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Vermont Icelandic Riding club

Fall 1999 Newsletter

You will quickly notice a change in the format of our newsletter. After months of computer glitches, the club has decided to proceed with a newsletter even if it means resorting to a less “professional” format, as this month’s editor isn’t nearly as computer literate as Jill! In the future, we hope to return to our original format, complete with color photos. Since our last newsletter, Jill has posted news about club events on our website, . Be sure to check it out if you haven’t done so already. (Our thanks to Judy Ryder Duffy for her help in setting this up.)

During a busy five-day period in August, the V.I.R.C. sponsored two clinics, and its fourth annual Summer Show. Bobbi Rood writes, “I attended Bernie Willis’s Clinic, “Judging for Riders.” On first take this didn’t sound like a clinic for me. I, after all, am in this for pleasure and am intimidated by the more serious side of showing and judging. Besides, I never score that high at shows and, reasoned I, what’s the point? Not only did I attend the clinic, I hosted it! Our small practice ring, now finished, was delayed. So that we were unable to do any demonstration here, but learned a great deal about the breed and the FIPO regulations and most importantly had a lot of discussion about what each of the classes in a FEIF show are about and how to get our horses to do the clear gaits judges are looking for. After a delicious lunch of sandwiches from the Warren Store, we regrouped and trailered some of our horses over to Wadham’s ring where we asked the horses to demonstrate the gaits. Bernie and Christine talked about what the horses were doing and what kind of score would be given.

All of the reasons I listed as reasons not to attend the clinic were reasons to attend! What better pleasure than to have horses who do gaits as intended and are fun on the trail as well as in the ring? Ever since my first ride in Iceland, I have been learning to ride. This has entered me into relationships with horses I never imagined. The clinic was another reminder that it all ties together. I was able to see on the video tapes what a tolt is, what a good transition to pace is, and what the requirements are in each of the classes outlined by FEIF. We learned a lot about the history of the horses and what FEIF is all about. Bernie made it all clear in a simple, non-threatening presentation. He has spent years studying what it all means and is able to relay a lot of information clearly and concisely.

I think it is very important for the promotion of the breed that we work toward conforming to the FIEF standards. It will guarantee that we are all working toward the same standards and provide a baseline and structure for all riding levels. Additionally, it was interesting to learn that what judges are looking for in a tolt has changed over time. The tolt that receives high points today would not have been scored highly 40 years ago. It is important to keep abreast of all changes over time. The point is not to meet a judge’s standard, but to work at clear gaits, especially tolt for the maintenance of the breed and for riding pleasure. While we may not all have blue ribbon world champions, we are all at some stage of the continuum of development and can benefit immensely by having the mystery removed. It will enhance our riding pleasure and the horse’s abilities.

I learned a lot about training, got riding tips and felt I truly understood better after the clinic. I’m glad I was part of this. All attendees received a certificate of participation that can be used for points in the continuing education program. This full day clinic was well attended.” Bobbi Rood, Warren

P.S. Both Bernie and Christine Schwartz were extremely helpful as judges during our show. They gave detailed feedback when asked. Riders learned a lot from entering the show. And I know my riding improved throughout the show. They were both very generous sharing their expertise from bending exercises to shoeing. Bernie loaned me some video tapes on shoeing and we have planned a “Hoof Nite” at our house on Thursday Dec 4. Please let me know if you will join us for this in-service for Icelandic Horse owners.


The two day clinic with Christine Schwartz in August, was well attended by V.I.R.C. horse and rider teams. After the two previous days of judging the Icelandic Horse Show, Christine arrived with a beautifully prepared agenda for this clinic. She would use techniques to illustrate to the riders what it is like to be a horse under saddle and behind a bit. Christine would work with each student’s sense of balance and carriage even before sitting on the horses. Once we were up on the horses it was without saddles, as she gently massaged them, stretched their tails, all to give the riders a sense of the horses’ balance and carriage. The exercises we were given would enhance the communication between each horse and rider team within that two day period.

Christine has a sympathy and understanding for horses and their riders that instills both with more confidence in each other. One favorite exercise involved tacking up the riders with bridles in such a way that the subtle, (or not so subtle), signals from the reins, were translated to our bodies. It looked pretty silly, but wow, we learned fast about what we do with our reins! In the ring, we became familiarized with different tools, i.e. lariat neck hoops, seat bone rhythms, touch techniques, all to navigate with our horses more easily.

The things I learned from Christine Schwartz in those two days, come back to me in time released recall, as I continue riding on my own. I would recommend to all riders this clinic with Christine. We actually performed parade ground exercises, crisscrossing 14 horses, with some precision! Giggling away, mind you, but we were good!

Christine’s Clinic From Kids’ Points of View by Allison Rood & Sara Eardensohn

Kids idea of grown up stuff is different because, well kids like different things. As for horse crazy kids, in a clinic they just want to get on and ride. At the Christine Schwartz clinic I think the two kids, I being one, got what they wanted. Now a word with that other kid!

Well I think that Christine’s clinic was a great thing for kids because it actually taught about things that were very amazing. Like my horse doesn’t tolt very easily and Christine told me that if I get him to put his head down when he trots and he will tolt better. I thought that was amazing. Anyway, I think that this clinic made me a better rider and changed my prospective of my horse.

Thank you Allison. At this clinic I was given a neck lariat that helped my horse with stopping because, as most people know my horse took me through a fence and broke my arm. This rope really helped me a lot. I recommend to go to these clinics if you have an Icelandic horse. I learned a lot from that clinic and hope to learn more. I really believe it made me better at riding and stronger in determination about being as good as anyone. Like my riding teacher used to say, “You have to be tough before you are any good.”

Verm ont Icelandic Riding Club’s Fourth Annual Summer Show by Jill Merkel

The Summer Show was a great experience for me this year for a number of reasons. We decided to try (more in keeping with FEIF rules) to have 2 judges this year, and while this meant a lot of extra time and expense on our part to organize, it was definitely well worth it! Both Christine Schwartz and Bernie Willis gave fantastic, informative clinics while they were here as well as being very fair and helpful judges. We all enjoyed their company immensely.

Our Club members also jumped right in to generously support us financially this year in the form of class sponsorships. We couldn’t have done it without you, folks, so thanks again - very much!

Despite the rainy beginning on Saturday (during a drought year, no less!), Wadham’s Stable was as beautiful as ever, and the weather cleared up nicely on Sunday. Everyone seemed in good spirits as the show progressed, and our new classes this year were well attended and a lot of fun. We had a “3 from 5” class this year (best three scores out of five count), a Jack Benny class (in which June Winhold and Sola awed the crowd), Freestyle Dressage, Pole Bending, and “Elimination” Toelt. All in all, 5 new classes - and they all seem to be “keepers”.

Attendance this year was only barely up from last year, but there were quite a number of people who wanted to be there but couldn’t because of scheduling conflicts, so we hope to have ALL of you next year.

Special congratulations are in order to:

Kristin McFarland and Mölla for Best in Show
Karen Winhold and Moska for Champion
Amy Goddard for Horsemanship
and Nancy Peters and Sandra for Classic Toelt

Thanks everyone once again for making it such a fun show, and we’ll see you next year for our 5th Anniversary! - Jill

In the past, the Club has discussed including a “member profile” in each newsletter, so we can get to know more about each other and our animals. Hopefully we will hear from each of you, but if you’re feeling shy, we will contact you! We’ll try to include photos as well, as we all enjoy seeing “published” photos of our favorite Icelandics. And if you have any articles or stories for the newsletter, please send them to Jill or Carol.

Future events of interest include:

A Post-Halloween Ride November 6

Equine Affaire, W. Springfield, MA, November 11th – 14th

Helga Thoroddsen’s visit to Jackie Gambino’s in Westford, 11/22 to 11/29, with a lecture Tuesday, November 23rd at the Westford Library at 7:00 p.m. Jackie can be reached at (802) 878-7042, or Email -

“Hoof Nite”, Thursday Dec. 4th, at Mac & Bobbi Rood’s

An Icelandic contingent to the January Thaw Ride in Woodstock, VT

A V.I.R.C. meeting will be held the third Thursday of each month.

(For more details, contact Jill at (802) 496-9225, or

Vermont Icelandic Riding Club's Third Annual Summer Show
by Jill Merkel

Once again, a sunny summer weekend (the third weekend in August), a wonderful group of people and horses, and some fun and friendly competition, made the VIRC Annual Summer Show a great success! (Almost) Everyone went home happy and so we were once again rewarded for all of our hard work in planning the event.

Although the competition began on Saturday, a number of Club members came early to ride together and prepare for the show - many thanks are due to Karen Winhold for stabling a number of horses at Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm. After getting in some fun rides and a little bit of warm-up, we had dinner together on Friday night at a local restaurant. We got to meet our judge - Michel Doer - who was kind enough to come all the way from Germany at the last minute. He had very little English, but he seemed to enjoy himself immensely and he said that when he came back next time he would be able converse with us all more fluently. We are greatly indebted to him. He did a wonderful job.

As in previous years, the competition was held at the lovely Wadham's Stable in Warren, VT. Saturday morning began with the traditional trail classes. Youth Trail Class, and then adult Timed Obstacle Course. Sara Eardensohn and Svava Bragason , respectively, taking those two events against some tough competition. The Obstacle Course proved to be the most popular event of the weekend with twelve entries, and the horses seemed much improved in the flag-carrying section from last year. These classes were followed in the morning by Adv. 4-Gait, Toelt Int. 1 and Toelt Int. 2. In the afternoon we saw 5-Gait, Int. Toelt finals, 3-4-Gait beginner, the ever-popular Beer Toelt, and Bareback Sit-A-Buck - a returning favorite from last year. George Gates won the name "Sit-A-Buck George" for his outstanding ride in this class. Tired, and with a number of us smelling of spilled beer, we retired our riding gear for the evening and reconvened for dinner at "Chez Henri".

This year's traditional Saturday evening party was held at a local restaurant where we all ate, drank, and danced well into the night. Our favorite band "Full Moon Heart" were back for their third year in a row, and entertained us all through dinner and beyond. After dinner, a deejay took over and kept many of us boogying into the wee hours.

Amazingly, we were up even earlier the next morning for the next days events. Unfortunately, we didn't start off the day very well, when half-way through the first class of the day - Beginner Hunter Jumping - Glofaxi took 10 year-old Sara Eardensohn through the rail of the ring. We were all very subdued and concerned as she was whisked away to the ER, but she is very brave and seemed more upset about the fact that she wouldn't be able to ride in the rest of the show than the fact that she broke her arm. She came back later in the day in a cast and with a big smile on her face. Her mom was not so happy, and Glofaxi is now in reform school.

The rest of the morning went something like this - Toelt Advanced class was followed by 4-Gait Int. 1, 4-Gait Int. 2, Toelt Beginner, and Loose-Rein Toelt. At lunch we watched a stallion presentation with Helms Hill Farm's Sindri, ridden by Sara Conklin and Skarphethinn, ridden by Ann Elwell. We were also treated to a riding demo by Stefan Sigurdsson ponying two of his horses.

After lunch we began with the Trot Race, which Karen Winhold's Ofeigur won handily, sounding like a freight train as he came around the ring toward Marisa and Thokkadis. This was followed by Classic Toelt, 4- Gait Int. Finals, and Toelt Adv. Finals.

In the end, with a final score of 6.27, Sara Conklin and Sindri were presented with the Championship, and Karen Winhold and Ofeigur won Reserve Champion with three blue ribbons. Jill Merkel and Gladur won the Horsemanship award.

Many people were instrumental in bringing this off, not least - all of you who rode in the show. But some extra thanks are in order. For the second year in a row, Carol Ackland and Joann Sibert ran the tent without a hitch; supplying food and drink, running the registration table, and selling t-shirts. Sophie Katakazinos did a wonderful job of photographing the show for us. Thanks also to Kristina Vandborg who, because she was injured and could not ride, served as our interpreter and the judge's assistant. And special thanks to Kim Winhold who was reluctant to be this year's announcer, but did a fabulous job. Our deepest thanks also go out to George and Martina Gates, Ann Elwell and Susan Hodgson, who all sponsored the show this year. And, as always, we are forever indebted to Wadham's Stable for the use of their beautiful facility.

A Clinic To Remember
by Tori Eardensohn

A lot of familiar VIRC faces turned up this fall at Helms Hill Farm for two action packed days. The draw on this sunny weekend was a clinic with Dani Geimacher from Weisenhof. We all brought our favorite Icelandic horses to ride, our worst habits, and our best intentions. With this array of material to work with, Dani very effectively shifted every horse and rider into a new comfort zone and partnership.

The days began early and lasted until dinnertime. Dani worked mostly in the ring with about seven to ten horse and rider pairs at a time. I noticed that no one, riding or not, chose to leave those bleachers or get out of earshot when Dani was working. There were so many clear insights Dani relayed about the horses' mindsets, responses to simple signals, desire to work with the rider, it was a shame to miss any of it. Dani has a great talent in looking at and diagnosing tightness in the rider's frame, and how the horse reflects that stiffness in his/her own carriage. When her eyes fell on any rider's need for habit changes, Dani was quick to be concise in her message, and she stayed with that pair until understanding and change registered in both bodies! It was great!

During those two days at Helms Hill, no time was wasted. As we ate catered lunches under the tent, Dani continued to teach us, laugh with us, and thoroughly put us at ease. Intimidation could have been a real possibility for us after watching Dani get on our horses and magically produce clear gaits and calm performances, but Dani was smiling and generous with her know-how. I understand Dani may be returning next fall for another clinic. I can't recommend this exposure strongly enough for any horse and rider team!