought anything about, and so we did."

Cotton Eyed Joe is competing to be the smallest male miniature horse in the world.

Right now he measures about 20 inches, but the 14 month-old is not expected to get much taller.

Competing to be the world's smallest horse is serious stuff. There's competition from a horse in Italy, but right now Cotton Eyed Joe is the leader.

Teal said, "He's smaller, about two inches smaller."

Cotton Eyed Joe is smaller than a car built for toddlers and he fits comfortably into the back seat of a car or truck.

Hinds said, "He's a chance of a life time. If he doesn't make it just going through the process has been very rewarding, yeah."

A miniature horse reaches maturity at 3 years old. That's when the Guinness Book of World Records will decide if Cotton Eyed Joe is the world's smallest male miniature horse.

He's only 14 months old, so there's still time to wait.

The Guinness Book of World Records is quite a process.

Cotton Eyed Joe's owners have hired an attorney to make sure they correctly follow the process and fill out the necessary paper work.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

From Slaughter Truck To Start Box: The Unlikely Story Of A Draft-Cross Event Horse

Horses deserve a go at a good life.  Horse slaughter is not the way!!! ~Declan

From Slaughter Truck to Start Box: The Unlikely Story of a Draft-Cross Event Horse

Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.
Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.

The last horse you want to be at an auction with kill buyers in attendance is a draft horse, for obvious reasons. Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue understands this and strategically stakes out area auctions, ready to outbid them if necessary. Christine Hajek, president and founder of the Mount Airy, Md., rescue, vividly remembers the New Holland auction where she discovered Kadobi and Kanin, two full-brother draft crosses who were facing a dubious future at best.

“Kanin and Kadobi had actually already been sold to a meat buyer, and it is actually the only time I have bought a horse off a meat buyer,” Christine says. “I usually refuse to do that because I will not pay them a profit, but he had a full load so he sold them to me at his cost. … Had I not taken them, he would have fattened them some and sent them to slaughter. I paid $600 for the pair. They were both
thin, had hoof neglect, lice, mange, worm infestations and were halter broke but terrified of people.”
Kadobi post-rescue at Gentle Giants. Photo courtesy of Christine Hajek.
Kadobi post-rescue at Gentle Giants. Photo courtesy of Christine Hajek.

The two intercepted horses — Kadobi, age 4, and Kanin, age 5 — went into quarantine at Gentle Giants and began the process of regaining their health. Both horses took to the gradual training program. Kadobi started out with some groundwork and very basic under-saddle work, then some trail riding, and finally some schooling with Jessica Millard of Union Bridge, Md., who recognized that he was a natural jumper and started him over fences.

Kadobi was adopted out to a new owner, but the green horse was a handful, and a full-bodied one at that, and she became a bit intimidated. She was about to send him back (Gentle Giants includes a first right of refusal in their adoption contract) when she made one last-ditch phone call to Golly Tabatabaie, 28, who runs a unique training program, Bad Monkey LLC, out of McLean, Va.

“I specialize in behavioral issues and use a comprehensive approach,” Golly explains. “I look at tack, teeth, toes, tummy (nutrition), as well as training and riding to figure out what is causing the issue. Once I have an idea, I ride the horse and work with the owner to find a solution that will keep them both happy, be it consistent training rides or a new feed plan or whatever combination.”

With Kadobi, it was a simple matter of a not-quite-right fit. “This woman had done her best with him, given him the very, very best care, but he had tossed her and her daughters too many times,” Golly says. “He was fat, round (maybe too round) and happy — as long as no one went near him. They were very timid riders, and he needs a very confident rider. He was still young and understandably green, but had regressed and was so uncertain and nervous that he was becoming a bit dangerous.”

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.
Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

Kadobi and Golly, on the other hand, had immediate chemistry. “I started riding him, and I quickly realized how much I loved this horse,” Golly says. “It was clear that he was a one-person horse, and he had found his person. My client would comment that he was so relaxed when I was around, but was unmanageable when I wasn’t there. We, my client Christine and I, had many conversations about it, and we decided that my adopting Kadobi would be the best situation for both the horse and the people involved.”

The two gained an appreciation for one another, both in the saddle and out. Golly appreciates Kadobi’s easy-going, class-clown personality, and in return he is happy to provide a steady stream of entertainment. “He is very playful and curious and loves to stick his nose into trash cans and flip them over — even at horse shows,” Golly says. “He might do it just to hear me yell. He once grabbed an entire bag of carrots and ran away with it. He stuffed it all into his mouth, and as I grabbed my phone to call the vet because my horse was in the process of ingesting a plastic bag, he came trotting over to me and spat out the empty bag at my feet, fully devoid of carrots, but somehow amazingly intact.”

When Golly introduced Kadobi to the sport of eventing, he took to the new game with enthusiasm despite his slightly unorthodox build. “I wanted to introduce him properly and set him up for success,” Golly says. “Competition wise, we started with a jumper series and successfully competed up to 3’6″, and it was clear he still had a lot more to give. He loved the jumping; he got it. He knew ‘Hey, you put me in this ring, and I will give you speed, power and a clear round.’ He beat out fast ponies in many a jump-off by sitting on his bottom and making the tightest turn you will ever see a draft make, bringing home a lot of blues. And he is fast, so I knew we would have no problem making time in eventing.”

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.
Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Golly carted him to a local riding facility to introduce the concept: “As I schooled him, we literally checked items off the cross-country list: Bank? Check. Water? Check. Ditch? Check.” They went Beginner Novice at Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. the following week, going clear and finishing on their dressage score, and Golly knew she had an event horse on her hands. The next season, they did another Beginner Novice at CDCTA, then Novice at a Maryland H.T. Starter Trial, then Novice at Seneca and Surefire. Golly anticipates a move-up to Training soon — he’s already schooling Prelim fences with ease — but says she isn’t in a hurry. “We are just enjoying learning together,” Golly says.

“He is an awesome jumper, and he loves the cross-country — he eats it up,” Golly says. “His ears prick up, and he gets this look of determination on his face. He knows the jumps are his responsibility, and he takes it seriously. He is just a powerhouse. We still have the occasional spooky green baby moment, but we trust each other, so he doesn’t get shaken.”

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.
Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

One challenge the pair has faced was that Kadobi has a congenital genetic vision disorder, Equine Anterior Segment Dysgenesis, that is common to Rocky Mountain horses but rare in other breeds. Saddlebreds, which Golly thinks Kadobi has a splash of in his breeding, are one of the few other breeds it has ever been seen in.

“In his case Kadobi has cysts, sacs of clear fluid, that attach and detach and float around in front of his retina,” Golly says. “Sometimes they pop on their own, sometimes they are bad and sometimes he doesn’t notice them. He is not actually blind; it is not a disorder that will ever make him go blind.
 The best way to understand it is to put your hand on your face and spread your fingers — you can still see fine, but parts of your vision are blocked, and then imagine every so often your hand moves around, and now other parts are blocked. It is unpredictable, but we manage it. It matters because we jump, and we jump high, but the trick is that I listen to him. If something feels off or he is having a hard time of it, I pull him out. We don’t push it.”

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.
Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Golly and Kadobi are heading to Ocala in August to be a working student for Leslie Law and Lesley Grant-Law’s Law Eventing, where she hopes they will gain a little polish, particularly in the dressage: “He has the ability and is built so uphill but has had an immensely difficult time relaxing and not being tense in dressage. We are working on it, and I know it will take time, so in the meantime we are just learning as much as we can!”

Golly’s goal for Kadobi, now 7 years old, is for him to become a solid Training horse and someday, if he tells her he can do it, try the move up to Prelim. Again, Golly emphasizes, they’re in no rush — they’re just enjoying the journey and one another.

Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.
Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.

“He is happy that he has found his person,” Golly says. “He knows he will never be hungry again and is enjoying his new life as an eventer. He loves routine and will gladly stick to his end of the bargain as long as you give him his rub down, scratch, treats and grass time! We have an amazing connection; I truly believe this horse would take me through fire if I asked him to. He really is one of a kind.”

Go Golly and Kadobi, and Go Eventing!