Friday, December 21, 2012

Dr. RK Dedar

Equine Veterinary Science in India

Dr. Ramesh Kumar Dedar arrives to work each day by 10:00 am.  His first task is to examine the Marwari in his employer’s stables. He takes an easy stride to the first stall.  The horse Dr. Dedar examines is a stately stallion.  The horse stands quietly while Dr. Dedar checks each vital sign and internal sound.  The Marwari, an indigenous breed to India, represents centuries of equine culture and genetic grander.

Dr. Dedar examining Marwari.
Dr. Dedar was born in the small village of Shayamagarh, Rajasthan, India. The son of an army veteran turned agriculturist, Dr. Dedar knew from an early age that he wanted to be a scientist. After years of college, field study and hands-on experience, Dr. Dedar became an experienced veterinary medicine scientist, specializing in equine health. As a member of the India Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Dr. Dedar’s goal is to improve the quality of livestock health throughout India and abroad. Currently positioned at the newly established medicine laboratory at the National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE), Bikaner, India, Dr. Dedar is working with world famous Marwari horses.

Upon arrival to NRCE today, Dr. Dedar’s first task is to examine the farm animals, more specifically the horses. Each animal’s health status is monitored and, if found ill, treated appropriately. At 11:00 am, Dr. Dedar promptly reports to his laboratory. His work there keeps him until 7:00 pm without break. It is a long day, filled with charts, hypotheses, statistics and science. With enthusiasm about his work, Dr. Dedar states, “I chose veterinary as my career because I wanted to be a biological scientist. I post graduated in veterinary medicine. Now I am working to understand the etiology of various equine clinical problems. I am also doing my PhD on oxidative stress and therapeutic efficacy of antioxidants in equines. My institute is also working on equine herpes virus 1, equine influenza, rhodococcus equi, rota virus, trypanosoma evansi, piroplasmosis, Japanese encephalitis etc. NRCE also prepared a vaccine for equine herpes virus 1 (Indian strain); however, I am not involved in the above mentioned project. At present I am working on oxidative stress in equine.”

Oxidative stress in equines is a biological phenomenon in which antioxidants in the bloodstream are outnumbered by the level of free radicals. The condition is sometimes linked to laminitis, insulin resistance, and arthritis, to name a few. Nutrition as well as environment plays an important role in diagnosis.  Horses with limited nutrition and adverse care are most likely to be a candidate for oxidative stress. Dr. Dedar says, “We are working on Marwari horses, which are not associated with any industry, and the population of this breed of horse is small, so there is a lack of buyers for our research products. Initially when I joined the ICAR as a scientist, my aim was to work for providing better quality animal protein to India. Per capita availability of animal protein in India is very low. I wanted to research on cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, pigs and poultry. But I was posted in an equine research institute. In equine it is not always possible to obtain sufficient samples to work on particular health problems. However, I am trying hard to give some output to the country.”

“To work as a scientist in India is very hard due to insufficient funds,” Dr. Dedar continues. “I am working in the government sector. The purchase procedures for chemicals, equipments, instruments and repair of equipment is very long and tedious. These procedures make inconveniences for research work, especially when one has to do research on equines. At present there are very limited facilities existing in my laboratory. I am trying to develop laboratory facilities; for the next five year plan I have demanded some equipment to work at molecular levels. I am planning to find a microbial protein either of bacterial, fungal or other origin which can work as MMP inhibitor for laminitis that is effective against babesia or trypanosoma.”

In many countries, such as India, the nomenclature for a scientist is protected and regulated by government officials. Veterinary science requires prerequisite qualifications and significant training. NRCE employs only the best scientists. The impact of NRCE’s research in the field of equine science is far-reaching. Dr. Dedar explains the impact of his work, “India is one of the few countries where public funded NRCE exists. The Centre is currently working on various aspects of equine health and production; it has laboratories of international level. NRCE is also doing sero-surveillance for infectious diseases of equines in India. The Centre has diagnostic facilities for almost all equine diseases. NRCE has also developed a diagnostic kit for piroplasma, vaccine for EHV, and a pregnancy diagnosis kit for mares. NRCE is also working for agricultural utilization of equine energy and improving overall equine nutrition.” Besides clinical research, NRCE also provides telephonic advisory services to field veterinarians and equine breeders throughout India.

Dr. Dedar in field with farmers.

Mr. Gajjar, Indian horse breeder and Marwari expert from Gujarat, India, realizes the significance of Dr. Dedar’s research.  Mr. Gajjar explains, “The demand for our indigenous horse breeds is going up all over the world and they are proving their worth in equestrian sport as well. The infrastructural back-up one needs at the country-level in terms of veterinary facilities and easy access to them requires uncomplicated funding for equine research projects and incentives to recognize and appreciate the work of people contributing to the bigger picture. For now there are some individuals as well as the government that are working toward improving equine facilities and research in India, but a positive change can only come about with a more proactive involvement from the government. We have a vast pool of veterinary knowledge. Backed with the right facilities and support, they can be instrumental in improving the life of the average Indian horse.”

With the addition of new research projects, Dr. Dedar hopes to acquire additional equipment to enhance and enable the success of his clinical work. “I hope in a five year plan, from 2012 to 2017, all the required equipment for a medicine laboratory will come. I have worked on a project on therapeutic efficacy of antioxidants on equines and biomarkers of oxidative stress during the last two years. Now I am busy to analyze the data,” explains Dr. Dedar.

Dr. Dedar's laboratory.

The Marwari at Dr. Dedar’s facility receive the best of care.  The horses at the facility play an important role in the health and welfare of equines worldwide.  Research and treatment of diseases is instrumental to obtaining global equine health. Currently, veterinarian scientists face many challenges, including economic as well as socially accepted practices for caring for equines.  The need for better treatment and overall horse care begins with the local horse owner.  Veterinarian scientists pass important information through local veterinarians to the public, providing information on health, nutrition, breeding, stabling and overall care.  Every horse owner needs a good veterinarian; behind every veterinarian is a dedicated group of veterinarian scientists working hard for the best treatment of equines worldwide.

Links of Interest:
National Research Center for Equines
World Veterinary Day, April 28, 2012

(c) Gina McKnight, Freelance Writer, Ohio, USA 
Original Publication 2012 Going Gaited
All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


You are the poem
I dream of writing
the landscape 
I long to paint
the flashing star
I reach for
the hand that
holds my fate

(c) gmcknight'12

JourneyJay, Artist

Jaysin Christensen aka JourneyJay

Where are you in the world? 
I reside in Santee, California, USA. A suburb of San Diego County.

Tell me about your creative endeavors...
I make music, I act, I do it all. If it's art, I'm doing it. JourneyJay is more than just a man, it is a way of life. I am a voice for other artists, and plan on being the biggest name out there.

Do you write your own lyrics?
Yes. I will accept other lyricists creations though, and I will credit them.

Where do you like to write?
I like to create my art in Jack In the Box, Starbucks, and I would love to have a home to work in or a studio, but I'm struggling with homelessness.

Do you have a favorite musician/inspiration?
Justin Bieber, part of the Island Def Jam Music Group.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
I don't, they just come to me, and if I'm sitting at my workspace I put them down. It becomes a challenge because I walk around a lot, and without a mobile voice recorder I lose many genuine masterpieces. Technology costs money, and I give out my music for FREE. 

Do you have suggestions for beginning musicians/producers?
BELIEVE. It's one word, it's simple, and it gets right to the point. No matter what you do, believe in what you're doing and forget what anyone else says. You'll go through challenges, you'll be hurt, you'll want to give up, you may even hit rock bottom...but if you BELIEVE you'll make it. Something always picks up on your bravery to continue...and that thing will always be there to make sure you can keep going. Look at me? I'm homeless and I never ask for money. I make music, and I still believe I'll make it to success. Once that happens, I can put this life behind me and finally do what I want to do. Buy a car, a bike, get a place to live, go on tour. I will be the next big thing, because I believe in it, and I don't give up.

Follow Jaysin...

Help Heal us All

Random Acts of Kindness, Help Heal us All 

by Kerry M. Thomas

Founder of Thomas Herding Technique

Late last night while at the airport in Philadelphia I had the very fortunate opportunity to help a total stranger.

As I was walking along I heard a very soft voice behind me calling “Sir, Sir”… and I turned around to find a small older lady, dragging along behind her a well-worn piece of luggage, who seemed to be down on her luck. She looked to me shyly and proceeded to explain in a worried tone that the ATM machine, near us, was not working properly and she was afraid she would miss her train from the airport to home, she couldn’t buy a ticket with credit because she had no cards anymore and she was 16 dollars short in the cash department, was there any way I could help her? I heard then the announcement for the aforementioned train departure time… I smiled at her to which she seemed surprised.

Now I am no man of great fiscal depths by any stretch, but I did have 30 bucks with me, ten for parking and 20 just in case… and I nodded. “Of course I can,” and handed her the 20 with a smile and told her “Happy Holidays”. Now I tell you I have already received my gift this season, the smile almost to tears of this woman I did not know, a fact which matters not. She is a fellow human being, and that is all that really matters.

I thought about this all the way home and the reason I am sharing this story is not because I want a pat on the back ‘atta boy’… but because at the moment I was confronted with the decision to help or not, my thoughts immediately traced back to those poor children, and adults, and all the families, and all of us as human beings sharing the world together; well I knew I had learned a lesson from this tragedy… it’s time we take pause, it’s time we put down our technological devices long enough to roll up our sleeves and start looking out for one another, it’s time we listen, not read a text, an email, it’s time we stop blaming objects, it’s time we stop depending on mind altering drugs to solve our problems, it’s time we start really paying attention to the silent struggles, and recognizing to, the silent heroes that are among us, it’s time we held a door, lent a hand, embraced emotional communication, it’s time to stop being an activist and being more active, more responsible, more caring and empathetic to all people, all cultures, all beliefs.

It’s time we show the world that random acts of kindness, in small but powerful steps, are helpful steps toward healing all of us. It’s time we ask, how much do we really care, because caring is not a word to be held at vigil, it is not a word to be plastered on our social media, our stump, it is nothing with any meaning at all without itself being an act.

We are, all of us, responsible for ourselves and for one another, our world. We should not, nor need not a Government, a Star, an Athlete, to lead us when it comes to our own feelings and to tell us what is right, what is wrong. All this starts within. In the mirror of denial can we find a great many ails of our collective society. When we can communicate only with words and coded shorthand but fail when it comes to emotional communication, the very fabric of life itself, we are missing out on the essence of our lives in my opinion.

It’s more important for us to inject the goodness of our hearts into the world silently than it is to stand with a candle and tears on TV. Those poor children knew not the depth of bitterness and sadness that seems to be put on display each day in our “news”… hopefully they only knew love, laughter… happiness and excitement about being alive and did not have to be told how to be happy, by a drug, a doctor, because they held the beauty of life within them that we all held and hold if we look, if we reach inside ourselves… if we really want to honor these children, their families, and each other, try reaching inside a little deeper, you might just find something we seem to be told does not exist… hope.

Reproduced with permission from Kerry M Thomas

Gallant Knight

Shane Simpson: Gallant Knight

 Whoa! .... Calmly, deliberately and confidently, Shane steadies his aim. The target is in sight, his steed is prepared. Galloping full speed, high in the saddle, nock in place, hen feathers ready for flight, he draws his bow. Sha-pung. He hits the bulls-eye with exact precision!  The arena resounds with hearty cheers from the captivated crowd! Shane’s brave equine theatrical performance thrills every spectator.

Shane Simpson is a performance stunt rider. Traveling most of the globe, Shane performs archery, jousting, trick riding and much more! Shane says, “I have traveled a lot. I have been to Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Dubai and Japan!” Shane’s equine martial virtues and equestrian-at-arms skills are world famous as well as his love of horses.

Currently residing in England, he started riding at the age of 13 and began his career as a jockey racing thoroughbreds. “The first horse I rode was an Austrian Haflinger. He was an awesome gelding called Arnie; couldn’t have learned to ride on a better pony!” Arnie set the stage for Shane’s jockey career and nine week training at the British Racing School. “Everything I know comes from my experience through watching, doing or studying all the different areas of horsemanship”, explains Shane.

Shane left racing to further his equestrian career.  “After I left racing to expand my knowledge, I learned how to trick ride, joust, fall, sword fight, double for actors in films, fix problem horses, help with rider confidence and train western horses.” Honing his equestrian skills, he found employment with Oak Ridge Quarter Horses, The Stampede Stunt Company, to name a few. Shane says, “Stampede Stunt Company is owned by some very close friends of mine. They do live shows at county fairs, castles and at big events like ‘Your Horse Live’. They provide one of the best jousting shows in the country with some trick riding for more entertainment; they also teach horseback archery, jousting and sword fighting among other things at their base in Wales.”

Specializing in Medieval stunt riding, Shane brings all the chivalry, pomp and thrill to his events. He explains, “Jousting is an incredible adrenaline rush especially full plate jousts with full contact!” Combating with lances, in full armor, while wowing the audience, requires skill, precision and a keen knowledge of horses. Medium-weight warmblood chargers emulating large Destriers bring medieval romance to life. High back saddles and rugged stirrups provide the necessary leverage for an optimum charge along the jouster’s tilt-barrier. The rider must maneuver armor mechanisms to his advantage while controlling his caparison covered warhorse. Bright colors, imaginative and innovative costumes, and death defying feats create an unequivocal portrayal of a true chevalier. Donning renaissance costumes, wielding lance and mace, enticing the horse to perform while jumping through fire, jousting or trick riding - all of which demands finesse, courage and confidence from both the horse and rider. It’s all entertainment at its very best; stunts are meticulously detailed with professional choreography and expert scripts.

A theatrical equine event steeped in romance and passion, bringing to mind Ivanhoe, turreted castles, tawny horses and fearless knights, Shane brings history to life. The French historian, Froissart, explained the art of chivalry and the rules of the joust in his retrospect the ‘Chronicles of Froissart’. He wrote:

“Is there among you any gentleman who for the love of his lady is willing to try with me some feat of arms? If there should be any such, here I am, quite ready to sally forth completely armed and mounted, to tilt three courses with the lance, to give three blows with the battle axe, and three stokes with the dagger. Now look, you English, if there be none among you in love.”

As an expert equestrian-at-arms, Shane relives Froissart’s chronicle and reminds us that horses play an important role in our emotional strategies to overcome adversaries.  Portraying a seasoned knight takes poise, strength and stamina. Re-enacting these events on horseback is a sentimental choreographed event between horse and rider.

As a stunt rider, Shane has worked with a myriad of horse breeds. “I work with Lipizzaner, Andalusian, Friesian, Thoroughbred, Dutch Warmblood, Welsh Cobs, Painted horse, Quarter Horse, Arab, Polish Arab, Hanoverian and my favorite, Lusitano! Lusitano stallions look amazing and in general they are really eager to please!” exclaims Shane.  When I asked Shane how he deals with problem horses, his response was heartfelt. “Well that all depends on the problem, the horse and more often than not, the rider/owner. I suppose in a way I am a trainer. I have never really thought about it like that. I just enjoy every aspect of horses!” A fan of equestrian trainers Monty Roberts and François Pignon, Shane references the skills of others as well as his own experiences. “I have had the pleasure of working with Monty Roberts on a few occasions and learned so much!”

To stay physically fit for extreme riding, Shane visits the gym as often as he can - five days a week if he isn’t gallivanting with his stunt company.  As a professional equestrian, Shane has had his share of bumps and bruises.  A recent mishap leaves Shane still in good form. “I’m good, a bit sore from a horse rearing over on me, but its all part of the job. A crazy horse landed on my leg; just a bit bruised,” Shane smiles.  “Every time I travel I meet new horses, most of which are great and not a problem, but there is always the odd one. The worst I have seen so far is one I’m actually breaking in at the moment. He is a two year old colt racehorse that will be quiet most of the time but randomly flips over backwards without any warning. I’ll fix him to be a pleasant ride and to enjoy being a horse.”

The opportunity to ride in TV shows and movie performances has been one of the highlights of Shane’s equestrian career. He shares his theatrical history. “I have ridden as an extra in ‘Clash of the Titans 2’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘War Horse’. Riding for ‘Clash of the Titans 2’ was very, very cold but fun. All I was required to do was ride nice and easy along the beach. I also doubled for actor Colin Morgan who is on a TV show over here called ‘Merlin’. It is aired weekly on BBC1.”

I asked Shane how one can improve and become a better equestrian. Shane says, “Everyone can improve, even the best learn something new everyday about their horses. If I had to say anything, be patient and don't try to rush things. Horses learn things at their own pace, just like humans.”

Follow Shane and watch the action.…

© Gina McKnight, Author, Poet & Freelancer USA
No duplication without permission. Original Publication Going Gaited Zine 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rider of Dubai

Aarish Khan: Rider of Dubai

          Aarish Khan has horses in his blood.  He comes from generations of India’s finest equestrians.  His father was a jockey, and, like his father, Aarish dreamed of becoming a jockey; riding, loving and living with horses.  At the age of ten, Aarish's father introduced him to the art of riding and the joys of horsemanship.

          Very poor, no money for food, Aarish was seventeen when he decided to travel to Hyderabad from Delhi to obtain his jockey license.  Aarish remembers, “The steward at the license bureau told me I was too young, but a very good rider.  He said not to waste my time here, but to go to Dubai.  I returned to Delhi and obtained my passport, then journeyed back to Hyderabad for my license.  The steward gave me one VISA for Dubai. I was nineteen when I finally set foot in Dubai.  I was hired to exercise and care for racehorses.”

          Excited to arrive in a new country and begin his lifelong desire, Aarish is passionate about his new venture. “I LOVE my horses!” Aarish exclaims. “Everything is horses because horses give me a good job.  Now everybody respects me and all my relatives want to meet me or with my family because now I am not like before, a poor man.” Aarish is more comfortable on the back of a horse than on his own two feet.  He is surrounded by horses everyday, all the time. 

          The horse industry in Dubai has been generous to Aarish.  However, like anything worthwhile, Aarish works hard for his salary.  He is awake early for long, vigorous days of riding. Daily care of horses and helping to create a winning horse can be tiring. Waking and preparing for the day, Aarish dons his signature blue riding attire.  From the groom’s quarters to the stables is a short jaunt. The horses are lounging in piles of hay, in impeccable stalls.  “I enjoy caring for my horses and keeping them happy and healthy. When they look good, I look good.”

As a racehorse exerciser, Aarish meets the most outstanding horses.  His horses are intelligent, strong and eager to please.  Aarish must know the business of obtaining top speed from his horse while considering the horse’s temperament and disposition.  He must know the logistics of gaits and the importance of perseverance.  Whether riding through fog, rain or dust, his horse must meet stringent goals.

          Aarish is preparing for the racing season that begins the first of November.  He has been assigned three horses: Konsal, Mojave Moon and Janood.  Konsal is his favorite horse.  Aarish explains, “Before Konsal came to our stable, he could barely trot. He was a problem horse, but he is much better now and in good condition.  The daily routine is the same for each horse, ten minute walk, twenty minute trot, ten minute walk, then going to center.”

Having a deep respect, interest and love for horses, Aarish has had the opportunity to meet many horse breeds. “Thoroughbreds are my favorite for riding,” Aarish says. “But I like Kathiyawari breed.  They are a fast horse at 600 meters. I like Arabian horses, too, because they’re beautiful and spirited.”

          Aarish has been living among horses in Dubai for four years now.  He is happy, content and connected to the horses. Aarish says, “My horse, my dream, my hope; everything is riding. My starting salary was small, but now it is good.  Finally I can help my family with necessities and living expenses.  I’ve purchased my own home and live comfortably.  Horses are my life.  Riding is my passion.”  You can find Aarish in Dubai, circled by sand and blue seas, living happily among horses, living his dream.

Aarish Kahn lives and works in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

© Gina McKnight, Author, Poet & Freelancer USA
No duplication without permission.  Original Publication Going Gaited Zine August 13, 2012

Marcia Hancock, Equine Author

Welcome Marcia!

Marcia is the author of A Daughter’s Remembrance, the first in a personal biography series about her relationship with her father and a rescue horse named 'Snoops'.  She lives life by the guiding principle ‘ life is an ordinary life, and we are all capable of extraordinary accomplishments...’  

Where are you in the world?

My home is the San Francisco Bay Area with ancestral roots in California’s Great Central Valley and the City of San Francisco. ‘Ms. Abby’ is the rescue Lab who makes my life both interesting and fun.  The Fulton, Missouri area had been my home while I attended William Woods College as a student of Equestrian Science.  I have also traveled throughout the Midwest and Southern areas of USA.  Often I will take a trip to the Modesto, California area to visit my brother, sister-in-law, my niece and nephew.

What was your first encounter with a horse?

My interest in horses has been life-long with an inception in childhood; but my dream of horse ownership was not realized until I became an adult. ‘Crimson’ was my first horse, an older but wiser sorrel Quarter horse mare. Crimson was my teacher: shied at every movement, impatient for any ride to end, food motivated to a fault, and intolerant of novice horsewomen.  I learned much about horses and horse care from this beautiful but cantankerous lady. 

Beginning to ride as an adult led to such notable distinction as ‘...the rider with the most falls and throws and then landing on her feet...’ Crimson did her best to ensure I retained this title for quite a long time.

Tell me about Snoops...

Snoops  or ‘Snoopers’ as my dad nicknamed him, was a Tobiano paint, registered Quarter horse gelding and a rescue.  He was a seasoned trail horse who knew all the trails in the Portola Valley/Woodside area of the San Francisco Peninsula.  When my dad and I ventured out onto the local hills, Snoops knew the trails.  We never worried about losing our way.  Teenage girls seemed to have had a fondness for Snoops with his gentle nature and easy- going attitude, and he seemed to thrive on all the attention.

Snoops did have a pecking order and females of any species were second to anything male.  This was evidenced in his response to my caring for him as if saving his life was a requirement for the privilege. This in opposition to his attitude that my father’s care was superior as dad was his equal. This was never more evidenced in the order in which my dad, Snoops, Buffy and I ventured out on any trail rides: male rider and horse as leader with mere females behind. Any deviation in this order and Snoops would buck and rear ‘til we got it right.  

Snoops was an incredible horse with an undeniable influence on the lives of all who came in contact with him. He overcame a life-threatening condition and adjusted well to a new life. When I rescued Snoops, the Barn Manager said to me, ‘...It is a good thing you are example to the young people here of how one person can make a difference...’. This is Snoops’ legacy and why I am telling his story.

What is your favorite breed of horse? 

I love horses of any breed and have no favorites.  My soft spot is for paints but I also love Anglo-Arabs, Quarter horses, Morgans, Thoroughbreds, and so on. I love to ride a surrey drawn by a Saddlebred.  And there is no more wonderful experience than a good trail ride on any breed of horse.

Where do you like to ride? 

Currently I do not own any horses but definitely plan to make horses a major part of my life in the future.  I trail ride with friends when an ‘extra’ horse is available. And I maintain a definite presence at my favorite barn.

Where do you like to write?

I write from my home office as the windows allow me to look outside and observe the activities of the surrounding neighborhood. There is also ample sunlight for writing and inspiration.  My home is on a major thoroughfare and the cacophony of sound can be stimulating.  My dog lies at the foot of the chair to keep me company and to let me know when she thinks I have been on the computer long enough.  It is my dream to one day own a home nestled in the woods offering an office with many windows looking out onto quiet, wooded surroundings.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?

By staying involved and engaged with life, horses and other areas of interest, by researching ways to connect the past with the present in the effort to bring an understanding and empathy into what I write.  Reflection is one way I maintain thoughts and ideas. Activity is another. Reading is essential.

Do you have suggestions for novice writers?

Hemingway is quoted as saying ‘... keep a journal and one day it will keep you...write something every day...’  That is my advice.  Do not rely on memory because it will fail you or change with time.  Have a journal ready to take notes.  Life has a way of happening unexpectedly.  Be open to learning new ideas and modes of communication and expression.  Explore writing in various genres, from technical writing to creative writing, from print media to social media, to eBooks and e-stories.  Discover the best venue for you.

When can we expect your next e-book release?

The next in the series A Daughter’s Remembrance will be published on Amazon in the Spring of 2013.  I am also writing an e-book on biography writing.  The release of a children’s e-story is planned for late Summer. My hope is to write a personal biography about my grandmother’s journey from Kansas to California during the Dustbowl era as well as other biographies.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Mark H. Bolender, Equestrian

Mark H. Bolender is a world-famous equestrian; instructor, competitor, trainer, author and much more. He is the proprietor of Bolender Horse Park, Silver Creek, Washington, USA.  He is also a leading expert in Mountain Trail, Extreme Trail, and Competitive Trail, and a three-time National Grand Champion. 

Mark believes that good horsemanship is not about domination but leadership, and having the horse volunteer for a partnership with the handler. 

Welcome Mark!

Mark & Checkers
When was your first encounter with a horse?

I first rode a horse when I was 10.  We were ½ mile from the farm and the horse turned around and went home.  I was not impressed.  My next ride was 6 years later and it was no better and my third ride the horse ran away with the saddle on and was caught a month later.  I was no longer impressed with horses even though I love animals.

What is your favorite horse breed?

I enjoy training each breed and find that there is more difference within a breed than between breeds each horse breed has certain strong characteristics that make it a breed.  I breed a few Quarter horses which I love and both of my personal show horses are Quarter horses.  They have great minds and a good work ethic which I love.
Where do you like to ride?

I love to ride the rough mountain trails.  We have some great trails in the Cascade Mountains such as the Pacific Crest Trails.  If I am riding Checkers (Sir Rugged Chex) he is bridle-less which always amazes people.  He has been ridden thousands of miles in this manner.

What was it like to ride in the Extreme Cowboy Race?

I rode bridle-less in an Extreme Cowboy Race but I did not make the last round.  It was fun, but I was never sure what they were looking for.  The rider that came in second fell off twice.

Tell me about your awards…

Even though I started riding when I was 39, when I bought my first horse I began to show two years later.  I picked up a few wins here and there in all-around and reining, but my big break came at mountain trail where I won the all-around and high point in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in Mountain Trail.  I also won the open aged futurity in 2008 and 2009.  Checkers won it in 2008 and I won it on a horse called Princess Contesta, a cross between a Paso Fino and a Curly. I placed second on Checkers.

What is your current stable configuration?

We have several barns with a total of 37 stalls, three arenas and turn out paddocks.  The main barn is set up to host clinics and many social events year around.  Our outdoor Extreme Mountain Trail Course is used throughout the year and is a very popular draw to the farm.  It is nice to have a covered arena but we find rain coats work fine for outdoors.

What is the most important rule of trail riding?

Safety Safety Safety and good manners.  Safety means you hit the trail with a horse that is properly trained.

What has been your worst riding experience?

In 1996 I was bucked off and broke my back.  This was a big wake up call for I lead a very active life.  When you can’t move you have time to think.  I hired Steve Cornwell for seven years who taught me so much about riding, showing and horsemanship. This was the best move of my life.

What has been your most memorable riding experience?

I never get over the beauty of the rugged mountain trails.  The wonder of God’s creation can take my breath away.  In 2011 we took Lee (Sampson) on her first Cascade Mountain Trail ride along with some clients and friends from Texas.  I will never forget her large eyes when she could look 500 feet down on the trail.  Since she is from flat land Florida, this was a real experience in which she really learned to trust her horse as never before.

Any advice for novice riders? 

My best advice is never be too proud to ask for help.  Get lessons, attend clinics and read.  Enjoy the journey and don’t get discouraged if a few bumps and pot holes are hit along the way.  If you don’t hit a few then you are not moving.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finding Mayito

 Mayito Carbon Copy

The morning sun shines softly over Clinton, Missouri, USA.  Bernice McClellan drives the eight miles from her farm to the pasture where her three dreamy stallions are grazing. The stallions are in a leased pasture that can be seen and accessed from the main road. Everyday Bernice feeds the stallions first. After feeding her stallions, she then feeds her herd of mares located another three miles off the main road. Finally, Bernice travels home to care for her geldings and yearlings. But today Bernice’s routine would be forever interrupted.

It is early afternoon on September 17, 2010.  Bernice is driving to collect Mayito Carbon Copy, her beautiful Paso Fino stallion, to breed a ready mare.  Upon arriving at Mayito’s pasture, she is stunned to find that he is missing! Bernice’s world is instantly changed. She says, “I have a small place, five acres divided into three sections. I had all the stallions in one pasture. Mayito, my beautiful 16 year old black and white Paso Fino stallion; Dream Weaver de Holandes, a 10 year old Dunalino Paso Fino stallion; and SV’S Shadowfax, a 4 year old Perlino Paso Fino. The pasture is right on US Highway 7, so the horses were able to be seen from anyone passing by.”

Mayito was stolen in the middle of the night. Whoever stole Mayito probably did not know he was a stallion.  The perpetrator would have been attracted to Mayito’s flashy black and white markings, flowing mane and spirited disposition. The thief may have been contemplating taking all three stallions, but approaching and catching a stallion in the dark would have been tricky. Bernice says, “Most people don’t keep a bunch of stallions together in one pasture.  Since there were no mares around, the stallions all got along great. All of my horses are easy to catch and love people. If you catch one and the others come up too, the one caught feels trapped.  So, I think when the thief caught Mayito, Dreamer and Shadowfax came up as well, and Mayito squealed. It scared the thief and he just took Mayito and got out of there.  He probably discovered that Mayito was a stallion afterwards, and I don’t think they realized that he was 16 years old. I think the thief was looking to make a quick buck.”

Bernice immediately called local authorities and filed a report with her local Sheriff.  She explains, “I made flyers and had my son and his friends hang them anywhere they could, in all the surrounding towns. I sent out emails to all my friends who told me to contact NetPosse.”  NetPosse is a group of dedicated volunteers who maintain a website and network to help find lost, missing or stolen horses. Early on, Mayito was spotted on nearby trails by other riders. Over time, sightings have been reported less and less.  The last sighting of Mayito was on September 19, 2010.  Mayito had been seen on the Lead Mine Trails, about 20 minutes from Lebanon, Missouri. Riders alerted Bernice to the sighting, but it was another dead end.  

After months and years of searching, Bernice has not been able to locate Mayito. Bernice explains, “When Mayito was stolen from me, it devastated my life.  Before he was stolen, I had 26 head of horses. I have gone from owning and breeding a wonderful breed of horse, something I loved doing, to selling all but just a few so I can keep them close to me. I weighed 117 pounds when they stole my boy, within three weeks I had dropped to 96 pounds. I could not eat or sleep.  I lived and breathed finding my boy.” 

Bernice has a lot of horse history.  She has been a horse-lover all of her life.  Bernice says, “I have been riding horses since I was a little girl; my first pony at the age of six.  My sister and I would ride from sunup to sundown.  We lived on our horses.  We rode bareback because it took too long to throw on a saddle.  We would take lunch with us and head out into the woods, riding all day. Even if it was raining we would lead the horses into the barn and play with them all day, or until it quit raining.  After school I moved away, didn't have horses again until I moved back close to home in 1996.  We had Quarter Horses at the time and my daughter joined the MoKan Youth Rodeo.  I began training horses for friends.  In 2002 I worked a horse for my friend Joe.  You could not touch the horse’s head or the horse would strike at you.  Within two weeks I had the horse loving to be touched and he rode like a dream.  That was my first experience with Paso Finos.  After that, I decided that was the breed for me.  I sold or traded most of my Quarter Horses for Paso Finos. I’ve been breeding and raising Paso Finos ever since.”

Mayito was Bernice’s most loved stallion.  She says, “Mayito was very well-mannered.  He had sired several foals, giving them his long, luxurious mane and forelock, his outstanding disposition and his wonderful Paso Fino gait.  He was not homozygous for pinto; only if breed to the right mare.  He would take your breath away watching him.  He would arch his neck and hold his head up high.  His front legs came up so that you thought they were going to hit his chin.  He had a majestic presence about him, yet he was very sweet to handle and loved being groomed. He was my dream horse.”

Today, Bernice helps others find their lost, missing or stolen horses. She works diligently with NetPosse in teaching others how to protect their family horses from being stolen.  Bernice says, “Most of the people I talk too have no clue that horse theft is such a big deal. A thief doesn't just steal a horse; they steal a part of us, a member of our family.  There is not one day that goes by that I don’t run to the computer to see if I have an email from someone who might know where Mayito is. I know as time goes on its less likely I’ll find Mayito.  He is 18 years old now.  They say things happen for a reason.  Maybe mine is to help other victims.  Maybe it is to get the word out about horse theft. They say hope can be paralyzing.  I am here to tell you it IS paralyzing. I will never give up my search.  I long for the day I can wrap my arms around his neck and run my fingers through his long mane…and never let him go.”

If you have any information on Mayito, 
please contact Bernice via the following:
© Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from USA.10/15/12

Archived Article. 
Original publication Going Gaited Zine (c) 2012 gmcknight
All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Frédérique Lavergne, Artist

Creating an Equine Masterpiece

(c) Frédérique Lavergne
The cottage emits aromas of linseed oil and acrylic paint. Colors are settled neatly around the room in anxious containers, awaiting the chance to become fine art. The inspired energy in the studio is surrounded by sketches of royal equines. Elegant, finished paintings inhabit the room’s circumference. A world-renowned equine artist works in this humble studio. She greets us into her creative realm.

From Paris, France, Frédérique Lavergne is a world renowned equine artist. Now living in Bayonne, France, she is in the process of painting a Criollo with traditional tack. With brush in hand, Frédérique smiles as she glances at her work.  Her artistic abilities arrived at the age of four. She has been drawing since she knew how to place her little finger in the mud. Frédérique remembers, “My mother was a designer and I saw her drawing throughout my childhood. When we went to visit our horses at the stable in Rambouillet forest, which is close to Paris, we stayed there for the weekend. My parents used to go for long rides in the forest, and I stayed at the stable with the horses.  I learned to ride and began drawing horses there.”

Growing up with creative equestrian parents, Frédérique learned early how to paint and ride. She learned the smells, the mess, the struggle to control the uncontrollable urge to paint horses; the special knowledge only painters keep of how colors will blend and mix, the magic of a horse’s heart, soul and chemistry and capturing it on canvas.  “I paint horses first because I feel a strong link to them,” explains Frédérique.  “When I paint I am absent from this world. I don’t talk a lot and I realized very young that horses talk with their soul. I find them beautiful, of course, but I am fascinated by their powerful soul, by their generosity to humans.  They have a symbolic force and, from my convictions, they are able to go from one world to another, from our human world to the one of invisible. That’s why they help us to know who we are.”

(c) Frédérique Lavergne
Frédérique has painted many horse breeds, including Lusitanos, Arabians, Friesians, Paso Finos, and Mangalargas Marchadores, to name a few.  Her beautiful paintings announce and proclaim the grandeur of each horse.  A palette of indigo, sepia, crimson lack, madder brown, brown pink, and many other royal colors comes together in layers of light and dark to create a masterpiece. Defining the horse’s hide, their neck highlights and facial shapes takes precision brush marks. Frédérique’s work is more than horses and their story, but just as important is the amount and feel of the brush marks for each breed. “I have no favorite breed to paint. I love to paint expressive horses. Andalusians are very expressive. They are the horses I paint the most. But I have recently discovered Marwaris, Kathiawaris and really fell in love with them. I hope to go to India soon to meet them in person. They look so magical.  I am really impressed by the way they carry their head. However, I can paint all horses because I feel connected to all of them. Do they have a common soul? There are some horses that don’t open the door easily, and sometimes it takes more time for me to get in the work, but, finally, I have never given up with any of them. This must seem silly, but I often feel to be more horse than human.”

Attempting to paint every horse breed, Frédérique’s sumptuous art spans the horse world. “I unfortunately paint more often from pictures because the horses I paint are very far from me – Pakistan, India, Australia and USA. But as often as I can, I bring my studio to the stables. When I paint from photos, I like to see several and then I compose. The ‘look’ of the horse from one picture and the ‘attitude’ of the horse from another, create a stellar image of grace and strength. To get inspiration you need to have something to say in the painting, and in a perfect photo, all is already said.”

(c) Frédérique Lavergne
The internet has made a significant impact on contacting clients, viewing horses, and reaching otherwise unreachable horse breeds. “Through my website I’ve been able to contact art galleries to submit my work. Galleries that currently exhibit my work from internet referral include the Chisholm Gallery, Pine Plains, New York, USA and Greenlane Gallery, Dingle Kerry, Ireland. The internet has changed my way of considering equine art. Before, I painted horses that I had seen in person, most of them Spanish horses because one of my friends is a pure Spanish breeder and I painted his horses. When I joined the internet, I wished to discover horses, horsemen, and equine cultures from all over the world. That’s how I started painting Desi horses of Pakistan, then Indian horses, etc.  I discovered that horses that had been a door to the unconscious became my door to the world,” says Frédérique.

Monica Michele Brown from Kuwait City fell in love with Frédérique’s fine art and commissioned a portrait. Monica says, “Frédérique’s amazing portrait of my friend Prince Malik Ata and his stunning dancing horse is one of my most cherished possessions; she has a wonderful talent for expressing the beauty and power of horses.” 

Frédérique’s global exhibition of "Horses of the World and Equine Cultures" is dedicated to equine cultures and horse lovers of the world. This exhibition will be showcased in the near future at the Haras Nationaux, Lamballe, France. Currently, she is preparing for her exhibition represented by La Galerie du Cheval. Frédérique says, “My next equine exhibition is in France, la Baule, at the International Jumping Competition May 10 through May13. Sharing and painting is my reason for living. To do all these paintings, horse lovers from all over the world lent their photos to me as reference. I wish to thank them. I would love to travel and meet the horses and the people I am in touch with for this project.”

The sunset bows through the studio window. A day of manipulating light, shadows, and expressions add essence to canvas. “Who made me a better painter? Who will make me a better painter? Horses of course!” exclaims Frédérique. “They teach me my job everyday. The mystery we can see in their eyes makes me try to become a better painter and to try in each new painting to put more soul. Each time I paint a horse, it is like I take a little step toward sacred.”

Gina McKnight is a writer from USA

Archived Article
Orginal Publication: Going Gaited Ezine copyright (c) 2012 gmcknight. 
All rights reserved.
(c) Frédérique Lavergne

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