They say, “Hell hath no fury like a chestnut mare.”

What they don’t say is Hell’s entrance is at a cross-country fence gone bad.

Chapter 1


The ground reverberated under Lexi Garrod’s feet. She snapped her head in the direction of the sound to watch a gorgeous, bay horse thunder past her, clearing the four-foot-high jump she was judging. She shook out her long, curly blonde hair, repositioned her ball cap and checked her watch.

“OK, Beans, we have a couple minutes before our next competitor comes our way, let’s fix the divots!”

Beans, a scrappy Jack Russell terrier and Lexi’s constant shadow, obliged the call and trotted faithfully behind her as she tamped down the grass in front of the huge vertical log-wall jump she was attending to. He kept his snout in the air and ears at full alert waiting for the next horse and rider to round the bend in the field at Long View Farm’s cross country course. Beans could sense the horse’s approach and whimpered for Lexie to get out of the way. The little terrier had been a gift from Willa when she first arrived at the farm as a working student. Lexie lived in a tiny apartment over the south barn and Beans had wandered onto the farm one day. He was checked out and wasn’t chipped or tagged, so Willa suggested Lexie keep him as a companion. Willa was a well-known rescue advocate for dogs. Beans made himself at home the first night, jumping up onto Lexie’s bed and snuggling into the covers.

Lexie reached down and scrubbed his ears and returned to her judge’s chair at the far side of the jump.

Cross country jumping was Lexie’s passion. It haunted her dreams, day and night. At nineteen, she was on her own, moving to the eventing mecca of Aiken, South Carolina. Lexie spent her days mucking out stalls and grooming the tall, leggy jumpers for the two full-time trainers at Long View Farm. It was a hard job that kept her moving eight to ten hours a day. On the weekends, she was a jump judge for the United States Eventing Association shows held at Long View. Lexie lived and breathed eventing as a sport and a life choice. Growing up in New York City with a janitor dad and a drunken sod for a mother, Lexie didn’t have many opportunities for riding. One afternoon, Lexie and her best friend snuck away for an afternoon of show jumping at Madison Square Gardens. They pried open a rear access door and slithered along a wall until the arena came into view. Lexie was mesmerized by the horses that seemed to hop the fences with no effort at all. During one of the classes, a rider became unseated and the loose horse galloped happily around the arena. Lexie stared in disbelief at the freedom-loving gelding. He finally slowed his mad scramble and came to a stop right in front of Lexie. She carefully reached over the rail and took hold of his reins. While the owner made his way over to collect his horse, the big, dark gelding looked straight into Lexie’s eyes and sealed her fate. His deep, brown, soulful eyes almost beckoned her to come with him. She was transfixed until reality grabbed the reins from her hands. The horse was taken away and Lexie and her friend squealed in delight at the opportunity they were afforded to touch one of those magnificent horses!

While the jump crew readjusted the jumps, a tall, red-headed woman wearing skin-tight jeans and six-inch spike-heeled shoes approached the two girls.

“I just wanted to say thanks for catching my boy,” she proffered a hand to Lexie.

“Oh! I was just lucky to be in the right place!” Lexie exclaimed.

“Are you grooming for someone here?”

Lexie shrugged her shoulders, “No, we are just watching the show. I would give anything to groom for someone but I have a couple more years of high school before I can get out of New York.”

The mysterious woman dug into her designer handbag and popped a business card in Lexie’s direction.

“Call me when you get out of New York. I’m sure we could find a job for someone so star-struck with our horses.”

That was two years ago and Lexie kept that business card with her the whole time. Three days after she graduated she called the owner of Long View Farm and was hired on the spot. Her graduation gift from her tired father and barely-awake mother was a one-way bus ticket to Aiken.

And here she was, immersed in the lifestyle of the event horse. She knew she would probably never own one, but just to be around them was food for her soul. The mysterious lady she met at Madison Square was none other than Willa Samson, owner of Long View Farm, and a staunch supporter of the sport of eventing. Willa promised Lexie that soon she would be able to take riding lessons once she proved her salt in the stable. Lexie fairly vibrated with delight at the thought of being able to ride. She didn’t really know if she could ride or not but she was ready to give it a shot. Willa had promised after six months of hard work she would be allowed to start in the beginner camp. She was nearing the end of her trial period and everyone at the farm gave her great marks for being on time, hard-working, and honest.

Lexie checked her watch again and did a quick tally.

“Well, Beans, I think we have six more riders and then we’re done for the day.”

Lexie’s job as jump judge was to make sure each rider got over the fence correctly, to make note of any faults and to keep the path to the fence clear of any obstructions, which could be anything from stray dogs to downed riders. She also kept a sharp eye on the grass surface approaching the fence to make sure no holes were left behind. The surface in the piedmont area of Aiken County provided an ideal footing for jumpers. The sandy soil drained quickly and jumpers could attack the course in any weather. Long View hosted many events during the year from beginner levels to Olympic hopefuls.

Finally, a huge grey horse rounded the bend and headed for her jump. Lexie watched closely while scratching Beans’ ears.

The big grey cleared the fence with plenty of room and galloped off towards the next one. Lexie grabbed her two-way radio.

“Is that the last one?” She asked the control booth.

“Yes, come on in, we’re done for today,” came the reply.

Lexie picked up her clipboard and tote bag full of water bottles, judging supplies and snacks, and began the long walk back to the barn. The next-to-last jump on the course was over a mile away and was Lexie’s favorite. She chose that jump because it was close to the riding trail and far away from all the people. She could see the pleasure trail riders pass nearby, waving occasionally, and Beans could chase a squirrel without getting in the way. The peace she felt out there in the huge open field was something hard for her to describe.

She double checked the footing in front of the jump before whistling to Beans to follow her home.

As she traversed the tree line around the field she heard some horses trotting up the trail a few feet through the trees. She stopped to see if it was anyone she knew. A huge, pinto-colored horse strode into view leading a small group of trail riders. His diminutive rider was holding a tight rein on him. Lexie could tell he was a bold mover. She loved his color! The predominantly-white horse had dark brown patches swirling over his rump and neck and his mane and tail were glossy black. Tri-colored pintos of this size were a rare sight and Lexie waved enthusiastically at the group as they passed by.

“Whew, Beans, that horse was gorgeous! He must be seventeen hands if he’s an inch!” Lexie exclaimed.

Beans seemed to agree with her assessment as he stood at full attention, watching the riders file by.

The riders hailed back to her and strode out of sight around the next bend in the trail. Lexie set out for the secretary’s booth to turn in her walkie-talkie and her clip board.

The gals in the booth waved her inside and listened to Lexie’s evaluation of the jump she judged and the overall thoughts of the day. This was think-tank time while the event was fresh in everyone’s mind. As tired as they were, they all sat around a long, plastic table discussing every aspect of the show, from the dressage ring, to the stadium jump ring, to the cross-country course. They hashed out any perceived problems and looked over any formal complaints that may have come in during the day. Overall, the group felt the event went well. Willa arrived in her custom-painted purple golf cart with jumping horses painted all over it. She hopped up the two small steps into the booth and surveyed the crew.

“How did it go, gang?”

The event manager stood and handed her the results and the official paperwork for USEA.

“Stellar,” she replied. “We had 124 entries today and no complaints. We used the EMT once for a suspicious fall but the rider walked away on her own power, so all-in-all a great day!”

Willa nodded her head, pleased with the report. “Fantastic. Well, you all earned a good meal so meet us at the farmhouse at six o’clock for the barbeque. We’ll have five days to prepare for the next event and the meeting starts at seven tomorrow morning. Lexie, you are on night duty tonight so get a nap in before you report to the south barn at eleven.”

Lexie gave Willa a salute and whistled for Beans. She made her way to her apartment for a long, hot shower. She grabbed a plate of smoked chicken and salad from the barbeque, then, threw herself onto the couch with the TV on low. She set her cell phone to ring her awake at ten-forty-five and settled in for a snooze with Beans curled up behind her knees.

Chapter 2


At ten-thirty Lexie awoke with a start. It never failed that when she set her alarm, she would waken well before the alarm went off. She pulled herself up from the couch, stretching her sore, cramped muscles. Beans stretched as well then began the bum wagging. His little, stumpy tail wagging away made his whole bum swivel back and forth. He knew it was time to go out to the barn, a favorite pastime chasing critters and boogers in the woods.

Lexie put some coffee on her machine, made a quick bathroom trip then grabbed the coffee and walked out to the south barn.

The barn was state-of-the-art, with gorgeous wood siding and hunter-green metal roofing. She could see the outline of the spires sticking up in the air from the roof with the bright moonlight. The lightning arresters kept the barn safe from the notoriously violent summer lightning storms. There were forty stalls in this barn. All were currently rented out to riders on the eventing circuit. Lexie slid open the wide, herringbone-designed front door and slithered inside, with Beans at her heels. Gentle nickering followed as the first few horses in the stall rows saw her enter and were hoping for a midnight snack. Lexie softly talked to them and walked down the aisles in the light of the dim nightlights placed on the wall every other stall. She glanced briefly in each stall to be sure none of the horses were cast against the wall or showing any signs of illness. Colic was a big killer of horses and often struck for no apparent reason in the middle of the night. Vigilant owners saved thousands of dollars by investing in a night watchman. Lexie did this watch two nights a week, from eleven to six in the morning. The extra cash and tips she received all went into her buy-a-horse-fund.

Lexie rounded the end of the first row of back-to-back stalls and thought she heard clip-clopping in the next aisle over. That sound shouldn’t be coming from a barn locked up for the night.

“Beans! Heel!” Lexie commanded the little sniffer to her side.

She furtively traveled the length of the next aisle, glancing in each stall to make sure the occupants were peacefully munching or sleeping. When she reached the far end of the aisle, the clip-clopping became louder and a few small squeals echoed through the barn. Lexie picked up the pace to the corner of the next aisle and peered carefully down the aisle to the source of the noise.

There stood the giant tri-colored pinto horse she’s seen earlier that day on the pleasure trail! He was saddle, bridles and sticking his nose into a stall where a somewhat-nasty chestnut mare was having no part of his wee-hour visit.

Lexie gave Beans the down-stay command and slowly approached the big gelding. In the gloominess of the night lights, the horse appeared to be just wandering around looking for a place to hang his bridle. But as Lexie got closer, she could see a gash on his front cannon bone, just below the knee. The blood was dripping steadily from the horizontal slash. Lexie did a quick head count of the twenty stalls as she advanced on the injured horse and realized all stall were accounted for and full of other horses. Where did this guy come from? Where was his owner? How did he hurt himself?

The vast, colorful gelding stayed steady when Lexie took hold of his reins. She noted that they had snapped at the buckle and there was a dirty streak on his cheek and the bridle had gouges down the cheek piece. It was apparent to Lexie that the horse took a nasty spill and snapped the reins when he got back up. But, where was the rider?

“Hello?” Lexie called out while she led the horse to the wash rack. “Anybody here?”

She backed the gelding into the wash stall and slid a spare halter on over his bridle and clipped him to the crossties. She peeked around the wall and noticed that the back door of the barn was open slightly, something that was never done at Long View. Doors were buttoned up after the evening meals were distributed to keep “night critters” from helping themselves to the place.

“Hello?” Lexie called out again but all she could here were munching horses and night insects outside.

Her immediate thoughts were to stem the bleeding, wash the leg and get it wrapped before calling a veterinarian in and alerting the main house of the errant guest. She released Beans from his stay and began hosing down the leg. With the lights on full in the wash stall, she could see the extent of the damage to his leg. It was a deep gash, one that would require stitches so she flushed the wound greatly and took a close look to make sure nothing foreign lay in it. Then she pulled the emergency kit off the wall and began bandaging the cut.

The big horse took her ministrations well. He sniffed at her head while she kneeled in front of him. She cooed to him while she picked grass and dirt from the wound and he responded with a wiggly kiss to her head. It was as if he knew she was going to make him better and he showed no fear as many horses do after an injury.

Once the wound was dressed, she quickly un-saddled him and removed the bridle. Not wanting to leave him alone on the cross-ties, she unhooked him and decided to bring him to the show barn where there were some empty stalls so she could safely leave him to get help.

On the short walk to the show barn, she scanned the night for any signs of a rider, quite possibly injured themselves, stalking the woods looking for their horse. She stopped twice to listen intently, but heard nothing out of the ordinary.

Once the horse was settled into a large box stall, Lexie filled the water bucket, checked his bandages once more, then, called for Beans to follow her to the main house.

Lexie knocked loudly on the wide oak door with a stirrup iron etched into it. It was past midnight and she was sure the occupants were deep under the sheets. She knocked again and hollered, “Hello!”

When she glanced into the side window of the door, she saw a light come on in the upstairs hall.

“Good, good, good, Beans, someone heard us.”

Willa opened the door and could tell by the look on Lexie’s face, the news was not that good.

“What’s happened, Lexie,” Willa asked before noticing the blood stains on her jeans. “Are you hurt?!”

“No, but we have an unexpected guest in the south barn. I was doing the walk-around when I hear a horse walking in the last aisle. This giant pinto gelding was standing at Mirra’s stall, sniffing her nose. She was squealing and he was all tacked up. When I got close enough to catch him I could see he was injured. I don’t think he’s one of our boarders because all our stalls are full with the rightful occupants. But I do remember seeing him on the pleasure trail this afternoon at the end of the cross country jumping.”

“Goodness!” Willa exclaimed. “I wonder where the rider is. We need to call the sheriff’s department to start a search and do you think we need a vet?”

“Yes, he’s got quite a gash on his front leg. I’ve cleaned it and bandaged it up, but I think it needs stitches.”

“Where is he now?” Willa asked.

“He’s in stall three at the show barn. He seems OK, he’s eating the hay I gave him and I think he drained the water bucket. Who knows how long he’s been out there.”

“Good girl, Lexie. I’ll wake the staff and get Dr. Hempstead here. When the sheriffs arrive please tell them what you know and we’ll get everyone out looking for the rider. Horses don’t just show up without one unless there’s been an accident.”

“Yes, he looks like he’s has a fall, too. His bridle is all scratched and dirty and he snapped his reins,” Lexi added.

The lights came on full bore in the big house and Willa’s staff was alerted to the goings on. Lexi returned to the show barn to check on the horse while trainers and grooms alike were rousted from their warm beds to look for a potentially-injured rider.

Within minutes, the first sheriff’s car arrived and Lexi waved him over to the show barn. She gave the officer a full description of what she encountered, and showed him the horse.

The yard came alive with staff members and more patrol cars. Lexi led them to the barn where she first encountered him. She pointed out the open back door and everyone followed her through to find the hoof prints that might tell them where he came from. The sheriff’s strong flashlights lit up the night and they followed the prints, easily seen in the super-bright LED lights. Everyone fanned out behind Lexi, Beans and the officer. They carefully followed his big shoe prints along a small path that led to the cross-country field. When they reached the field, the prints became one with a thousand other prints. The sheriff ordered the staff and take different grid areas and to watch carefully for a downed rider or any signs of a scuffle.

Beans had his nose to ground and Lexi followed his path heading for the break in the field where the pleasure trail could be easily accessed. As she passed by each fence, she carefully searched around all sides and as far as the beam of light could see.

Suddenly, Beans let out a low growl.

“What is it, Beans?” Lexi softly spoke to the dog.

Beans’ hair was standing up across the length of his back. Lexie collared him immediately and shone the flashlight in the direction of the dog’s stare.

As she panned the jump near her with the bright light rays, she could see what looked like a striped shirt lying in a pile on the ground.

“Sheriff!” she shouted behind her. “There’s something over here!”

She approached the clothing piece slowly with Beans bristling at her side. The sheriff caught up to her after directing the others to keep looking. They drew near the shirt and both flashlights lit up the entire jump and surrounding ground. Beans was virtually vibrating in place. He was clearly sensing something wrong.

The sheriff leaned down and with a gloved hand, picked up the remnants of a striped riding shirt. There was a sizeable rip along the front, from shoulder to hemline, and there was blood…lots of blood…on the shirt and the ground.

Lexie grabbed her shirt at the neckline and gasped when she saw what the sheriff was holding.

“Oh, my God,” she struggled for a breath.

The sheriff looked at her and shook his head. “This is now an active crime scene. I’m going to ask you and you staff members to go back to the barn while I call for back-ups.”

Lexie motioned for Beans to follow her back to the barn. The rest of the trainers and grooms, groundskeepers and family members that were out searching all fell back in line as Lexie led them to the show barn.

When she got to the horse’s stall, Lexie gulped in a huge breath and blew it out before she told everyone what Beans and she had found. There was much murmuring and startled looks between the staffers.

Willa entered the barn and was brought up to speed on the happenings out on the cross-county field. The veterinarian was seen rounding the curve in the drive and one of the grooms hailed him to the show barn. Willa gave Lexie a hug and asked if she was all right.

“I’ve got the heebie-jeebies but otherwise I’m OK. I think I’ll concentrate of the horse and let the law dudes take care of whatever THAT was out there,” she glanced out the door in the direction of the field.”

“Smart girl. They will figure out what happened. In the meantime, we need to see to this big fella and make sure he has no other injuries.”

Dr. Hempstead strolled through the door yawning loudly. “Well, what have we tonight? Colic? Cast? Night terrors..hee hee” he giggled at his own wit.

Willa, shook his hand and thanked him for coming out so quickly. She told him the story of the horse and had Lexie halter him and hold him in the stall while the veterinarian did a full body check.

“Well, there, what did you get into,” the doc spoke soothingly to the big gelding while slowly palpating all the areas on his body. “By the way, Lexi, what’s his name?”

Lexi looked nonplussed. “Dah…ummm…I don’t know. I’m just going to call him… Big!”

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Captain Courageous first chapter!

Here’s a taste of what’s going to happen in book two of the Marla Mesconti Mysteries! If you haven’t bought the first one (Ritzforg 127) don’t miss out! They are available on,, and many other fine e-version web sites. You can buy the paperback right here:

Here ya go!

Chapter 1


“Whoa…whoa…WHOA!” Officer Daniels cried out as he desperately tried to control 2000 pounds of pissed-off Percheron. Already de-seated and slipping off the side, the officer flailed at the reins and grips of the saddle just before the prancing black gelding did an electric slide to the right and dumped him on his backside. The horse gleefully trotted off to a patch of grass in the middle of Military Park and nibbled while giving the un-mounted police officer the evil eye.

          Officer Pete Daniels lay out on the grass like a bum on a three-day drunk, a stark contrast to his usual six-foot-one, tall, dark, and handsome visage. He rolled slowly to his side and stared over at the black menace he’d been trying to ride.

          “You miserable prick,” he seethed.

His partner Jake Colby rode up to his fallen buddy and climbed down off his own Percheron gelding, Maximillian.

          “Are you OK?” he enquired.

          Pete groaned as he rolled onto his back again, “Ugghh….no, not really. I think I hurt my hip. What do you suppose is wrong with that bonehead?”

          Jake stared at the black beast as if expecting the answer to come straight from the horse’s mouth.

          “I don’t know, Pete. I think we got taken on this guy. He’s nowhere near as quiet as the guy said he was. What got him going? I was standing over at the sidewalk with the group of girls and didn’t see what happened.”

          “The truck went by with the landscape trailer on it and hit a pot hole. That big metallic clunk you heard? I think that’s what he doesn’t like because he came right off the ground and started bucking. I wasn’t really paying attention enough and he came right out from under me,” Pete replied.

Jake approached Duke slowly and gathered the reins. “Can you walk?” he tossed over his shoulder at Pete.

Pete rolled to his knees and crab-walked his way up to his feet. He couldn’t put weight on it so there was no way for him to ride back to the police stables more than a mile away.

“I don’t think I can get back on him. My hip really hurts,” Pete replied while checking out all the body parts to see what was missing.

“Stay over there on that bench. I’ll lead him back and call for a cruiser to pick you up and get you to the hospital. Will you be OK, or do you want me to call for an ambulance?”  

“NO! No ambulance ride for me, just call for back up and I’ll ride in with the Unit 12, they aren’t that far from here. I landed on my damn radio when I fell,” Pete dangled what was left of his microphone for the portable radio.

Jake smiled a little out of the corner of his mouth, “Nice job, numb nuts, you couldn’t just land on your feet. Not just breaking the radio but probably broke your ass, too. Take it easy and Unit 12 will be along in a minute. I’ll get Duke back to the stable. I’ll take care of putting him up too, you owe me!”

Pete just groaned and hobbled toward the park bench at the edge of Military Park, a beautiful green oasis in the middle of one of New Hampshire’s biggest city. As he made his way out of the park he couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing wrong with this horse. Why does he always bolt when he hears a loud noise? Not just any noise, but it seemed like certain noises. The Manchester Police Department purchased the horse a month ago and Duke was painted as the perfect candidate for crowd control. Pete couldn’t imagine what would happen if Duke bolted in the middle of a parade crowd. He shuddered at the visual.

Unit 12’s black and white sedan rolled into view and stopped in front of the bench. The driver rolled the window down and said, “You need help, Granny, or can you get in the car by yourself?”

Pete just shook his head as he creaked up slowly off the bench. No sympathy from these guys. It was well known that most of the police crew thought the mounted unit was all rainbows and chocolates.

Meanwhile, Jake rode back to the stables at a brisk walk with Duke in tow. His own horse, Max for short, was a tried-and-true veteran of riding the city streets, schmoozing with people, being a goodwill ambassador to thousands of school kids, and a formidable presence during crowd control situations. Max seemed to resent Duke tagging along at his hip and occasionally did a “look back” to make sure Duke stayed where he was.

Jake hooked the two horses to separate cross ties and began the un-tacking process. Each horse had bridle and saddle removed then, vigorously rubbed down with a curry comb. Once the post-ride massage was finished, each horse was wiped down with a fluffy towel and then turned out into a pasture for the rest of the day. Jake locked the gate behind him after he turned out both horses and stopped to watch them roll in the dirt. He also wondered what was wrong with the horse and why he was such a miserable brat. Finding no answers, he got into his car and headed for the hospital to check on his best friend and PD partner.


What will happen when Marla Mesconti mixes it up? Find out soon! Captain Courageous will be in print very soon!


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“Denier” the new catch-phrase in buying a blanket for your horse

“What denier is it?” The most common question now asked of tack shops, online sellers and e-bayers alike. Horse blankets are made of many fabrics but the strongest is nylon. Nylon comes in many different thicknesses, styles and weaves but the word “denier” refers to the threads weight, not strength.

Duh…what did you say?

I know, it’s confusing but to make is a simple as possible, denier can be a misleading purchase point of a blanket. You can make a 600 denier blanket out of a thread as light and wispy as grandma’s sewing machine thread or make it out of ballistic thread. They weigh the same. Which do you suppose will last longer and take more games of blanket-tag?

Manufacturers have now listed deniers on the tags so unknowing consumers will buy a blanket that is 1200 denier over their competition’s 600 denier. The consumer doesn’t know that the 1200 denier thread is spider web and the 600 is Kevlar. Which one will do a better job? The Kevlar of course, but unfortunately it is a common misperception that the higher the denier, the stronger the blanket.

Reality is the cost will probably be the best “tell.” If company A is selling a 1200D turnout sheet for $89 and Company B is selling an 800D for $129, chances are good the 800D will outlive the 1200D. Not always is this the case, as some companies just love to make oodles of money! But most companies I’ve dealt with are competitive with their pricing.

What’s the difference between a 600D and a 600D ripstop? Ripstop is made with cheap thread and they weave a mesh of nylon line into the fabric to help stop a long rip once a horse snags it on something. Again, the question should be what is the 600D made of?

Bottom line is, don’t buy a blanket on the denier number alone. Look for warranties, that’s a good sign the blanket is made for the tough life. Listen to what the MAJORITY of folks have to say about a brand, not one or two friends. See if there are any notations on how it is woven. Single weave, double weave, 2×2, ballistic, etc. That will show a stronger sheet or blanket is being made for you and they are proud to put that information on the tag.

“What is the denier?” Pllttthhh……keep looking!

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Ritzforg 127

I’ve spent a lifetime working with the written word in the form of zillions of articles on horses, my favorite subject, and oodles of kid’s stories. I’ve finally had the opportunity to turn my pen to the full-length fiction that I’ve yearned for!

Ritzforg 127 is a mystery/crime novel that is set in New Hampshire and Kentucky. It has crime, mystery, twists and turns and everything you want in a good read! The story starts with the theft of Ritzforg 127, a popular Friesian stallion of Brandywine Farm. Marla Mesconti is the owner of a neighboring farm and her mentor Bill Reynolds is found dead at his farm days after the horse was stolen. Inept and understaffed police have no clues to either crime and quickly the stolen horse case is shelved. Marla cannot stand by quietly while the perps get away with this tragedy.

Follow the story and get in touch with the colorful characters as they unwind the mystery surrounding Ritzforg 127. The story traverses the horse show world and wings from New Hampshire to Kentucky.

The book is currently available in paperback at and will soon be available on line for every type of electonic reader out there! Check back here for links to the e-publication of Ritzforg 127! Here’s the Kindle link:

Here’s the Nook link:


Book 2 “Captain Courageous” is underway and the story is about the mounted police horses of a local PD. Marla gets involved as trainer and quickly becomes a suspect! Watch for the release of Captain Courageous in summer of 2014!

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Fly Sprays for Horses, What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!



People often ask me, “What is the best fly spray?” That is not an easy question but if you ask 50 people, you’ll get 50 different answers! Let’s see if I can demystify the question some.

To start with there are probably 200 or more brands of fly sprays. Each touting its efficacy with claims of “24/7 protection,” “Kills and protects for up to 17 days!” “Repels and controls biting flies for up to 8 hours!” There are claims on every bottle. Let’s look at those claims and how they can put such outrageous things in print. First and foremost, a company must do clinical trials  before a product is released to the public. Most companies hire a testing facility where they put a white square in a box full of flies and spray it with their product. The box is closed and weatherproofed so the flies have every opportunity to land on said square. Then they set the timer and see how long it takes for a fly to land. The product is fresh as a daisy the whole time it is in there so it can take days or weeks before the fly population decides to land there, there are no blood hosts living in the box, and there are plenty of other places for them to rest! Now the product has been “proven” to be effective for two weeks. Reality check. The first time your horse rolls in the dirt most of what you put on in the morning is now on the ground. Bathe, ride, work your horse sweaty, or a dozen other environmental happenings and your fly spray is gone. So be aware that claims on the bottle do not reflect real-life situations. Another fun fact is the types of flies they claim to repel and kill are those that land on the white square or die on the white square. In real life, the B-52’s don’t die after they bite your horse, they just leave a trickle of blood and a hearty thank-you for the meal.

The next thing to know is what’s in it. You can claim whatever the test facility “proved” for your product but the sin of omission is a grey area with labelers. There are many things that can affect your main ingredient. For instance, the UV rays from the sun can make your active ingredient inert in a matter of minutes, especially the chemical-based kill ingredients. Therefore a sunscreen in the mix would indicate a longer-lasting product. A waterproof (no such thing) formula will last longer but there is nothing you can’t wash off your horse. If it was truly waterproof, gosh we wouldn’t have to spray ever again! Again, in controlled experiments it probably sheds water like a duck. Note the following excerpts taken from the MSD sheet on permetherin:  (

Pyrethrins and permethrins:

· are unstable in the presence of light, heat, moisture and air

· are hydrolysed by oxygen and/ or sunlight

So it pays to look into the label further than the claims and see just what is in it and any chemical-based product with sunscreens in it will be preferred over those without.

The ingredients found in fly spray are the important items on the label, not who made it, how fancy the label is or how outrageous the claims. There are two classes of fly sprays, I call them “Knockdowns” and “Herbals.” The Knockdowns will contain permetherins, cypermetherins or pyrethrins. The remaining active ingredients perform the “repel” function or “supersize” function and are generally piperonyl butoxide (your super sizer), citronella, and other scent repellers. The key to efficacy is reading the ingredient labels. Here’s a perfect example:

Ultrashield EX contains: .50% permetherin, .10% pyrethrins, 1% piperonyl butoxide, and 98.40% inert ingredients (generally alcohol and/or water) It sells here for $24.91 in the RTU spray quart bottle.

Bronco contains: .03% prallethrin (a synthetic pyrethroid) .10% permetherin, .50% piperonyl butoxide and 99.367% inert ingredients. It sells here for $6.85 in the RTU spray quart bottle

So why the huge disparity in price? Ultrashield has higher-quality ingredients and much more of them as well as a healthy dose of super-sizer. Bronco is essentially a bottle of water that they waved a fly repellent over the top. In our tests at several different farms we found Bronco to be as effective as a bandaid on a severed artery. The bugs literally licked the stuff as it came out of the bottle. The Ultrashield worked on the one or two hour trail rides and the first half of the day in turnout but by 5:00 the horses were running for the gate. We didn’t find any dead bugs around the horses either, yet it will kill it if you spray the bug directly (so maybe carry a holster with you and zap them as they buzz you?) But even armed with this information from the label and multiple on-site tests with real horses, people will swear to you that Bronco works great. Some people just feel better thinking they are doing the right thing by offering a few minutes of protection. There are a couple of skin and hair moisturizers that people swear by as well and you know what? They do work on mosquitos and gnats because they are mostly made of marigold oil (pyrethrin’s home) and the scent does discourage those types of flies (and many of your friends!).

On to the herbals. They consist of two types, the ones that actually are herbal and those that sneak under the federal guidelines and put a bunch of flowers on the label to make you think they are herbals. The true herbals are essential oils such as thyme, cedar, lemongrass, rosemary, citronella, clove and geraniol. These are very effective on mosquitos and gnats (just like their smelly cousin Avon Skin So Soft) but are fairly useless when it comes into July and August and the B-52 bombers and their ugly red-headed step-children, the deer fly, come out to play on trail riders and pastures. The “fakers” in the herbal world are those that carry a large quotient of pyrethrins. In large quantities, it is a neuro-toxin to flies, in small quantities it acts as a repellent. Pyrethrins are gathered from marigold flowers, hence the “natural” labeling. But as I say, poison ivy and uranium are naturals, too, and not necessarily something I want to spray on my horse. If you want a true herbal, stick with the ones that are made of essential oils and keep your trail riding to the evening hours or early mornings during the peak of biting-fly season.

Your choices of brands may be hundreds but your main ingredients remain countable on two hands. Therefore, knowing the type of bug you want to repel will help you choose the right spray. Gnats, no-see-ums, and mosquitos all respond well to scent-type citronella or geraniol-based sprays. Big biters respond well to permetherins. The higher the percentage of permetherins the more efficient the spray. ProZap makes a product called War Paint in a stick form and it contains a full 7% permetherin, thereby making it a favorite for bellies and necks in pastured horses. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that permetherin comes with a stern EPA listing as “likely to cause human cancer.”  That said, you should never inhale it, spray around children and wash your hands after working with your horse. Also, be a dear and inform your farrier and vet so they are aware of the carcinogen sprayed all over your horse.

A little word about the “super-sizer” piperonyl butoxide. It’s not a repellent or kill ingredient at all but instead it is added to the premium brands because it causes the permetherin to work harder and faster. Check out the warning on that fun product below:

A 2011 study found a significant association between piperonyl butoxide in personal air collected during the third trimester of pregnancy and delayed mental development at 36 months. Children who were more highly exposed in personal air samples (≥4.34 ng/m3) scored 3.9 points lower on the Mental Developmental Index than those with lower exposures. The lead researcher stated, “This drop in IQ points is similar to that observed in lead exposure. While perhaps not impacting an individual’s overall function, it is educationally meaningful and could shift the distribution of children in the society who would be in need of early intervention services.

One other alternative to sprays against the miserable stable fly (you know the one… looks like a house fly but bites the ankles of you, your horse and dog incessantly) is the fly predators. These little buggers eat the larval stage of this fly (a carrier for EIA and a host of farm animal diseases) and if done religiously, in two seasons you will have almost no stable flies.

The final choice is yours. Do the health risks of the premium brands outweigh your horse’s comfort? Or can you do alternative horsekeeping such as night turnouts, dusk and dawn trail riding at peak season, sheets and hoods, and good housekeeping in the barn? Some folks worry about West Nile virus but herbals do a great job keeping the mosquitos at bay. Ultimately, your home area will lay down the final verdict on which one works best because you may have different environmental influences and different bugs than your friend who might live only two miles away! When I’m asked which one is best, I shorten the spiel above and tell people to always start with the herbals to be safe and then if you really can’t live with the bugs, work your way up to the “canned cancers.”

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How many classes should you go in at a horse show?

Why is it that when people circle 20 classes they qualify to go in on the horse show prize list, they can’t seem to whittle it down to 4-5? Just because you CAN go in all those classes, doesn’t mean you should. I’ve judged countless shows where I see the same horses in 10-15 classes. That borders on inhumane! These poor horses are brought in a hot trailer, continually fed hay to keep them quiet while they wait for their classes, then are “warmed up” before almost every class with a belly full of roughage. It amazes me that more riders aren’t tossed into the pucker brush. What possesses a person to ride these horses for class after class like that? A 99-cent ribbon? Bragging rights?

After watching one Paint horse go around in circles for 14 classes at a one-day show, I spoke to the rider: “I think your horse has done as much as he can for today. Perhaps a rub down, an apple and a quick ride home is what he deserves now?” Answer: “I still have the colorbreed division to go.”
I just don’t get it. The horse was standing in line with his eyes shut. Imagine what his muscles must have felt like?

Generally, show horses are not as fit as trail horses. But showing a horse in 10 or more classes in a day is the equivalent of riding 2 1/2 trail hours at a brisk trot. You wouldn’t do that on a trail horse that only had 15-30 minutes of exercise a day 3-4 days a week. You’d take it easier, maybe a brisk walk for 1 1/2 hours until they were up to the longer trotting trails. But yet, these people do it to their show horses! Worse yet, they are spoken to by stewards, judges, show management and friends, and still do it! Is the bloody ribbon worth hurting your horse over?

In my experience, the people showing with me would pick 2-3 halter classes and then they would have to pick a total of 4 classes to ride in and that’s it. If the horse had a long rest in the afternoon, I’d let them pick a game class at the end of the day.
It is a double-edged sword as show committees need lots of entries to pay for the show but people should not enter more than 6 classes at a one-day show. How about getting your friends to attend the show with you and then everyone wins! Show committees get lots of entries and judges get to see more horses, and horses are not overworked! Win, win, win!

But how do you get people to understand that theory without ticking them off? If you see someone showing their horse over and over to the point where the horses are dragging their heads, say something to the show management, it’s a start. If they’re your friends, mention that their horse looks dog tired and maybe you’ll get through their thick skull!


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Unstupify the stock halter horse!

I just finished watching two different shows at two different geographical locations and I am completely amazed at the “dumbing-up” of the American stock horses (QH, Appys and Paints). When did they forget how to place their feet by themselves? Somewhere in “World Championship World” a trainer decided it was cool to walk around to the four corners of his horse and pick up each foot and place it where it belongs, then reach behind and pull apart the not-so-perfect hocks. At which time, every underling in the world copied him. And now, as far down as the local shows we have people doing the same thing. They really need to see themselves on video. The horse is doofing around, licking his lips and thinking…”Duh, what’s he doin’?” While the handler, mostly oblivious to the judge, continues to fiddle and fool around with the feet and legs as if the horse was SO STUPID he couldn’t figure it out himself!

As a judge, I am completely struck why a handler would make their horse look stupid in the ring. Isn’t the idea to “show your horse to the best advantage at all times?” So showing how stupid your stock horse is is an advantage? Hmmm…I can tell you (and I’m not alone in the judging world) that it’s about time to put a stop to dumbing-up the stock horse. The best-looking stock horses come in the ring at a strong, meaningful walk, snap to attention with all four feet planted where they belong (all by themselves) and raise their heads slightly and wear their ears to show interest in the class and their handler. When asked to jog, they should put their hindquarters into gear and jog in an alert, ground-covering manner while maintaining the true, two-beat western jog, ears above the withers.

When you bring the horse to the judge for inspection, the last thing she wants is to see a doofus stock horse stand with his head hanging down while the handler shuffles back and forth between legs. The judge is tapping her foot for a reason! Get the job done in the least amount of time and please stop making your horse look so foolish in front of the judging panel! As a judge, the show committee requests that you keep the show moving along. Do you know how long it takes to wait for 6 doofus horses to “show” themselves in a halter class?? TOO LONG! This may be where the line, “How many Quarter Horses does it take to change a light bulb?” came from. Answer…”Duh, the light is out??”

The reason AQHA sent out the video on what a proper jog and lope is was to enlighten the then “current fad” of peanut-pushing, hoof-dragging, tree sloths that were showing up in the stock horse shows pleasure division. It essentially stated that if the ears drop below the withers you’re OUT! Perhaps it’s time to remind handlers that making the breed look stupid is not conducive to the grassroots activities of getting people interested in owning and showing a stock horse. Can you hear the sales pitch at the ringside? “Wellllll, Zippo’s Sammy Two String White Shoes is a great hoss. He rides nice but just can’t seem to get the ribbon he deserves in halter.” Meanwhile Zippo’s handler has him bent like a pretzel so he can watch while the doofus handler tries to place those feet just so. Funny thing is a lot of handlers can’t get a good perspective that close up and end up making the horse look sickle-hocked because he’s standing too close underneath!

Let’s make a pact to show home videos on You Tube of people doing the “doofus” thing to the stock horse halter horses and maybe, just maybe, we can swing this around to where the stock horses look like the sharp, well-dressed ambassadors they are! Stock horses have always been a favorite of mine, especially big, honest geldings. But to look at them now, I’d be afraid to ride one fearing they might tip over, or stop breathing, or some equally disastrous thing. Even the wildest, carziest Arab I showed in hand could put all four feet into place by himself!

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