Monday, February 24, 2014

A Weekend of Horses (and Hockey) by C.P. Stringham

Monte Nicholas and Nancy Epler shortly after closing the
sale on their new horse farm. (Photo courtesy of Rockin' N)
Busy, busy, busy...
As most on-the-go families can attest, weekends are a huge juggling act of accommodations.  Within a forty-eight hour period, we attempt the near-impossible feat of fitting each activity into some form of itinerary that makes everyone happy.  Between our work and school weeks, we find ourselves living for the weekend—AKA: our not so leisure leisure time.  This past weekend, while jam-packed, was incredibly satisfying.  We spent hours at a nearby horse farm and even managed to squeeze in a hockey game on Saturday night.  How can you go wrong with horses and hockey? 
Monte Nicholas and Robin Muzzy, riding Jean's horse,
Smarty, chat during a break. 

Horse heaven...
Our friends, Nancy Epler and Monte       Nicholas, recently began living their dream of owning a large horse boarding and training facility.  The former Round Top Stables, located on Wolcott Hollow Road in Athens, PA, is now called Rockin’ N Stables & Ranch (Click on name for link.)  Nancy and Monte are no strangers to the horse world.  For them, it has been a lifelong love—both of their fathers were horsemen so you can say it’s in their blood.  In business for a little over four months, this horsepower couple has already built up a great client base and a good reputation.  From my outside perspective, they have reached this early success, in part, due to their willingness to network with fellow trainers and barns.  They understand how important it is within our small horse community to build friendships and collaborate.  The other reason for their success is due to Monte’s training skills.  Many of the barns in our area have hired Monte to come in and break their young horses and desensitize them.  While the words break and desensitize may sound harsh to those outside of the horse world, they are anything but.  Especially in Monte’s capable hands.  While he demands respect from the horses he’s training, he also treats them with respect.  When he introduces new horses to situations, he doesn’t force them to do it in a heavy-handed manner.  Instead, he works on the horse’s natural curiosity to lead them to the end desired result.  My family and I have witnessed him work wonders.
Since Rockin’ N’s opening, they have hosted three well-attended riding clinics.  Each clinician featured has been brought in from other established local barns.  Patricia Ross (my children’s riding instructor,) of Foxwin Farm LLC (click on name for link,) presented the first clinic at Rockin’ N during
From left to right: The clinicians Pat Ross riding Foxwin Jericho 
"Tank," Richie Fisher judging a 4-H show at 
Alparon Park, and Robin Muzzy, Carolyn Mosher,
and Jean Lindsey with Craig Cameron (second from left.) 
(Photos courtesy of Pat Ross, Caitlin McBratney, 
and Jean Lindsey)
the grand opening event.  Pat is a Morgan Horse breeder and dressage instructor with over fifty years of experience and a recipient of the prestigious American Morgan Horse Associations’ Masters Certificate for her “long-standing commitment and involvement with the Morgan Horse.”  She and Monte covered basic horsemanship and training tips with an emphasis on communication and partnership-building for horse and rider through fun group and individual activities.  Their second clinician, Richard A. Fisher, instructed participants on barrel racing and horsemanship.  Richie is the owner and founder of Fisher Equestrian Center and is known throughout the area for his involvement working with 4-H exhibitors by presenting clinics and judging shows as well as training and instructing for novice amateur, amateur, and open showing.  
This past weekend, Rockin’ N hosted an Ultimate Trail Challenge clinic instructed by Jean Lindsey with the help of Carolyn Mosher.  Jean got her start as a young teen under the guidance of Dick and Tete Burleigh of Burleigh Quarter Horses and has since been a clinic student of Craig Cameron, Joann K. Long, and Denny Wilcox.  With her former AQHA gelding, Light Brunch “Leo,” Jean won numerous circuit championships and AQHA Region Five Regional Experience Championships.
Sydney and Leah lead the way as Nancy Epler and Carney follow while
Jean Lindsey has fun during the Ultimate Trail Challenge. (Photo courtesy
Lea Halderman)
My oldest daughter got to participate in two out of three of these clinics.  She lives and breathes horses.  As a non-horse owner, the generous and kind-hearted folks in our horse community help to indulge her obsession.  For this past weekend’s clinic, Jean offered her the use of her three year-old filly.  Needless to say, she had a smile plastered on her face the entire time her butt was in the saddle.  Everyone knows what an honor it is to use one of Jean’s well-trained babies. Sydney was on cloud nine.
Part of the line up during the Ultimate Trail Challenge
As a spectator, my heart literally gushes over with love and admiration while I’m at these events and I witness the teamwork and camaraderie taking place between participants.  This clinic was no different.  Take fifteen riders and fifteen horses, all with their own unique personalities and experience levels, and put them into an indoor arena with obstacles and sensory hazards and you’d expect chaos, but that wasn’t the case.  Through careful planning by Jean, Carolyn, Monte, and Nancy, the clinic was a huge success for both participants and those auditing in the spectator section.  Advanced riders honed their existing skills and knowledge base and novices made giant gains by meeting new challenges.  It was great visiting with old friends and leaving the event having made a few new ones.  Nancy and Monte assured us they are working to bring many more of these wonderful events to Rockin’ N. 

Sydney riding Chief and Mackenzie riding 

Nancy's horse, Carney. (Photo courtesy of Rockin' N)
My daughters get to reap the rewards of being Pat’s lesson students and riding and learning at Foxwin Farm while also enjoying our friendship with Monte and Nancy where they can ride at their farm as well.  Friday night was spent at Rockin’ N while Pat and Monte worked with one of the young Foxwin mares and Sydney got to ride Jean’s AQHA palomino filly, Leah, around the arena while Jean and Carolyn set up for Saturday’s clinic.  On Saturday, we attended the clinic as a supportive family while Syd participated.  Rounding out this great weekend of horse time, both of my girls returned to the barn on Sunday afternoon and rode two of Rockin’ N’s lesson horses.  The greatest part of Sunday’s ride for Sydney?  Talking Monte into letting her ride with an English saddle on his Western gelding, Chief.  Who knows, maybe by summertime, Monte will get into the hunter/jumper spirit and he’ll buy a pair of jodhpurs or breeches for himself—but I wouldn’t count on it.

                                                                                                   Bring on the hockey!!
Syd, Viv, and Mackenzie waiting for the game to start.
Facing off..
During our weekend of horsey Zen time, we fit in an Elmira Jackals game on Saturday night.  Our local ECHL hockey team hosted the Wheeling Nailers.  We had excellent seats right on the glass and loved every minute of checking, hooking, and slashing—and a fight or two.  Although the Jackals lost 1-3, the girls left the game upbeat with the give-away prizes they were able to grab.  Mackenzie even got to take home one of the game pucks after it managed to squeeze between the glass and the net and landed in front of her. Thank you, My Gal Friday, for sharing your tickets with us!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the beautiful story. I am so glad you enjoyed your time here. You have become such great friends. Living our dream is truly a blessing.
    When I read your paragraph about Sunday's events, Monte's comment was, " Don't count on it!"
    I guess this barn won't be going English any time soon!!!
    Thank You Again!!!! :o)