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When Horses Are More Than Just Horses

This is a really hard entry for me to write, but as I went to sleep last night, I knew it had to be done.  I’ve written about this horse before so the story may be familiar to some of you.  Hope you don’t mind.

MIAMINEEDSAHALO dueled for a half on a short lead, widened around the turn, drew off through the stretch under a drive.

Miamineedsahalo, Mikey as he’s come to be known, was three years old. It was his first win in six starts. In the history of cheap claiming races at Charles Town, it was an everyday occurence, the kind of thing most people noticed only long enough to check their tickets and cash their bets. It also changed the world. I realize that might sound a little dramatic or overwrought, but it really did.

See, some horses (and people, too) seem to exist at junctions. They are joiners, connectors, and without really trying set great things in motion. That night at Charles Town, when the little brown horse shoved his head down and drove to the finish, he was connecting with a person who is just like him, director of CANTER Mid Atlantic (then CANTER West Virginia) Allie Conrad.

Me and Mikey, photo by Allie Conrad

Me and Mikey, photo by Allie Conrad

For us volunteers and friends, what happened that night has reached a sort of mythological status – it’s part of CANTER’s creation story, and as such some of the details (since none of us are there) may be wrong, and may have grown in significance in our minds.  And that’s OK, I think, because the ripples that were sent out that night have grown and grown into something huge and wonderful.  Up until that time, CANTER was a listing service.  Allie’s fated introduction to her amazing boy Phinny (Phinny’s story is also sort of amazing, and also was one of those moments where the world altered course a little bit.  I think Allie is a magnet for those moments, or just has a gut feeling for recognizing them when they happen, and the courage to take risks when they come along) is what started her involvement with CANTER.  Her meeting with Mikey would shunt her along an entirely new path.

Mikey, with volunteer Laura Muncy and trainer Stefany Wolfe

Mikey, with volunteer Laura Muncy and trainer Stefany Wolfe

Mikey didn’t just win a race that night.  The little horse, with his slightly roman nosed head, broad chest, and compact build, did it with a broken bone.  Somewhere around or coming out of the far turn, there was a stumble, or a mis-step.  A moment where his stride faltered ever so slightly, and it may or may not have been apparent that something was wrong.  What actually happened was that he broke a small bone in his ankle, and kept on plugging.  It might have been endorphins and adrenaline, and overwhelming instinct that kept him running,  but those of us who have gotten to know Mikey tend to think it was something bigger.  Mikey, for his small stature and short little stride, has the heart of his ancestors.  He has will, and an almost stubborn nature, and even though I wasn’t there, I feel… no, I know, that it was heart and will and determination that carried him forward that night.

Hasn't Had Grain in YEARS. Really!

Mikey, proving that TBs can be easy keepers

People who romanticize Thoroughbreds and racing talk about heart a lot.  People who haven’t been around horses tend to dismiss that because they’ve never experienced it.  But we know better – we know it when we see it, we know it’s what elevates even the most common bottom-of-the-barrel claimer to something pretty amazing.  And we know that within each thoroughbred lies a little spark, a will, and the fighting spirit of long gone ghosts like Man O’ War or Secretariat.  They don’t always bring it out at the track, but every Thoroughbred has it.  Mikey had it that night, and his determination caught Allie’s attention.

Giving Me the Stinkeye

Regal bearing, small package

She also knew something went wrong, and it didn’t take long to find out how badly.  I don’t know all of how this went down, but I know that Mikey was going to be sent on, his connections not wanting to do the rehab work (unwilling or unable to see the greatness in his effort), and his life was very much at risk.  That couldn’t happen.  And when she sobbed to her then-boyfriend John that he couldn’t, just couldn’t, go to the killers, he agreed and helped her to buy him.  For a couple hundred dollars, Mikey’s value was recognized and cherished, and his life saved.  Allie had met a horse who would inspire great work, and came to know that this man who she loved, she really, really loved, and that he would be her soul mate and partner forever. 

Allie with Mikey, 2014

Allie with Mikey, 2014

Mikey became the first horse CANTER brought in for the rehab/retraining program.  So what if he would never leave us?  For CANTER, he is our Secretariat, our class clown, and our best friend.  Volunteers would help Allie with his daily care, giving him attention, wrapping his legs, and simply offering him love and recognition while he was on stall rest.  At this point, I hadn’t even become involved with CANTER, I knew of it, and knew Allie, but stopped by to meet her while I was searching for a new boarding farm for my horse.  I met Mikey too, then, and didn’t yet know much about him or that he was one of the most special beasts on the planet. 

Mikey photobombing an attempted portrait of the chestnut horse

Mikey photobombing an attempted portrait of the chestnut horse

Taking Mikey in led to an expansion at CANTER Mid Atlantic.  Soon, horses were coming in, and finding a soft place to land where there might not have been one before.  Later, CANTER would expand even more, adding the Delaware program, taking even more horses, and getting a really amazing training program going, ultimately finding great long-term matches for hundreds of horses.  Would this have happened without Mikey? I am sure it would have.  But he was one of the sparks.

Best Horse Ever

Best Horse Ever

Years later, after spending time with horses who were with us because Mikey got us started – Klondike, Rosey, Archie, all the goofs out at the ranch, we pulled up to Happy Horse Hill and grabbed Mikey out of the field.  At that time, you might not have even known he was a Thoroughbred.  He was rotund, looking rather like a pregnant Quarterhorse (perhaps a cross with a morgan or mustang, too!).  He was short, with a long, western style mane.  He was one of our wild brumbies, mugging you in the field and stealing your hat, or letting you hop on bareback for a ridiculous ride to the gate.  His personality was what would kill you.  He was hilarious – he loved attention and treats and had a way of communicating exactly what he wanted in ways that were impossible to miss.  Namely, he wanted you to brush right there, just so.  And he wanted to stay with you, forever.  Every time we’d go to bring him in, he was the horse who would call to us and come running. Getting him back out in the field after  a grooming session often took multiple people.  So we took him at his word, and brought him in for some work.

Mikey pretending to be a western horse.

Mikey pretending to be a western horse.

He came with us to Southwind, where we started riding him (which he loved, despite some stiffness and mechanical lameness from his old injury).  We rode him western, we took dressage lessons.  He approached every new thing with the same head-down-and-determined way he won his last race.   Sometimes he would shake his head about, reminding you “forward please!” and to get your leg on.  He very much enjoyed his horsey yoga sessions with our dressage trainer, grunting and whuffing with pleasure when a little lateral work released some stiffness or tension in his body.  He didn’t much see the point in jogging out on the trails – preferring long-reins meandering, or an all-out run through the hayfield.  Mikey was the horse that brought you back to childhood – he was the opinionated pony that you had a blast with no matter what you were doing.  He was the poster child for us, the horse that kept us happy and kept us going. 

Mikey visiting the spa

Mikey visiting the spa

When I had my first experience with euthanasia, and stood cradling a horse’s head in my arms – a horse who would be dying far too young, at three – it was Mikey who reassured me after.  All along, he’s played comforter for all of us, particularly Allie, reminding us all that things are OK.  When things are hard emotionally, or when there’s stress over how things are going (whether worrying about money or logistics or whether it’s all worth it), Mikey’s been the constant who could always cheer us up and make us feel good about moving forward.

Mikey helping with a Christmas photo shoot.

Mikey helping with a Christmas photo shoot.

So for something to be wrong with Mikey, it’s like the world tilting on its axis.

Allie got a call several months ago that something was very wrong.  It turns out that something was EPM – he had major neurologic symptoms, and is having trouble controlling his hind end.  True to form, he was frustrated and angry at things not working right, and Allie had some hard thinking to do about balancing things like prognosis, budget, and what was really in his best interest. Because he’s Mikey, and because he occupies such a huge space in our hearts, Allie went ahead with some treatment, which seemed to have a positive effect for a while, and gave him a good quality of life as he moseyed around Allie’s farm.  But more recently, he’s taken a turn for the worse, and it’s become apparent that there is only one right thing to do, and that is to free our most gallant, courageous, sweet friend from pain and difficulty, and let him go.

Mikey waits at the gate

Mikey waits at the gate

Mikey came into Allie’s life almost ten years ago.  As we approach a decade of taking in horses after their racing careers and finding them new homes and lives, please take a minute – to thank this wonderful horse, thank the universe for bringing him and Allie together, and also to think about the horses who have changed your own lives for the better. May they all stroll through fields like these forever.

Magical Mikey Strolls Through Horse Paradise

Miamineedsahalo, March 28 2001 – March 10, 2014



Just a reminder to those on MD’s Eastern Shore or with quick access to it, Wicomico Equestrian Center is hosting a fantastic benefit show tomorrow (Saturday, April 6) at Winterplace Park in Salisbury.  For more information see their facebook page at


In other news, I’d like to showcase one of our current trainer listings right now – she is just lovely!  Unfortunately there is a bit of a bias towards tall horses – it always seems 16 hands is the magic number for people to pay attention to a horse, 16.2 is better, and if the horse is approaching 17 hands or taller, watch out!  But this blogger has well learned the value of a smaller horse.  A more compact beastie is easier to judge distance on, a little easier to adjust, often more likely to be sound and stay that way, and easier to get on from the ground when you’re out in the middle of the woods and need to get off for some reason. 

So I’d like to introduce Drink and Dial, a 5 YO mare owned by some very nice people at Charles Town (seriously, I try not to be all full of favoritism for our trainers, and objective as possible when people ask if people are “good” or not.  Most of them really are good people if they’re listing with us. Really.  But these folks are wonderfully nice and sincere, and always put their horses first).

Drink and Dial

Drink and Dial is a granddaughter of Langfuhr and Dynaformer (by Roberto, one of the horses I like to see in sport pedigrees, though I’m not exactly a bloodline expert).  She’s raced 16 times and even won her last start.  The catch, of course, is that she’s quite short.  Our volunteer says she’s 14.3, officially a “hony.”  So, go ahead people.  Prove me wrong!  Prove to me that not everybody wants a 17 hander! Show me the love for the little ‘uns!

Her full listing is here.

 Lastly, very excited that tomorrow I’ll be making a visit out to the CANTER farm to visit the horses on R&R.  I’ll do my best to take photos.  Have a great weekend everyone!

The Further Adventures of Spectacular Miss Lumpyhead

Us Walking, With My Horrific Equitation

Nice to know all my bad habits survived a break intact!

So last weekend I got another opportunity to hit up the CANTER farm.  My own horse (he lives there too) felt that ignoring me was better than getting treats, even, but fortunately the CANTER herd is full of horses that WANT LOVE.  WANT LOVE NOWWWW!!!!

Since no existing girths in the world fit my horse, and dealing with his shenanigans is pretty stressful anyway, I went out to the big hill and came back with miss perfectpants.  I think one of the reasons I think very highly of her is that, like Canes Palace, she doesn’t get tweaked about coming in.  For some reason, in the herd environment, our mares usually get a little herdbound at this farm (which usually goes away after they leave and get into a routine, so we don’t really worry about it).  But this filly really could not care less.  She gave one little whinny to her concerned herdmates who followed us to the gate, then was all, “curry, please.  Oh yes.  Right THERE. Thank you, servant.” for the next twenty minutes while I groomed her.

Interesting factoid about the farm where we keep these guys: the other boarders are mostly trail riders.  They don’t just trail ride for fun, they train for it.  And they train hard.  They think up all kinds of wild scenarios and then prep for them.  So instead of having a dressage ring set up, or a course of jumps, or whatever I might be used to, I found the ring set up for Trail Obstacle Training.

I’m not sure when you might actually encounter a 6 foot ladder with a rake and festive holiday flag propped up in the rungs.  Nor am I sure when you would encounter plastic lawn chairs with craft store scarecrows in them.  But the point is, there was some serious bombproofing material in the ring.

And what do I say when there’s lot of good, flapping, six foot high reasons not to ride an ex racehorse with two rides under her belt who hadn’t been touched in a month?  Of COURSE I’ll get on, YAY! I haven’t ridden in AGES THIS IS A FABULOUS IDEA!

 Sometimes it’s a wonder I’ve survived into my thirties.

Anyway, since I’m obviously still here I guess I can skip a lot and say it went really well.  She gave everything the stink eye once, I told her it was fine, and so she decided everything was fine.  She walked through the whole obstacle course with me on the ground, including letting me hold and wave the flag, and also letting me pull a kids’ wagon with a lunge line.  She didn’t understand why we would want to do such a thing but decided to humor me, I guess. 

Once on, she was her usual (I say that like I know her well, with two other rides.  Heh.) good self, nice and comfortable, forward, happy.  As you can see in my above picture, I still have some bad habits when I ride – painfully aware of this (more aware, in fact, because I am also physically weak), I mostly rode on a long rein, and spent a great deal of time holding mane as my hands are rather undependable.  After riding through the obstacle course I had her step over a very tiny jump that had been set up with a number of odd things underneath it.  Again, she sort of asked “why? you people are weird.” and then did it anyway.

She earned high praise from a boarder, who was impressed that a racehorse with no retraining would be better at the obstacle course than her well broke and experienced trail horse. 


Because that isn’t enough, and it was a beautiful day, I decided she’d be fine to take up the hill on a little hack.  She didn’t disappoint.  She did get a little nervous once we were out of visual range of her field and comfort zone, but at least the “when in doubt go forward” component of my brain is still there, so we just went to work a little bit.  We trotted across the top of the hill, down a slight slope (she’s very wll balanced, downhill is no trouble!), through the middle of a cornfield, and cantered up a gentle slope on the other side.  On the way back she jigged a bit when I wanted to walk, so it was leg yielding* and “hey, engage!” for a little bit, which she did very nicely.  Usually I feel more comfortable on those first rides if we have a buddy, and I think she’d have been dead calm in that scenario, but she was absolutely wonderful either way.  No spook when a bunch of birds took off under her feet, and she was absolutely sensible even when nervous.

I felt confident enough that I rode most of the way back with no stirrups, even though she was just ever so slightly jiggling until she got back in her comfort zone.  If there’s one thing I do well, it’s the “I’m a sack of flour” type riding needed for these moments. 🙂 

I love this mare.  I love them all, really.  Wait till you see some of the horses relaxing out in those fields.  They are all so nice, and so sweet!  Next post will be a phototour of the new group 🙂 


*I call it “leg yielding,” but I’m pretty sure my dressage instructor would hang her head in shame.  Either way, it was “leg on, move sideways” and it more or less worked.

Good Things Come in Small (and Lumpy) Packages

Well Hello there!

Bet you all thought I was dead!  But I am (slowly) emerging from the haze of new-motherhood with an itch to get back down to business. Sadly, a move to the other side of Maryland means that my visits and interactions with CANTER horses will be few and far between (*sniff*).  So I will probably be using this space to highlight really cool track listing horses that I see in the course of getting them posted to the website.

Even with the geographical difficulties, I did manage to get out to Funny Farm over the weekend to check on my horse (fat. Very, very fat) and take a look at the CANTER horses.  I had anticipated a ride on the Rotund Grey Horse, but unfortunately his love of delicious grass, and airfern metabolism, means my tack doesn’t come close to fitting him.  And as he is prone to theatrics (or rather, “panicked airs above the ground”) when girthed too quickly, I didn’t want to even try when it became clear that to get his girth on the first holes would take all my strength.  Instead, I gave him some twizzlers (me = enabler) and threw him back out in the field, much to his relief  (beast doesn’t even miss me).

So there I was, on a gorgeous day, no baby in sight, fields of green and blue sky above, dressed in the only pair of riding pants that fit and my half chaps… what’s a girl to do?  Why, try out an OTTB, of course!  It’s really the best, most sane idea, for a lady with shaky riding skills to begin with who has only ridden once in the last year, right?  Totally.

So who do I choose?  One of the really amazing 17 handers that came in recently?  The stunning dark bay mare who looks like Zenyatta?  The friendly, but a little bit thin gelding that just wanted hugs when I went out to the field?  Nope. Not me.  I went for the goofy one instead (don’t I always?).

The story on this little lady:


is that I’ve felt a certain affinity for her since she arrived.  Not because I like short horses, or mares (give me a tall doofy gelding, please!), but because someone once had the audacity to call her ugly.  I mean, look at her!  Her hair flows like the coat of a mountain yak!  Her head has the noble shape of a baby goat, and, well, under that warm coat lies a body with the sumptuous curves of Kate Moss.

Of COURSE that’s the horse I pick! I want THAT ONE!!!!!  We’ll leave aside that she is somewhat short, too – maybe a titch taller than the lovely Calabria Rose herself, but not by much.

So here I am coming out of the field with the above beastie (to be fair, she is shiny now, with a shed out coat and ample, ladylike waistline), wondering a little bit what was wrong with me.  Normally I anticipate that mares at the farm will be a little difficult if brought in by themselves.  They get really used to being with the herd and typically are more anxious about separation than the boys. But filly was fine.  She was not entirely sure what my deal was, but she was fine.

She didn’t want to stand still for brushing and tacking – mostly because she seemed eager to see everything.  Surely there were interesting things everywhere, right? Once tacked up I gave her a more serious looking-over.  Sure, her head is a bit lumpy, but she has a lovely, kind eye.  Her conformation is actually quite good – she has a nice shoulder, broad chest for her size, nice legs, and a truly excellent (IMNSHO) rear end.  Her hip and SI joint line up very nicely, and she has a good amount of topline muscle for a horse who has been out in a field most of the year.  Her neck is a bit scrawny, but a little riding and mane pulling and she should look much spiffier.

I brought her over to the ring and led her around a little bit, testing to see what she thought of the word “whoa” and seeing that she gave nicely to the bit just from the ground.  All systems were go, so I brought her to the mounting block (which, after trying to eat, she decided was no big deal at all).  Here’s where a year of no riding really catches up with you – my mounting skills, honed over years and years of dedication to the sport, have apparently left me completely, as I managed to kick her in the butt instead of swinging my leg over.  Nice.

Fortunately she didn’t care, and just stood there waiting for me to settle in.  Good girl!

She proceeded to take me for a VERY nice ride.  Within minutes, I had discovered she was lovely under saddle.  On smaller horses, I typically feel uncomfortable due to shorter strides – I feel like I am posting too fast to keep up, or I have trouble asking the horse to go forward because it just feels too fast to me.  I like a long, slower stride normally, so the smaller horses can be a challenge for me.  Not this one.  She may not be huge, but she rides like a big horse – she is comfortable and takes up the leg, and her stride is long and comfortable.  She is not a “kick along” type of horse, but seems to have cruise control – you set it and just go along for the ride, pretty much.  Never once did she rush, and even though the circles and things I asked for were probably new to her and she got unbalanced, she never leaned, popped a shoulder, or got quick.  She is wonderfully flexible for a horse straight out of the field and I really didn’t feel like I was riding a fresh OTTB at al.  She was easy in both directions and seems to have a certain sense for self carriage (I wasn’t trying at anything fancy, really – my riding is way too rusty right now!).   I know I always get excited about them but it took me a while to wipe the smile off my face.

Of course, when you only ride once every six months, maybe it doesn’t take much to bring that smile out.

Or, I’m right, and this little girl is going to be AH-MAY-ZING. 

She is smart, she is sensitive, but she is also forgiving and tolerant.  She is much more athletic than I initially expected, and I think will be an absolute blast to jump eventually.  My prediction? Awesomest horse ever.  Mark my words.  🙂


(OK, I give up. It keeps pasting in there sideways. Just turn your head. ;))

Time Flies! ROLEX 2012!!!!!


I have woken from my seeming hibernation to at least write a bit about Rolex 2012 since I am not actually there.  For starters, once again, CANTER Mid Atlantic will be presenting an award for top ex-racehorse in the competition.  This year we have OODLES of TBs in the mix – horses that raced and failed, horses who raced and did great with six figure earnings, and some that were bred to race but never did.

For the whole list, see this here blog entry by Allie over at the Chronicle site.

Most of the horses on that list are horses we’ve profiled here over the last several years, with a couple new names 🙂

One of the interesting things this year is that the focus on ex-racehorses and their accomplishments is crazy this time around.  Multiple groups and sites are watching and blogging about them, including the Retired Racehorse Training Project, headed up by MD horseman Steuart Pittman. There are also numerous OTTB events happening AT Rolex, headed up by the folks at New Vocations (check out “Thoroughbreds for All!” on their site). It’s like a renaissance, ex racehorses are EVERYWHERE THESE DAYS!  I’m going to be blunt – I think this is awesome, and the focus is well deserved!  But I’m sort of scratching my head too – we’ve been saying this stuff for years, and doing training blogs, pointing out the OTTBs in competition, researching our butts off to find what horses are representing us in high level competition, etc. So have various other groups dedicated to the cause.  But for some reason it’s only now REALLY getting huge.  I guess good things take time?  But certainly people can’t still be surprised by how awesome these horses are, right?

Apparently so. haha!

Anyway, as of now, looks like our award leader is the wonderful, beautiful, fantastic Courageous Comet, who is sitting in third place after dressage.  Of course… lots of horses still to come! Stay tuned!


Hooray For New Faces

So I managed to get out to Happy Horse Acres last weekend, right after the weird October snowstorm.  After visiting my horse, who is looking ridiculous and fuzzy (YAY for winter fuzz ears! My favorite!!!!)  and happy:

Gratuitous Grey Nose Picture

I love that grey nose.  Anyway, after lots of carrots and kisses (and some currying, which was not received quite as happily as the carrots were), I gave him a face rub and went out to see how the CANTER guys were doing with all the snow on the ground.

The first horse I met up with was Brew, a relatively new mare.  I didn’t get a pic of her this weekend, but here she is from when she first arrived:

Another GORGEOUS Redhead!

Brew was a pretty typical mare in that she went through a “don’t touch me!” phase.  I went out a few times and she made it clear she wanted nothing to do with me by walking away and staying out of reach.  Being large and ungainly, my usual “I WILL TAME YOU WITH MY LOVE” approach wasn’t as much fun so I just let her be.  This past weekend?  She’s done her 180 and was just the biggest love!  Gave her all kinds of scratchins and rubbins, and spent a good fifteen minutes just loving on her, which seemed to make her really happy.  She’s a sweetheart, and I think really nice, so it will be fun to see what she can do.

Another newer arrival, Slinky, was as sweet as ever too.  She’s my new “favorite” (well, sort of… of the girls, anyway!) and pretty impossible not to love.  When I saw her the first time I was pretty blinded and came away feeling like I’d just met one of the prettiest horses ever on the planet.  She is very special 🙂  I didn’t get new pics of her either but here’s a goofy pic of her face:

Not the best pic of the prettiest mare ever 🙂

 She is doing very, very well – fat as a tick and with a lovely, very dark winter coat coming in.  She had some time off from the track before coming to us so is having no trouble adjusting.  Can’t wait for some room to open up in NC for more mares, she’s going to be REALLY cool!

Also in the mare field was goofy, pretty Rainbow.  She’s a very nice, solid mare, big and beefy, nice conformation (who wants a Kris S?  I know lots of people like those!).  She was busy playing Disney Princess this weekend, I don’t know if you can see it in the pics, but these small groups of little grey birds were flocking to her and perching on her back and neck. 

Rainbow and her Feathered Friends

From there, I stopped to visit one of our big-blazed geldings, who is definitely one of the cuter horses I’ve ever hung out with.  In addition to the big white face, he’s got some other neat markings, like one leg that is roan from the knee down.  Not a sock, just white hairs mixed in.  It’s kind of odd looking, yet definitely adorable!  This boy was wondering what the heck happened to all the grass 🙂

Did YOU cover up all the grass?

After some serious canoodling time with blazeface mcgee, I met a horse who is sure to become a volunteer and fan favorite.  He’s just… one of those.  Remember Mikey?  (who doesn’t!)  This guy is another Mikey.  Except he’s read.  It’s sort of like Donnie Brasco, where there was Sonny Black and Sonny Red… The original Mikey was the brown one, but this is the red one.  Based solely on personality, I’m calling him Mikey Red until someone comes up with something better.

I spy… a cute red horse that looks like it has to be one of ours.  This, by the way, is the farthest I would get from Mikey Red until I escaped the field.

He has spied me! Should have run!

I didn’t run.  Instead, I stood there cooing, “oh you look like a fun new CANTER horse! You’re so CUUUUUTE!!!”  Which then led to a lot of this:

Helloooo, let me lick and nibble you!

And some of this:

mmmm phone! I love phone! Let me eat it!

And as I tried desperately to back up enough for a full face shot, a little more of this:

Well, it's a cute forehead anyway

This horse, apparently, was born for attention.  He hugs, he plays, he loves scratchins, and  without even a single treat involved he followed me all the way to the gate of the field (which was a heck of a hike, and none of the other horses came), and then stood there like he was insulted I wasn’t taking him somewhere.

This horse is going to be RIDICULOUS.  I love him.  I’m kind of glad he’s not in the same field as Truckee, that would be way too much!

In other news, we have another new arrival – this handsome little guy is a four year old who last raced only a week before, so he’s still looking a bit tucked up, and is a little confused by his new routine.  He also followed me all around, more out of, “hey! A person! I know what to do with those!” and because the other horses were being a little mean.  He’s a true sweetheart and a good snuggler too!

Awww, sweet new boy

That’s about it from the funny farm.  I won’t be out there again for many a week, as there is all sorts of crazy stuff going on the next few weekends.  Hopefully will have some more happy stories of alums from the track listings, and various other stuff!  🙂


Oogy, Yet Fascinating

I’ve seen commentary about this video posted on a few online horse forums, but this is the first link I’ve actually been able to get to work.  Before I post it, a disclaimer:  this is a kind of oogy video. There is blood, and guts, and a deceased racehorse involved. 

However… it is pretty darned fascinating and gives some great insight on how a racehorse “works” – and if you’re into veterinary nerding like me, you will be really into it (I was only sorry they didn’t get into the mechanics of the hind end so much, seeing as that’s the “engine” of the horse!).

One of the things they focus on are how the front legs absorb pressure, paying close attention to the soft tissue of the lower leg.  They also show what happens if there is a “ding” against those tendons while they are bearing the weight of a full gallop.  Another major component of this video is breathing and the equine airway – this part was fascinating to me, mostly because I never fully understood the mechanics of a horse who “flips his palate” until they demonstrated it (along with showing dynamic footage of a horse’s windpipe at a full gallop) with the actual body parts involved. 

If you are sensitive to blood, ooginess, or the idea of a necropsy/dissection, I will advise you not to click this.  But I had to post it here since some of the things it touches on are things we deal with on a regular basis – things like breathing problems, for example.  Plus it’s just plain fascinating.  The horse’s lungs, for example, are a masterpiece.  Just amazing!

Inside Nature’s Giants: Racehorse

My Favorite Girl – Being Amazing!

So the other day I was all frazzled and bummed out over inconsequential things when I got the awesomest email from Allie ever.  Pictures of my most favoritest redheaded filly of all time in her new home with her new owner Andrea.  I hope Andrea doesn’t mind me quoting her email here, but it must be done, because Cadence is the most WONDERFUL mare in the whole entire world, and everyone must know it!  Part of me wants to thump my chest and say “SEE?!?!? All you people who passed were crazy!” but then, if they hadn’t passed, this awesome, fantastic match wouldn’t have happened, and wouldn’t that be a shame?  Cadi is doing fantastically, and obviously is with the perfect person for her, which makes me smile so hard my face hurts.  So, here’s the brief yet fantastic update on the best mare ever to be foaled:

“Here are a few pics of Cadi. I took her to a local farm this weekend to tryout their xc course. Cadi was a ROCK STAR! I don’t mean to brag but she did better then the old veterans who are the been there done that type of horses. She jumped everything and she never once thought about refusing or hesitating at any of the fences, very brave for her experience level. We did have one racehorse flashback moment but it was cute and made it interesting… well just say she finally woke up a little and her competitive nature came out when the other OTTB was out in front of us galloping hehe silly mare.

Take care and thanks again for such a fabulous mare, I just cant say enough good things about her.”

And of course, what everybody loves… pictures!!!

tritty trot!

And even MORE happy!

OK, so I go for MONTHS without saying a thing, then post twice in two days.  My apologies!

But I was reading COTH today (again, I’m such an addict) and stumbled on another pretty happy ending for a track listed horse, though I don’t have a write up from her owner this time thought I would post something, since what I *DO* have is the mare’s original, and pretty awful, track photo.

A lot of people would overlook a gorgeous mare like this because frankly, it’s sort of hard to see anything in the photo (funny angle, backlit so you can’t see detail, horse in a sorta funny position).  A more practiced eye, though, pauses, and checks where all the important parts are.  And then that person might, say, check the horse’s breeding for names they like.  And then they might take a chance.

Would you?

Isabella G

Isabella G at the track

I might have, but it’s hard to say.  It’s hard to immediately see the nice, smooth, strong coupling and loin, nicely aligned hip, and well build shoulder on this lovely mare, as everything is either glarey or in shadow.  Again, our volunteers work really hard, but track pictures can be hard to get!  You have five or six minutes, not a single square foot of actual level ground (appearances are deceiving – but all the pavement on the backside is sloped for drainage), handlers that may or may not understand direction or how to stand up a horse, and then all the distractions of the track (which may mean the only way to get a horse standing still is to point her in a downhill direction so her butt is to the track, or something).

Anyway, I’ll stop blathering.  This pretty lady actually sold surprisingly quickly, late in the summer of 2010.  Her owner, in the DC area, is showing her in the hunters now, and posted this video today on the COTH message boards.  Hope she doesn’t mind me posting it here!

(link: for those who can’t see the embedded one)

Looks like this mare is turning out to be quite nice! 

Coming tomorrow… yet ANOTHER bit of awesomeness, this time about our own dear Cadence, and how she is doing in her new home.

I’m BACK! And a Happy Story

So I was happily posting away on COTH the other day when someone was all, “dude. Need. Blog. Updates.”  And I was like, “blog? what blog? Oh… THAT blog… oops!”

Needless to say things have been a bit busy lately.  I’ve moved, my girth has expanded to an uncomfortable level, and I can’t walk like a normal person anymore.  My horse is living the life out at the layup farm with the CANTER horses, scarfing as much grass as he can through his devilish grazing muzzle.  I’ve had a trip home, a ridiculous number of doctor visits, and am really, really, missing riding.  Especially the first rides on goofy TBs, which are my favorite rides of all.

Seeing as I haven’t been doing a lot directly with the horses, it’s sort of hard to update the blog.  I will have some new horse pics and intros coming up, the recap of our annual visit to Maryland Million, and also my other favorite, success stories 🙂  First up is a nice Happy Ending Story about a horse purchased from our trainer listings.  Unbridled Gold went through a couple sets of hands before landing with his current owner, but she had first seen and noticed him on CANTER’s site, before finding him (and liking him) in real life. 

Unbridled Gold

The Track Picture

Here, in Jan’s own words, is the story of “Moose” and some pictures:

I found Unbridled Gold (aka Moose) first through CANTER Mid-Atlantic, when I was playing around with the idea of an OTTB. At the time, I just bookmarked his page, thinking he was cute and I liked his eye. A few weeks went by and I disregarded him since I’d seen some I thought would be a better fit.

Then, in May, I found a cute little OTTB, at that time called Mufasa, through an agent, who was selling him for a girl who’d found him but didn’t need him for anything, she just thought he was worth helping out. When I saw his registered name on his sale contract, I realized he was the same horse I’d seen on CANTER! Funny how things work out, isn’t it?

An early attempt at this jumping thing

When I purchased him, he was not very trusting and was scared to have anyone near his backend. He didn’t like to be caught, in the field or in a stall, and generally tried to avoid people. Fly spray and grooming scared him (which was kinda funny, because NOTHING else did… ambulances, dogs, car horns, firecrackers, nothing!), and he wouldn’t let anyone near his right side. I gave him a little down time, about a week, and during that time we worked on ground manners, longed a little, and just started getting him to trust again. In that short amount of time he went from a scaredy cat to a total lovebug!

Undersaddle he was extraordinarily willing right off the bat, which was one of the main reasons I purchased him. He doesn’t ride “crooked” for the most part like a lot of OTTBs do, and was very good about picking up the correct lead on the flat and over fences. He’s a careful, but brave and scopey, jumper and almost always finds his own distances and adjusts himself. We did (and still do) have to work on his speed, since he will occasionally get a little quick, but he doesn’t try to bolt off or race other horses if we’re in a group.

Before I purchased Moose, I was a skeptic about Thoroughbreds, and more-so about my ability to handle one. I’d heard countless horror stories about the breed, and being young, I’d been written off by several people as “crazy” and “rushing into it,” when I said what I was getting into. I can say now, though, that the great George Morris was certainly right when he said, “The best of any breed is the Thoroughbred horse, and the best of that breed is better than any other breed.”

The immense heart and willingness Moose possesses is astounding, and the bond I have with him is like nothing else. He has more love and try than any other horse I’ve ever ridden, and I count myself lucky–blessed, really–to have him.

When I purchased him, I thought the name Unbridled Gold was kind of silly–I mean, he’s bay, not anything close to gold!–but, from where I stand now looking back, I think it was almost a foretelling of what he is now. He truly is gold, and I absolutely love every minute with him.

Moose Now, showing that height shouldn’t be a problem!

Jan reports that Moose is (obviously) a fantastic jumper with lots of potential to go over some pretty large obstacles.  And, as of when we chatted last week, Moose is 2nd in the country in the New Event Horse standings despite only one show.