Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Little Old Dog Sanctuary: Happily Ever After by Hope Morgan & Erik Jauch

“Made me laugh and cry!”

“Dog lovers, this is a great book and one you will enjoy.”
– Mile High Dog Magazine

Little Old Dog Sanctuary - Happily Ever After
by Hope Morgan  (Author), Erik Jauch (Author)

Once an animal comes through the front door of Little Old Dog Sanctuary, they enter a Utopian, free-range Rocky Mountain Shangri-La where napping is a competitive sport, potty training is optional and the record for guarding a Milk-Bone by carrying it your mouth everywhere you go stands at 13 hours. Along with the opportunity to continue living, the dogs also get dignity, respect, blankets, beds, toys, medicine, friends, amazing food and copious amounts of unconditional love. And of course they get treats. Lots and lots of treats.

The book also reveals that the one true secret to happiness is having a grumpy, old Chihuahua. Whoops. Is it too late to say “Spoiler Alert?”

Funny, touching and inspirational, the stories about the Sanctuary are both guilt and fat free. Indulge yourself!

About the Author
Hope Morgan has been rescuing and caring for old, sick dogs for most of her life. In addition to sharing her wisdom about "everything dog," Hope's art has appeared in numerous galleries and magazines.

Hope and Erik met in High School and then went their separate ways. 20 years later, they re-connected, got married, and dedicated their lives to saving and caring for disenfranchised, neglected, rejected and discarded dogs together.

Our Mission
We rescue little old dogs from shelters and bring them to our Sanctuary where they live out the remainder of their lives (whether it be days, weeks, months or years) in a super-awesome dog Utopia. Think Fantasy Island meets Green Acres.

Sunday, January 15, 2017 Stand Out from the Herd!

Professional Horse Graphics
Customize Your Logo!

About Us
A little info on and its owner Joni Solis…

I started on the Internet back in about 2001 with (which is still online), a website with original horse paintings and artwork for sale. Then people started contacting me about designing horse logos for their businesses. specializes in horse logos and graphics for horse related businesses. I offer professional and affordable horse art designs that you can use for...
  • Self printing from your computer and printer
  • Commercial printing for your business cards, brochures, and stallion flyers
  • On your website and in your emails
  • Screen printed or vinyl cut business signs, decals, and advertising banners
  • Embroidered or Screen printed on Tee shirts, caps, jackets, etc... and any other item you can stamp, etch, stencil, carve, etc...

My horse logo clients are now international -- from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Australia, and other places.

I create professional, custom, horse logos and graphics and give a discount to non-profits like horse rescues. If you have a non-profit in need of my creative services please contact me for more info.

To help smaller animals/pets I foster dogs and puppies for several pet rescue organizations. I also help out at local pet adoption and fundraising events, help with computer stuff (cross-posting and social networking), take photos of the pets that need rehoming and rescuing. I have also donated paintings and artwork to different pet rescue groups for fundraising.

You can check out my pet blog here Animal News & Info - South Louisiana Pets In Need Louisiana Dogs, Puppies, Cats, and Kittens needing rescue, adoption, or foster homes. . And I twitter about pets and animals here Animal News & Info.

Richard Carreño, The Philadelphia Junto Visits the Spanish Riding School

Richard Carreño, The Philadelphia Junto Photo: WC News Service

Article used with permission from the Philadelphia Junto, Richard Carreño
February 2015
Subscribe to the Philadelphia Junto for more great articles! Subscribe here!

*** This year is the 450th anniversary of the Spanish Riding School, to be celebrated by a gala scheduled for 7 pm at the nearby Heldenplatz on 26 June and subsequently at the 6th Fete Imperiale. In attendance will be the Royal Andalusian Riding School from Jerez, Spain. ***

VIENNA -- By the time we arrived at Michaelerplatz, during our visit last week, it was already late in the day. We suspected that our visit would be rescheduled for another day.
'No, you're just in time for the last English-language tour,' we were told.
'Where shall we meet?'
'Right here. You're it.'
Not surprisingly that we were only English-speakers really. During our week-long stay in Vienna, we encountered few, if any, other Americans. Few, if any, native English-speaking tourists. Time of the year?
But what especially was a happy result was that we were permitted to take photos, normally banned on public tours. -- Richard Carreño

Thanks to Wikipedia for the following:
The Spanish Riding School (GermanSpanische Hofreitschule) of ViennaAustria, is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses, which perform in the Winter Riding School (Winterreitschule) in theHofburg. Not only is it a centre for classical dressage, the headquarters is a tourist attraction inVienna that offers public performances as well as permitting public viewing of some training sessions. The presentation builds on four centuries of experience and tradition in classical dressage. The leading horses and riders of the school also periodically tour and perform worldwide.

The Spanish Riding School is located betweenMichaelerplatz and Josefsplatz near the Hofburg in central Vienna. Performances take place in the Winter Riding School, built between 1729–1735. The Winter Riding School is a sunlight- flooded hall, mainly white with some beige and light grey, with a portrait of Emperor Charles VI above the royal box and opposite the entrance (to which the riders always salute before they ride), which measures 55 by 18 metres and is 17 metres in height.

The Spanish Riding School also has summer stables in Heldenberg-Wetzdorf-Lower Austria. The 68 resident stallions are taken there in July and August for seven weeks, where they are kept in stalls withpaddocks. The horses are not schooled during this period, but instead are hacked in the nearby forest.

The riding school was first named during the Habsburg Monarchy in 1572, long before the French manege of Antoine de Pluvinel, and is the oldest of its kind in the world.[1] Records show that a wooden riding arena was first commissioned in 1565, but it wasn't until 1729 that Emperor Charles VI commissioned the architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach to build the white riding hall used today. Prior to that time, the School operated from a wooden arena at the Josefsplatz. For a time, the riding hall was used for various ceremonies, but it is now open to the public, who may witness the training and performances by the stallions.

The Spanish Riding School was named for the Spanish horses that formed one of the bases of the Lipizzanbreed, which is used exclusively at the school. Today the horses delivered to the Spanish Riding School are bred at the Piber Federal Stud located near the village of Piber in western StyriaAustria. One of the original studs used to develop the breed was Lipizza, now called Lipica, near Trieste in modernSlovenia, which gave its name to the breed.

The Spanish Riding School has antecedents in military traditions dating as far back as Xenophon inAncient Greece, and particularly from the military horsemanship of the post-medieval ages when knights attempted to retain their battlefield preeminence by shedding heavy armor and learning to maneuver quickly and with great complexity on a firearms-dominated battlefield.[2]

Traditionally, Lipizzaners at the school have been trained and ridden wholly by men, although the Spanish Riding School states that there has never been an official ban on women. In October 2008, two women, an 18-year-old from the United Kingdom and a 21-year-old from Austria, passed the entrance exam and were accepted to train as riders at the school - the first women to do so in 436 years.[3]

The methods used by the Riding School are based on François Robichon de la Gueriniere. It is a common myth that the movements were developed to aid in battle; in fact, they were used to strengthen the war horse's body and mind and make him a supreme athlete, not to actually attack. All movements are based on those naturally performed by the horse when at liberty, with the exception of one-tempi changes.

The stallions are taught in three stages:

1.                  Remontenschule: ("forward riding") This stage begins when the horse is first brought to the Spanish Riding School as a 4-year-old. The stallion is taught to be saddled and bridled, and is started on the longe to teach him the aids, to improve his obedience, and to strengthen his muscles in preparation for a rider. Work on the longe includes transitions between the walk, trot, and canter, and changes of tempo within the gait, and lasts 2–3 months before a rider is ever placed on the animal's back. After longeing, the horse is ridden in an arena on straight lines, to teach him to respond correctly to the rider's aids while mounted. The main goals during this time are to develop free forward movement in the ordinary (not collected or extended) gaits, with correct contact and on a long rein, and to begin to cultivate straightness. Additionally, the training should have improved the animal's strength and stamina to prepare him for the next stage.
2.                 Campagneschule: ("campaign school") The horse is usually ready for the second stage after a year of riding in the first stage, although this time-frame is always adjusted to the individual horse. Young stallions are always placed with experienced riders during this second stage, to help prevent the development of bad habits due to incorrect work. During this time, he is taught collection, and is ridden in turns and circles at all gaits. The main purpose of this phase is to develop impulsion, improve the natural paces, promote self-carriage, make the horse supple and flexible, and gradually develop the muscles of the horse. The horse will learn to bend correctly in the neck, body, and at the poll as appropriate for his conformation. It is during this time that the majority of training takes place, and the horse learns to shorten and lengthen his gait and perform lateral movements, with most of the work taking place at the trot. This phase requires the most time of the three, generally two-thirds of the total time it takes to produce the "finished" horse. Before the end of this phase, the stallions are introduced to the double bridle, to refine the rider's aids.
3.                 Hohe Schule: ("high school" or Haute Ecole) In this stage, the rider will gradually push the horse to perfection in straightness, contact, suppleness, collection, and impulsion, to produce improved gaits. Through this work, the horse will learn to perform some of the most difficult movements such as pirouettepassagepiaffe and One-Tempi-Changes. Many of the exercises first taught in the Campaign school are utilized in this phase, focusing on the quality of the work and using them to help teach the more difficult exercises. The stallions are then assessed to determine if they are suitable for the demanding "airs above the ground," the final step in their training. Once they are chosen, the horses are taught their most-suitable school jump, first on the ground and then under saddle.

The riders, too, are carefully schooled. They first work on the longe without stirrups and reins on well-trained horses for up to 3 years, to teach a balanced and independent seat. They are then allowed to control the animals themselves, under the eye of an experienced rider, until they can perform the high school movements. With intensive training, this will take 2–4 years. The rider is then allowed to train a young stallion from unbroken up to High School, a process that usually takes 4–6 additional years.

Performances at the Spanish Riding School were originally only presented to guests of the Court, and then when they were finally opened to the general population at the turn of the century, it was only for special occasions. However, after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, the school opened up regular performances to the general public to help pay for its upkeep.

The original performances were quite short, with the chief riders presenting stallions in the High School movements, airs above the ground, work in-hand and exercises on the long rein, and then a Pas de Deux(two horses in mirror image) and a four-rider Quadrille would finish the performance.

The program today has expanded. It begins with the "Young Stallions" which have recently arrived from the stud farm at Piber. They demonstrate the first phase of training, in which the horse moves forward and accepts the aids. The next section is the "All Steps and Movements of the High School" where four fully trained stallions perform each of the movements seen in the Olympic Grand Prix Dressage test, including the flying change, passage, pirouette, and piaffe. The horses are ridden in double bridle, to demonstrate their high level of training. The "Pas De Deux" is then shown, with two horses demonstrating High School movements in mirror image.

The next section is the "Work in Hand", to show how the horses are trained for the school jumps levade,courbette, and capriole, all in-hand. This demonstration includes work on the diagonal, on the wall and between the pillars. All stallions wear a snaffle bridle, cavessonside reins, some on short hand rein, some with a short back longe. All carry the traditional white saddle of the school. Then one stallion is then worked "On the Long Rein", in which a fully trained Lipizzan performs all the movements it would be asked to do under saddle. In this section, the horse wears a red snaffle bridle and a red shabrack(saddlecloth) with the golden coat of arms of the Austrian Empire.

The "Airs Above the Ground" follows; all horses are under saddle, but the riders do not have stirrups. Movements performed include the levadecapriole and courbette. The performance finishes with the "School Quadrille", consisting of 8 riders working in formation at the walk, trot, and canter, with flying changespirouettes, the half pass and the passage. The ride is performed to classical music. Lasting 20 minutes, the School Quadrille of the Spanish Riding School is the longest and most difficult in the world.

All riders wear the traditional uniform: brown tailcoatsbicorne-style hats, white buckskin breeches, white suede gloves, and black top riding boots. Swan neck spurs are also part of the uniform. The empire style uniform (1795–1820 in fashion) has remained relatively unchanged for 200 years.

During performances, the fully trained stallions wear a traditional gold-plated breastplate and crupper, called a Goldzeug. They also carry a "school saddle", which is made from buckskin and larger than the more commonly seen English saddle used by the school when training the stallions and riders. Gold-plated double bridles are only used for performances. All horses, except the young stallions, wear red and gold or green and gold shabracks, or saddlecloths, under the saddle. Red is for "All Steps and Movements of the High School", "Pas de Deux", "On the Long Rein", "The Grand Solo" and "The School quadrille." Green is used for "Work In-Hand" and the "Airs above the Ground". The shabrack is also used to differentiate the status of each rider: the director of the school has three gold bands and gold fringe, the chief riders have three bands and no fringe, riders have two bands, and assistant riders have one.

The young stallions are not exhibited in the same equipment as the more mature animals. They are ridden in a plain snaffle bridle and a simple dressage-style English saddle. For training sessions, black bridles, both snaffle bit bridles and double bridles, are used for all horses.

Horses are clean and well groomed. The Capriole horses wear a braided tail wrapped short in a "queue" (known elsewhere as a "mud tail"), which is fixed with a decorative tail bag (Schweiftasche).

For more photos visit

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Intentional Equestrian An Interview with Avadh Mathrani

The Intentional Equestrian

“Horses are extremely honest beings.
They bring sincerity to the world that no human ever could.”
A.   Mathrani

The Intentional Equestrian
An Interview with Avadh Mathrani
Archived Article: 1st Publication Going Gaited 2012
No duplication without permission

Avadh Mathrani is from Indore, India. As the chief proprietor of Tudo Cavalo Equine Solutions, Avadh keeps busy maintaining stables, staff, and horses. Established in 2008, Tudo Cavalo Equine Solutions has become an award-winning establishment as well as a fun place for equestrians to hang out.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Avadh. The subtle ques beneath the interview resonates with every horse-lover; earthiness, compassion, and the aroma of horses. He’s up late tonight answering my interview questions, thinking about being an intentional equestrian, and why he loves his horses so much.

GM: Avadh, you live in India. Where exactly in India?
AM: I’m originally from a place called Pune, which is this big metro a couple of hours from Bombay (Mumbai) but am currently based in Indore, which is a state of Madhya Pradesh (literally “Middle State”) right in the heart of the country. It’s not as big or as progressive as Pune, but opportunity knocked and there was no way I would have been able to afford in Pune the things I can over here, including the business.

GM: When did you begin riding?
AM: Wow… uhm… I started when I was 11. I never really liked horses to begin with – but my mother wanted to learn how to ride. In those days the only place was the National Defense Academy and the trip there took about an hour and a half. She didn’t want to do it alone, so she dragged me along. Then, a couple of months down the line, she had a fall and quit and for some reason, I just kept on going.

GM: Why do you love horses?
AM: Wow… that’s a tough one. They cost me thousands every month. I have to give up many, many luxuries so that I can have them. They make my home, clothes, and car smell like manure. There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t like them, really. But, seriously, horses have a certain honesty to them that you cannot find in people. Also, sometimes I feel like a bit of an artist – every horse needs a different shade of color and demands a varying stroke. Every horse I have ever known has had a story. I guess what makes me a such a sucker for punishment is the constant need to know that story, and every day I manage to piece together a little bit more of the never-ending puzzle that each animal presents. They are sort of like giant smelly rubix cubes.

GM: How many horses do you have? Are they all Marwari?
AM: Currently, we have 15 horses here in Indore, all of which are riding school types. The centre is still under construction and we have a few more scattered around the country who will join us once we are finished with the process of building the place. None of my horses are Marwari. Everything is off the track or rescued thoroughbreds with the exception of one desi half bred pony.

GM: What do you feed your horses?
AM: Our horses get a pretty simple, but efficient diet. We very carefully map out and balance feed: work ratios and feed regimes are checked and changed (if necessary) once a week. Unfortunately, pasture is not very good here and land is limited. Our horses get a uniform 12 kgs of dry grass (read as: hay) which is usually Bermuda, or I think it is anyway. When the season permits, we supplement this with fresh Lucerne as well.

As for concentrates, we feed cooked barley, cooked corn and wheat bran. We throw in a few traditional herbal supplements to those who require it as well. We have just gotten ourselves a pressure cooker for the barley which does almost 50 kgs in just under three hours – before this we had to cook it for over 14 hours.

GM: Do you hobble your horses as is customary in India?
AM: We never ever hobble our horses, ever. When we go to events or competitions, we carry collapsible stables or have make-shift stalls built before we arrive. I don’t condone pastern tying under any circumstances -whether at home or at shows. I have never owned a pair of hobbles and any of my horses would probably go nuts if someone tried to put something like that on them.

GM: Do you have a favorite or special horse? What makes it special?
AM: That’s a tough one. My thoroughbred, Senor Tango, who died a couple of years ago, was by far my favorite. He was the most collected, calm, relaxed horse I have ever known. He had this ridiculous somber expression on his face and his “worry lines” seemed to be tattooed on. But, for the six odd years that I had him with me, he never once said “No” to any obstacle or backed down from anything. At his peak, that horse jumped close to six foot fences, and you could put a three year old on him right after. He was a hit with my riding students and did well in whatever we tried. Still, he never managed to get that worried expression off his face.

Currently, although I should probably say that my own TB stallion, Saddam, is my favorite – he isn’t. We have a school horse called “MadEye” who has just one eye. There is something about the fact that he is flying over three foot fences with a hole in his head that makes him the best in my stable.

GM: As a seasoned equestrian, do you have a favorite breed of horse?
AM: I’ve ridden warmbloods, TBs, Marwaris, and while you can’t really beat a warmblood at what it’s bred to do, I will always have a soft spot for a good OTTB. They have something in them that I have never gotten from any other breed. Also, I find some amount of inner serenity knowing that while I could probably afford to import a warmblood, or get one of my clients or investors to do it. For every TB I take off the course for free, that’s one less TB tied up to some gig somewhere in a dusty street ferrying ten times more people and weight than it is designed to take.

GM: Tell us about your favorite place to ride…
AM: I’m afraid this is not terribly exciting. My favorite place to ride is my arena.

GM: How often do you ride?
AM: Well, since I started the business, I don’t get as much time as I would like to but I do try and ride at least three times a week. Most of my time is spent teaching, training my staff, and then running around doing much dreaded admin work.

GM: Do you participate in equestrian events such as endurance races?
AM: Not much anymore – I used to regularly take part in National Level show jumping events – but, that was a while ago. I do hope to get back to it with Saddam later next year though.

GM: Do you attend Pushkar and Tilwara, or any other horse fairs?
AM: No, I have been to “desi” fair only once, many years ago – and never went again. I do hope to start doing farrier drives and clinics at these places once the business is totally on its own feet.  My team does, however, go out to just about every equestrian competition in the country. We have a formidable group of young riders and horses on our side.

GM: What do horses add to the world/what would your world be without horses?
AM: Like I said before, horses are extremely honest beings. They bring sincerity to the world that no human ever could. If you hurt them, they will show you their pain; if you respect them, they will respect you back; if you scare them, they will fear you; and if you love them, they will love you in return. In fact, we, as people, could never dream of the same clarity in our interactions with each other. Many folk spend their whole lives looking for God, or His forgiveness. In a way, a horse is a step beyond divine – even “God’s” forgiveness comes with a condition of penance and repentance. A horse, on the other hand, will take abuse quietly, tolerate manhandling gracefully, refuse to work, but the chances of revenge or retaliation are too few to be noted – having said that, even God made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights.

My world without horses? I have never even considered that. I would lose my only real source of sanity, and would probably be stuck in some mundane, boring profession like being a war-time journalist or astronaut or something.

GM: What equestrian(s) inspire you the most?
AM: Ok – I’m probably going to take a beating for this later – but my equestrian idol would have to be my former coach. Col. G.M. Khan. In his time, he was the closest thing we had to a world class equestrian and in his career he did more with the limited resources of the day than most did or are doing. People might question his methods, or his ways – but, you never forget your first coach. We were always over-awed by him. I remember lessons where we’d start at 4 am and ride hard till 11 am, switching between six horses each. We had blisters between our fingers, bloody ankles from badly fitted boots, torn breeches and grazed legs – all this at ag 13. But in the five years I rode for his team, six days a week, I never missed a lesson. And neither did any of my teammates at the time.

GM: What are your goals as an equestrian, horse breeder and trainer?
AM:  Ooooh…. There are too many to list. One of my top priorities right now is to develop the centre I am currently working on. Next in line is to slowly develop an “Indian Sport Horse” so to speak. This will involve the creation of a type of Indian Warmblood I suppose. Think of a Marwari x Clydesdale. How awesome would that be? Geez, I can already feel the conservatives loading their guns. But, yeah, all in all, I just want to be the best I can be for my horses, teach the best I can teach for everyone else’s horses and learn the most I can learn for myself. If along the way I can make some money and manage to quit smoking – that would be a bonus.

Author’s note…
Since this interview, Mathrani has validated his horsemanship over and over. He is now the author of The Intentional Horseman – a blog about his past, present, and future…

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What is Good Conformation? by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne

"Peach" and Deanie
Photo by Bob Moseder... From “Tails of Sweetbrier
What is Good Conformation?
by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne

If you’re a horse owner or rider, you should know some basic facts about the horse’s conformation and examples of what “good confirmation” includes.

The word “conformation” refers to the body structure of the horse and other important characteristics.

My dad was a professional horseman for many decades. Our family owned a farm called “Sweetbrier.” Dad did a great deal of studying about horses. One of the first thing he studied when he was considering buying a horse was it’s eyes. Why is that? Well, you may have heard the expression “A person’s eyes are the window to the soul.” You can draw a similar conclusion with horses. My dad shied away from a horse with small, sunken eyes, often called “pig eyes.” What do pig eyes signify? A horse with a nasty disposition. Even with training, you can’t change a horse’s temperament. Look for a horse with big eyes and a kind expression. Dad could tell a great deal by the expression of a horse’s eye.

What about the head of the horse? Look for a wide space between the eyes and a little curved or “dish” in his head, not a rounded nose. Horses with round noses are called “roman-nosed” and are more apt to be stubborn.

What about balance? In order to be properly balanced, a horse needs good proportions. He shouldn’t have more weight in front, than behind.  Another important factor is the length of his back. A short back is always preferred. Why? He’ll be much better balanced with a short back and he’ll cost less to feed. When you look at the horse, is his topline shorter than the bottom line? If so, he should be well-built.

Another thing to consider is whether the horse’s withers (the highest point on his back) is higher than the point of his rump. If so, that’s a good thing. If not, he’ll tend to be heavier in the front than behind. He’ll also likely have uncomfortable gaits with a lower withers than hip.

If you’re looking for a good jumper, check out the angle from the point of his hip to the end of his rump. It should have a nice slope, not too short. That’s where the power comes from when the horse jumps.

What about legs and feet? A horse with a long forearm is well-built, particularly if he has a short cannon bone (the one under the forearm) If the cannon bone is short, it tends to be stronger. Think of it like a stick. If you have a short thick stick, it’ll be stronger than a thin twig.

We’ll talk about one last area, the lower leg and hoof. The “pastern” is the joint just above the hoof. It should be a nice angle, not too short or too straight. If the pastern is too short, it generally means the horse’s gait will be choppy and uncomfortable. The hoof should be round and if it’s large, that’s a good thing. A nice, round hoof with a wide enough space between the heels would signify a strong hoof and a good base of support. Horses with narrow hooves tend to have issues with soundness.

So, you can see there is a great deal of studying to be done when you’re looking for a horse. You need to educate your eye to recognize the angles that show good conformation and those that don’t. But once you learn, you’ll always remember them.

I’ve included a picture of me with my horse, Fleet Nancy, or “Peach” as we nicknamed her. How did she get her nickname? If you stood behind her, she had huge jumping muscles. My sister said her muscles looked like a peach.  You’ll see a wide space between her eyes and beautiful slight dish in her head.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning ways you can recognize good conformation.

Connect with Deanie…

Sunday, January 8, 2017

For the Love of Royal Choice An Interview with Dr. Rakesh Pattu DVM

Dr. Rakesh Pattu DVM
For the Love of Royal Choice
An Interview with Dr. Rakesh Pattu DVM
by Gina McKnight

Archived Article from the May 2016 Issue of HorseBlaze Magazine
No Duplication Without Permission

From India, Dr. Rakesh Pattu DVM is an accomplished veterinarian as well as equestrian. Riding at an early age, his life changed with the unexpected demise of his first horse, Royal Choice. Besides a horse trainer, riding instructor, and veterinarian, Dr. Pattu is a seasoned rider, taking the title of India’s National Champion in equestrian sports. From there he has traveled the world, keeping his promise to Royal Choice, to serve horses for the rest of his life…

GM: What is your horse history?  
RP: I have been always an animal lover and horses came to my life as my Father got posted in New Delhi. He is a retired Indian army officer. My first riding lesson was when I was in the 5th grade. It was wet after a lot of rain and the instructor told everyone that we were only to walk that day. I was on the last horse called Nuri. I remember her; I was sliding off my saddle and was so scared. I never shouted “I am falling!” After that, I never rode a horse until I was 15, but used to go and meet Nuri all the time.

I used to play badminton and squash at the Army Club and on my way to the club was the 61st Cavalry (the only horse unit in the army in the world). I would sit down on the wall with my younger brother and watch all the guys playing polo or show jumping and started loving the sport. I asked dad to get us permission to start riding and he did. That’s when I started riding. I was very curious to see if I could do the same as other riders.  It wasn’t as easy as it looked - they all were champion riders. When you sit down and observe the best of the best, you learn a lot. That is the first lesson. I always tell my students never mind what sport you play, even watching badminton, for example, on TV and you observe the court movement the shots and the serve, one can learn a lot. So when you are in the barn or in the riding school and you observe, even when you are not riding, makes a big difference.

After many months of trotting and cantering on regular horses, I was in a horse show doing gymkhana races. I was offered a horse and some serious training in show jumping and grabbed it. When I was in high school and my school (The Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi) began a horseriding program; there was no looking back. In 1988, in high school, I won a few horse shows, including the prestigious Delhi Horse Show in show jumping.   

GM: What career did you pursue after high school?
RP: I am son of an army officer (Colonel R K Pattu). Joining the army was in my blood. But, life took a turn when my Father gave me permission to buy my first horse after seeing me perform in the horse shows from the Delhi Race Track in New Delhi .

Royal Choice, a beautiful 16 hands chestnut gelding, was in my life. He was a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse from the Delhi racetrack where I later worked as a vet and a starter for about five years. I started training him for dressage and show jumping. We had a bond like I have had with my dogs. Every horse has their own personality like us and most of the people talk to their dogs and dogs listen and respond. It’s almost the same way horses do. It takes a little bit more effort, but it works so well.  I would take my food and eat in the barn, wake up in the morning, run down to him as if waking him up like a little boy and telling him that we would go for a work out in a bit. I would saddle him to go to my school. I went to school with him talking to him all the way, leave him at the school stables and run to him whenever I would get a chance to just talk to him. Life was good and we had big plans for each other and life.

GM: Sounds intriguing. Then what happened?
RP: My Exam to join the National Defense Academy (NDA) to be an army officer was on the 7th December 1988. On the 1st December, 6 am, as we were coming back from morning workout, we met with a road accident. It was a very foggy winter morning and it was all my fault. Whenever I think about it I still feel it. My body still shakes. Royal Choice had a broken shoulder and left fore-knee. It was not far from my Father’s Army bungalow.  As I was screaming for help, Royal Choice walked a few steps and fell down on the side of the road. I had his face in my lap as he talked. That’s the first time in my life I had a conversation with a horse. He was trying to tell me, “Don’t cry. It’s ok. Serve horses for the rest of your life. Do something and make a difference…”

I talked to my parents, my teachers and friends in school. They said, “Rakesh Pattu is going to veterinarian school and not the Army.” It was a life changing morning for me…to keep my promise to my dying horse. I still remember his eyes looking at me when I was taken away from him by my Mother and Father as the vet was giving Royal Choice his final Injection. It’s still so fresh, like it has just happened I keep him alive within myself. I remember my promise to him. 

GM: So sad for your loss. That must have been a terrible morning, not only for you, but your entire community.
RP: The morning Royal Choice died and I was home sitting in the living room with my Mother as she was holding me. Dad left for his office wearing his Army uniform and I grew up looking up to him and always wanted to be an Army officer. I had been training all my life to be the best of the best officer. While in the United States, I joined the Virginia State Defense Force in Lexington, Virginia, for my love and passion for uniform and service. Major Cartwright was my company Commandant.

But that morning, everyone was gone from the house and in comes my school’s principal Mr. Dang, my class teacher and chemistry teacher Miss Manjodh. I still remember as if it were yesterday. They hugged me and were talking to me. I remember telling them I killed my horse and he was helpless lying on the road waiting for the vet.  Miss Manjodh told me to “Learn something; do what your horse wanted you to be - a medical student! Be a veterinarian. Go out there serve the horses.”

That was the turning point of my life. I don’t know the exact spot where they buried him. All I know is somewhere around the polo grounds at the Army Polo Club, New Delhi. He had a proper burial, even a priest was called upon. My parents took care of it. I will always be there on his grave. The accident didn’t even leave me with a scratch. It was my fault. I should have been more careful on that foggy winter morning. Royal Choice is still at the Polo Club, so he is still with a lot of horses.

Within a few days, I was buying books to study to be in veterinarian school. My teachers at school (The Army Public School New Delhi) would take out time or stay back after school to prepare me to get admission into veterinarian school. 

GM: Where did you attend Veterinary College? Did you continue your riding career?
RP: I joined the College of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry, PAU, Ludhaina, India. The first place I went was the stables at the college. We have an Army unit there with horses - with a horseriding course for the vet students.  My then commanding officer asked me to pick out a horse for myself for training. The next year was the National Equestrian Championship. Since I was already a National Champion, I was made the riding captain. I met Zorawar for the first time; his face was always out of his stall as if he was talking to everyone. I had picked up another horse for show jumping and would see Zorawar, pat him on my way in and out.  I saw him with another rider who was using spurs, whips, and using high pitched words to push him. He was a lazy horse with such bright eyes. There was an issue with my horse and my seniors claimed that the horse I had been training and working on belonged to them, as they had been riding him before me. I was mad, but gave up in front of my fellow seniors out of respect.

I had two major horseshows coming up and with no horse. Then Zorawar came galloping into my life. I always use to talk to my horses, never mind who I am riding. My friends and the whole university campus started calling me HORSE in Hindi. I would take Zorawar out for long walks, grazing, lazing around and now when I look back what I was doing when I was 18 makes sense to me. I think I was trying to go to his level and start all over fresh with him. It paid us both good, we were National Champions the next year.

I would leave my hostel room as soon as I finished with my studies. I was in my breeches with my saddle on my left shoulder, walking to the stables to sleep there with Zorawar. I would wake up, get us tea. That was his treat; he always loved tea and licked it from his cup every morning. I would make his stall, clean him up and off we went for our training in Dressage, Hacks & Show jumping . He was picking up so well. Of course we have had our bad days as well but we were a team and understood each other. He was a lazy horse at times but when we are in a show, God he was the best of the best. Yes he was slow in jump-offs; it makes me feel so good thinking about him and the shows and the travel we did together in the open trucks and trains. We were a team. It was a joke in my class as I would go to my classes straight away from the barn and in my breeches. I was running to my first class at 9 am, and was late by five minutes. Dr. Roy my teacher of Anatomy told me “Pattu, why don’t you get your horse in the class as well so you won’t be late?” The same Dr. Roy when I was leaving my college as a veterinarian hugged me and told me he was proud of me. I was awarded the University’s Equestrian Sport Roll of Honor twice. Sometimes in life when you have the passion and you hold onto it, never thinking about the future, money, fame, etc., heals you as it rewards you. I am not a rich vet or a horseman because I remember I promised Royal Choice.  Every time I save a horse I look into the sky and tell him I am trying to keep my words. 

GM: Did you and Zorawar make it to the National Championships?
RP: I was travelling with Zorawar on a train for the National Championships in 1992, along with a few more riders and their horses. I was with a friend, Satinder, talking about the championships. He was telling me he wanted a medal or a position in his event (Dressage), as he was going for the Army interview and it would help a lot. I told him he was good and sure would get a medal, but he was feeling low and told me if he had a horse like Zorawar he could win. We were at the show and were giving our entry to the events and I asked Zorawar if Satinder could ride him as he needed a champion horse that would help him.  I had a good feeling about it as if Zorawar said “Let him ride me.” I remember taking Satinder to the Dressage arena that night. It was humid and we were just running and doing the test over and over again. I wanted to make sure he didn’t forget the test. The next morning I saddled Zorawar for Satinder. I rode Satinder’s horse. It’s a feeling I can never forget when you want your horse to win, never mind you are in for quest for the championship. Zorawar didn’t let him down and won the Gold in Dressage. I was I think 4th or 5th, but we did win the Gold & Bronze in other events in the same championship.  When you have a bond with your horse and you are a team it’s an amazing feeling to see him beat you with another horse. It was an awesome moment seeing him getting the red ribbon.

GM: What brought you to the United States?
RP: I have my permanent United States residency. It has been a long ride though; I got it in 2008. Virginia was my home before I packed and moved on. I coached polo to the Washington and Lee University polo team in Lexington, Virginia.
GM: You lived in Columbus, Ohio, for a while. Did you attend the Quarter Horse Congress, Ohio’s great horse event?
RP: Yes, I loved it there in Columbus and had some wonderful friends. I was living with a buddy, he's a cowboy. What an experience. We went out for shows and camping; it was just awesome. I love going to the shows. It’s an awesome feeling and the atmosphere.

GM: And you are a horse trainer as well?
RP: I have been National Champion here in India and I don't know how it came to me to educate people about horses. I never went to any school or training to be a clinician.  When I was in vet school it started as I use to train horses and my fellow team members. Much later I was called to help a team for the National and International show and I did very well, maybe one of the best performances by a team. When I was with Monty Roberts at his farm in California, we would discuss horses. I spent a month with Monty, his trainers and students. It was getting clear that I could teach and educate riders or people involved with horses…it’s been a journey. Now I am setting up an equestrian center along with an equine rescue rehabilitation and equine hospital in India. I think I can contribute a little to the community by education besides making champion. Also to try and do something for the handicapped people; horses can do wonders. I have been to one such facility in Ohio and quite a few in the Netherlands. I still need to do some more homework and funding. We don’t have such centers here in India to my knowledge.

GM: Do you have any other horse anecdotes to share?
RP: In 2000, I was called by a school (Lawrence School, Lovedale, Ooty), a beautiful hill station in South India, to check their horses. It was then the leading show jumping stables of India. They didn’t want me to go back to the States, and I ended up working there. It is just a wonderful place; perfect for horses and with awesome riding school and cross country. They also had a small set of Veterinary Hospitals. I was very happy with all the horses. They were all just great, but, Dancing Lord, a seven year old dark bay gelding Thoroughbred, was the greatest. This horse was gifted to the school. He had come straight from the Pune race track. He wouldn’t let anyone come near him, always ready to bite and kick. When saddled he was rearing to go as two grooms would hold him. When you did get a leg up, he was gone with the wind. After a few days, I had a meeting with the School Board and they asked me about him. I told the Board it would take a long time; he’s just a race horse. It was decided to load him and send him back to the track before he gets hurts or hurts someone real bad. The same night as I was in bed, I was thinking about him and thinking he is such a beautiful horse and what a waste if he can’t be in the team. I went to the barn and was just talking to him like we talk to all the horses and he seemed least interested as if telling me to go away, as he stood in his corner. He would charge at me from time to time. I did spend a few hours standing there and talking to him.  He was not a bad horse. I guess he was just a racetrack horse. I wondered how he must have been trained and handled. I decided to work on him and asked the school to give me four weeks on my responsibility. And all I did was spend as much time as I could to be with him; took him out for grazing every morning at 11am with two grooms with me. It took a while to get his confidence. I later took him out for walks on the trails and talked to him during our rides and mixing our trail rides with some trotting at the school. At times you have to read the horses mind and to divert his attention it may take a bit of extra time in making the horse ready for training. I had to change his mind set to what he thought was running - and maybe not enjoying. I made him just enjoy the time under saddle; that’s what we say a happy horse under saddle.

It was then time. I would saddle him and just walk off from him.  Dancing Lord would walk behind me to the riding school, which is about a ten minute walk. That was what I was hoping for, that he would not only calm down but get eager to become a horse to ride. I had never thought he would become a show jumper. I was looking for a Dressage horse in him. He would take off even seeing a single ground pole. The more I was working with him just for Dressage, the better he was becoming. I knew he had a big heart. Never once I remember him being scared or shy away from water, rain, or ditches, but I never made him face any form of jump.

In few months’ time as I was coaching the team for Cross Country, I made a new water jump. I was trying to teach them about the strides. I was on Dancing Lord and not even making him face the jump. Dancing Lord had enough watching the other four horses doing all the Cross Country jumps. As a rider you feel it so strong - it’s like getting some kind of vibration and at times they are so strong. That afternoon I got Dancing Lord to face his first brush jump and he was so delighted after doing it; he was like a kid getting a treat he had been waiting for. Maybe it was the same concept what Monty Roberts had taught me in 2006 at his farm about loading of horses in the show them the trailer and as soon as they reach you stop and back them off till they are so curious or not bothered as they walk in the trailer. 

The next morning it was time for Dancing Lord to learn show jumping; it was a treat to teach him just the concept. He would drop the fences but never refuse. As the National Equestrian Championships were getting close and I had to make the team, the first horse I picked up was him. No one including me ever thought he would even be around. He was getting better and better. It was time for me to let the team start riding him. In all the events, he was just a champion, never mind the medal. Everyone wanted him for their events.  I had 11 horses and 14 team members and Dancing Lord was in a lot of entries from Dressage, Hacks, Show Jumping every division, one day event…this horse was doing it all. I had other horses as well all champions. I was very confident that with my team of riders and every horse would perform very well and a lot of chances of winning medals. I was hoping for about ten medals at least. It was Dancing Lord’s first championship. When I recall the show now, I was more like a vet and a manager running around. Dancing Lord was the busiest horse for days. He would finish his dressage and he was going for show jumping. He was so happy and so fit. I remember on the second day riders were already talking about him. He won almost everything he was entered except the one day event which was his best shot; my rider took the fence at an extreme bad angle when she had all the time to get him straight. He had a refused as there was no way he would have jumped that drop fence.

Dancing Lord won over thirty medals; my team won over 30 medals with a medal in every event Dancing Lord entered, including the International Show Jumping Championships. He made us so proud when he was picked up by the Equestrian Federation of India for the International show jumping Championships. During the draws, a rider from the UK team got him. He didn’t let her down. Dancing Lord, the horse not even a year back was almost been rejected, was standing tall winning Gold medal for the UK team. 

GM: Do you work with India’s indigenous Marwari?
RP: I do love the Marwari. They are very loyal and intelligent.  When you read the history of the Mugal invasion and you read about all the wars the states have fought, there are stories of the Marwari that makes them such a back bone of our inheritance.

GM: What about your current facility. What programs do you offer there?
The NGO facility where I am working is in Udaipur. The Equestrian Center is a place called Sela Qui near Dehradun about 250 km up North of New Delhi. I am working on this project for equine rescue rehab with an Equine hospital and another Equestrian center. I teach natural horsemanship, team development and leadership, Equine assistant education, join ups, show jumping dressage, and polo clinics. I am training young veterinarians and veterinarian students. Also, from race track, I will be training the upcoming riding boys who are working on becoming jockeys. So, a lot on my plate at this moment. I already have one project going on wellness program for working equines.

GM: What training methods do you recommend?
RP: To get to know your horse, ground work is very important. It’s a start to a bond between you and the horse. Even taking your horse for grazing, you get to know your horse. When you see him in the barn alone, you see his personality. When you train a horse for any event or even pleasure ride it makes all the difference since every horse, like us, has its own personality. To know your horse before you put him in any form of training helps to a great deal, both for the rider and the horse.

I have always told my students that every horse is a champion and when you come to the barn get blinkers on your eyes; think about your horse. Don’t waste your time and your horse’s time. You can be a champion rider but to be a champion horseman you have to learn your horse before you set a goal. Remember Sea Biscuit. That movie had a few scenes which are so touching to see how this jockey knows his horse…when he tells the other jockey as he lay in the hospital ''let my horse have a good look in the other horses eyes.'' He can’t be beaten. It’s a very fine example of horsemanship.  How a rider knows about his horse. He could even tell when to break his stride, when to push him, when to let him do it for you. Another one from the same movie is when the horse had injured his leg. The vet almost said to put Sea Biscuit to sleep. The rider took Sea Biscuit out for grazing and then decides to put the saddle on, and then he was talking to the horse. Then Sea Biscuit won the race. It’s all so perfect. It works very well. That’s the relationship between a rider and a horse we should be looking for.

Training with a happy horse makes the advanced training easy, simple and fun. It’s long hard work with a lot of patience and there all your work in starting a horse comes in hand. I have trained many horses and have started a lot, but I have always taken it day-by-day. On many occasions we have to start all over again you see its the connection and many times we feel the disconnection and instead of pushing your horse its time to release the pressure and go back to the basics .   

GM: What are your thoughts on therapeutic riding?
RP: Horses heal. They healed me from stress, anxiety attacks, and a broken back way back in 2008. It’s all about the training and finding a horse with a heart. When we are looking for a horse, we ride and check the horse. I am sure every rider has their own liking or to some extent it’s the connection. Once you sit on a horse you can feel’s the vibes you get straight away.
Every horse is different and so is the starting of a horse. I personally feel and think one has to understand his or her horse. I have seen many riders training their horses in almost the same way; it’s like when we go to school, it depends a lot on the teachers. If my English teacher is good and understands me, and gives me all the comfort in the class, I am bound to fall in love with English. It’s just a very simple concept. Same is with the horse. It can be a show jumper, dressage, polo or a racehorse. Making your horse fall in love with the event you want to train him for is important. It makes the two happy in the training and competing. Of course the blood line matters, but that’s the difference between a well-trained and schooled horse. I would call them a happy horse when we see a horse and rider enjoying what they are doing. 

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
RP: Horsemanship is the connection you have with a horse; it comes with time and learning horses. I don’t know how really to put it in words, but I would say it’s an art. Horsemanship is a passion to learn about horses. It’s the quality time one spends with a horse no matter what we are doing around them and or with them. I always tell my students not to waste your time or a horse’s time even if someone else is riding, lounging, and even grazing.  Observe horses and they teach you. A lot of trainers do say to build up a relationship with your horse, it’s the connection we call “Equus language.” Horsemanship is to go with the horse, make your horse comfortable and having you around. 

For example, my mare was injured bad many weeks back and I had no clue when she will be ready so can start working on her. A few guys asked me when she would be ready, and I told them I didn’t know. Last night I had dinner at the barn. My grooms cooked for me and I went to her. I was getting ready to leave she was happy, excited it was very clear to me she wanted me to take her out. It’s not the language or signs a horse would show you like wanting to go out for grazing, it was a different look in her eyes, her face was very clear to me. She was ready. I got her out on the halter asked my groom to give me a leg up and we went for a walk in the Dressage arena…it was just moonlight and all dark. We walked and talked. My champion gal is back.  That’s horsemanship in one way, to be connected to know a horse; to go with the horse and it will never come without love and passion.

Gina McKnight is an author, freelance writer, Ohio USA.