Tag Archives: racing

Me = Spaz

Allie used to say to me that it was sort of weird when people began treating her as an authority on things.  “I’m just a monkey with a keyboard!” she’d say.

I’m starting to “get” that a little more.  I try, and I do my best, but really? I’m a huge spaz.  With a keyboard.  The last several weeks has gone by in a blur.  I’ve been checking paypal, trying to keep my emails organized, and trying to remember all the followups from the great auction of 2010.  My spreadsheet is color coded but too big to see everything on one screen – even the big one I have here.  Some contact info for sellers and buyers is garbled so there’s lots of mad scrambling to get all our information updated. 

Somehow, in all of this, I was called “organized,” and my immediate response (in my head) was, “what? I’m just a monkey with a keyboard!”  I guess things have come full circle?  Ha!

In between all my chaos, life goes on and things are rockin’ and rollin’ at CANTER.  Horses in NC are finding buyers pretty well, and so more from MD are going to be making the journey south later this week. 

In Damascus, Mikey has been coming along really well with his training.  Our volunteer Laura is also coming along really well, which may seem like a funny thing to say, but sometimes it’s as interesting to watch the evolution of the rider as it is to watch the improvement in a horse.  She’s been getting regular lessons with our dressage trainer Stef, and has been working exclusively with Mikey for the last several months.

Mikey, Laura, and Stef

Mikey has learned so much – and he tries his big old heart out all the time.  Unfortunately, we are facing the same sort of thing we faced with Kat.  He’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful horse, but he’s that sort of in-between horse.  He’s not quite sound enough to to be considered a show horse or do heavy training.  He’s not quite quiet enough to be a beginner or bump-along sort of horse.  He’s a comfortable, fun, sports-car of a ride, but the type of rider to appreciate and feel confident riding him is also likely to be looking for a younger, sounder beast. 

Handsome Devil

At the same time, we have a bunch of horses over on Camp Happy Hill who are ready to start work, and will ultimately be much easier to place.  So it looks like, for the time being, Moo will be headed back for a break on the hill, while we get one of those guys into boot camp.  In my heart I know this makes sense.  I know if Mikey could understand it, he’d probably agree – but there’s just something about seeing his face every morning when I go down the driveway to go to work – he’s the horse that everyone should have in their backyard.  I walked out there this morning even though I was running late, just to give him a big hug and scratch his face.  And I’m stopping there because I find myself feeling surprisingly sad.

On the flip side, the horse coming in will be Mr. Bolt, which has me a bit excited – I do really like this horse!  He seems like a nice, honest, good natured sort of guy, and he just LOVES everybody!  I can see this guy doing really well with a horse crazy girl to fuss over him! 

Happy Muddy Bolt

In other news, had a track visit this weekend.  It was pretty standard, except for the first time ever since I have been doing track visits, we got thrown out of a barn.  The contrast was pretty crazy – we went into one barn, and both the trainers there were perfectly pleasant.  One had just come down from Suffolk and knows the folks who do CANTER New England pretty well.  He was nothing but sunshine and roses and was very happy to see us active and doing our thing at Charles Town.  So it was with a nice warm fuzzy feeling we went into the next barn, where a worker directed us to the trainer who was in one of the stalls.

After introducing myself, the gentleman informed us he didn’t think much of our organization, and to get out of his barn.  Didn’t even say please!  It was one of those moments I was laughing about for hours after the fact – I’ve just never encountered it before.  We’ve had trainers who don’t want to participate, sure, but most everyone at Charles Town will stop and say hi, and even those who don’t list horses are always polite about it.   In the years I’ve been going there, I’ve been treated to Chili and cornbread, teased mercilessly, given coffee and cocoa on cold days, and gotten several marriage proposals.  People will stop and chat about all sorts of things, and it’s gotten so that I feel like people actually like us – we’re not just a service but our volunteers are becoming an expected and welcomed part of the scenery.   We have trainers on our facebook pages, and who treat our volunteers like friends outside the track.  I generally feel so welcomed there that this experience was like something out of the Twilight Zone.  Oh well, can’t win them all! 

We saw some very nice horses at the track this weekend – one nice 17 hh grey (we took one picture with me in it – man I need a diet – just to prove he really is above my head! heh). He has the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen on a horse.  I was sort of fascinated, unfortunately it didn’t come through well in pictures.

Stay tuned – he will be popping onto our Charles Town listings sometime in the next 24 hours 🙂  Along with an absolutely heart-stoppingly gorgeous chestnut filly, another sweet grey, and a macho chestnut gelding who thinks he’s Man O War 🙂

Lastly… after hearing so much about it, I stopped at Borders and picked up “Lord of Misrule” Saturday.  I’m done already.  It’s not a book for everyone, but there’s something intensely real about the feel of the book – it’s not just that the author has the language right, and the characters right – the pacing of the book just FEELS like the racetrack.  It’s not a really traditional novel, or linear storytelling.  There’s no explanations for readers who might not know what people are talking about in the book – but reading it I swear I could smell the backside in my nostrils and see the characters.  It’s worth picking up, though like I said not for everyone 🙂

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!

A Little Vacation

So, at last, Rosey-ness is back in town, but is out at the Funny Farm to get a little break from hustle and bustle.  She ate up some love from some volunteers over the weekend and seemed happy as could be even in a strange new place. 

In the meantime back at the ranch, there are two horses getting worked with in hopes of preparing them for adoption.  Darling baby Afton is one, and has already had one potential buyer come to look.  Another is the adorable Stephen Colbert, who is mostly being trail ridden to strengthen him up.  Stephen seems much more body sore than Afton and some of the other guys, so he’s getting introduced to real life very carefully. 

No worried, pictures soon!

While you wait, though, here’s a fantastic story from the Baltimore Sun:



Spa Treatment

Hmmm… when is the last time I had a massage? I don’t remember.  I don’t remember the last time I had a pedicure either, but Rosey got both this weekend. 

I find massage for horses to be a pretty useful tool- I’m not sure if it helps them over the long term, but I think it does help them feel better, and it’s also a very useful diagnostic process for riders.  You can find out about specific areas of soreness, uneven muscle development, or how muscles are building.  Having an objective person around who can track these things over time can be very instructive.  This was only Rosey’s first visit from the masseuse, but she brought up several things that will probably change how I ride her.

Probably most important is some soreness in her back just by the wither and in the area above the end of the scapula.  My immediate best guess for the cause of that is probably my saddle.  It didn’t seem to fit her too badly- just sits a little low, but that’s probably enough to cause the problem.  So I’m going to experiment with padding a little, or use another saddle on her from here on out.  In addition to that soreness, the masseuse found some more through her neck- but this, she said, was more the “good kind” of soreness, the type that comes from developing new muscle and exercising.   In her back legs, it was found that she was a little uneven in terms of her muscle tension and reaction to the massage.  Her left leg was more “tight” than her right, staying tense even through the massage.  We’re guessing that is likely due to the giant scrape she got in turnout on her right hind leg, as it had gotten a little swollen so she was probably transferring more weight to the left hind leg.  If that’s not the problem, then she’s definitely using herself unevenly, so we have to just continue to work on that.

After the massage, we had a lovely little walk with a friend, where we scared up a couple deer and otherwise had a lovely time.  Recent storms had left a lot of trees down, so in addition to the usual trail stuff, we had our first encounter with four-wheelers and dirtbikes, as some of our neighbors were out clearing the trail (thanks guy! we owe you a beer!).  One of the trees they cleared had fallen very high- so they cleared out underneath the main part of the trunk, and we had to go underneath it.   For the first time ever, I think we’ve found something that worried Miss Rosey.  She’s been under trees and branches before, but this one was pretty big and pretty low, the kind where you have to flatten yourself against the horse’s neck so you don’t hurt yourself on it, so it was right in her line of vision.  She hesitated, so Sugar led the way and Rosey followed, walking under the trunk but also trying to flatten herself down a little.  Once her head was on the other side she scooted out from underneath the tree and then shook her head a little, like, “I can’t believe we survived that!”  (she repeated this exercise the following day, but was a little braver about it)

Sunday was pedicure day.  This is probably one of the few things Rosey really does need more work on.  We think that prior to coming off the track, she very likely was just given sedatives for having her feet done, so she never really learned that it’s not a big deal.  So she’s developed a little habit of trying to force her foot down when she’s tired of holding it up (and when the farrier starts driving nails, she really doesn’t like that sensation apparently).  She was MUCH better than the last time, and stood very well for having the shoes pulled, and feet trimmed and rasped.  But when it came time for new shoes- she reverted a little.  It’s hard to explain to a horse that they are making the situation worse for themselves (they’re sort of like five year old kids that way, I guess).  Fortunately by the time we finally got to the last nail, she more or less gave in and stood there like a lady.  I will be working on this more on a day to day basis, so hopefully next time will go even more smoothly.

Cecil also got his feet done yesterday, which was a bit more of a project.  His shoes were left on for a little while as the bow in his left tendon was fresh and he had some trouble picking up the other feet for any length of time.  But they really needed to come off as soon as possible. 

Not textbook farriery.

Not textbook farriery.

This ended up being quite a project for our farrier, though Cecil behaved himself impeccably.  The toe is stretched quite far forward, heels left very long, and underneath all the dead, flaky sole, the actual sole is quite flat.  It’s not hard to see how he might have gotten his bowed tendon.  He is now without shoes, and the farrier “fixed” the feet as much as she dared.  But there’s a lot of work to be done (and to boot, some thrush treatment is necessary as well).