Category Archives: Agriculture

You CAN lead a horse to a “Drinking Post” to save you time AND money

The trees are budding, the birds are chirping, the horses are shedding – spring has sprung! With spring on the farm, comes lots of work: from cleaning tack, harrowing paddocks, grass cutting, and tidying up the Foxwood horses and ponies after a long winter season. With so much to do, there never seems to be enough time in the day!

I like to think that I am fairly progressive when it comes to trying new methods of working around the farm and if I can implement something that is going to save me time AND money, why wouldn’t I try it?

In the fall of 2015, I read about a watering system for large animals that had originated in Western Canada, mainly for cattle, but was becoming popular at horse farms. If you’re familiar with how a frost-free yard hydrant works, then you already understand the concept of how the Drinking Post Waterer works; however, unlike a regular frost-free hydrant, the Drinking Post Waterer has some amazing differences:

Frost-free yard hydrants/drinking post waterers are installed to provide water to various locations on a farm during all seasons of the year. They are manufactured and installed in such a way that they will operate throughout the winter without freezing and because the water is coming up from below the frost line, the temperature remains at 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The main difference between the 2 systems is that to use a frost-free hydrant, you then need to have a trough. A trough that needs to have a heater installed in the winter time, to keep the water from freezing. And, a trough that needs to be cleaned and dumped out, especially in the summer, to avoid algae growth (not to mention standing water which increases the likelihood of mosquitoes).

About 10 years ago, when I had a new well drilled on the farm, I had frost free hydrants installed in 3 of our paddocks. At the time, I thought this was fantastic as it meant that I no longer had to drag hoses out from various tap locations and during the winter months, I simply had to put the heater in the trough and all was good…well, until a power outage when the heater would then stop working, causing the water to freeze within the trough. Or in the heat of the summer, if I happened to be away for the day, and the horses would drink the trough dry. As horse owners, we know that having fresh, clean water accessible to our horses all the time is important for their health so something needed to change.

I took that leap in November 2015 and purchased 1 Drinking Post Waterer from System Fencing. I was skeptical at first – not knowing if they would all drink from it. Many of my horses had been at barns in the past with automatic drinking systems in their stalls, but none of them had access to automatic outdoor systems. Leading one horse at a time up to the Drinking Post Waterer, I was amazed at how quickly each and every one of them learned how to work it.

To operate, a horse simply presses their nose on the paddle inside the bowl and as it fills with water, the horse can drink. When they are done drinking, the paddle is released and the remaining water drains down through the interior of the waterer and into the ground below. It’s simple and has so many benefits:

Constant cool, fresh water at 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit, all the time. Horses will consume considerably more when at that temperature

Clean drinking water ALL THE TIME. No algae growth and no having to scrub out water troughs.

No standing water which equals no mosquitoes

AND cost savings due to no hydro requirements!

So, yesterday, I had my Drinking Post Waterer installer back to Foxwood. We put in 3 more drinking posts! One in every paddock so that now, I can rotate pastures in the summer without having to drag around the troughs to the hydrants. I no longer have to clean out algae, I don’t have to worry about water freezing in the winter…and with a decrease in my hydro bill this past winter, I can buy more crazy socks and saddle pads;)

Until next time,
Robyn

5 minutes…saving our horses one letter at a time

Slaughter. A term used for the killing of animals for food consumption. Pigs, cows, chickens, goats, and yes, horses – not just in Europe but here in Canada. In fact, Canada is a world leader in the production of horse meat with approximately 67,979 horses having been slaughtered in Canada in 2015.

I’m sure many of you are shocked to hear that our beloved pets and riding companions, can end up from paddock to plate but this business, very sadly is growing. Horse meat exports brought in $85 million last year, as per Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada with more than 12 million kilograms of the product being shipped. The majority of horse meat is still being sold and shipped to Europe but what has become most alarming in the last year is the increase of LIVE transportation of horses to Japan for sushi.

In Japan, “premium consumption,” a philosophy in which consumers do not mind spending large amounts of money on trendy products or services, is on the rise. The Japanese are embracing “members-only” clubs and resorts upwards of ¥355 billion ($4,176,200,000 CDN), up 13 percent from 2015. Horsemeat is increasing in popularity in Japan due in part to a boom in these exclusive and often secretive dining clubs.

Canada is the ONLY country that ships LIVE horses for slaughter.

Every year, approximately 7000 horses are transported by air from Canada to Japan. These shipments are often conducted weekly, with up to three to four large draft type horses crammed together in wooden crates. There is little room to move around, let alone lie down. No food or water is provided during the often 30+ hour journey overseas. Canadian legislation permits horses to be transported without food and water for up to 36 hours and sometimes, due to flight delays, the 36-hour period is breached.

Canadian legislation prohibits horses over 14 hands high to share a crate with other horses; however, the majority of horses being shipped to Japan are draft or draft crosses who exceed the height restriction.

They must be shipped individually if over 14 hands. Their heads must not touch the ceiling of the crate. They must not be deprived of food and water for any longer than 36 hours.

The law says all of the above things.

But for reasons of profit (up to $20,000 per horse shipped to Japan), Canada ignores the law.

I follow an amazing woman on Facebook. Her name is Dr. Judith Samson-French and she is a veterinarian who is based out of Western Canada. She advocates for ALL animals, sharing well informed articles, posting petitions to be signed and making the “average” person aware of situations such as the live transportation of horses to Japan. Below, is her Facebook post from today with a letter, for her Facebook followers, to address to Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

In sharing all of the information with you on this blog, my hope is that you will copy, sign and email the letter (or write in your own words) to Dr. Kiley and perhaps, we just might help make a difference:

“Can you spare 5 minutes?

Please read the letter below, if you agree copy, sign and send away (email address at the bottom).
Thank you so much!

Attention: Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

I am writing to comment on the following: Amendments to Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations, which pertain to the transport of animals, are now in the public comment phase in the Canada Gazette, Part I, Vol. 150, No. 49.

There are a number of concerns with the proposed regulations. Firstly no provisions have been made to prevent transport of animals in weather extremes. In Europe, transportation of animals is not allowed in weather extremes and trucks have to be temperature controlled. They are required to have on board ventilation systems. The proposed regulations do not deal with the issue of temperature extremes in Canada, and the kind of conditions (extreme Canadian cold and heat) that it is inhumane to transport animals in.

Secondly, the length of time of animal transports is still a concern. While there has been a proposed reduction in the times animals can be transported without food and water, it is still 28 hours in the case of horses and pigs. Considering the clock is re-set to zero when shipments of animals leave Canadian borders, slightly reduced Canadian travelling times will not make any difference to the actual travelling times between countries. For example , there will still be horse shipments to Japan from Alberta that are approximately 30 hours long from the time of loading at feedlots until arrival and unloading in Japan (longer if there are flight delays). Numerous studies have shown that horse health and welfare deteriorates significantly after 8 – 12 hours of travel without rest (for example the European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare (SCAHAW) and Stevenson: ”Long Distance Animal Transport in Europe. A cruel and unnecessary trade”2008).

Another concern with the live draft horse shipments is that horses are not being segregated currently, and I believe under the new regulations there will no longer be any requirement to segregate horses over 14 hands high. According to veterinarians, this practice of loading multiple horses into crates, while obviously cost effective and financially beneficial to the exporter, is detrimental to horse welfare in airplanes. From FOIP documents it is apparent that horses in the live shipments frequently go down during takeoff and landing, and with multiple horses in crates there is greater potential for injury if they are not segregated or no divider is used.

Another regulation that should be kept, not eliminated, in the horse shipments is the regulation requiring sufficient head space for horses, especially considering the fact that they will be standing in one position in the same wooden crate for approximately 24 hours (from the time they are first loaded into the crates until they are unloaded in Japan). It would be inhumane to have the heads of taller horses bent in unnatural position the entire 24 hours.

I am unclear as to how things will be improved for animals with the new transport regulations, and in fact with proposed removal of some of the existing regulations (segregation and head clearance) designed to protect horses during live horse shipments to Japan, the situation could become even worse for these animals. If Canada is going to make changes to animal transport laws, please ensure that they make significant improvements to animal welfare instead of maximized profits for exporters and producers.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
YOUR name here, address & phone number
email to: animaltransportanimaux@inspection.gc.ca
and you can cc: lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca
PM@pm.gc.ca ”

“Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

And it only takes 5 minutes,

Until next time,
Robyn

PS – you can also make a difference by emailing Atlas Air, the American company that provides the majority of the horse transportation from Canada to Japan:

Peter Beckett Senior Director Charter Sales and Marketing Email: peter.beckett@atlasair.com

And signing the petition at Change.org
https://www.change.org/p/richard-broekman-staff-vice-president-commercial-development-and-charter-sales-email-richard-broekm-peter-beckett-senior-director-charter-sales-and-marketing-email-peter-beckett-atlasair-com-jo-ask-atlas-air-to-end-the-shipment-of-live-horses-f?recruiter=309243881&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_res

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan

Happy New Year! We’re looking for a “green one”, what about you?

The New Year is almost here! What are some of YOUR New Year’s resolutions? Ride more? Keep your tack cleaner? Spend more time grooming your horse?

At Foxwood, we not only care about improving the skills of our riders and the conditions for our horses, but also the environment that surrounds us.

Explore Lake Simcoe article written by Aileen MacMillan – December 2016:

“In close proximity to the GTA, Foxwood Farm offers English riding lessons, summer camp and boarding. Boasting an indoor arena, a heated tack room, an outdoor grass ring, a jump cross country course, a sand ring and renovated barn, the farm also has access to 100 acres of groomed trails. Camps are offered on both full and half day schedules, and lessons are available year-round.

The design of this farm maximizes the use of outdoor space, which allows the horses to live in their natural habitat. Horses bed on straw—a practice that has environmental benefits —and they are on full outdoor turnout between the end of April and mid-November (weather permitting). Sixteen horses are kept inside at night while the remainder live outside, with access to shelter and plenty of room to wander.

At Foxwood, the use of straw bedding means that (in combination with manure) it decomposes much more quickly than commonly-used wood shavings, thus making it attractive to local farmers for compost. Recently-implemented farm practices that have an environmental benefit include the installation of an automatic drinking post that allow the horses to press a lever and get unlimited access to water. This eliminates the need to heat water to prevent freezing, it also eliminates standing water and conserves water. Robyn of Foxwood will be purchasing more of these drinking posts in 2017. The introduction of compressed MAXX feeding cubes has reduced hay waste and saved the farm money (while also reducing transportation costs and therefore GHGs).

Since the farm is on a septic system, camps and riding lesson participants use water-efficient portable washrooms. Riders are encouraged to bring their own refillable water containers whenever possible. Recycling is collected in the barn, but participants can help out by bringing reusable snack containers and separating recyclables properly while at the farm. Lights have been upgraded to accommodate highly efficient LED bulbs and sensors are installed on outdoor lights.

Foxwood Farm is located on 13th line in Gilford- perfectly situated between the GTA and cottage country.”

Many thanks to Explore Lake Simcoe for visiting our farm and recognizing our “green” contributions:) We look forward to implementing more changes in 2017!

Happy New Year to all!

Until next time,
Robyn

http://www.explorelakesimcoe.com/2016/12/29/learn-horses-nature-foxwood-farm/

Hey! Hay! Farm life made easier with the help of MAAAX cubes!

Life is busy. For everyone but especially on a farm where there is property to maintain, animals to tend to, and daily chores that can take up many hours of the day.

I have lived on my 25 acre farm for just over 18 years and each year, I try to make some sort of improvement that makes my farm life a little easier. Whether it’s a new lawnmower, with a larger cutting deck that reduces my time mowing; to outdoor run-in sheds to allow for more horses to live outside (creating fewer stalls to muck), etc., if there is a way to save time without sacrificing care and quality, every extra minute counts!

This summer, due to the drier weather conditions, the local farmers had to increase their hay prices – and substantially! When I first moved to the farm in 1998, I was paying $2.00 for a square bale of hay and $25 for a round bale. Jump forward to 2016, and square bale prices have escalated to $5.75 – $6.50/ bale and rounds to $55-75 (with a 20% increase from 2015 to 2016).

We can’t blame the farmers for Mother Nature but as a business owner, I knew that I had to make some decisions and I started to inquire about switching over from small squares to MAAAX cubes. I had heard about this product at the 2015 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto and even had a few sample bags that we had fed as treats. Some of the information I learned during my research about MAAAX cubes was very positive: there would be less waste, the quality was always excellent with no dust (good for horses that have breathing difficulties and/or who were older) and deliveries could be made YEAR ROUND! This would mean no more 38 degree, blazing hot, “hay days” in June or July and no more sore backs after unloading 1500 bales. Not to mention that Ian Miller, long time Canadian equestrian, feeds them to his horses;)

So, it all sounded great to me; however, I was still a little apprehensive to make the switch until I met with the sales representative for my area, to answer my questions: Would my horses actually eat them? Could they choke on them? How much do I feed to meet the equivalent of what I was feeding in flakes? And my business owner question…how much would they cost to feed?

The feeding issue wasn’t a problem. With the representative on site, I watched my horses and ponies happily munch on these timothy/alfalfa cubes and because they are processed as “long fibre”, the chewing time took much longer than I thought which kept the horses eating for a longer period of time. As for quantity to feed, the cubes are packaged in 50 lb bags but because the product is compressed, an average size horse at 1000 lbs would consume (at 10 lbs or 1% of his/her weight per day), approximately 1 MAAAX cube bag every 5 days. Now, I am still keeping my large round bales for outside use, so given that the cubes are going to be fed mainly when the horses are inside, the quantity per horse many be a bit less. Given this calculation, and the cost of the cubes, I would be SAVING money!

Better, more consistent quality; year round delivery with multiple payment options AND cost savings…the decision to switch from small square hay bales to MAAAX hay cubes couldn’t have been easier!

We are now in December and we have been feeding MAAAX cubes for many months. My horses and ponies all look healthy, well fed and they are going into the cold months of winter with a little extra weight, thanks to the quality of MAAAX cubes. I’m happy that not only am I feeding a good product but that my costs are consistent and I can budget accordingly. Oh, and the extra bonus? No more “hay days” of summer which might just give me time to ride;)

Until next time,
Robyn

THIS is how hay should be delivered!

Beating the barnyard bugs the natural way – how to make your own horse flyspray

There’s a fly in your eye…and many more on your horse! Spring has sprung and so have the bugs in the barn. There is nothing more annoying to a horse, whether while grooming or when riding, than having flies, mosquitoes and other annoying insects around.

I’d like to share a blog written by my good friend and fellow horse keeper, Michael Stuart Webb which gives us some homemade recipes for creating our own fly sprays:

“Much to our chagrin, and the dismay of our horses, fly season is once again upon us. At this time of year, many of us douse our beloved equine companions with ready-made, chemically based potions we pick-up at the tack shop. While many of these may work, they also introduce our horses to a myriad of toxic constituents that are oftentimes ingested and stockpiled in the soft tissues; awaiting opportunity to wreak havoc on our horse’s immune systems at a later date.

Fret not my fellow horse lovers! Available to us are easy-to-make, safe, non-toxic, homemade tinctures that work just as well and are cheaper! Below are some recipes you might want to try:


Citrus Insect Repellant

▪ 2 cups light mineral oil
▪ 1/2 cup lemon juice
▪ 2 tsp. pure citronella oil
▪ 2 tsp. eucalyptus essential oil
▪ 2 tsp. lemon dish soap

The Quick and Easy Fly Spray

▪ 4-7 parts water
▪ 1 part citronella essential oil


Apple Cider Tinture

▪ 1 quart raw apple cider vinegar
▪ 1 teaspoon citronella essential oil


Eucalyptus Oil Fly Spray

▪ 2 cups white vinegar
▪ 1 tablespoon eucalyptus essential oil
▪ 1 cup water


Dr. Mary Brennan’s Fly Spray Recipe

▪ 1/2 teaspoon oil of myrrh
▪ 2 cups water
▪ 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
▪ 1/4 teaspoon of pure citronella essential oil

* An important note about the citronella oil! Never buy citronella oil from the hardware store for these applications. These are meant for use in devices that burn the product and so they are oftentimes petroleum based and highly flammable. Buy all of your essential oils from your local, and trusted, health food store.


When applying these remedies, I use a small pump-style sprayer similar to those used to spray plants and trees with. Always exercise extreme caution when spraying these, or any products, on your horses so as to avoid getting any overspray into their eyes. When applying products to your horse’s head, it is always best to apply it first to your hands and then gentle wipe the product off onto your horse. Just like people, some horses display allergic reactions to some compounds, natural or not. If you should notice any irritation to your horse’s skin, immediately discontinue use and bathe your horse to remove any remaining product.”

So, before you head out to go horsebackriding or to visit your horse, pick up some of the ingredients above and try making your own flyspray. You’ll be happier, but more importantly, so will your horse.

Until next time,
Robyn

There's a fly in my eye!

There’s a fly in my eye!

Far from home, but never far from a barn or a horse!

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many different countries in my life and have had the opportunity to ride on several Caribbean islands; however, when presented with the idea of horseback riding, in many cases, the horses were not in very good condition. Instead of wanting to ride, I wanted to help these horses who were so thin and made to carry riders in the heat of the day. I remember on one trip to the Dominican Republic, I took the horses at the resort some apples from the breakfast buffet and some of the decorative flowers made out of carrots, from the lunch/dinner table. The horses were delighted with their treats and I knew that it was very rare for them to ever get anything like a piece of carrot or apple.

On the case of my recent adventure to the sunny south, I was extremely surprised and delighted to find the horses and pony at Oceanview Farm in Eleuthera, in excellent condition. I was travelling with my daughter, my sister and her family, and the kids all wanted to try a beach horseback ride so we ventured over to the stables at Oceanview one day to check out the facilities.

My first impression was that the horses were in good weight, had grassy paddocks for turnout and at each stall, there was a fan hanging above. Upon talking with the barn staff, we were told that when it is very hot outside (and this would be most afternoons especially during the summer months), the horses are turned out early in the day and brought in during the heat of the afternoon – with fans turned on to keep them cool.

Just like our horses at Foxwood Farm, certain horses have specific dietary requirements and in the Bahamas, all of the feed, hay and barn supplies need to be ordered and shipped by boat, from Miami. I was curious to find out the cost of keeping horses in the Bahamas and the farm owners were more than happy to answer my questions. Although they may pay slightly higher prices for grain, it was the cost of hay that shocked me! On average, here at Foxwood Farm, we pay between $5-5.50 per square bale of timothy/alfalfa mix. At Oceanview Farm, they pay betweeen $34-36 PER BALE for similar quality hay!! The hay is grown in Kentucky and then is shipped to Florida. From there, the hay is loaded onto pallets and sent via boat over to the Bahamas.

Another expense is the vet and farrier who both have to come over from the United States and Oceanview Farm has to pay for their plane ride over to the Bahamas at every visit. Due to the rocky terrain and dry conditions, all of the horses at Oceanview Farm wear front shoes – the cost every 6 weeks for a trim and reset is $150 US…again, a substantial increase over the cost of a farrier visit on the mainland.

Having decided that we definitely want to come for a ride, we returned to the farm a few days later in the morning to go for our beach ride. Our horses had already been groomed and tacked up before we arrived, so they were ready to go. My daughter was assigned LJ, who was a kind Thoroughbred gelding who had been rescued by Oceanview Farm and I was going to ride Major, who had been the personal horse of one of the owners. Because of the salt water in the Bahamas, Oceanview farm uses synthetic saddles so that they can be hosed off easily. These saddles were not similar to the English saddles that we are used to but are Australian saddles which reminded me more of a Western saddle, without the horn at the pommel. They have a deeper seat and were VERY comfortable for a 1 hour trail ride. The bridles used are made from nylon, again, as leather would not hold up to the salt water when venturing down to the ocean.

Starting off, riding around an inland lake, we then came to the glorious beach that beckoned us to ride upon it. I took a deep breath, looked around at the beautiful scenery around me, and enjoyed every minute and every step that Major took. This had been on my bucketlist forever and I couldn’t have wanted to share it with anyone else but my daughter. It was perfect!

Until next time,
Robyn
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Winter care for our Foxwood horses and ponies

4 more days…yes, I am counting down until the end of February. According to the local weather networks, this has been the coldest February on record and for those of you, like me, who have to work outside, we KNOW it is! Even though we have bundled up our horses and ponies this winter in warm blankets and bring most of them into a warm stall at night, they have also had enough of these temperatures! Some of our horses live outside 24/7, but with access to a run in shelter, they are able to get out of the elements.

I have been monitoring our horses and ponies very carefully this winter to make sure that they ARE staying warm and in good health. A good blanket is needed and it must not only be warm but waterproof as snow soaked blankets will only make a pony/horse colder. There are lots of blankets on the market but I have found that the more expensive brands like Rambo and Bucas, last longer and are better quality than others. If you wash and waterproof your blankets at the end of each season of use, this will also help prolong its’ life. It’s important to check blankets over daily for rips and any damage done to surcingles or leg straps. Leg straps should be checked before your horse/pony goes out in the morning and again, when it comes in at night. The same with the surcingles as often, horses and ponies love to roll so the blankets may shift slightly. Now that my horses and ponies have been wearing their blankets for many months, some of them have started to get some slight hair loss across the chest. Once the blankets are removed in early spring, generally, it doesn’t take long for their spring coats to grow in and repair the bald patch.

Another major issue to monitor in the winter is how much water your horse/pony is drinking. Some people assume that horses can eat snow to get their required intake ; however, this is definitely NOT the case. Horses will actually drink more water in the winter than at other times of the year because unlike spring/summer grass, hay is dry and they require more water to help digest and to avoid colic situations. To encourage my horses and ponies to drink more, I keep my outdoor water trough heated and I always have a salt and/or mineral block available. These blocks have vitamins and minerals that they do not get otherwise and the salt block makes them thirsty, which then sends them to the water. My current outdoor trough is 150 gallons and during the winter months, I will fill it up twice/day…that’s alot of drinking! For those horses that come in at night, they have water buckets in their stalls that get filled up several times over the course of the evening. If the buckets are completely frozen at night check, I will replace the bucket with a new one with fresh water. I have become very strong and skilled at using the rubber mallet this year to pound out ice;)

Some of our horses and ponies require a little extra feed over the winter as they may be old or just have trouble keeping up to the chubby ponies. Some of them get grain in the morning and at night – both times after they have had a feeding of hay which generates heat in their bodies. Without going into full detail about who eats what, every horse/pony has specific requirements so when introducing a new feed or when I get a new horse/pony, I always check with my local horse feed nutritionist to see what is best suited for that animal.

So, all of the key elements are covered at Foxwood to keep our ponies and horses happy in the winter: food, water and shelter…and of course lots of love! And let’s hope that all of the shedding we have been seeing while grooming our ponies and horses lately, is a sign that spring is just around the corner!

Until next time,
Keep warm!
Robyn

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…the Royal Winter Fair is here!

Some people look forward to birthdays (depending on your age;) and most get excited for Christmas but for the equestrian, the excitement of our calendar year falls in early to mid-November when the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair opens in Toronto. Ten days filled with amazing riding and horse exhibitors, great demonstrations and of course, fantastic shopping – it’s an agricultural tradition that has a long history for riders, livestock breeders and food producers.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, also known as “The Royal”, was first launched on November 22, 1922 drawing 17,000 livestock entries from several provinces and the United States. In 1965, the federal Department of Agriculture made some significant changes to the Royal by reducing the number of livestock classes and entries to give more prominence to the Winter Garden Show and Horse Show. As the numbers of attendees grew, along with the competition, buildings were renovated and the Royal expanded from the Coliseum on the grounds of the Exhibition Place to the Direct Energy National Trade Centre. By 1996, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair drew over 325,000 attendees, exhibitors, and international and local visitors. In the animal department, there were 3,000+ head of cattle, 1,300 horses, 1,600 birds, 500 sheep, 300 goats and 300 pigs on display in addition to giant vegetables and many more agricultural products.

Every year, as a teenager, I would “take an educational day” away from school with my friends on the first Friday of the Royal to watch the hunter pony riders. We all had our own horses at the time but could only dream of qualifying for an event as prestigious as the Royal. These are the BEST riders in Canada who show from May until September earning points at each show, hoping that when the final tally is done, they have obtained enough points to qualify. We were always in awe of the riders, some as young as 9 or 10, who would enter the ring with confidence – not knowing how their pony may or may not behave in front of such a large audience in a venue much bigger than what they had been showing in over the spring/summer season. Not only was the riding impressive but so was the turnout. Dressed in clean breeches, polished boots, and in the hunter classes, wearing a shadbelly (show jacket with tails), competitors at the Royal put their best effort into their appearance. And as for the ponies….? Well, they definitely don’t look like how our Feisty pony looks at this time of year, with his thicker coat and longer mane. Their coats have most likely been clipped a few weeks prior to the Royal, yet with the special touch of their “show grooms”, they shine when they enter the ring (along with their polished hooves). Some ponies, if it’s their first trip to the Royal, get a little overwhelmed – crowds, noise, different jumps – but whether they are new at the Royal or not, most of them go into the ring knowing that they have a job to do and a ribbon to win!

In addition to watching the horses, I love to just wander around and see the animals. We think that, as horsepeople, we spend lots of time grooming and caring for our animals and it is interesting to see that the sheep and cattle breeders put as much time and effort into their own animals. Walking by the jersey or dairy cows, seeing them getting their coats dried and fluffed before they enter the judging ring is really quite cute! I also get a kick out of the sheep wearing their “blankets” with some covered up over their heads with eye holes to look out from.

And a trip to the Royal wouldn’t be complete without checking out the massive vegetables that are grown locally (I think the red ribbon pumpkin last year was over 1200 lbs!) along with the butter sculptures created by Toronto art students.

Last, but certainly NOT least, is the shopping. Aisles and aisles of tack stores and other horse specific shops carrying beautiful jewellery, art work, clothing, and much more. As you all know about my saddle pad addiction, I will tell you that I buy at least 1 every year at the Royal…along with other finds that I might not get elsewhere (it’s a good thing that most retailers accept Visa or Debit;).

So, with so much to see and do, you might just want to book off 2 days so that you can see everything!

Until next time,
Robyn

PS – this year, there will be 42 Foxwood riders/parents/friends going to watch an evening performance at the Royal. Stay tuned for live tweets!!

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