Riding Lessons and More in Central Virginia

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let it Snow!

Actually, I'm only kidding about the snow - enough already! But as Chubbs demonstrates, above, a little frozen precipitation isn't going to stop us from getting outside and enjoying a nice gallop! Since I haven't yet had the farrier put on "snow shoes " - specially designed horse shoes and pads to prevent snow from clumping up under the horses' feet - the barefoot horses and ponies have been getting some extra work. Hopefully a couple of warmer days will get us back to usual and Chubbs will be off the hook (though on second thought, he could stand to have as many extra calories burned off as possible; someone gave him a very accurate name).

Speaking of Chubbs, I hope everyone saw the wonderful photographs and article about EKF in last week's Central Virginian (December 16). If not, there will soon be a copy posted at the barn, along with some excellent original artwork by our young riders.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sign Up for Winter Vacation Riding!

With Thanksgiving behind us, it's time to look ahead to school vacation in just two weeks. Every weekday that school is out, we're offering a program from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. that will include riding, farm activities, and special hands-on time or additional lessons with our favorite horses. After 3 p.m., regular lessons may still take place, so you're welcome to stay around and watch until dark. Please check your schedules and let me know the dates you'd like to participate (you can do just one day, or as many as you like). More information is available on the regular website under the "Details, Please" page.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Click on the Image Below:

Here is a terrific collage of happy faces from the birthday party EKF hosted earlier this month! You can see what a merry and energetic group of young people toured the farm. Many thanks to the birthday boy's mom for creating and sending me this excellent collection of photographs.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am grateful to live in such a beautiful place, with contented critters, friendly neighbors, and lots of family visiting this week.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trail ride lessons always enjoy trotting or cantering through the farm fields, but recently I conducted an entire lesson in the bottom pasture by Duckinghole Creek. As usual, we began with flatwork, with the fence on one side and the treeline on the other as boundaries, and warmed up over the natural crossrails made from cedar saplings. Then I put together a course using natural and man-made obstacles: Trot down the hill over the Hi-Lo Log, right around the corner of the woods to the oak trunk, canter straight on to the high side of Jeff's Jump, return around the run-in shed and jump across the swale (about three feet wide, full of water from a recent storm), then on to the cedar verticals between the standards. It was a nice change of pace and a good challenge for horse and rider.

I have put decorative pumpkins on either side of the cross-country jumps - and as you can imagine, they have been nibbled regularly by equine (and likely many other) passersby!

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Giddy Up, Pardner!"

It's been such a busy EKF week that I haven't had a chance to update the blog! Last weekend, two girls competed in the Harvest Festival horse show and gymkhana out in the eastern part of Louisa County, and I was so proud of them! Both riders had top three finishes, including the competitive Equitation and Obstacle Course classes, and they also placed in a variety of events such as the Pumpkin Relay, Simon Says, Apple Bobbing, and Eyeball-on-Spoon which turned into Sit-a-Buck. Most importantly, they represented Team Easy Keeper so well, were excellent sports and took good care of Shadow and Henry.

In the middle of the week, Henry again swung into action as he carried our equine vet on her first foxhunt (see the photo of me on Belle, above). The vet's a very accomplished dressage rider, but dodging vines, sliding down muddy hills, and galloping across gorgeous open fields were new challenges and Henry took good care of her.

On Saturday, a five-year-old cowboy celebrated his birthday with fifteen excited friends. This happy event mobilized Ginger, Misty, and Krispy Kreme, as well as the bunnies for petting, and even the sheep were penned up and fed granola treats. The tiny riders were so patient waiting their turns - they discovered the sidewalk chalk and now my wash rack floor is a kaleidescope of colors and shapes - and the whole group was really well behaved and enjoyed meeting the animals up close. Once again, I have to thank our wonderful horses, who were steady and gentle -- especially because the little fellows enjoyed yelling "Giddy up, pardner!" at full volume while mounted!

Also Saturday, our heroine Zenyatta came up a few inches short of a perfect record - but what an amazing race she ran, and finished safely and soundly a champion. Even Man o' War lost one race - also by a head, to a horse aptly named Upset. So at 19-1, a record unmatched by any modern top-tier Thoroughbred, we still say, "All Hail the Queen!" If you need any more proof of her class, just click here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

We've had a couple of chilly evenings and Nutmeg the bunny, along with her little friends Peppermint and Snickerdoodle, are busy grooming as their thick winter coats grow in and their summer fur sheds out. They enjoy snacking on the fallen leaves that drop into their runs, too.

Mostly, though, we've had beautiful autumn days and happily, they are bringing out new riders! Four students appeared for their first lessons this week, and we added a wonderful pair of sisters about a month ago, so Team Easy Keeper is growing. Since report cards came out recently, I suspect that good academic results are being rewarded with long-sought-after riding lessons. If that's the case, everybody: keep studying!

This Saturday, a couple of riders and horses are heading to a Halloween fun show and gymkhana, and next Saturday, the barnyard will be invaded by 8-10 five year olds for a birthday party. I love to see the schedule filling up!

Friday, October 15, 2010

With Louisa schools closed last Monday and Tuesday, a couple of riders took advantage of the opportunity to spend all day at the farm. We couldn't have had more beautiful weather for some early autumn riding and working around the barn. Each day's schedule included a regular riding lesson in the morning (featuring our friends Shadow, Belle, and Chester), plus a bonus ride in the afternoon - Monday was bareback work with Chubbs and Wizard, and Tuesday was trail riding with Chubbs and Henry. Now don't feel bad for Chubbs getting ridden a couple of times, he is living up to his name and needs every step of exercise he can get!

Chores are part of daily life at the farm, so we also cleaned stalls, picked out the ring, tidied up around the rabbit hutches, and managed to get two out of ten sheep dewormed (it's hard to catch sheep when they don't want to get caught). Chester, who must have been reading about the recent World Equestrian Games and tried to imitate a showjumper during his lesson, also got a bubble bath - which ended up with the humans as soaked as the pony.

During winter vacation, I'll offer similar daylong programs every weekday - you can sign up for as many or as few days as you like. Check with your parents (information on the Details page), and let me hear some special ideas or activities you'd like to see. I'm thinking a snowy trail ride would be fun . . . and maybe a special photo day with the horses in holiday gear!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tired Ponies!

Looks like Krispy Kreme and Misty are taking a little rest after that busy day at the Harvest Festival! I hope everyone saw them as beautiful cover girls on the front page of the Central Virginian this past Thursday (October 7), as well as the bigger picture on page A8.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thank You!

Thank you to all the EKF riders who helped with the Pony Rides at the Louisa County Parks and Recreation Harvest Festival yesterday! Thanks also to Misty and Krispy Kreme, who were absolute superstars: arriving at Walton Park in their matching lavender rubber reins and purple saddle pads, unfazed by footballs soaring nearby, fire trucks, tractors, rock and jazz bands, three-foot-long balloon animals, three-foot-long balloon animals loudly popping, and many, many, many children stretching their hands over the fence to pat them as they walked by. I counted 81 signatures on our release forms, and since plenty of parents brought multiple children, I'm sure we had well over 100 little riders. Everyone in the long line was incredibly patient, which I appreciate so much. It was nonstop from 10:00 a.m. through 4 p.m., and I think we were the only folks left in the park when we said goodbye to the last riders.

Nothing compares to helping a timid child up into the saddle for the first time, hearing her shakily confide, "I'm scared," and watching as she starts to smile, then giggle, then wave to Mom and the camera, finally saying, "I wish I didn't have to get off now," after a few laps around the ring. That's what it's all about.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Out and About

EKF riders loaded up the trailer and explored the central Virginia countryside over the past two weekends. It was exciting to get our horses off the farm to participate in hunter paces, which are competitive trail rides sponsored by local hunt clubs. Last weekend, Henry and I ponied a seven year old student, riding Wizard, at the Commonwealth Foxhounds' event in Caroline County. This was held at a beautiful farm, with lovely sandy footing winding through open fields and hilly woodlands. Both geldings behaved perfectly throughout: negotiating a steep, narrow downhill trail, waiting calmly to let slightly faster teams pass, and ultimately trotting proudly through the finish markers. After we tended to the horses, we enjoyed the club's excellent, complimentary buffet luncheon - with more than enough chicken, salads, and desserts to go around. You can see a happy photo at our homepage.

Yesterday's hunter pace was hosted by Bull Run Hunt in Culpeper County. A teenager rode Chubbs and I took Zender ("Robin" and "Bat Man" as we call them, because they are best buddies) and entered the Junior/Senior Division. We started from a huge equestrian facility with rolling hayfields full of jumps, followed by fantastic trails through a neighboring forest preserve. Zender had a moment at the top of the first hill when he thought the two photographers sitting on an ATV were monsters - but once we got past the monsters, he settled in to lead the way. Reliable Chubbs kept up (he often has to canter to match Zender's trot) as we maintained a forward pace, jumping logs and clearing a couple of inviting coops toward the end. We also exchanged stares with a curious deer, saw some spooky abandoned barns, and appreciated the thorough flagging of the twisting course.

There are additional hunter paces this fall, so hopefully more riders will take the opportunity to have fun and represent EKF to the greater equestrian community!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A new family joined our program, with all three children enthusiastically participating! The oldest already has a good basic position and is working on cantering with Ginger. The two younger gentlemen will take turns following their sister's lesson, and since they're less experienced, I am getting lots of exercise walking and trotting around the ring. Each sibling is eager to care for the horse before and after riding - I think Ginger was sponged and scraped three times last lesson (not a bad thing with the late summer heat)! Hopefully they'll be on hand to help with the Pony Rides at the LCPR Harvest Festival in a couple of weeks.

As autumn approaches, I'm busy getting ready for the winter ahead (yuck). I picked up a load of beautiful hay from Will Coleman, dewormed the horses again, and the vet visited to perform annual dental checkups. The bunny hutches have moved into the barn aisle for a little extra protection - and the sheep, well, as I watch their fleecy coats lengthen, I know they will be just fine without any help from me!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Looking Ahead

Here Clio and Arrow remind us that while a good friend's got your back, a great friend has got that itchy spot on your rear end!

A few special dates are coming up: On October 2, EKF will be giving Pony Rides at the LCPR Harvest Festival at Waltons Park in Mineral from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so plan to come and help out, or come and ride! It will be a great chance to meet our ponies and chat with folks from Team Easy Keeper.

There are no classes in Louisa County on October 11 and 12, so let me know if you'd like an all-day program then - sort of an Indian Summer mini-camp!

And plan to sign up for the vacation program during Winter Break in December and January. Every weekday that school is out, I'll offer a full day of riding and farm fun. You can do as many or as few days as you like. Check out the Details page on the EKF website for all the information.

If you haven't seen our nature blog, click on over and enjoy some late summer scenery around the farm - it's called Easy Keeper Farm and Field.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Trails

Terrific trail rides over the last several days - we took advantage of cooler temperatures and less humid weather. After drawing a little more attention from the mares than we wanted as we ventured around the far back field, Zender and Chubbs made a sweep of the lower cross-country jumps. Each horse also put in a fine leap across the stream, which was running high due to a late afternoon downpour. A couple days later, Chubbs faced the stream again with a less experienced rider who does not jump. Or maybe she does now - despite my successful effort with Zender to give a walk-through-the-water lead, Chubbs still sprang across from a standstill! Henry, bringing up the rear with another novice, was a good sport to step through gently and steadily. Fortunately, I had instructed Chubbs' rider to grab mane "just in case," and this proved excellent advice as she landed securely in the saddle, grinning and exclaiming, "My first jump! My first jump!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's hard for me to believe that our local kids have already been back in school for three weeks - somehow that just seems waaaay too early! But it's a reminder that fall is coming. And I'm pleased to announce that EKF will be providing Pony Rides at the Louisa County Parks and Recreation Fall Harvest Festival, at Walton's Park in Mineral, on October 2. That might sound like a long way off, but it's actually just five weeks from tomorrow. The Mineral Farmers' Market is moving to Walton's Park for that day too, so it will be a genuine celebration of the harvest. I'm planning to bring Misty and Krispy Kreme, perhaps with manes braided and saddle pads decorated in autumn colors. Nutmeg the friendly bunny might even make an appearance, if I can create a pen that lets little folks pat her easily, but doesn't let her escape - hmmm. Our older riders will help out with pony handling and crowd control!

Friday, August 20, 2010

If you have visited the farm, you know what a beautiful place it is - with space on both sides of Duckinghole Creek, open fields, a small stream with deep mossy banks, rolling woods and wetlands. And if you've met me, you've probably heard me talk about finding crawfish houses in the low spots, photographing butterflies around the wildflowers, and seeing Mrs. Turkey-Lurkey sneak her pullets across the meadow's edge.

I realized the only way to share all these experiences - without taking space away from our riders' accomplishments - was to begin a new blog. It's called Easy Keeper Farm and Field. You can also click through by viewing my complete profile from this page. Continue coming here to get the latest news on trail rides, lessons, and new faces; and enjoy Farm and Field to relax with scenes and stories from the great outdoors.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two new students joined our program this week, and it's exciting to watch "Team Easy Keeper" grow. The senior lady ponies, Misty and Krispy Kreme, were the featured mounts as these little riders are just 7 and 5 years old. The older girl has just about mastered posting and shows a beautiful two-point position. In fact, she does enough trotting that I am pulling out the lunge line - I can only jog so many laps around the ring next to the pony! The younger girl is a brand-new horse fan, but so confident and comfortable on Krispy that I'm sure she'll progress very quickly (and she loooved being taller than her mom while up in the saddle). Best of all, these girls were perfectly responsible about taking care of the ponies and equipment before and after their rides.

We have a nice distribution of ages and experiences now, so some folks are just getting started, some are working on trotting, others have begun to canter, and toward the older range we're practicing interesting jump courses. We've ridden almost all the schoolhorses in lessons, including Misty, Krispy, Shadow, Belle, Henri, Ginger, Chubbs, Wizard, Chester, and Pungo, with me riding Zender for the trail riding lessons.

Tomorrow, a grandfather is bringing his grandkids to the farm for pony rides, so perhaps we'll sign up even more students before my next post!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The summer program started today and we worked on a little bit of everything around the farm. The bunnies are always the first stop in the morning, feeding and putting them out in their runs; next filling the bird feeders and helping Gretchen chase away the squirrels; then grooming and riding (of course). The sheep were due for deworming today, so we all drove up to Dr. Hussman's farm office around the corner and came back with medicine and syringes (the easy part), then corralled the sheep in the top barn, caught them one by one and administered the subcutaneous injections (the hard part)! The campers had quite a time trying to catch each sheep without literally butting heads with Pepper! But we all had a good sense afterwards that we had given the animals some important health care.

Speaking of Dr. Hussman, she was on the scene for the "Old-Timers Class" at the Louisa County Agricultural Fair last weekend, and she and her fellow vet Dr. McCall are big supporters of the 4H Livestock Club. The Fair was a real treat, with the 4H and FFA kids proudly showing their animals, little kids participating in the mutton bustin' ewe-riding event, alpacas stationed near our booth and yummy fair food everywhere you turned. The Easy Keeper Farm display (above) attracted plenty of attention, so hopefully we'll have some new riders coming out soon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lots of riding this past week! Jeff the contractor kindly took on the additional role of Cross-Country Course Builder, and we're having a blast with his new additions to the front field. Part of the fun is coming up with descriptive names: the High-Low Log, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and one I'm calling Jeff's Jump (that may sound familiar to eventing followers, who know that every course designed by Jim Gornall includes a "Jim's Jump"). Zender sees the new obstacles and knows exactly what his job is - yehaw! - and students followed his lead over all three fences with Chester, Wizard, and Chubbs. My favorite is the High-Low Log, which is made from a single, long, curving cedar trunk, so you can pick your height between Itty-bitty and Adventurous.

This morning I had a nice quiet session in the ring on Clio, my young horse, and then opened the gate off her and rode around the gravel loop in the paddock. She'll be ready to take out through the back fields next month.

The big local excitement is the upcoming Louisa County Agricultural Fair on July 30-31st! Easy Keeper Farm will have a booth with a slideshow, brochures, and information, so if you're a potential rider interested in learning more, please stop by. It'd be great to meet you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm thrilled to report our busiest week yet with riding lessons - of course the hottest week of the summer! This morning, before it became too muggy, Shadow had a terrific workout over a few crossrails with an athletic young rider. But I think Shadow's favorite part was the nice cold hose-down afterwards. A number of younger siblings were present, so the sheep, bunnies, Gretchen the dog and Peanut Butter the cat all received plenty of attention (well, maybe Peanut Butter got more than he wanted, and ended up hiding under the bathroom sink)!

The ring footing, which was delivered and spread last spring by Mr. Boxley, is holding up just great under these dry conditions. During all the mud and snow last winter, I never thought I'd be worried about dust again . . . but "if you don't like the weather, just wait and it will change."

A new addition around the house is a hummingbird feeder, and there's already a repeat customer, pictured below. What a beautiful, fragile little creature!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our Louisa County riders really impress me with their work ethic - the girls who came for lessons this week volunteered to give Ginger a bath, to clean stalls, to help with other chores around the barn . . . these are not kids who will spend all summer staring at a video screen! I also appreciated their interest in our farrier, and of course, David Bourke was so gracious to answer questions, explain different types of shoes, and hand out a couple as souvenirs. Somehow we got Ginger and Pungo ridden in the ring, Zender shod in the aisle, and a full load of gravel delivered into the paddock - all at the same time!

On Tuesday, Dr. Kate Hussman of Louisa Veterinary Service arrived to vaccinate the sheep. She came recommended by Will Coleman, our wonderful neighbor who sells us such top-quality hay. Dr. Hussman was as professional and patient as she could be (corralling, catching, and restraining ten sheep while they are each given three injections is not easy). I really appreciated her advice about deworming the flock here in Virginia, as the conditions are very different than their prior home in New England.

Here's the answer to a future trivia question: The good-luck horseshoes above the doorways into both barns are Pungo's; the shoe above the lesson tackroom belongs to Rascal!

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Weeds are just wildflowers growing in the wrong place."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mr. Wizard, the pony cantering on our current homepage, and Zender, my pinto field hunter, were the featured mounts these last few days. A favorite fan took Wiz for a spin around the new ring's jump course, successfully negotiating the brightly striped crossrails, rainbow verticals, and the . . . whatever we call the jump made from overturned multicolored buckets! Next it was time to hand the reins over to her non-horsey (but that could be changing) older sister, who enjoyed a little bit of Wizard's smooth trotting - and was even steering on her own after a couple of sessions. We also had an adventure ride with Zender leading the way across the stream, down the Burnt Tree Trail, then through the flirty mares to pop over the cedar log in the back field. We picked out a perfect place to build the cordwood cross-country jump, but that's a project for another (non-99 degree) day.

This post's photograph is a pumpkin plant, which recently sprouted behind the house and produced this beautiful blossom. We decorated the front steps with small gourds last fall, so perhaps this vine is growing from a stray seed, dropped by the little creature who ate our display for Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cleaning around the wash rack revealed this attractive mobile home -
which turned out to be occupied!
What a fantastic week around the farm! Ginger, Misty, and even Pungo all had the chance to strut their stuff with some young riders. From ages 5 through 13, we had several promising junior equestrians grooming, saddling up, working on their posting . . . an excellent start to the summer. I'm certain all three horses appreciated the extra currying and of course, the treats afterwards. The 90-degree heat was an excuse to try out the new wash rack, which worked perfectly with crossties in just the right spot, shelves to hold sponges and Micro-Tek shampoo, and a nice gentle slope for drainage.

If you're a local follower, remember to support the Louisa County Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society. EKF is a Gold Business Sponsor, and we are keeping our fingers (and paws and hooves) crossed for good weather and a great turnout this weekend.

And for you horseracing fans -- nothing against 2009's Horse of the Year -- but EKF is Zenyatta country. All Hail the Queen!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Virginia 1864 or 2010? Hard to tell, and a stirring event.

Last Sunday's reenactment of the Battle of Trevilian Station was a terrific outing and really well done by all the participants and sponsors. The host location, Bracketts Farm, is a beautiful, sprawling Green Springs farm with a lovely antique home, brick and wood outbuildings, old farm roads and views that easily let you believe you were back in the mid-1800's. The reenactors, human and equine, were pressed in the heat, but they did a fantastic job from the camps to the charges to the booming artillery volleys. For the spectators, there were numerous shade and watering holes as well as a greatly appreciated shuttle ride to and from the parking area. It is definitely on the calendar for next year with an entire day committed to experience all the offerings.

Bracketts Farm is run by a nonprofit foundation, which hopefully will allow this magnificent agricultural property to remain intact and undeveloped - what a benefit for the surrounding area and visitors like us! There are a number of programs available and interesting projects underway at the farm. To learn more about it, click here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Newly shorn cousins Vader (above) and Baboo.

As you can see from the photos, yesterday was the big day for the sheep! They look so much more comfortable today, happily out doing some weed-whacking in the fields. Ten more beautiful, lanolin-rich fleeces are stacked in the barn to be sent out for cleaning and spinning! It's supposed to really heat up over the next few days, so I'm very grateful to the shearer - Mr. Peter Duterell, who came all the way from North Garden with his wife, and did a quick and super job.

The big event this weekend here in Louisa is the recreation of the Civil War Battle of Trevilian Station. I'm planning to head over for the cavalry charge and to check out the farmhouse tour. Also, some local 4-H kids will be at the Percheron Fun Day nearby, so it will be a busy horsey day both at home (as usual) and out in the county.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chubbs the pony meets the biggest painted turtle I've ever seen. Mrs. Turtle, probably returning from laying eggs, was moved to safety.

It was a bit of a contest to see who would catch this handsome salamander first, me or my pointer. Fortunately for him, I won and he was released behind the woodpile.

This tiny toad appeared when we moved the rabbit hutches to the other side of the house. He stayed still just long enough to snap this photo!
The workers installed all the sliding stall windows in the upper barn today, and the wiring is also finished. As soon as the office room - which I've nicknamed the Clubhouse - is insulated and done, it will really look good. The upper barn has shade all day long, so it is the place to be during the summer months. The lower barn, next to the ring, is warmer in the morning, so I'll probably use that next winter when I'm keeping a horse inside overnight to stay clean before a hunt meet.

The phoebes have a nest full of hungry hatchlings above the floodlights near the house. I've counted at least three little beaks piping up. The mother and father bird are extra busy catching insects and swooping back and forth to keep the little ones fed. And the chipmunks, which I haven't seen all winter or spring, have suddenly appeared and seem to know just the spot where I feed the sheep. They had better watch out for Peanut Butter!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Today was a busy day for our excellent farrier, David Bourke. He put shoes on four horses and trimmed four more, including the youngsters Arrow and Clio, who were the best behaved they've been for him. He had good help from Stevie Hinsley, and the animals enjoyed getting some attention from David's little son and daughter. David has a horse running at Colonial Downs, so keep your fingers crossed for a good finish.

I saw a beautiful green frog jump into the stream at the culvert on my way to catch Webster, but I was talking on my phone and wasn't able to take his picture! Next time.

Hello to my friends at the Norfolk Hunt Club - I'll miss you tomorrow night at the Annual Meeting. And of course, special thanks and recognition from down south to George Fiske, outgoing President. Well done, GFFJr.!