The ancient city of Petra in Jordan celebrates 200 years since its rediscovery

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 02/03/2012

Jordan is celebrating 200 years since the rediscovery of the rose-red jewel in its crown, the ancient city of Petra. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourist attraction.

Petra’s story is ancient and fascinating. Much of Petra’s appeal comes from its spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. The site is accessed by walking through a kilometer long chasm (or siq), the walls of which soar 200m upwards. Petra's most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the Siq. Used in the final sequence of the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." the towering façade of the Treasury is only one of myriad archaeological wonders to be explored at Petra. Various walks and climbs reveal literally hundreds of buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, colonnaded streets and haunting rock drawings.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.  Now, Petra is recognised as not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, owing to its stunning landscape and incredible historical significance.
The anniversary celebrations include a marathon and coincide with the 50th anniversary of the release of Lawrence of Arabia, which was set in the Arabian desert. There are sure to be more events and activities announced in due course.

Hidden Trails offers a fantastic opportunity to visit Petra and discover the treasures of Jordan on a horseback riding holiday. We offer a horseback riding adventure away from the tourist hordes, in some deeply stunning locations. Whether you bask in the glory of the hidden city of Petra, spend a lazy day bathing in the Dead Sea, or follow in the footsteps of that great equestrian, Lawrence of Arabia, Jordan promises a mystical holiday experience. Jordan is one of the most welcoming hospitable countries in the world. You will find the locals eager to talk to you, and welcome you into their homes. For further information regarding our horseback riding vacations in Jordan, please contact Hidden Trails. Thank you!

The J&B Met -annual horse race in Cape Town

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 01/26/2012

One of the most prestigious and anticipated events on Cape Town's social calendar, the J&B Met is not only about thoroughbreds, but is a day of glamorous fashion, entertainment and sophistication, accompanied by J&B Scotch Whiskey. The R1.5-million prize money is in keeping with its status as the premier horseracing event in South Africa, and the Official After Party is a highly rated post-race event that continues the festivities well into the early hours.
Venue: Kenilworth Race Course
Date: last Saturday in January - 28 January 2012

Are you interested in horseback riding in South Africa?  Please contact Hidden Trails for further information. Thank you!

Stolen Horse International offers help

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 01/12/2012

This article was first published by Thoroughbred Times

In an effort to provide aid to the people and organizations that are currently working to rescue horses in the areas devastated by the storm in Burke, Cleveland and Rutherford counties, Stolen Horse International, also known as, is offering  flyers and a webpage, for disaster related missing horses and animals, on its website, is currently accepting reports for all misplaced animals in all areas affected by the storms. This is a FREE LISTING service for the storm-torn areas that need to discover the fate of their animals.

"The images seen and the stories we have heard have caused great concern for us. We would like to help the best we can. We invite anyone who is missing a horse to file a report with their animal's information on our site. “said Debi Metcalfe, Foundation President.

Metcalfe continues, "Although Stolen Horse International does not have a team to send to the areas of devastation we do have volunteers who work with those teams. We will be glad to assist rescues organizations and government agencies by giving the animals an established place online to be seen by the public. Reuniting owners separated from their horses is what we do best. In disaster situations we extend our services to all livestock animals and pets."

We are requesting that organizations and individuals rescuing horses, or those missing horses to utilize these services in order to reunite horses and owners as quickly and efficiently as possible and to notify us at by phone or email of victims that need our help, or to assist victims in filing a report on as soon as possible. We are coordinating our efforts with the volunteers in the staging areas in hopes that no animal gets left behind.

With a website visited by tens of thousands of visitors each month and it webpages viewed close to 6 million times in 2011, Stolen Horse International, Inc./ is a key resource for all equestrians, providing valuable information to prevent horse theft, and assistance in recovering lost, stolen, or missing horses. Utilizing the speed of the internet, NetPosse can round up a modern day version of a posse within minutes of an online report being filed. A precursor to the familiar "Amber Alert" instant response system for missing children, a call-to-action goes out to a network of individuals, businesses, law enforcement and recovery specialists intent on returning lost horses or property. 

Stolen Horse International (aka,, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) began in 1998 by Debi and Harold Metcalfe, Shelby, NC, after the recovery of their stolen horse, Idaho. Sharing all of the procedures they had learned during their 51-week effort to find Idaho, it has become a valuable resource for thousands of horse owners. Contributions to it are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.

Can oats help prevent colic in horses?

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 01/11/2012

This article was first published by Thoroughbred Times

Oats have historically played a major role in the equine diet, but very few people understand the nutritional benefits oats have over many other cereal grains. One of those benefits may include preventing colic. Oats: The Horse-Healthy Grain, written by Dr. Laurie Lawrence of the University of Kentucky, discusses the positive effect oats can have on colic risk. The Prairie Oat Growers Association commissioned the research study, a summary of more than 260 published research documents, to assess past research surrounding the nutritional benefits of oats.

Of the many topics discussed in the study, colic is one that resonates with most horse owners.   Referring to a research study conducted in 2009 , Dr. Lawrence reports, “The incomplete digestion of starch in the small intestine is an important link between increased colic risk and diet.”  It has been suggested that colic risk is heightened when large amounts of starch reach the large intestine, where it is then rapidly fermented. Oats have higher small intestinal digestibility than most other grains, including corn. This means when feeding oats, less starch is reaching the large intestine. Several other research studies have been conducted to test starch digestibility, but none currently proves that oats can reduce the risk of colic.

“One of the largest topics surrounding grains is the issue of colic in horses,” said Randy Strychar, Project Director of the Equine Feed Oat Project, “Dr. Lawrence’s study has sparked an extreme interest in colic for the Equine Feed Oat Project.  If we can prove that oats reduce the likelihood of colic in horses, then we want to pursue that endeavor.”

As the Equine Feed Oat Project continues to commission research, the effect of oats on colic risk will definitely be considered.  To show support for the prevention and treatment of colic, the Equine Feed Oat Project recently attended and sponsored the 10th International Equine Colic Research Symposium in Indianapolis, Indiana hosted by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

A summary of Dr. Lawrence's study may be downloaded at  If you are interested in reading Dr. Lawrence’s completed study, contact

The Equine Feed Oat Project (EFOP) is an initiative of the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA), a volunteer farmer organization representing 20,000 hard-working Canadian oat growers. The EFOP was created in 2009 to research, educate and communicate information about oats to the equine industry.

5 Tips for feeding your horse

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 12/05/2011

Article written by Dr Christi Garfinkel (

1.    In general, aim to feed 2% of your horse's ideal body weight in pounds per day.

2.    If more calories are necessary, use a fat-based feed rather than sugar or protein-based supplements.

3.    You should be able to feel your horse's ribs easily, but you shouldn't be able to see them.

4.    You should provide access to a salt/mineral block.

5.    Horses should be fed at ground level, but not directly on the dirt.

Help your horse cope with fireworks

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 11/21/2011

The holiday season has started. A festive period devoted to joy, happiness as well as parties. Celebrations will be held on almost every corner and many will also enjoy fireworks. At the same moment when people will raise their glasses and make their New Year's vows, someone will be very afraid. It will panic and try to run away from the loud noise of fireworks. It turns into a shivering wreck.

Fireworks are really beautiful to watch but they include loud noises which horses and other animals perceive as threat. Some horses do not fear loud noises, thunder or lightning. But others become terrified. What to do, if your horse is trembling with fear?

Keep your horse at home during fireworks. This is where he feels safe. Each horse reacts differently and feels safe in different places - some in the stable, some in the field. You know your horse best, so think it through and decide where he feels the most comfortable. Some horses feel the safest in the stable!

Make sure you are aware of firework parties in the area. Talk to the organizers and let them know that horses are not too thrilled about loud cracking. Fireworks in the vicinity of your stable should face the opposite direction to avoid fires or injuries to horses which are in the field. There are also fireworks on the market which are not as loud.

Check the fields and pastures. Carefully check that fencing is not broken. Some horses will probably try to escape. It is also necessary that you check the fencing again the next day and make sure that there are no foreign objects lying around. Check the pastures and fencing before and after the fireworks and make sure they are safe for horses.

Turn on the radio in the stable. The music should be a bit louder than usual to camouflage the louder noises produced by fireworks. Leave the lights on and give them plenty of hay to keep them occupied.

Keep the horse in its normal routine. Do not stress the horse unnecessarily.

Have sedatives around if necessary. Talk to your vet about the use of a sedative, in case your horse goes into sheer panic. There are tons of herbal sedatives that might be a good idea to keep on hand.

Remain on hand. If you are not sure about how your horse will react to fireworks, remain on hand. Your presence will also have a reassuring effect. Even if your horses are calm, carry out checks through the evening.

Start sound desensitization training early. It is already too late to start training now. But you can record the fireworks and play the tape to your horses throughout the following year. Put it a bit louder each time and your horse will gradually become accustomed to these kind of noises
Start sound desensitization training early enough.

Hidden Trails
wish you and your horses a joyful and calm New Year's eve!


Article was first published by World of Horses -

The 2011 Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs on 9/24/11

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 09/13/2011

On September 24th, Shawan Downs in Maryland will host the 11th Annual Legacy Chase which features multiple steeplechase races that award over $75,000 in purse money. In addition to racing, the day features 'The Meadows', a fantastic family-friendly destination that includes children’s activities, food concessions, live music and much more. Gates open at 10 am on Saturday, September 24th. For more information, please visit 

HAVE FUN! Your Hidden Trails team :-)



The Marwari Horse, India

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 08/12/2011




The Marwari is a rare breed of horse from the Marwar (also called Jodhpur) region of India. The Marwari horse is a medium-sized, elegant horse, which comes in all equine colours, although pinto patterns tend to be the most popular with buyers and breeders.
The most distinguishing features of the Marwari horse are its lyre-shaped ears, which curve inward and often meet at the tips. Besides providing a sharp hearing, they can be turned by 180 degrees. The Marwari has a longish head with a broad forehead, wide-set and alert eyes and a well-shaped rather small mouth. It is elegantly proportioned with a proud head carried on a well-arched neck. The legs are straight and sound with small and very hard hooves.


The Marwari is descended from native Indian ponies crossed with Arabian horses. The ponies were small and hardy, but with poor conformation; the influence of the Arabian blood improved the appearance without compromising the hardiness. The Arabians possibly came ashore from a cargo ship wrecked off India's west coast. Legend in India states that the Arabian ship, containing seven Arabian horses of good breeding, was shipwrecked off the shore of the Kachchh District. These horses were then taken to the Marwar district and used as foundation bloodstock for the Marwari. There is also the possibility of some Mongolian influence from the north. The breed probably originated in northwest India on the Afghanistan border, as well as in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, and takes its name from the Marwar region of India.
The Rathores, rulers of Marwar and successful Rajput cavalry, were the traditional breeders of the Marwari. The Rathores were forced from their Kingdom of Kanauj in 1193, and withdrew into the Great Indian and Thar Deserts. The Marwari was vital to their survival, and during the 12th century they followed strict selective breeding processes, keeping the finest stallions for the use of their subjects. During this time, the horses were considered divine beings, and at times they were only allowed to be ridden by members of the Rajput families and the Kshatriyas warrior caste. When the Moguls captured northern India in the early 16th century they brought Turkoman horses that were probably used to supplement the breeding of the Marwari. Marwaris were renowned during this period for their bravery and courage in battle, as well as their loyalty to their riders. During the late 16th century, the Rajputs of Marwar, under the leadership of Moghul emperor Akbar, formed a cavalry force over 50,000 strong. The Rathores believed that the Marwari horse could only leave a battlefield under one of three conditions – victory, death, or carrying a wounded master to safety. The horses were trained to be extremely responsive in battlefield conditions, and were practised in complex riding maneuvers. Over 300 years later, during the First World War, Marwar lancers under Sir Pratap Singh assisted the British.

1900s to today

The period of the British Raj hastened the Marwari's downfall, as did the eventual independence of India. The British occupiers preferred other breeds, and tried to eliminate the Marwari, along with the Kathiawari. The British instead preferred Thoroughbreds and polo ponies, and reduced the reputation of the Marwari to the point where even the inward-turning ears of the breed were mocked as the "mark of a native horse". During the 1930s the Marwari deteriorated, with breeding stock diminishing and becoming of poorer quality due to poor breeding practices. Indian independence, along with the obsolescence of warriors on horseback, led to a decreased need for the Marwari and many animals were subsequently killed. In the 1950s many Indian noblemen lost their land and hence much of their ability to take care of animals, resulting in many Marwari horses being sold as pack horses, castrated, or killed. The breed was on the verge of extinction until the intervention of Maharaja Umaid Singhji in the first half of the 20th century saved the Marwari, work that was carried on by his grandson, Maharaja Gaj Singh II. As a direct result of indiscriminate breeding practices, as of 2001 only a few thousand purebred Marwaris existed.
A British horsewoman named Francesca Kelly founded a group called Marwari Bloodlines in 1995, with the goal of promoting and preserving the Marwari horse around the world. In 1999, Kelly and Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, a descendant of Indian nobility, led a group that founded the Indigenous Horse Society of India (of which the Marwari Horse Society is part), a group that works with the government, breeders, and the public to promote and conserve the breed. Kelly and Dunlod also entered and won endurance races at the Indian national equestrian games, convincing the Equestrian Federation of India to sanction a national show for indigenous horses – the first in the country. The pair worked with other experts from the Indigenous Horse Society to develop the first breed standards. Kelly imported the first Marwari horse into the United States in 2000; the first Marwari was exported to Europe in 2006, when a stallion was given to the French Living Museum of the Horse.


Today, the Marwari is used for riding, packing and light draught, and agricultural work. Marwari horses are often crossed with Thoroughbreds to produce a larger horse with more versatility. Despite the fact that the breed is indigenous to the country, cavalry units of the Indian military make little use of the horses, although they are popular in the Jodhpur and Jaipur areas of Rajasthan, India. They are particularly suited to dressage, in part due to a natural tendency to perform.  The Marwari are also used to play polo, sometimes playing against Thoroughbreds.  Within the Marwari breed was a strain known as the Natchni, believed by local people to be "born to dance". Decorated in silver, jewels, and bells, these horses were trained to perform complex prancing and leaping movements at many ceremonies, including weddings.  Although the Natchni strain is extinct today, horses trained in those skills are still in demand in rural India.


Horseback Riding in India

Interested in riding a Marwari? Hidden Trails offers rides in India that use Marwaris as their riding horses.  Please contact Hidden Trails for further information regarding Horseback Riding in India.

Information from this article was referenced from:

American Miniature Horses

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 08/09/2011

The result of nearly 400 years of selective breeding, historians tend to support the Miniature Horse breed as a derivative of many sources.  In prehistoric times small horse breeds were most likely the products of surviving harsh natural climates and limited feed.  Today, knowledge of genetics has made the possibility of breeding specifically for size a reality.
The first mention of a small horse being imported into the United States was in 1888; and research shows little public awareness of true Miniatures until 1960.  Popular belief is that American Miniature horses utilized the blood of English and Dutch mine horses brought into this country in the 19th century and used in some Appalachian coal mines as late as 1950. The American Miniature Horse, as documented in the pedigrees of Miniatures today, also drew upon the blood of the Shetland pony.  Throughout its colorful past, the Miniature Horse breed had been bred for pets, novelty, research, monetary gain, mining work, exhibition and royal gifts.

Size: No bigger than a large dog, they don't measure more than 34 inches at the withers, at the last hairs of the mane, American Miniature Horses are "miniature" versions of well-balanced horses, possessing confirmation characteristics found in most equine breeds. Miniature Horses can be found in a rainbow of colors and types with any color or marking pattern, and any eye color, is equally acceptable.

Personality: Eager to please, the American Miniature Horse makes a gentle and affectionate companion for individuals of any age or ability.
Versatility: Though petite, Miniature Horses are extremely versatile and excel in a variety of disciplines including driving, halter, jumping, obstacle and others. Since the breed objective is the smallest possible perfect horse, preference in judging shall be given the smaller horse, other characteristics being approximately equal.

Organizations and registration requirements:
There are two registries in the United States for Miniature Horses, the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) and the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR).  The AMHA was founded in 1978 and was dedicated to establishing the Miniature horse as a distinct breed of horse. The AMHR is a division of the American Shetland pony Club and was established as a separate registry in 1972.In the AMHA, Miniatures cannot exceed 34 inches at the withers (which the AMHA defines as located at the last hair of the mane). There are two divisions in AMHR - the "A" division for horses 34 inches (86 cm) and under, and the "B" division for horses 34 to 38 inches (86 to 97 cm).
Worldwide, there are dozens of miniature horse registries. Some organizations emphasize breeding of miniatures with horse characteristics, others encourage minis to retain pony characteristics.
The AMHA standard suggests that if a person were to see a photograph of a miniature horse, without any size reference, it would be identical in characteristics, conformation, and proportion to a full-sized horse.
According to the AMHR, a "Miniature should be a small, sound, well-balanced horse and should give the impression of strength, agility and alertness. A Miniature should be eager and friendly but not skittish in disposition.

Information form this article was referenced from: and

Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction, Virginia/USA (every July)

by Susanne Risse [Hidden Trails] 07/27/2011

The Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction, also known as Pony Penning, is an annual event held in Chincoteague, Virginia on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department conducts the event and it consists of a Wild Pony Swim on Wednesday and a Pony Auction on Thursday.

Assateague Island, which spans the Maryland-Virginia border, is famous for its small, sturdy breed of wild ponies. Their true origin is unknown, but romantic legend claims they are descendents of a cargo of wild mustangs carried by a Spanish galleon that sunk off the coast. Today, the Virginia herd is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. Each summer, they are rounded up by the firemen and swim the Assateague Channel to Chincoteague, where they are penned and examined by veterinarians. They are then herded through town to a corral at the carnival, and some foals and yearlings are auctioned off the next day. The first colt to reach the shore is given away to a lucky carnival-goer. After a day's rest, the remaining ponies make the swim back home. Boats can be chartered for an up-close view of the swim, and free shuttle service is provided from the swim site to the carnival grounds.

This traditional event in its current form has taken place since 1925 to raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, but its roots date back to the 17th century. The event was popularized by the book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry published in 1947 and it now usually draws from 40,000 to 50,000 spectators.

Information from this article was referenced from: and