Tag Archives: thoroughbred

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 🙂

i am important

No, *I’M* not important, I just looked in the blog stats and got quite a chuckle out of the fact that searching that phrase apparently brought someone to this blog.  I’m going to have to make that a tag.

Anyway, the last couple days have been challenging for me, emotionally speaking.  Without getting into specifics, I’ll just say that horses are always good for a little heartbreak, and with lots of emails and scheduling and vet stuff flying around, I needed a weekend off.  I am very fortunate to be seeing someone who’s good at reminding me of that fact, and so I spent the actual weekend doing fun non-horse related things (despite the last post which listed the horse-lovers weekend itinerary).  I went to the air show at Andrews Air Force Base, and then Sunday a wine festival in nearby Columbia.  It was pretty awesome, and just what I needed.

Of course, that meant Monday hit me like a brick.  Got into work to find out one of my bigger projects was all kinds of messed up, batch testing hadn’t caught some pretty significant issues, and I was going to be having fun all day getting things fixed and re-run.  Too many emails to sort through, both from work and CANTER-related.  All kinds of things I have to look into and check and remind myself of so I can get back to people later with requested information, etc… ugh.  And of course bad personal news too.  So all in all, I needed last night to go well!

Someone is scheduled to come see Archie this afternoon (I do have to check that – the weather is icky and since she wants to see horses out at the layup farm too, which is awfully weather dependent), so I wanted to ride him yesterday and make sure things are all good with him.

Things started on a good note when he was right by the gate when I went to get him – for once I wouldn’t have to slog my way through calf-deep mud! Unfortunately as he came out of the gate he dove for grass to his right, which meant his butt was swinging straight towards my face, and I was completely at the end of the lead rope with the horse in my left hand and the gate to my right.  Determined not to let go of Archie, and to remind him that this was completely unnacceptable, I had to actually let go of the gate. 

At the same time, Archie’s very herdbound companion realized he was leaving, and she came galloping towards the now wide-open gate while I struggled with getting him turned around.  I’m not sure how I managed it, but apparently me standing in the middle of an 18 foot wide open space waving one arm and growling was sufficient means of getting her to stop. Got the gate closed, got Archie reminded (a bit) of manners, and headed up the driveway. 

From there everything was fine until he turned his head at me while girthing up.  Also not acceptable.  Bad Archie! I corrected him (a bit strongly, I’m afraid) and he was then perfectly polite.  When I went to get on, he also started walking before I really had even started to swing up, but I was able to correct him very easily and he backed up and waited politely for the second attempt.

Once on, we had a fairly lovely ride in the indoor.  He is making fewer faces at his reflection in the mirror, but largely because I’m trying to keep him thinking/occupied.  We started at the walk just working on serpentines and figure eights, while keeping his neck and shoulders as straight as possible.  He does seem to have started coming behind the bit or below it, so while working on this I also spent a lot of time with leg on and really emphasizing forward from behind, to discourage.  A couple times I had to practically boot him forward so that he was using himself better. 

Up into the trot and we worked on the same things.  I also spent a lot of time on circles in the middle of the ring, where he can’t depend on the wall so much (he tends to fall inwards through the turn and then bulge his body out towards the wall as he approaches it).  Staying off the wall as much possible, I just alternated direction and started practicing large circle-small circle-large circles.  The next step would be a little more bending work and spiralling in and out, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. 

When I went to work on the canter I found it’s actually much easier on both of us to act from a reasonably organized walk.  On the right lead, you can get a fairly clean transition from the trot but I find everything feels much better from the walk.  To the left, asking from the trot doesn’t really get me anywhere – we keep picking up the wrong lead and he wants to rush, and the second he gets at all disorganized you give up any chance you had at the left lead.  Even from the walk we had substantial issues with that lead, though we eventually got it and maintained it for a few circles.  I think as he gets more strength this will all get much, much easier, but part of me is impatient and wants everything better right NOW! 

When I started getting frustrated about the left lead canter I slowed down, took a breath, and went back to working at the trot.  I figure the canter is hard because he’s weak behind and still somewhat inflexible through his body.  So I went back to the trot, and started working a bit more on bending and lateral movement (not too much, he’s a wiggle worm!) , and more transitions to build up that rear end strength.  We finished on a really good note – I did a series of figure eights (well, more like coming across the diagonal over and over) trying to really encourage him into a more forward trot with impulsion (and straightness! haha! This is the big key to riding him). and really trying to encourage him to stretch his head down and out (he likes to get behind the bit and avoid contact, as I mentioned earlier).  I eventually got what I was asking for – for about ten strides to the left his head went down, but I could feel weight in my hands at the same time, and he kept his forward impulsion.  So we quit with that and called it a night.

Physically he has finally lost the vast majority of his weird hair and is developing a nice shiny coat.  Still needs more weight but things are slowly filling in, and you can see some cover developing on his ribs (finally!) .  Can’t wait for an opportunity to get new pics and video!

Herd Bound Mares

Last night was a funny farm night 🙂  It’s about time too – work has been kicking my butt lately – thanks to a lawsuit we have very limited time to get a LOT of work done, basically major overhauls of our whole system.  Then management decided to be proactive by having us get our stuff in extra early – effectively cutting out three weeks of development and testing time.  I managed yesterday to get pretty much 90% of my stuff completed, and so left work feeling pretty good (of course today is not much better, though thankfully it’s production problems, which at least are more interesting to work on!).  Either way, I was tense and stressed when I left yesterday, so an afternoon out in Adamstown was pretty much exactly what I needed.

First up was Miss Sister.  Some people came out to look at her, and I’m pretty sure it’s not quite the right fit for what they need, but it’s always fun to see her anyway.  I pestered her a little bit about mane pulling, and sat there tugging on hair and not letting up until she stood still.  I figure if she starts to learn that standing still gets discomfort over with sooner, it will be a good lesson for her.  I hopped on her but she was quite fresh (it’s been what, months? Since the last ride) and my gut was saying it was not a good day to ride her too long.  She gets forward, and wants to tear around when she’s fresh, and if you hold her back she gets a little cranky.  It would be fine if I wanted to spend a half hour at a hand gallop, but with all the rain the ring really wasn’t up for it.  All that said, she really is kind of fun and interesting.  But herdbound, and quite unhappy to be pulled in by herself.  I think some more visits and work with her are in order (at least the weather is finally nice!)

Since they were looking for a hunter type horse, I thought I would pull Minnie in out of the field too.  Minnie, for those who don’t know, is Katerina’s daughter, a lovely dark bay mare with no white, just like mamma.  I’ve been salivating over her for a long time, because I’ve thought she was beautiful and my type of horse (but aren’t they all?).  When she first came to CANTER she was ridden a few times (and very good) but then managed to get a pasture injury that landed her in the horsey ICU and cost a fair amount of money to fix up.  Then she sat in fields, which has been all she’s done for a while.  I don’t think this horse has been ridden in a year.

Of course by the time I got halfway across the field, the whole group had migrated not only to the far end of the field, but to the other side of the gigantic hill, too.  I kind of wanted to turn back, but at that point, it’s almost like you can’t.  The whole “I’ve come THIS far!” thing was coming into play.  I tried to run, but Ariats are NOT made for running (truth be told, my old Tredsteps were much better, but when life gifts you ariats, you wear them). My toes were throbbing by the time I got up to Minnie. 

Then came the walk down the hill and across the field, which just seems impossibly long and tedious.  As soon as we got away from the main group of horses, Minnie started acting… well… obnoxious.  She wanted to go back, and wanted no part of being separated.  I’ve noticed this a lot with the mares, and it made me miss the geldings (really, I’ve never had one of the geldings do this to me!).  At this point I really wanted to throw in the towel, but as always, if you give in, it just makes it worse next time, so we kept going in fits and starts, a few times she tried to pivot away from me and run back, and a few times she tried to pivot INTO me and run back.  I was getting pretty testy by the time we got to the gate, but once we were out of the field she began acting like a lady again.

I turned her out to let her trot around a bit, and as always had to smile.  She’s a pretty mover even being very out of shape.  Of course, she was also working herself into a good sweat, going back and forth all anxious about where her buddies were. 

So of course, that means it’s a PERFECT time to ride, right?  Why not.

I listen to my gut a lot, and it hardly ever makes sense.  I’ve been on pretty easygoing horses and just had that feeling that maybe getting off now would be a good idea.  I can also look at a mare running frantically around a pen neighing her fool head off and think, “this is a GREAT idea!!!” 

My visitors had to go, but I’m pretty sure they might think I’m a little crazy.  It’s OK.  It’s totally true. 

So I grabbed the tack and wandered back to the ring.  Minnie immediately came to me at a trot, hoping I would save her (from what? from me?) and I had her tacked up in about ten seconds.

Over to the mounting block, where for sure there would be some shenanigans… except… not so much.

Ho Hum

She shifted her weight but then stood there till I asked her to move off.  I swear that as soon as my butt hit the saddle she stopped worrying about everything else and being upset, and just focused on what I wanted (well, except for wanting to stare out at the field a lot). 

Up into the trot, and she was WONDERFUL.  Magical, even.  She has a nice forward going feel, but her stride is long enough that it’s very comfortable for me.  Horses like, say, Rosey, are always a little hard for me to adjust to.  They don’t go fast, but their strides feel quick to me and it’s a huge adjustment.  Minnie made me feel right at home.  We did some figure eights and circles, and I found her remarkably easy to steer.  A lot like my own horse, actually.  You just kind of think about where you want to go, tighten your hand on the outside rein, and voila! you are turning.

Judge, Here's Your Winner!

Disclaimer:  My independently minded left arm is at it again, I see.  *sigh*

I found Minnie to be really remarkable in her acceptance of contact.  She went pretty much the same whether I had a feel or not, and when I dropped the reins a bit she just stretched out a little.  She started out the ride jawing the bit a lot, kind of like a green horse who hasn’t had a bridle on in a while (huh, imagine that!) but as soon as we started working she stopped and was very nice and quiet with her mouth.  Really, within minutes I felt totally confident riding her on a very loose rein and even adding leg.

Hey! It's a Monkey on Horseback!

The canter was actually much better than it looks there.  She has (again) a nice slow feeling stride, and is very directable.  She picks up both leads and I suspect will do lead changes very easily.  I felt comfortable both in a little half seat and sitting – she didn’t seem to mind either way.  It was just so comfortable that I couldn’t stop grinning. 

When I got off I was exploding with enthusiasm.  Here’s a mare who hasn’t been ridden in… I don’t even know. Seriously.  A lot of them I can say with confidence “four months!” or “six months!” or “yesterday!”  Not so much here.  It’s been at least a year as far as I know, and probably longer.

If she’s that good straight out of the field, while all worked up and anxious, with little fitness and not a lot of flexibility, all I can think is that she will be show-ready in no time.  Put some butt and back muscle on her and she’ll be a star.  I texted Allie immediately: “hey my saddle fits Minnie.  That means she’s mine right?”  Yep. I was THAT happy.  I seriously want this horse for myself, in a really big way.

Of course, I wonder if maybe I’m really fickle, because each time I get on a new one I’m really excited about it… but with Minnie I felt like I could take her to a show next WEEK and it would go well.  She’s beautiful, will clean up very nicely, and was just so freaking easy to ride!  She got every good thing possible from Kat, but with a better hind end and balance (seriously, cantering Kat was possible, but it wasn’t nearly such a delightful feeling!)

It was one of those rides where I totally forgot how crappy my day had been up until then.  The sun was setting, the clouds all pink and purple, she was magic, and there is actual green grass coming up everywhere.  Exactly what I needed this week, and exactly what I needed to motivate me to get my butt over there more often.

This isn't a good picture, but the dorky grin on my face makes me laugh.

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!

Rosey Takes Over Showgrounds

Rosey Meandering around the show

Rosey Meandering around the show

Today Rosalicious went to her second show, to do the same two classes we did the last time. Just a nice, easy Adult Eq division with a walk-trot class to get her used to things.

Today went much better than the last time, in terms of her getting used to showgrounds, me conquering the hop ‘n’ spin, and the giraffe-neck of last time not making an appearance. At first, she actually was a little more unsettled than last time, snorting and not standing well for getting tacked up. When I mounted up she speedwalked in a direction of her choosing (towards where I had handwalked her earlier), and we had our only little tiff of the day.

“that way!” she said

“no. This way!” I replied, with a big opening left rein and a kick

“noooo! THAT way!” she responded, with a half hop and attempted pop of the shoulder to the right.

“no… This time I actually mean it, darling.” with a couple swats of the crop and a growl.

“fine.”

That was the last I saw of the attempted Hop ‘n’ Spin move all day. Though she bulged and tried to get opinionated a few times, I think we may finally have that kicked.

Anyway, onwards we went to a warmup area behind the jumper ring, as we had gotten there a little too late to warm up in the actual ring. She started out a little quick, but settled VERY quickly at the trot. Even taking nice big steps and rounding her neck in a way I’ve never seen her do before. Her first canter was lovely, but her second got a little strong- going downhill and away from the trailers she just wanted to go. It was hardly terrifyingly fast, but she wasn’t listening, which is a worrying feeling for any rider. Fortunately (well, sort of), her fitness level is not that high yet, and the solution to this problem was turning her uphill, where she promptly ran out of steam.

I kept her busy for a while just doing lots of little patterns, taking her over some interesting terrain where she had to pay attention to her feet, etc. When we came back to the walk, she was trail-quiet Rosey again. On a floppy rein, and “grunting” with every step. Her ears were even flopping.

Later, as we moseyed towards the ring, she started getting a little antsy and worked up again, so I followed the same drill, just asked her to work around and got her attention back, and it worked very nicely.

When we entered the ring, she was very relaxed- interested in everything but not jumpy. Remembering the trouble I had last time when taking her off the rail, I immediately cut across the ring with her, and made a little circle. She was fine with that. She started off her W/T class with a bit of a high head but not nearly as quick on her feet as last time. Our major problem was her trying to watch what was going on outside the ring, on the side opposite the judge she was very interested in a couple of spectators and the woods (not in a scared way, but a way that suggested she was trying to identify what types of trees she was looking at). At the lineup, she stood like a real lady, on a totally loose rein, not worried in the least about the other horses stepping ahead of her.

The second class went very well- she picked up her first canter like a champ, and though she was a little quicker than I’d like at points, she was very relaxed, and we had a grand time. The second direction, we missed our lead, I think three times in a row, which was her telling me, “hey dork, quit your leaning!” it just took me a little while to get the message. Oh well. Again she stood in the lineup perfectly. Such a lady!

Our ribbons were fourth and fifth, respectively. It might have gone better if I did not look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. (I apparently need a strict lady with a ruler to follow me around and smack me every time I slouch).

Video!

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!

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!