Letter from the Editor

Dear Golden State Members,

The Western States Championship Shows just concluded and the shows were bigger and better than ever before. Year End results in this issue. Next month we’ll list the individual show, Heritage, and Ranch Riding Freestyle winners.

As promised, the results and pictures from the new Inter-Mountain Ranch Versatility Rendezvous are in this edition. It was a darn good show and I think we’ll be seeing more shows in McArthur!

This editor and noted judge Leo Fourre have been working diligently to develop a Rule Change Proposal for Ranch Trail. Read more about it and ways in which you can show your support.

Have you ever seen those zebra striped fly sheets for horses? Read on to find out the scientific reasons behind why stripes are best for fly deterrence.

Get out those winter blankets, hopefully no stripes needed, and prepare for some down time—then get ready–a new, bigger and better GSVRHA show season is just around the corner.

Grateful to be a part of a great ranch horse community,

Dawn Poston

Send comments, concerns, & ideas to [email protected]

Posting Old Glory at the Inter-Mountain Event Center

Fun in the Mountains

Inter-Mountain Versatility Ranch Horse Rendezvous

We had winter/spring on the first day of showing, and summer on the second. In the pictures of the event, you’ll see coats in some and rolled up sleeves in others! The natives kept saying, “welcome to the mountains.” With Mt Shasta to the North and Mt Lassen to the West and all the hay fields and forests in the valley, McArthur was/is a feast for the eyes and the senses.

The drive out to McArthur from Redding was pleasant, with a good road, and there were no complaints. There were many new competitors from the northland, and all very good hands. Our club will grow exponentially! There were several good restaurants in the classic all American small town of Fall River (adjacent to McArthur), so we all ate well. The Fall River Hotel & Restaurant became a favorite of this editor.

Division Results

Youth Champion: Rex Reynier
Novice Champion: Jessie Smoot
Novice Reserve: Sara Reynier
Limited Champion: Kim Smoot
Limited Reserve: Cady Schroeder
Intermediate Champion: Renee Jackson
Intermediate Reserve: Bryan Jaeger
Advanced Champion: Kim Donlon
Advanced Reserve: Kelly Saunders
Open Champion: Christian Scanlan

Amazing & beautiful Golden State VRH show secretary Harlee Burtschi taking a picture with Fred and Dawn Poston. With Harlee there, you know the show ran well.

Dinner time fun at the Fall River Hotel Restaurant. Great food and drinks in a great old hotel with wonderful atmosphere.

Jessie Smoot, Kim Smoot, Janey Welch, and Cori Shields with Mt Shasta in the background

Shasta to the north, Mt Lassen to the East. Is it no wonder everyone loved being in McArthur?

Judge Sarah Clifford, Janey Welch, Dawn Poston, and Kelly Saunders.

It was a bit chilly day one, but stunningly beautiful weather for day two. In foreground, Sharon Bryant (helpful as always) Amy Larson, Bryan Jaeger, & Samantha Scanlan.

Recuperation from a new hip was the reason Bev Sparrowk was out of the saddle July to October. We were all delighted to be there for her first ride on Rocky in 3 months! They went on to win the Limited Ranch Riding.

Show Producer Kathy Torres and Rex Reynier Youth Champion.

Amy Larson, Alesha Harter and son Sammy, Sara Reynier Novice Reserve, & Jessie Smoot Novice Champion

Kathy Torres, Cady Schroeder Limited Reserve, Kim Smoot Limited Champion, Third Lisa Hay.

Kathy Torres, Bryan Jaeger Intermediate Reserve, Renee Jackson Intermediate Champion, Heather Bryant Third.

Kathy Torres, Kim Donlon Advanced Champion, Kelly Saunders Advanced Reserve, Jen Harden Third, Dawn Poston, Cori Shields.

Kathy Torres and Christian Scanlan Open Champion

“Sin City?”

The Horses & Riders Were Angels in Las Vegas WSVRHA Championship Shows!

The largest number of Western States competitors, ever, gathered at Horseman’s Park in Las Vegas for a very competitive two Western States, one AQHA, and one Ranching Heritage show. Judges Bozo Rogers and Frank Craighead had their work cut out for them. It was warmer than in years past, but early classes and a covered arena made it tolerable!

Cow Boss Mike Lund & his able helper Victor Salazar worked unceasingly through all of it—the cattle were good and well-handled. When the Cutting was over everyone got together and helped Mike move the cattle to the Main Arena.

After all the showing was said and done another treat awaited—we all went to Sam’s Town for a Western States hosted banquet dinner and then the distribution of the amazing show and year end awards chosen by Cynda Rice Spahr. Debbie Weisheim was the MC.

There are so many pictures of so many events, there will be more published next month. Until then, see the results and photos below.

Western States Year End Champions: Bob’s Custom Saddle Winners!

Walk/Trot: Brooklyn Henson & Sister Cielo
Novice: Jessie Smoot & Starlight Dillon
Limited: Jody Smith-Zander
Intermediate: Bryan Jaeger-Jewels Smart Remedy
Advanced: Dawn Poston-Fresnos Plain Peppy
Open: Marty Semper-Dun Whiz It Too

Brooklyn Henson Walk/Trot Year End Champion. Not pictured, Paula Drossman Reserve

Angelo Greco Youth Reserve, Grace Green Youth Year End Champion, Christian Scanlan Third, and in the background, tireless Debbie Weisheim show organizer, competitor, and banquet presenter.

Emily Wilbur Novice Third, Josie Driscoll Novice Circuit Champion, Amy Larson Ranching Heritage Ranch Riding winner, Sherri Coll Novice Reserve, Jessie Smoot Novice Year End Champion, and Super Helper/Award Presenter Brooklyn Henson in background.

Stephanie Lewis Circuit Champion, James Lewis Superkid, Beverly Sparrowk Reserve, Jodie Smith Limited Year End Champion. Not pictured, Todd Miller Reserve.

Bodie Hall, Candice Terry Third, Renee Jackson Reserve, Bryan Jaeger Intermediate Year End Champion.

Dawn Poston Advanced Amateur Year End Champion being congratulated by Sarah Clifford. Not pictured Jennifer Harden Reserve, Kim Donlon Third.

Kathy Torres Third, Marty Simper Open Year End Champion, Sarah Clifford Open Year End Reserve

Western States Year End Reserve Champions!

Walk/Trot Reserve: Paula Drossman-Im Smart N Shiny
Novice Reserve: Sherri Coll-Coll Me Smoke Olena
Limited Reserve: Todd Miller-Tuff Marshall In Town
Intermediate Reserve: Renee Jackson-Nics Black Jax
Advanced Reserve: Jennifer Harden-Sanjo Lights
Open Reserve: Sarah Clifford-Cee My Foolish Tangy

Those Dreaded “Ticks”

Proposed Changes To AQHA VRH Trail Rule

Developed by Dawn Poston & Leo Fourre

There you are, waiting to start your VRH Trail. In the course there is a gate, a drag, a side pass, a back through and four walkover poles, three trot over poles, and two lope poles to navigate. With a total of nine poles, you have nine opportunities for your horse to “tick” a pole resulting in NINE penalty points. A side pass and a back through add opportunities for more penalties. We all know that’s a disproportionate emphasis on one sort of maneuver. This editor and judge Leo Fourre will submit the following Rule Change Proposal to the AQHA. (If AQHA changes, Western States will most likely align with AQHA). Read it through and if you want to help, send your name to Dawn Poston at [email protected] and your name will be added to a competitor letter of support for the change.

Why is this rule change needed? In summary:

  1. This rule would better meet the intent of VRH Ranch Trail by providing the judge flexibility in applying penalties for safe/incidental contact & unsafe contact with obstacles. (SHW 422.2 page 149).
  2. This rule change would make the penalties more proportionate among the obstacles.

We propose that the penalty for contact with an obstacle in the AQHA VRH Ranch Trail course be changed from the current 1 point (SHW 422.2 page 149) to 1 point for an unsafe hit/roll/step on, and ½ point or no penalty at judge’s discretion for an incidental contact/light touch/brush/tick.

Under the current scoring system there is no way to discriminate unsafe contact from incidental/safe contact. Furthermore, under the current scoring system, incidental contact has a disproportionate weighting in each class. With walk overs, trot overs, lope overs, (some classes have them all), and four feet on a horse, the preponderance of penalties in one class could come from one kind of maneuver. That is far more than would normally be incurred in other important maneuvers like opening a gate, dragging a log, moving an item, changing leads/direction/or gait, etc. Each of those is scored on a scale from -1 ½ to +1 ½. (In the past year I competed in an AQHA VRH Trail class that had 11 opportunities for contact with a log/pole on the ground. That could have resulted in 11 points of penalty. Extremely disproportionate. If I had scored +1 ½ on the majority of the rest of the obstacles I could not have overcome that 11 points. In addition, at another recent show, my horse lightly touched three logs resulting in 3 points of penalty. The rest of our go was splendid, +1’s and +1/2’s, no other penalties. I noticed on the score sheet that the judge awarded us +1 ½ for Ranch Appearance. None of the other “ranchy” contestants received above a 0. I approached him afterward and asked if my thesis was correct—that he gave us the +1 ½ in an attempt to mediate the -3. He laughed and said I had read his mind. I think this is a good example of a good judge attempting to “judge” and not be so bound by required penalties).

In this rule change proposal, the judge is given the discretion to determine if contact is incidental contact/safe contact, or an unsafe “hit.” The criteria for discriminating the difference would be if the contact poses a danger to the horse or rider or obstacle. “Hits” that move or roll the obstacle, or the horse steps on the obstacle, this kind of contact may pose a danger. Slight incidental contacts that do neither of the aforementioned, do not pose a danger.

The current scoring doesn’t truly represent the intent of the obstacle. For example, a ranch horse is supposed to pick carefully through obstacles, posing no danger to itself or its rider. On the ranch, incidental contact is expected. Imagine gathering cattle in a forest environment. If the horse high steps over every branch on the ground, it’s going to be a very long and very slow day. Ranch trail horses need to get where they are going! Going forward, getting to the next “job” safely and effectively, is the intent of an AQHA VRH Ranch Trail class.


The AQHA requires that we submit proper wording for a proposed rule change. Below is the wording being proposed:

SHW422.2 One (1) point penalty for each hit, bite, or stepping on a log, cone, plant, or any component of the obstacle, ½ point penalty (or no penalty at judge’s discretion) for each incidental contact, light touch, tick, or brushing a log, cone, plant, or any component of the obstacle.

Zebra’s Stripes

A No-Fly Zone for Flies

By Tim Caro, Professor of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Ecology, University of California, Davis-reprinted with permission

The idea for striping sounds preposterous at first blush – stripes stop biting insects from obtaining a blood meal – but it has a lot of support. Early experiments in the 1980s reported that tsetse flies and horseflies avoid landing on striped surfaces and has been confirmed more recently.

Most convincingly, however, are data from across the geographic range of the seven living species of equids. Some of these species are striped (zebras), some are not (Asiatic asses) and some are partially striped (African wild ass). Across species and their subspecies, intensity of striping closely parallels biting fly annoyance in Africa and Asia. That is, wild equids indigenous to areas where annoyance from horseflies is prolonged over the year are those most likely to have marked striping patterns.

But how do stripes actually exert their influence on biting flies? We set out to examine this at a livery in Somerset, U.K., where horseflies collect in the summer. We were lucky enough to work with Terri Hill, the livery’s owner. We could get very close to her horses and tame plains zebras, allowing us to actually watch flies landing or flying past the equids. We also videoed fly behavior around the animals and put different colored coats on horses.

Uniformly colored horses received many more approaches and touchdowns by bothersome flies than did zebras. It is important to remember that flies have much poorer vision than people. We found that zebras and horses received a similar number of approaches from horseflies, probably attracted by their smell – but zebras experienced far fewer landings. Around horses, flies hover, spiral and turn before touching down again and again. In contrast, around zebras flies either flew right past them or made a single quick landing and flew off again.

Frame by frame analyses of our videos showed that flies slowly decelerated as they approached brown or black horses before making a controlled landing. But they failed to decelerate as they approached zebras. Instead, they would fly straight past or literally bump into the animal and bounce off.

When we placed black coats or white coats or striped coats on the same horse so as to control for any differences in animal behavior or smell, again flies did not land on the stripes. But there was no difference in landing rates on the horse’s naked head, showing that stripes exert their effect close up but do not impede fly approaches at a distance. And it showed us that striped horse coats, currently sold by two companies, really do work.
So now that we know that stripes affect horseflies really close up, not at a distance, what is actually going on inches away from the host? One idea is that that stripes set up an optical illusion that disrupts the expected pattern of movement the fly experiences as it approaches the zebra, preventing it from landing properly. Another idea is that flies don’t see the zebra as a solid entity but a series of thin black objects. Only when very close do they realize that they’re going to hit a solid body and instead veer off. We are looking into these possibilities now.
So, our basic research on fly behavior is not only telling us why zebras are so beautifully striped, but it has real implications for the horse-wear industry, with the potential to make riding and horse maintenance less painful for horse and rider alike.

Phone USA +1 530 220 9380, UK +44 7958 351249, Tanzania +255 773 329985 (This editor included the phone numbers from the article because, seriously, do any of us have a phone number for someone in Tanzania?)

Quote of the Month

Craig Cameron (b 1949) is an American horse trainer. He won the Road to the Horse colt-starting contest in 2010 and has been inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Nora Roberts (born 1950) is an New York Times best selling author. She writes as J. D. Robb, Jill March and (in the U.K.) Sarah Hardesty.