Thanks, Vickie, for sharing your world; horses, stables and riding!
- Currently I’m located near the village of Reddick, Florida, USA, about half way between Ocala and Gainesville. I have an apartment in a Thoroughbred barn and my horse is in a stall adjoining my apartment. Originally all of the horses I brought down from Canada four years ago were in this barn, but I’ve moved the others to Santa Rosa Stables, my trainer’s barn. Olivia is still here because she’s recovering from an injury to a back leg.
- When I was a child my grandparents lived within sight of our house. My grandfather had a quarter horse named Sonny and later they had a pony. These are the first horses I remember, but the first horse I remember riding belonged to a traveling children’s photographer. It was a small paint pony with a mane and tail reminiscent of a Theillwell sketch. He had chaps, a matching cowboy hat and vest, and double pistols on a plastic western belt. When I got on that pony for my photograph I was Annie Oakley and Dale Evans rolled into one and the only thing I wanted at the time was to ride that pony into the sunset with the sun glinting on the barrels of my guns.
- I have to honestly say that I never met a breed of horse that I don’t like. There are individuals in every breed that are less than totally likable, just as there are people, but breeds as a whole are bred for different disciplines and I love that. I think diversity is the spice of life. Imagine if there was only one breed of horse in the world! How sad that would be! Think of the hundreds of thousands of people who would never have been involved in horses if there were no Arabians or Quarter Horses, or Paso Finos, or Clydesdales. Each breed satisfies something—some inner desire—of someone, somewhere, that no other breed could fulfill. Think of all the people who are afraid of full size horses, but love working with minis. There is a place for every breed and I love them all. I think true horse people all over the world are the same. If you love horses, you love horses. Period.
- I prefer to ride English these days, although I started as a Western rider. The reason for the change was not a desire to change, but availability of riding instructors in the area and meeting new friends who rode English and invited me to ride with them. I was introduced to hunter/jumper disciplines and to the idea of dressage. Later I went through an eventing and competitive trail riding phases before returning to Hunter/Jumper, and now to Dressage. I fell in love with the elegance, control and beauty of the blending of purpose between a well matched partnership of Dressage horse and rider. I believe that if I had a choice of disciplines in which I could excel I would have to choose Dressage.
- I’ve never been a competitive rider at high levels, but I’ve enjoyed competing in the past—especially the eventing. The excitement of cross country is hard to beat. I also breed Canadian Sport Horses and have had a lot of fun at the breeder’s shows. I don’t necessarily go to the breeder show to win, but these shows are a great way to introduce very young horses to the show atmosphere, bathing, trailering, clipping, etc.
- Wow, that’s a hard question. So many stories and events come to mind. I guess there’s always one horse that sticks in the mind for having the most stories to tell, but when you raise foals you realize how different their personalities are from the very beginning. Full Tesla learned that she could jump into the round bale holder and sleep comfortably on the hay while the other horses pushed her legs out of the way with their noses and ate around and under her. Radar and her dam, Allie, started in a large foaling stall with a door to a private courtyard. She thought it was great fun to run out of the stall into the courtyard with Allie trotting along behind nickering at her as if to tell her to watch out for wolves. As soon as they were both out in the sun Radar would turn and race back into the stall and her poor dam would panic and trot into the stall after her whereupon she would race back out again. Slide, on the other hand, never let poor little Charm get away with anything. When Charm tried to meet the other foals, Slide would wrap her neck around Charm and literally drag her away from them. I guess she didn’t want Charm to associate with the riffraff. Tess used to pull the sprayer from the water tank as it was filling, paw it until the spray was going up into the air, then stand in it with her head up to drink the water from the sky as it came down. Fanny used to jump up on the hay wagon for fun, scaring the living daylights out of me. So many stories, so little space.
- That would have to be caring for 12 horses through the Canadian winters with no running water in the barns. Carrying enough water to the paddocks after the hoses froze but before there was snow on the ground for the sleds was a daily challenge, sometimes lasting for over a month in the fall. It was even worse in the spring when the snow was melted and the ground was so soft I couldn’t get the little tractor into the fields. I’m so glad to be living in Florida now!
- Wow! Another really tough question. I’ve had so many, and each was important at a different stage of my riding career. All of the instructors who taught at the Equestrian Park in Ottawa got me started. Later I took clinics with Bruce Davidson, Lorraine Laframboise and Ian Millar, all of whom were exceptional. When I moved from the Equestrian Park I boarded at several stables around the Ottawa area as my interests and my residence changed. Frank Duguay at Twin Pines Equestrian had a great influence on me and was my coach in eventing, hunter, jumper and dressage when I was at the height of my riding career. He also started several of my young horses for me when I couldn’t get to them for one reason or another. Robingreen, Fiddler’s Green, Quarry Park and Westar Farms were other stables around Ottawa where I kept horses from time to time. Now I live just North of Ocala, Florida and I board at Santa Rosa Stables with Oscar and Zoe Hernandez. I have lessons with both of them, and they both ride and train my horses. Oscar is showing Full Fantasia (aka. Fanny), my jumper, and Zoe is training Full Bratzina, a young jumper prospect. I also have lessons with both of them.
- At this time I have seven horses. Five of them are at Santa Rosa Stables and they are all Canadian Sport Horse mares fully approved for breeding except Bratzina who hasn’t been to her mare inspection yet.
Do you have advice for beginning riders?
- Have fun. Every time you ride, every show you attend, every lesson you have. Never get so involved with winning that you forget to have fun. Some of my very best shows and top scores and wins happened when I went just for the joy of being there and didn’t care if I won or lost.
- Go to clinics in your discipline of choice every chance you get if you’re interested in showing. Every instructor has a different way of getting the point across and sometimes something explained a different way will just ‘click’ with you when you’ve been having a hard time getting some new technique. If you can’t ride in the clinic, go watch. You can learn a lot from watching others ride and listening.
- Ride every chance you get. The more diverse horses you can get on, the better rider you will be, but don’t over-face yourself with a stronger horse than you can handle.
- Take a deep breath and laugh when you’re having trouble with a horse. This will relax both you and the horse. Yelling or getting tense will only make things worse.
- Try other styles of riding if you’re not sure what you really want to do. Maybe you would prefer driving. Be happy in the discipline you choose and be open to try new ones.
- Find a coach you like and take lessons. Even the top trainers have a ground person telling him to sit straighter, lift their hands, etc. No one knows everything there is to know and everyone gets into bad habits without some outside input now and then.
- Be kind and reward your horse for a job well done. A simple pat or a kind word can go a long way.
- Learn to take care of the horse you ride. If the person who normally bathes your horse after you ride gets sick and can’t do it, you should know what to do for your horse.
- Decide what you want to do before you buy your first horse.
- Never let anyone push you to compete if that’s not where your heart is. There is no law that says you must compete if you take riding lessons. If hacking or trail riding is what you like to do, just do that.
- Most of all.....HAVE FUN!