Friday, January 18, 2013

"FEATURE FRIDAY-Lynn Rearden and LOPE-Saving Ex-Racehorses"

Howdy Folks,
Since its founding by Lynn Reardon in 2003, LOPE has helped transition over 800 Texas ex-racehorses of all breeds into new careers through its adoption ranch facility, website listing service and urgent-placement emails. They have personally taken in over 140 ex-racehorses, rehabilitated and healed them sending them on to loving homes and careers.
2 fillies at LOPE ready for new adventures
Lynn did not grow up with horses. In fact she was an adult before she ever began riding. She visited a racetrack in Maryland near her home at the time of day while horses were being exercised on the track. She instantly fell in love with racehorses' heart and athleticism. Soon she began to volunteer at a local racehorse adoption group near DC (CANTOR Mid-Atlantic). She loved what they did there to help the ex-racehorse and learned much. When she moved to Texas she sought out a similar program to volunteer with and finding none, she started LOPE.

Originally, Lynn started LOPE just as an online listing service (a sort of “Craigslist” for ex-racehorses) in 2003. They had so many race trainers approach them who wanted to donate horses directly to LOPE that they decided to open an adoption ranch in 2004. "My primary motivation was simply that I admired and respected racehorses – and was amazed that I could actually be helpful to them once their careers were over. It was my idea of the best job ever!" Lynn said.

LOPE horses "relaxing"
Lynn points out, it is important to understand that rehabbing an ex-racehorse is a bit different than others. While letting them learn to be, "horses" and relax in pastures with other horses is the first important step, something they will often find strange, since in their first career they would most likely have been stalled except for work out or race time. It must be done gradually, starting with small turnouts. "Some racehorses are so excited about being turned out in an open area that they run madly about, dashing into whatever obstacles are in their way. Though that is fairly rare, we like to be conservative and limit their space at first. So they might start in a small corral, then work their way up into a larger paddock and then be turned out in the fields. We also have a couple of retired horses that act as den mothers to the new arrivals." Explained Lynn.

Lynn and Santo
When they've had adequate "Vacation Time" their rehabbing under saddle can begin. While ex-racehorses come with basic skills and talents such as trailer loading, in other areas it might require going back to the basics. "Sometimes they might have been rushed a little at the track – so they might have gaps in their foundation. We like to find these gaps and help the horses learn a fuller picture about those basics. It’s kind of like kindergarten." Lynn said. "Too often, people will try to work with an ex-racehorse right off the track – and that can often backfire a little. They typically need that transition between their racing lifestyle and their new job training program – it really helps them to relax and be super receptive to new training."

"Any horses in rehab who are recovering from injuries and aren’t being ridden yet, are groomed regularly, checked daily, to make sure their injuries are healing on schedule, and handled on the ground so they continue building skills." Lynn said.

LOPE's adoption process is desigined to ensure each horse and its new partner are a proper match and requires a detail approval questionnaire with information about their riding and horse care experience, their plans for the horse and their facility. "We also require current vet and farrier references, as well as references from a trainer or instructor (if applicable) and we check those references carefully." Lynn said.
Learning new fun stuff at LOPE
LOPE horses have gone on to do trail/pleasure riding, dressage, western playdays, eventing, hunter/jumper, ranch work, polo and therapeutic riding. LOPE has also adopted horses out to be pets or companion horses ... Dressage, hunter/jumper, eventing and playday riding, all usually involve some type of competition."Though our horses tend to be placed with homes that are more interested in friendly, family type competition than Olympic level events," Lynn explained.

LOPE has many other wonderful programs to help ex-racehorses and the people who love them, or want to learn to love them such as, Public Education and Outreach Programs, volunteer programs and LOPE plans more exciting ways to promote the valuable and wonderful ex-racehorse … Please visit their website to learn much more .

Thank you Lynn Rearden and everybody at LOPE for spreading the word and giving so many ex-racehorses new careers!

Gitty Up,
 Dutch Henry

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Perfect Mornings"

Howdy Folks,

It had been a while since I'd heard the train during Coffee Clutch, and this morning it was a little like welcoming back an old friend. The early morning air was just heavy enough, and drifting in the right direction to carry with it the rumble and clickity clack of the big wheels as it rolled down the track some 5 miles distant. The lonesome whistle drowned out the clickity clack 3 times at 3 crossings. It's a freight train that runs those rails, mostly carrying coal, sometimes those big orange, white or red closed containers, and occasionally automobiles.  The tracks see a lot of business and it's common for Robbie and me to see a train when we're over that way. Usually very long trains. Why, one day we counted over 100 cars! To hear them faintly during Coffee Clutch is always a treat for me.

Light rain tapped out a gentle melody on the barn's tin roof. I settled into my chair next to Kessy. Tigger leaped to my lap before I was finished adjusting, Saturday decided to scatter the chickens who had just reclaimed their rightful place at the cracked corn diner from all those visiting wild birds. Saturday doesn't really mean to chase the chickens, he goes for the corn, and soon, one by one they came back and we had an assortment of Bantys and one Beagle working on the crushed corn buffet.

I poured my first cup of coffee from the thermos, toasted Kessy, and thanked God for another beautiful morning. Pretty much my routine whether it's hot cold, windy, raining or sunny. Because isn't every morning beautiful when you get right down to it? Yea, I think so. And don't those cold windy mornings make the just right sunny days all that much more perfect. So you see, by my logic, those nasty mornings are just doing their job, making you love the sparkling mornings more. So they're perfect, too. Even if they do blow my hat off.

The rough mornings tend to drive all the chickens into Kessy's barn too, remember our story, "Chickens on the Halfwall?" If you've not read it you can  check it out here… And we love when the chickens are all around us in the barn. Feels downright homey.

The chickens wandered away 2 or 3 at a time on their search and devour walk, and Juncos, Cardinals, Chickadees, Doves and White Throated Sparrows repossessed the right to the corn smorgasbord. I know, a single entre meal isn't a smorgasbord, but they think it is. So do the squirrels.

Suddenly the rain got serious, pounding the tin so loud Kessy gave a snort and stomp! The chickens made dash for the barn. Furious balls of wet feathers, squawking and clucking charged past Kessy and me in a hurricane of disgust to find sanctuary from the deluge. Saturday dashed into the hay room for safety, just ahead of the stampede.

A few moments later peace reigned in the barn once more. Kessy munched her hay, I poured another cup, Saturday came back to lie on my feet, a rooster crowed, another train whistle blew, the chickens preened content. What a perfect morning. I hope you had one too!

Gitty Up,
Dutch Henry

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"10,000 Page Hits"

Howdy Folks,

We started our Coffee Clutch blog just 4 months ago to visit with friends and chat about horses, love, writing, friends, family, bird watching, beautiful mornings and other happy things. Yesterday we went over 10,000 page hits! Now Ravishin' Robbie and I are not even sure just what a page hit is, we assume it means a friend dropped by to say howdy and by golly we thank you so much for being part of Coffee Clutch!
Kessy, Saturday and me writing a story
As we go on I'll do my very best to write happy, informational, encouraging and fun stories, thoughts and musings 4 -5 days a week. It takes time to write my blogs, I work hard to get them just right. I feel if you're willing to spend your valuable time reading them, I must do my best to make it worthwhile and beneficial to you. It is my sincere hope our Coffee Clutch visits add a little something to your day.

Some posts take over 2 hours to write, proof, edit. Average about an hour. I know I miss some editing issues every day, and for that I really, really do apologize, but I reckon my blog can serve as a testament to the old adage, "One cannot edit one's own work." They say it's because your mind sees on the page, or Word Doc, what you intend to be there, not what you actually wrote! … My "Feature Friday" posts take on average 5-8 hours to research, contact, write and edit. These posts I send to the subject for review, so really I work on them for a few days during the week. But this I do, "To Help Them Help."

My not-quite-right editing also owes its failings to the fact I really only started writing in 2006, and at that time I knew oh so little. (Not that I know so much now) ... I often tell folks when I wrote my first novel I didn't know there was a difference between, "then" and "than." Grammar? I thought that was a cracker! Understand though, I grew up in a household that spoke Pennsylvania Dutch ... So enough excuses.

From deep within my heart, I humbly thank each and every one of you who take time from your busy schedules to drop in on our Coffee Clutch and spend a few moments with us. I will do my best to make it time well spent!

Ps- Please invite all your friends to join us here on the Coffee Clutch.

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Are You Listening?"

Howdy Folks,

I sat in the car waiting as I often do when Ravishin' Robbie ran in the store to grab a few groceries. It's not so much I don't enjoy shopping, but walking in stores is a bother to my legs. And it offers a great time to people watch. The other day I was "people watchin'" when I noticed a child, of I suppose 7 or so, trying oh so hard to get her mother's understanding of a matter of what must have been great importance by the demonstration of arm flailing and hurried loud outbursts. Of course I couldn't understand the words, but the volume and tone sent a clear, "Are You Listening?" I chuckled because I knew the answer was a resounding, NO! For the mother was every bit as determined to make her point, at the same time. I never got the impression they were angry, quite the opposite, they seemed happy and excited, but were not able to communicate what was so exciting.

This made me think of a seminar I'd attended for sales training years ago. "Learning effective ways to listen." Never forgot it. But I must admit I'm not that great a listener, either. Unless I use this little trick. And you bet, I'm gonna share how I modified it for listing to your horse.

The trick isn't to watch the other person's lips or focus on their eyes or get in sync with their breathing, or any of the standard "rules for good listening." In fact you can do this with your eyes closed. Well with people you can. With horses you pretty much gotta look at them.

But with people it is really simple … Here it is … "Listen to every word as if you must jump in and finish the sentence." … That's it ... No gimmicks, no tricks. Just pretend at any moment you'll need to pick it up and finish the sentence. We even did role playing in the seminar, which I remember was a hoot!

So how do you finish the sentence your horse is saying? Well you listen closely; it will enrich your connection ... A brief side note here … When I'm doing my "Therapy For Therapy Horses" exercises, within a few moments of starting I'll get signals from the horse where they want my hands to go next. It is one reason why I'd love for anyone who has or works with horses to learn at least the basics of these. These exercises will teach folks to "listen to their horse" in a most comprehensive way.

But I'd like to share the other way you can finish your horse's sentence. Think about when you're leading her, and she stops. I'd like to suggest, you stop. Don't just think what you want, where you are going or want to go, but pause a second or three and look where your horse is looking. Sometimes it's obvious, she's worried about something she sees, ears and eyes focused right on it. That's an easy one and you should look at it too and wait a few seconds before asking her to move on. Finish the sentence together.

The real opportunity to finish your horse's sentence will come when she stops as you're leading her, you turn to look at her … and she isn't really looking at anything. She's just standing with soft eyes, relaxed ears and no concern on her face. This is your chance to hear her, and finish her sentence. If you stay soft, open your heart, mind and intuitiveness you'll pick up on it. It'll be a moment of deep connection. Think then of the end of her sentence ... Will she walk on to follow you, or relax another moment? Think a bit, wait for it, and then you'll see, your thoughts were in tune. You heard her – because you were listening … The opposite is also true … If when she stops you tug on the lead to move her on with no more than a brief glance her way shouting in your mind, "Come On!" … You will have missed what she was trying to tell you when she said, "I'm really loving this walk together."

I'm a big fan of ground work with a horse and doing slow easy things together will give you many opportunities to finish your horse's sentences. Remember to pause, join her thoughts and "predict" what she wants to do next, by finishing her sentence. While trail riding is another great chance to "learn to listen well," if she stops along the trail, pause, look and listen to her. The key to listening well is finishing the sentence in the way the "talker" would finish it. You know then, you are in tune.

Happy listening!

Gitty Up,
Dutch Henry 

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Molly's New Saddle!" Pt 4 in Saddle Fit Series"

Howdy Folks,

Yesterday was the day Molly got her brand new custom fit saddle made by Larry Wilson! What a delightful little gal Molly is. She's twenty and just as tickled about this saddle as a kid with a brand new toy! She knew it was coming, and waited "almost" patiently from the day Larry first visited 7 weeks ago to fit Molly for the all important custom fit saddle tree. If you haven't seen those pictures and that story you can find it here .

Have a look at Molly's rig all shiny and new. Larry calls this his Trail Saddle. He'll make any kind of saddle the customer wants and that's wonderful, but what is important to me is that his saddles are made to fit the horse, and the rider, starting by building the tree, by hand. ... Being a horse advocate, saddle fit is VERY important to me. I have seen his saddles heal backs, withers and shoulders. I have seen his saddles heal horses who'd been prematurely retired ... Larry made it possible for me to ride pain free by shaping my trees to fit my own twisted pelvis. Had I not met Larry I doubt I'd still be riding, and riding is more than just a wonderful thing to do for me, I literally ride so I can walk  ... And his saddles are right in line price wise with any "Off The Rack" quality saddles, and less expensive than some. You can call him for pricing and any other questions at, 570-404-9440, and have a look at his website

Here is Molly proudly showing off her new saddle, that's Larry with her.
 Chris and Molly set off to give it a try in motion as Larry watches to make certain all is correct.
 And friends, this is just the beginning. Larry stands by his saddles and he's there to make any corrections or adjustments as may be needed. I've known him for 10 years and he's built me 4 saddles, and I know him to stand by his work. He also makes great saddlebags, halters and all sorts of accessories.

And his saddles and trees can be adjusted for changes, or to fit other horses. While he was here this weekend I asked him to re-shape the saddle he made me for my TWH, River, who I rode endurance with, to fit Kessy. He'd already re-fit my Diablo's saddle to fit Kessy, the saddle I'm using now, but I was always partial to River's saddle. I have more than a few thousand miles in that saddle.

A little later Chris, Molly, Kessy and I set out on short trail ride to really check out Molly's new Wilson Saddle. We had a wonderful ride. It was easy to see how that new saddle fit Molly perfectly and Chris too. 
 Correct saddle fit is so very important, and sadly, even in this time of, "Enlightenment," too many times a horses' behavior is misunderstood for a discipline problem when really the root cause is a poor fitting saddle and pain. If you have questions about your saddle fit, please post them here or feel free to email me, or give Larry a call. Larry doesn't just sell saddles, he helps horses and people.

No matter the discipline you and your horse play or work in together, a proper fitting saddle is the foundation to build on. It is our hope this little series on Saddle Fit was a benefit to you and your horse.

Earlier Posts in this Saddle Fit Series,

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry