250 Hours Pin



My 250 hour pin from the American Driving Society arrived!  With the hours I logged this year, I’m already on a solid start towards my 500 hour pin, which is the next award pin.  At the rate I am going, it will probably be 2016 possibly 2017 before I hit the 500 hour mark.

I’m happy to have received this pin and Chewbacca is of course looking forward to being immortalized in the February 2015 issue of The Whip.


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Nebraska Horse Expo

Yes, I live in Illinois, so what does that have to do with Nebraska?

Well, let me tell you!

Somehow or another, I was searching for something equine photography related and happened across the Nebraska Horse Expo website and photography contest.  Turned out, it was not only free to enter, but it accepted entries from all over the place; not just local residents.

Well then!  I figured I would enter.

I sent in 10 entries and recently got them back after the Expo was over.   7 of them got ribbons!  YAY me!!!

Here are the winners and their placings:


Luke Pop Art – 3rd place – equine only digital editing


Dressage Horse – 3rd place – black & white, horse & human connection


Luke & Chewie in the snow, 3rd place equine only


Team Driving – 2nd place, black & white – equines at work


Saddlebred Profile – 1st place, black & white – equine only



“Triple Replay” – Racehorses at Arlington Park, 1st Place, equines at work


Jesse striking a pose – 1st place, equine humor



I really have not done much photography lately, and by “not much” I pretty much mean I haven’t used my camera in over a month.  I am definitely suffering from photographer’s withdrawal syndrome.  I really need to get up at sunrise one of these mornings and go on the hunt for deer, birds, and whatever else I can find!  Oh yea… and horses, too.

Maybe next weekend I will try to get out and shooooooot!

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Year End Totals

Well, it’s that time!  The ADS recreational driving hours were due, which means I’ve “officially” closed the books on the 2014 driving season (well, sort of!)  Maybe if the weather plays nice, the horses might get hitched up and out for a drive, or at the very least pull the toboggan around for a bit, but that’s debatable.

As I have been doing since the very first day I ever put Chewbacca on long lines, I have been meticulous about keeping track of his driving sessions, what I do, how many minutes he works, how many miles out on the roads or trails, and his accumulative totals.

I’m not as rigorous about keeping track of Luke & Jesse’s hours, but I have a general idea of what they are, because pretty much Luke & Chewie work the same schedule, doing the same things, for the same amount of time.  Jesse is less than that since I don’t work him quite as much.

Mostly, they’re all too broke for me! LOL!  I have hit a “pony plateau” as far as what I can do with them and what I can teach them (which is pretty much nothing at this point).  I am definitely looking forward to getting (yet another) project pony to bring along in 2015, but that will be only if the Wallet Gods are willing.  It would be nice to have a new one to work with.

You know, speaking of hours… recently, during a comment thread on driving on Facebook, someone mentioned that it takes 500 hours before a driving horse can be considered “really broke”.

To me, that seems like an insane, and very arbitrary, number.  If you worked a horse 1 hour a day 6 days a week, it would take nearly 2 years before the horse hit 500 hours.

Who works a horse like that?  I don’t know about you, but my horses only work for an hour on one weekend day, assuming I have enough time.  If I really have enough time, I’ll work them for 1 1/2 hours each.  Otherwise, their normal work load is 30 minutes in the arena or trail, and 30 minutes for a 3 mile drive, or 45 minutes for a 4 mile drive.  In 60 minutes, I can go 5 1/2 – 6 miles.

All that said, my point is, I considered my horses “really” broke by the time they had about 60 drives on them!  LOL!  Seriously.   By the time Jesse had 30 drives, was already working as a leader in tandem, and doing great.  By the time he got to 60 drives ( and that’s 30 minutes 2-3 days’ a week, skipping the coldest months), it was May, the year after he was trained, and he was already being shown and winning.

Chewbacca went to his first away clinic with only 26 drives on him, and had less than 80 drives on him when he did his first show, although I would have to say I think I started to considering him “really broke” probably around 160 drives or so, when he did his 3rd show.  Even though that’s a big number of drives, if you think about it, the vast majority of those drives were less than 1 hour long, which means he hadn’t quite even gotten 175 hours of harnessed time before I felt like he really knew his job and started blowing me away with his performance.

Now I grant you, Luke has over 600 lifetime drives just since we’ve owned him (so he is the closest to hitting the 500 hour mark if he has not done so already– but that’s in 8 full driving seasons!!!), so there is a WORLD of difference between the way he drives and what he does and knows versus Chewie who has less than half the driving experience, and Jesse, who has even less.  Yet, I consider all 3 really … really broke.

I guess the whole thing depends really on your definition of “really” broke …. to me, that’s a horse that has been there, done that, can do it with eyes blindfolded, while he’s sleeping, and has 2 legs tied up, while you’re not even holding the lines.  LOL!  In other words, it’s a horse you can put on a trailer, haul to whatever outing you want to go to, and not readily expect to die.  It is a horse that is light to the cues, responsive to aids, and truly knows his job, not one that just goes through the motions.  It’s a horse that can walk, trot, canter, (mostly) without acting up or showing uncertainly or lack of training.  I think by 500 hours, a horse would practically be a Grand Prix dressage master with the right training!

I definitely think that a horse can be considered “really” broke long before that.  Maybe they mean general training, although this conversation was entirely about creating a broke driving horse.  I would say 500 hours of handling and general training; everything from being halter trained to basic ground manners to walk/trot/canter under saddle or in harness and do it safely, quietly, while knowing how to be supple through the body, flex, bend, give to the bit and understand subtle aides – all with 500 hours of time put in, would put a young horse at around the age of 6 before he sees 500 hours of time, assuming it’s worked 3 days a week, accounting for time off during weather or layup issues.  But I have known plenty of horses that were well older than 6 that couldn’t do any of those things, so I think the training isn’t necessarily about the number of hours, but about the quality of the training sessions.

To me, I suppose it is just too hard to put a steadfast number on how long it takes for a horse to be considered well trained, since they are all so different, and so is the quality of training, and each individual’s definition of “well” trained.



So, anyway, here are the 2014 year end driving totals for my “really broke” horses that got handed in to the ADS.


Chewbacca in 2014  racked up 55 drives.  (he was driven 70 times in 2013! My what a difference!!! Yikes…)
He put in 47 miles on the roads, 38 miles on trails, and brought his lifetime total drives up to 259.
Most of his drives were 30 minutes, several 45, a couple 60 minutes, and 2 90 minutes drives, putting his annual driving hours totaled at approximately 40 hours actually hitched and working.  (And that’s in a YEAR!  He started driving on March 30, and ended on Nov 9.)  … See why I think getting 1 horse up to 500 hours of working time is so far fetched?!  Chewie, since taking his first drive in July 2011, probably has only actually worked maybe 200 hours totaled… in 4 seasons!  And I definitely consider him very broke!

Luke102514c      20140920_114903 

Luke and Jesse;

I’m not as neurotic about writing down each of their drives, although I do keep track of the hours *I* spend driving in total, I don’t log the miles & drives of either of these 2 like I do Chewie’s.  Still, whenever Chewbacca works, Luke usually works, too, so it would be a safe bet to say that Luke has had around 55 drives, too this year, probably with very similar totals on the roads & trails.  They both got hauled to 1 trail this year.

Jesse doesn’t get driven quite as much; most weeks, he only gets driven once, but I will work him twice a week when I can.  Jesse spends quite a bit of time out on trail, because I prefer the grass under his feet instead of the sand arena for his little frame to pull the cart through.  I would guesstimate that Jesse has probably done 30 drives this year, including 2 shows.  He is a little roadmaster, with realistically about 20  miles on the black top – let’s face it – it takes him longer to go 3 miles than the bigger horses, so I usually don’t end up having a ton of time to drive him that “far”.  Most of his drives were on trails, so I would guess he’s probably done 40 miles on trails this year.

For me, all totaled, that brought my 2014 driving hours up to a whopping 87 hours.   My typical annual hours are usually around 130.  I really cut back on the number and length of drives with everybody this year, and it shows.  My hours are hurting bad.  Hopefully next year I can add another green bean to the mix and help get my hours back up.


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Bonus alert!

Saturday’s weather was really quite nice.  Although there was a strong wind and it was a bit chilly, it was a rare 45 degree treat, and I did manage to get in a full work out with all 3.  No one has been worked at all since Nov 9, so it has literally been 3 weeks since I hitched anyone.  I took Jesse 2 miles down the road and back in 1/2 hour.

Chewbacca was a little up, so he mostly walked his drive, and ambled along at a measly rate of 3 miles an hour, of which we did 3 miles and were gone a full hour.  In a way, I think that was good for him.

Luke ended up doing a bit more trotting, but was still gone an hour for a 3 mile (well, just a tad over) drive.

Since I already sent in my 2014 hours, I guess these will count towards 2015.  Yay!  An extra 2.5 hours of driving time I didn’t think was going to happen!  It was nice enough to draw out a couple other boarders, so while I went out with Jesse alone, I had 1 person for company with Chewie and then 2 people for company with Luke.  How fun!


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A Very Tragic Day

Around 11 Saturday night, a barn local to my area, about 6 miles away from my own barn, burned to the ground.  By 8 am Sunday morning, with the ashes still smoldering, the horse world was alerted to the fact that that 32 horses perished at Valley View Acres; a barn that has been around and in business for more than 20 years.   5 pasture boarded horses survived.   It was a popular lesson barn, and many of the horses were owned by individual boarders.  They were kids’ lesson ponies and horses, show horses, studs, mares, although I’m not sure if the barn had any foals on site, they were an active breeding barn, producing white and colored thoroughbreds.


Valley View Acres was one of only a few breeding barns in the US that specifically bred for maximum sabino thoroughbreds.  One of their foals was used in the Johnny Depp Lone Ranger movie that came out a few years ago – a true white Thoroughbred, one of 2 that played “Silver” in the movie.  They produced pinto, buckskin, and white TB’s, and had a very active and busy lesson and show schedule, from hunters to cross country for all levels.

It has been a very sad weekend here, especially right before the holidays; not that there’s ever a “good” time for a tragedy like this to happen.  As of yet, the cause is not known, but we have been freezing temperatures, and barns have all shifted into winter mode.  Was it a bucket heater?  A faulty wire?  Only time will tell, but this tragic event is a bleak reminder that our horses can be gone in the blink of an eye.   Make sure you give your horse a hug.  I know I did.

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The Road I’ve Traveled


Just a little app that showed up on my Facebook feed.   I have spent quite… QUITE… a bit of time recently thinking about the road of my life (thus far).  This fun little App seemed almost oddly appropriate for my current nostalgic frame of mind of late.

Like the beginning of Supernatural; this is “The Road So Far”.

It all started on a fateful day in 1979 back in Scranton, PA.
My travels took me to the great beyond of New York State, everywhere from Niagara Falls to Times Square.  I’ve been to Baltimore and to the wonderful Ocean City, Maryland, of which there is no other place that compares.  I’ve been to Virginia to the land of the first settlers, checked out Charlestown Track and Meredith Manor in West Virginia, I’ve been to Atlantic City and the other (non-comparable) Ocean City, New Jersey, I have been to Lexington, Kentucky, nearly took a job in Knoxville, Tennessee (at the University of Tennessee), and I have been to the Capitol and other sites, including the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  I’ve also been to the Ohio All American QH Congress in Columbus.

I have at the very least driven through North and South Carolina, vacationed once in Florida, and lived in Georgia, and now Illinois.  I also flew to Las Vegas once.  Since living in Illinois, I have been in Iowa, almost went to see the “Field of Dreams” field (yes, it’s a real place!), and I’ve been to Wisconsin and Indiana, too.

I guess I do not give myself for being well traveled.  I’ve been through or to 18 states, that’s pretty good, I guess.  About a third of the Nation.

I definitely have a lifetime goal of going to all the other states, and returning to a few of the previously visited ones like Kentucky, New York, and Maryland.  It will be hard, especially with a husband who always says everything is “too far” and no money to get there anyway.  But if I had my camera in hand, I’d be OK with that, and just hop in the car and go.  In fact, I think something like a backpacking trip around the country (or world!) with just my camera, plenty of charged batteries and SD cards, and some money) would be a fun thing to do!  I’m not sure how I can incorporate Chewbacca and Luke into that trip, but you know I’d try if I could.

I have recently looked into cheap (like $100 round trip) flights, and there are more of them out there than you might thing.  Could be fund to just show up at the airport one day and ask for a ticket on the next flight to wherever.  See where I end up, take camera, and make a day or weekend of it.

And speaking of roads traveled…. the horses won’t be travelling down any roads any time soon.  I had really hoped to squeeze in one (or two) last drives for the year, but I am deeply saddened to say the weather just isn’t cooperating.  At least I’m not in Buffalo!  But it’s been in the single digits here, or just barely in the teens, and extremely windy or cold.  This weekend we are expecting some freezing rain conditions; so looks like the horses have hit winter break a couple weeks early due to crappy weather.  Wonder if this means I’ll be back to driving in February again like I was in 2012, which was practically unheard of!

Looks like, with the end of the month quickly approaching, my year-end totals for recreational driving will be due, and I won’t be adding to them.  Guess I had better just send them out so they are into the ADS before 12/1.

Next year, since I broke my trailer and can’t afford any other ways to transport myself, I won’t be attending any shows, or trails at parks.  Very much a bummer, but it is what it is.

I DO plan (because I don’t know when to give up) to buy another pony.  If you were around for my Andy debacle, you know it did not go well.  Andy was a cute pony, and I feel bad he didn’t work out, but the next pony— even one intended to be a sale pony–will have to live up to “big brothers’ ” examples, and be as good as my current trio, else they just ain’t good enough.  Andy’s tendency to be fearful to the point of shaking, and desire to bolt, bronc out, and fall down, did not make him a good (and safe) resale driving prospect, in my opinion.  If I had my own place, I would have kept him, and worked him slowly over a year or more, which is what he needed, but alas, it is what it is.  My next pony (whose name will begin with a B!) will either be pretty much unhandled and unstarted or already safely driving.  One or the other.


But that’s all neither here nor there.  With the unpleasant weather coming up this weekend, I guess I’ll definitely be closing the books on driving for the year.   Year end totals will be up soon!


Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and remember all that you have to be grateful for!

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SmugMug Maybe

Not too much to say today.  With the early darkness and cold weather, the horses may … *may* … work another 2-3 days out of the remainder of the year.  I do hope to get them out on the roads a bit, since somehow I’ve spent most of my drive time playing on trails or in the arena.  I realized I haven’t driven on the roads in over 5 weeks.  I took them out last weekend when it was pretty nice, but this weekend is not looking so promising.  I usually don’t drive at all past Thanksgiving, so the 2014 driving season is winding down fast and coming to a close!  Yikes!!!

In the meantime, I am considering starting a SmugMug account to sell photographs through.  I’ve always wanted (and have once tried) to make money with my photography passion.  SmugMug allows people to purchase prints, canvas, gift items like mugs, mousepads, you name it – all with whatever photo on it you would like.  Pricing on the items pretty much ranges from $5 to several hundred, depending on what each photographer sets.

Hmmm… I wonder if I could make SmugMug work for me.  I’ve been reading through the website, and perusing other users photos, and WOW!  So many of them are so stunning, it really makes me feel pretty pathetic about my own photos!  I really need to improve.  I think I need to move out West so I can mountain vistas, desert sands, and amazing sunsets and views of the Aurora Borealis, lol!

Well, its’ something to think about …..  SmugMug, not moving West.  Chewbacca told me he doesn’t want to become a desert horse.

Have a great day!

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Trail Drive

I am still around!  I know I haven’t been posting quite as much.  I’ve been so busy, but not a ton of it horse related.  Things horse-wise are actually slowing down.  It’s darker earlier, and I’m pretty much just working each horse 1-2 days a week and that’s it now.  Winding down for the season!

However, today was a day of brilliance, and I was very happy to get some extra help and get photos out on the trails!  Just wanted to share!!Chewie102514c Chewie102514e Chewie102514h Luke102514b Luke102514c Luke102514e

Have a great day!  And if you are experiencing this wonderfully beautiful weather – get out an enjoy it!  I am!!!

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