What: Women Luv Horses (WLH) retreat; three-day celebration of the special relationship between women and horses
Hostess: World-renowned equestrian, clinician and Team Horse & Rider member Lynn Palm
Where: Cabarrus Arena and Events Center in Concord, N.C. (near Charlotte)
When: May 18-20, 2007
Who was invited: Women of all ages, backgrounds and varying interests in the horse world
The stars: PRCA barrel racing legend Martha Josey; internationally acclaimed dressage competitor, clinician, author and frequent contributor to our sister publication Dressage Today Jane Savoie; AQHA Open Trail World Champion Cynthia Cantleberry, NRHA Freestyle Champion, 2006 Road To The Horse Champion, Team H&R member and all-around rock-star cowgirl Stacy Westfall
Educators: Dr. Torri Maxwell on West Nile and Equine Herpes Virus; Katie Young, PhD, on equine nutrition; Debi Metcalf of Stolen Horse International on protecting your horse from theft; Dr. Robin Smith on horse care; Lyndsey White and Raegan Knotts on how digestive health affects a horse's appearance, attitude and performance
Fashion/beauty divas: Suzi Vliestra of Hobby Horse Clothing on knockout show clothes; Kerri Kent of Kerrits clothing; Donna Mastrianni on skin care for women and their horses; and, because horsewomen don't go far without their other beloved four-legged-friends, Oster put on a presentation for the ultimate "Pampered Pup."
For moms & career gals: Author, speaker, and veteran horse-show mom Ange Finn presented "Green as Grass: Horse Show Parenting 101" and "Family, Career, Riding-Time Management."
After-hours fun: "Filly Fashion Show" and "Cowgirls Party"
A Cynic, Reborn
By Alana Harrison,
Women readers: Please forgive me for what I'm about to say. I despise mall marathons; I don't really care for chic flicks; I can't imagine anything more boring than being bound to a weekly mani/pedi. And frankly, I'm just not really into the whole girl-bonding thing--that is, except for when it comes to a certain sisterhood based on horses.
I wouldn't classify myself as a tomboy--as a kid or now--but I'd rather clean the grime off my saddle than touch the slime in my refrigerator. And, I feel ridiculously clichéd even saying that riding and getting filthy with my best girlfriend beats "lunching" and facials hands-down. How many of us horsewomen have attended some boring cocktail party, only to be saved by discovering a fellow horsewoman who, over several glasses of Chardonnay, truly understands our frustration over our Paint's refusal to pick up his left lead? Truth is, that too-often written-off, banal-bond between women who share the equine obsession is a fundamental part of what makes the horse world go 'round.
With this somewhat sardonic preface, I do love to travel (for pleasure or work) to destinations with horse relativity. But I admit that I expected the premier "Women Luv Horses" retreat to be bit...cheesy. Plus, I was getting a double-dose of female bonding, as
newly-hired editorial coordinator, Amanda Peterson, was coming along for the fun (which did, by the way, turn out to be a blast)!
The Breed/Discipline Melting Pot
As many of us can attest to, breeds and disciplines draw lines between horse enthusiasts. Paints versus Apps. Arabian versus Quarter Horse. Dressage versus Western pleasure. Jumping versus reining. Parallel with society, there are blatant stereotypes and prejudices on Planet Horse. But those barriers seemed almost non-existent among the WLH crowd. At dinner one evening, I sat between a middle-aged beauty from Canada who competes in upper-level dressage and a 72-year-old woman who does competitive endurance riding. Across the table bubbled a blond 20-something who was mad about barrel racing, and to her left sat a mother of five, who used to compete in Western pleasure, but now has a blast trail riding with her gal pals.
"Wow," I thought, "what an amazingly diverse, but equally knowledgeable group of horsewomen." I only wished Amanda and I had more time to chat with them about their personal horse paradigms. Later during the event, I got to visit with Lynn for a bit (who was gracious enough to help me with a personal riding issue I'm having with my Thoroughbred), and she said her initial vision for WLH was to offer an event that appealed to women across the horse spectrum...old, young, middle-aged, stay-at-home moms, professionals, backyard riders, competitors, jumpers, reiners, barrel runners, trail riders--you name it. I think she did just that.
A Lil' Somethin' For Every Gal
Lynn packed riding demonstrations, clinics, lectures, talk sessions, interactive workshops, seminars and social delights into three days. Various demonstrations were held congruently in different parts of the facility and were planned with finite detail so riders interested in horse-health could soak up every word of equine medicine and barrel racers wouldn't miss a second of Martha Josey's stellar racing tactics.
It seemed there was a demonstration or lecture for anyone with an equine passion. Martha put on several barrel clinics but also lectured on topics such as "Keeping You and Your Athlete Ready" and "10 Ways to Win in the Arena and in Life."
Cynthia Cantleberry not only covered a multitude of trail-class topics, but she also took time to teach and instill confidence in us trailer-challenged gals with tips on loading, driving and--most importantly--backing a trailer.
Dressage expert Jane Savoie offered instruction on dressage training for beginning, novice and advanced riders and gave several inspirational lectures on our attitudes as riders and in life. She touched on such raw topics as depression and loneliness in women and how overcoming stress through confidence is key.
Stacy Westfall helped attendees with basic body control (in their horses, that is) and delighted them with a bridleless training clinic. And Lynn lectured and instructed on everything from ground driving and bridleless training to making your own "perfect stall" and balancing your husband/boyfriend/significant other with your unabashed passion for horses.
These five equine celebs also held several open-forum sessions to field questions from attendees, addressing how best to stay in shape for riding, getting your horse "on the bit," bad-horse behavior, show nerves and a multitude of other topics. Vets and equine nutrition specialists delved into pressing health and feeding topics, while the equine fashion authorities dished out the lowdown on what's hot and what's not. Ange Finn offered a helping hand to moms and career women alike on balancing their families, jobs and horses with ease; plus, she gave some tips to new and veteran show moms to prevent--or eliminate--show-mom madness.
Just observing and talking to fellow horsewomen about their issues, tips and tried-and-true solutions was an education. It's amazing how much you can soak up by just being.
Did Someone Say, "Shopping?"
Vendors set up shop from dawn 'til dusk during WLH's three-day affair: from English and Western clothing including Kerrits, Saddle-Up, Neighsayers (one of our personal faves), Wrangler and Lilo Collections to vet supplies, fencing, farm equipment, supplements and feed. Amanda and I fell in love with Neighsayers, a family-owned T-shirt boutique that went way beyond the clichéd "I Love Horses" T's indeed with vintage wine-labled T's donning horse-y idioms, such as "Marelot," "Pinto Noir" and "Chardoneigh." Being the wine "taster" that I am, I couldn't resist; plus my Thoroughbred, Memphis, desperately needed one of Neighsayers' gourmet icing-drenched carrot cakes.
And, believe it or not, there is actually a horse perfume called "Nuzzle" for you! There was an array of skin-care products designed with the equine femme in mind. Kind of a "duh" since a lot of us spend a tremendous amount of time in the sun. Oster, Oster everywhere, plus wall art, jewelry for you, jewelry/tack with bigger and better bling for your horse and the Lilo Collections purse/bag line that could give Coach and L.V. a run for their money at maybe half the cost. Not to mention the Saturday night grand-finale auction, which included everything from horse-y furniture and high-end jewelry to show clothing and sequined polo wraps. Go figure, one of the highest bids went to an authentic margarita machine--the perfect barn accessory for cooling off after steamy summer rides!
Cowgirls Gone Wild
Lynn made sure to cap Friday and Saturday nights off with a bit of sizzle. Friday evening's "Filly Fashion Show" reminded all of us that there are other things to wear to the barn besides grimy T's held together by one or two threads and hoof oil. Kerrits and Hobby Horse dominated the catwalk with their new super-stretchy fabrics for breeches, Western riding pants and jeans.
Although the Carrabus Arena is no New York or Milan, I felt a little bit like a "real" fashion photographer racing around the arena trying to capture the fashions with my lens.
Saturday evening's Cowgirl Party and dinner were equally fun. The auction winners collected their goodies with overt delight. Those of us sorry souls who didn't claim a prize were treated to three incredible riding performances by Lynn, Stacy and dressage diva Carla Wennberg. Wennberg, an AQHA and NRHA judge, performed a beautiful freestyle dressage routine. Stacy brought many in the group to tears with her moving bridleless/bareback reining routine, and Lynn dazzled us with an incredible bridleless "dance" on her renowned Paint stallion, Rugged Painted Lark. Oh, don't we all wish we could ride like that!
OK, I admit my preconceived notions were a bit off. Well, actually a lot off. It would seem there are certain things a woman just needs to do with another woman. Point in case: During the final hour of the event, Amanda and I unknowingly sat in on a "de-beaning lecture." After a few minutes, it finally occurred to me what the lecturer was demonstrating with two long tube socks folded one inside the other.All right, I thought, I have a gelding; he needs his sheath cleaned from time to time. My vet usually does it for me a few times a year, but it couldn't hurt to learn how to do it myself. I pulled out my notebook, prepped to jot down some helpful notes. When I glanced up at the lecturer, she was describing the male horse anatomy in full detail and pulled one of the tube socks down from the other. It struck me that only other women could understand the relationship I have with my gelding. We are like an old married couple. We bicker. We make up. He sometimes sleeps on my shoulder when he's bored. I touch him in unspeakable places, ahem, and he could care less. But, when I walk out into the pasture of 60-something horses, he sees me--and only me--and comes trotting up because we're just meant to grow old together. I love my "human" boyfriend very much, but suffice to say, ONLY another horsewoman could possibly understand the complex yet endearing dynamics of the female-horse relationship. Alas, I am a believer, reborn.
Saddle Up, Ladies!
By Amanda Peterson, editorial coordinatorAs a horse owner, I'm green. As a journalist, I'm still wet behind the ears. So when the opportunity came up to go to North Carolina with Alana for Lynn Palm's inaugural Women Luv Horses retreat, I was chomping at the bit. Not only would it be my first time to attend a horse clinic, it was an irreplaceable chance to meet Lynn Palm, Stacy Westfall and Martha Josey (among many others) all under one roof. Until then I had only read about these legendary horsewomen and their accomplishments. After Lynn's dressage show, Stacy's reining exhibition and Martha's lectures I knew instantly what all the fuss was about.During the "Filly Fashion Show" and the "Cowgirl Party" I sat among hundreds of other women linked by a common bond--horses. They came from across the country and around the world. No matter their background, experience or discipline in the saddle, they were there to kick back, relax and learn a thing or two. Everyone had a horse story to tell, most of which had me rolling with laughter and a few that brought me to tears. I thought to myself, "What is it about these gigantic, powerful animals that is so alluring to women?" Maybe it's the thrill they get from riding, or the time and nurturing it takes to care for a horse that they find rewarding. Whatever it is, it's a special relationship that makes a lot of women happy."We horsewomen are a rare breed," I said to a woman at our table. She laughed, agreeing. That's when I realized I was a part of something much grander than I had expected. Women Luv Horses was more than a three-day clinic and show. For me, it was a visual representation of how many women out there do in fact love horses and an opportunity for us to see we're not alone. See more photos in Alana's Women Luv Horses photo gallery.