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Would-be horse owners get a lesson from Lucy

March 15, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

KEEDYSVILLE - With his wife, Susan, watching intently, Dustin Simonson strolled around a country farm Sunday afternoon with Lucy, rubbing her neck, making eye contact and trying to get her to respond favorably to him.

Of course, Susan Simonson was concentrating on this scene - after all, it would be her turn next to make friends with Lucy, a 12-year-old Argentinian polo pony.

This bonding exercise was Lesson No. 2 on Day No. 1 of a six-week horse ownership class taught by Ann Corcoran at Greenbriar Farm off Porterstown Road.

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Actually, the first lesson happened by chance as the members of the class were assembling in the Corcoran horse barn.

"I brought three horses in for the class," Corcoran said. Lucy and Comet were in their stalls, pacing impatiently, whinnying often and occasionally knocking over plastic chairs.

The third horse was returned to the nearby field because of all the commotion the other two were creating.

"These are herd animals and for the most part, they want to be with each other, not in here," Corcoran said.

She pointed out to the 10 or so adults who signed up for the class that horses never should be underestimated. They are powerful animals and easily can hurt a person.

"Right now we have 12 Ranger Foundation horses here and a few of my own," Corcoran said. The retired service horses - four of whom are more than 30 years old - are cared for at the farm.

The $90 per-person fee charged for the horse ownership classes benefits the Ranger Foundation in caring for the horses who worked most of their lives at military schools, for police departments or in riding programs for the disabled.

Simonson and his wife recently bought a farm in Beaver Creek. They signed up for the course because they would someday like to board horses at their farm.

"My wife grew up in Pennsylvania with a farm background," Simonson said. "And I'm no stranger to farm life, either. This is our first farm together."

The Simonsons knew almost from the beginning that they made the right decision to take the course as Corcoran began to point out some of the pitfalls of horse ownership.

People often see a horse, think it's pretty and buy it on the spot. Later they find out the horse has habits that are a problem, is too big or too small for the rider or has health problems that weren't obvious at time of sale, Corcoran said.

"It's windy today and horses don't like windy days, mainly because they rely on their hearing so much and the wind interferes with that," Corcoran said. When they can't hear well, they get nervous and act up.

Each class member took a turn putting a halter on Lucy while she stood patiently, her eyes closing as if dozing off from time to time.

Corcoran then began to run down the care that any horse needs to stay happy and healthy. Regular veterinary care is just the beginning, she said. Special nutritional needs and dental care also are vital to a horse's well-being.

"When you decide to buy a horse, take your time and get good advice," Corcoran said. "Take Lucy here, she looks good but she has a ligament problem and can't be ridden except by a very small rider."

The course includes all the economics of horse ownership, feeding, grooming and pasture management, as well as information on how to choose the right horse and equipment.

"The bottom line is that you want to buy the right horse for your needs," Corcoran said.

For more information about the classes, call 301-797-8051.

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