My horse dentist was at the barn on Sunday and was asking me if I found what I was doing with CANTER worthwhile? I thought that was an interesting question but a question that I didn’t have to think too hard about. You see, I grew up with racehorses and a family very active in the racing industry. I have participated in all the various jobs that go along with the racing industry and without a doubt I always gravitated to the retraining side of the business.
I would beg and plead to try to help resell some of the horses we had instead of just watching them go to places that I choose not to mention. The tougher the horse, the more I would beg to give it a try. There were not many rescues or rehoming groups at that time. I think dreamhorse and equine.com were just getting started as a way to help market horses to the general public.
I immediately started buying and reselling Tb’s when I got out of college and then I found my perfect fit when I began to help with CANTER. It’s been about five years now that I have worked retraining the CANTER horses and I still get giddy each time I bring a new horse into my program.
I’m one of those people who truly enjoys the boring lunge sessions, getting on for the first rides, the first trail rides, the first jumps and all the antics that sometimes emerge as you begin to teach horses new things.
The bad parts of the industry can really wear on you if you let them but I have the fortune to go out each night and be reminded of the good people who do care that their horses have successful new careers after the track. This week I have been focusing on Letterman’s Humor. He was no slouch when it came to earning his keep at the track. He ran for 6yrs, retiring as a 8yr. He had one owner and one trainer his whole career.
Letterman is quite an interesting horse. When I picked him up at the track, it was apparent he had a bit of an anger management issue. He spent the whole trailer ride home kicking the trailer and being a real ass. He spent many months at the layup farm deciding he didn’t want to be caught. He didn’t wear a blanket this winter because they couldn’t catch him. I heard stories about how he could be super friendly one day and the next day wouldn’t give you the time of the day. He just couldn’t decide who he wanted to be.
I had never been able to catch him when I was at the farm! I did try but he was quite crafty with his evasion tactics. I would see him trotting away from me and think about how cool he looked. Really balanced, nice uphill build and quite sound.
When we made a group trip to the layup farm we ganged up on him and were able to catch him. Remember the video where I was lunging the horses and one took off? Ha, that would be Letterman. He did come back to the herd with the lunge line attached and I figured it was a perfect time to load him in the trailer. Gotcha! Bushy and Letterman stood on the trailer with the fans on while we finished up with the other horses. Talk about one pissed off horse
I left his halter on when he got to my farm and the first week or so he was still hard to catch. I have the advantage of having stalls attached right to the fields and if he wanted to eat he had to come in and then I would shut the door and spend some quality time giving him love.
He was still a bit guarded but I could see that he was coming around. I was able to take his halter off after the first few weeks as he decided I was allowed to catch him. Yes, it has to be his decision. He’s too smart to be caught if he doesn’t want to be.
His personality began to emerge and he started walking right up to me. I would go out to catch other horses to bring them in to ride and he was the one saying pick me..pick me…ME! He would follow me around and let me give him scratches all over.
Oh boy does he love grooming and you can just see his eyes light up when you bring out the tack. I truly wouldn’t have believed this is even the same horse. The transformation is just that amazing. You can tell he is totally ready for a job and he wants to be in a program. Just being in a program again has changed his whole personality.
I have been stressed out this past week and sometimes one of the best cures for stress is nice quiet time with the horses. It’s been hotter than heck so I have spent some time lunging the various horses and just working a bit of ground work. Letterman got his teeth done on Sunday and he had a lot of issues going on in his mouth. I had a feeling that was part of his fussy attitude. I changed him to the super flexible herm sprenger duo bit hoping it would give him a nice soft feel.
I was curious as to how this lunging session was going to go after his demonstration at the layup farm I put the surcingle on with side reins attached very loosely. He started out giving me the finger which is pretty typical for horses who don’t know how to lunge. He was not wanting to go forward at all but then when I would tap or use the lunge whip he was trying to make the circle bigger so I couldn’t get him forward. I have a lot of patience which is a good thing because lunging horses who don’t know how to lunge can make you crazy real quick.
I encouraged him on a small circle and I could begin to see him figuring out what I was asking. He stopped worrying about the lunge whip and began to walk forward. When he was able to make a few circles without stopping, turning in or bulging out. Then we began to trot.
This horse is cool because he is just so athletic. He is going to be a stunner when he gets fit because if he can use himself this well being out of shape then he will be impressive in another month. I really just wanted him to go forward because the last ride I had on him he felt so tight everywhere. I encouraged him to have a big trot on the lunge line and he stepped right up into the contact and was absolutely gorgeous. We did some walk/trot transitions and about 10min of good work and called it a day. I don’t introduce the right side just yet as I want him to get confident first lunging from the left before throwing something new at him.
After his lunge sessions on Monday and Tuesday he is walking around like he is the KING. I can’t get him to stop following me around It’s like he can’t get enough of the attention. His confidence is emerging and he has discovered that humans aren’t quite so bad afterall. I even taught him to eat some of the apple treats and not just regular carrots.
A little bit of him lunging today.