The last several years, the town of Pueblo, Colorado has hosted the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals Rodeo. Heartwarming, wholesome, family-oriented, hard-working, and inspirational are only five of countless words to describe both the participants and volunteers for Hope Counts of NLBRA. Some 2,000 kids, between the ages of 5 and 18, from 21 states compete in more than 275 “Little Britches” rodeos every year. Their most recent Finals Rodeo was held in July and members of Spalding Labs were again on hand to help with the Hope Counts Crisis Fundraising. According to Tom Spalding, President of Spalding Labs, “Of all the events we do every year, Little Britches is the most fun.”
The Hope Counts - Crisis Fund of the NLBRA was founded by Sydnee Christensen of Utah when she was a mere 12 years old. She wanted to help injured rodeo kids and their families facing catastrophic events. Sydnee started brainstorming ideas, lit a fire under her mom, and they began putting together the business side. Sponsorship Coordinator for the NLBRA, Sarah Faith Wiens, had this to say about Sydnee’s endeavor, "It's one thing for an association to start up a crisis fund, it's quite another to have a 12-year-old member start one. It makes me so proud to be a small part of an organization that has members willing to help one another in such a large way. The sport of rodeo is dangerous, there is no getting around it. Anytime you mix livestock, kids and a competitive atmosphere there are bound to be accidents and when that happens it's comforting to know that families aren't alone. NLBRA is truly an association where character is developed, western traditions live and legends begin!"
Sydnee’s base idea for fundraising was cleaning trailers for rodeo participants using Spalding’s Bye Bye Odor as they were checking in. Everyone who made a donation received the Hope Counts signature Blue Feather. The volunteers worked hard, cleaning trailers, for three days. Their youthful teamwork and dedication to serving others touched the heart of Spalding’s video director, Berry Landen who was on location shooting the Finals Rodeo. On the spot, Landen decided to produce the “Hope Counts: Kids helping kids get better” video.
Both Spalding Lab’s video and Blue Feathers went viral at that year’s NFR in Las Vegas.
Expanding on Sydnee’s trailer cleaning concept, Larry Garner with Spalding Labs, suggested they not only donate the Bye Bye Odor used to clean the trailers but then sell Bye Bye Odor at the event giving 100% of the proceeds to Hope Counts for unlimited fundraising possibilities. Garner said, “It’s a win-win-win. The kids raise money to help others. Spalding’s Bye Bye Odor cleans the trailers which means less flies, better smell and happier animals. We all know happier animals are better competitors.” The premier year’s overwhelming response was thanks to the many Little Britches alumni, now top professional cowboys and cowgirls who wore the blue feathers at NFR. The buzz in Las Vegas that year was, ‘what are all these blue feathers for?’ generating enormous baseline awareness for Hope Counts.
Again this year Spalding Labs had plenty of donated Bye Bye Odor on hand, along with some additional man power to help the kids clean the trailers, and raise over $4000. Hope Counts not only gives back to the rodeo community in need, but also teaches kids teamwork, volunteerism and selfless acts of service. Wise beyond her years, Sydnee states “Aristotle said ‘virtue is its own reward’ I think we all may get a little extra reward here.”
Angelea Walkup is a US Dressage Federation gold medalist best known in the horse world as web series host of HorseGirlTV and producer of the equibarre workout. She is a career content creator and holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. You can connect with her on Twitter @AKwalkup or her Facebook Page.
We blinked and summer happened. Right!? Well, hello fall! Here are 5 tips to help you get your horses ready for the winter months ahead. Burrrr!
It's officially fall! Time to start getting ready for winter! In this episode, Jenni Grimmett DVM explains her practice's winter healthy horse check list to get your horse ready to go into the colder months. Watch Fall Veterinary Horse Check List With Equine Veterinarian Dr. Jenni Grimmett.
Dr. Jenni Grimmett is an incredibly approachable veterinarian, a wonderful teacher, and talented Cowboy Dressage horse woman. You can watch her series at On The Road with Jenni Grimmett with new episodes every week!
I wrote this on the last day of the Cowboy Dressage World Finals Show, at the Rancho Murieta Equestrian Center, an immense facility out in the middle of nowhere (sprawling, rolling grasslands). I love this event for several reasons.
It is a competitive discipline, which if performed correctly, cannot damage the equine, mentally or physically.
Thanks to its Founding Father, a horseman Eitan Beth-Halachmy, its essence is “Soft Feel”. To quote Eitan, its “Mission and Vision” is “Soft Feel”, the guiding principle of Cowboy Dressage. “It is wordless, intimate communication within the partnership of horse and rider. Soft Feel is not only sending messages, but having the sensitivity and awareness to feel the message the horse sends back.”
The variety of breeds I have seen is amazing: Stock horses, Gypsy Vanner, Rocky Mountain, Tennessee Walker, Arabian, Warmbloods, Mules, Fjords, Morgans, Mustangs, etc.
The people. I have met hundreds here, and, without exception, they are kind, generous, considerate, friendly, gentle, open-minded horse lovers. That’s why this discipline appeals to them. It’s kind, humane, and gentle to the horse, yet very sophisticated and intricate horsemanship.
Having attended countless horse and mule shows in my lifetime, very rarely as a competitor, but as a spectator, a show vet, a practitioner there to attend to a patient, as a judge, as a journalist and even as an announcer, I can see this show is unique. It is unique because of the emphasis on empathetic communication with the horse, and the complete absence of that small minority of people who contaminate most horse shows; the showoffs, the complainers, the egomaniacs, the extremists.
A feature of special interest at this show was a full day of lectures by a variety of experts on different subjects. It drew a very satisfied audience, obviously eager for more knowledge about horses and horsemanship.
One of the founding partners of Cowboy Dressage, Garn Walker of Dewey, Oklahoma said, “Education is first.” Without exception, everybody involved in this discipline believes that.
They are hungry for knowledge.
Some species, including Homo Sapiens (That is US!) can, if the individual is healthy, tolerate sudden changes in diet without problems. But, other species, especially the herbivores (grazing animals) can suffer if the diet is changed abruptly.
The horse is a good example. Because horses depend to a great extent, upon the billions of microörganisms within their digestive tract to process what they eat, any sudden change in the diet may preclude those microörganisms’ ability to break down the consumed food.
It is these microscopic residents of the equine digestive tract, which enable the horse to do something that we humans cannot do. That is, to break down grass and other plants into chemicals, which horses, can thrive on, and even become obese from over-eating.
Having seen thousands of colic cases, many of them fatal, foundered horses, and other serious problems caused by too sudden dietary changes during my practice career, I have become obsessive, and, I confess, rather paranoid about making dietary changes in my own horses.
Now, the good part of that is that never have I had one of my own equines suffer illness as a result of a too swift change in diet.
The bad part is that other people, including my ranch employees, think that I am some sort of nut.
For example, I not only take a full week or two of gradual substitution when changing diets, such as hay to pasture, or from dry forage to green, but I even insist that a new batch of the same kind of hay be introduced very gradually. So, today, just before I wrote this, my horses have been primarily on alfalfa hay. But, I opened a bale from a different delivery (from the same dealer) and I fed them ¼ flake of the new bale and ¾ flake from the old bale.
Excessive? Yes, I admit it. Unnecessary? Well, having had many horses and mules for the past 60 years, and never had one colic or founder is good reason for me to be so cautious.
Besides, horses are very aware of changes in the source of water, or the stage of growth that the hay derived from, or any other change in what they consume, so it is worth it to me to see them feeling secure and content.
That’s the reason I make any feed change gradually. For example:
If they have been primarily on hay all winter and I am ready to introduce them to the green Spring pastures, I allow them only 5 minutes the first day, and increase it by 5 more minutes during the following days until they have been in pasture a full hour. Yes, that takes time and patience, but it also means healthy horses. If they go into a different pasture with different kinds of forage (I live in a canyon, moist at the bottom and dry above), I repeat the gradual process.
And, again, even if I buy a new load of the same kind of hay from the same feed store, I make the change gradually.
Am I obsessive? Yes! I have seen too many horses damaged by too abrupt feed changes. Thousands of sick horses, as I said earlier, and many died, or were permanently damaged as is the case in laminitis. It’s not worth the risk.
Think about wild horses. Say it is at the end of the dry season. Then at last, it rains. Soon new green grass emerges from the ground. The horses nibble it, but hunger causes them to fill up on the old abundant grass. As the new grass grows, they gradually switch on to it.
That’s why, in feeding equines, I try to emulate nature. I have seen enough colics in my long career to ever see one of my own equines experience it.
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