Riding Lessons and More in Central Virginia

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Summer -- Er, Spring

What a terrific, busy weekend at the farm! Four young and old friends from Massachusetts arrived last Thursday to visit, ride, eat, ride, sightsee and ride all around central Virginia. We fit in so many different activities before they returned home today, starting with a trip to James Madison's Montpelier estate. By chance, exercise riders were breezing a couple of thoroughbreds on the flat track when we pulled in, which was so exciting to watch! The house has far more furnishings than on my previous visit, and our tour guide was excellent (and who knew it was Mr. Madison's birthday, too?). After laying hands on the 200-year old Cedar of Lebanon tree in the back yard and strolling through the formal garden, we found a very horse-y docent in the Visitors' Center. She shared some information about Mrs. du Pont Scott and her love of hunting and racehorses, and we oohed and ahhhed at all the photographs on the wall. If you haven't been to Montpelier, put it on your list!

On Friday, I enjoyed having extra hands to help catch horses for the vet, who'd come to perform some annual procedures. We also went to Dover Saddlery, of course, and attended a fun soiree in Free Union, complete with abundant food and entertaining tales from the hunt field. Saturday, we loaded up Henry and Zender and headed down to Rita Mae Brown's gorgeous Tea Time Farm for the final hunt meet of the season. More than 80 horses and riders were there, as well as a champagne and brownie stirrup cup (I vote this becomes a mandatory institution at all hunt meets in the future), lots of entertaining bumper stickers, and a fascinating mix of country folks. Three of my visitors had the pleasure of following the hunt in a truck with John the kennelman. His insight and knowledge of the country and hounds gave them an inside scoop and the best seat in the house, not on a horse!

After a relaxing trail ride yesterday and some fun cross-country schooling back at EKF today, they were off to the airport and I am here catching you up! There's lots of fantastic news from my regular weekly visitors to share, like first-time canterers, 60+ riders just starting lessons, and 2 more kids already signed up for camp . . . but I'll have to keep you waiting until next time.

P.S. As you know, EKF is Zenyatta country, and we extend our congratulations to the retired famous racehorse on the arrival of her beautiful, healthy colt -- for photos and news, click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

Wow, the crazy weather really has continued here in Louisa! The animals trudged through about four inches of snow to reach their hay Monday morning. But tomorrow, the temperature is expected to hit the mid-70's. The horses are definitely starting to shed their heavy winter coats, and soon the barn aisle will be covered in "fur waffles" collected by the curry combs.

Last night, I attended the Louisa County Young Riders 4-H Club meeting to judge Oral Presentations. It's so interesting to observe the different ages and backgrounds of these junior equestrians. We also set a date for their Horsemanship Clinic at Easy Keeper Farm: Sunday, April 22. The clinic will be a chance for the 4-Hers who don't own their own horses to learn about behavior, care, grooming, and take an introductory lesson. Who knows, maybe some of the EKF horses and ponies will get to participate in a 4-H show this summer!

Speaking of summer, three girls signed up yesterday for July 16-20 pony camp, which is terrific. Since I need three campers minimum, that session is definite. But the maximum number of children is eight, so please give me a heads-up about which week you're hoping to come. I don't want to overbook and have to turn anyone away! Deposits aren't due until the week before you attend.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Comings and Goings

As you can see above, another batch of Speckled Sussex chicks has arrived at the farm. These tiny ladies (well, we're 90% sure they are all ladies) are already scratching, preening, peeping and perching under the heat lamp down in the tackroom. And thank goodness for that heat lamp -- the little ones have been oblivious to the downpours, high winds, and tornado warnings outside! It will be fun to watch their feathers emerge, and when they're a little older, to watch them follow the adult hens around the barnyard.
The joint Master of Foxhounds of the Norfolk Hunt Club, Owen Hughes, visited me for a week and it was fun to show him around the farm and let him visit his old customers -- he was the horses' farrier in Massachusetts. Owen used EKF as a base of operations in the search for potential hunt mounts for several Norfolk members. He traveled from Sperryville to North Garden trying out horses for sale, and I went along when I had time. There are lots of nice horses in Virginia, but of course, everyone has their own requirements: some people don't want a gray because they're hard to keep clean (I hunt a gray and a pinto); some folks are choosy about a particular breed (my motto is handsome is as handsome does); some don't want a mare (all I have to say to that is one word -- PUNGO). Well, you can perceive that personal opinion matters quite a bit!

My pastures are full, though, so I was only windowshopping. On Thursday, Zender and I joined Owen for a morning's hunting near Free Union, Virginia. We enjoyed a delicious and bountiful breakfast following the meet, which probably sustained Owen for the long drive back up north. Hopefully, he'll return soon with his friends to try out the horses that showed promise.