Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our New Website

Our news blog has moved! Check us out in on our new website, www.aikenhorsenews.com, which also includes a calendar, directory, and, of course, links to the Aiken Horse newspaper.

Love dogs? Check out The Dog & Hound.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Confronting Drugs in Racehorses

Glenn Thompson, who trains racehorses out of the old Whitney barns in Aiken during the winter, has written a book about drugs in racing. The book is called “The Tradition of Cheating in the Sport of Kings,” and it contends that the vast majority of horses racing today are being illegally medicated by their veterinarians on race day. This epidemic of illegal medication, Thompson says, is contributing to the breakdown of racehorses and threatening the future of the sport.

Some of the medications that Thompson discusses are corticosteroids such as dexamethasone. Others are hormones such as ACTH, which is used to help horses relax. Others are vitamins and chemical compounds such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salts) and vitamin B1, which are used in conjunction with Lasix on horses that are bad bleeders.

Some of these substances sound relatively benign (giving vitamin B1 to a racehorse does not sound like such a terrible thing), but what Thompson is coming out against is not so much the compounds themselves, but the way they are being used.

“It is illegal for a vet to give a shot of anything other than Lasix on race day,” he says. “But you see vets going in to give the horse his Lasix, and they have four or five needles in their hands. It happens all the time.”

Another thing that Thompson points out in his book is that the medication rules are different from one state to the next, which can be confusing for trainers and bad for horses.

“In some states you are allowed to give adjunct medications with Lasix, but in other states you aren’t. It would be better if the rules were the same everywhere.”

Glenn’s book, which took him about three weeks to write, was published as an e-book by Smashwords, an electronic book publisher. It is available for download to a computer, iPad or other mobile device for $9.99.

Glenn, who will be back in Aiken to train this winter, says that most of the reaction to the book so far has been positive.

“People have come up to me and shook my hand,” he says. “The only negative reaction that I have gotten was from one of my vets, who quit. He didn’t say anything to me, he just stopped coming to my barn.”

To order a copy of the book, visit www.sportofkingsnovel.com

Equine Divine

Equine Divine, one of Aiken’s favorite shops for art and d├ęcor items with an equestrian theme, is under new management this fall. Dini Jones, the new owner, came to Aiken from Ohio and is looking forward to supplying Aiken’s horse lovers with fine art as well as prints, note cards, books and clothing.

New things that are available at the store include a nice selection of Barbour jackets as well as some very stylish warm vests that can be worn to the barn or around town. Dini is also carrying a line of custom-made boots from La Mondial boots, which are made in Ecuador. You can buy polo boots, field boots, or cowboy boots, all made to order, for the low price of $599. For the gentleman who is not a rider, there are custom-made golf shoes for $299.

“I saw them at a trade show and I loved them,” says Dini.

There is also a new selection of items for children and some cool strings of horse, farm animal and cowboy boot lights that you can put on your Christmas tree. You can check these items out at the store on Laurens Street, or do you shopping online: www.equinedivineonline.com.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Semi-Retirement For Cot

This November, Cot Campbell, who is the president of Dogwood Stables, announced that he is going into semi retirement. Cot, who is 84, is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of racehorse partnerships. Dogwood Stable, which has been putting together partnerships for the ownership of racehorses since 1971, currently has 90 partners involved in 43 different partnerships.

Although Cot will not be forming any more racing partnerships after January 1, he will continue to manage the existing partnerships, and there may be other ways that Dogwood will stay in the racing game.

“It may well be that Dogwood—in a newly-structured form—will continue the formation of new racing partnerships, but my only responsibility will be to see to the servicing of the partners and partnerships that are on the books now,” he is quoted at saying in a press release from the company.

“I adore racing horses, and will always keep at it, being involved in a variety of ways. What a wonderful life I have. However, though I am plenty fit and healthy, I am ready to ease off after doing this since 1971. This move will be no great shock, so it follows that we will be talking with several outfits and individuals that could be part of a restructured Dogwood, hopefully including a couple of key people currently with us.

“We have a wonderful client roster. Some partners who have been with us as long as 35 years. Many have become close friends. Since we started we estimate that we have brought into racing around 1200 people, and we have certainly bought that many horses.”

Over its history, Dogwood Stable has campaigned 76 stakes winners and had 15 Grade One winners. The stable has competed in six Kentucky Derbys with seven horses, run in 10 Breeders’ Cup races (winning the Juvenile Fillies with Storm Song in 1996), and collected two Eclipse Awards (for Storm Song and Inlander.) Summer Squall’s 1990 Preakness victory was a high-water mark for the stable.

Dogwood’s current star is Aikenite, a 4-year-old colt by Yes It’s True. Aikenite ran in the $1.5 million Breeder’s Cup Sprint on November 5 at Churchill Downs. Although the colt broke slowly, he came on strong in the homestretch, ultimately finishing fourth and bankrolling $90,000. This brings his career earnings to $866,635.

“I am so proud of Aikenite,” Cot said in a prepared statement. “He ran against the greatest sprinters in the world and was fourth    and we are thrilled with that accomplishment. He always comes running and the sprint was a thrilling race. He gave it his all – and that’s all we could ask of him.”

The Eyes Have It

The eye, it is often said, is the window of the horse’s soul. Horse’s eyes, like people’s eyes, are each unique. No two horses have the same patterns in their irises. Even horses that are clones have different patterns because these patterns are created by an interaction of heredity and the environment.

With that in mind, a company called Global Animal Management, which is a subsidiary of Merck Animal Health, has created a new equine identification system called eyeD. EyeD requires a veterinarian to take infrared pictures of a horse’s eye using a special camera. The vet then attaches the camera to a computer with a USB cord, and sends the information to a central computer. 

“In a nutshell, it’s a new, non invasive way to identify horse,” says Davis Knupp, who is the marketing manager for the product. “What we are doing is taking an eyeprint. We can assign a unique identifier to each eyeprint, and we have a database we can store that information in. We also provide a way for veterinarians to have their own local database.”

This kind of identification system has a wide range of possible applications, from recovering of stolen horses to accurately verifying the identify of racehorses – a racehorse of the future might be identified by an eyeprint rather than by a lip tattoo. The product was launched this fall at the American Association of Equine Practitioners annual meeting and is being made available exclusively to veterinarians.

“None of the breed registries have endorsed it yet,” says David. “But it has all been very positive. We sold over 30 systems at AAEP, so we’re working on implementing it with veterinarians and getting it up and running. We’ll also be launching it internationally in Canada, Germany, France and Italy – there is a lot of international interest.”

The first thing that horse owners might see the eyeD system used for is with their next Coggins test.

“We are integrated with a company called Global Vetlink, which provides electronic vet records and electronic Coggins test records. We’re also integrated into some veterinary practice management software. Using the eyed system with these other systems creates efficiency and accuracy in the veterinary clinic.”

When a horse is first enrolled, the vet takes an eye print of both eyes – this way of something happens to one eye, there will still be another one that can be used to identify the horse.

“It’s more accurate than DNA,” says David. “It’s the most accurate way we have to identify a horse.”

Welcome to the future.

Horse Lover’s Perfume

Women who love horses are not like other women. They would rather get a saddle for Christmas than a diamond necklace. When they get dressed up to go out, they still might have just a little bit of manure on their shoes, even if those shoes are patent leather pumps. They prefer the smell of the barn to Chanel Number 5.

With that in mind, Elliott Levy and Coleen Reed have created a new fragrance especially for horsewomen. The new scent, Eau de Cheval, (literally “water of horse”) is intended to remind horsewomen of their favorite horses and stables.

“It has sweet alfalfa and English leather,” says Elliot. “I wanted them to add a little manure, but they wouldn’t. In place of manure, there is a hint of musk.” This is described, on the website, as “that indescribable dreamy equine essence.”

The fragrance was created by RS Essentials in Aiken, a company that makes exclusive skin care products, soaps and candles using natural ingredients. RS Essentials opened on Richland Avenue last June. Elliott Levy is the executive director of the Aiken County Historical Museum.

Elliott says he is convinced that Eau de Cheval is a product with great marketing potential in the equestrian world – after all, what woman wouldn’t want to smell like the stable? It is also a perfume with a purpose.

“One half of the profits will go to Friends of the Gaston Livery Stable,” says Elliott. This group, spearheaded by Coleen Reed, is working to raise enough money to purchase the historic Gaston Livery Stable on Park Avenue. The stable, which housed a thriving business during the days of the Winter Colony, is one of only five all-brick barns in South Carolina, and the only one that still has an original carriage lift, which was used to hoist carriages into the loft for storage.

Friends of the Gaston Livery Stable has raised almost enough money for the down payment on the property. It will have to raise a lot more to complete the sale and then to set about the process of restoring the stable, which has not been used in decades and has fallen into disrepair. Eau de Cheval might be just the thing.

You can purchase your own two-ounce bottle of Eau de Cheval ($39.95) at RS Essentials or the Aiken County Historical museum. It is also available online through the website www.eaudecheval.com. While you are visiting that site, be sure to watch the promotional videos, which feature Walker Spruell and Sharer Dale, both of Aiken. There are two separate videos, one for the English and one for the Western riding crowds. They were created by Jamie and Christi Koelker, local filmmakers who also have made documentaries about various historical subjects such as, most recently “Horse Creek Valley, a Tale Worth Telling” which was shown recently on SCETV.

Elliott says that if Eau de Cheval succeeds in raising enough money to save the Gaston Livery stable, it might later be used to raise money for other Aiken nonprofit groups. “You can’t save the world,” he says. “But you can have a positive impact on your corner of it.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Dog and Hound

Horse people and dog people have a lot in common. In fact, most horse people are probably also dog people in one way or another, since horses and dogs tend to go together. Both animals are on the move and they like going places. If you are on a trail ride, taking your dogs along can make it more entertaining, since you can watch them enjoying themselves. People who go foxhunting often say that one of the primary reasons they love the sport is that they get to watch the hounds work.

If you look back in Aiken’s history, you will find that a number of the people who were prominent in horse sports in the era of the Winter Colony were also influential in the canine world. For instance, Lulie Hitchcock was famous for her beagles. Claudia Phelps was a well-known breeder of English Pointers. She has also been credited with bringing West Highland Terriers to America.

Because the dog world and the horse world do intersect, we often come across interesting dog stories, and we have written quite a few of them in this paper. For instance, we wrote about the dog rescue run by Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw, who are prominent horse show riders and trainers. We wrote also wrote about the field trial dogs trained by Mark Fulmer at Sarahsetter Kennels – this story didn’t have much of an equestrian connection, beyond the fact that people follow their field trial dogs on horseback. But we liked the story, and we loved the pictures. 

In fact, we have come across so many great dog stories that we have decided to dedicate more space to dogs in our paper. We also want to help support the rescue and education efforts at the Aiken SPCA as well the work being done by Friends of the Aiken County Animal Shelter. So, starting with the December/January issue, The Aiken Horse will contain our new venture, The Dog and Hound, a fourth section dedicated to dog stories, dog people, and pretty much anything canine. We are planning to produce this paper four times a year: Winter (with our December/January issue), Spring (with our February/March issue), Summer (with our Summer issue) and Fall (with our September issue.)

The Dog and Hound will follow the model of The Aiken Horse, with the best writing and photography we can give you. We know there are a lot of interesting stories out there, and we can’t wait to tell them. Of course, we will also include a separate calendar for dog events, as well as a separate news column for what is going on in the canine world. We are planning to donate a significant amount of space to dog rescue groups, and we hope that the dog people in the Aiken area and beyond will consider us their newspaper, just as Aiken’s horse people welcomed us as theirs.

If you would like more information, please visit our website:www.thedogandhound.com. We also have a Facebook page:www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dog-and-Hound/283960664965731. As ever, we welcome any suggestions for articles or any other information that readers might have for us.

Aiken Fall Festival

Horse shows in Aiken seem to be thriving. Rick and Cathy Cram of Progressive Show Jumping are currently in the process of building a fourth barn to accommodate all of the horses that ship in to their Highfields Event Center on Gaston Road. Progressive Show Jumping itself holds many shows there – the biggest is the Aiken Spring Classic, to be held this coming year from April 18 through 29. This show is a staple on the Aiken spring calendar, regularly attracting riders and horses from all over the Southeast.

The Crams also lease their facility to other horse show companies. For the past several years, Equus Events Horse Show Productions, owned by JP and Megan Godard, has been taking over Highfields for two weeks in September for the USEF ‘A’ rated Aiken Fall Festival. This show includes such attractions as jumper classics and stakes, the South Carolina Hunter Jumper Association Governor’s Cup Equitation finals for junior riders, and Hunt Night, a group of classes for horses that can normally be found on the hunt field rather than in the show ring. 

This year, the Aiken Fall Festival, which ran from September 8-18,  filled Highfields to capacity with horses and riders from North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and other states farther afield. The first week of the competition brought a number of different horses and riders to the winner’s circle. Thursday’s $5,000 Open Welcome Stake went to Josh Dolan of Hilton Head, riding his horse Skylands Con Chino Z. On Friday evening, competitors headed to the hunter derby ring for the $2,500 National Hunter Classic. There were 21 entries, but the top four places would go to two riders, Liza Boyd from Camden and Daniel Geitner from Aiken. Liza was first on Marilla Van Beuren’s Marksman and third on Stephanie Saunders’s Heartbreaker. Daniel was second on Janet Peterson’s Damocles and fourth on Robin Hughes’s Zo Doro.

In Saturday’s featured class, the $15,000 Aiken Premiere Jumper Classic, Hardin Towell riding Kelly Maloney’s Fieona edged out Daniel Geitner on Tara Bostwick’s Sympa. The final feature event of the weekend was the Governor’s Cup Equitation Finals. The winner of this class was 17-year-old Allie Augustine from Mount Pleasant.  

By many counts, the second week of the show belonged to Daniel Geitner. Daniel started his streak on Thursday by winning the $5,000 Open Welcome Jumper Stake aboard Ann Ritter’s Jumbo Jet. He followed that performance with the Green Working Hunter Championship riding Zo Doro, and the Reserve Championship in the same division on Paige Wilson’s Best Foot Forward. He then rode Damocles to the High Performance Hunter Championship and the Grand Championship in the hunter division.

Friday evening featured Hunt Night. In this division, followers of local hunts showed what they could do in Field Hunter, Handy Hunter and Hunt teams classes.  Cathy Chambers, who rides with Why Worry Hounds, rode her horse Oscar to the championship for the second year in a row. Patti Brantley, Kathy Nofsinger and Arnie Bloom won the Hunt Teams competition, riding under the colors of Live Oak Hounds.

The final feature of the week was the $15,000 Aiken Fall Festival Jumper Classic, held on Sunday evening. The course, designed by JP Godard, was a tricky one, yielding only six clear rounds out of 22 competitors. In the jump-off, just two riders would go clean; Harold Chopping on Patent Pending (owned by Kendra Bullington) and Josh Dolan on Skylands Con Chino Z. Harold Chopping took home the first place honors, beating Josh by just .810 of a second. Daniel Geitner settled for third aboard T/Salemon, owned by Karen Kerby.

Ten Goals

On the first Monday in October, the United States Polo Association National Handicap meeting took place at the Willcox hotel. A lot of interesting things happened at this meeting, including the assignment of the first-ever intermediate “half goal” handicaps to players between -1 and 2 goals. (The Board of Governors voted to institute these handicaps on Saturday, October 1.) 

The other milestone was that Aiken’s own Tommy Biddle was raised to 10 goals in the arena. Tommy, who has been playing as a 9 in the arena and a 6 on the grass, is a skillful and imposing player – when he hits a ball, it may as well have been launched from a rocket. Polo spectators in Aiken witnessed his power this fall in the finals of the USPA National Copper Cup 12 goal, which he won with his team, Blanco Texas. A few years back, he also played (and won) the United States Arena Polo Championship at the Polo America arena in Aiken’s Steeplechase neighborhood. This spring, he captained America’s winning team in the USPA Townsend Cup, a 22-goal arena match-up against an English team, which took place at the Empire club in California. 

The 10-goal rating is the pinnacle of polo success, and you don’t get there unless you are, literally, the best. While it certainly isn’t easy to get to 10 goals on the grass, it is even harder in the arena – throughout its history, the USPA has been extraordinarily stingy in giving out 10-goal ratings to arena players. Since the association was formed in 1890, it has named 49 10-goal outdoor players, but only four 10-goal arena players. The first was Winston Guest in the 1920s. The second was Clarence Coombs (known as Buddy), who reached 10 goals in 1951. The third was Joe Henderson, who played in the arena at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and attained his 10-goal rating in the early 1990s. And now, in 2012, Tommy Biddle is the fourth.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gold Tray

Keeneland Race Track, which opened in Kentucky in 1936, holds two prestigious race meets each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Billing itself as “racing as it was meant to be,” Keeneland preserves the “tradition, ambiance and vision established by its founders – to showcase all that is noble, fine and enjoyable about Thoroughbred racing.” Keeneland has always attracted the top horses in the sport, including such standouts as Whirlaway (who won the Triple Crown in 1941), Alysheba (a Hall-of-Famer who raced in the 1980s) and Northern Dancer, a 1960s racehorse who became one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history.

Keeneland’s graded stakes races are special events. Not only do the winners earn cash, the owner of each winning horse also takes home a gold julep cup. When an owner wins eight cups, he or she gets the Keeneland Tray, a solid gold serving tray.

This spring, the 4-year-old colt Aikenite romped to victory in the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland, earning his owner, Dogwood Stable, the winner’s share of the $175,000 purse, as well as Dogwood’s eighth Keeneland Stakes victory and that coveted gold tray.  To celebrate, Dogwood is throwing a Gold Tray Party at the Aiken Racing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hopeland Gardens. The party is on Friday, November 11 from 5 to 7 and everyone is welcome. There will be light snacks and refreshments and Dogwood’s president, Cot Campbell, is expected to say a few words.

“There is no official program,” says Mary Jane Howell, who is the public relations director at Dogwood. “We’re basically saying a big thank you to Aiken.”

Aikenite is currently being pointed toward the Breeder’s Cup at Churchill Downs November 4-5. In his most recent outing, the Grade III Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on October 7, he ran a thrilling, come-from-behind race, finishing second by a short nose to Mrs. S.K. Johnston’s New Zealand-bred Hoofit. There is no word yet on which Breeder’s Cup race Aikenite will enter.