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Saddling up in Andover
ANDOVER- On a sunny and cloudless blue sky in early August, laughter could be heard coming from the metal swing set in the back yard of Brock and Jane Clukey's home. As I ducked under the low-hanging limbs of the sweet-smelling crab apple trees and rounded the corner of the house, four-year-old Paisley shyly peered from behind her five-year-old sister Emma. They knew I was coming to ask some questions about their 13-year-old American Painted horse, Bleu, and to take some photos.
When I first introduced myself to the girls, they told me their horse's name was Isaac, “because that's his name that I told all my friends at school,” stated a very confident Emma. Then, it turned out to be a little bit of a joke, when we found out that his papered name is Lucky Unit. So, this is a story about Bleu (named for one blue eye and one brown) when we're talking with Jane, Isaac when the girls are conversing and, well, Lucky Unit is only used during the Ellis River Riders shows, so we won't use that one.
Jane always wanted a horse, but it wasn't until she and her family moved to Andover 18 months ago that the dream became a reality.
“It's just a prime location to own a horse,” noted Jane. “There are riding trails everywhere. If you go through the woods, you'll see signs that depict a horse, just like others have snowmobiles on them. It's very neat.”
Jane speaks of the Ellis River Riders and the miles and miles of trails they help maintain for the pleasure of riding their horses year round. In fact, they will be selling a waterproof map of the trail system for only $5 during their two-day show the weekend of September 3.
During the show, you will most likely have the pleasure of seeing Emma, Paisley and Jane all riding in their various events. Of which, Emma took home the Lead Line Champion trophy earlier this summer and Paisley took home the Lead Line Reserve award. “The girls have done quite well,” noted Jane.
The Ellis River Riders don't charge admission for their shows and during the weekend of Sept. 3 and 4, there will be tons of food and a variety of events for everyone in attendance.
On Saturday, there will be an Open Show in which both English and Western classes will be offered to riders. There will be In Hand classes, where the horses are shown from the ground and not ridden. Then there will be Pleasure (how nice a horse is to ride) and Equitation classes (judging the rider and how well they ride). They will have two jumping classes, a trail class and much more.
On Sunday, there will be a Gymkhana (game) Show. These classes vary from fun to really fast and fun. They have an electronic timer that captures a horse down to the 1/1000 of a second. Deb Cayer, President of Ellis River Riders noted, “And believe it or not, we have had ties before.”
There will be kids classes during Sunday morning and as the day progresses, the juniors and adults will compete in some pretty fast events, including barrel racing, pole bending and tons more.
I am hoping to be in attendance and look forward to seeing you there, too.
With hours upon hours of Jane and her girls' time spent exercising Bleu, cleaning and feeding him, not to mention the amount of money it takes to ensure his well-being, the Clukey's have found a great love for their pet horse.
“He's such a sweet boy,” stated Jane, as she stroked his mane. “He's very loving and wants to be with you whenever you're outside. I turn around and he's right there in my back pocket. He's very social and good with people.”
Jane and the girls try to ride Bleu at least three to five times a week and when they know they're not going to be able to fit in a ride on a given day, Jane exercises him by lunging. As she stands in the center of the dusty pasture with a leather strap in one hand and Bleu's lead in the other; she cracks the strap on the ground behind Bleu to get him moving in a circle around her.
“It's a great way to burn off his extra energy,” stated Jane. “I do this for about 30 to 45 minutes with him.” No sooner did she get these words out (after only a couple minutes), did Bleu stop abruptly and face her. Jane laughed, “I guess he's had enough, that's what he does when I tell him to stop.”
Wanting to be sure he was still fresh for his photo op, Jane brought Bleu to the outside of his enclosure to demonstrate how the saddle pad, saddle, bit and bridle all came together to work in unison for a comfortable and safe ride.
“You need to have a bit of upper body strength,” stated Jane, as she hurled the saddle up on the back of Bleu.” With the saddle weighing roughly 35 pounds and having to pick it up over her head to reach Bleu's back, Jane has chiseled out a couple of nice guns. It ensures that nobody will want to mess with her. With the saddle strap secured tightly down and around Bleu's belly, Jane then got the bridle and bit situated.
I took an opportunity to ask about the care and maintenance of a horse. Jane noted that the farrier comes to trim the hooves every six to eight weeks and puts shoes on the front only. “If the shoes get too tight, it's like us wearing shoes that are way too small for us,” stated Jane. “You can only imagine what that feels like.”
Jane uses an equine bug spray to keep the flies from chewing at Bleu's skin and if his teeth get too sharp, the farrier will file them down during his visit, too. Jane explained that when horses eat, their teeth mash together in a sideways motion to help grind them down while breaking the food down to the smallest particles for digestion.
Jane noted that having a horse and taking care of them is just like having a child. “You really have to pay attention to them. If they develop a new behavioral problem or just aren't acting normal, chances are there is something wrong.”
With that being said, Emma noted that when she grows up she has decided that she wants to be an Equine veterinarian. “I just want to help take care of horses, I really like them.”
Myself, being a dog owner, I understand that having pets is good for ones emotional state. I inquired of Jane if it was more true with a horse in comparison to their size. She noted, “Horses are great therapists. It's like a piece of heaven on earth to be able to ride and let all your stress go. There's a special bond between a horse and their owner. It's a special kind of love.”
For more information on the Ellis River Riders, visit www.ellisriverriders.com.