Friday, October 31, 2014

Abusers Abuse - Species Doesn't Matter

McCleish Christmas Benham is a Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horse trainer.  His whole family is involved in the Training, Showing and Breeding of Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses.  Now, why is this relevant to his outburst in Texas?  Because there is a correlation between abusing animals also manifesting in the abuse of humans.

There are countless articles and studies that indicate this:
New York Times Article

Animal Advocacy groups such as:

With a list of incidents of Horse Protection Act Violations (horse soring abuse) a mile long just for Mac, not including all of the violations that his relatives also own.....I think the correlation in this case between animal abuse and abuse perpetrated towards humans is quite clear.

We need to pass the PAST ACT to protect the Tennessee Walking Horses and their close relatives, the Spotted Saddle Horse and the Racking Horse.  Please, call your representatives today and encourage them to co-sponsor this important legislation.

Ride safe all.

~The RoadQueen

Monday, September 22, 2014

Alum Creek 2014

Last weekend Mom and I headed South with the horses in tow to Alum Creek State Park.  This was not an organized club ride, which was nice as it provided an even more relaxed and informal atmosphere.  We met up with one of our friends for a weekend of camping and riding, and we got our bellies full of food, horses, nature, friendship and adventure.  

Friday Night Campfire
The three of us headed out for a 3 hour tour on Saturday that ended up being a 4 hour adventure.  We got lost several times, faced quite a few hairy circumstances created by man and nature and earned a few more battle scars.  All three horses were superstars and got us through mostly unscathed, and I've been reassured just how much I love my horse.  

Nothing like facing a few demons and coming out on the other side of the fire alive to strengthen the bond between human and beast.

Saturday Morning Breakfast!
View from the horse trailer.  Nothing better.
Mom and our friend, Nancy leading the way.
Rest Stop in town
With only an hour and 15 minutes in the saddle, we came to what we THOUGHT was the 1/2 way point of our ride.  All three horses had started out with a fire in their bellies and were moving out quite quickly.  The place where we chose to rest was in the little town of Kilbourne, in the parking lot of a tiny local grocery.  You can get food or drink here, and they have a hitching rail for the horseback riders camping at Alum Creek.  

This part of the journey is what impressed me the most with Guinness.  He is notoriously a freak when it comes to anything to do with civilization.  He can become uncontrollable and inconsolable around houses, stores, strange people, cars, etc.  Generally when we enter a populated area, I have to dismount and walk to help him through the scary buggers as he will gallop in place, spin, run sideways and just generally be a dink.  As you can see in the above picture, he was an absolute gentleman and so very brave for me.

I didn't think to get any pictures of it, but while we were taking our rest, a man and his little girl of no more than 3 or 4 years old approached me and asked if they could pet Guinness.  Now, I know that he is usually very tolerant of children, so I supervised while they said hello to him.

He not only tolerated her (she was so stinkin' cute....curly blond hair, blue eyes, all smiles) but seemed very interested.  He sniffed her hair and face, presented his nose for her to pet and stood still as a statue for her to love on him from the safety of her father's arms.

Talk about one proud horsey mama.  :)  After they had their fill of hands on interaction, they got loaded up in their car but sat and waited for us to mount up and leave so they could watch.  Of course coming into the parking lot from the trail and heading back down the road to the trail Guinness was pretty fired up and prancing like a circus horses (I'm sure it looks cool, but it's not much fun to ride), but was completely under control and not doing anything stupid.  Like spooking into oncoming traffic, which is always nerve wracking.

After our little adventure in town, we found the trail head to complete our round trip going down the other side of the lake.  It took us another 3 hours to make our way back to camp, through difficult terrain, getting lost on side trails and me almost getting my knee taken off as Guinness turned a bit too sharply around a tree, but we had a great time in spite of the few hiccups and have more memories to hold onto.

There were a few mud bogs to traverse in the valleys of the large hills that we were climbing up and down.  All three horses's butts looked similar from the mud, so I thought I'd take a picture of Guinness' muddy butt.

Now that's some rough riding!

Ride Safe All!

~The RoadQueen

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Plight Of The Tennessee Walking Horse

It's no secret that my biggest passion in life is my involvement with horses.  As a life long equestrian, I love learning, training, caring and riding.  There's almost no greater soul soothing experience for me than being astride my partner, Guinness, as we meld together; our thoughts, emotions and senses becoming one.

Yes, it really is that magical.  Now, not every equestrian is as bat-shit horse crazy as I.  I don't care for and converse with my horse just because I like horses. I do it out of an emotional NEED.  I've tried to do without in the past, and it was one of the most miserable years of my existence.

Some are much more casual in their approach to horse ownership, and as long as they educate themselves at least enough to properly care for their horse and take care of basic needs, that's fine by me.  They own horses simply because it's a fun hobby, and there is a sense of satisfaction in being able to say that they own horses.  

Then there are those who seek fortune and fame, at all costs, and at the expense of the health and well being of the horses that they claim to 'love'.  Abusive training practices, using pain and fear to get better performances quicker, rather than taking the time it takes to develop a horse along in it's training in a humane way.

There are abusive trainers and owners in every aspect, of every walk of life.  Cheaters are around no matter what your drug, be it auto racing, cycling, baseball, football, or showing any breed or species of animal:  cats, dogs, cattle, and yes, horses.  This brings me to where my personal conviction and fight for injustice lies:  The Tennessee Walking Horse Performance Division, AKA The Big Lick, perpetuated, protected and encouraged by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeder's and Exhibitor's Association.

My horse Guinness, as you may recall from previous posts, is a Tennessee Walking Horse.  I have no papers so I do not know his lineage, but his conformation, gaits and temperament are unmistakable markers as to what breed he hails from.  


I was given a B.S. story as to why he did not have any papers when I bought him, and I knew it at the time.  I suspect what his life was like before coming to me at 8 years old, but I have no papers to trace him with (quite convenient).  This is the way of the Big Lick.  If they don't 'make it' in the show ring, shred the papers and dump them at an auction or pass them off as a trail horse....whether they've ever seen a trail or not.

Let me explain the Big Lick:  Pictures are worth a thousand words.  

"Big Lick - Big Lie"
That, is the Big Lick.  A high stepping stride in the front, rear feet reaching well underneath the horse.  The above picture is the exact moment in time that the Big Lick supporters like to use to promote their chosen way of using a horse.  In this exact moment, it looks graceful, elegant.  Once you get past the horrific 10" or longer shanked bit that causes more than enough pressure in the horse's mouth to crack a walnut, the gigantic stack of rubber pads that weigh on average between 5-10 lbs....which is heavy enough to have to use a metal band around the top of the foot, as nails will not keep them on the foot.  You've also got chains wrapped around the front legs to hit them in the sensitive, bony part of the leg and cause pain so that they will pick the legs up higher than they normally would, even with the horrific shoes on.  

Since the chains by themselves do not create enough of a reaction from the horse in lifting higher, caustic chemicals are applied to the front legs where the chains lie in order to create an incredible amount of pain each time the chain strikes the pastern when the horse takes a step.  This is called Chemical Soring.  There are many, many methods that the Big Lick 'trainer' use to sore a horse in order to get them to perform the Big Lick gait.


Here you can clearly see the bands used to hold the 'stacks' on.  Side note:  They can also over tighten them using the adjustment screw to purposely hurt the animal.  This is one method of 'pressure shoeing'.
Chains around the front legs, used in conjunction with chemicals used to burn the horse's skin where they strike. 
Caustic chemicals 'cooking' under saran wrap to burn the skin and make the chains hurt enough to make them pick up their legs higher.

Skin peeling off from chemical burns.

If the stack does come off.....the use of the band means that it breaks the whole hoof off.  If the horse trips, this is what happens.  Once the entire foot is ripped off, usually the horse must be put down.
So, you have the prettied up version (if you can still call it that), and then you have the rest of the story.  These are other moments in time that don't portray quite the image that the Big Lick crowd would like to look at on their wall:

This horse's front feet and legs hurt so bad, it's trying to put as much weight on it's back legs as possible to try to alleviate the extreme pain that standing on his front legs causes.

You know what's even better than pictures?  Videos!

Isn't this pretty???   Side note:  The Walking Horse industry doesn't let people embed their videos.  Guess they don't want people to see it if they can help it.  Notice the disclaimer that these horses were 'inspected'?  That's right, these horses are supposedly protected by the HPA - Horse Protection Act.  They have to endure inspections designed to determine if they have been sored or not.  (Trick question - they're all sored.  The key is, have them sore enough to win a class, but not sore enough or be able to hide it well enough to pass inspection.)

So, the horses have to tolerate this in addition to being in excruciating pain:

Notice the horse's leg flinching when the inspector starts palpating the leg?  That's a no-no.  A Big Licker never wants their horse to respond to pain during inspection, because it means trouble for them - as in, it being obvious that their horse is sore.  In order to prevent the horse from reacting to pain and making it harder to detect the fact that the horse has been sored, they "steward" the horse:

Because of the fact that soring or 'fixing', as it's called within the Industry is not only illegal, but is also feeling pressure from society as no longer acceptable, all trainers deny that soring is going on in this day and age, and all but a few sorers have been eliminated!  Their horses are sound and clean as any horse on the planet!


This next video features Jackie McConnell.  The man in the stewarding video, shown beating his horses in the head with a 2 x 4, using a cattle prod to electrify the metal bit in the horse's mouth, applying caustic chemicals to the legs, when the pain is so bad that they just lay there in agony to lesson the pain, he whipped the crap out of them to force them to stand back up, and using a pair of scissors on a horse that has been sored and twitched to cut the ligaments in the tail so that the tail can be held more upright.  No pain medications required, of course, to cut the ligaments in the sensitive underside of the tail.  Just twitch it hard enough to where it won't kick you.

Jackie was convicted of conspiracy to violate the HPA, as well as animal abuse at the State level.  In Tennessee, it's a felony to sore horses.  He was required by the court to make this video.  Now, you DID watch the video of how he treats horses, right?  Watch now as he STILL tows the party line, saying how he's seen SO MUCH CHANGE recently, and how only a few trainers are still soring horses, and his biggest regret is how much he's embarrassed his family, and at about 5 minutes into the video, he TEARS UP and says just how much he "Loves them horses".  

WHAT???  Come on.....

What a total waste of human flesh.

Now, I'd hate for anyone to think that the Big Lick is the only thing that can be done with Tennessee Walking Horses.  Quite the contrary.......they can do anything.

It's estimated that the Big Lick segment of the breed only consists of about 3% or less of the total Walking Horses worldwide.  The rest of us enjoy them the way they are naturally.  Athletic, smart, very forgiving, and stoic.  The same traits, unfortunately, that make them easy targets for abuse........because they will tolerate it.

Here's how the rest of us enjoy our Walking Horses:


^They can be classy and elegant on the rail^

^Dressage, anyone?^

^Endurance, too!^

^Jumping to the Moon!^

^Barrel Racing!^

The real question is - What CAN'T you do with a Tennessee Walker?  Well - nothing, actually.  ;)  They can do it all with class and smooth as glass.....and they deserve way, WAY better than the BIG LICK BIG LIE.

There is currently a bill in Congress waiting on a vote called the P.A.S.T. Act.  Prevent All Soring Tactics.  This is an amendment to the HPA or Horse Protection Act of 1970, and it would make those giant stacks and chains illegal to use for showing horses.  Of course, the sore horse advocates that are in support of the Big Lick are kicking and screaming and doing everything they can to keep it from getting voted on.  They'll be able to take those stacks and chains when they pry them from their cold, dead fingers.  Fine by me.

Ride safe all, and don't be an abusive a-hole.

~The RoadQueen

Monday, August 18, 2014

Soggy Hogs and Purple Riders - Cuyahoga Valley National Park

This past weekend I finally got to go camping with my pony in tow for the fourth time this year.  (pathetic)  This time out, we attended the annual State Hog Roast held at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park - hosted by Medina County OHC.

Friday night was COLD.  I believe the temps went into the low 40's.  It stayed cold until Saturday afternoon, and after some early morning shenanigans in camp, we finally headed out for a ride around 1:30 after eating breakfast with the neighbors.

WONDERFUL people.  Love them.

Headed out of camp, just myself and Mom.  About a mile and a half into the ride, we met up with some friends of ours.  Things started out ok, but quickly disintegrated because of mixed herd dynamics and adrenaline.  We have ridden with these friends in the past with no problems whatsoever, but for some reason this year our horses have decided that this cannot be done anymore without much rearing, racing, spinning, and all sorts of other undesirable behaviors.

At one point a massive tree fell in the woods as we were riding by.  After quickly assessing my horse's ability to handle said scary situation, I bailed and ended up getting hung up on the saddle horn in the process.  Thus, the Purple Rider:

Mom ended up splitting off from the group, as one of the mares really didn't like her horse, and I believe that the feeling was mutual.  The rest of us took a break to let the horse's adrenaline wear off, and then started out again once the horses were about to fall asleep.

The ride was cut short, because we had all had enough of the stress and mess and were pretty well beat up.  I only ended up riding a total of just over 5 miles.  (pathetic)

Saturday evening was the much anticipated hog roast, which was fantastic, as usual.  A few fellow horsemen are members of an old timey blue grass band, so they got out their instruments and played for us after the feast.  They were really good!  

I'm always intrigued when I observe people participating in other hobbies that are unrelated to their normal activities.

Sunday morning we awoke to rain, so we packed up and headed home.  I'm really disappointed that we didn't ride more.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

Ride safe all!

~The RoadQueen

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mostly Recalcitrant, Slightly Sheepish

So, yeah.  Pretty much a slacker when it comes to updating my blog lately.  You'll have that.  I'm tempted to give a smattering of lame excuses, but instead I'll go with the honest truth:  It just hasn't been a priority because I'm a little pissed over having lost my camera.  Disenchanted, if you will, with a side of 'Screw it.'

BUT - here's what's been happening in RoadQueen Country.

First, there's been a ton of this:

Storm clouds rolling in

Which has made doing fun outdoor things spotty, at best.  We've had so much rainfall, that Mom and Dad's hay fields JUST NOW got cut for the first time this summer.  That's unheard of.  They should have been baled about 2 months ago, and the second cutting should be about ready.  Needless to say, the first cutting was so far overdue that the crop is basically useless to feed, so we still don't have any hay.  Good thing our horses are relying 100% on pasture at this point, otherwise we'd be in some deep trouble.  Here's to hoping that the second cutting is useful and timely.

The first weekend in June, I went to Will's Creek for my first horse camping trip of the year.  Normally I start camping in early May.  Again - see the picture above.

Ready to hit the trails 

The above picture is one of only 2 crappy cell phone pictures that I took of that ride.  I took well over 100 pictures on my cute little pink Canon Power Shot point-and-shoot camera.  When we arrived back at the farm that Sunday, I set my camera on the trunk of my car, forgot it was there.....and DROVE AWAY.  Needless to say, I walked up and down the road that I was on and searched the ditches and posted "Lost" messages on Facebook, etc.  The camera, case, all of my memory cards, etc. has not been seen since.  

Next adventure was Salt Fork State Park.  It rained each day that we were there, but we got a couple of rides in.


RoadQueen and Guinness selfie!!

The Wednesday after camping at Salt Fork, I had my wisdom teeth removed.  That was fun.  I kinda wish now that I'd taken some pictures of my chipmunked face, but I was too high on the Percocets to think of that at the time.  Luckily I'm extremely blessed, and had a WONDERFUL caretaker while I was down.  

The weekend following my wisdom teeth removal, was RCT's AARL Field Day.   There was a little rain spattered throughout the weekend, but nothing serious.  RCT lives within 10 minutes from the remote location that Field Day was held, so we were able to go back to the house to sleep at night, rather than camping out the whole time.  Field Day was fun, as usual, but I was greatly relieved for the comforts of home at the end of each day with my newly surgically-altered mouth.

W8MDE/W8BAE Field Day Station - Operational

That brings us current to this past weekend - which was the 4th of July holiday for all of us Americans.  As I have for the past several years, I spent the holiday weekend at Mohican-Memorial State Forest with my riding club, the Wayne County Chapter of the Ohio Horseman's Council.

The weather was beautiful, and the event was a success, with the rain holding out until Sunday morning.

Taking a selfie on horseback - harder than I make it look

"Are you ready to go yet?!"

Happy Ears  :-)
So, yeah - I've been having fun.  So much fun, I haven't bothered to stop long enough to blog about it.  But, now that I'm all caught up, I'll try to keep it that way.  Also, I need to get another camera.  Someday.

As for bicycling, I've actually been doing quite a bit, although not in epic proportions.  My nature is extremely practical - and as I've become acquainted with my cycling-self, have discovered that my absolute favorite type of bicycle riding is commuting.  I've had many, many totally awesome rides in RCT's hometown.  Making trips to the grocery store, going out to dinner, and any other errand that pops up.  I still go on longer rides with RCT if invited, and I do enjoy them as well, but riding around town is my absolute favorite way to cycle right now.

I still want a recumbent trike (REALLY BAD!) so that I can go on all-day-long excursions without getting saddle sores or bruising my seat bones, but my Giant Hybrid is perfectly fine for sub-20 mile rides and will have to make due for now.

Ride safe, and don't be recalcitrant.

~The RoadQueen

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Getting Screwed On Your Bicycle

Quick recent events run-down.  Not necessarily in chronological order.

Flew a Kite:

Two-handed trick kite, that is...

Also went on a 26. something mile bike ride and got screwed.  

No, really....see the screw?

It got wedged in between my big ring and middle ring up front.  

Luckily, RCT to the rescue!

Gotta love a Handy Man.  :)

Had Guinness under saddle a couple of times last month - not nearly enough nice weather for any serious conditioning yet.  :(


Ride safe all!

~The RoadQueen

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Happy First Day of Spring!  Although, it's currently blowing snow flurries across Northeast Ohio.  Regardless, I am SO glad that Winter is losing it's grip around here, with more days than not having high temps of 50+ degrees.  This year's winter has been brutal, to say the least.  I don't mind the snow, but I do strongly object to daily average highs being below zero for most of the season.

I've not been posting much on here because - why?  Other than a few miserable hikes, not much has been happening.  I suppose I could have posted about the hikes, but honestly it was too damn cold out to take my gloves off to use either my phone or camera to take any pictures.  So, yeah.  Screw you, Winter.  Don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!

One interesting thing has happened over the course of the winter, though - Guinness has decided that he can no longer come into the barn and go in his stall unless I'm the one directing him to do so.  SMH.  This has resulted in me getting a text from my Mom or Dad almost every night at around 8-9 pm that I'm not already at the barn to do chores.

They usually read something like, "Your asshole horse won't come in."

This results in me traipsing my boots and pajama-clad self over to the barn (which is only 1 mile away, thank God) to open the big barn door and find "My Asshole Horse" standing there, looking at me innocently "Oh, Hai!".  Then we proceed with what has become our little routine:

Like this, only it's friggin' dark

Me:  "What do you think you're doing?"

Guinness:  *stuffs his face at me for forehead scritches and eye-bugger removal, if any*  OMG!  I'm so glad you're here.  It's scary out here by myself!  

Me:  "Get in your house and eat your supper, stupid."

Guinness:  *calmly sashays his un-bothered self into his stall*  "I was hoping you'd say that.  It's been a rough day of rolling in the mud here, and I'm bushed.

Me:  *walks over to stall to shut door*

Guinness:  *stuffs face at me for more rubs and scritches*  "WAIT!  Love me one more time before bed..."

Me:  *gives rubs and scritches and shuts door*  "Goodnight, Guinness.  Eat your supper."  *turn light out and leave*


It's really hard for me to be upset with him over this - although it's driving my parents (the property owners and main caretakers) NUTZ.  I'm pretty sure he just misses me and has figured out how to get me to appear.  My mother is certain that he hates her, and that he's doing this JUST to fuck with her.

I'm starting to think that both scenarios, are true.  Solution?  I need to build a small barn in my back yard and just keep him at my place, where I can feed and love and scritch him to our hearts contents.

Coming back to reality, I'm going to start working with him again now that the temperatures are bearable, and also start having my mom work with him some to hopefully get past this "I'm afraid of the barn when my Mommy isn't here" thing.  Kids.  What are ya gonna do?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Winter Slumber

So, I've written about the Autumn Blues.  I was actually excited to see winter come this year, and had high hopes for lots of pretty snow.  Visions of romantic walks on sleepy snowy sidewalks and whisper quiet woodlands danced through my head.

What I got was near constant 30 mph winds, not a whole lot of snowfall (Plus what did fall blew straight off and piled up somewhere that I have no idea where it is. Seriously, I've been able to see the grass in my yard the entire winter so far.) and temperatures averaging Zero to some other negative degree with windchill factors in the "OMG Stupid" category.

I still have hopes that this winter will be more friendly to outdoor fun.  Temps between 20-30 degrees and less than 15 mph would be AWESOME.  

I *AM* happy to report, that the goals that I placed for myself in my last post are already well underway to being complete.

1. Buy a scale.  Low and behold:

Done and Done.

2.  Take Zach to Lyon's Falls while the ice makes the water falls super pretty.

Did I get any pictures to share?  Hell no, I wasn't that with it.  It was awesome and fun!

3. Now that the holidays are done, get back to my regular work out routine.

Ehhh....kinda.  I've been riding my bicycle on the trainer almost every day for at least 30 minutes, but I haven't been doing the rest of the routine, only the cardio.

4.  Do more with Guinness yadda, yadda, etc., etc........

You read that part about it being Elevnty-Billion below zero and windy all the time, right?  So yeah - no.

5.  Once the weather breaks, ride my bike more often.

Again, the weather is broke, but not in the good way.


DONE!  Kelly and hubby came over for dinner and socialization, and it was SO much fun.  Have to make it a point to get with them more than once or twice a year, seriously.  Kelly has been begging me to come ride her local trails with her on the bike, and I think the first opportunity I get to do so, I'm there.  SOLD!

So, that was it for my goals.  The only two that aren't making any headway, I don't really have much control over at the moment.  Just for giggles, here's a picture story depicting what else I've been up to so far this winter:

Gave the kid a haircut.
Got my piano - finally!
Found the cold weather cycling gloves I lost last year
Got my F&#*@(!! car fixed.  Needs fixed again.  *sigh*
Got an amazing Christmas Present from my Sweetie.  <3
Gave the dog a hair cut.
Watched it blow from inside my house.  My gas bill this month almost made me pass out.
Made a new friend at work.  This is Steve the Shrew.  We hang 'n stuff.
Saw a D-Bag in the wild.
Built myself a new office chair.
That's it.  Sorry.

Hoping that as the longer days - ie: more sunlight - lift my spirits out of the crypt of Winter apathy, my posts will regain their former frequency and entertainment value.  Until then....

Keep warm and ride safe, all!

~The RoadQueen