January 2013, 2017: USIHC Annual Meeting
Jess recently returned from Denver, CO, where she attended the USIHC Annual Meeting. The meeting was absolutely inspiring and we are VERY excited for what the coming year will bring for the USIHC. This will be Jess' second year serving on the USIHC Board of Directors and her first year serving as the Promotions Committee Co-Chair, along with Em Potts. It was great to bounce ideas around and feel the enthusiasm from the community - we know that 2018 is going to be an amazing year for the Icelandic horse in the US!
Scroll down to see a collage of photos from the Annual Meeting and sightseeing in Denver
December 18, 2017: Bogi arrives from Iceland
Our hearts are so full! Welcome home to our sweet Bogi frá Efri-Rauðalæk, the first colt from our breeding in Iceland. He is only 3 years old but already 14 hands, so he is going to be tall dark and handsome when he is finished filling out. Thank you so much to Claire Ewald and Maria for bringing him over the mountain in a blizzard, to Ted LaRock for plowing and sanding so we could get the trailer in and out safely, and thank you especially to our friends at Efri-Rauðilækur for taking such good care of him and helping us follow our dreams. Already this has been such a special experience, from choosing his parents to watching him grow up wild and free in the mountains surrounding Efri-Rauðilækur, and now to have him here at our farm feels wonderful and surreal. We are so excited for the future with Bogi! He will begin his training in the summer, after his 4th birthday.
Scroll down to see some clips and memories from the first years of Bogi's life:
At one year old, the colts are brought into the stable for one week, where they learn how to wear a halter, be led, and become friends with humans. Below is a clip of Bogi's very first time being haltered:
Bogi meeting our herd shortly after his arrival in the US:
Click through the photos below to see more pictures of Bína, Bogi, and this whole wonderful experience of breeding our first horse:
December 16, 2017: Annual Holiday Cookie Party
Our third annual holiday cookie party was so much fun! Every year, we invite our students, clients, friends, and neighbors to join us to celebrate the solstice and the new year by making and decorating COOKIES! It's a tradition that our friends, Toby and Phyllis, started years ago in Boston and we brought it with us when we moved to the Valley. Thank you to everyone who came out to make cookies and celebrate the holidays (and Jess’ and Brooke’s birthdays!) with us. Thank you especially to Anne Hyde for hosting and making the delicious (and gluten free!) dough!
December 16 was also the final day of riding school lessons for 2017. Now, the lesson horses will get a little holiday break. Lessons will resume on January 16, 2018, when Jess returns from the USIHC Annual Meeting.
Below, you can see a video from our final lesson of the season. Often, people are surprised to hear that we keep riding all winter long - but as you can see, riding in the snow is so much fun, and we have fuzzy horses to keep us warm!
Scroll down to see a few photos from the Cookie Party. Thank you to all who supported us in 2017, and who made this year so special. We look forward to working with you in 2018!
October 28, 2017: Trick-of-Tölt Haunted Trail Ride and Halloween Party
Happy Halloween! We celebrated this spooky season with an event called Trick-or-Tölt - a haunted trail ride and Halloweekend party on our new 1/2 mile exercise track. The kids took turns riding in pairs around the track, which had been decorated with spooky obstacles and games for them to complete in exchange for candy. Games and obstacles included pulling bracelets (rings) out of a cauldron and hanging them on a ghost’s arms, trotting as fast as they could through a spooky forest, dismounting and shooting giant spiders with a toy bow and arrow set, and riding in and out of a line of jack-o-lanterns. Afterwards, the horses were turned loose to graze while the humans danced to a Halloween playlist and enjoyed apple cider donuts, coffee, hot cider, and of course, CANDY. Thank you to everyone who pitched in to make this Halloweekend so much fun, especially Anne Hyde and Em Potts. Below, you can see a video and several photos from the event:
October 6-8, 2017: Kentucky Icelandic Horse Show World Ranking Triple Header Competition
After an 18+ hour drive from Vermont and a 2 AM arrival in Kentucky, Vigri, Spönn and Jess had a fabulous week competing in the Kentucky Icelandic Horse Show's Worldranking Triple Header event. Three days, three separate shows, and 5 FEIF international judges. This was the first time our Vigri frá Vallanesi had an opportunity to compete in a 5 judge Worldranking competition, and we are so proud of him because even with the long trip, tough judging, and marathon three days of competing in both T1 and V1 each day, he tried his heart out and gave the best performances of his life so far. He raised his scores each day, breaking his own record every time he entered the track. On Sunday for finals, the sky opened and torrential rain poured down, making the track very heavy and slippery. Vigri struggled a bit with the footing but still tried his very best and Jess decided not to ask him for any more than he offered, given the difficult footing. He finished 3rd in both T1 and V1, on the best scores of his career thus far. Best of all, three separate judges approached Jess over the course of the weekend to tell her how good Vigri was looking, and how much improvement they could see from day to day. Jess feels incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to bring this horse along from the ground up - he is her heart horse!
This was also the first ever Worldranking competition for our beloved Spönn frá Efri-Rauðalæk, as well as Spönn's first long journey to Kentucky and and only her third competition of her career. The plan was to show Spönn in pace classes, but because FEIF's experimental allowance of composite shoes ended in September, two weeks before the competition we had to switch both horses out of their Duplo composite shoes (in which Spönn had been pacing splendidly) and back into metal shoes. This significantly changed Spönn's balance and suddenly all of the great pace she had been practicing at home was suddenly gone! We decided to bring her anyway and treat the week in Kentucky as a pace clinic, because Jess so rarely gets the opportunity to take pace lessons and the best thing about the Kentucky show is that so many great trainers to gather in one place. Thursday and Friday, Jess was able to take pace lessons on Spönn with the team from Taktur Icelandics, and they were able to help Spönn find that magic 5th gear again, Spönn was able to compete in Speedpass on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday she had a clean but slow run, and tied for 2nd place. On sunday she went much faster, but had some small mistakes and so did not receive a score. In the end, this was a fabulous learning opportunity and pace is definitely still a work in progress for Jess and Spönn! Hopefully with another year of practice, Spönn will return to tear up the pace track next year - and hopefully FEIF will approve composite shoes so that we never have to shoe our horses in steel again!
Thank you to Curtis Pierce for driving Spönn, Vigri, and Jess safely to and from the competition - we would not be able to compete in the Kentucky show without you! Thank you also to Maggie Brandt and Albert Lyons for letting Jess stay on your farm during the competition. Thank you to the team at Taktur Icelandic Horses, LLC for the pep talks and pace advice. Thank you to Dr. Gloria Verrecchio for the acupuncture and bodywork that Spönn and Vigri enjoyed so much before the competition - after a long trailer ride especially, Dr. Gloria's services make all the difference for our equine athletes! Thank you to Susy Oliver for the photos. Thank you Antje for the cookies, and thank you to Alexa, Em, Johnny, and everyone else who stepped in to help Jess get horses ready when schedule changes cropped up at the last minute - it's not easy traveling alone with two horses, but in the American Icelandic horse community, as the Beatles song says, "I get by with a little help from my friends!"
We look forward to next year's competition! Scroll down to see a few photos from the competition.
September 1, 2017: Completion of Our New ½ Mile Exercise Track
The new addition we have been working on all summer is finally ready! This is our new ½ mile exercise track. It loops through woodsy, sandy, rocky, and grassy terrain and up and down hills, all safely fenced so that we can exercise our horses at liberty.
The inspiration for this track comes from the riding roads in Iceland, which run alongside most roads meant for cars. When Jess lived in Iceland, the horses she trained participated in a weekly "rekstur" in which all of the mares and geldings in the stable were released in a massive herd along with horses from other stables, to run freely on the riding roads. A few riders rode out in front of the herd to guide them, and a few rode behind to manage stragglers, and in this way the horses in the stable village were able to run freely throughout the countryside without the burden of a rider. It is wonderful mental, physical, and emotional exercise for the horses to run freely in a herd this way, and we hope to recreate these benefits on our own track here in the US.
Below is a video from the first day that we allowed horses onto the track. It was such fun to watch them play and explore! We look forward to incorporating this into our horses’ training regimens!
August 26, 2017: Mounted Games Day for Young Riders
Our July Mounted Games Day was so much fun that we decided to have a second one in August! Once again, riders competed in three events - a judged obstacle course challenge, a timed baton race challenge in which they have to grab a baton out of a hanging bucket, and race as quickly as possible to the other end of the arena to throw it into another bucket, and our Ice Cream Tölt challenge which is a kid-friendly alternative to the popular Icelandic competition known as Beer Tölt. This time, each rider got to choose music which we played while they rode, and this was a great addition - selections included music from Hamilton, and Led Zeppelin, because Vermont kids are just that cool! The events were followed by a cookout lunch overlooking the mountains, and a birthday cake for two of our riders - Cass and Franki - who both had birthdays on Games Day weekend!
Thank you to the riders, parents, and helpers, especially Anne Hyde and Bill Haynsworth, Augustin Demonceaux, Emese Dunn (our judge for the day!) and Iris Rothleitner who took most of the photos shown below. We look forward to next summer, and wish all of our young riders a wonderful start to the new schoolyear!
Scroll down to see photos from our August Games Day:
August 20, 2017: GMHA Hunter Pace
After a summer full of 15 mile conditioning rides in the mountains to get our horses "monster fit," we (Jess and Emese) decided to sign up Vigri and Spönn for a Hunter Pace at GMHA. Our team was called The Mad River Valkyries. The pace was so much fun, 8 miles of very tough Vermont mountains and rough terrain. Our division had 20 teams in it, and we passed several as we rode. We received many nice compliments from other riders who were impressed that our small horses were hardly sweating or breathing heavily as they passed more seasoned and much larger hunt, eventing, and CTR horses! We weren't sure what to expect as far as ribbons, and so were surprised to learn that we'd come in third out of twenty teams - only two minutes faster than the optimum time! We got blue ribbons for coming in "first" behind the champion and reserve champion teams. Go Mad River Valkyries! After the Pace, we enjoyed a great complimentary lunch at GMHA and got a chance to catch up with Janine McClain, Jess' former coach and one of the best horsewomen we have ever known.
Thank you to Claire Ewald, another super horsewoman who we count ourselves lucky to know, for shipping our horses to and from the event and waiting around for us. We would love to do more Hunter Paces in the future!
Scroll down to see photos from the hunter pace:
August 14-19, 2017: Summer Horsemanship Program
This summer we were able to fulfill a long term dream of ours and offer a fun and intensive Summer Horsemanship Program for dedicated young riders. The camp was designed to be fun first and foremost, but also highly educational, giving students the chance to gain a lot of knowledge and hands-on experience in a concentrated period of time. Three girls ages 7-8 joined us for a week and were each assigned their "own horse" to care for and ride for the duration of the camp. Each day, they arrived and helped with chores, rode their horses together in lessons, and then ate lunch while Jess gave age-appropriate lectures, complete with visuals (PowerPoints, pictures, and videos) projected onto the Apple TV. Following the lecture, the students worked on activities and projects related to the day's topic.
The topics were as follows:
Day 1: Equine Welfare and Ethical Horsemanship
The students arrived, received their horse assignments, and after morning chores they practiced mounted games during their riding lesson including an obstacle course and a baton toss game. The day's lecture focused on the ASPCA's Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, and the "Fed Up Fred" 6 F's comic which outlines basic horse Welfare needs a little more specifically. We learned about what horses need to feel happy, healthy, and safe, and why they have these biological, mental, and emotional needs. We talked about science-based husbandry and how we can practice husbandry that meets our horses' needs. We also looked at pictures of farms that do and don't meet the five freedoms, and learned why even some big fancy farms that offer a lot of luxury for human visitors are sometimes lacking the basics for equine welfare. Then, each child was assigned a freedom (or two!) to illustrate and the students made a beautiful poster to use as an education tool for farm visitors in the future!
Day 2: Health and Wellness
After chores, the day's riding lesson consisted of learning how to longe - safe longeing is an important skill for horsepeople to have, and ties in nicely to the health and wellness topic because it's often used for strengthening, conditioning, and training young/weak horses, rehabilitating injuries, and detecting lameness/Gait irregularities. The students took turns longeing each other on our wonderful Thór, while the rider got to practice shooting our toy bow and arrows at a target. For the day's lecture, the students got to interview our wonderful vet, Dr. Will Barry, DVM, and our superb farrier team from Common Ground Hoofcare. One of our farriers, Annie Commons, was able to come to the stable to give a demonstration for the students. She trimmed hooves and allowed them to watch, ask questions, and touch the hoof and tools to better understand what she was doing and why. She taught them about the internal structures of the hoof, what hooves need to be healthy, and what can go wrong. She also taught them how to check digital pulses, an extremely useful skill that all horsepeople should have but that many pros don't know how to do! During lunch, Jess lectured on how to tell when horses are healthy, and when they are not - we looked at recent research that allows us to read equine facial expressions for pain, and we learned about vital signs like ideal body temperature, respiratory rate, and pulse. We learned about common illnesses and ailments, why they happen and how to treat them, and watched videos of what symptoms look like. We also focused on the role that stress plays in health, and drew connections between quality of husbandry and chronic ailments like ulcers, stable vices, chronic laminitis, etc. We also examined the role that quality training and riding plays in muscular development and general wellbeing. Finally, we went out to the stable and learned how to check vitals and treat basic ailments in a more hands-on way. We took temperatures, practiced giving medicine via oral syringe (just water in the syringe, of course!) and learned how to correctly wrap a stable bandage - something we have seen too many pros do incorrectly - an incorrect bandage can injure the tendons and make matters worse, so it's important to learn the correct wrapping method!
Day 3: Trail ride day
The students rode their horses (accompanied by instructors on foot) up into the woods, crossing a creek and steep terrain, and dismounted at a local campsite for a picnic lunch. After lunch, they rode home and took care of their horses before continuing on the health and wellness topic from the day before. One of our farriers, Annie Commons, leant us a real horse skull and a real skeletal horse leg in which the bones fit together with magnets and can be moved/pulled apart. We looked at how the leg joints and internal structures of the hoof move and we counted teeth in the skull (finding one wolf tooth!). We looked at how different bit and noseband pressures work on the face, tongue, and mouth - the students were surprised to feel how sharp the bars in the mouth are, a great illustration of why we don't pull backwards on the snaffle when we ride! We also made a poster with the questions and answers from our interview with our vet and farriers, and each student drew a picture to go along with one of their questions for the poster.
Day 4: Conformation
The students got to ride bareback, a favorite activity, and practice balance and seat exercises, plus team relay exercises on their horses. The day's lecture topic was part 1 of two parts on the Icelandic horse as a performance horse. We learned about the history of the breed and it's used throughout Iceland's history until now. We learned what the horses were expected to do and why, and how that has changed and stayed the same over time. We learned when the first Landsmót took place, and the role that cars played in the breed's shift from survival to sport. We then learned about what our various expectations for our horses are now, and how conformation and biomechanics allow the horses we breed to fulfill our expectations. We learned about the breed standard and looked at examples of good conformation and poor conformation. We also looked at before and after pictures of horses Jess has trained to examine how correct dressage training can improve some conformation faults and can help horses to move more correctly, develop good posture, muscles, and balance, and achieve better longevity. We then analyzed the conformation of each of the students' own horses for the week, looking at what is good, what is limiting, and explaining how the students may feel their horses' conformation flaws and advantages come through when they ride. Then we played one of our favorite games, Paint The Parts of The Horse! The game works like this - Jess calls out a part of the horse, and students take turns trying to fingerpaint a handprint on a real horse in the correct location (we used horse-safe nontoxic washable paint on our horse, Thór, because he's white and the paint shows up well). If they land the handprint in the right spot, they earn a piece of candy. By the end, Thór was covered in colorful handprints and the kids had a nice pile of candy. Then, we all gave Thór a bubble bath and finished the day with a horseless horse show, taking turns jumping and running through a course of obstacles on foot in the ring.
Day 5: Rideability
The students practiced an age-appropriate competition "program," essentially a mini dressage test where they had to show trot, walk, and tölt with transitions, changes of directions, and circles at designated points, in preparation for performing for their parents on the final day of camp. They rode their programs one at a time while their fellow students watched, and at the end the ones watching told the rider one great thing about their program, and one thing they could improve on next time. Then, the riders got to choose a song to ride their program to on the final day. The lunch lecture built off the the previous day's lecture, considering history and conformation to examine rideability - what is good rideability, how to we judge it, how to we breed for it, how to we train for it and how do we ride for it? We looked at different examples of good riding on videos, and learned about different kinds of competitions available to Icelandic horses and how they're judged and why. After the final lecture on performance horses, we pulled up WorldFengur on the Apple TV and the students got the chance to research their own horses using the program. They answered a survey of questions about their own horses, as well as their horses' mothers and fathers, and we looked at how the scores and traits of the parents have manifested in the offspring. The students made posters answering these questions and illustrating their favorite things about their horses.
Day 6: Show time
After morning chores, the students groomed their horses to a shine. We braided their tails and picked flowers from the garden to decorate them. We put horse-safe glitter in their manes, tails, and on their bodies. Then the students' families and fans arrived and the riders performed their competition programs one by one while their chosen music played over a portable speaker. After a photo op with the horses, they put their horses away and presented their poster projects from the week. They got to teach their families and fans about their horses, the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare, and about basic health and wellness for equines. Seeing the students confidently present the knowledge they had gained over the week was perhaps the best part of the camp!
We had so much fun and will definitely be doing this again in the future, hopefully with several sessions next summer! Special thank you to Emese and Keziah Dunn, our camp counselors who helped Jess all week long.
Scroll down to see photos from the camp:
July 15-16, 2017: Classical Dressage Weekend Workshop with Jen White
On July 15-16, we were thrilled to host a Classical Dressage Weekend Workshop with Canadian trainer and instructor, Jen White. This clinic has been in the planning stages for a long time and it was so wonderful to finally have Jen out to work with our Icelandic horses. Jen’s training focuses on classical dressage in the French style, with a particular focus on training as physical therapy for the horse. Additionally, Jen uses positive reenforcement (clicker training) with her own horses and has been a mentor for Jess over the last years as we have transitioned our own training over to R+. This workshop weekend was something of a crash course in French classical dressage, with particular emphasis on the concepts of mouthwork and “leg without hand, hand without leg”. We had a great range of participants, from professional trainers to adult amateurs ranging from beginner to advanced, and a great range of horses in terms of age and training experience. While the full workshop was targeted at adult riders, Jen managed to fit in two private lessons for two of our youth riders as well. Jen began the weekend on Saturday morning with a lecture (complete with great visuals), and then we broke off into pairs for semi-private mouthwork lessons in-hand. Saturday afternoon was filled with private under-saddle lessons in which we experimented with applying the mouth work while riding, and got to feel how it improved our horses responsiveness and lightness in various exercises. Jen tailored each lesson to the specific individual, so we all worked on different things in our private lessons. On Sunday, we had longer private lessons in which Jen honed in on what she felt would best help each pair. Then she gave each rider homework to practice going forward. Riders left feeling enthusiastic and excited to continue their training. Many of us found that the French style of classical dressage is particularly applicable to training the tölt, since it focuses on lightness and freeing up the horses’ shoulders. We would love to have Jen come back again! Thank you to Anne Hyde and Bill Haynsworth for hosting this clinic.
In addition to being a superb trainer and instructor, Jen is also an accomplished artist - in fact, she designed our farm's logo! Please CLICK HERE to check out her website for more information and to see her portfolio.
Scroll down to see photos from the clinic:
July 9, 2017: Mounted Games Day for Young Riders
On July 9, Mad River Valley Icelandic Horses held a mounted games competition for young riders. 7 riders participated, ranging in ages 5-10. Riders spent the morning teaming up in pairs to get their horses groomed and decorated with glitter for the event. There were three competitions - a judged Obstacle Course, a timed Baton Race, and an Ice Cream Tölt, which one of the riders came up with as a kid-friendly alternative to the more traditional Icelandic event, Beer Tölt. After the Ice Cream Tölt concluded, kids and adults gathered at the main house for a potluck lunch and a ribbons ceremony. The show was great fun, and we would like to thank Anne Hyde for hosting, Ellen Reidy for judging, Amelie Maranda for helping us out all day, Kyla Bourne for manning the in-gate and for running the timer for us during the Baton Race and Ice Cream Tölt, and all of the kids, parents, and spectators who teamed up to make this day so much fun. We are especially grateful for everyone's flexibility, as the event was supposed to happen on July 8 and had to be pushed back one day due to thunderstorms. What a great little Icelandic Horse community we have here in the Mad River Valley!
Our local Newspaper, The Valley Reporter, even ran a photo of the Ice Cream Tölt event and a short blurb about the event, which was very exciting for us:
Scroll down to see more photos from the event - all photos by Augustin Demonceaux:
June 24-25, 2017: NEIHC Open Competition
What a wonderful weekend we had at the NEIHC Open! "Team MRV" brought two horses, Jess' beloved Vigri frá Vallanesi and our wonderful little mare, Spönn frá Efri-Rauðalæk. Spönn competed in four children's classes with 7-year-old Liesl Kolbe, and the two were very successful together! We are so proud of Liesl and Spönn! Jess also rode Spönn in Speedpass (100 meter pace race) and they placed second, which is very exciting because this was the first time competing in pace for both the horse and the rider, and their first time riding on a proper pace track! Jess and Vigri had a slow start on Saturday, as Vigri did not seem to handle the heat and humidity very well, but on Sunday Vigri felt great and took third in both the V1 and T1 finals! His performance in T1 was one of his best yet, very exciting!
Both horses were shod in Duplo composite shoes, in accordance with the new experimental FEIF showing rules that allow for nonmetal shoes and hoofboots in sport competition. The Duplo shoes improve shock absorption, and reduce concussion on the horse's joints, so if this rule gets approved outside of the experimental period we feel that it will be a big win for equine welfare in the sport. We are proud to be among the first Americans to compete in approved composite shoes in FEIF classes at a sanctioned show!
A trip like this takes a village. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Tammy and Liesl Kolbe, who are so much fun to work with, to Anne Hyde, Bill Haynsworth, and Augustin Demonceaux for holding down the fort at home while Jess was away coaching and competing this weekend, and especially to our dear friend Louise Brinkerhoff who came out to help all weekend at the show - we love you, Louise!
We can't wait until next year's NEIHC Open! Scroll down to see photos from the 2017 show:
April 20-23, 2017: Sport Judging Seminar with Þorgeir Guðlaugsson
Jess has been eager to attend a Sport Judging Seminar for several years now, but the seminars have generally been held at the Kentucky Icelandic Horse Show - our favorite show to compete in every year. Finally, thanks to organizers Leslie Chambers and Alexandra Dannenman, a judging seminar with Þorgeir Guðlaugsson was held in New York apart from any sanctioned competition, and Jess was able to attend. It was a fantastic experience - the first two days were spent as classroom time focused on theory and learning the rules and regulations of Icelandic sport judging, the third day the seminar participants judged a small schooling show at Thor Icelandics and had an oral theory exam, and the final day was a video-judging exam. Jess learned so much and feels she is bringing a lot of new insight and information into her training and teaching for the upcoming competition season, after taking this seminar and learning more from a judge's perspective. Thank you so much to everyone who organized and volunteered time to make this amazing event happen!
Below is a photo of Jess (in the red hat) receiving instruction from Þorgeir (in the blue coat) during the schooling show portion of the seminar. Photo by Martina Gates, shared with the photographer's permission (find her on Instagram @martinagatesfotoworks):
April 8, 2017: NEIHC Annual Meeting and Thorrablot Party
April 6-9, 2017: Baldvin Ari Guðlaugsson clinic
This year, Mad River Valley Icelandic Horses was thrilled to host the NEIHC's Annual Meeting and Thorrablot party here at our farm. The Meeting and party took place on April 8th, and from April 6-9 we also hosted a clinic with top rider, trainer, and breeder, Baldvin "Baddi" Ari Guðlaugsson, of the famous Efri-Rauðilækur breeding farm. 16 horse/rider pairs participated in the clinic, traveling from all over the Northeast, and 6 of those participants were youth riders. It was wonderful to see so many young and promising riders and fantastic to watch the progress that each participant made with their horses - one young horse even took his first steps of tölt in this clinic, first with Baddi and then with his owner.
Before the Annual Meeting and Thorrablot Party, Baddi also gave his famous seminar on horse breeding, a lecture he has been touring around Iceland and Europe for some time with great success and popularity. This was the first time he gave this lecture in the United States. Around 40 people attended the seminar, Annual Meeting, and Thorrablot Party, which was great fun.
Thank you to everyone who made this week such a fun and positive experience!
Below are a few photos from the clinic, lecture, meeting, and party (click to enlarge):
March 21, 2017: Arianna wins the Spæri Award!
We are so proud of our student, Arianna, who was announced as the winner of the United States Icelandic Horse Congress' annual Spæri Youth Essay Award in the most recent issue of the USIHC's Quarterly Magazine! This award is given to a youth rider who has demonstrated love and commitment to the Icelandic horse breed. To learn more, check out the USIHC's website.
Arianna's short story will be published in a future issue of the USIHC's Quarterly Magazine. Congratulations, Arianna!
March 14-15, 2017: Nor'easter? No problem!
After a relatively mild winter, Winter Storm Stella smothered us with three feet of snow just before the first day of Spring! But when the going gets tough, the tough plow a track through the snow in their ring and keep on riding and teaching. Luckily, Icelandic horses love a good snow day (or snow week) and we had so much fun riding and teaching on our "snow track" and on the plowed dirt roads, and watching our horses play together in the knee-deep snow.
Below are a few photos of our horses and students during and after the storm:
January 14, 2017: USIHC Annual Meeting
To kick off the New Year, Jess travelled to Pittsburgh for the USIHC Annual Meeting. In December, she was elected to the USIHC Board and was very much looking forward to participating in the Annual Meeting. It was wonderful to see everyone, and inspiring to hear a range of ideas, opinions, and proposals from such a passionate group of Icelandic horse enthusiasts. After this meeting, we are all so excited for what's to come for the United States Icelandic horse community in 2017. It's going to be a great year!
December 23, 2016: Winter Issue of The USIHC Quarterly Magazine
Our copy of the Quarterly Magazine finally arrived in the mail, and we are so excited to see our very own Glæta frá Brekku on the cover, ridden by our trainer Jess Haynsworth. The photograph was taken by Augustin Demonceaux, and we are thrilled to see how well the colors came out on the cover of the magazine. We always knew our Glæta was "model material"!
December 21, 2016: Winter Solstice
Happy Solstice, everyone! We look forward to longer days with more hours of daylight for teaching and training. Happy times are ahead!
December 10, 2016: Holiday Cookie Party
Our annual cookie decorating party was so much fun! Thank you to everyone who came to decorate, bake, and eat cookies with us! It was wonderful to have everyone together for an afternoon. We are so thankful for our "barn family," and feel so lucky to work with such an amazing group of people.
Below are a few photos from the party (click to enlarge):
December 8, 2016: USIHC Board Election Results
Our head teacher and trainer, Jess Haynsworth, has been elected to the United States Icelandic Horse Congress (USIHC) Board! Along with Alex Danneman and Linda Templeton, who were also elected, she will begin her 3 year term starting on January 1, 2017. Jess is excited, honored, and looking forward to what the next years will bring!
More info on the elections can be found here, or in the screenshot below:
October 8-9, 2016: The Kentucky Icelandic Horse Show (KYIHS) and the Eastern Regional Icelandic Horse Championships (ERIHC)
KYIHS is one event that we try never to miss, because it's simply one of the most exciting events of the year for Icelandic horse enthusiasts. This is probably the biggest Icelandic horse competition in the Eastern half of the United States, with the toughest competition - a chance to see some of the best breeding, training, riding, and horsemanship that the United States has to offer! Léttleiki Icelandics, in Shelby County, KY is an excellent facility for hosting this competition. Which is lucky, because we have to travel 18 hours both ways to get there - a grueling trip, but well worth it for the beautiful track, spacious turnout options for visiting horses, and of course the wonderful people! We brought our beloved Vigri frá Vallanesi again this year, who traveled very well under the careful care of Curtis Pierce of Deep Creek Farm. Curtis was able to help us with shipping to all three of the competitions we attended this year, and we are so grateful for his kindness and expertise. Thanks to Léttleiki's gorgeous facilities, Vigri was able to get plenty of turnout to loosen up after the long trailer ride, and thanks to Gloria Verrecchio, DVM of Penridge Veterinary Service, he was able to get some soothing acupuncture as well to help him be at his best for the competition.
Jess and Vigri competed in V1 and T1. Against top horses and riders, they were only .05 away from making it into the T1 final, and qualified for the V1 final in a tie for 5th place. In a very exciting V1 final, Jess and Vigri pulled ahead of the horse/rider pair they were tied with, finishing in 5th place with their best scores to date. To finish in the top 5 against such fantastic horses and riders was a surreal feeling, and we are so proud of Vigri and how far he has come in his partnership with Jess over the past four years. Vigri has been with Jess since he started his under-saddle training, and she calls him her heart horse for a reason.
KYIHS was also the final show of the season in the Eastern Regional Icelandic Horse Show Circuit and Championships (ERIHC), a project which Jess helped spearhead together with a dedicated committee of volunteers representing each regional club within the Eastern half of the United States. Read more about the project at www.erihc.org. Since the US is such a spread-out country, the ERIHC seeks to reward the highest average scores for riders who manage to attend two or more shows on the circuit each year. This year, Vigri and Jess competed in three competitions, in Virginia, New York (where Jess also competed on Glæta), and Kentucky - traveling a grand total of 3,181.6 miles in the process. KYIHS served as the circuit's championship show because it's the last show of the season, so at the end of the competition there was an award ceremony. Jess felt very honored to finish in third place for the V1/T1 Open Four Gait Division, and was especially proud that she and Vigri raised their overall average at KYIHS. Mad River Valley Icelandic Horses was also very proud to sponsor the T7/V5 ("Novice") Division. The prize we donated to the Novice level Champion is a custom equine portrait by Canadian artist Jen White, and we were thrilled to see that prize and Championship awarded to Alexa Zinser, a very hardworking rider and excellent young horsewoman!
Thank you to all who made this show season such a wonderful experience, and congratulations to all of the horses and riders who participated in the Eastern Regional Show Circuit! We look forward to next year's Eastern Regional Show Circuit and Championships, and of course - to KYIHS 2017!
Below are some more photos from KYIHS:
September 3, 2016: End-of-Summer Games Day!
Our young students worked so hard on their riding this summer that we decided to celebrate with an end-of-summer Games Day! This was a fun chance for the kids to show off their hard-earned riding and horsemanship skills. Around 30 people joined us for the show and cookout lunch that followed. The riders, ranging from ages 6-9, competed in both team and individual challenges, all while earning points for their assigned teams. They completed obstacle courses, baton races, rode bareback in team relay challenges and even used fingerpaint to paint the parts of the horse on our wonderful horse, Thór (this was probably Thór's favorite part of the day, as he got to snack on hay the whole time). At the end of the day, after a cookout lunch and ice cream sandwiches, the team with the highest overall score won the Team Championship (and a special prize), and there were a couple of other end-of-season awards as well. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who pitched in to help with this event, especially Jane O'Donnell and Bobbi Rood who helped out ringside for most of the day. We are so incredibly lucky to have such amazing horses and people in our lives!
Below are some photos from Games Day:
July 23-24, 2016: The NEIHC Open
We had so much fun at Thor Icelandics in New York for the NEIHC Open. We brought three horses - Vigri frá Vallanesi, Glæta frá Brekku, and Spönn frá Efri-Raudalæk. Jess rode both Glæta and Vigri in T1 (Open Tölt) and V1 (Open 4Gait). Both horses qualified for the V1 final, which meant that Jess had to choose which one she would ride on Sunday - since only Glæta qualified for the T1 final, Jess chose to ride Vigri in V1, and Glæta in T1. Both horses finished 4th in their finals, against excellent horses and great professional riders so we were very pleased! This was also the first competition ever for our lesson horse, Spönn, who arrived from Iceland less than one year ago. Jess rode her in 3gait on Saturday and placed 2nd with very nice scores. On Sunday, our 6-year-old student Liesl Kolbe rode Spönn in the "Pleasure Tölt Junior Class" and tied for a blue ribbon! This was Liesl's first competition as well, so a very exciting weekend for all of us! Thank you to all who made this show possible, and especially to Jane O'Donnell and Louise Brinkerhoff for pitching in to help us this weekend. It takes a village!
Below are a few photos of our team at the show:
July 9, 2016: It's a BOY!!
Our broodmare in Iceland, Bína frá Efri-Raudalæk, gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, dark bay colt. We have named him Bráinn frá Efri-Raudalæk. He is our second foal from Bína. Bráinn's father is Kolbein frá Efri-Raudalæk, a promising young stallion who moved to the UK after covering only a few mares in Iceland and is now enjoying success abroad in the UK and Europe. Kolbein's mother is the superb mare, Drottning frá Efri-Raudalæk, a queen among horses indeed.
Below are some photos of Bráinn, courtesy of photographer Tisa Šenekar:
July 2, 2016: Landsmót Livefeed Party
After Saturday morning lessons, we invited some of our students and their parents over for lunch and Landsmót Livefeed viewing. Landsmót, Iceland's national horseshow, is the biggest sporting event in the country and a chance to see some of the very best horses and riders in the world. The spectacular performances were so much fun to watch, and gave our students a chance to see how these horses we all love can unite and excite a nation.
Below is a collage of photos from our Landsmót Livefeed Party: