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March 2011

Horse industry, other ag: Opportunity knocks

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COLORADO - How could your county be better? As part of a “bottom-up” project to revitalize the Colorado economy, Gov. John Hickenlooper is asking everybody to submit ideas in two ways:

  1. Attend The Region 2 meeting (Larimer and Weld Counties) scheduled for Thursday, March 24th, 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. at The Ranch - 1st National Bank Exhibit Hall, Loveland.
  2. Click the "Online Survey" link, top left, of the "Bottom-Up page"  asking about your county’s strengths/weaknesses, and your one best idea for improvement. (The first questions are confusing because they list the same items, so be careful what you label as a strength v. weakness.) Colorado horse industry and other agriculture: This is a great opportunity to make your voice heard.

Dover Saddlery coming to Colorado

Dover Elite Edition Catalog cover 2011
Dover Saddlery has announced that it plans to open a deluxe store near the Colorado Horse Park in June, according to TheStreet.com. Dover Saddlery, beloved among horse enthusiasts for its beautiful catalog stuffed with great items (my latest favorite - the new founder ice boot), has 12 retail stores, and plans to open 40 more over the next several years, according to the article. In February, Dover Saddlery launched a new mobile shopping site. Dover is publicly traded on the NASDAQ (DOVR), and same-store sales increased 11% in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to fourth quarter 2009. Way to go, Dover! So refreshing to hear good economic news from at least one corner of the horse industry.

(Karin Livingston was a career 4-H leader specializing in horses, and is the author of the young-adult horse novel, Winning Bet.)


Ex-racehorses starve as charity fails

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Does anybody out there have any ideas for preventing these tragic stories of horses being left to die of neglect in the hundreds? At the least, these stories reflect badly on the horse industry, and at the worst, noble, kind, compassionate equine companions are left to suffer.

Perhaps there needs to be a national "free horse" exchange somewhere. Dreamhorse.com? Could you do something?

Check out today's story on the estimated 1,000 retired racehorses left in the lurch by the charity that is supposed to protect them.

Another version of the story: Struggling Charity Leaves Ex-Racehorses Starving

Read also: Montana: Owner of starving horses pleads not guilty


Memo to boarders: Blood, sirens, hay

This is an alert regarding “Franken-horse”, new arrivals, sirens, fire trucks in the driveway, and the bizarre hay pile by the barn.

It started when our church changed service times. Normally I wouldn’t care, but the other guitarist had played with us for only two weeks. I felt responsible. I had to be on time.

At 7:40 a.m. Sunday, the phone rang. This found me staggering around in my attractive fuzzy pink bathrobe and coordinating flannel jammies, groggy after yesterday’s goat-pen moving, hay moving, and 4-H mounted meeting. I needed something clean from the closet or semi-clean from the dirty laundry pile. I picked up the phone.

“Uh, yeah, this is Hank. I’m out here by the black Suburban. (The car at the house in front of ours.) Where do I go?”

“Hank?”

“Yeah, Hank the (new) hay guy.”

“Oh,” I said, thinking fast. “Uh. OK. I’ll be right there.”

I tried to wrap my head around the fact that Hank wasn’t due until 10:15 that morning. Throwing on jeans and slip-on muckers, I went outside to meet Hank, a nice Colorado State University (CSU) student majoring in agricultural business with a family hay operation waiting for him. Unfortunately, I later learned, Hank is allergic to alfalfa.

“Uh, I thought you were coming at 10:15,” I said, introducing myself and shaking his hand.

“No,” said Hank. “I said 7:15, so I could get to church too.” I noticed that Hank needed to work on enunciating “seven” and “ten”.

“So,” he said, “I take it the boys you were going to get aren’t here.”

“No, and my kids don’t even know I’m out here,” I said.

We looked at each other.

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“I’ll take the front, you take the back,” he said. We began flinging bales off the side of the trailer next to the hay barn. Thirty-five minutes later, I tossed Hank a check, ran inside, threw on church clothes and instructed my son not to break any laws, but to push the envelope driving us to church.

Sirens started to wail behind us. Pale, my son pulled over, coincidentally just in front of Hank the Hay Guy, who waved us over as we pulled ahead of him.

The sirens faded. My son heaved a sigh of relief. I ran back to Hank. I guess my math isn’t so good in the morning. I had shorted him about $200. I told Hank I’d pay him the rest when he brought another sample bale later that day.

I got back in my car. My son stepped on the accelerator, and we made it to church with three minutes to spare, me breathing heavily and, after 236 bales in 35 minutes, “glowing” nicely.

Church ended with only a few botched musical moments, and my children and I looked for somewhere to eat. I am not a pretty sight when I’ve tossed hay and played music on an empty stomach. I needed food -- now. Sadly, the restaurant we chose had a new computer system and one new operator, not doing well. This put the wait for food at about an hour. We did get a lot of free stuff while we waited.

The three of us finally made it home with my children looking forward to their six hours of homework (you gotta love the high school Advanced Placement track), and me looking at (finally) doing invoices.

The red light on the answering machine greeted us. The last time that light was on after church, I learned that my old gelding, weakened by a battle with West Nile, was fatally cast in his stall, about to die of heart failure.

A client’s voice filled the kitchen. She’d had a phone message from another client that there’d been an “incident” with her own horse. The vet had apparently come (thank you!), and hey, what else did I know?

Stepping outside in my slick black sandals, church-ly conservative slacks and blouse, I investigated. Turns out the injured horse, a handsome fellow, had managed to flip over at the hitching rail, throw his front legs over the lead line, hang there, and generally tear himself up. As I unraveled the story, my son strode toward me.

“Mom, I think there’s an ambulance at the end of the driveway.”

I ran down the driveway, and looking for bodies strewn around; I found instead two fire trucks. Not having heard from us for a while, the injured horse’s owner, also a firefighter, brought two trucks and the squad to check on him. The horse stood in his pen, legs bandaged more for swelling than anything else, with a couple of stitches in his elbow and eyebrow.

Next, a strange (not weird, just unknown) young man strolled up and joined our gaggle of concerned humans. The boy was a sophomore animal science major at CSU, and had just bought one of the Paints at yesterday’s dispersal auction of a big local herd. Do I have any vacancies NOW, he asked? He was actually very polite and shy.

A quick confirmation call, and the answer was, unfortunately, “no”. A client’s sister planned to lease her horse to a friend and it was due to arrive any day. The poor guy looked very sad, but I put him on the waiting list.

Now at day’s end, after some reflection, and phone calls back and forth, I have decided to purchase Mr. Frankenstein-horse. I think he is a nice mover, very athletic. Very showy.

I hope this explains the blood on the pavement, the bandaged, bruised horse in sick bay, ownership changes, sirens, fire trucks, expected arrivals, and hay everywhere. Have a great evening!

(Who said owning a stable was easy? The preceding is an email – all names changed – that went out to our stable clients several years ago.)

(Karin Livingston was a career 4-H leader specializing in horses, and is the author of the young-adult horse novel, Winning Bet. Want more horse stories? Try MyHoofprints' Favorites! You can subscribe to this blog ad-free on your e-reader.)