Equeshare brings equestrians from around the world together to share in the rich equestrian experiences available in the northern Virginia region.
The day has come to say goodbye to our friends from Kakamigahara. I will miss them very much and will miss watching their lessons and the excitement of driving a team of horses or checking pulses or longlining or any of the many activities they participated in. There are not words big enough to express the gratitude I have for all of the support I received during the planning stages and for the duration of the 6 days the Katos were here.
To mention them one by one:
Peter Gustafson, my husband who believed in me
Dustin Gustafson, son, Japanese liaison and translator
John Gustafson and Tyler Hurwitz, son and our friend respectively, who helped ready our house for the cook out and other important times,
Amy McCullagh, caterer, deliverer and chief foodie keeping us all from starving,
Mary Flood, owner of Wildfire Farm who said yes to hosting the program, accommodating our horses and being an inspiring coach.
Pat Brescia, photographer, videographer and who posted the images daily for us to review.
Judy Brescia, lent her pony Conor Larkin and helped everyday to hold, tack and any thing else that needed doing.
Ted and Gina, owners of Idyll Time Farm B&B for their beautiful log cabin home for the Katos
Paula Horne, lent her big boy Tux
Andres, stable assistant who helped look after the horses.
Nicole Caruso, accupuncture and Chiropractic demonstration
John Moore, for harnessing the team and for taking us for an awesome hayride.
Christine Vitkus, owner of Red Gate Farm for the lesson for Taka and Chika Kato
Dr. Erskine, Equine Medical Center for the behind the scenes tour
Stephanie Kenyon, facilitating a private tour of the Winmill Carriage Collection
Peter Hart, for putting me onto Leesburg Toyota to provide a Sienna van for transport during Equeshare
There are others I fear I may have left off but know that all are appreciated.
Finally, I want to thank the Kato family for coming to Virginia from so far away. I was honored to have you join you us. My heart was warmed by your presence. Please come and visit us again!
Day three starts again as per the early morning schedule. We pick up our family at Idyll Time B&B and off to Wildfire Farm. The entire Kato family will ride in a group lesson again. Now that Mary has seen them ride and is confident in there abilities she will introduce a different challenge to them. She put out a line of four ground poles spaced at 4.5" for a trotting distance. First to be walked then to be trotted. Although this not a new exercise for the Katos it is a basic exercise for warming up your horse. The poles were then moved to the corner of the arena and placed in a fan pattern with cones to provide guidance. This proved more challenging! But there was success after several attempts. If you get it right the first time you don't realize the benefit of it.
The third exercise was a single ground pole set on a 20 meter circle. They were to canter on the circle without changing rhythm as they crossed the pole. In other words canter as though there were no pole on the ground. Not as easy as it sounds. Poles often times represent a jump in our and our horses minds. We both have a tendency to change our rhythm. It is a good exercise in mind over matter and maintaining rhythm.
After the lesson all but one horse was sponged off and turned out. Joe was retained for a lunging demonstration. Mary fitted him with a surcingle, lunge line and a cavesson, both are tools used for unmounted "work in hand". After showing the beginnings of asking for all four legs to be under the horse (sounds funny, but where else would they be?) Therein lies the challenge. They must be squarely under him to have the full effect of a state of collection. Mary then showed Katos how to set up the long lines and demonstrated the usefulness of this exercise. Tosh and Tae both took a turn at long lining. Again harder than it looks to achieve desired effect.
After the lunging lesson lunches were delivered by Amy and we inhaled them while we watched Mary ride a clients horse. She rides so effortlessly. It's inspiring.
After lunch we drove to Another Turn Tack in Purcellville. The place was hopping with people buying that piece of tack that would make all the difference. The Katos found such things too. Dustin came across a pair of gloves which are for massaging horses but saw a much higher need in massaging tired humans! No shopping trip would be complete without finding the nearest ice cream shop. And then back to our respective homes to rest up for Polo in the Park.
The weather was a bit unsettled in the morning and for most of the day. We weren't sure Polo would happen. Around 3:00 the sun came out and we could go forward with plan A.
Tailgating at Polo in the Park was great fun surrounded by Equeshare friends. Everyone brought a little something to the table and lively conversation. In fact I'm not not certain that we watched much Polo. But we did participate in whacking the ball from the back of a dummy horse and a tug of war during half time.
After the games are over we head home and rest for the next early morning. My daily thanks to all who have helped, photographed, delivered food, supported, taught. What a great team.
I don't know about the rest of the Equeshare team but I am most certainly going to miss having our daily adventures with the Katos. Today we saw hide nor hair of a horse. Well not directly anyway. We let them decide on an itinerary which included a guided tour of the Winmill Carriage Museum at Morven Park. It is a beautiful collection of restored and renovated carriages, carts and wagons from the early 1900's under roof and climate controlled. Thank you to our knowledgeable docent and Stephanie Kenyon, Morven Park Executive Director for the invitation to visit.
After our carriage museum tour we made the commute to Washington DC to do a drive by of the nation's capital. Too fascinating for a car cruise we found a cherry parking space and embarked on a brief walkabout. The Katos were able to have a little family time negotiating the National Gallery of Art on their own and "eating street" from a food truck. We agreed that Washington DC deserves a couple days to see most of the well known sights.
We had other stops to make so piled back in the van for the trip to Chantilly and a stop at Dover Saddlery. The phrase "Kids in a candy store" comes to mind. This was a wise choice! And an hour and a half later we immerge with bags of useful things for the Kato Horse Farm in Japan.
Heading west on Rt 50 we decided to visit Middleburg, the heart of Hunt Country. Again a drive by just wouldn't cut it. We had to stop for ice cream and a walk about town. Taka found a cool pair of shades which seem to fit him well!
So we get back in the box for a scenic drive through the lovely back roads leading north to Lucketts and Idyll Time Farm. One last supper was prepared and delivered by Amy. A low Country corn boil with shrimp and spicy sausage. It was just what the doctor ordered. This is the last night's sleep before Katos head home to Japan.
I am overwhelmed by what a fulfilling experience this has been not just for me but for all those in the Equeshare team. I will write more about this in the coming days. For now, it's time for rest and then letting go as we say goodbye to our friends from Japan, the Katos.
Day Five. The time has flown as I knew it would. The first ever Equeshare is drawing to a close. Our last day of riding started in its usual fashion with the trip to Wildfire Farm in the early morning. Tae and Tosh rode in the lesson this morning and I opted to join them. Mary sets out a line of cones to help with creating bend and suppleness in our warm up. We progress to working on transitions and lengthening and shortening within gaits and finish off with a simple change transition which proved a challenge. But once overcome there was the "A Ha" moment that frequently happens when working with Mary Flood. Dustins translation just couldnt have been better making Mary's comments clear to the Katos.
After the lesson Tae and Tosh turned their mounts over to Taka and Chika who went with me for a short ride through Mary Floods trails and fields. Trots and gallops suit the kids! Riding in circles is for old people!
Sponged and turned out horses, cleaned tack and began packing the horses "bags" to return home. Tux was shipped to its owner, Dr Paula Horne. And Joe and Apple, came home with me. They are my trusted and inseparable friends. Judy Brescia collected her Conor Larkin the calm, unflappable Connemara pony.
Dustin took the Katos to Leesburg for a little shopping while I was taxiing horses. There is always the need to bring home gifts for friends!
Lunch brought delivery of a sweet corn tart, another Amy delight. Tired to the bone there is no rest for the wicked as it was soon time to convene at Bridle Path Therapeutic Riding for an equine assisted therapy session. Katie Fallon ran us through a program of watching horses loose in the ring as they interacted with eachother. We then groomed and watched their reaction to us. Then back into the arena fir more play and working with the horses with no halters. It was all about the relationship you build with the horse and how we talk to each other. Thank you Katie and to your volunteer helpers.
Our day wraps up with a cook out at our home. Dustin and John Gustafson built a soman noodle bamboo contraption. It is a traditional and fun way of catching the noodles and dunking them in a prepared broth and topping them with dried bonito, scallions, and sesame seeds. Delicious and a riot to eat. Then there was the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, apple pie and on and on. All delicious and eaten. Then lots of talk and looking at pictures of the Katos farm and horses in Japan and talk about their experiences. Bone tired but still with eyes open we reluctantly return our guests to their B&B. We will sleep in tomorrow morning and do non horsey things. Maybe see Washington DC.?
The time is flying. Day four is behind us. The usual, we pick up our Kato family for the jaunt over to Wildfire Farm. Two horses to tack this morning for a jumping lesson in the cross country field for Tae and Tosh. All went well and they settled into learning some new tricks and experiencing moving at a canter in an open field rather than the confines of an arena. Although there is some opportunity for this in Japan they have to travel quite far to do it. Most of the time in Japan is spent working in a ring and riding trails with their club patrons so it is quite a departure for them to have a field with grass and no corners.
Clean tack and head home to lunch and rest. I think that the jet lag has dissipated a bit.
All rested up we travel the mile or so over to Temple Hall Farm, a Lucketts gem. When we get there we find the barn where John Moore, manager of the farm, has one of the two draft horses harnessed and saved the other so we could watch as he harnesses it. Their names are Kit and Colonel. They are both black Percherons, mighty but gentle as lambs. The Katos were able to see all this and then some. John hitched them to the Farm wagon and took us for a wonderful journey at a clip clop pace around the Dee Dee Symington Equestrian Trail. He showed the family how to drive and each in turn were able to take the reins and tell them to "walk on". Thank you to John for making this happen! What a joy.
With that being a highlight we retired to our respective homes. The Kato family is most certainly getting their land legs back because they went for a three hour bike ride afterwards. I love their energy!
Dinner again was delivered by our Amy McCullagh. A tomato tart, so summery and delicious. If anyone reading this needs a personal or event caterer, meal planner, dish delivery, Amy is the most incredible person for you. On top of that the smile has never left her face. Thank you Amy.
And a daily thank you to all who have translated, helped, videoed, instructed, fed, transported and watched over grandchildren! What a marvelous team. Arigato!
Day three is now in the books. What a day! Up and at em early arrive at Wildfire Farm to get tacked up for an 8am lesson. It had rained torrentially during the night leaving washed out ruts in the gravel roads we travel to get to the farm.
All horses tacked and in the indoor school for a terrific group lesson. Mary made use of ground poles for gymnastic purposes with traffic cones to offer guidance for horse and rider. The exercise was quite difficult, I know because I've done it before! But the riders , after a few early disassembling of cones and poles went through with accuracy and relaxation.
After the lesson we kept one of the horses out for a demonstration in lunging and long lining. This was something new for the Katos to learn. It was very exciting to watch them experience something very new and see such positive results in the horse.
All done with horses, tack cleaned, stables done we sat in the gallery of the indoor school to watch Mary and other students ride. Learning as we watched. Lunch arrived special delivery of Amy McCullagh. Tarragon chicken salad sandwiches which were summarily inhaled, delicious. Afterwards we loaded up and headed to Karen McCarthys Another Turn Tack Shop. We found good stuff that had to come home with us (like massage gloves for horses but work well on tired riders to)! We all dropped a few bucks and chatted with friends. Then off to get some rest at our respective homes by way of a soft serve ice cream shop in Purcellville.
The Equeshare team didn't rest, we sprang into action, we had to get ready for our tailgate party at Morven Park Polo in the Park. The Katos our featured guests met our friends and family and enjoyed the festivities, walked around the grounds to see the polo ponies, took a whack at the ball and participated in the tug of war! There was so much conversation it's debatable how much watching polo went on.
Games over by 10pm, time to put the day to bed. Tomorrow comes quickly and we have to rise and shine again!
The first full day is in the books! I speak for myself but I have the feeling it is a shared reaction, I am over the moon! Our day started at 7:30am with our arrival at Mary Flood's Wildfire Farm. The Equeshare team which includes yours truly and Dustin Gustafson, son and translator. We were joined by the helping hands of Judy Brescia who also donated the use of her pony Conor Larkin. Pat Brescia coordinated the use of the TSRC sound system and served as videographer and photographer capturing all of the riding aspects of the morning. With the featured performer of Mary Flood helping and advising as the Katou family groomed and tacked readying for their lesson. The stars of the show are the wonderful family who have travelled from Japan. Evident are their riding capabilities, Mary watched as they settled in on their assigned mounts. Each were assessed and received instruction as needed on an individual basis.
After the lesson the family "cooled out" in the outdoor arena with 4 major smiles and long reins to signal a great ride. Untack, sponge off horses, clean tack, ride the golf carts through Mary Flood's maze of trails with young Takahiro driving, the work turns into fun.
We returned to Idyll Time B&B after a drive home through Waterford, VA. Lunch arrived at noon brought by our own Amy McCullagh. Unbelievable chicken salad and the juiciest most delicious peaches. Thank you Amy for finding such delicacies close to home!
A little rest and we hit the trail again. This time we are to visit and tour the Equine Medical Center in Leesburg. Leading our tour was Dr. Erskine. We got to see the state of the art diagnostic equipment recently added to the center and got a glimpse of how it is used. All the while Dustin translated for our Katou family. Thank you to Dr. Erskine for a very enlightening tour.
After the tour we drove through the Morven Park estate. I had to stop off at a couple of the Advance Level XC jumps. There were lots of really big eyes and jaw dropping. Huge!
Then it was time to stop for a few supplies in Leesburg before heading back to Lucketts. All are sleepy and content. Dinner arrived again by the hands of Amy. Crab cakes tonight.OMG they were to die for.
It was a great day. Stay tuned for the next adventure of the Katou's and the Equeshare team!
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