Correction to Great Dane story in Saturday's Sun

A story appearing in the Saturday, July 8, issue of The Laconia Daily Sun regarding the status of the woman charged with neglect of 84 Great Danes in Wolfeboro contained an error. The story, written by Caitlin Andrews of The Concord Monitor, which we reprinted, should have said it was Christina Fay's lawyer, not Fay herself, who requested a delay in the trial date due to a vacation that the lawyer had scheduled. That trial is now scheduled for October. 

Saddle up! Cowboys and Cowgirls gather in Gilford for Mounted Shooting Championship

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More than 40 competitors will take part in the Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association New Hampshire Championship in Gilford Saturday. (Courtesy photo)


GILFORD — More than 40 cowboys and cowgirls will be riding into town today, six-guns blazing, as they take over the Lakes Region Riding Academy to compete in the Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association New Hampshire Championship.
The event will be hosted by the Northeast Six Shooters, who recently reclaimed the Border Wars flag from the Connecticut Renegades on Memorial Day Weekend.
Cowboys and cowgirls from all over New England are coming to show off their skills in the competition. Horsemanship as well as marksmanship is the key to a great run. The riders use revolvers that shoot special blanks designed for this type of event, and there is also a shotgun/rifle class.
The course consists of a series of patterns which a horse and rider must negotiate while the rider shoots at 10 targets using a .45 caliber single-action revolver. Riders change guns while riding to engage all 10 targets. The fastest time, plus number of targets hit, count in the scoring.
Dina Baratta of Londonderry, president of the Northeast Six Shooters and herself a competitor, said the blanks contain black powder, which heats up when fired, and the hot particles burst the balloon at a range of 10 to 12 feet.
Baratta, whose husband, Rob, was the Overall Cowboy Champion at a recent meet, said she always rode horses but never fired a gun until eight years ago when she took up the sport.
“It's a lot of fun and you get to meet people from all walks of life and all ages who are dedicated to keeping  the spirit of the Old West alive,” she said, pointing out that competitors dress in clothing true to that era of American history.
She says that the sport evolved from the Single Action Shooting Society events which feature Cowboy Action Shooting and has been around since 1994, when the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association was formed.
Baratta said it's a family-oriented sport and that not only is her husband involved, but her mother and father, John and Debbie O'Donnell of Hooksett are also competitors.
She says the Northeast Six Shooters are active from April through October and sponsor 22 matches a year.
The club has members from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and New York. Last year, members competed in North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Members also rope, sort, and pen cattle; play gymkhana and versatility games; do dressage, stadium jumping and eventing; and enjoy plain old trail rides.
After Saturday's championships, many riders will be camping out overnight at the Lakes Region Riding Academy on Young Road in Gilford for Sunday's four-stage match at LRRA.
Events get underway at 10 a.m. both days and spectators are welcome.
Julie Lawrence, founder of Lakes Region Riding Academy, has been around horses all her life. The pony rides at Forest Park in Springfield, Massachusetts, ignited a spark within that never stopped glowing. The lessons she received at the age of 5 worried her mom, but Julie quickly found her way to a life filled with horses.
After moving to the Weirs Beach area in the early '70s, Julie met Jean and Tex (James) Weldon, and the spark was again kindled while being educated in basic horsemanship.
In the early part of the '80s, Julie began showing Appaloosas in Delaware, and then showed successfully in New Hampshire in the New England Paint Horse circuit into the late '80s.
In 1993 she began working with Hunter/Jumpers while helping to manage the Sandwich facility until, after several years, she was asked to teach in Meredith, at the Hartley family's barn in 1996.
And so, Lakes Region Riding Academy was born, focusing on safety and good horsemanship from the ground up, with an emphasis on the knowledge and mannerisms that make riding horses great fun for both the student and the horses they ride. LRRA has been working from 26 Young Road in Gilford since 2005.

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Dina Baratta of Londonderry will be competing in the Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association New Hampshire Championship in Gilford Saturday. (Courtesy photo)


Hunters given religious material at state class held at church


LACONIA — Responding to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Fish and Game Department is investigating why people attending a hunter safety class at Heritage Free Will Baptist Church were given religious fliers.

Volunteer instructors typically conduct such classes, but it's not clear who handed out literature with prayers and information about services, said Laura Ryder, hunter education supervisor at the department.

Materials to be handed out in such classes are supposed to pertain strictly to hunting.

“This is a first,” Ryder said Friday. “We're reviewing everything that happened and are handling it like a personnel matter.”

Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sent a letter on June 28 to Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau, complaining about the religious handouts, including one titled, “How can I become God's child?” that provided the advice “Admit that you are a sinner.”

A person who complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation said all participants in the class, which was held at the church April 6-8, received the same material.

“We understand that a pastor taught this class and that these religious materials were enclosed with all of the hunter's official safety documents and study packets,” Barker and Gaylor said in their letter.

“These proselytizing handouts are supremely insulting to non-Christians and nonbelievers.

“The state of New Hampshire has no business holding workshops of vital importance to hunter safety that berate attendees as 'sinners,' etc. Such a misuse of state function for sectarian, proselytizing purposes is disgraceful.”

Joel Nason, pastor of the Heritage Free Will Baptist Church, did not return calls for comment Friday and wasn't at the church.

Ryder there are 480 certified volunteer instructors who instruct hunter safety classes after becoming certified “in a clearly defined curriculum.”

Such classes are needed for those 16 or older to get a hunting license.

Nicola Whitley, spokesman for the Fish and Game Department, said Normandeau would be out of the office until next week.

“I can assure you that the Fish and Game Department emphasizes to all instructors the importance of only covering information contained in the hunter education curriculum, which contains no material relative to any religion,” she said.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation describes itself as a national nonprofit with 29,000 members with a mission of protecting the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

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Heritage Free Will Baptist Church, where a hunter safety class has touched off a controversy. A person complained religious material was handed out in the state Fish and Game Department course there. (Photo by Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)