The “G” Word


Amid the grime, grace and grandeur of country living, I missed a particular “g” word that’s raised it’s little head to haunt me. No, it isn’t gourmet. Not today.

I refer, of course, to gophers. Those pesky little rodents that make their appearance every spring in full furry fashion, causing havoc and burrowing holes just perfectly sized for a horse’s leg in our pastures and paddocks.

The same critters my eight-year-old still insists on calling “cute.”(What can I say, she was born in the city. . . we’re still coaxing it out of her. Apparently, it takes a community . . .)

Does anyone really know how to rid one’s land of gophers? I mean, short of gassing, drowning, poisoning or blowing up. Don’t misunderstand me, I can stand up to a rodent. I’ve proven myself more than capable of Carl the Greenskeeper moves and have been known to employ them. Against mice, that is. At the log house these are categorized not as simple pesky rodents, but vermin in the extreme.

But when it comes to gophers, I just can’t bring myself to those methods, and I have to admit, I still can’t shoot one. My neighbour does. Every spring on through summer, he’s driven his old grey gopher-hunting Dodge over and thinned out my herd. Just not this year. He must be on holidays. Or having an extended coffee break with our Hutterite neighbours. Meanwhile, the troops are multiplying. There was a group of them gathered at the end of my driveway the other day when my partner came by for a sales meeting. She AVOIDED them. (What can I say. She lives in the city. It takes a community . . .)

The truth is in all probability I would have avoided them as well. I know I shouldn’t be admitting that in this county. But I’m counting on the fact that my neighbors are out in the field, not sitting in front of their computers, enjoying a coffee with my blog. The news will take a while to reach them.

In the meantime, let’s hear your foolproof, or perhaps even foolhardy, methods of gopher control.

I leave you with the dialogue of one of my favorite Caddyshack scenes; it doesn’t involve gophers, but it’s a memorable scene in which Carl the-ultimate-gopher-getter does his own version of mentally tough visualization in his garage.

“This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the Masters champion . . . He’s on his final hole. He’s about 455 yards away, he’s gonna hit about a 2 iron I think … IT’S IN THE HOLE!”

AQHA Data Reveals Breeding Trends


~ Heraclitus, early Greek philosopher

Photo by Cowgirl Creations

If you need to know where the modern western horse industry is headed, there is no more fitting marker, yardstick or demographic cruncher to give allegiance to than the American Quarter Horse Association. If you don’t believe me, take a moment and reflect upon the trends and changes that have come our way in the past 30 years. The influx of youth into the industry through the show circuits in the 70’s and 80s, the advent of baby boomers and their specific needs through the late 80s and into the next decade, followed by the surge of recreational riding in the 90’s, as that generation retired their show gear.

While the baby boomer generation drove most of these movements, the AQHA serviced those needs. Consider the AQHA Youth World Show, the Select Show and the association’s wildly popular Horseback Riding Program. The AQHA has nurtured every demographic trend which has found its way into the horse industry over the past four decades. It’s foreseen most of them.

Which is why, when the AQHA releases data, those of us who are invested in the western horse industry, tend to pay attention. At the 2010 AQHA Convention in Kissimee, Florida, the AQHA shared with its members, for the first time ever, stallion breeding numbers. That made me sit up. As I looked through the report, the data revealed some interesting trends to come.

Trent Taylor, AQHA treasurer and executive director of operations, noted the 30 years of registration data the AQHA reviewed showed a classic Economics 101 supply-demand curve.

Interpreting these trends also becomes somewhat of a history lesson, as Taylor pointed out that the supply-demand inclines and declines can be directly attributed to the repeal of the favorable equine tax law in the 1980s; oil prices that hit highs in 1981 and 2007, and lows in 1988, 1994 and 1998; stock market record highs from the late 199s to 2007; and the closing of horse slaughter plants in 2007.

“There are also other factors that affected the supply and demand of our horses,” Taylor added, “including implementation of the AQHA Incentive Fund and the Racing Challenge, alliances formed with other equine organizations, pari-mutuel wagering, and registration rule changes such as embryo transfers, the use of cooled and frozen semen, the registration of multiple embryo foals and the repeal of the white rule.”

Taylor also believes that the trends point out that members of the industry must uphold quality selective breeding standards.

“There are opportunities to the thoughtful breeder who can look to the future,” Taylor added. “We must accept the changing world we are all living in. And yes, we face many challenges as an industry, but there are also many opportunities for the organization and the individual that is willing to invest in a horse that has brought us to this point and will take us into the future.”

“This is the first time we have reported our stallion breeding numbers in this nature,” said AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway Jr. “Historically, we have reported registrations completed during the year. That includes weanlings to 4-year-olds. To gain a different perspective and look for trends, we looked at the number of registered foals by foaling year in hope of giving our members more information to make decisions.”

“Our purpose in doing this is to provide as much information as possible, in a timely manner, so our members can make knowledgeable breeding decisions based on accurate statistics,” Treadway added. “After reviewing these reports, breeders have the opportunity to analyze future markets for prospective foals with more information than they have previously had available.”

Here are some of the slides from the presentation:

In early 2008, when it was obvious that the United States economy was beginning to tank, business owners began taking a good, hard look at their numbers. AQHA was no different. The AQHA Executive Committee, along with the AQHA Investment Oversight Committee and members of the AQHA staff looked at past American Quarter Horse industry trends, hoping those examples would help them predict when the economy might start climbing back out of the hole it fell into.

In 2009, AQHA’s completed registrations for American Quarter Horses of any age totaled 112,005.

To view the entire Powerpoint presentation, go to

To view the 2009 AQHA Annual Report with more statistical data, visit You can also find the 2008 and 2007 Annual Reports at the link.

A Lesson with Marcy

Today I got to sit in briefly on a lesson at NRHA Open Futurity Reserve Champion Marcy Ver Meer’s barn, Bar Double C Ranch. In Ver Meer’s program, every part of the rider’s body is analyzed for its efficiency. From the rider’s rein hand, to the elbow, to the hips, knees, and lower leg: they all have a role to play in cueing the horse.

Ver Meer explains that being an effective rider means you only use the body parts you need to cue your horse, without overemphasizing too much with your body.

Horses can be amazingly light creatures, when the rider is very conscious of how he or she is sitting, or using their hips, or picking up on the reins, or applying the lower leg to the horse’s barrel.

Scenes at Bar Double C Ranch.

“Ride deep in saddle and open up your pelvis wide through your belly, so you can sit deep. Always remember – sit deep and wide. That will enable you to ride with your hamstrings and not just your inner thighs,” she says. Ver Meer also elaborates that from the knee down, you want to concentrate on making your legs as long as possible so your heels can go down and get below the horse’s belly, keeping your spurs from hitting the horse unintentionally.

“Most of the time, I’ll cue with my achilles heel or lower calf because that’s all I need. I don’t cue with my spur unless I’m chastising or correcting the horse,” she says.

When sitting correctly, the rider should feel their butt bones or “pin” bones as they are often referred to, in constant contact with the saddle seat. And when you have to drive the horse up into the bridle, your pockets should end up rolling underneath you to make you stronger and more effective. One analogy Ver Meer uses with her students is to try and get the rider to lope around and hold their knees off of the saddle until the point at which “daylight can be seen between the legs and the saddle.” It should feel as though the rider is floating around on the horse’s back.

And just because it’s Tuesday and I feel like it, the first 3 people who send in their comments to this post will win a lovely Ver Meer hat. Adorning Marcy’s 230 score and her “Ride Like A Girl” motto, chapeaus like this are certain to turn heads.

Shootin’ Stars at NRBC

Yesterday, April 12, things started heating up in Katy, TX. And I’m not just talking about Houston humidity. In the Non-Pro preliminaries, Kim Dooley of Scottsdale, AZ, turned up the heat and scored a 220 to take the lead.

With another section and a finals round left to go, the champion of the Non-Pro division remains to be seen. But in the meantime, I thought I would post behind-the-scenes shots I’ve been collecting a little differently.

If a picture’s worth a 1,000 words, this video should total at least 39,800…

Enjoy. And as always, let me know what you think!

My Visit to Polo Ranch

Boonlight Dancer knows when a paparazzo is present.

Recently, Clay, Danielle, Danielle’s husband Wade, and I had the opportunity to visit Polo Ranch in Marietta, Oklahoma. Polo Ranch is home to the stallions Gallo Del Cielo “Rooster”, Soula Jule Star and Boonlight Dancer.

Danielle makes friends with a hybrid dog/wolf at Polo Ranch.

One of the stallion managers, Shane Wilson, kindly spent the time with us to pull out each of the boys and show us what they looked like away from their stalls. Even fresh out of bed, the stallions were perfect gentlemen.

Soula Jule Star.

With a foal by Soula Jule Star expected from our herd later this spring, we were super excited to see what he looked like up close. His conformation did not disappoint and he proved to be quite a character. We like horses with personality.

With only 29 performers, Soula Jule Star’s offspring have earned $732,099.

On the note of breeding, Wilson offered us this little piece of advice: if you’re producing foals to ride, they can be born later in the year. But if you’re producing them to sell, they really should be early babies. Gaining an advantage with January, February, or March AQHA papers may help you as a breeder, meet the demands of the performance horse market.

Soula Jule Star’s brand.

However, early-in-the-year foals are not often feasible for Canadian horse folk and that’s why they can sometimes be the subject of “colorful” discussion amongst breeders. While Clay and I appreciated Wilson’s honest advice, the stallion manager did offer this ironic tidbit: if you look at the statistics, most Kentucky Derby winners are March / April babies.

This guy needs no introduction. Rooster, sire of offspring earning $4.3 Million.

Wilson also brought up the notion that there are some people who of the opinion that a mare’s first foal is always her best. And as she gets older, she doesn’t produce as well anymore.

Yet he reminded us that if you take a look at Secretariat’s dam – she was 18 when she had him!

Rooster - Gallo Del Cielo (Peppy San Badger x Doc’s Starlight).

The Polo ranch stallions have sired multiple champions in cutting, reining and reined cow horse events. All are ranked by Equi-Stat as leading sires. And I can tell you from personal experience, Polo Ranch staff are extremely helpful and accommodating if you are trying to ship semen to your mare in Canada.

NRBC Behind the Scenes

Tracer Gilson, Al Kuenzli and Matt and Ryan Mills enjoy a sushi and tepanyaki dinner. Photo by Tricia Hamilton.

So things are well underway at the 2010 NRBC in Katy, TX. And despite the fact that the world’s best of the best reining horses and riders are here and there’s a lot of money up for grabs, there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear – this show has been designed to provide a fun and amiable atmosphere for all. Even newbies like myself!

Dell Hendricks.

Competitors are offered ample arena and warm-up time, which allows for a less rushed atmosphere. (I am ecstatic about that part, as I am now all caught on my sleep!)

Cheryl Mitchell works on turns with Duane Latimer.

Watching the warm-ups are half of the benefit of being here. There’s lots that can be learned from the sidelines. Many people to watch and possibly, absorb some tips from the world’s elite.

Andrea Fappani - 2009 NRBC Open Champion.

There are a lot of happenings in the warm-up pen…

What’s going on Lance? Why are you on the ground? <grin>

There’s also an opportunity to take a peak at some fine up-and-coming prospects.

Or, if you’re like me, you might get a kick out of watching some cutie-patooties!

Classes officially start tomorrow and each day this coming week, the NRBC Show Committee has scheduled fun activities to take part in. Today for example, features Reiner’s Golf at Cinco Ranch Golf Course. (My golf record is on the green in 1, 9 puts to get it in the hole, so I didn’t sign up…) Tonight there is a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament and on Tuesday evening, Randy Paul will perform at the Platinum Performance NRBC Welcome Party. On Thursday night, McQuay Stables are sponsoring the Open Draw Party where all Open Finalists will draw with a NRBC commemorative finalist wine glass and vote for their finals judges!

You can also join NRBC on Facebook or subscribe to the NRBC Slide Street E-Journal by sending your e-dress to Savannah Howell at:

Farm & Ranch Performance Horse Sale


Story & Photos by Darla Rathwell

Misty Boy Rose

The Farm & Ranch Show on April 10 featured the Performance Horse Sale, a sale of 24 of today’s top ranch, rodeo, penning and show horses to fit buyers’ needs.  This year’s high selling horse was six-year-old AQHA palomino gelding Misty Boy Rose sired by Chex Bueno Doc out of Go Misty Rose, consigned by Tyler Patten of Buck Lake, Alberta. This gelding was purchased by Todd Halina of Spruce Grove, Alberta for $9,200. After being to the preview just the day before, Halina had his eye on his new roping horse and had no intention of letting this golden opportunity pass him by.

CW Prime Whisky

Second highest seller at the sale, the flashy and well broke nine-year-old AQHA buckskin gelding CW Prime Whisky sired by Sunquest Whisky Hill out of Sheza Ollie, and consigned by Linn Jensen, sold for $6,400.

BSF Short Lil Wil

Following up was BSF Short Lil Wil, who has been ranch roped off and earned money in ranch cutting at Alberta Reined Cow Horse Association shows, consigned by Clayton Hines; and Royal Badger Lynx, consigned by Get-R-Done Horse Training, ridden by trainer Kody Potts, a horse that will earn a cheque for his purchaser either heading or heeling. Each of these remarkable horses brought their consigner’s $6,000.

Royal Badger Lynx

A Day at the Shoot

What I like most about photo shoots is the complete absence of responsibilities I have. For the most part, all I really need to do is show up and thank everyone for coming. Apparently I can keep this job for as long as I like.

This year, however, I decided to step out of my box and have my own photo shoot at our annual fashion shoot. For this project, I chose a highly technical and sophisticated camera. My iphone. The photos you see here are taken with a mod little iphone application called the Hipstamatic.

Yes, that really is the Lone Ranger. Well actually, not. It’s better than the Lone Ranger, it’s John Scott, head of John Scott Motion Picture Animal Productions, and on whose ranch we’ve been allowed to conduct this year’s fashion shoot.

This place represents dream territory for a photo shoot. Not only because the ranch is set in the Alberta foothills with a stunning – and on this day sparkling snow-capped – Rocky Mountain backdrop, but John Scott’s ranch has provided the real-life western landscape of many a Hollywood movie. In fact, John has been involved in three Academy award winning movies filmed in Alberta, including Days of Heaven, Legends of the Fall and Unforgiven. Many a scene has been shot right on the ground I’m standing on and the land is populated with some impressive sets such as the buildings above.

And this General Store.

I love the patina on this building. I’d like that on my barn. John, may I take this building home?

Photo shoots are a lot like horse shows. Hurry up and wait.

This leaves time for everyone to stop and smell the roses. Hey look, it’s a crocus, the first of the year.

This is Travis Rogers, our fantastically talented photographer. He’s looking out onto a herd of buffalo, where the next set of photos are to be taken. That slight appearance of concern might be traced directly back to John relating to him we could have had horses in this set, but two of the female buffalo are prone to charging.

Yes, I took this photo from inside the truck. I didn’t want to startle the herd, is all.

That’s model Sandy Hansma to the right. She was conducting her own photo shoot at the photo shoot as well. I think the gal on the left might have been a technical director and is quite likely wringing her hands and praying Sandy doesn’t forget herself and scuff up the outfit she’s wearing for the next shot.

And this is Command Central at the photo shoot. Hair and make-up. Six talented and lovely gals from MC College in Calgary came out to make the models look like a million bucks. Not that they didn’t already. Those gals did a fabulous job.

Thanks gals! Y’all come back next year!

Walking towards me is Donna Andersen, one of two leads on this shoot. Donna and Deanna Paulsen had most every detail organized, and each outfit meticulously co-ordinated. Running on time relaxes everyone, makes for a fun day and leaves room for little mishaps such as loading the entire photography crew in the wrong truck. Those darn white Fords all look alike, don’t they? I’m going to hold a contest later this week to see if you can guess who might have been behind that. Hint: she may be in the photo above.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into our fashion shoot day, and hope you’ll join us for the real deal – complete with fabulous photography, an array of real-life western riders stepping out as models, and stylish fashion and jewelry, all in the June issue of Western Horse Review.

Enroute to NRBC

So we headed out over 24 hours ago from Phoenix, Arizona, to Katy, Texas. And honestly, I can’t even tell you how long the actual driving part was – I tried very hard to sleep in the truck. Unsuccessfully, I must admit. And I am so bagged at the moment that you will have to forgive any spelling errors you find in this blog entry. For some reason I’m not getting any sympathy from my husband – who did most of the driving. Or from Jim and Andrea Anderson of Strathmore, Alberta, Canada – who drove 54 hours to get to Katy.

Regardless, while it’s all fresh in my mind, I figured I should upload and share the trip with you. In and amongst my regular scheduled blogging, I’ll be back throughout the coming week with updates and pictures from the 2010 National Reining Breeders Classic.

All horses traveling from Arizona to Texas require health papers. So early in the morning on April 7, Clay and I picked up the papers that would allow Clay’s show horse “Bob”, aka Whiz N Starlight, to head towards the NRBC. Then towing a trailer full to the brim of hay and show supplies, we headed over to pick up friend, Tricia Hamilton and her horses. We left Scottsdale, AZ, at approximately 1 pm. Our trip took us through Tucson and Dragoon and past a strange tourist attraction called “The Thing.” Unfortunately we had no time to stop. Even though I would have loved to see a mummified body… <smile>

In addition to spare tires and a roadside emergency kit, something we now also travel with is our EquiPass membership. Since we spend so much time on the highway, EquiPass gives us peace of mind on long hauls. Providing AQHA members with 24/7 emergency roadside assistance, EquiPass is now available in Canada, as well at the USA and offers unlimited towing, tire assistance, delivery of fuel or emergency fluids, locksmith service and unlimited mobile mechanic dispatchment.  Plus, we can put both of our trucks (a Mini-Freightliner and a dually) and all of our trailers (ours range from 2-8 horses) on the plan.

EquiPass also guarantees that your horses won’t be left behind on the highway – they will dispatch a qualifed service provider to tow a truck and trailer unless it cannot be safely used to transport horses. In which case alternative transportation arrangements for the horses would be made through EquiPass’s Equestrian Concierge line. This, and the fact that EquiPass now operates in Canada were our 2 biggest reasons for getting a membership.

So back to our NRBC trip. Next we went through El Paso. And we dipped very low, almost touching the Mexican border.

Our GPS showed us exactly how close we were to Mexico. According to an '09 article in the Houston Chronicle, Juárez is "the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones."

Then we came through a mandatory truck stop. At first we thought it was a regular weigh station, but something about this one seemed different…

Once at the inspection station, border guards with dogs stopped our rig and ask us where we’re going. They asked us if we had identification to prove our nationality and since we did, we were sent through.

Clay didn’t think it was appropriate for me to take pictures of the guards…

By the next morning, we had hit San Antonio. And while it would have been pretty awesome to stop in a take a look at the Alamo, we had horses on board. Plus a show to get to.

It truly was a beautiful morning but after so much time on the road, the horses were ready to get into stalls, Clay was ready to set up our tack stall and I was ready for a nap.

With rigs like this everywhere you look, it can only mean one thing: a reining is about to happen!

The NRBC is held at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, TX. The facility is phenomenal and features many riding and exercising areas. During its 7-day stint, the show offers several varying classes occurring simultaneously in two separate arenas.

The NRBC has become an integral event for reiners because of the opportunities it presents for 4, 5 and 6-year-old horses. It also gives riders and owners international exposure and a chance at top prize money.

In fact, in its first 11 shows, the NRBC has paid out over $10 Million to competitors. The Breeders Classic has always strived to offer rewarding purses to competitors that also pay deep into the placings and as such, the NRBC is the largest added money reining event in history.

Tracer Gilson of Gilson Performance Horses, Scottsdale, AZ.

Since this was my first time attending the NRBC, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. However, the friendliness and accommodating nature of show organizers absolutely blew me away. Chris Potter of Pro Management helped me get our entries organized, find a hotel and answered every single question I had – altogether there were probably about 50 in separate emails and phone messages.

Clay aboard Whiz N Starlight and Andrea Anderson, with her adorable "Socks" puppy.

And upon arrival, we met up with some familiar faces…

Jim Anderson in one of the beautiful outdoor warm-up pens.

Jesse Beckley of Cranbrook, BC & Cheryl Mitchell of Edmonton, AB. Cheryl was trying very hard to get out of my picture!

Brad Giesbrecht & Clay chat in the warm-up ring.

But that’s not all. Check out for more information about the show. Please note, I am not an official NRBC show coverage representative, however I will do my best to blog various results and post scenes from the event throughout April 12-18 – in addition to regular blogging. Stay tuned and good luck to all exhibitors!