Spring is Springing

Finally!  Despite a weird snowstorm on Monday, I think it might be spring.  And with kiddo getting older and more self sufficient, hopefully that means more horse time for me.  Miss Lumpyhead is doing great – I recently took her on a trail ride that went way longer than I anticipated and exposed her to all kinds of things – puddles, car traffic, lawnmowers, big huge loud dogs on ziplines (that scared me more than it scared her), and various other weird little obstacles and things that required her to think.  She was a champ, though I think I overdid it a little and kept her out a little past her tolerance point. On the way back we ended up leaving the group behind because she was getting worried about being held back and was happier at a forward walk.  Lovely mare. I tried to take helmetcam video, but had the camera on the wrong setting so instead just got a load of pictures of the tips of her ears. oops.

In other news, I wanted to get back on track here and showcase some before/afters, and horses whose sale pictures were horrible yet actually are really really nice.  One of the things we run into a lot on our trainer listings are photos that just DO NOT do the horses justice.  This happens for a lot of reasons – the ground at the track is not level ANYWHERE – it is all sloped for drainage. If you are not super attentive, you may not even realize the horse is standing in a hole. 

Fantastically wonderful horse with great conformation, standing on the slant. He’s really NOT downhill! Really!

The horse handlers aren’t great at standing them up, in a lot of cases, even if you explain how you want the horse to look. They will often encourage the horse to hold its head up really high or turn and look at you.

Make sure that head’s up now! No, seriously, this horse has a pretty decent neck, I promise!

Then we have the more nuanced things like proportion, lighting, perspective, which our volunteers rarely have time to think about because we only get a few minutes each time and the horses often think they’re going out to work or do something interesting, and “standing pretty” isn’t on their list of interesting things to do.  So we take what we can get, and do our best, but the result is that a lot of our pictures come out… well, not terribly flattering to the lovely horses we see in front of us.  The sad part is the end result of this is less interest in certain horses.  People often decide whether a horse is even worth a look based on a split-second reaction to a photo – even when a good eye can see the nice conformation and build of a horse in an awkward position, that immediate gut reaction is often what makes or breaks a person’s response to that horse. 

Needless to say, we’re trying to improve. 🙂

But I thought it would be fun to find horses who had horrifically bad track listing pictures and see what they’re up to now, and how they look.

First up is a lovely horse who I admit I was a bit worried about way back when.  I got the photos and description and just thought “oh no.”  He was a bit special looking, and the photos weren’t doing him many favors.  I thought for sure he’d sit on the listings forever.

You totally want this, right?

He’s got a range of things not going for him in that picture. He has a droopy lip.  His neck is skinny.  He’s standing in a very tight, weird, sort of hunched way, and the perspective of the photo isn’t right.  While folks like me (who like big ears and plain heads) find a lot about this horse to be endearing, let’s face it, it’s not the most flattering pic in terms of finding an immediate buyer.

But something crazy happened with this horse. He actually was sold pretty fast.  I’m not sure who he sold to initially, but I found him later while wandering through the bloodline brag on the RRTP website (a way I’ve found a bunch of horses that we posted on our trainer listings now that they’re in new careers).  If you’ve bought a horse off the track, I highly recommend posting it there so we can stumble onto you later (or just email us.  But post it there too). 

After being bought off the track, his buyer, from what I understand, hopped on him once, stuck him in a field, and put him up for sale. And then he was purchased by the lovely Heidi Wardle, who is a great area event rider.  She’s since sold him, but I thought I would link to his old sale page anyway so people can see how nice he cleaned up.  He doesn’t look fundamentally different if you look closely, just much better muscles and presented beautifully.  But I’m thinking a lot more people would be interested in this horse:


(sorry to make you click the link, but I didn’t want to steal pictures. :))

For more on how Heidi found Joey, what he looked like when she got him, etc, check out her blog entry introducing him:


(I also really recommend reading along on her blog anyway. It’s a good ‘un.)


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!