The sun was shining, the skies were blue, kids were laughing and horses were doing their thing. All this took place at Mitchell Farm in Salem this month as part of the “Celebrating the Horse” event.
The event, a fundraiser for the farm, was originally slated for Saturday. Due to tornado threats, however, it was postponed until Sunday, which turned out to be the perfect day for this spectacular event. In an effort to help educate people about all the wonderful ways in which they can share their lives with horses and have fun, this fundraiser showcased several different riding disciplines such as dressage, show jumping, side saddle, authentic paseo, Tennessee Walking horses and mounted pony club games. It was a quite a sight to see.
“This was an absolutely perfect day for this event,” said Dee Doolittle, founder and executive director of Mitchell Farm.
“Everyone enjoyed themselves and all the horses did a great job.”
Doolittle, who has loved and cared for horses her entire life, saw a need for a retirement sanctuary for horses several years ago and decided to step in and fill that void. Mitchell Farm was started in 2004 and has been caring for retired and aged horses ever since. Currently there is a six-year waiting list for a space at the farm,with over 30 horses on that list.
“My advice to horse owners is to plan ahead for their horse’s retirement,” said Doolittle, who is proud of her work.
Someone else who is proud of Doolittle’s work and always excited to support the farm’s program is U.S. Dressage Federation Certified Instructor Ann Guptill of Fox Ledge Farm in East Haddam. Guptill, who travels the United States conducting workshops, graced the ring at the celebration with her mount T Mad Hatter, a poised 12 year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding.
Together, the elegant team seamlessly displayed the athletic ability, harmony, strength and balance of musical freestyle dressage, awing the audience to steel guitar renditions of popular songs.
“Events like this are important because they give people a window into the equestrian world,” said Guptill, who was also part of the Pony Club games along with her sons.
“I think it is great for people to see all the different ways you can ride and have a good time with horses. Plus, it’s fun for everyone to watch,” added Guptill’s oldest son, James Iarusso. He has been riding since he was four years old and has hopes of competing in the International Pony Club event.
In addition to Guptill, guests were pithy to the chance to see Lynn Sanders on her Grand Prix prospect, six year-old Hanoverian gelding “Point Defiant”, as well as the excitement of the Connecticut Valley Pony Club mounted games, pitting team Dead Beat against the Wild Things.
Reigning things in, Shanna Greg and her strikingly beautiful mount Flash, gave an eloquent display of side saddle riding, exhibiting a bit of equine history. The day ended with a finale ride from Bettina Drummond and her stately Lusitano stallion riding an authentic paseo, complete with ornate garb and traditional Portuguese music.
Beyond the show ring, guests were encouraged to walk the grounds, tour the barn and hand feed the horses as volunteers looked on. A crowd favorite was Tommy, a stunning 22 year-old Pinto Irish Sport horse who shares his pasture with his “girl friend” and best buddy Easy, a 27 year-old Argentine Thoroughbred who was used as a polo pony.
The oldest horse currently on site is Chill, a Thoroughbred who is 31 and the youngest is Buddy at 12, a Quarter Horse/Palomino who had a knee injury when he was young.
To be eligible for retirement at Mitchell Farm, horses have to be at least 20 years-old or have an infirmity. There is a onetime fee paid by the owners, who must relinquish ownership of their animals. Once retired, the horses are never ridden or used for work again. They are fed, cared for and vetted for the rest of their lives, happy to graze in the lush green pastures.
The farm’s official philosophy is “Retired horses are given the time and space to remember and learn how to just be a horse again.”
Mitchell Farm is a non-profit equine retirement facility that holds several fundraisers throughout the year to offset the cost of caring for the 29 retired horses that currently occupy the 50-acre homestead.
th. For more information about the festival, volunteer opportunities or how to donate to the farm go to, www.mitchellfarm.org.