Tag Archives: racehorse

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

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Being In Love

I must be fickle, because I always fall for whichever horse I happen to be working with – I loved Klondike because he was fun and responsive.  Rosie because she was simply magic, Afton because he was so confident to fences, Archie because of his sweet nature and how amazing he was to ride once I figured him out, and Mikey because… well who couldn’t resist Mikey?

So I shouldn’t be surprised when a new horse comes along and I find myself her number one fan.  I adore everything about Candace (or as I’ve taken to calling her, Miss Moneypenny – don’t ask why, my brain is just wired strangely).  Over the first week of riding her my primary goal was just to get her moving forward.  She was slow and quiet, and keeping her going was a real struggle. 

I am pleased to report, though, that we now have a “go” button.  Now that she is going more forward, it’s much easier to ride her – I can use my legs to get a better quality walk or trot, or move her over laterally, rather than constantly just trying to keep her going.  I think front shoes have helped and she is more comfortable stepping out, but she’s also gotten more confident and as a real tryer, she is happy to oblige as soon as she “gets it.” 

As she is weak behind still, I’ve been focusing mostly on really making her use herself behind, and travel straight.  She tends to carry her hind end to the left, regardless of which direction you’re going, which is a little hard for me to figure out.  I’ve learned that attempting to push her rear end over with my left leg sort of works, for a few steps, but then she just moves over more with her shoulders, so I’m having to learn to balance where my leg is and stay really consistent with the outside rein (basically asking for a right bend) to just keep her straight.

As she gets stronger that has improved a lot – thankfully our indoor here has mirrors at every end so I am able to visually keep tabs on things (and because I often feel straight/correct when I’m not, the mirrors are my #1 tool right now to make sure I’m not screwing her up).

Taking my cues from Jess, I’m also riding much more on contact and forward than I usually would at this stage.  And I’m using my neck strap. 🙂  This week she seems to be learning a little bit about stretching forward and down – though I don’t get a lot of it from her we’ve had some really great moments where I can feel her back come up as she starts to stretch, and it feels really lovely.  For a horse as petite as she is (she is not short, but she is definitely built like a baby and is quite svelte and petite bodied at the moment), she has a really big stride when she starts to engage, and it feels great.

I have cantered her a few times but because she really needs to strengthen her hind end I’m focusing a lot more on good forward trotting.  I will say, though, that her canter is to die for.  I have no idea what it looks like, but I LOVE to ride it.  She’s very fluid and smooth in her canter, with a nice natural rhythm (especially now that she is more responsive to leg) – it just feels easy and effortless.

Today was supposed to be her first trail ride, but all the rain the last few days made it quite muddy and I’d rather go out without slippery footing as an added variable.  Just from leading her through the field I’ve noted she doesn’t like mud (little princess!) though she will happily go right through puddles in the ring when you’re riding her.

She’s also picked up some weight, which makes me happy.  Some of the horses we’ve had here have been difficult to get weight on (Archie took a while, for example).  She is already broadening and filling out over the back and butt, and I think will be looking much better in another week or so.  We’ve been giving her extra feedings with added rice bran pellets and soaked alfalfa pellets, and I think that’s all she’ll need to continue rounding out.  Since the only picture I’ve posted of her so far was taken while she was still racing, I have to post one to show what she actually looked like on arrival.  They look a little different after they lose all that muscle and racehorse glow, haha!

She has the greatest attitude – nothing seems to phase her at all.  Walking up the driveway today all the boys came galloping across the field, tails and heels in the air, and she didn’t bat an eye.  All the mares are in heat (including her), but her big “acting out” is to whinny under saddle.  She’s learning to respect my space more (she can get a little gung ho about going through doorways and in/out of the barn, so I had to get after her to not get ahead of me or run me over, but she learned that pretty quick!).  She’s been ridden in all three rings here, and is easy in all of them (outside she is more distractable but quite good!).  She has earned many compliments from people on her attitude, they just cannot believe she’s three!  OK, so she’s 4 now by jockey club rules, but her birthday isn’t till March, so she’s still 3 to me!

This one is going to be a superstar – I love riding her, and she has the attitude to go far!  The stronger she gets, the prettier she moves, too. I can’t wait to post an “after” video in a few weeks because I know it will be amazing to see the difference from the earlier video!

And if all that wasn’t enough for me to love her, she sort of has a head like Rosey’s, with a “brain bump” 🙂  I love that.

Let the De-Fuzzing Begin!

I discovered something sort of cute about Archie the other day.  I pulled into the driveway and saw his pasturemate was not in the field with him.  He was buried in the haypile as usual, but as I drove by I stopped, and rolled down the window.  “Archiiiieeeee!!!  Hi ArchiiieeeeEEEE!!!”  Up came his enormous buffalo face, and he talked back to me.  He’s got this great, deep, low pitched breathy greeting neigh, and it about melted my heart with the cute.  The only other horse that ever “talked” back to me like that is Allie’s amazing horse Phinny (who is pictured on this page – he is magic, pure and simple!).

In any case, this was the weekend of the attempted de-fuzzing of Archie.  I intended to give him a bigger clip than I usually do (normally I do a rough “bib clip” sort of thing) but my clippers couldn’t handle the yak hair.  The blades are dull and his coat is amazingly thick and long – plus he is recovering from a case of skin funk, so there’s some difficult going in there.  My clippers were heating up too much and he was getting irritated, so the only thing he got clipped was his chest and the lower part of his neck up to his jaw. 

Horse? Or Yak?

Looking Slightly More Civilized

I managed to trim down a lot of the excess hair off his jaws. I didn’t want to shave his face, or accidentally take chunks of hair off, so this was a pretty delicate operation.  Overall I managed to do an OK job – I wouldn’t take him to a show tomorrow, but his face looks a lot less like a buffalo now.

After that I hopped on for his first official ride in our indoor.  He was fine to get on, stood at the mounting block like a champ, and then we wandered around for a bit.  He takes a fair amount of leg to keep going, and is much more typically “green TB” than Kat was, in terms of how he goes.  He tends to want to go in a big oval instead of going straight, then turning and bending, and going straight again.  The canter is obtainable – it’s a bit of a big push at this point, especially the left lead (to the left he wants to lean in and cut the turns much more than he does to the right.  Which could be him but is also probably a lot to do with me, too!)

The other hilarious thing he does is try to attack his reflection.  My own horse, sometimes, will snake his head and bare his teeth at other horses while we are in the ring (bad boy!) – Archie does the same thing… to himself.   Every time we went by the big mirror at a speed faster than walk, he pinned his ears at himself and went “GRRRRRR!!!!” (well, if a horse was capable of such a noise, that’s what he did).  His head would come up and he would act all ferocious.  The first few times he did it, I didn’t even realize what was happening – I thought he was just having a tantrum about bit contact, or something.  It took a while for me to catch on but by the end of the ride I couldn’t stop laughing.

I also think part of him cutting off half the ring to the left was seeing his reflection in one of the end mirrors – he could see this “other” dark bay horse coming at him, and wanted no part of a head on collision.  That took some working through, and I’m still not sure he gets it.

It’s funny, psychologist types who study brains and animals and behavior often will remark on the ability to see the reflection and understand it as a sign of intelligence.  Like, rats generally don’t understand their reflection, but chimps do.  It’s a sort of self awareness thing.  Horses are interesting because some of them seem to get it (Kat – when she saw something else in the mirror, besides her, she knew enough to turn around to see it in ‘real life’) and others don’t (Archie).  But I’m not sure it’s a sign of intelligence, because Archie seems to learn very quickly and retains things well (I can tell that in the short time he was with Jess he still has some “buttons” from her, and it’s been quite a while!). 

After the ride I tried to continue the defuzzing by doing some mane pulling, but Archie is NOT a fan.  I will probably work on this over a few weeks and see if I can get him to stand the way I got my horse to (he HATES it – but essentially I rewarded him with a treat every time he kept his feet still, until he stopped trying to move around.  He’s allowed to do whatever he wants with his head and neck, as long as the feet stay put.  It was a long process).  I will probably clean it up with scissors (gasp!!!) and a thinning comb, but will work on this as it’s something that helps his adoptability 🙂

I also took some other ‘before’ photos, for the record.  I really think as he gains muscle and sheds, he’s going to be a really pretty horse.  For now, the masses of 6″ long yak hair are sort of hiding that fact, but you watch!  He’ll look great in a month or two! 

Horse or Moose? You decide!

 

Cute Face! Minus most of the Beard!

There’s A Light In His Eye

So I was going through the photos from Leo’s photo session last night, and in between my thoughts about his conformation and such, I couldn’t help but keep noticing that he really has something special.  ‘Yeah yeah yeah, we KNOW! You keep saying that!’ says everyone and anyone I’ve talked to about this guy, but really.  I mean it.  He has some very noticeable conformational flaws, but he doesn’t appear to know it, and it seems like in every picture, his eyes just have this great spark and his expression is that of a horse who wants to do great things.

First, a series of conformation shots.  Of course, taking them by myself is hard and it was difficult to get him in the right position, but you get the idea. 

leo - 01

leo - 05

He kills me.  The face is just the cutest thing ever.  Of course, I’m biased because whenever I see him I usually get to spend about ten minutes just cuddling his head – he loves that.  In any case, in motion, as I mentioned yesterday, he’s actually pretty cute, and so proud of himself!

Look at me go!!!!

leo - 09

leo - 07

He’s so perky.  I can’t wait for his foot to be better from his abscess, because I think he wants to go for rides.  This horse is going to be so much  better than people might think… mark my words!  🙂