Sunday, September 8, 2019

Appalachian Trainer Face Off: An Interview with Devin Young

Photo Credits: A Duck Photo Aaron and Ariel Rudduck

Appalachian Trainer Face Off: An Interview with Devin Young
by Gina McKnight
As seen in the August 2019 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication with permission

The proprietor of Painted Lady Ranch, Somerset, Ohio, Devin Young is an up-and-coming name in the world of horses. She is a trainer, riding instructor, mentor, and much more. Recently, she was accepted into the Appalachian Trainer Face Off, a 100-day competition where rescue horses are assigned a trainer. After the 100 days, horses and trainers compete for top honors. Horses are rehomed and trainers receive kudos for their accomplishments. It’s a tough challenge! I met up with Devin and we talked about the Face Off…

Welcome, Devin!

GM: We are excited that you are a participant in the Appalachian Trainer Face Off. What prompted your application and what was the application process?
DY: The 2019 Appalachian Trainer Face Off is the 3rd year of the training competition, the last two years I was very interested in applying, but it wasn’t the right time for me. This year I had seriously considered it multiple times but wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to apply still until another trainer, who is also in the competition, encouraged me to do it which I took as a sign to follow through and apply. I couldn’t be happier that I did as this has been a unique and rewarding experience.

There’s an application process which includes information about ourselves, our experience with horses and why we believe we would be a good fit for the face off. As well, we were asked to send in videos of personal horse and a client horse to show our skills and training methods. We also needed to provide several references including vet, farrier, clients, personal references and peer references. The last piece for my application I sent in was a video and several photographs of my facility and property so Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue knew the horses would be safe and have quality care and management.

GM: Once you were accepted, how were horses assigned?
DY: Heart of Phoenix announced the selected trainers May 1st, later information was sent explaining how horse selection and pickup worked. On May 15th all of the trainers drove to meet at Winfield riding club in West Virginia and each trainer was a given a raffle ticket. The corresponding ticket was placed in a bucket and the founder of Heart of Phoenix, Tinia Creamer pulled tickets blindly and whenever the trainer’s ticket number was called, we chose our horse. This was a bit tricky as before the tickets were drawn each horse was ran into the round pen for all the trainers to view and many of us were making lists of our top choices. As tickets were drawn some horses were picked so I had to move down my list. I personally started with a list of horses I liked then before we started choosing me and my husband discussed them and rated them. Luckily, I got my second pick and am more than happy that I was able to bring Cherry home.

GM: Cherry is a beautiful mare (I’ve been watching your progress!). Are you happy with the horse you were given?
DY: Cherry was my number two choice, so I am in fact quite satisfied with her. She has turned out even better than I could have expected. Cherry is a 6-year-old chestnut quarter horse cross mare that seized in a severe neglect case in Ohio. She was living in a very small area with 3 other horses, fortunately for her she made it out alive unlike the other 3. Cherry has one of the most amazing personalities and dispositions of any horse I’ve has the pleasure of working with. Cherry Pie is affectionate, sane, and so intelligent (almost to a fault haha). She faces challenges head on with a steady mind and doesn’t become flustered easily, I believe this is mainly due to the trauma she’s been through, yet we have molded that into something useful for her to become a good citizen. Cherry is a bit quirky as she is almost more like a puppy than a horse. She is constantly demanding attention and kisses. Cherry is known best for her smile she gives constantly especially if there’s a treat in your pocket.

GM: Bringing Cherry back to your ranch, it probably took her a couple of days to settle in. What training methods do you use to start a horse?
DY: When we first arrived with Cherry, we put her in the round pen to acclimate to her surroundings as from there she is able to see the majority of the property and the other horses that are in the pasture. Every horse is different and due to that I tailor my training methods based on the horse’s mental state is as well as their learning style. With the time frame given we went right to work the following day and to my surprise Cherry offered quite a bit that first day, so we made quite a bit of head way immediately. The first day with her specifically, and with all of my training horses I work them in a rope halter with a long lead. Cherry I knew had an issue with personal space, so we started working on backing up and coming off the halter, from there I did several other ground work exercises that help set some basic boundaries that translate to all aspects of her life and training. I also introduced desensitizing objects in the first day to gauge her reaction and how quickly she was able to realize the object wasn’t meant to hurt her and to test her tolerance for what she was going to be open to, if I needed to scale back and go slower or if she was quickly able to discern this as non-harmful and continue on. Considering how smart she is I wanted to see if she would allow me to show her the saddle which quickly and easily ended up with her being saddled and lunged the first day with no qualms. Typically, once I’m able to get a horse saddled a few times with no reaction and desensitize them to the noises of the saddle I will work on putting weight in the saddle. Some horses don’t care at all and I can get on the first day, some take a few days to feel the weight and get used to it without fully sitting in the saddle. Cherry was quite easy to start; it took a few days of practicing putting weight in the stirrups before getting on and that went extremely well. From there it’s just keeping forward motion on the horses, not knit picking them and lots of praise/ rewards. Of course, as they progress there’s a whole other side to training that would take a lot more writing and time to discuss.

GM: How has Cherry progressed? What has been her main stumbling blocks? What are her main assets?
DY: Cherry has progressed rather smoothly and with a lot of ease for the most part. Her biggest stumbling blocks have mainly come from her learning to deal with her trauma. She was almost closed off when she came in just completely shutting out what had happened to her. At some point in our training that started to bubble up, so she needed to learn how to work through it and deal with it. With lots of positive reinforcement training and turnout with the other horses she has been able to start healing and continue progressing. Everything about Cherry is an asset! She’s willing, loving, has a huge personality, works hard without much guff (she is a red mare after all), and learns quickly! She’s a little too smart for her own good as she can figure out if you forgot to latch the gate or if you’re zoning out riding, she will stop. She’s by far one of the neatest horses I’ve trained and with her outgoing personality and willingness she will be able to go in several directions and be open to new adventures. I can’t forget that Cherry adores children. We have had a few kids on her, and my 4-year-old is her main caretaker at this point; feeding, turning her out, hand grazing, applying fly spray and so on.

GM: With the Face Off ending the end of August, what are your expectations for the upcoming sale? Where would you like to see Cherry at the end of the event?
DY: My main expectation is that I will be able to do my best as her trainer and partner to show the potential in her in front of everyone. I am not as concerned about placing and winnings as I am with doing my due diligence to prepare her and let her shine. At the end of the event I would like to see Cherry finish each part of the competition confidentially and comfortably. Mainly, I would LOVE to see Cherry be adopted by someone who will continue with her brilliant mind and enjoy her every bit as much as I do. I’d love to be handing her off at the end to her new partner(s) knowing she and I did everything we could to positively represent her, Heart of Phoenix and rescue horses.

GM: Will you participate again next year?
DY: I have enjoyed this experience so much that I have given thought to applying again next year. I’d say it’s highly likely I will send in my application for 2020.

GM: Do you have advice for next year's trainers who are looking to participate in the Face Off?
DY: The best advice I can give those wanting to compete in this competition or others similar is to not focus on the timeline, don’t think about the money or the marketing or any of that. Focus on your horse and what they need. If it takes more or less time that’s fine, do right by your horse and chip away at progress. Don’t compare yourself to other trainers. Each of us have our own way of training, each of us have a different horse who came from different circumstances. The goal is to help your horse be the best they can be, it will come. “Take the time it takes, so it takes less time.”

GM: Overall, Devin, what have you derived from this experience and how has it helped you grow as a trainer?
DY: I mainly wanted to do this competition not only to help these horses who have been disadvantaged but to challenge myself as a trainer. I wanted to learn more and find the holes in my own education and help myself grow as a person and a Horse Woman. The biggest take away I have learned from this experience is to always put the horse first no matter the time frame, no matter the circumstances. By putting the horse first, you learn more about them personally, you’re not just putting them through the paces of your training program. At times during the competition I felt the weight of the 100 days closing in or didn’t believe we were far enough but focusing on my horse’s needs and what she can mentally and physically handle is the most important part of all of this, as from here she will go on to a new family to be a successful citizen.

Connect with Devin…

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio, USA.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Milliron Monday: Cowboys are Forever 8 19 19

Abbott "Pete" Smith, D.V.M.
June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010

Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Pete Smith, D.V.M., and  Milliron: Abbott “Pete” Smith, D.V.M. The Biography (Monday Creek Publishing 2017). A graduate of Colorado State University and a well-known veterinarian in southeast Ohio, Dr. Smith continues to motivate and inspire. 

After writing Dr. Smith’s biography and delving into his life, there is one thing I know for sure – he was witty, intentional, and confident. His deep witty laugh could be heard often through the halls of his own Milliron Clinic. He was intentional in living and certainly confident in his approach to veterinary medicine.

A scholar in every way, Dr. Smith had a pocketful of quotes, lyrics, jokes, and (sometimes) serendipitous banter. Interviewing clients for Dr. Smith’s biography, almost everyone had  something to say about Dr. Smith’s ability to shoot off an amusing line at the appropriate moment. Transcribing interviews, I found myself laughing at the same jokes (rhymes and lyrics) that amused his family and clients. I am sure Dr. Smith is leaning over my shoulder, impressed that his rhetoric continues to have an impact.

Jessica, Dr. Smith’s daughter, recently texted me one of Dr. Smith’s favorite sayings. Dr. Smith, the forever cowboy, enjoyed camping – mostly with his horse and rider friends. Settling down for the night, he would stomp out the campfire. “Call in the dogs. Piss on the fire. The hunt is over,” Dr. Smith said as he was off to bed.

This quote seemed familiar to me. I found it was first published in 1969 in the novel Defender of the Angels; A black policeman in old Los Angeles, by Jess Kimbrough (New York, NY: Macmillan 1969; pg. 71): “You can piss on the fire and call off the dogs ‘cause we’ve hunted the woods all over. And what I mean, we ain’t missed nothin’.” 

The quote has been used many times since – in literature, plays, and movies (and mostly every day in Texas). To “piss on the fire and call in the dogs” is an old cowboy saying at days end.

I don’t think Dr. Smith really pissed on the campfire before he turned in, but then again, he probably did.

Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Letters from Larry: Rose

Today's story is about a college student named Rose. I taught college for about 50 years, but never had an 87-year-old student... had several in their 70's though. Anyway, read this true story about "Rose."

An 87-Year-Old College Student Named Rose

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know.

I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked. She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids..."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months, we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.

As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed, she cleared her throat and began, "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day.

You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old.

If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything, I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change.

Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose." She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

When you finish reading this, please send this peaceful word of advice to your friends and family, they'll really enjoy it!

These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE.


We make a Living by what we get, we make a Life by what we give.

Remember Rose today!


Larry Perry resides in Tennessee USA. To receive Larry’s newsletter, send an email to

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Congratulations to 2019 Athens County Fair 4-H Participants!

2019 Athens County 4-H Participants!

We are proud supporters of the Athens County 4-H Horse Council

“Like” the Athens County 4-H Horse Council’s facebook page here!

Monday Creek Publishing

Thanks to Champions Marcus and Speedy for the photo.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Milliron Monday: Trail Ride II

Abbott "Pete" Smith, D.V.M.
June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010

A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.

Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Pete Smith, D.V.M., and  Milliron: Abbott “Pete” Smith, D.V.M. The Biography (Monday Creek Publishing 2017). A graduate of Colorado State University and a well-known veterinarian in southeast Ohio, Dr. Smith continues to motivate and inspire. 

Welcome to the Milliron Clinic Trail Ride... the headline at the top of the trail ride map, indicating which of the three trails would take riders to the Milliron cabin, where volunteers were busy preparing a feast. 

Last week, I indicated that the Smith family worked hard to prepare for the annual ride; blazing trails, cutting vines/brush along the trails, finally roping off selected trails so riders would be safe. But Dr. Smith was busy vetting, and the event took many volunteers. Jody, Dr. Smith's widow, called me over the weekend and we talked about the people who gave up weeks - even months - of their time to make the ride the best that it could be. 

There were people designated to help with parking, unload horses, help riders find the right trail, fill the wagon with food to take to the cabin, guide those who were lost, rescue those who were totally lost, distribute maps (below), and help those who had tack or other horse-related issues. If it were not for the many volunteers (most of whom were clinic employees or clients), the ride would not have been possible. 

This week, we recognize all the people who made the Milliron Clinic Trail Ride a success for so many years! Hats off to you! Together, with other volunteers, you helped to create a fond memory for so many people. To see photos of the event, visit Milliron's fb page here. If you have a story or photo to share, please do! We appreciate your continued support of Dr. Smith's legacy and the Ohio Valley that he loved.

Do you remember this map? Circa 1998.

Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Sliced Dark: An Interview with Ohio Poet Wendy McVicker

Sliced Dark: a collaboration of poems and pictures
by Wendy McVicker & John McVicker
Sliced Dark: An Interview with Ohio Poet Wendy McVicker

Wendy McVicker is a gem in SE Ohio. She is a poet and Ohio Arts Council teaching artist. Wendy is the author of several books, including her most recent, a collaborative book project with her husband, John McVicker, Sliced Dark.  Spending time with Wendy earlier this year at a local poetry workshop was inspiring. She has a handle on writing poetry; it comes from deep within, the place where all great poetry resides. 

Sliced Dark is recommended reading and one of my favorite poetry collections. Recently, I caught up with Wendy and we talked about her poetry and much more.

Welcome, Wendy!

GM: At what age did you write your first poem?  
WM: I started writing stories for my younger brothers as soon as I learned to write. I think my first poem was a celebration of horses, written in the 3rd grade. I’m sorry I can’t share it with you, but that’s probably just as well. I remember writing a Poe-like poem in 9th grade about an abandoned mansion deep in the woods near my neighborhood — I was working on it in science class, and my science teacher called me in after school and told me I wouldn’t amount to much if I didn’t focus better in class! In high school I wrote moody pieces I called “thingies,” which I realized much later were prose poems. They’re all lost, too, thankfully! I only shared them with my two closest friends. 

I went on to college and majored in philosophy, so I wrote a lot of abstract papers, and letters to my friends far away. I took lots of English classes: I was (and am) a fiction junkie. My dream of writing, as old as my awareness of books, went underground, but if I thought about it at all, I assumed I’d write fiction.

After college, where I met my now-husband, creative- and life-collaborator, we moved to French-speaking Switzerland, where he had a teaching job. Fumbling through a new language, I turned to dance for my creative expression, and did that for a few years until we had our first child and decided to return to the States. Our second child was born in Kansas, where John was in grad school and I was falling in love with English all over again. This is when I started writing poetry, in secret, in those brief moments of quiet that were naptime. The first poem I remember completing was about the silvery olive trees outside the Friends Meetinghouse window — sadly, I’ve lost that notebook in various moves. I did write my first published poem, Evening Dishes, there.

We moved to Athens in 1985, when John got a job teaching English to international students at Ohio University. I was still a closeted poet, but when the clerk of the Friends Meeting arrived on our doorstep with flowers and tomatoes from her garden, I wrote her a thank you note that was really a sort of poem. She immediately called me up, said, “You’re a poet!” and pulled me out of that closet for good. She turned me on to the publication Friendly Woman, where I had my first publication, to a poetry workshop at Communiversity (remember that??), to Wayne Dodd’s graduate poetry workshop at Ohio University: to a whole new world I’ve been exploring ever since.

GM: You collaborated with your husband, John, on your current book, Sliced Dark. Tell us about the process...
WM: John was a Fine Arts (painting) major in college, but as you’ve seen, life took him in other directions. In retirement he has returned to this first love, and to photography, which had always been part of his creative process. Our first collaborations were in the form of “poem cards,” for which we paired a poem with a photograph he had taken. At some point, he began to feel that these were too illustrative, and he wanted to “riff” more on the poems. He was also interested in honing his skills in digital collaging. Thus, this project began: with his asking me for poems to meditate and “riff” on. First came broadsides, and then the book collection.

GM: Do you have a favorite poem of your own? 
WM: I always feel that poets say their most recent poem is their favorite: it still has the sheen of birthing on it! Thank you for mentioning The Names of Things; I love it, too, in part because I am deeply grateful to my father for having passed on to me a love of language and literature. But another fave is oh it’s snowing, in part for the memories it evokes for me, in part because I am happy when I feel I have (as Alicia Ostriker said) “pressed the most matter and spirit into least space” — or at least come within sight of this goal. I am fond of the lines “When you have become cloud/I will wait for rain” in Seawalls. They were a gift, dropped from the sky, and I continue to be grateful for them: my muse is rarely so generous!

GM: How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
WM: Well, of course, I don’t always, like anybody else! But I do carry a notebook and pen with me, and I try to note down things I hear, things that come to me, phrases, images. I used to be much more casual about this; now I know that this is my toybox, and I need to keep it filled!

GM: What are you currently writing?
WM: I have been involved in a residency in Cincinnati, at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, for the past month, in collaboration with my friend and gifted fabric artist, Nancy Gamon. Our project is called Common Threads, and we invited people to write and then get their words (stories, poems, thoughts) onto an already-existing garment, thus creating wearable art and (we hope!) connections. I have been working on several poems about hands (all that hand work! not my forté, exactly); a poem about aging; and reworking a couple of older poems. I’m not ready to share any of these just yet! But here’s a piece:

These hands 
have work to do:       
Grabbing hold  
and getting to know,
taking notes, recording:
This is their work

and they won’t let go

GM: Beautiful, Wendy. I love reading your poetry. In your opinion, what makes the perfect poem?
WM: Oh my gosh! I love a poem that is economical in its language, touches my senses, speaks to something deep — without being heavy, without telling me what I should think or feel. I love rich imagery and the sounds of language — I want these to play off each other in a poem. Some poems touch me at a particular moment, and then lose their power — others stay with me, reading after reading. These become favorites.

GM: Who is your favorite poet? Do you have a favorite poem?
WM: I never know how to answer this: there are so many poets and poems that speak to me at different times. Poets I return to over and over are William Stafford, Mary Oliver, Mark Strand, Anne Carson…for different reasons, but all because they can go deep with apparently simple language, and with rhythms and imagery that stir me.

GM: Do you have advice for novice poets and those looking to put their thoughts on the page?
WM: Two of my favorite writers have what I consider to be great advice: Grace Paley said, “…if you say what’s on your mind in the language that comes to you from your parents and your street and your friends, you’ll probably say something beautiful,” and William Stafford said, “Each poem is a miracle that has been invited to happen,” and “Poetry is language with a little luck in it.” I encourage people who feel compelled to put their thoughts, musings, words, on paper or screen, as many of us do, to trust that impulse, and trust the language that comes to them. Also: read, read, read! Read what you wish you could write, read to learn as well as for pleasure. Carry a notebook. Scribble. Let your hand and your mind develop the habit of writing. When it gets scary or hard, know that you are really doing it, and the rewards of living a deepening life are well worth it.

About Sliced Dark (from
Poet Wendy McVicker and artist John McVicker have created a collection of twenty-one poems, each with an accompanying digital collage on a facing page - each image is a sort of meditation on the poem with which it is paired. The book explores love, loss, and roads not taken, and the poems and images are intended to invite repeated reflection, producing thoughts and visions that weave themselves into your dreams. 

“The choreography between the words and images in this quietly visionary project is luminous and unsettling. Look, then look again.” Claire Bateman, poet, author of The Bicycle Slow Race 

“The waters run deep in this modest, evocative tome and it deserves to be read and read again, with each new reading providing new revelations.” John Zorn, musician.

Order your copy of Sliced Dark here.

More poetry from Wendy...