Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2009 Las Vegas FEI World Cup—Dressage and Jumping

I’m back from Las Vegas and I had a fabulous time. It was sunny and 80 degrees—my kind of wonderful! I went with my vet, Ramona Tingdale. A horsey friend who now lives in Las Vegas, Mary Kilgore, joined us for Saturday. Ramona had a client who gave her two free tickets plus $80/night rooms at South Point Casino—and I was lucky enough that she invited me to go with her. We used airline mileage to fly there and made it all happen "on a budget." We went for 3 days, Friday morning through Sunday evening; a whirlwind weekend! What a thrill to see all those world-class competitors up close. Such talented riders and their incredible equine partners. They were from many countries of the world that I wouldn’t expect—Japan, Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia—plus most of Europe and North America. It was breathtaking competition and so interesting to watch different riding techniques, see the horse’s reactions, hear it’s breath when the front feet landed a jump... it was just an incredibly wonderful experience that I am so grateful to have had.

Las Vegas is the only local where FEI jumping and dressage are held together, so that in itself was a treat. This event won’t be back to Vegas for a long time—at least 6 years now. The “Vegas” part of the event was amazing, too. I never expected to see laser light shows and fireworks combined with FEI Grand Prix riding. And there were an awful lot of guys in cowboy hats around—kinda made me feel at home! You know how the dressage crowd is often like the audience watching a golf tournament, rather quiet and reserved? I bet this was the ONLY FEI event where the announcer tells you to “Let the rider know if you see something you like.” This crowd never held back anything, so noise levels (and music!) were almost deafening—but in a fun way.

The dressage freestyle was UNBELIEVABLE! I couldn’t even trust myself to talk during most of it as I was choked up with emotion. It was simply breath-takingly beautiful, just like dance. The horses seemed to be floating on water, in time with the beat of the music and deeply immersed in the moment. The riders, too, seemed thrilled to be there. Most of them smiled through the whole test and positively beamed when they were done as they patted and patted their horses. They all were so very proud of their horses, gratefully acknowledging their partner's spectacular accomplishments. Scores were unusually high, one after another. The winning score for the dressage freestyle (Steffen Peters, who won the Grand Prix dressage on Thursday evening) was an 84.95, which, as I understand it, is a very high dressage score. I thought all 11 freestyle competitors were brilliant and I enjoyed them all. At the award ceremony Steffen rode his horse, Revel, one-handed doing piaffes and passages as well as lateral work in different gaits. The crowd refused to let him leave, giving him standing ovation after standing ovation. It was so fun, such a privilege to be there in person taking it all in.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Two Tip Sheets Now Available In Spanish!

Announcing the same great information now available for our Spanish-speaking readers!

20 Things Every New Horse Owner Should Know


Fall in Place

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Earth Day weed tips

Even if you don’t live in King County or the Pacific Northwest, these tips and ideas are well suited for many parts of North America, and are a great way to get into the spirit of Earth Day.

It’s been a long, cold winter for most of us, but one great way to get over the winter blues and celebrate spring is to help out at a local park or natural area where you ride regularly. Earth Day this year is on Wednesday, April 22nd. Look for Earth Day work parties on April 18 or 25, but also scattered throughout this month.

Horse people can participate by pulling weeds at their favorite place to ride. In the Seattle area, one wonderful area is Bridle Trails State Park in Kirkland, which is hosting a weed-pulling event this Saturday, April 18, from 9 am to noon (see details below.)

For more on horse pasture management join me, Alayne Blickle, the King Conservation District and LMF Feed for a workshop on May 2nd in Issaquah, WA. We will cover horse pasture management, as well as how to integrate pasture care into your equine nutrition and feeding program, as well as health issues often associated with pasture grazing (founder and laminitis, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Cushings, PSSM, etc). See HCW Educational Events for more details.

Happy Earth Day!


Earth Day weed tips from the King County Noxious Weed Program

Sasha Shaw, Noxious Weed Education Specialist

King County Noxious Weed Program

Celebrate Earth Day by pulling English ivy. Nothing says Earth Day in the Pacific Northwest like tackling ivy. Just be careful around storm-damaged trees – never pull ivy down from the upper parts of a tree since this might injure the tree and will most certainly injure you if branches fall off. Just pry the vines off the bark of the tree up to where you can comfortably reach and all the way down to the ground. Ivy on the ground can be pulled up with a generous helping of elbow grease, a well-placed shovel, and clippers to cut off roots you can’t dig up.

The cold, wet spring has delayed some weeds, but others are already bursting with growth. Weeds are good survivors and our cold, wet winter and spring will be no problem for most of them. Expect to have a slower start for many weeds and don’t be fooled if it looks better than you expected in some places. The weeds are probably still there, just slower to emerge. On the other hand, many weeds have not been slowed down at all and it will be a challenge to get out to them quickly enough, especially now that we’ve finally had some warm weather. Remember that weeds are those plants that can survive better, grow faster and spread better than other plants. In fact, the tough winter will probably make some weed problems worse where tender ornamentals or even native plants were harmed by the cold and wet this year and weeds will quickly move in to the new territory if we are not quick to stop them.

April is a great time to mulch planting beds. Mulch inhibits weed growth and retains soil moisture. A couple of inches of fresh arborist chips (chipped up tree trimmings) or bark will save you hours of weeding this summer. Avoid piling on too much mulch around trees (10 inches or more is too much) and keep the mulch a few inches away from tree trunks. Too much mulch can act as a barrier—it repels water and deprives the tree of oxygen. Using compost as mulch is great for improving the soil and water retention, but won’t stop weeds, so it is good to add chips or bark on top of compost if you want to avoid pulling weeds.

Consider waiting awhile before cutting blackberry brambles if you can only do it once or twice this year. Of course it is best to keep blackberries cut back as much as possible if you are trying to starve their roots. However, time and resources are limited for most of us and you may not be able to get out there every week or so (which is what would be needed this time of year). If you can only cut your blackberries back once or twice this year, then wait until they have depleted some of their root reserves, so they don’t just grow right back again. If you can only cut them once a year, the best time to do so is actually when they are flowering. That is the time they have the least energy reserves and when cutting will do the most damage. However, if your plan is to cut them down and then dig up the roots, then by all means do it now! In fact, spring is a great time for that method, since the soil is moist and the brambles are easier to see before they leaf out fully.

Sign up Now for King County Noxious Weed Workshops

We are taking registrations for our annual noxious weed workshops for vegetation management crews and others who need to identify and manage noxious weeds. Session dates are May 6 and May 13. Topics this year include updates and refreshers on identifying and controlling priority noxious weeds, a presentation by Jeff Britt from WSDA on the “Keys to Legal Pesticide Applications and Record Keeping”, updates on using biocontrol in the county, and a special training session on using stem-injection guns to control knotweed. Participants in the stem-injection training can apply to borrow stem-injectors from the noxious weed program for controlling knotweed in their own projects. (By the way, for those of you just interested in knotweed stem-injection training, we will also be offering evening knotweed control workshops in June and July for county residents).The full agenda is on our workshops page. Both classes are free and open to the public but space is limited. WSDA pesticide license recertification credits have been requested for these classes (4 credits requested). Register at 206-263-6468 or sasha.shaw@kingcounty.gov. Please provide the name(s), agency or company, phone number and e-mail.

South Session: Wednesday, May 6, 8 am to 12 pm, City of Kent Shops Building, upstairs meeting room, 5821 W. James St., Kent, WA 98032

North Session: Wednesday, May 13, 8 am to 12 pm, Northshore Utility District, Northshore Room, 6830 NE 185th St., Kenmore, WA 98028

Learn about Washington’s Native Plants This Spring

The Washington Native Plant Society is now seeking applications for the Native Plant Stewardship Program in East King County. Participating cities in King County include Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, and Sammamish. The 10-week training is held on Fridays from April 24 through June 26, 2009, in Bellevue. This training is taught by top professionals on various topics such as native plants, habitat restoration, invasive weeds, northwest ecology, and working with volunteers. In exchange for this free training, stewards will commit to 100 hours of volunteer service implementing the skills learned in these classes. Native Plant Steward teams will be formed to work on habitat restoration projects in each of the partner communities: Kirkland, Issaquah, Bellevue, Sammamish and east King County.

For more information regarding the Native Plant Stewardship Program and to download the application form: http://www.wnps.org/npsp/king/program.html. Application deadline is April 15, 2009. For questions about the Native Plant Stewardship Program please contact Dangelei Fox at npsp@wnps.org or call (206) 660-3968.

The Native Plant Stewardship Program is an education project of the Washington Native Plant Society's Central Puget Sound Chapter and is made possible by funding from the cities of: Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland (through a King Conservation District Grant), Sammamish, and additional funding support provided by a King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks Waterworks grant. Please pass along this information to others on the greater Eastside who might be interested.

Help Save A Forest: Volunteer for Bridle Trails State Park Restoration

The 480-acre Bridle Trails State Park, located where Redmond, Kirkland and Bellevue meet, is an excellent example of the kind of lowland conifer forest that used to cover most of King County. In addition to its many riding trails and arenas, the park supports a thriving forest with relatively few invasives, many healthy, mature conifers, and lots of young conifer regeneration in the understory. However, a number of troublesome garden escapees and other non-natives are invading, including English ivy, cherry laurel, English holly, and, of course, Himalayan blackberry. Since 2005, the Bridle Trails Park Foundation and park ranger have been organizing volunteers to attack the invasives as part of a new park stewardship program. This year’s Earth Day event will be the fifth, and the group has also had several smaller work parties each year. A total of about 350 volunteers have pitched in so far, and volunteers continue to be critical to the success of the project, especially with this year’s state budget crisis.

The goal is to reduce the invasive plants to levels that have minimal ecological impact. Many hundreds of plants have been removed, but some areas are coming back. This will be a long-term effort that will also include planting native plants in some areas.

Along with the stewardship program, the Foundation also sponsors nature walks for the general public focusing on plants, fungi, and birds in the park, as well as forest ecology. The Foundation and Park Ranger have also worked with three local schools, leading field trips into the park and providing classroom support. The group is also working on an interpretive trail focused on forest biodiversity. For more information please see the Foundation’s web site here or contact Jim Erckmann at erckmann1@verizon.net. You can help protect this great park by attending the upcoming work party:

Earth Day Event in Bridle Trails State Park

Saturday, April 18, 9 a.m. till noon, Bridle Trails State Park

Please join other volunteers and help control non-native, invasive plants in Bridle Trials State Park. Meet in the picnic area north of the entrance on 116th Ave. NE at NE 53rd St. Bring gloves and hand pruners, and wear sturdy clothes. Refreshments and lunch provided. Info on the Bridle Trails web site.

Tips for Reducing Weeds in Your Compost

I came across a very useful article on avoiding weed problems in your backyard compost. Although it’s best to avoid putting weed seeds into your own compost piles whenever possible, sometimes it’s unavoidable or preferable to other options. According to a press release from the Weed Science Society of America, the keys to maximum weed seed death in compost are time, temperature and turning. It takes 30 days of exposure to temperatures of 145 degrees or more to destroy many tough weed seeds. If your compost feels “uncomfortably hot” when you reach in, then you’ve probably got it hot enough. Turning and mixing are also key because that’s how you expose all the weed seeds to that hot temperature. Of course, as they point out, if you put compost onto areas with existing weeds, they will benefit from it as much as the plants you want to grow. So, make sure to manage your weeds as well as your compost. And please don’t put seeds of regulated noxious weeds into your compost–the risk of even a few seeds surviving is just too high. The press release also has more great tips on making great compost and reducing weed problems.

British Columbia Funds Coordinated Invasive Weed Control

In today’s world of budget cuts and worries about funding government projects, it’s nice to see some funding being dedicated to invasive and noxious weed control across the border. British Columbia shares many of the same invasive weeds as us and any work done up north benefits us as well. In addition to weeds crossing borders on vehicles, water, wind and so forth, there are many ornamentals brought in from British Columbia that could carry noxious weed seeds or even be noxious weeds themselves. So, hats off to them for working on a coordinated plan of attack to reduce impacts of invasive weeds and for dedicating some funding to make it work. Read more details in the recent news story on this from Alberta Farmer’s online journal: B.C. departments gang up on invasive plants.