Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Super Bowl Clydesdales

The best part of the Super Bowl is the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials.  Don't you agree?  I have blogged about them before, but perhaps a refresher course is in order so when the  commercial comes on you can enlighten your guests about the facts of these wonderful animals.  And haven't they branded the famous A-B brewery in a positive way?  We can thank the Busch family for that. They have supported horses for years. 

Hitch Requirements: To qualify for one of the traveling hitches, a Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding at least four years of age, stand 72 inches at the shoulder when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, have a bay coat,four white legs,a white blaze, and a black mane and tail.

Feed: Each hitch horse will consume as much as 20 to 25 quarts of whole grains, minerals and vitamins, 50 to 60 pounds of hay, and 30 gallons of water per day.

Hitch Locations: The Budweiser Clydesdales can be viewed at the Anheuser-Busch breweries in St. Louis, Mo., Merrimack, N.H., and Ft. Collins, Colo. They also may be viewed at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis and at Warm Springs Ranch, the 300-plus acre Clydesdale breeding farm located near Boonville, Mo.

Clydesdale Operations: Based in St. Louis, Mo., Clydesdale Operations is responsible for maintaining and scheduling the traveling hitches. Thousands of requests for the “gentle giants” are received each year. Events are typically requested and sponsored in part by the local Anheuser-Busch wholesaler. Each request is evaluated on the type of event, dates, and history of appearances in that particular area.

Stables: The official home of the Budweiser Clydesdales is an ornate brick and stained-glass stable built in 1885 on the historic 100-acre Anheuser-Busch brewery complex in St. Louis. The building is one of three located on the brewery grounds that are registered as historic landmarks by the federal government.

Handlers: Expert groomers travel on the road with the hitch. They are on the road at least 10 months every year. When necessary, one handler provides around-the-clock care for the horses, ensuring their safety and comfort.

Transport: Ten horses, the famous red, white, and gold beer wagon and other essential equipment are transported in three 50-foot tractor-trailers. Cameras mounted in the trailers are connected to monitors in the cabs that enable the drivers to keep a watchful eye on their precious cargo during transport. The team stops each night at local stables so the “gentle giants” can rest. Air-cushioned suspension and thick rubber flooring in the trailers ease the rigors of traveling.

Drivers: Driving the combined 12 tons of wagon and horses requires expert skill and physical strength. The 40 pounds of lines held by the driver plus the tension of the horses pulling creates a weight of over 75 pounds. Hitch drivers endure a lengthy training process before they assume the prestigious role of “Budweiser Clydesdale Hitch Driver.”

Harness: Each harness and collar weighs approximately 130 pounds. The harness is handcrafted with solid brass, patent leather, and stitched with pure linen thread. The harness is made to fit any Clydesdale; however, collars come in various sizes and must be individually fitted to the Clydesdale like a finely tailored suit.

Names: Duke, Captain, Mark, and Bud are just a few of the names given to the Budweiser Clydesdales. Names are kept short to make it easier for the driver to give commands to the horses during a performance.

Horseshoes: Clydesdale horseshoes measure more than 20 inches from end to end and weigh about 5 pounds which is more than twice as long and five times as heavy as the shoe worn by a light horse. A horse’s hoof is made of a nerveless, horn-like substance similar to the human fingernail so being fitted for shoes affects the animal no more than a manicure affects people.

Wagon: Turn-of-the-century beer wagons have been meticulously restored and are kept in excellent repair. The wagons are equipped with two braking systems: a hydraulic pedal device that slows the vehicle for turns and downhill descents, and a hand-brake that locks the rear wheels when the wagon is at a halt.


It's amazing really when you think about how the equestrian lifestyle influences fashion and decor. I am thinking beyond Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Hermes.  When you stop and think about it, you'll see what I mean.

All photos are from Pinterest.  

In for some more crazy weather here in Virginia today.  Battening down the hatches. Stay safe!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Po's Point Needlepoint Giveaway Winner

We have a winner! Roseann Thompson will be stitching away real soon, creating something fabulous with the fox needlepoint canvas from Po's Point Needlepoint. Congratulations!  Roseann now lives in New Mexico but started out East, attending college in Massachusetts (where she also rode horses).  She came to New Mexico to further her studies in Geology and now works for the New Mexico Environment Department.  She has a mini-ranch with her husband Eric where you can find cats, dogs, chickens, a parrot, and of course, horses. 

Hopefully, Roseann will share her completed canvas with us when she finishes it. Congratulations and happy stitching!  And remember, Po's Point is offering  a 15 percent discount to all HCC readers through the end of February.  You can go to the web site here.  Just use the code horsecou (all lowercase) at checkout. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Linus the Loaner

A very sweet rider who is a legend in her own right (let's just say I am glad I'm too old to ride against her), lent me her lovely retired show pony, Linus, to babysit Baby April during her stall rest and confinement which started in early December.  I must say that I am in love with this adorable pony.  He is 19 or 20 now, but his horse show manners are fully in tact and he is just the sweetest little guy ever.  Nothing phases him. 

Here is a photo of Linus during his show years:

He has this adorable trot and he is an eater (so he fits in well with my crew).  He stays inside much of the day with April but gets to go out in the morning and later in the afternoon when I ride. In about two weeks he'll be able to spend his days outside again when April goes on outside "stall rest."

Here is his owner, during her pony days, where she won everything; she is still winning by the way, taking all of the Adult Amateur honors in Virginia this year (and beyond):

Here is Linus today, with his long fur and his little tiny Rambo (at least compared to April's).  He is such a joy, I am lucky to have "Linus the Loaner" at least for a few months.  We will really miss him when he has to go back to his real home.  He has on two layers right now, even though he is a furry guy.  We may hit 30 today.  Feels like a heatwave!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Shetland Pony Grand National

You may be familiar with the famous horse race in the UK, the Grand National, made famous by Liz Taylor in National Velvet eons ago.  Well, you might not know about the Shetland Pony Grand National. Yes, that's right, there is a beecher's brook for the ponies. 

(BBC photo)

Riders and ponies compete throughout the country for the 10 slots available to compete at the famed London International Horse Show at Olympia in December. 

(BBC photo)

The Ponies and Jockeys of the SPGN come from all over the country and from as far afield as the Shetland Isles in the North, and Devon in the South. At the start of the SPGN season combinations of jockey and pony attend Trial Days, where their riding skills and ability to race are assessed. If they meet the required standards they are then invited to race with the SPGN. Throughout the Season Ponies and Jockeys travel the length and breadth of the country racing at different county shows and equestrian events in hot pursuit of only ten slots. 

Who knew?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lady Liz Whitney of Llangollen

Mary Elizabeth Whitney Person Tippett, born Mary Elizabeth Altemus, in 1906, was a well-known American socialite who loved and owned horses. She was an accomplished horse show rider who later became a very successful owner and breeder of race horses. Liz graced the cover of the Middleburg Classic prize list a few years back:

 She was born in Pennsylvania to a wealthy textile business owner and a 1939 Time magazine article described her as "a spirited, devil-may-care rider who has been winning ribbons on the horse show circuit for 15 years."

In 1930 she married Jock Whitney, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune and later U.S. Ambassador to Britain.  For a wedding present he purchased Llangollen, a sprawling estate in Upperville, Virginia, just down the road from Middleburg.  While they divorced in 1940, Liz kept the estate and $3 million.  She lived at the estate until she died in 1988 of cancer at 82.  The property was sold in 1989 for $7 to Roy L. Ash of Litton Industries farm who saved it from developers. The estate was sold again in 2007 after a complete renovation for an astounding $22 million which included about 1100 acres. When Whitney owned the farm it was closer to 4000 acres. Today the farm is in conservation easement.

The estate is impressive and it sits on a knoll facing east but you see it for miles.  The house has 19 rooms.

Here is a photo of the house taken around 1920 or so. Looks a lot different then:

Llangollen, which in Welsh means land's end, also has eight smaller homes where farm workers and grounds keepers lived and six barns, including one shaped like a horseshoe and another that was used as a dairy barn.  The house was built in the 1700's and among those who visited the farm in the early days were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. 

 ( photos)

Whitney entertained the rich and the famous at her estate including Bing Crosby, Eddie Accaro and Prince Aly Khan among others.  According to writer Vicky Moon, Whitney hosted wild hunt balls and often brought her favorite horse into the mansion's great room.  She had thirty-five dogs and was a real animal lover all of her life.   

Liz successfully bred and raced numerous horses during her lifetime. Among the most successful (of which there were many) was Porterhouse - 1953 Champion 2-year-old colt. He won the Belmont Futurity Stakes, San Carlos Handicap (1955, 1956), Santa Barbara Handicap (1956), defeated Swaps in the 1956 Californian Stakes. Liz also bred Sherluck, winner of the 1961 Belmont Stakes.

Whitney a posthumous inductee into the Virginia Thoroughbred Association's Hall of Fame in 2004.

The Late, Great and Relatively Unknown Ben O'Meara

At dinner last night with a group of my horse show friends (we all know each other through horse shows) we talked about a lot of different topics. One that came up was Jacks or Better.  One of the gang is a horse show judge and she had recently seen a jumper named Jacks or Better but the owner had not known that there was once a famous jumper by that same name.

Then Ben O'Meara came up.  Bet you never heard of him either?

Born in 1938, Ben O'Meara started in the horse world as a groom and blacksmith in Brooklyn. A self-taught rider, he first attracted attention in the show ring with a top performance at the 1961 National Horse Show aboard his horse, P.D. a police department failure. Aboard Jacks Or Better, O'Meara captured the PHA Championship in 1962 (at the time one of the top honors in the horse world) and that same year tied for the National Horse Show Jumper Championship with Kathy Kusner and Unusual.

A progressive figure who invented a number of riding techniques still used today, O'Meara helped forge strong links between professional rider/trainers and the USET at a time when many pros regarded the USET with uncertainty. A strong Team supporter, several of his horses competed for the Team after they had been sold. Jacks Or Better, for example, won the Grandprix of Aachen with Neal Shapiro, and Untouchable went to the Tokyo and Mexico City Olympics with Kathy Kusner.

O'Meara produced many winners; he developed the horse, Silver Lining, and sold Good Twist to Frank Chapot as a 3-year-old. He also had a number of show ring victories aboard The Hood, including the Jumper Championship at the National Horse Show, and Grey Lady. O'Meara began the 1966 season with wins in Florida aboard Gone Flying. Tragically his career ended when he was killed in a plane crash on April 16, 1966 at the age of 27. Later that year Gone Flying won the National Horse Show Jumper Championship with Barney Ward in the irons.

In the few photos that seem to be out there, Benny rarely wears a helmet, how politically incorrect is that?  That was a different age.....

“Most of the horses O’Meara dealt with were hot Thoroughbreds off the race track; many had never jumped a fence before he acquired them.

“If a horse survived his training (and it was a hard test), he was quite a good horse. He taught his horses to learn to "fend for himself, to be quick in front and good behind, to get very round, and above all to concentrate on his fences."  (George Morris is a big fan of Benny and the above quotes come from him).   It was amazing that Ben O’Meara could produce jumper after jumper for the show ring in a matter of weeks. Even though they were still very green, they were bold, brave and extremely careful, and they’d win. A long string of O’Meara’s horses eventually jumped for the U. S. Equestrian team, including the great Untouchable, Jacks or Better, and others.” George feels that had O’Meara lived ‘his ideas would have leveled out and become less extreme.’

It's sad that O'Meara died at such a young age. Just think of what else he might have achieved.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Of Gardens and Libraries...

It's hard to stay motivated this time of year when the weather gets lousy, the Christmas bills have emptied your bank account, it's too cold to ride and spring seems as though it is an eternity from now.   So what can you do to get motivated and excited this dreary time of year?

Well, I'm a real believer in the quote above.  Makes a lot of sense.  Reading is a simple pleasure and there's nothing better than a warm cat in your lap while reading a great book. I just finished this one last night:

Maugham is my favorite writer and this was a book I had not read before. He is dark, sinister, but his characterization is wonderful and his insight into human behavior, well, let's just say he nails it every time.  Not everyone will like him. Some other suggestions:

I'm somewhat of a literary snob and like to read classic fiction, mostly from older writers. Wallace Stegner is another favorite.  Tell me what are you reading right now? 

Another method of motivation is planning a garden. I am hoping that I will go through with it this year.  I have books, magazines, catalogs, and a great sunny spot all picked out.  Now all I have to do is plan it. Would love it if my garden would like something like this when I am done:

Going with the raised beds idea for sure.  A fence around it would be nice, would define it and keep the deer and skunks out:

They have some old iron fence at an antique store here, saw it on Saturday......

I even have a shed that is big and empty but has no power:

 How are you motivating yourself to achieve this cold late January? 
(all photos are from Pinterest)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Primer on Needlepoint Belts

Some readers have shown an interest lately in needlepoint belts so here are few from my collection. The aqua one is my most recent creation and I am wearing it a lot. 

I wear the hunt scene belt the most, followed by the one with the pink background on the bottom. The leopard belt is worn the least. 

I send mine to a place in Middleburg, Virginia for finishing. These belts will last a lifetime and you can have them extended (with longer leather tabs) and I have seen some old ones go back in for re-backing.  I have never come close to that kind of use and abuse but it is possible. And you can also send these to the dry cleaner if they get really dirty. But just a recommendation, don't use a light color for the background and that problem will solve itself.

Stitching a belt, much like a Christmas ornament, is an easy and somewhat quick way to create a needlepoint piece.  When you are stitching the bigger projects, like a rug or the handbag I am currently working on, it is nice to have something that you can complete in a relatively short period of time.  I like stitching belts on either 14 or 18. 18 canvas looks the best but it is harder on the eyes.

The photo is below are belts for my hubby. The plaid one you can do in any color and you can also add initials to it.  The fox one has his initials in the middle of the back.

Some of the belts above are in wool, cotton or silk and ivory. It is more of a personal preference. Sometimes I mix the threads. Silk and cotton tend to get dirtier than wool or silk and ivory.  Sometimes I use whatever threads I have in my own inventory.

The ladies at or Po's Point can assist you in selecting colors, canvases, threads, needles and anything else.  They can also send the belt off to the finisher when completed.  It's really pretty easy.  And the belts are backed in leather.

Happy stitching. It's going to be bitter cold here this week so we are readying (sigh) for some really frigid temperatures later on. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More Equestrian Decor - Bit by Bit

Winter is a great time to seek and find those little tidbits that make your house into a "home" but also gets you those little elements of style that make the difference. I love finding those little "somethings" that don't have to cost much that bring more style into the home, the "equestrian" style just comes over time.

 Most of the elements in this photo below (from Pinterest) can be found at an antique mall, for not a lot of money:  old books, vintage trophy, fox hunting prints, and an old clock. 

Adding some pillows is an easy trick. As you know, I love needlepoint but here is one that speaks a bit Hermes, a bit newer style, love the orange, goes with everything.

Santa brought me this compote which is now in my kitchen filled with ivy and moss. It looks old to me. The colors are broad, goes with everything!

This is a great idea.  Little touches like these go a long way.  Took an old piece of jewelry, added a piece of cording that you can buy at Calico Corners and voila, a plan old drapery looks quite elegant.

An old trunk makes a great coffee table or end table.  Love the surcingles.  Makes it very "equestrian."

Another easy touch.

You can use an old doorknocker in many places, not just a door!

Add a few vintage trophies from the antique mall to your bookshelf, to your bar, on a table. Fill them with flowers in the spring.  

I love this!  A nice subtle touch!

(photos from Pinterest)

These little touches can add up to a lot of impact and you don't have to spend a lot of money.  Keep your eye on the lookout. It's out there!  Happy Sunday!
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