Tag Archives: sports

Coming Along

It seems after almost a week “off” and copious amounts of pie, I’ve totally forgotten whatever it is I was going to write about last Monday. Oops.

In any case, after a seriously demoralizing drive back from New England (which is lovely in the winter, despite the ice.  I sometimes forget how beautiful everything is up there) on Saturday, I got back to horsing around on Sunday which made me feel a little better.  First up was a ride on Afton. 

His improvement is amazing- much like Rosey, he gets  better with every single ride.  That he can continue to improve while only being ridden once or twice a week is pretty amazing.  In this case, he’d had a full week off when I climbed back on (and of course, I don’t ever lunge first or anything like that).  He spooked a little bit (first time ever) because the windows to the ring had been opened due to unseasonably warm weather, and there was a horse next to the ring grazing (this almost always gets horses snorty and looky- I have no idea why).    He got over that pretty quickly as we got to work, and I found that his bulging shoulder on turns is almost completely gone.  His body is staying in line pretty nicely, and to a point he will move laterally almost to a proper bend.  His leg yielding isn’t perfect yet, but he gets the idea and I’m sure will have it mastered pretty quickly.

I only worked on the flat for a little while- we had a bit of a time crunch as I had agreed to go out to the Funny Farm after riding.  Then, since someone very conveniently had set up a little crossrail in the ring, we popped over it a few times.  The last time I jumped Afton I got a little lecture about the hideous state of my upper body.  It’s true, it’s pretty abysmal.  I love to jump for the horse, like throwing myself at the jump could actually assist a half-ton animal in getting over a 1′ crossrail.  This time I really concentrated on that, and also on not micromanaging the approach.  Afton, being green, isn’t the greatest jumper yet- left to his own devices he kind of pauses on takeoff and lurches or stumbles over.  My tendency is to want to add leg but also take up more rein, supporting with my hand.  While this results in a better-feeling jump to me, it’s probably not the best way to make a self sufficient jumper.  Or so I’ve been told.

So we trotted the jump several times, with me thinking about moving my hands forward and keeping my upper body still.  I suffered through a few VERY awkward feeling attempts before things started to click a little better.  The last time trotting, I felt him use his head and neck, and actually lift his shoulder over the jump.  So I suppose that means I got it right (or, more right than I had been getting it).  Feeling enboldened I thought that it was the perfect time to try cantering the little fence.  Have to say it’s much easier to canter than trot, in terms of holding my upper body up and staying quiet.  Being a monkey-rider I will say that I generally have all sorts of anxiety (and resulting issues with my riding) regarding “the spot” and taking off in the right place, but Afton seems to be the type that will find it more or less on his own, and I never felt like I had to worry about it.  We got the first one a little long, but the next was dead on, so we quit with it.

He’s a very cool horse- though he doesn’t have cruise control at the canter when we work on the flat (keeping the same rhythm gets a little hard, sort of like a teenage driver who hasn’t mastered the gas pedal), when there’s a jump involved he really keeps a nice pace all on his own.  He doesn’t rush or run, and he doesn’t back off either.  He stays very comfortable and even, and doesn’t land galloping or any of those greeny things.  He canters off like there wasn’t a jump there and will stop in a straight line, or take a tight turn, or lope around the big turn, depending on what you ask. 

I think that’s what people are talking about when they refer to “natural balance” in a horse.  My own horse (not to pick on him) is sort of heavy in the canter.  He has a low set neck and tends to get on the forehand.  When jumping, it takes him a bit to recover himself after a jump, and if we’ve done a gymnastic line or even a regular line, stopping in a straight line after can be a bit of an adventure. Not a problem at all for Afton.  And this probably plays into why he occasionally throws in a lead change when he thinks we’re changing direction.  I don’t actually ask for them- because I’m a somewhat crooked rider and prone to doing strange things with my body, I figure the second I start asking or trying to work on it, I might screw up his natural tendency and make it more of a drama than it needs to be.

After our ride, I headed out to the Funny Farm with a friend who is going to field board one of her youngsters there.  So I got to visit and play with all my favorites, including Rosey and Klondike.   There was also a nice surprise there in the form of a new arrival, a horse whose last race on Friday was quite a failure (there will be video with the next entry, for your amusement).  Additionally, a very good friend of CANTER’s dropped by and picked up a training project, who I hear will be featured in his own blog.  That project is none other than Gutenberg, the chestnut who came in with Stephen and who Mikey kept chasing away (see last entry) last weekend.

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!

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!

Small Figure Eights

Last night I had an interesting ride on Rosey- she was quite energetic, and while I generally like the “forward” thing, I kept getting the feeling that she was running while simultaneously not being “in front of my leg.”  To add insult to injury, when I tried to bring my leg back into the correct place, I totally lost my center, and she got even quicker.  After fumbling around for a bit, I decided to stop working so hard and began to ask her for some serpentines and figure eights.

That seemed to work nicely, it got her attention, and with her slowing down a bit I was able to get myself better aligned, and even get my leg “on” more without her reacting so much to it, which gives a much nicer feeling (and makes it much easier for me to sit straighter and feel more balanced).

When we stepped up into the canter, it turned out really lovely.  I worked on keeping her mostly on circles, and just focused on me as much as possible- sitting quietly, following with my hands, and that sort of thing.  She really goes much better the more I focus on what I am doing, so I’m trying to make that the primary goal of every ride.  She’s becoming much more even (I’m thinking that Trainer Extraordinaire may have something to do with that) and I had a much easier time last night keeping her on the circle to the right. 

I do also try to make our circles more like “square” circles- occasionally she wants to motorcycle a little, since she doesn’t have bending down, so if you stay on too much of an arc, she can start diving around the turn a little bit. 

I didn’t want to do too much, since I’m still a little unsure of the riding schedule (I finally made a little calendar to put on her door, so we can all keep things straight), so we also spent a fair amount of time at the walk, learning about bending a little, and stopping/starting while keeping the head down and relaxed.  We also began some elementary turns on the forehand, but this is a little hard for her.  When she had trouble grasping the concept I got off and asked her from the ground.  She has a little trouble with the concept of crossing her inside hind in front of the other and stepping to the side- I don’t doubt she will mentally pick it up quickly, I just think she’s physically still a little weak and not really flexible.  So I will be adding some hind leg stretches to the carrot-stretch post ride routine.  

And, because pictures always make blog posts more fun, but I don’t have any new Roselicious photos, here’s some grey horse nose:

Whatcha got there?

Whatcha got there?

She’s Magical

All sorts of CANTER OTTBs

All sorts of CANTER OTTBs

Miss Rose had another wonderful day yesterday, prompting one of our resident trainers to describe her as “magical,” which may be the most perfect term for her that could be dreamed up. Last night we went out for a nice group trail ride which featured four OTTBs. The cast of characters was Magical and Perfect Rose, Woody, Midnight (a gorgeous black gelding who looks like I dreamed him up when I was a kid- seriously, he is *that* gorgeous), and perhaps the most magical of all, Phinny, Allie’s awesome and wonderful miracle gelding.

Heading out, Mr. Woods was a little uppity- not doing anything but sort of bouncing a little bit, and looking at things I’m pretty sure he doesn’t normally look at. Several times, Rose thought maybe she should follow his lead, but a reminder that “we’re really not doing that today” was all it took to keep her in a settled walk.

Her first “real world test” came early in the ride, when Phinny and Woody geared up to jump a few basic jumps that came up along the way. With my own horse, and even a little with Klondike, the issue of being with a larger group, and then having part of that group go ahead at a faster pace, was a difficult one. She seemed to be a little weirded out by the jumping at first, but she figured out, after watching Phinny and Woody go over it once and circling back, that she didn’t have to worry about them leaving her. From that point on, she just stood and watched as they repeated the jump a few times, and other than one little “let’s get on with it!” paw, she was perfect.

Later on, we would take turns leading and following again. And again, she cracks me up with her leadership skills. When she’s following other horses, she’s a moseyer, and will just plant her nose behind someone else’s bum and sort of zone out. When she’s in front, she’s on a MISSION! There are THINGS to see and PLACES to go and there MIGHT be something VERY IMPORTANT around the next corner. You put her in front, and you will find that you are leaving your friends far behind.

After a very enjoyable CANTER cavalcade trot and canter through some fields, we were home again and decided to try a few of the smaller obstacles along the driveway at our farm. We followed Woody over the teeny log, and she had her First Real Jump. Then, we trotted the ditch for the first time. The first few times actually trotting it, she was a doll. All I had to do, really, was keep a bit of leg on, grab mane, and look up. She has a really honest feel to her, which is hard for me to describe. Klondike was pretty honest, but I always had the feeling (rightly, probably) that I had to actually ride to the jumps. And he could, on occasion, be just a teeny bit squirrely. There is no such feeling with Rose. Unless I do something monumentally bad up there to ruin her or overface her, I expect that she will just do whatever we ask her to. And I don’t have to be technically perfect either. Just leg, and hang on.

Rosey apparently likes a ditch

However, after a few times over the ditch, she was pretty sure she was done. And as I’ve mentioned, she can be just a teeny bit opinionated about such things. So when I turned her back around to go back down the driveway, she said, “nooooooo! don’t want!” and hopped up a little in front. I should mention here that rearing is one thing I really have an irrational fear of. When horses hop up like that I normally tend to freeze a little bit, with a small amount of internal panic that says “don’t do anything until their feet are on the ground” Strangely, with her I didn’t get that feeling so much. And just popped her on the shoulder and continued on our merry way. I’m normally a whip-behind-the-leg girl, but the shoulder was sort of an automatic reaction, and for some reason seems to work well with her, so there you go. After that, she came down the log and was lovely over the ditch again.

Rosey has a green moment.  Oh wait, she is green!

I’m thinking that the possibilities for the little show this Sunday might be slightly expanded from just the walk-trot class 🙂

OH NOES!!!!!

Yes, I’m a cheezburger addict.  In any case, I feel this one is appropriate:

ohnoes.jpg

Yes, it was with that sense of horror that I realized over the weekend that Miss Priss is… well, lame.  It appears she is cooking an abscess in her right front (the one that she abscessed in months ago, resulting in the crack in her heel buttress).  She is, however, taking her sweet time with it.  There’s not much heat in there that I can find, but it is “that” kind of lameness, so we’re treating it as an abscess in the works.

Last night I figured I would soak said tootsy with some epsom salts, not really knowing how that would go.  I’m pretty sure Allie has done it with her before, but hadn’t called to ask, so I just plunged ahead with my plans.  Rosey greeted me with a lot of enthusiasm, thinking I was finally taking her out to hang with her posse in field number 7.  Her expression when I took her to the wash stall was pretty plain… “really?  For real?  You seriously are not taking me out to have girls’ night in the back forty? Do I at least get a margarita?”

She tilted her head to the side and raised her eyebrows… well, she would have if she actually had eyebrows to raise, anyway.  She stood at the door for a minute, then heaved a great sigh and came in the Wash Stall of Doom, clearly not enthused about whatever dumb thing it was that I had in mind.

Really?

Really?

 We then proceeded with the foot soaking.  Rose, irritated beyond belief at this pointless exercise, decided to at least entertain herself, figuring (correctly) that it would drive me batty if she kept picking up her right foot and hovering it over the water, without actually putting it in.  At first, I thought this was out of daintiness, or maybe that she didn’t understand what I wanted her to do.  But then I started to realize that she knew every time she did that, I’d make a fuss, and she seemed to enjoy that.  When the novelty of that wore, off, she started walking forward and back with her other foot.  Hanging onto the lead rope, I was all, “no! put that foot back! no, bring it forward! Ack, what are you doing?!?”  When she tired of that game, she figured the easiest thing to do was just to put that foot in the bucket too, and she gave up and stood there like a good girl for about fifteen minutes.  She just wanted to make sure I understood that she found the whole idea really, really silly. (note: that’s not her in the picture, but it is an exact mirror of her expression, heh)

In other news from the weekend, Rose has shown herself to be a master of the concept “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”  I was letting her eat some grass after a bath on Saturday, when suddenly she was on the ground.  Usually when horses go down to roll, I notice what they’re up to and am able to put a stop to it (not while on the lead line, silly pony!).  Not so with Rose.  She was down and rolling on her back in the blink of an eye.  She’s quite athletic, and can roll completely over.  I somehow managed to keep the lead out of the way of her feet and she was back up as quickly as she had gone down.  Really, it was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.  Since a repeat performance is likely, I’ll make sure never to handle her without a camera in my pocket ever again!

A Few of Her Favorite Things

One of the best parts of getting to know a new horse is figuring out their personality- what they like and what they don’t, where their itchy spots are, and what their quirks are.  People who don’t know much about horses always seem surprised to learn that they have distinct personalities (“like dogs?”), which makes me giggle just a little, because it really seems like horses are as unique as people are.

So anyway, so far, I have discovered some of the things that Rose loves:

  • soft brushes to the face
  • belly rubs, but only with the flat of the hand
  • leading trail rides at a forward marching walk
  • trying to rub her face on you after riding

I’m sure there are lots of horses out there who like the same things, but really, the way she reacts to a soft brush to the face is a beautiful thing.  She closes her eyes and pushes her head forward.  Then she tilts it so you can get the sides of her forehead above her eyes.  It’s like she knows that the soft brush is her ticket to a velvety, glossy coat, and she enjoys it the way most of us enjoy a good shampoo/head massage at a salon.

Riding wise, things are going pretty well for Miss Rosey, even with lots of new stuff being thrown at her.  On Wednesday, we went for a nice casual trail ride with a few friends.  Though she has been on trail rides before, this was her first in company, and she took pretty much everything in stride.  However, she made it clear right from the beginning that she doesn’t really like to mosey.  Her walk was purposeful, and she seemed to enjoy being in front.  I think she sort of enjoys the process of “discovery” when she’s out- she’s always moving her ears and eyes, looking to see what’s around the next corner or up the hill.  Fortunately, she handles being behind other horses equally well- she doesn’t rush to catch up or pass, and seems content to be behind them even when it’s clear she enjoys being up front.

What she does not enjoy on trail rides is standing still or being turned away from her chosen direction.  

Not Standing Still

Rosey: Not Standing Still

There were several occasions on this particular jaunt that we sort of needed to pull up.  Most notably, when her horse decided it would be fun to get Allie to slide off into the creek (hey, he was thinking of her, I’m sure.  It WAS very hot!).  Finding a spot for her to remount, and working out the logistics of such a thing (bareback on a 17+ hand TB who sort of wants to play around a little, not easy!).  But Rosey is not one for standing and waiting, and so in order to keep her happy you have to find a direction for her energy. 

In a way, this is sort of similar to Klondike.  When he started getting upset or not wanting to move where you wanted him to go, you just had to sort of redirect him.  Rose, though, is a little more opinionated than Klondike.  With him, I could just say, “Hey Klon, what’s over there?!?!?” and totally distract him from what had him being stubborn.  Rose, on the other hand- well, it’s more like you have to convince her things are her idea.  This will probably prove to be a challenge for me- most of the horses I’ve been riding over the last few years have been very agreeable and somewhat dopey geldings.  Rose, though, is too smart for the things that work with those types, and like any woman worth her salt, kind of wants to know “what’s in it for me?” when you ask her to do things.

Fortunately, she’s generally a very good girl, and also responds VERY nicely to praise.  She just has to understand exactly what her job is, and has to know she will be treated like a princess for doing the right thing.  For instance- standing for tacking up.  She wasn’t bad about it, compared to some horses, but she did kind of wiggle forwards and back a lot the first time I tacked her up.  Because she’s sensitive, I didn’t want to get after her too much about moving, so instead, I’d just put her feet back where I wanted, and if she didn’t move while I readjusted the saddle, I’d give her huge pats and maybe a peppermint.  It’s only been two saddlings since then, and she now pretty much stands still.  It’s like she wasn’t being bad at all, just didn’t know any better before (and of course, many racehorses are saddled while being held by another person with a lot of restraint, so before now she’d probably never been actually asked to stand for it on her own). 

Similar tactics used by Allie got her used to fly spray VERY quickly, and she’s even standing ground tied for the hose now (though she still tries to follow me when I turn around to wind the hose up, she generally puts her foot back when I point at it and growl a little). 

I rode her again yesterday morning, and I’m very pleased at what a quick study she is.  She’s really quite easy to steer, and much straighter/more aligned through the body than Klondike was.  It’s very easy to keep her on a given path with my legs and body.  Her “whoa” is fantastic- just sit deeper in the saddle and put your shoulders back, and she slows down automatically.  She doesn’t seem to have much use for the bit, but at this point she almost doesn’t really need one.  After we went around in both directions, I did start to teach her the basic idea of giving/softening to the bit- not in any major way, but just side to side a little.  She didn’t seem to really get what I wanted right away, but after a couple repetitions, she was following the bit in both directions (just at a standstill, mind you) with little/no resistance. 

This weekend we’ll be doing more, and hopefully getting some video of how she’s moving with her new magic shoes. 🙂

Magical New Shoes

You know, if someone was getting me pedicures and buying me a pair of fancy new shoes every several weeks, that made me walk like a supermodel, I’d love it.  Rose, on the other hand, is not quite so appreciative. 

Rose was pretty sound when she arrived, but over the course of her first couple days in group turnout, where she had to convince her new herd of her superiority, she got a little footsore.  Probably the biggest cause of the problem was an old abscess site on her right front.  It had blown out near her heel, and as her hoof grew down, it left a little crack there.  The pressure of playing hard on hard ground finally caused it to give way along that crack, which left her feeling a little gimpy when she was on gravel or uneven footing.  It also left her foot quite asymmetrical, throwing off her balance a little bit.

So last night was pedicure-and-designer-hoofwear night for little Rosey.  You would think she would luxuriate in this kind of attention, but Rosey may not have had the best history with shoeing.  The last time she had shoes put on, they were too small, and tacked to too-long feet.  They probably didn’t make her feel too good.  In all likelihood, she was given tranquilizers in the past to have her feet done, so she likely never was even asked to stand for the farrier.

Our farrier has experienced the joy that is Rosey already- when her track shoes were pulled and she needed a trim.  That day did not go well, so we went into new-shoes night with a little bit of caution.  So, knowing all that background, I have to say for the most part, Rose was actually pretty good.  She tried to snatch her foot away from the farrier a few times, but had both fronts on before she lost patience and started to get very upset.

She did end up receiving a little bit of chemical help to get the finish work done and hinds trimmed, but all in all she is learning the rules, and will likely be better next time.  I’m sure Allie will expand on the “learning the rules” issues, as she has a ton of interesting stuff to say on the subject.

I’ll probably have a riding report tomorrow night, it will be my second time on her so I’m excited about it.  All I can say so far is that she’s very smooth, very responsive to weight/seat/balance aids for “whoa,” and seems pretty awesomely smart.  She responds much better to leg (the kind meaning “move over”) than Klondike did when he arrived, so I’m thinking she’ll be going very well very quickly.  More photos and video coming soon!

If She Lasts a Week…

I will be just a little bit surprised if Miss Rose lasts more than a week with us, at the rate she’s going.  One fellow boarder who has been looking for a horse seems quite smitten with her and will be riding her in a lesson tomorrow.  She’s been at the barn for a total of two days, so little mare makes an impression fast. 

Today was a rather long day for Rose- we tested her patience mightily (and she seems to have lots of patience).  First, Jen acted as test rider for the afternoon for a little spin around our small outdoor ring.  During this, Rose had to contend with: yearlings pretending to be WWF wrestlers in the field next to the ring, a truck and trailer parking next to the ring, and ground poles (and all with a nearly 8 foot tall rider, to boot).

So really, she already has most of the skills she’ll need to be a successful show horse.  She may not steer really well yet, or understand “inside leg to outside hand,” but she’s highly unlikely to care about flapping show tents or out of control toddlers.  Well… maybe the toddlers, but they scare me too, so that’s totally forgivable. 

While she needs some weight and fitness (and some work on her feet), she still moves in very nice fashion, stepping out free through her shoulder and moving happily forward.  She seems very eager to please, and very pleasant about the whole thing. 

She did show a teeeeeny bit of concern about the ground poles, though.  Again, I totally get it.  It’s not like a log in the woods, which belongs there, it’s a brightly painted random THING in a sea of plain old sand.  It just shouldn’t be there, and it could turn out to be some sort of trap door to another dimension.

So, she eventually got the hang of it, but it took a couple of leads before she was totally assured that there was no disruption of the space-time continuum.  On that note, Jen decided to quit and after many big pats it was time for a bath and the official “before” conformation photos.

Now, most racehorses have had baths before, so they kind of know the drill.  However, I’m pretty sure most racehorses do not get those baths in scary strange wash stalls with cross ties.  And I’m definitely sure they’re not used to being scrubbed by three adult women acting like prepubescent girls with their first pony.  And I’m pretty sure she did not like the sweat scraper on her barrel as there’s not much covering her ribs.  But she handled it all like a champ, even if she does think we’re all crazy 12.

Anyhow, here is the official “Before” photo of Miss Rose.  The ones taken the day she came off the racetrack don’t really count, I think.