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MEET THE ARDENNES DRAFT HORSE

Written by: Kris Batchelor – Triple Play Farm Published: 11 November 2015   Why this breed? At Triple Play Farm in Davidson, we have a soft spot for draft horses and the more rare, the better. So we were especially excited in 2011 during a visit to Clover Oaks Farm outside of Tampa, Florida, when we were introduced to the breathtaking Ardennes breed. Upon first glance, we were immediately struck by the massive bulk of the horses, but shortly after that, we were intrigued by their calm, gentle nature. Joyce Concklin’s herd of Ardennes, consisting of a stallion, three mares and three yearlings, were quite simply the quietest horses that we had ever met. In 2003, Joyce visited Belgium and subsequently purchased two Ardennes horses, the first of their kind to be imported to the United States. Since then, she has created a small but successful Ardennes breeding program, due largely to her stallion Simba du Pont de Tournay [barn name Simba]. This magnificent roan stud was chosen to be the Celebration Horse at Breyerfest 2015 and created quite a stir in Lexington. He is a stunning example of the breed at 15hh and almost 1700 pounds. Simba shares bloodlines with some of the horses of Celtic Horse Logging, an environmentally-friendly timber harvesting company based in the UK that breeds horses for their strength, durability and stamina. Joyce describes Simba as “a big teddy bear.” Breed history Ardennes horses (known as Ardennais in Europe) hail from the rugged and tough Ardennes region that borders France and Belgium. The rough terrain and harsh climates of the area have played a part in the evolution of the breed. Ardennes are known for being strong and tractable and are one of the oldest established heavy horse breeds, dating back to the Paleolithic Period. The Ardennes is thought to be a direct descendant of the Solutrian horse, which existed circa 50,000 B.C. Throughout history, references to the Ardennes horses have been recorded by emperors, kings and knights. They were even mentioned by Julius Caesar, who stated in commentaries that “the horse of the second Belgium” is “rustic, hard and tireless.” It is said that Napoleon owed his return from the Napoleonic Wars to his Ardennes cavalry which withstood cold and privations that destroyed over 10,000 horses. Knights of the Middle Ages found the breed to be reliable and easily capable of carrying the weight of a fully armored soldier. Today across Europe, Ardennes horses are still used in commercial forestry, farming, competitive driving and as pleasure and therapy horses. Breed Characteristics The modern Ardennes is more thickset than any other draught horse and has been described as being built like a tractor. He has a wide frame and a rather short back with very muscular loins. The legs are lightly feathered, and the feet, in comparison with the massive body, are smaller than might be expected, although they are well-made, strong, and seldom flat or brittle. The Ardennes has small, pricked ears, which is unusual in heavy breeds. Because of his exceptionally good shoulders, his action is typically free, animated, and straight. The climate in the French Ardennes is harsh, and the winters are severe. Consequently, the Ardennes horse is extraordinarily hardy, and has a very strong constitution. The breed has a reputation for extreme docility and exemplary gentleness, and can be handled easily, even by children. The preferred colors, as stipulated in the breed standard, are roan, red-roan, iron grey, dark or liver chestnut, and bay. Bay-brown, light chestnut, and palomino are admissible, while black, dapple grey, and any other coat colors are not. Clover Oaks Farm Leo Back in 2011, as we stood in Joyce’s pasture with three of her yearling colts, we decided that Clover Oaks Farm Leopold was destined to become a therapy horse back in North Carolina. He arrived in Davidson as a yearling in the summer of 2011 and has been raised in an environment where he lives in a herd and has had constant handling using natural horsemanship techniques. He was started slowly and correctly under harness as a two year old and under saddle as a four year old in the tradition of the more slowly maturing draft breeds. Currently, he continues to accumulate training miles under saddle, but his day job is working with behavioral health clients at Triple Play. He works with clients struggling with challenges related to depression, anxiety, marital stress, eating disorders, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and more. There is a special significance to his work with our veteran clients given the breed’s history of military usage, including pulling artillery in World War I. It is truly a full circle moment to have this noble breed contributing to the rehabilitation of combat warriors. Around the barn, Leo’s nickname is “Wreck It Ralph.” He often seems to prefer the company of humans to other horses and has been taught to fetch his feed pan and offer it for refills. He is unflappable and endearing and we can’t imagine the farm without him. We are hoping for many more years of his wonderful company and although he is one of fifteen total Ardennes in the United States, he is truly one in a million to us. We invite you to come meet him at one of the Triple Play Farm quarterly Open House events which are open to the public and where you can meet our herd, including Fjords, Ardennes and miniature horses and learn more about our therapeutic services.

The Geitner Family Balancing Act

 Written by: The Carolinas Equestrian Published: 15 August 2019 How do Cathy and Daniel Geitner divide the long list of responsibilities associated with operating DFG Stables, one of the largest, most successful hunter/jumper barns in the Southeast along with raising their two children? “He rides all the really hard horses and does most of the showing; therefore, I wash the dishes and plunger the toilet,” Cathy says with a laugh. “It’s true,” Daniel agrees, “she’s quite a bit more handy than I am. I do the farming; the fertilizing, the mowing, but Cathy can fix things.” Cathy’s propensity for home repair and Daniel’s knack for landscaping are just the first indicators that, despite living within the bubble of the horse show circuit, the Geitners maintain a relatively normal family life. Daughter Lilly, 12, spends much of her free time in the saddle while their son Wyatt, 14, can most often be found with either a tennis racquet or a fishing pole in his hand. Cathy and Daniel take every opportunity to get to Wyatt’s tennis matches and practices—even if it means going straight from the barn to the courts. “One of the great things about living in Aiken is that everywhere you go there’s someone in riding clothes, so we’re never the only ones at the tennis court in breeches and boots,” Daniel says. While many horse show kids relocate to Florida for the winter, Lilly and Wyatt split time between the family farms in Aiken and Ocala, and only miss a few days of classes at Mead Hall Episcopal School.  Daniel stays in Ocala with a string of horses for all ten weeks of the circuit, and Cathy and the kids join him for five of the weeks and show in Aiken for the other five weeks. The schedule is convenient both for the family, and the DFG Clients who have the option of showing at either location. “I don’t think we ever discussed how this was all going to work before we had kids, but we both come from strong family units, so family was naturally important to us,” Cathy says. “My parents live in Aiken, so they are also very involved,” she adds. When Wyatt was an infant, the Geitner family grew yet again, but in quite an unexpected way. Cathy and Daniel were showing in Asheville when a clerical error led to a fortuitous meeting with a young rider named Alexis Howard. “The office accidentally put us down as Alexis’ trainer. But we weren’t her trainer and her trainer never showed up, so that’s how the introduction was made,” Daniel says. “She ended up asking me to ride her horse for her. Then we took her home with us and she never left!” “I asked [Alexis] if she knew anything about babies,” Cathy adds, “[when she said no I told her] yeah well neither do I!” Alexis, affectionately known as “Momma” to the Geitners and their barn staff is a key member of the DFG team. As nanny and personal assistant, she picks Wyatt and Lilly up from school, delivers them to the barn, attends shows with DFG and even helps manage Cathy’s rental property. “There’s nothing this girl can’t do; she’s unbelievable,” Daniel said. Since relocating to Aiken, Alexis has married and started a family of her own.  Following the Geitner’s lead, she’s also raising her two-year-old daughter, Hadley, on the horse show circuit. “When Alexis’ baby was two weeks old, she had her at a horse show. Alexis was in the tack room rolling wraps and I asked ‘what are you doing here?’ She said ‘this is the only way I know how to take care of kids,” Cathy recalls. While it’s not always easy, Cathy and Daniel see many advantages to Lilly and Wyatt spending much of their time at horse shows. “It’s a safe environment. We all know each other, so even if we’re not standing right next to them, we know that other people are looking out for our kids,” Daniel says. “In a small fish bowl, with so many adults, my kids have learned to interact well and communicate well with adults,” Cathy adds. Still, the Geitners take the opportunity to escape the fish bowl three or four times a year. Daniel and Wyatt usually take an annual fishing trip and the family also regularly explores the rivers near their farm in Ocala. Even while enjoying some down time though, the Geitners keep their horse show friends close by. “We don’t do anything without the Toshes,” Cathy says of their long-time friends and fellow trainers Hunt and Mandy and their daughter Maddie. “Hunt is dad’s O.F.,” Lilly giggles, “Only friend.” Cathy and Daniel serve as role models, not only for their own children, but also for the working students and younger riders who get their starts with DFG Stables. “We work very hard, and we expect everyone else to as well,” Daniel says. “At the end of the day, It’s all hands on deck. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets to work so that we can all get done at the same time,” Cathy adds. The Geitners’ emphasis on work ethic also extends to the horses they choose. “I like horses that try, no matter their talent; a horse that does a good job, no matter what the job,” Daniel says. At DFG Stables, there is a place for all types of horses and as a result the Geitners have found success at every level and in multiple divisions, an accomplishment that means more to Daniel than any specific win or championship. “I really enjoy that I’ve been successful on a lot of different horses,” Daniel says, “I’m proud of that.” Although Daniel spends more time in the spotlight than any other member of the Geitner family, he’s quick to acknowledge that he didn’t get there alone. “Anything I’ve won, Cathy is the brains behind.” Daniel says. “She’s the hardest working person I know. She’s the first one to the

Sims Hill Farm

 Written by: The Carolinas Equestrian Published: 24 July 2016 A little history about Sims Hill FarmSims Hill opened in May 2012. The farm is owned by the Johnson Family. Built on almost 21 beautiful acres in Waxhaw, the farm is located just south of downtown Waxhaw. The land was originally owned by the Sims family (who raised 11 children in that 3 bedroom house!) many years ago, and also happens to be at the highest elevation south of Richmond. This is how the “Sims Hill Farm” name was established. Trainer, Mike Henaghan Mike brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and horsemanship to our program. He has trained many top winning equestrians, including 2 – time Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden, Allison Firestone, Ray Texel and Darren Graziano. He has had multiple students win the Medal, Maclay and USET Talent Search Finals, Pony Medal Finals, the USEF Pony Hunter Championship, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show, and Young Riders Championships. He is a five time national pony medal champion trainer. He has brought so much to our program and pays attention to every detail during every lesson and is an incredible horseman. Fond Showing MemoriesMike had the honor to show at the “Old Riders Championships” in Bern, Switzerland and Schruns, Austria making up the team with Bert and Diana Firestone, and winning the silver medal both times. If you could offer one piece of advice to a young rider, what would it be?“Stay determined to learn, knowledge is available, seek it. And don’t forget to sleep with your heels down!!!” What are some ideal traits you look for in your show horses?Temperament, jumping style and ability, movement and athleticism. What makes Sims Hill horses special?They are relaxed, happy in their work and training, and they have a more natural life. What traits do you look for in your riders?Desire to learn, strong work ethic, and talent. What’s the number one thing you think all riders should know how to do? Riders should understand the importance of proper flatwork. Correct flatwork increases the horse’s fitness and body conditioning and increases a rider’s ability to work more effectively over fences.” Can you talk about any of your horses in more detail?All of the horses at Sims Hill Farm are special in their own way. One that really stands out is Hennessey. He is coming 18 years old, has a heart of gold, still loves to compete and has succeeded in everything from the Olympic Games to the Young Riders Championship. He really enjoys his job every single day. Mado says his favorite snack is Sour Cream and Onion potato chips!

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