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17 Aug 11

Polo – Better than football? Y ...

by Nancy E. Hassel,

If you’re like me the only time you really ever saw a Polo match was in the movie Pretty Woman or pictures of the sport in a magazine.  Long Island, however, has some interesting history with Polo, this centuries old sport dating back some 2,500 years – LI can claim that the Meadowbrook Polo Club is the oldest polo club in the US with roots dating back to 1879. But we are lucky that there are a few places on LI that you can go and watch this fascinating sport. Where else can you combine the athleticism of horses and riders hitting a ball with a mallet while riding full speed across a field all while being chased by opponents?  Seriously, football players have nothing compared to these polo players! (Sorry but throwing a ball and being tackled, big whoop!)

From someone who has been horse back riding since the age of 5, and has witnessed some amazing jumper horses at horse jumping competitions – I have never seen a horse with such intensity as such during a polo match this past Saturday in Bridgehampton.  I could almost swear the horses were watching the ball, eh em, keeping an eye on the ball, as much as the athletes from around the world who were riding (for lack of a better word) them.

Going into to watch the match with friends, we were technically ‘tailgating’ at the match (along with hundreds of other spectators), but I am now hooked and want to go back to learn more about the game itself, the teams and how they train the horses that participate.  That seems to be the most interesting part – that these horses seemingly love the game – are not in the least bit spooked by men wielding mallet at the ball, nearly crashing into each other and all while galloping, turning and putting their full bodies into the game.  It’s breathing taking to watch.

Polo Player Nacho Figueras with two adorable fans!

And of course at half time you get to go out onto the field and stomp the ‘divots,’ or walk across to see if you can spy any celebs under the VIP tent.  Or after the match you can get your picture taken with Nacho Figueras, the famed polo player and Ralph Lauren Model, father, and sorry ladies, husband too.

It’s not expensive to go either, for a car load of people (at Bridgehampton Polo Club), its just $20, and you can park and sit right up to the field to watch the event, and bring food to tail gate as well.  If you are looking to experience a different event in the Hamptons before the summer is over – there are just 2 Saturday’s left of the Blue Star Jets polo matches at Bridgehampton Polo Club – but check the other clubs listed below for their schedules and ticket prices. This is a fun family event to watch a very old sport featuring these majestic horses.

This is a pet friendly location (Bridgehampton) – but be sure that your pet if you bring him or her is leashed at all times and well behaved.

Polo Clubs Across Long Island:

The Meadowbrook Polo Club

Polo at Bethpage State Park

If you are on Twitter, follow @Poloatthepark

County Farms Polo in Medford, NY

A bit of Polo History:

According to, Polo is arguably the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches being played in Persia over 2500 years ago. Initially thought to have been created by competing tribes of Central Asia, it was quickly taken up as a training method for the King’s elite cavalry. These matches could resemble a battle with up to 100 men to a side.

British officers themselves re-invented the game in 1862 after seeing a horsemanship exhibition in Manipur, India. The sport was introduced into England in 1869, and seven years later sportsman James Gordon Bennett imported it to the United States.

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21 Feb 11

LI Dogs at Westminster ...

By Nancy E. Hassel,

Living on Long Island we are very fortunate that once a year the most prestigious and biggest dog show comes to New York City.  The Westminster Dog Show draws thousands of dog lovers from around the world and is practically in our back yard.  With approximately 90 dogs entered from Long Island owners – some of which are breeders, owners, handlers – this year was a first time showing at Westminster for many of those dogs.  On Tuesday, February 15, 2011 a lot of the big dogs, and I mean this in size – not their status, took part in the competition.  One of those beautiful big dogs was the very handsome, playful and young Bull Mastiff “Brutus” (Bandog’s Brutus the II of Raven). Owned by Mike and Marilyn Schamroth of Hewlett – they were more than excited to see their boy in the ring – his first time at Westminster.  Mike & Marilyn have owned Bull Mastiffs before and have shown them – but it has been about 15-years since they have had the breed.  When I asked them, what made you get a back into the breed Marilyn Schamroth said, “We were in Florida and we happened to go to a dog show and saw the most beautiful brindle puppy and that pup let us to the breeder who we got Brutus from – it was kismet.”  Brutus who is now only 18-months old is already a champion and seasoned pro – he won the ‘Best of Winners’ at the Bull Mastiff Association Nationals in Massachusetts in Septembers 2010.  Brutus was led to that championship by his handler, Rolissa Nash – a long time Bull Mastiff breeder, owner, and professional handler, accomplished dog trainer and co-owner of Doggie U K9 Academy in Bay Shore, NY.  Mr. Schamroth said, “I can’t sing Rolissa’s praises enough – because with her it’s all about the dog, and the dog comes first – she has been fantastic to work with.”

Rolissa and Brutus in benching area.

Rolissa Nash said, “Brutus is a fantastic, even tempered, wonderful dog, eager to learn – a pleasure working with him and his owners.  They are more concerned about their dog being content and happy and if they thought their dog was unhappy doing dog a show, they would pull him out of the show without even thinking about it.   They want Brutus to be a well rounded dog so we have started him also in obedience and agility.”

Another new comer and Long Islander to show this year was “George” (CH BlacNFlat Burns and Allen) a Flat Coated Retriever owned by David and Carole Kralstein of Canine Club Getaway.  George started his show dog career at a single cluster of shows in tough North east competition in July of 2010 and in just 5 days earned his Championship title. He also won ‘Best of Breed’ and G2 (2nd Place of the sporting group), at the October 2010 Westbury Kennel Club show on Long Island. He also won 3 more Best of Breed titles at the Talbot Kennel Club, the Salisbury Maryland Kennel Club in November 2010, and Worchester Kennel Club in Massachussetts in December 2010.

George a very sweet and handsome boy is a willing and happy worker, while remaining the typical Flat-Coat goofball. He is currently dabbling in agility, and will begin working on field training in the spring.  George is also an accomplished Therapy Dog and has his Canine Good Citizen, his owners said, “George loves working with children as a therapy dog – he participates in a reading dog program where kids who may have trouble reading, read to him.” George who will be 3 years old in April is a tall boy and has a stable, solid temperament with both humans and other dogs.

George’s owner David said, “He had a great time and he looked great in the ring.  He was glad to get home and slept almost a whole day. He is now his goofball self.”  George also had a pretty big fan club at the Westminster show Frank Bonomo of Best Friends Dog Training, George’s trainer, and Dr. Keith Niesenbaum of Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital George’s veterinarian and his wife, who were all also first time visitors to the show.  They said they loved it and thought George did fantastic.

George in the ring at Westminster!

In one of the rings, the Newfoundland’s were showing and watching ringside, you could not take your eyes off the black and white or ‘Landseer’ newfie that was in the ring.  One of the spectators, Marcie Mackolin who is a new newfie owner said, “That’s my puppy’s father” beaming with pride. Marcie’s 8-month old puppy, Polly (Let Polly do the Printing) is also of the black and white variety and according to Marcie, “just the sweetest dog.”  Last year Marcie came to Westminster and saw Lancelot’s uncle in the ring, and well fell in love with the breed – and that led her to her Polly.  I asked Marcie if she is going to show her dog, and she said she’s contemplating it – then Lancelot won the group – and I said, “You have to show her now!”  Marcie was at Westminster this year to show support for Lancelot – and it seems to have worked.  Marcie is from Pennsylvania and got Polly’s breeder is from upstate NY, Lancelot lives in California – so maybe not from LI, but just shows that dogs come from all over to Westminster.


Polly, Lancelot's daughter.

This year there were six new breeds entered into Westminster: the  Boykin Spaniel; the Bluetick Coonhound; the Cane Corso; the Icelandic Sheepdog; the Leonberger; and the Redbone Coonhound.

Many of the breeds are actually old breeds, but new to the dog show.  The Cane Corso an Italian Mastiff had an impressive entry of 18 dogs and one more gorgeous than the next.  This breed’s popularity has taken off in the past 10-15 years and especially in the North East.  One of the handlers showing Vodoo, (see slide show), who is from Florida, said she was really surprised how many Corso’s were in the NY area.  I remember going to Rare Breed dog shows about 10 years ago to see them, it was great to see them in the ring at Westminster this year.

Cane Corso's for the first time at Westminster

The Leonbergers also a new, old breed – just amazing in to see in person.  Gentle giants in my opinion and just so beautiful to watch.  They also had a good showing of 13 dogs in the ring, although they were so big, it seemed like more than that.  I would not want to be a judge as they were all very impressive.

Leonberger's in the ring!

If you have never been to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show – this is a must do for anyone interested in dogs, mark your calendars for next year as this is the Best in Show of dog shows!

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13 Oct 10

Shelter Misconceptions ...

by Nancy E. Hassel,

Shelter Misconceptions

What is the average Long Island animal shelter misconception? To the layman or non-dog owner, most people think they are just loaded with pit bulls or labrabulls, and that is it.  While at each shelter you will see both of the above, if you actually go to your town municipal shelter you may be surprised to see a lot of the smaller designer mutts and purebred dogs of every breed.  Just recently at the Town of Islip’s adopt-a-thon there were at least 15 – 20 small to medium size dogs, if not more, of all breeds.  Our shelters on Long Island are overflowing with dogs, it’s really quite sad.  Where do all these dogs come from someone asked?  Some are strays, and more than most are turned-in by their owners – discarded like yesterday’s garbage, someone else’s problem now.  No one wants to think about that, or how lazy a person can be not giving that animal a chance.  Many dogs are turned in because of a behavioral problem like not being fully house broken, or  a 6-month old puppy that is chewing, duh!

Another shelter misconception is that all the animals there are unruly, not trained, aggressive or sick.  Many of our municipal and private shelters have amazing volunteers that give their time to help walk, socialize and do a bit of training with the pets housed there.  These wonderful volunteers, many times make the difference that pet needed, and helps them get adopted quicker.  If a pet is sick, the majority of our shelters vet the pets, give them the necessary vaccinations and medical attention that animal needs.

So what is your shelter misconception?  If you ‘re thinking about getting a dog and feared going to the shelter because it’s too sad or for any of the above reasons, I challenge you to go to your local shelter and see what it is really like. You might just fall for a beautiful pit bull with an amazing personality, and surprise yourself.  Or find that mutt that captures your heart.

Suggestion: Take the time to meet a few of the dogs’ in the shelter’s meet and greet rooms, instead of just walking the isles.  Many dogs’ personalities shine through better when out of their kennel run.  If the shelter has a volunteer staff, ask them about the dog, what they are like, behavior etc. – they will be able to tell you.

Did you know: That black dogs and older dogs are the most likely to not to get adopted, to get passed by, to possibly not make it out of the shelter.  Now think if that dog is black, is part or full pit bull and 4 or 5 years old, not good odds.  Adopting and older dog, and a black one, could be the best thing you ever do!

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27 Jul 10

How to choose a Veterinarian ...

By Nancy E. Hassel,

Choosing the right veterinarian for your pet is an important decision.  These days there are many more veterinarians to choose from than say 20-years ago.  There are specialists vs. general practioners – just like in human medicine.  For routine visits, you want to choose a general practioner veterinarian.

Word of mouth is a good referral, but not the only thing you should depend on.  If you hear of a vet that a friend of family member likes, do your research.  Google the doctor’s name, see what comes up. If you like what you see, make an appointment without your pet to interview the doctor.  This is after all the person who will entrust your pet’s health to. If this doctor refuses the interview/appointment, move on.  If he or she does agree to it, you should also ask for a tour of the animal hospital while there, (if it’s not offered to you), the doctor should be proud to show you the facility.  You would want to see a very clean, neat, well cared for front office and back area, and behind the exam rooms.

Find out if the doctor regularly attends veterinary seminars to keep up with current veterinary practices and standards. If they do not, this is a red flag! Many vets continue old school practices of veterinary medicine which may no longer be up to par with what is available today.  Ask the doctor how long your appointment will be with your pet, a good vet will book 1/2 hour appointments, so your pet is thoroughly examined, and you are not rushed out the door.  You should walk away feeling educated and informed about your dogs’ health, not with unanswered questions or an uneasy feeling. Ultimately you want to have a comfortable relationship with your veterinarian and know your pet is in good hands.  Do your homework, research and keep yourself informed!

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22 Jul 10

Horse Rescue, hidden gem in the Hamp ...

By Nancy E. Hassel,

What’s in a horse rescue?  Why do we even need a horse rescue?  Well if you are not sure of those answers, you have to read this.  In the US, horses are still being shipped off for slaughter across our borders to Canada and Mexico, for consumption in other countries. As disturbing as that is, we are very fortunate to have a horse rescue on Long Island, in which the founder of this NFP works tirelessly day and night to ensure the rescues she has in her barn have the best life.  With 55 horses currently in her care, Christine Distefano of Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue goes more than out of her way to make the horses healthy, safe, loved, comfortable and amazingly well cared for.  Along with her daughter, Rachel, the ASPCA Kid of the Year 2007 and a handful of volunteers, the hardest part is not just raising awareness of horses in need, but raising funds.  You would think living in the affluent area of Sagaponack – that it would be easier to do so, but it is simply not the case.

To hear the stories of how one horse came in with long hooves and could barely stand, starved and it’s previous owner ready to send it to slaughter, is heartbreaking.  But to see this beautiful creature today, you would never know it had that background.  There are numerous stories like that, and if it wasn’t for Christine and her crew, who knows what would have happened to these equines.

Amaryllis opened the Island’s first horse sanctuary.  In total, 8 locations throughout the East End are at full capacity with grateful, though homeless horses.  Many are aged and can no longer carry a human.  And who wants a horse they can’t ride?  Well I would take one if I could after seeing them, absolutely gorgeous and I couldn’t tell from a layman (or laywomen thank you very much) that they had any ailments.  I have been riding my entire life, but I am not an expert.

So what can you do?  Why not send an email to and inquire as to volunteer opportunities?! Recently there were over 2,000 people at the Extreme Makeover Home Edition pep rally, many people were disappointed that they didn’t get called to volunteer, so why not keep it local and help out Amaryllis?   Or if you are fortunate enough to help out financially please do so.

This amazing, special place to see these beautiful animals so well cared for will do wonders for you.  And the goat there is pretty comical.  They also often have events, petting farm days and pony rides on Sundays so it is a great place to bring your family.

Visit the site

One of the horses in the Sanctuary, what a beauty!

Check out this slide show of more pictures taken at Amaryllis: