Tag Archives: horse

It’s a Little Chilly

But since when has the weather stopped any of us from enjoying some good times with ponies?

Saturday began with a nice morning breakfast with Allie, at the lovely Tom and Ray’s restaurant in Damascus.  Highly recommended for pancake aficionados as well as those who love a grilled cheese & tomato sandwich.  [/random plug]

Later that afternoon we travelled up to Westminster, MD, to do some listings for a large Thoroughbred farm that is looking to downsize.  After my many visits to the racetrack and the small surrounding farms, it felt like I was visiting a palace.  Acres upon acres of rolling green pasture, beautiful bank barns, and a pond with black swans in it, it was like something out of a movie.  We listed six horses there- two yearlings, two two year olds, and a couple of broodmares.  It’s often hard to sell the broodies, they’re generally offered when they’re older, and haven’t had any riding time since they raced eons ago.  But on the other hand, if I had the money for a second horse (despite me wanting ALL the horses all the time) I’d be thinking about bringing this fine lady home:

I'm sooooo pretty!

I

 I dunno.  She just seems sweet and sturdy, and looks like she wants to snuggle just a little.

After terrorizing the lovely black swans in the attempt to get some pictures, we called it a day and went home.

Sunday was another Funny Farm visit, where thanks to the presence of multiple volunteers, we got to check on almost everybody at the farm.

Klondike is still fat.  Rosey is dying for love and attention but otherwise happy and gaining weight.  Whisper is still a Barbie horse, but he looks like he’s been getting into some tiffs with someone out in the field.  Call Sister (who is not available yet or on the webpage) is settling down finally- she likes to act jumpy and spooky, but is finally coming to realize that spray bottles will NOT kill her after all.  Truckee is a bit of a pest, and needs a job (his big moment of the day: driving Klondike away with a flurry of heels and teeth, so HE could get more attention). 

Mikey thinks he’s a dog, and even AFTER we put him back out in the field post-grooming session, he insisted on following us all the way across said field and then back to the gate.  Kasper is, like Sister, calming down a little bit and learning about standing for grooming and attention, rather than pretending to spook at everything. Gutenburg (also not on the website yet) is doing well, but as he came off the track relatively recently he looks a little thin. We think he’s recovering from the various substances in his system- nothing nefarious, but supplements, bute, maybe some steroids.  But on the plus side, his skin and coat look good, and he seems to be in gain mode.  We also spent some time with a new guy we’ll call Parker, who is super sweet but had to learn about standing still tied.  I think he normally would stand still, actually, but there were three other horses in the immediate vicinity and he kept trying to snuggle with them.  Got some pictures of him, too, so hopefully he will be up on the website shortly.  In the meantime, feel free to browse. 🙂 

After our visit there, it was back to Damascus to take Afton for a nice mosey.  He got new shoes on Friday, and already seems to be moving much better.  He came off the track with his heels “crushed forward” (probably the best description, though maybe not the technical term for it).  With this trim and new shoes, he looks to be walking MUCH better and is not “stabbing” the ground so much.  His trot feels much smoother and at the canter he seems quite happy to stretch forward and really throw his legs out in front of him. 

This was only Afton’s third trail ride, and I think, total, his sixth or seventh ride EVER.  And it figures that in a group of three, the horse with the least amount of training would be the quietest and most reliable.  The teenaged trail-master?  Feeling a bit full of himself.  The other 4 year old had much more training and trail time than Afton, but was also feeling a little twitchy and goofy.  Afton took turns leading the two goofuses when it was time to stretch out and go.  He also showed he has a great sense of direction- you can tell he knows when he is close to home, or pointed towards home- he starts moving out just a little bit when he thinks he’s headed back.  He’s better than a compass.

We did some trotting and cantering (even approached an almost gallop at one point) and he is just a joy to ride out.  After a few little runs, he starts to anticipate a tiny bit, so if you lean forward to pat him, he’ll start to trot.  But all in all, he’s quite easy and super fun.  Also on this trail ride, we did a little jumping.  We are fortunate to have a small trail set on a slight slope uphill, that has several logs and small jumps set at related distances.  It’s a great confidence builder, and there’s nothing big enough to really intimidate anybody.  Afton jumped or trotted all of them, with absolutely zero hesitation. 

The impressive part (to me) is that the trail used to be set so that the woods on either side sort of “funnelled” you through the jumps- it made it so riders didn’t have to do much but sit there, and the horse had few options except going over.  Sometime recently this trail was cleared out a whole lot- all the brush is gone, so there’s no “wall” and you actually have to steer over the jumps.  I can see this presenting a problem when you’re as monkeyish a rider as me, but Afton was perfectly honest through the whole thing.  Not only that, but he LED the way through, with the most experienced horse taking up the REAR of the group.  Good pony!

Later on, I realized that Afton had not, in fact, ever seen a water crossing before.  He’d been so great about everything that it just didn’t even cross my mind that he might be worried about anything.  So I was a bit taken by surprise (oops) when we got to one crossing and he balked.  To be fair to him, it was sort of a scary looking one, with a lot of leaves floating in the water, a bit of gravel in the middle, then more water and a steep bank up.  We had one of the other horses go in front of him, and he put his head down and very tentatively started stepping forward.  Because a lot of horses take a big flying leap their first few times across streams, I had a full handful of mane and was preparing for the worst.  But Mr. Afton just stepped across VERY carefully, and came up the bank perfectly.  He did essentially the same at the next crossing- head way down, checking things out, but only very gingerly tiptoeing across.  He’s definitely a thinker, and I’m still sort of amazed he didn’t do any huge deer jumps over it or anything.

On the way home, we hopped over some stuff in the driveway again, quitting on a great note over the end log (we had to do it twice- the first time he sort of stumbled over it, so we had to go back and actually JUMP).  Next up for Afton? Boring, boring ringwork.  He’s a super horse but needs to learn a little nuance. 🙂  And, um, at some point we’ll get some photos/video of all this.  It’s a little harder in the winter 😦

She’s baaaa-aack!

If anyone’s wondering why I haven’t written in what seems like years, it’s because Rosey was out on trial.  But… the lovely little bay wonder is BACK, which has me quite excited.  She’s going to go live on the Funny Farm for a while, so I won’t be able to ride her as often as I had been doing, but that’s alright, we’re headed into fall and winter, and there are other horses who need some basic boot camp.

When I got to the barn yesterday she was quite unhappy at being alone.  After a few minutes of coddling from me, she decided that wasn’t quite good enough, and let out a scream that any Hollywood Damsel in Distress would envy.  While horses on the farm are used to hearing others scream, they all took notice of Rosey, and immediately four of the geldings from the neighboring field came galloping up the fence to vie for her attention. 

I spent a bit longer than I meant to watching her and laughing, as I was supposed to be meeting people out at the Funny Farm to visit the horses out there. 

So I got on my way, and once out at the other farm, had an excellent morning of cleaning and primping and pampering some ponies.  Once done with Big Daug, Whisper, and Klondike the Fat, I climbed on little Afton again, so we could get some pictures. 

He really couldn’t be better.  He didn’t stand at the mounting block quite as well as last time, but he only moved off when I was mounting- as long as I was just standing on the ground or the block itself, he was perfectly content to stand like a gentleman.  I know I make a big deal about this, but this is something most of these guys just don’t get at first.  At the track, jockeys are thrown up into the saddle while the horse is walking.  And for many of them, they don’t really like the mounting block because it makes you so much taller than them- the only time they’ve experienced that is when people are actually ON their backs, and they’re moving forward.  So to have a little three year old with track training stand so well (even if not perfect) is pretty impressive to me, and I gush just a little.

such a good booooie!

such a good booooie!

Then we practiced the basics- stop, turn, and go.  Today we even managed a canter, which he seemed unsure about at first, but as soon as he realized that I did indeed want a canter, he picked it up pretty quickly.  He seems automatic about his leads- I don’t ever really ask for them the first few times, especially on such a baby, but tracking right, he actually started to pick up the wrong lead, caught himself and reorganized, then went off on the right one.  Someday, someone more talented than I will have a very easy time teaching this guy lead changes.  The canter is super easy to ride, too- Rosey’s always feels a little quick to me the first few strides- this guy has a big enough step and is comfortable enough that it feels very balanced, even downhill and the first few strides. 
Yay Afton!
Yay Afton!

He does jaw at the bit a little- I was trying to stay as soft as possible and mostly rode on a loose rein.  Honest, I did 🙂

In addition to being really good in general, he also learned to trot ground poles under saddle.  All while the farm owner was moving loud and scary equipment around 🙂  It never ceases to amaze me how good most of these guys are, as long as you expect them to be. 
Now, hopefully I’ll be able to take Roseyness for a few spins this week, and actually update her blog with stuff actually about her.
🙂

I Finally Have to Ask…

Why is Rosey still here?

I don’t understand.  OK, well I do understand that the folks who tried her out really liked her, but it just wasn’t quite right for them.  But when I look at her, I see a seriously fancy little horse.  She has a good stride and pretty movement despite toeing out on the right front.  She has a great jump now that she’s learning how.  She’s got the best brain and disposition of any mare that I’ve ever ridden, and I’ve ridden some nice mares.  She may be one of the very best horses I’ve ever ridden, period. 

After the first week with her passed, I was sort of amazed that she was still here, and now that it’s been a bit longer, I’m getting sort of mystified.  People, really, she’s FABULOUS!

In other news, there has not been much riding this week- I have made another trip out to the “funny farm” and introduced a potential new volunteer to the horses out there. We did some soundness checks on a few of the horses to see who would be “next” into the retraining part of the program.  Bid is looking ok, but a little off on a foot he had a huge abscess in a little while back.  Whisper, surprisingly, looked pretty good behind (he had a condylar fracture in a hind leg), and was happy to move around and go.  A few months ago he was hesitant about walking very far.  He seems to be getting a more confident personality, too, with his increased soundness.  Hopefully he will be ready for some light trail riding soon (I expect he will be thrilled with that, he seems like a very eager to please kind of horse).

Rosey is getting some pampering this weekend- Saturday she will be receiving a massage, and Sunday she will be getting a new set of shoes.

Funny Farm Update

Because yesterday was the rainiest day in recent memory, I sort of uncharacteristically took the day off.  Didn’t even SEE a horse yesterday, just slept in, ate a huge pancake breakfast, and didn’t do ANYTHING.  Which leaves me feeling sort of like I have to make that up the next day, so today I may have OD’ed on horses, if that’s at all possible.

First I went out to the layup farm to visit the horses there.  I bought them some new brushes, flyspray, wound care goo, and a box of treats.  I also had a mission- with so many horses on the farm, it’s time to get them photographed and listed on the website, so I had a list of horses to take pictures of.  This turned out to be harder than I anticipated, partly because I’m not sure who’s who out there, and partly… well, anyone who has tried to take a “nice” picture of a horse without help surely understands. 

There was lots of “no! whoa! stand!” moments, and lots of photos where a suddenly turned head created a horse that looked like a moose, or a stomped foot ruined a perfectly good picture.  And on the grooming front, I learned who would stand for flyspray and who would try to drag me across a thirty foot field.  I had big dreams of hopping on Wek for a little spin, to see how she’d do, but apparently her quiet demeanor the last time I saw her was largely because she had company.  On her own, outside the field, she got a little snorty and spooky, so I decided to wait until there is at least someone there with me.  But all in all, it was quite productive, I got flyspray on most of the horses, and SWAT on wounds and flybites.  And really, they’re quite fun to spend time with. 

"Whisper"- one of my favorites out at the farm.  Such a sweet boy!

That’s “Whisper”- a gorgeous boy whose track career ended when he fractured a hind leg.  He was nursed back to health and cared for by a track worker who was very attached to him, but he unfortunately had to send him back recently.  Whisper is the kind of horse who just loves some quiet attention, and is also fond of popcorn.

The boys hit the swimming hole

The boys hit the swimming hole

No, I will not put my ears up for you

No, I will not put my ears up for you

Silly horses.  After leaving I went and rode Rosey, who is getting better and better each time I get on her.  She’s getting much more consistent, able to hold herself for longer periods of time.  She’s turning into one of the nicest horses I’ve ever ridden.  And, Um, yes, I need to pick up my hands a little.  I worked on that today, promise!
Fancy Lady

Fancy Lady

Getting Fancy

And we have videographic evidence! But first (read: youtube is taking forever), I thought I would introduce Cecil:

Cecil Loves You

Cecil Loves You

Cecil is a nine year old TB, whose last race occurred a day or two  before he arrived.  He had re-injured an old bow to the left front and needed several months of stall rest.  Because our resources are limited, our horses generally live on field board until they are in training.  But this guy happened to be one of those lucky horses owned by good people, who also provided the funding for the two months of stall rest that Cecil would need.  Right now his injured leg is kept bandaged, and his movement is being limited.  Everyone who meets him seems shocked that he’s so… mellow about the whole thing.  This is a horse who was in training, racing actively, suddenly put on stall rest and moved to a strange environment with a different routine.  Given those circumstances, it does seem surprising that he has not blown a gasket.  But he’s probably one of the most content horses in the barn (helped, no doubt, by the spoiling he’s getting from other boarders, who sneak him fresh picked grass through his window.

OK, well… all that typing and youtube is still busy.  So we will have to do with a still photo instead. 
whee!

whee!

 Probably not the best photo, but we can’t have everything.  Somehow, I’m way in front of my saddle even though it felt like I wasn’t.  I mean, I felt like I waited and my leg didn’t move, but the photo doesn’t bear that out at all.  I hate watching myself ride sometimes.  My college riding coach would be beating me right now, if she were within arm’s reach.  In any case, we did the crossrail a few times in each direction.  Her first time over was a little awkward, but she figured it out the next few times. 

Oh Goody! Videos are done.

I call this one “The Hunchback of Notre Dame Goes Riding

Hopping X-Rail to the left:

Magical Mare:

‘Til next time!

Rosey Untangles Her Legs

Last night we had a fabulous ride.

Liza has been doing some great things for this horse, I think.  I found, last night, that Rosey has gone beyond the “stretching to the bit” phase and arrived at the “learning to go round” phase.  When I was good with my contact, she actually lengthened stride and arched her neck into the bit.  I remember when Klondike got to that phase, and how fancy he looked, so I can only imagine Rose looks SUPER-fancy in comparison to her first few rides. 

Her canter transitions are getting better and better.  Of course, especially travelling to the right, I have got to remember that the outside rein is more important.  Otherwise on a circle she starts to drift out and pop her shoulder. 

Probably the biggest success of the night was related to jumping.  She’s jumped before, as I’ve talked about here, but she seemed to have some confusion about jumps of a certain height, or trotting jumps.  Trotting to a jump, her way of dealing with it was to stop, then step over, then resume trotting on the other side.  It just seemed like a lot for her to coordinate, and she didn’t quite “get” the idea. 

A session of free jumping, and a couple Liza-rides later, and the lightbulb has turned on.  We trotted up to a crossrail last night, and the first time was a little shaky.  She gave sort of a half-hop over it, landing cantering in front and trotting behind.  Remembering what Liza had told me about horses like her- to always, always GO away from the jump- I kicked her up into a real canter and cantered the turn.  On landing, it was like she was asking a question… “is…. this what you want?” and I hope I answered with an enthusiastic and positive, “yes, but more!”

I think I did OK, because on the next approach, she focused on the jump, increased her energy on the way to it (but not her speed- yay! I love that feeling!), and actually jumped it, landing in the canter with all four legs.  We repeated that a few times, and then she got loads of pats and hugs and kisses for being so excellent. 

The word from observers is that she jumps very cute- knees up, straight, adorable.  Hopefully we will have some new photos soon!

The Rest of the Story

It’s Here!  The complete Washington Post article is out! 

I haven’t ridden much this week, besides the Monday Mosey.  Last night, I concentrated on giving some attention to “Cecil,” a new guy who came in with a bowed tendon.  Owned by some awesome people, they also sent along enough money to cover the two months of stall rest he’d need before getting turn out. 

Also upcoming, I’m determined to get “Wek” the credit she deserves.  She’s been on our website for what seems like forever- a big knee and some weakness behind seems to be creating a certain lack of interest.  But when I went to see her the other day, I realized she’s grown.  And she’s not just big (read: needs a diet) but she’s pretty fabulous and quiet.  So if I can figure out how to cram more into my days, you will soon be getting Wek reports as well as Rosey-rundowns.

And, well, since there’s not much more to say today, I’ll close with the best description of Rose ever:

“Rosey, a thoroughbred, canters through a left-hand turn like, well, a thoroughbred: head high, eyes proud, locomotive haunches driving ballerina legs.”

Yep… that’s our girl 🙂  Thanks WaPo!

updated to add:  now you get our super-duper-extra-sized thanks, WaPo, for putting the CANTER story on the FRONT page of your website!  We’re in front of the election coverage!

Quiet Ride

Last night we had a lovely ride in the indoor.  I didn’t want to do too much, seeing as she’s gotten worked the last few days for the Washington Post people, and both this afternoon and Friday afternoon there are people coming to look at her.  So Rosey has been working hard this week. 

I got to the barn in a little bit of a funk, which happens occasionally for no good reason I can think of.  This time I’m blaming it on the lack of rain in Maryland- everything’s all dry and dusty and the ground is like cement, and I tend to get a little tired/crabby feeling when things are like this.  Whatever the cause, the cure usually involves something with four legs and big, pretty eyes.  Rosey delivered yesterday!

Within minutes of hitting the saddle everything just felt better.  Miss mare gets more comfortable to ride every day- she’s happily figuring out the difference between trotting quicker and trotting more forward. I know to the non-riders that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s the difference between taking lots of fast little steps, and taking long, powerful strides.  Now that she’s learning that, she’s much more comfortable for me to ride, as I have trouble finding my balance on horses that “feel” little and/or quick.  She’s going more and more like a big horse, so it’s easier and easier for me to maintain some semblance of decent equitation.

Her canter is maturing as well as her trot- to the left, it’s almost as comfortable as Klondike’s, which is a pretty big deal.  To the right, it’s not quite as well balanced, but has still improved a ton.  I concentrated a little more on this direction than usual as a result of watching Liza lunge her the other day- under saddle, the weakness isn’t quite as apparent as it is from the ground. 

All in all, a wonderful, relaxing ride.  She’s getting really good at stretching down and out, sometimes looking like she actually had a long neck when I checked her out in the mirrors.  A couple times, she even got a little beyond that to actually giving to the bit more than usual. 

Afterwards we went for a walk down the driveway and back, and I am very pleased to report that even without company and after being “done” with work, she did not offer a single complaint or hop’n’spin. 

This week has been a whirlwind of activity for her, and it’s barely half over!  She will have earned a nice rest come Saturday…

And, as a side note, her blog has received over 3,000 hits as of yesterday 🙂  Thanks for reading!

Jumping Lessons

After the silliness of yesterday, it was decided that maybe Rosey needed to figure out this jumping thing on her own. Especially from the trot.  So it was too the ring we went, all decked out in cute jumping boots, to try some free jumping. 

One of the early attempts:

I’m feeling a little more like it maybe wasn’t just my monkey riding yesterday, and more like it might also have something to do with her coordination and experience level. Further attempts got a little better:

and finally, she does a little better (though, admittedly from the canter)

Right after I put the camera down she did a very nice trot jump and went through the in and out, as a bounce.  Seems she got her confidence level up a little bit, anyway, which is the whole goal.  A few more rounds of this and I’m thinking we’ll be in much better shape.

Coming up for Rosey- another possible field trip to a public event… stay tuned!

Monkey-Proof Your Horse in Five Simple Steps

1- Turn and face obstacle

2- Set off at a nice trot

3- Drop your eyes and LOOK AT THE JUMP!!!!

4- Jump way ahead of the horse

5- Collapse in fits of giggles when horse has no clue what to do and stops.

Yep, that was our ride yesterday. 

To her credit, it started out very well.  We warmed up in the big jumping ring, and here is where I think Rosey really shines.  Back when Klondike was with us, he went very well in enclosed, defined spaces.  But when you brought him into the big ring, he wiggled around a lot and just seemed lost.  He would drift like crazy, and look at things more (not in a bad way, it was just like he didn’t know what to do with all that space).  Rose treats the big, fenceless ring exactly the same way she treats the small one.  Could not care less (except that there are new horses to look at turned out nearby).  She may get a little quicker as there’s more space to gather steam, but all in all, the different venue? Not a problem.

After playing for a few minutes there, we went on a little mosey again (not the original plan, but it’s hard to say no when you’ve had a bad day).  This time we tried going to the jumping trail.  It’s a fabulous, very short section of trail that has about 8 jumps in a row.  The first is a log, where you can choose-your-own-height as it is much smaller on the right than the left.  The next few are some very tiny logs and piles-of-sticks, and then there are several slightly larger obstacles, all set about 2-4 strides apart.

Rosey brought up the rear going up the hill to the jumps, and though she sort of stumbled her way across the first, she landed cantering and then cantered out over the others.  All but one were pretty perfect, and I’m really impressed with the way she jumps (when she jumps, that is… more on that in a bit).  I’m not the most “feeling” rider when it comes to jumping- things tend to come up quick and by the time my mind registers that we are taking off, I’m usually in the process of landing.  So it’s hard for me to sort out the mechanics of the whole thing, or really describe how it’s going.  But in Rosey’s case, she has a very neat jumping style that you can feel quite well- her shoulder rises up and she really lifts in front of you quite nicely.  It’s a cool feeling, and not one that I can recall ever feeling before.  Klondike jumped very smoothly and levelly, and my own horse just launched over everything like a cannonball when he started jumping.  My memory prior to that is fuzzy, so I’ll just stop trying to compare now.

After we came out of the woods, we tried another little jump, a small stone wall with a plank over it that connects two fields together (it’s in the middle of a little stand of trees, it sort of funnels you in and is quite inviting).  From one side it’s very small- 2′ maybe. From the other it’s slightly bigger, and I think that’s the side we jumped from.  Her first time over was perfect- she broke into the canter about four strides out and lifted over it with her amazing shoulder action, and cantered off like she had been doing it her whole life.  We did it again, and it wasn’t quite so perfect, but still pretty good.

After that, we moseyed back towards the farm, and this is where Rosey got her lessons in dealing with a Monkey Rider.  The tire jump.  I happen to love the tire jump- it’s a real XC style jump but it’s… well, it’s padded, because it’s tires.  So if they bumble their way into it, or if I should fall on it, you kind of just bounce off.   We took up our position following everyone else, and it felt very much like all systems were go, when she decided… “hmm, not so much” and ran out.

We tried again. Stop.

And again. FAIL!

Several times she got one leg over, and then sort of stalled out, not sure where to go.  At one point she even managed a foot IN the tire jump, twisting her splint boot neatly around her leg so the buckles were on the inside.  Oy.   She was not scared of the jump in any way, shape or form, like many greenbeans are, she just doesn’t seem to understand organizing her legs from the trot.  She’s trying, and she’s watched other horses do it… she just… doesn’t understand.

We kind of gave up on that count, and headed back to the barn.  Went down the driveway to try her over that stuff, and had the same sort of experience at a log that’s no bigger than the stuff she jumped in the woods.  There was much confusion and getting stuck on top of the log.

Not helped by my monkey riding… if nothing else, she will get out of this experience a great patience for all kinds of craziness from people, because I sure wasn’t helping her out.  I think we need one of those robot jockey things, it would probably work better!  In any case, our next step is to do some free jumping in the ring.  If she figures it out on her own, it will probably go much easier next time (she is super smart, after all!).