Book Review - Beyond the Homestretch, by Lynn Reardon

What happens to thoroughbred racehorses, once they are no longer fit to race?

Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses, by Lynn Reardon, is a journal of love and learning, even as it traces the development of a retired racehorse rescue program. In her 304-page nonfiction first book, author and equestrian Lynn Reardon shares her own personal transformation from a professional accounting career for a Washington, D.C., non-profit organization to ownership and management of a racehorse adoption ranch in Texas.

Each of the 15 chapters in Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses tells the story of a special ex-racehorse and how that equine arrived at LOPE (LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers). Reardon also details her own on-the-job equine education, as she describes the adjustments and adoptions of former off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses.

Many of Reardon's equine charges arrive with physical or other issues, resulting from their careers at racetracks. Usually, racehorses continue racing as long as they are capable of doing so successfully. Once a racehorse becomes injured or unable to race, that equine's worth to those in the racing industry may be questioned.

"Stall space is limited at the racetracks, and most trainers don't own farms," Reardon explains. "There is no room to give an injured horse time to rest and heal. Most trainers do their best to find homes for their horses - but the options can be limited. And the thread of auction (and 'used-horse' dealers) is never far away."

Reviewer’s Note:
This book reviewer received a complimentary copy of the book described and evaluated here, although the reviewer has no prior or existing relationship (either familial or professional) with the author or publisher.

Reardon describes how off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses reside and recover at her ranch, LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE). Many of these retired racehorses are ultimately adopted as hunters, dressage mounts and pleasure horses. A few horses remain as part of Reardon's own herd. To date, LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE) has placed more than 725 off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses for adoption in second careers.

The horses bear stories as intriguing as their names: Bridge Place, Captain Boo, Down to the Wire, EndoftheStorm, Lightning Ball, Nacho Mann, PJ, Prom Queen, Spider, Sugarfoot, Tawakoni, Tulsa Mambo, You're my Baby and Zuper.

Many of these horses come from prime horse racing lines, including Kentucky Derby winners and other thoroughbred stars.

In relating the tales of these colorful equine characters, Reardon tosses in an insider's look at the world of thoroughbred horse racing - from horse trainers to gallop girls, and from racing jockeys to equine veterinarians. Published in hardcover in 2009 and in paperback in 2011,  Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses includes interesting background on thoroughbred horse breeding, equine training, equestrian disciplines (dressage, polo, trail riding and more), veterinary medicine, horse nutrition, stable management, horse trailering and much more.

Reardon's final statement sums up her experience to date with her retired racehorse adoption program. "The subtitle of this book is 'What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses,'" she writes. "But the reality is that the horses saved me - from a dull, ordinary life lacking purpose, adventure and growth. I will always be grateful to them."

With short, animated chapters, humble (and often humorous) tone and animated pace, Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses is a worthy and enjoyable read for anyone who loves horses or horse racing. Best of all, proceeds from book sales help to support LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE) and Reardon's efforts to find second careers for off-the-track thoroughbred (OTTB) horses.

Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses, by Lynn Reardon,was published by New World Library Publishers (Novato, California).

Book cover / promotional photo / fair use

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20 equestrian groups tapped to tack up for 2017 Rose Parade

A diverse roster of equestrian participants has been announced for the 128th Rose Parade. The celebratory event is slated for Monday, January 2, 2017, as part of the festivities associated with the 103rd Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena, California. 

The equine acts selected represent many breeds and disciplines. From drill teams to trick riders, from jousters to mounted military groups, and from driving drafts to sidesaddle equestriennes, the assortment brings plenty of sporty interest to the annual 5.5-mile procession down Colorado Boulevard.

Here’s the horsey line-up for this upcoming highlight.

  1. 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment (Fort Hood, Texas)
  2. Anheuser Busch Budweiser Clydesdales (St. Louis, Missouri)
  3. Backcountry Horsemen of California – Mid-Valley Unit (Sonora, CA)
  4. California Highway Patrol Mounted Patrol Unit (Sacramento)
  5. Kern County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse (Bakersfield)
  6. Los Hermanos Banuelos Charro Team (Altadena)
  7. Mane Attraction Equestrian Drill Team (Riverside)
  8. Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament (Buena Park)
  9. Philippine Scouts Heritage Society – U.S. Army’s 26th Cavalry Regiment (Los Angeles)
  10. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Mounted Enforcement Unit (Santa Barbara)
  11. Scripps Miramar Ranch Saddlebreds (San Diego)
  12. Seven Oaks Farm Miniature Therapy Horses (Hamilton, Ohio)
  13. Spirit of the West Riders (Leona Valley, CA)
  14. The New Buffalo Soldiers (Shadow Hills, CA)
  15. The Norco Cowgirls & The Little Miss Norco Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team (Norco, CA)
  16. Union Rescue Mission - Los Angeles (Los Angeles)
  17. United States Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard (Barstow)
  18. Valley Hunt Club (Pasadena)
  19. Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society (San Diego)
  20. Wells Fargo Stagecoaches (Los Angeles)

Returning acts (from 2016) include the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment, Anheuser Busch Budweiser Clydesdales, Los Hermanos BaƱuelos Charro Team, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Scripps Miramar Ranch Saddlebreds, Spirit of the West Riders, New Buffalo Soldiers, Norco Cowgirls & Little Miss Norco Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team, USMC Mounted Color Guard, Valley Hunt Club, and Wells Fargo.

Themed “Echoes of Success,” the 2017 Rose Parade will also feature the ever-popular floral floats and marching bands.

Rose Parade promotional photos/fair use

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Shooting horses: 10 easy tips for equine photography

"Film is cheap! Time is not!"

Honestly, that's best professional photography advice I ever received, as a budding corporate journalist years ago. Gathering business bigwigs in the boardroom for a photo-shoot can be challenging, so it's critical to keep that shutter clicking as much as possible. The ideal photo-opportunity may not appear again.

That is wholly true (but even more so) with horses.

Peppy yearlings in the pasture can be even more impatient than over-scheduled executives! Just when you think you have the ideal lighting and the magic moment, a truck may rumble by and startle the entire herd. If you have your face in the viewfinder, you may find yourself surrounded by thundering hooves in a heartbeat!
Horse closeups can be fun.

That's sort of the nature of nature photography (or at least, animal photography), isn't it?

Catching a proud mare and her flashy foal right after delivery or frolicking on their first turnout together can be photographic paradise. If you’re not ready to click at the right time, however, you can miss the opportunity.

A show-ready pair simply begs to be photographed. With the dues paid, the show clothes cleaned and pressed, the tack polished, and the main braided, this is a presentation worthy of record. How can you set yourself up to snap this picture well?

Although expert photographers tend to reach for professional camera equipment, it is possible for horse lovers to take artistic and memorable equine photos with low-cost digital and traditional cameras and even smart phones.

1. Charge before you go. No, I’m not talking about charging on horseback. This tip is all about showing up with a well-charged photographic device. Whether you use sophisticated camera equipment or a simple smart phone, proper power counts for plenty. This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many devices run out of juice, just as the right photographic moment arises.

2. Memory matters. If you're heading out to a photo shoot, be sure to have lots of available memory. Camera users usually take along extra memory cards. Smart phone devotees clear their camera roll files, uploading existing files to computers or clouds before going on a shoot.

Angled shots are nice, but don't chop off ears and hooves!
3. Pick your speed. Choose a fast shutter setting. If your device offers a sport/action option, go for it.

4. Shoot outside. Most barns have terrible lighting for photos, so open-air equine photos tend to be the clearest. Plus, horses tend to kick up dust, and the particles can show up in images. Early morning and later afternoon provide softer lighting, which generally produces better pictures. Slightly overcast days tend to be better than over-bright ones.

5. Get up close and personal. If it’s feasible and safe to do so, it’s best to shoot photos near the equine subject/s than to use a zoom feature. If you are shooting at a horse show or event, then you likely will remain removed from the action, and a telephoto lens will be a must. Purchase the longest zoom you can afford.

It's usually best to include the whole horse in the shot, unlike here.
6. Consider the backgrounds. A truly classy shot will showcase your intended subject against an uncluttered backdrop.

7. Pick flattering angles. Horses tend to photograph best from the side or from an angle, rather than straight-on.

8. Frame your subject. As you shoot, try to get the whole horse inside your viewfinder. You can always crop your photos later. It’s astonishing how many horse photos lop off the animal’s legs or other parts. Except for extreme close-ups, head shots, and intentional artistic angles, full-body shots are generally the most appealing. This tip applies especially to portraits and horse registration photos.

9. Shoot plenty of pictures. The simple rule is this: click off as many shots as you can, for as long as you can. Today, we have smart phones and digital cameras, so we don't even pay for each exposure. Keep on clicking. Shoot as many frames as you can, particularly if the horse if moving. You can always delete the lesser-quality shots later. Ask any equine photographer how many ears-back, cocked-leg, or tail-swishing outtakes he or she has deleted.

Ears up! And is that foal growing from his nose? Framing counts!
If a rider is aboard, shoot even more. You're looking for that magic moment, when the horse and rider look their best together. You want the horse's ears forward, the rider's chin up, and the stars perfectly aligned. (In a pinch, some have even saved video screenshots, just to catch the ideal action shot. Sure, the image quality suffers a bit, but for a smaller image, this may do the trick.)

10. Edit plenty. The secret to wonderful digital photographs is often in the editing process. Good photo editing software is money well-spent. You can crop right to the focal point, adjust color and contrast, convert to black and white (or antique sepia), and even correct focus and background problems.

Click! Click! That’s it. Horse photography 101 is pretty straightforward. Pick your favorite equine images, and save or post them for sharing.

Public domain photos

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Why Do Horses Roll on the Ground?

Let the good times roll!

Horse owners can spot the signs of a horse that plans to roll on the ground.

First, the equine may walk in a circle (somewhat as a dog might circle before lying down). Next, the horse will probably paw the dirt with his front hooves. He may even sniff the ground, as if he is seeking the optimum spot for rolling. Finally, he will bend his front knees, lean left or right and flop down into the dirt, dust, mud, sand or stall bedding.

Many horses will roll to one side, stand up and then roll to the other side. Young or particularly athletic horses may roll from one side to the other before rising again. After rolling, horses will usually shake themselves off and then run around a bit – with perhaps a few happy bucks.

Of course, rolling is a natural equine behavior. A rolling horse is perfectly safe, as long as he is carrying no rider or tack and has plenty of room to roll.

Why do horses roll? What precipitates this equine behavior?

Horses may roll for countless reasons. Here are ten common causes of equine rolling, including some that may be deliberate and some that may be utterly unconscious for horses.

1. Horses often roll when their abdomens hurt.

In certain instances, horses may roll on the ground while suffering from abdominal pain, as from colic. These horses usually show other signs of discomfort, bending backwards to look towards their guts, swishing their tails frantically and moaning. Colicking horses may lie down and rise repeatedly.

A horse with colic should be prevented from rolling, as this may encourage intestinal twisting or life-threatening impactions.

If a horse appears distressed, professional veterinary medical assistance may be needed.

2. Horses may roll if their fur is wet.

For horses, rolling on the ground is a natural form of self-grooming and a means of drying rain-soaked, sweat-soaked or shower-soaked coats.

In fact, freshly bathed horses may roll in dirt or mud immediately after cleansing, if they have the opportunity to do so. Although horse groomers may be somewhat chagrined to behold this equine behavior, horses may prefer to be gritty or mud-caked.

To prevent spit-shined horses from rolling, equine grooms may cover horses with terrycloth or fleece coolers and tie them in their stalls or the barn aisle for clean drying.

3. Horses roll for natural sunscreen.

Horses may sunburn, especially on their muzzles and other thinly covered areas. In particular, white or light-colored horses may be most affected by the sun’s rays. A roll in the mud can actually provide a layer of sunscreen (and even wind protection) for a horse, although the horse will likely have no idea that this benefit is occurring.

4. Horses roll to rid themselves of bothersome bugs.

In a similar vein, a coat of dust or mud on a horse’s coat may offer a certain amount of insect protection. Horses that roll may bear extra bug shield, even if they are unaware of this asset.

5. Horses tend to roll to imitate and signal one another.

Horses are social creatures. Each equine herd has its own hierarchy. Rolling is a social behavior, demonstrating both trust and social position.

Often, horse herd observes note how one horse’s rolling may lead to others’ following suit. Generally, only one horse in a herd will roll at a time, with equines taking turns. This is seen, by human observers, as a defense against possible predators.

Usually the most dominant horse in the herd is the last to hit the ground.

6. Horses might roll to resist uncomfortable tack.

Rolling may be quite dangerous, if a horse is wearing a saddle or training tack. A pinching surcingle or ill-fitting saddle or girth may give a horse cause to roll, if he is not prevented from doing so. A horse that rolls while wearing tack may easily become injured, and expensive tack may be damaged.

Of course, a horse that attempts to roll with a rider aboard may be perilous indeed, both to himself and to his equestrian partner.

7. Horses frequently roll to scratch their own backs.

Even horses love a good back scratching. Although social grooming may offer some such comfort for equines, an animated roll on the ground may be the best horse massage nature has to offer them. In fact, many equine chiropractors claim that rolling is often excellent for realigning horses’ vertebrae naturally.

8. Horses roll to shed their winter coats.

Each spring, horses residing in cold-weather climates may begin shedding their winter coats. Rolling vigorously in gritty dirt is one way to hasten this process.

Horses roll around to stretch their muscles.

Rolling on the ground is excellent exercise for a horse, stretching his back, barrel, buttocks, flanks, legs, neck, spine, and more. Because equestrian disciplines generally aim for optimum equine flexibility and overall fitness, horse owners almost universally express pleasure at seeing their horses rolling on the ground.

Horses sometimes roll just for fun.

To a horse, rolling around on the ground may be just plain fun. After all, a bit of exuberant thrashing can be an enjoyable means of expending extra equine energy, enthusiasm, and spirit. Once he’s done rolling, he’ll likely stand and shake off the dust and be ready to settle into some serious grazing or even work.

Roll on!

Horse Rising After Rolling – Pixabay public domain photo

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