Monthly Archives: August 2014

On the Corner

By Sue Moore

The South County News recently received notice from the USPS and the IRS, that the newspaper has become eligible for nonprofit status. This is a big boost for the staff and the expense column. It will reduce mailing costs significantly and allow the paper to seek underwriting and grants from foundations. It also means that all the donations sent in to the newspaper in 2014 are tax deductible.

In the meantime, there was a call to the readers in the July issue, to help support this endeavor. That call was answered by nearly 300 interested donors who have valued receiving the good news about south Kalamazoo County. The newspaper is not yet self supporting because the advertising rates are kept low, so local businesses can afford to get their messages out. The staff, for the most part, is unpaid or paid minimally. The goal for sustainability – long term – is to hire an editor and an accounting person to replace Sue Moore and Wes Schmitt. With the continued support of people in the Schoolcraft, Scotts, and Vicksburg area, it is believed that will become a reality.

Horse Stories

staff 1
South County News feature writers, met at Mari Smith’s home to map out the many human interest stories about horses, documented in this month’s newspaper. They are from left to right, Jef Rietsma, Nathan Czochara, Travis Smola, Debbie Laure, John Fulton, Mari Smith, Kaye Bennett, and Susan Harper-Grieger, who was the project’s advisor.

The writing staff this month has put together some excellent stories about the many horse lovers in Kalamazoo County. The work is not meant to be all-inclusive – in fact, it’s just a start. In researching the genre, it was found to be a rich vein of information and activity. The love of horses seems pervasive in this area, with lots of room to stable and pasture the animals in the countryside, called south Kalamazoo County.

Featured writers contributing horse stories this month include Kaye Bennett, Leeanne Seaver, Jef Reitsma, Mari Smith, Debbie Laure, Travis Smola, John Fulton, Sue Moore and Nate Czochara. The consultant on the horse stories was Susan Harper-Grieger, who has long been a devotee and owner of horses.

Then there is Doctor Schriemer, who finds special meaning in all of his patients lives. He writes from the heart to profile the best in everyone he interviews, utilizing his medical knowledge to find the compassionate moment in every story.

Changes in Vicksburg Business Places
It’s regrettable that Rosewood Cafe and floral shop has closed its doors
on Main Street. Jill Lindsley with her passion for flowers, gave a lot back to
the community, especially her years of organizing the Chili Cookoff each
February for the Chamber of Commerce.

Now Showing, also in Vicksburg, has closed. The good news is that Tanya’s Girl Garage is moving into their building and purchasing it. Her business is unique and draws visitors to the
village. She too has contributed much to the Chamber of Commerce in helping to organize the Art Hop, the Block Party, and the Taste of Vicksburg. Family Fare’s renovation inside and out is a big positive in Vicksburg. Their investment of over one million dollars helps shoppers to stay local, instead of putting mileage on the car to shop at the big boxes.

South County Community Services (SCCS) is moving to the Marketplace on S. Kalamazoo Ave. from the Community Center. This is a huge change for the village of Vicksburg which owns the building and will need to find a way to keep the doors open to the public without the staff of SCCS being on hand each day.

Grossman & Moldovan law offices are expanding at 108 N. Main, having received approval from the planning commission. The two lawyers and their staff have served the community well, since setting up practice here over seven years ago, especially their participation in public service with
the Lions Club and pro bono clients referred from SCCS.

Two Oswalt families have opened up shop on W. Prairie Street in Vicksburg where Divisified Industries once resided. Kelly and Dan Oswalt’s Electrical Service is putting up a large pole barn toward the back of the lot and Mike, Bill and Pat Oswalt’s Ozland Enterprise has completely remodeled the outside and inside of the building that at one time was a car dealership.

Schoolcraft Corporate Changes
Chem Link on Lyon Street has expanded with a move to purchase the Quality Films building on Duncan Street for the R & D department.

Greenstone Credit Union has received the go ahead to build anew to the west of their current home on Lyon Street in Schoolcraft.

Biggby Coffee has opened on N. Grand Street with Carrie Cousins heading the day to day operation.

Schoolcraft Library will see the biggest change with Miss Bobbi Truesdell retiring the end of September. Her very capable staff will surely keep the doors open to all who wish to read and enjoy the fruits of Truesdell’s efforts. She has been the driving force for over 25 years, enlarging the collection, the building itself, and involving the community in events sponsored by the library. She will be sorely missed.

Allis Chalmers Tractor Parade
A host of Allis Chalmers tractors will drive through Vicksburg on their way to LaPorte, IN. Their three-day trip on back roads will take them from Sand Lake, MI to here on August 13, for what else, a stop at Apple Knockers for ice cream. That should be fun to see, with 20 or more antique tractors parked on Prairie Street in the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday.

Several Moms Helped Erika Fojtik’s Horse Show Endeavors

Madeleine and Erika Fojtik have brought the family’s mini-horse, Oobi, to the Harvest Festival for children to pet and admire.

By Jef Rietsma

With apologies to soccer moms, dance moms and stay-at-home moms, the world of horse moms is far different from that of their peers.

Twenty-year-old Erika Fojtik said the support of two moms, in fact, was required when she was involved in horse shows as a teen.

“You can’t be involved with horses if you don’t have a supportive family that is heavily involved, as well,” she said. “It’s not a one-person hobby.”

Fojtik, a 2012 Vicksburg High School alumna, said her mother, Madeline, was an integral part of the countless weekends they spent on the road at horse shows, often in far-flung places.

Madeleine Fojtik, however, said her husband, Joe, frequently did the driving and deserves credit for playing an understated role over the seven years their daughter participated in horse shows. But it was the assistance of Scotts-area resident Deb Barrett that helped make so many of the journeys possible.

Barrett’s daughter, Liz, has been close friends with Erika Fojtik both inside and outside the world of horse-related events.

“(Erika and Liz) would be up late the night before a show. They’d be up early the day of, and Deb would come get them …Most shows would almost always start on a Saturday at 8 in the morning, so they were on the road pretty early,” Madeleine Fojtik said. “There were times when all I’d have to do is just get there and show up because Deb did what she did. People were so helpful and Deb was no exception.”

Erika, an engineering student at Western Michigan University, said the circle of associates who participate in horse shows has a strong camaraderie that reflects a unique bond among like-minded people. “Anybody would help anybody; it was a genuine friendliness,” she said.

The family’s interest in horses started when they moved to their Brady Township home 23 years ago. Most of the fenced-in backyard was set up for a pasture, but a barn and other enclosed areas north of their house provided an ideal setting for farm animals.

A friend of the family inquired about boarding her horse there, which the Fojtiks allowed. Madeleine Fojtik said the family getting horses of their own was a gradual process.

“We weren’t thinking about anything competitive; I just felt that horses are beautiful to look at and watch, so that’s where it all started,” she said. “We had a horse when Erika was born, and she joined 4-H when she was 7. She would show our mini-horse at the time.”

That was the springboard for what, for the next decade or so, would become active participation in competitive horse shows. Madeleine Fojtik said she appreciated what 4-H and the horse shows did for Erika, the youngest of her three children.

“Caring for a horse and being active with it taught Erika a sense of responsibility that I really appreciate,” she said. “4-H provided her an opportunity to grow and learn skills that I see Erika use as an adult.”

Erika showed a pair of scrapbooks she kept as part of a 4-H project. They are filled with photographs of her sporting English-style attire as well as a Western look, her wardrobe reflecting the nature of the event in which she was participating.

A few photos capture her in a September competition in Ingham County, where an unseasonably cold spell saw her wearing a heavy jacket.

Madeleine Fojtik remembers the event well.

“It was only September, but it was in the 40s and so cold. When we watch the video I took at the event, it wasn’t steady at all because I was shivering,” she said. “The weather was a real mixed bag through the years, from the 40s to a few times when it was 100 degrees.”

Erika’s show horse, Kimmy, is boarded at a nearby farm in Vicksburg. For the past four years, Kimmy has been ridden by a Vicksburg High School student on the school’s equestrian team.

Erika said she will be looking for someone interested in riding Kimmy for the same purpose. She said she occasionally rides, but her grown-up obligations compromise her horse time.

“Between school and work, unfortunately, Kimmy isn’t my top priority,” Erika said. “There’s a neighbor girl, probably about 7, who has asked about me giving her riding lessons, so I’ll probably still have a little something to do with horses, even after I’m out of college, I hope.”

Every Stride Dressage

easy strideBy Nathan M. Czochara

Anyone who drives down South 29th Street in Vicksburg will notice vast spans of farmland and residences. Little do they know that in that same area stands one of the highest quality horse training facilities in southwest Michigan, Every Stride Dressage.

Trainer and instructor Erin McElmurry acquired the former farmland from Larry and Bonnie Burr, setting up shop in 2012. As noted on the facility’s Web site, Every Stride is a 33-acre facility with an indoor training arena, regulation-size outdoor dressage arena, and stables complete with indoor wash bay.

Originated in Europe, Dressage riding is considered one of the most technical and most difficult styles to master in equestrian sport. Riders control their horses to perform and maintain difficult stances and strides, which many commonly dub the “Horse Ballet.”

Every Stride Dressage provides training for horses and riders alike, from introductory to professional levels, in the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), or International Federation of Equestrian sport. Riding lessons range from $40 to $55, depending on the duration and level of teaching. Every Stride Dressage strives to “achieve all your goals while giving your horse the highest quality care it deserves.” 

Erin has been involved in the art of dressage since age 7. Her knowledge and experience in dressage match the quality of her facility. In 1996, at the top of her class, Erin graduated from Meredith Manor Equestrian Centre in dressage. Traveling all over the world, she shares her skills with top competitors such as Olympic rider Michelle Gibson. As a competitor, Erin has enjoyed much success in the sport, including 2007 USDF Silver Medalist and 2009 FEI Intermediate 1 Grand Champion for the Waterloo Show series.

Besides training and instruction, Every Stride Dressage provides Pulse Electric Magnetic Field (PEMF) therapy for horses. The technique is used for both animals and people to alleviate the pain and complications of orthopedic injuries.

In October, Every Stride Dressage will sponsor a clinic with esteemed dressage rider, Alison Sader. Anyone interested in learning more about the upcoming clinic, the facility, and its services, can find helpful information at (noun) – Person Who Specializes in Equine Hoof Care

ruh 3
Bill Ruh beside his farrier trailer.

By Debbie Laure

If you have or have had kids in Vicksburg Middle or High School then chances are you’ve noticed Bill and Becky Ruh’s property. It sits across from the practice fields with the large wooden horse pulled wagon that is always filled with beautiful flowers in the summer and sits at the entrance to their very well kept farm.

Ruh, originally from Centreville began working with horses at 13 when he went to work for his school bus driver, who owned and raced Standard Breeds. He said,” He would never forget the first time he saw a Farrier with a coal forge in the back of his pickup, with black smoke spewing out the chimney. He loved it!” He decided to go to farrier school and started his business at age 20.

Traveling about 200 to 250 miles per day, Ruh generally goes north to about Plainwell, east to Albion College, south around Three Rivers and west to about Dowagiac. This is how he met his wife Becky whose love of horses sprang to life on a family trip to Mackinac Island. She was a horse owner at one of his stops and from time to time she would have to change boarding locations. She would say good-bye, but he would offer to go where ever she moved. He said,” I would have followed her to Ohio if that’s where she was going!” They were married and looking for property when Bill Austin, Becky’s employer at the time told them, ”they should buy the neighbor’s farm in Vicksburg” and they did, and that has remained their home.

They started a family and have two boys Billy and Michael. And a great dog named Sam. Becky gives riding lessons and holds riding camps in the summer. They have about eight horses on the farm, some of them belonging to former pupils looking for a place to board. There is a vegetable garden and a few other farm animals they raise for food.

Ruh’s farrier trailer is a masterpiece. It is set up so everything is within reach from the ground. He opens the back and is able to swing out his propane fueled forge from one side and turns around and swings out the anvil. He grabs down his chaps and is so adept at putting them on that he can buckle them with one hand while grabbing out some of the tools of his trade, pincers and a hammer to give a demonstration. These features make his job more efficient and more effective, so he can service more horses.

He has continued his education by getting his certification which took him from just shoeing horses to a certified farrier. To maintain the certification you are required to participate in continuing education classes every year which Bill does to keep his techniques and standards high.  The classes taught him techniques of taking bar stock and forging it into custom horseshoes along with other more detailed work. A farrier’s routine work is mainly hoof trimming so the hoof keeps its proper orientation to the ground and of course, shoeing. Depending on the everyday life of the horse he may or may not need shoes and if he does then it would be determined what if any, special needs there are and what the horse does, like working on hard pavement or racing, so then the shoes would be made or altered to fit his needs. Certification is not a requirement in the USA to become a farrier. With his certification he became part of Michigan Horseshoe’s Association. They hold competitions that Ruh placed in and won a couple of times in different divisions. He also works with veterinarians on issues horses are having, that he may be able to help solve, such as diseased or injured hooves that may require certain procedures to heal or need special shoes. He has taken care of some world champion horses, racers, hunters, jumpers, show, and pleasure horses. In his weekly routine he has the Albion College’s equestrian team, four other large farms and individuals.

Ruh says, he loves his business. It has provided a living for his family, he gets to travel, meet and socialize with a wide variety of people and most of all care for horses.” His goals are to continue to offer the highest standards with the best customer service possible.”

Kal-Val Saddle Club: Family Riding Environment Since 1950

kal val 2
Riders at Kal-Val Saddle Club lead the way in opening ceremonies.

By Travis Smola

It was 1950, and Martha Goodwin was only 16 when she became a founding member of the Kal-Val Saddle Club. Today, 80 year-old Goodwin is still a member and the historian of the club that is still going strong some 64 years after it was founded.

“I’m probably about the last of the original members left,” said Goodwin. Goodwin and her ex-husband, Herb, were among the group who started the club with horse shows on Lake Street in Kalamazoo. The club bought and moved to a property on 34th Street in Scotts, around 1965. Club members constructed and maintained the buildings, along with show and warm-up areas on the property. Goodwin said founding members included Glen and Ida Taylor, Ernie Brown, Kate and Pete Cains and many others.

Today, the Kal-Val Saddle Club has approximately 40 members. Their families hold events featuring different riding styles with shows that provide competition in horsemanship and pleasure. Horsemanship is judged on the rider’s ability to handle the horse. “It’s almost like a dance,” said member Annette Kelley. “You really have to know how to quarter your horse for showmanship,” she added. Kelley said that pleasure is judged more on the horse itself.

The club also hosts speed events that include barrel racing, pole bending and cloverleaf. Goodwin said the club caters mainly to the 4-H and family crowd, adding that the club sponsors events for people from age five and older.

“We get around 100 competitors and 150 horses at an average show,” Goodwin said. She added that, while they do give trophies and ribbons to the winners, the atmosphere is one of friendly competition. Winners have the option of receiving gift certificates to various feed stores, instead of trophies. According to Goodwin, competing members earn points over the course of the year in every event in which they compete. These points eventually accumulate into year-end awards.

The club holds special shows on occasion. One is a memorial show held in memory of Megan Holt of Vicksburg, who was killed in a car accident. “This event,” Goodwin described, “draws people from all over the state.”

In addition to competitive events, Goodwin said the club hosts a “fun day” and potluck. They also have spring and fall campouts at Spring Creek near Allegan, and members take their horses trail riding in that area. Additionally, the club sometimes holds how-to clinics to teach members’ skills in areas such as horsemanship or pleasure.

For many members, the club’s relaxed atmosphere is something special. “We’re like a family here,” said member Kelley, who first came to the club as a child and now brings her two girls to show here. She has been a member for the past 15 years. “It’s like your backyard; it’s so comfortable and relaxing.”

The club holds shows about every other weekend from May through early September. Kelley said the club provides a great place for kids to prepare for larger events, such as the St. Joseph County Fair. “It instills competitiveness and respect along with sportsmanship.”

Kelley doesn’t just come to the events to watch, though. As a part of membership, she and many other members help out in the events. Volunteers may work the gates, help with food, or assist judges as ringmaster.

Kelley also said that the grounds are an excellent place for people to train their stock and non-stock class horses. Stock class horses refer to larger, working class horses; non-stock are more refined animals, such as Arabians and Morgans. People that show on larger, more competitive circuits will often bring their younger horses to the grounds to train them. “The nice thing is that we get a variety of disciplines.”

Most all members continue to stress how much they enjoy the family atmosphere offered by the club. “They have a blast; they live to come here,” said member Debbie Hitchings of the kids of the club. “It’s a good experience for a new rider,” said young Juliana Hagenbuch. Kelley said she has called upon fellow members in an emergency and had them respond at “the drop of a hat”. “Kal-Val is like an extension of Vicksburg,” said Kelley.

Building a Business – and a Family – Around Arabian Horses

krichle 3
Keith Krichke holds the reins to one of his champion Arabian horses, with his wife Maureen holding their dog and Faith and Hope in front of her.

By Kaye Bennett

Growing up in Vicksburg, Maureen Eshlaman (daughter of Dick and Jackie of Indian Lake) was one of those horse-crazy girls. She got a pony at age nine, after promising her dad that she’d clean up after it. But for Maureen, horses weren’t just a phase. Today, she and her husband, Keith Krichke, own one of the top Arabian horse breeding training facilities in the world, located on the same Sprinkle Road farm where Maureen (now Maureen Krichke) has lived since seventh grade. And now, it’s the Krichke daughters, Faith, 11, and Hope, 9, who are the ardent young horse lovers.

The Krichke Training Center has five barns and both indoor and outdoor arenas. Five full-time employees help with breeding, feeding and conditioning the 50 or so purebred and half Arabian horses housed there. (The Krichkes have another farm in Scottsdale, Arizona, site of the biggest Arabian halter-training competition, held each year in February.) These days, only Keith is doing the training, and he’s doing it well; his many honors include being named Arabian Professional Horse Association (APHA) Male Halter Trainer of the Year in 1997, 1998 and 2011, and a place in the APHA Hall of Fame. Maureen cut back on her training activities after Hope and Faith came along, but she won the APHA Female Halter Trainer of the Year award in 1999.

First, a definition: halter training, says Maureen, is teaching a horse how to pose. There is no rider and the trainer (or sometimes the horse’s owner, having him- or herself been trained by the Krichkes) shows the animal’s confirmation and ability to respond to commands. It differs from performance judging, in which riders put their horses through the standard Western or English gaits. The Krichke Center trains in both halter and performance.

And why is the Krichkes’ program limited to Arabians? Maureen says both she and Keith have always been drawn to the breed. They’re so smart, she says, “. . . they’re spookier, but smart. They catch on really quickly.” Because Arabians are more flighty, she adds, many people are scared of them.

But Maureen never had that fear; her first pony was half Arabian and half Hackney, and, even as a youngster, breaking out both Arabs and quarter horses, she was drawn to the Arabs because, “. . . they are high on themselves. They like to show off.”

It was, in fact, Arabians that brought Maureen and Keith together. He was from Fowlerville, where he had a training business. They met at an Arabian show when she was 20 and he was 29; six months later (23 years ago), they were married. They moved back to Vicksburg, to the farm which Maureen’s parents had been running as a boarding facility, and started their business in 1991.

That business began primarily as a venue for training and showing horses, as well as teaching and coaching owners who wanted to participate in the show ring themselves. Over the years, the breeding side of the business has grown, and now consulting, evaluating and marketing horses for sale are a major part of the Krichkes’ work. Their clients come from all over the U.S., and from countries around the globe, including Belgium, Kuwait, Dubai, Brazil, Australia and Uruguay. (Little-known fact: It costs about $10,000 to fly a horse from Michigan to Kuwait.)

Krichke’s services include helping those clients evaluate their horses for shows and for breeding potential, then helping match mares and stallions to achieve the look and talent sought after by future owners and judges. Some of the traits breeders try to maximize in Arabians, Maureen says, are pretty faces, straight legs, arched neck, tail carriage, and minimal white color.

krichle 5
This horse’s name comes from Battle Hill Farm, where Keith Krichke first worked with Arabian horses.

Keith takes horses to about 10 major shows a year; he and friends drive three or more large rigs that hold eight or nine horses each. In addition to Scottsdale, other big Arabian competitions are held annually in Tulsa and Albuquerque. Through the years, Krichke-trained horses have won many awards at regional, national and international competitions.

Maureen wants people to learn more about the breed she and her family love: She once brought all 60 Kindergartners from their daughters’ school, Kalamazoo Christian West Elementary, to the farm to ride the family’s two ponies and learn about Arabians. She laughs, remembering the sight of 60 children going home with the stick horses she’d been up all night making for them.

If you’d like to learn more about Arabian horses or schedule a visit to the Krichke Training Center, call 269-649-1282, or visit

Barrel Racing

barrel 7
Lorrie Hagenbuch races her horse, Gator, around the barrels at Kal-Val Saddle Club. Photo by Sue Moore.

By Nathan M. Czochara

If you head down to a local rodeo this summer, you might run into some familiar faces. You might not see them in the crowd, but you will definitely see them in the ring. Vicksburg residents Lorrie Hagenbuch and daughter Juliana compete in the rodeo sport known as barrel racing.

Members of the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA), the mother-daughter duo has been in competition for nearly seven years, competing mostly in Michigan, but elsewhere in the Midwest, as well. Growing up and living in Vicksburg all her life, Lorrie has always been around horses. While she was looking for something that she and Juliana could do together, she came across the sport. She says it has been a perfect fit.

Barrel racing has been a staple of rodeos for decades. The sport involves riders individually taking their horses through a cloverleaf course around barrels. Without knocking down any barrels, the rider with the fastest time wins.

Both Lorrie and Juliana enjoy the sport in many ways. The rodeo circuit is a close community and Lorrie says she enjoys meeting and getting to know new faces among the spectators, her competitors, or competitors from other events. Besides the camaraderie, Lorrie relishes pushing herself and her horse to the limit and the addictive nature of competition.

“It involves time, commitment, heartache, and excitement,” Lorrie says. “I always think that you have a good run and you want to get another good run. It’s what keeps you going, the love of the sport and the love of the animal.”

Juliana has been riding horses since age four. Now at age 12, Juliana says she has a simpler reason for her love of barrel racing: “You get to go fast,” she says.

Yet, the Hagenbuch ladies are only half of the equation. Lorrie and Juliana’s partners in crime are Quarter Horse Gator and American Paint Horse Speed Bump. Lorrie’s horse, Gator, was bought from friend and two-time World Champion Barrel Racer Stassi Pyne. Starting off as a race horse, Gator has been in competition for 7 years. Juliana’s horse, Speed Bump, came from friends Brad and Patti Marshall in March 2011.

Lorrie says competing is great but the connection with their horses is just as important and a rewarding experience.

“Horses are amazing animals; they have a heart of gold. A lot of people don’t see that because they don’t know them, but they will give 110 percent, no matter if they are hurt or sore,” says Lorrie. “It’s that kind of connection. [Gator] is a one in a lifetime horse…don’t think I’ll quite find another one like him.”

Both Lorrie and Juliana say their two horses enjoy the competition of barrel racing, which is evident in their personalities during an event. Lorrie says you can feel the horses’ hearts race when they go in the ring and get jitters before a run.

barrel 2
Juliana Hagenbuch at the age of 12 has already earned numerous barrel racing honors, including these belt buckles.

She says the two horses even know when they have done well in an event. Both Gator and Speed Bump have their own celebration rituals after a good run. Speed Bump likes to munch on graham crackers after a good race; Gator has a more unconventional way of showing he’s happy with himself.

“I don’t know what it is, but whenever [Gator] has a really good run, he [sticks} his tongue out. He likes it massaged. He’s a big goofball,” Lorrie says.

Lorrie and Juliana will be competing through November when the season ends, but are looking forward to more years of barrel racing. Juliana hopes to earn a college scholarship for barrel racing while pursuing a degree in veterinary science. Lorrie aims to rise in the ranks of the sport, having earned her first big win out of 103 competitors   at the Barry County Fair in Hastings, MI. Lorrie will also be competing in Georgia at the NHBA Nationals this fall.