This page is actually an update and consolidation of several old galleries which had not be touched since 2003.
Original posting dates of each section occurred within a week of the date listed in the boxes.

Fort Valley, Virginia

Near the northern end of the Valley of Virginia is a mountain range about 40 miles long called the Massanutten Mountain. Mestled in the middle of the Massanutten Mountain is Fort Valley. Isolated by the sounding mountain, there are only 3 roads entering the valley. All water exits at the northeast end through a narrow passage. The air in Fort Valley remains cleaner than the outside areas due to the surrounding mountains blocking the metropolitan pollution.

The valley is home to many small farms. Horses and cattle can be found throughout the valley. It is in this beautiful location where we find our friends and their small horse farm.

June 30, 2001

My First Ride

It had been more than 25 years since I had ridden a horse. My partner and I had recently met Cowboy Sarge through my Buddy gallery and we found out that he and his friends had recently bought a farm in Fort Valley. It just so happens that their farm was only 20 miles from where we went camping just about every other weekend during that summer. So I got invited to come over for some trail riding. Our first opportunity was on June 30, 2001. I couldn't take the camera along on the ride, so these photos are from the beginning of the ride and during the cleanup afterwards.

I rode Sam, (Palomino horse) Sarge (black mustache, turquoise/black shirt) was riding Runner (Chestnut Quarter horse), Charlie (Salt and pepper mustache, blue checkered shirt) was riding Alazar (White Arabian horse)

Still Photos
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July-September, 2001

Our next ride was on July 15. This was about the time I asked Sarge to teach me how to tack up the horse. In the past Sarg had taken many people on rides but I was the frist one who asked to learn how to do the work. We've been verry good friends ever since. On another trip to Fort Valley, on September 13, I shot some general photos around the farm.

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November 2001

The farm had at one time a series of spot lights lighting up the driveway from the house to the barn. Over the years they had gone bad and the overhead cables had been removed. On November 8, Terry rented a trencher and we rewired the poles and installed new lights. The finished product can be seen in the last 2 photos of this section.

On November 15, we took a ride up the side of the eastern mountain and ran through some fields. Great fun and great weather.

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February 20, 2002

A visit to the farm on a Sunday afternoon. The air was warm for February but clear and brisk. The light winds got the horses excited and they were having a ball chasing around the pastures with Trouper the family dog. I had brought some apples in the bag and Runner was really interested.

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July 26, 2003

We were invited to an evening dinner party by some gay neighbors who owned the Fort Valley Saddlery a few miles from the farm. We maintained a friendship with them for a while but the next year at another party one of the owners got drunk and started verbally abusing the guests including me after which just about everybody there stopped speaking to them. A few months later the owners split up after a partnership of some 30 years and one left. As of 2015 I don't know what the status of the farm is.

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October 3, 2001

This section has been placed at the bottom of the page rather than in chronological order due to the extra descriptive text which is included. The text is what I wrote when the page was first posted in 2001.

Sundance Gets Broke

The process of breaking a horse doesn't progress as many people think. It can be a slow process taking upwards of several months. A properly broken horse does not lose his or her sprit as the uninformed person may think.

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In October, 2001, Sundance was a two and a half year old. She had been raised from a colt by my friends and, in a sense, was actually a pet, and part of the family. I have been amazed by her determination in apparently wanting to go along with the older horses on our rides. She would actually get in between the others and try to force herself into the group.

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October 3, 2001, was the first time anyone had ridden her. She had been "under the saddle" numerous times for several months now, but has never been mounted. You should not ride a horse until it is around 3 years old and the bone structures have had a chance to mature and become strong. Cowboy Sarge (Terry) is a big man so, since Cowboy Chuck is quite a bit lighter, it was decided he would give Sundance her first experience with a rider on her back. So today she was saddled up and Terry, and Chuck worked with her for a short time on a "lunge" line (a long rope fastened to the harness). It was obvious that she was trying to understand what she was supposed to do, but not quite sure exactly what that was. "Lunging" is a process of trotting the horse around in a circle on the end of a lunge line.

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After a bit, Chuck took a deep breath, and mounted, expecting Sundance to begin bucking. When an unbroken horse is mounted for the first time, the horse may instinctively try to buck off the rider. After all, this is something new and unexpected for the horse. In nature, anything heavy that suddenly appears on the horse's back would probably be something like a mountain lion looking for dinner. It is natural for the horse to try and remove the offending weight off its back, and bucking is the best method the horse knows to accomplish this.

Amazingly, Sundance simply stood there. She behaved very nicely, and after a few moments, Terry began to lead her around the pasture with Chuck on her back.

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After a few minutes, Terry removed the lunge line and everyone again held their breath expecting her to take off bucking and running. As Chuck began giving her the various commands that she will eventually need to learn, Sundance showed us again she was very anxious to understand what we wanted her to do.

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After about 10 minutes Sundance began to lose interest in this new confusing stuff. Chuck dismounted and Terry spent a few more minutes playing with Sundance. Although Sundance thought is was play, it was actually more schooling. Terry would offer Sundance a carrot as a treat, walking away from the horse while clapping his hands to draw her attention. This is good training for the eventuality of the horse getting away after the rider has dismounted or been thrown. By clapping your hands the horse will have been trained to return to the rider expecting a possible treat.

Sundance also did a bit of bucking to get that strange hunk of leather saddle off her back. To my eye it appeared that she was actually having fun. In the last photo you can see Terry holding the treat in his hand.

Sundance finally got her treat and every one was happy, not only with the experience, but with the excitement of the adventure which was new to both Sundance and to most of us human participants.