Monthly Archives: March 2008

High speed chase

My fellow bloggers are showing me up with all their cute videos. I will soon put an end to that 🙂 Our video camera was old and it finally died last weekend. I now own a super cool high def digitial hard drive camcorder (cannon HG10).

 No new reports on Dixie because he has caught a cold. No temp and no runny nose but a very dry cough. He’s getting some meds and hopefully will feel better in a few days. I noticed the cough when I went out to catch him on Friday. He has decided he would much rather go back to the hanging in the field and playing with his buddies type of lifestyle. He showed off for about 15 min displaying his galloping, bucking and leaping techniques while I tried to catch him. Did I mention he’s feeling good??? I  just stood back and watched him run around like a nut before he got tired and let me catch him. I heard him cough once or twice but thought it was from the hay he was eating before he decided to go on the high speed chase through the fields.

We headed out to ride and he was not to interested in what I had going on but thought he would look at everything in the ring. I was just doing some work at the walk with bending and lateral work. He had forgotten about moving off the leg so we revisited that topic. He was a bit cranky and when we started trot he started up with the coughing again. Mmm..nope that doesn’t sound like a dust cough so I headed back in.

He has been getting lots of grooming and attention this weekend. He will get his shoes put on this week and that should help him move more forward. Right now I can feel him just being a bit short in the front because we have not gotten any rain and the ground is hard. He has nice feet but since I intend to be jumping him and riding four plus days a week he’s not going to be comfortable barefoot. Some horses do well barefoot but it really depends on the horse and the quality of foot.

It’s been fun to watch him become more confident. He’s now boss over Indy (my other CANTER horse that everybody picks on) and that makes him feel good. He went from a horse that had no life in his eye to a horse that has this look of playfulness. When we were throwing down hay tonight he showed off again running and bucking around the field and chasing Indy. He does these sideways kicks as he gallops around that are hilarious. He galloped up and down the field a few times and then came back in to snuggle. I guess some people might worry that he’s feeling too good but I think he’s the type of horse that will put all this new found energy to good use undersaddle. He needed to feel like he was special and having a job does tend to bring out a sense of confidence in horses.

 I can’t wait to ride him again! He has already put on more weight and muscle. I promise some video of our next rides.

Looks good in red

Event season is right around the corner so it was time to break out the red saddle pad and get Dixie in the spirit. My colors are red and yellow so I make sure I only ride horses that go well with my colors 🙂 The barn that I lease is wonderful for training event horses. It is an 80 acre family farm owned by great people who would do anything for you. When I moved out there with two horses there we no riding facilities besides the small round pen (really small) and he gave us one of his hay fields but we had no jumps. The most exciting part of the farm is that there are hours of trails and you don’t have to go far to get to them. I have grown up riding in grass rings so we got to work building jumps. Then we have slowy added a small ring with nice footing (the farm owner got stone dust from a local standarbred track for free and we mixed it with the sand) and lights. It’s not flat which makes riding dressage interesting..hey at least it seems easier when you get to an event and there is a flat ring. We also taped off the big field after one of my horses kept finding it amusing to drop his shoulder and try to run back to the barn. Riding in our big grass field is very similiar to heading out to a cross country course. Dixie shows the how tough the journey to the field can be and how the horses learn to be brave. Leaving the barn walking the path of doom. Notice the evil horse trailer, old playground slide, the scary doghouse and the little metal houses where the chickens/hens and turkeys life.

Then you turn right and head out toward the ring. On some days you are met by flying geese and crazy guinea hens which run right in front of the horses or flop around with all this cackling noise.

Walk a bit further and you are to the field.  This was dixie walking back from the ring but you get the idea.

I love this farm. It’s not fancy at all and there are many things I would change about it if I owned it but the horses are relaxed and happy. Some days when the kids are zipping around on the four wheelers, the trees are blowing and all the many family members are flying up and down the driveway in their array of vehicles I wish for some peace and quiet. Peace and quiet is nice but life on a big family farm makes a great training atmosphere for horses that are expected to deal with chaos when they head off to the horse shows.

Last night, Dixie got his first experience with motorcyles and I don’t even think he paid attention. Maybe four wheels and motorcyles blend together for horses? Something I am starting to notice about Dixie is that he is becoming more alert. It could be that he is getting fit or that his diet has changed and now includes grain. He gave me the first spook the other day over my jump with the plastic christmas tree under it (yes, we are a bit redneck with the jumps). He jumped a good five feet left and took me by suprise but then went on like it never happened. Last night, he started looking for things to spook at. Suddenly, the things he has went past everyday were coming alive. I sometimes ignore the behavior if horses are really scared but I think he was messing with me because Dixie is not a spooky horse. I gave him one tap with the whip and told him to knock it off. He did and he went back to work without anymore looking. I don’t mind the funny spooking behavior. It lets me know he’s feeling good and he’s starting to think for himself. I will keep an eye on his behavior and cut back some of the grain if necessary but I believe that horses that are in work and are building muscle need the grain. I feed TC complete and he’s only getting 6lbs a day so it’s not like he’s being overloaded. I am sure he’s just feeling full of himself right now.

Every ride we make progress in our stretching work. He still is a bit reluctant to really take the stretch down but he’s getting the idea.

 He still is having some trouble with the right lead but that is normal with horses off the track. He picked it up on the third try and then the second time I asked during the ride he got it on the second try. He understand what I am asking but his body isn’t cooperating. As he starts to get even on both sides of his body the trouble with the lead should go away. I notice he lands on the right lead after we jump so that is great.

Speaking of jumps- up until yesterday he has been very calmly just stepping over the little jumps. I started out with the same x-rail I have been warming up over and he took my by suprise with a big leap. Gotta love the young horses!

My husband gets a good laugh out of taking pictures of me. He is a great help with all the horses and he likes to give me a running commentary on the pictures. He let me know I look stupid over this jump. Yes, well I didn’t expect him to rock back and leap in the air. I gave him a release and stayed centered. Good enough. I am my own worse critic and having to post pictures of myself riding keeps me motivated to improve. I ride effectively but I would like to lose all the extra weight, grow longer legs and longer arms. Do they make some sort of pill for that 🙂

Dixie wasn’t fond of the flower boxes I asked him to walk over. He would stand in front of them and take baby steps towards them. Then he got scared and would back up. Normal baby horse behavior. I just kept asking him to stay centered in front of the jump and move forward. Eventually, he got brave and walked over. Coming back the other way was just as scary so we had to repeat the process. We went a few times back and forth and then ended on that note. I didn’t trot because he was still worried. I bet tomorrow he’s going to have no trouble at all.

Getting serious

I realized yesterday that I haven’t lunged Dixie yet and don’t even know if he lunges. He is so grown up about everything that I haven’t felt the need to lunge. With most young horses I like to teach them how to lunge. This is a great way to get them comfortable with your body language, teach them to move forward, establish whoa and give them an idea of what contact feels like. I am not overdependent on lunging but it serves many purposes in  retraining horses that have incorrect muscling. I use either vienna reins, side reins or a chambon based on the horse and their way of going. It’s really rewarding to watch horses that come in traveling like giraffes discover how to relax their back and start to seek the contact. I may use lunging in between rides or lunge for 5-10 minutes before a ride to get them relaxed in the back and going forward. Some ottb’s can be coldbacked and lunging allows them to stretch themselves without having to stress about the rider. Of course lunging is always a way to let them get the feel good behavior out of the system but I am careful not to let them think lunging is a free for all session. They always wear a lunge cavesson, surcingle and vienna reins (most of them).

 Dixie does not feel like a young uneducated horse and I would have to say whoever broke him as a baby and rode him at the track did a great job. I have increased the technical aspects of our riding since the basics are already in place. I am not starting to ask him to work into a bit of contact. He figured out how to move off the leg in about one day and he comes nicely from behind. I have been working at the walk to ask him to start to soften the jaw and have a little inside bend. He is stiffer to the right than to the left. To the right I will open my inside rein with soft pulses and make sure I am soft with my outside rein so I allow the neck to come around to the right. His reaction to the soft squeezes and opening rein is to open his mouth and chew which is not at all a bad thing. He wanted to escape the pressure he felt by pulling down with the open mouth. I would add a bit of leg and keep asking. As soon as he softened I would soften and allow my hands to follow his mouth. We worked on our spiral circle at the walk and I kept asking with the opening inside rein that he supple his neck to the right while using the inside leg to ask him to slide his body left. He is a quick learner and was figuring this out.

He wanted to go really low…in a way he’s trying to escape but I reward any attempt they make at stretching. The main thing I think about when riding is to make sure I always have a feeling hand. It’s okay to give soft squeezes or maybe a little pulse to ask them to soften the jaw. You never want to hang or pull because they find that easy to pull back on. You will never be stronger than a horse but you can be quicker so if they start to take a hold I just very quickly will do a squeeze and soften and repeat as needed. This keeps the jaw from locking up. Don’t get crazy and start see sawing or flexing them left and right. It’s very subtle and you keep asking them to move into the contact with the leg.

 Going to the left he likes to over-bend so to the left we worked on a slight counter-bend again making sure the left rein was soft and the right rein was asking him to stay straight. We won’t always do the counterbending but I find using square turns really helps them become straighter and then over time you will be able to be more subtle but still keep keeping the shoulders and hind end straight.

 As he has gotten stronger the trot to canter transitions have smoothed out. They aren’t perfect but are not something I worry about at this stage of training. He has a nice canter and is now starting to enjoy cantering again. I actually saw him canter in the field the other day which was cool (he was too scared to move in the beginning :))

I took him out for a trail ride by himself on Sunday. He looked at things and we would stop and let him take it all in. He’s more curious than scared so he would look until he felt comfortable and then I would ask him to walk by. He did a great job and is so brave for a horse in a new environment. I love the way he thinks about new things and does not panic. I would take the stop and stare over prop and run any day!

The goal this week is to keep working on the bending and baby lateral work which allows him to start to unlock his body. We will also be introducing a few more jumps and adding some rails 9ft out to help him understand what his body should do.

My favorite part of retraining

Right now I can’t help but to smile reading Klondike’s blog about flapping pieces of plastic and tornado winds which do not seem to bother him. Klondike is a macho type of horse. When he travels to new places he gets off the trailer with the attitude of look at me…I’m a sexy beast so look at me.  He would prance around with his tail in the air until you couldn’t help but notice him. Then you got on him and he went to work like he has been doing it forever. His attitude about life always made me smile. He loved to work!

Part of getting new horses is making sure they settle into life on the farm and can relax into their new fields with buddies who won’t cause them to much anxiety. Dixie is a wimp and I hurt is pride when I removed him from his girlfriend and put him in with three other boys. He sulked in a corner and refused to join the others. Then he tried being friendly and my horse Junior kept chasing him. I gave it a few days to work itself out but finally I decided Junior (real smart-ass) must be relocated because he was the one causing the issues. So he got to move in with Charlie the other smart-ass so they could torment each other and Indy moved into the big field with Dixie, Boppus and my old boy Mr. Jones. This has worked out well and Dixie now is comfortable and will go out and eat hay with the other horses. I even caught him chasing Indy this morning..Indy the bigger wimp that Dixie.

 Dixie has ran away from me the past two times I have went out to catch him. I don’t worry about this behavior because being worked after just hanging out in a field for the past seven months must really be a drag. He thinks he should just eat hay and hang out with his friends. After five minutes of me standing there waiting for him to come back to where his hay was he gave in. He has become much more comfortable in the barn and is now standing nicely on the cross-ties with no issues. I keep an eye on him and don’t wander to far away but he knows the treats are in the tack room and he keeps his eyes on me whenever I am in there hoping I will be returning with treat. Yes, I spoil my horses with treats. I do believe giving treats helps bring out some personality so I give them some right before I bridle them and again when we return from work.

We had the tornado force winds yesterday and the whole barn was rattling. I wasn’t too worried about heading out on him though because he has already shown he has a super mind and the wind shouldn’t be an issue. He was a bit more on edge so I was not able to really get the relaxation on him today.

I also noticed from my pictures that I left the flash on my bridle (he shares with Junior) and he might not have liked that as much because he felt a bit stiffer in the jaw. He also could have been stiff because he had the previous day off and his muscles are a bit tight. I realized we simply weren’t going to have our best work so we did more simple things and started asking him to move off the leg at the walk and supple the neck. He doesn’t seem at all impressed with the leg and pushed back on the leg instead of moving away from it. This is common and something we will work on. I will do some groundwork with this and also see if a little spur might help or a light tap with a dressage whip. He’s the quiet type that is just very dull off the leg..which is good because it’s easy to teach them to move away from the leg rather than to have them panic and scoot when you touch them with leg.

 His canter is getting better each time and he is able to pick it up without the running shuffle. I am staying light off his back in a 3pt position which enables him to carry himself a little easier since he doesn’t have the muscle right now to hold the canter with weight on him.

 The funniest part was the jumping. I love teaching greenies to jump but I know many people would rather skip it all together because it’s sorta like being flung around in all sorts of direction. My husband had come out with me and made one jump into a x-rail that was very small. He moved the barrel that was under it and sat it standing up next to the jump. Dixie couldn’t take his eye off the barrel long enough to focus on the jump so I had to walk around the barrel a few times to let him realize it wasn’t going to eat him. The hardest part about teaching greenies to jump is getting them straight. I felt like I was riding a drunken version of Dixie. We were left, right and sideways on the way to the jump. They try to run out because why should they jump but I make it small enough that they can step over it from any angle. I do believe it’s important to not let them refuse if at all possible. In the beginning, I start small and then add some scarier type stuff but keep it very small so they learn even if it’s scary we can still step right over it. He was totally unimpressed with the whole concept of this bigger x-rail (up to now we had basically been doing piles of poles). I don’t think he even picked his legs up once but that is 100% normal in the beginning. He would just sorta step higher and then canter away. Good boy! Very relaxed and boring is what I strive for.

 I really want them to think for themselves so I basically steer and add leg but do nothing more. I don’t give them big kicks to get them to pick up or look for a distance. They need to just figure it out and I am there for support but don’t do much besides give a baby release (it’s just a little x-rail). Sometimes after a few sessions of jumping these x-rails you start thinking this horse has no scope and will never make a good jumper but then they will suprise you and just one day wake up and figure it all out. Then they start jumping you out of the tack and you regret ever thinking they would be good jumpers 🙂

I am very pleased with how Dixie handles himself. He may not act athletic yet but I feel it in there. It doesn’t take much to make me happy and a horse that tries is a good horse in my book. I had one horse that took me three months just to get him over an x-rail. I would call Allie and complain how rotten he was and how he just didn’t get it. He was talented and jumped with his knees to his chin when he decided to jump! The one day he just figured out jumps were okay and progress was made. When I introduced him to new jumps I still had to be careful because he had a pretty quick stop in him but wasn’t I suprised when I started showing him and he jumped around the hunter courses without a look. By taking my time and building his confidence he developed braveness. You couldn’t forget to ride but he came a long way from the horse that was afraid of a ground-pole and would snort and run backwards 🙂 I try to remember horses don’t have a time-line so you tailor your program to each horse. Dixie is easy so I feel okay introducing small jumps. He is not at all concerned or nervous about them. Quite the opposite actually. Sometimes, I forget I am on such a greenie because he has a very grown up attitude and feels more advanced then he is.

Tb’s are crazy!

One of the biggest challenges I run across in marketing the CANTER horses or any of my other Tb’s is that buyers tend to pass them over in fear that they are crazy or simply to difficult to retrain. If you are reading this blog you might not fall into that line of thinking but unfortunately many people do. I have grown up riding all sorts of horses since the age of 2yrs old. My family has been heavily involved in the TB racing industry so most of my experience is with the off the track horse but we have also had our fair share of warmbloods, quarterhorses and everything in between. There are hot/difficult horses across all the breeds so I never judge a horse by their breed. Tb’s will always be my favorite because of their athletic ability and desire to please. There is nothing like galloping cross country on a Tb that loves to run and jump. I can’t help but smiling just thinking of the upcoming event season and how much fun I will have with my greenies.

 I personally see many advantages to retraining a horse that has come from the racetrack. They have seen all sorts of things at the track and been exposed to chaos. At the track, they have to go out alone and in groups, through traffic, in front of crows and much more. They typically have good manners from getting handled and groomed daily. They develop a good work ethic and a nice forward button. Maybe some people don’t like the forward button as much as I do but I would rather have a forward horse than one I am constantly urging to keep going. Even the young horses that fail as racehorses seem to have a very grown up attitude. You can have your downsides to racing such as wear and tear on the legs. In a way having a horse that has had some wear and tear gives me an idea of how they might hold up to a sport horse career. If they have come of the track sound without any blemishes then they typically do hold up.

I got thinking about the whole Tb’s are crazy the other day when I was out riding Dixie and Indy during the high winds and spitting rain. I am the type of rider that will ride in all weather. I simply love to ride and since we don’t have an indoor the horses get ridden in less than ideal conditions all the time. There are some horses I might think twice about taking out on a windy day where the skies are black and the whole woods are blowing. I am human and although I am brave I am not stupid 🙂

Dixie was alert but listening. We made it down the path of doom with minor backing up issues (the manure spreader had been moved so it wasn’t so scary anymore). He got a bit rattled when one of the crazy geese flew up over his head (seriously, the geese are on a mission to get me dumped off). I am not a huge believer in making a horse walk if you can feel they just want to go because it often leads to a bigger blow up. When I allowed him to just go ahead and trot he swung his head and neck around but I just laughed and on we went. Some horses will actually want to pop into the canter and I let them. I know there are some people out there thinking that this perhaps is the wrong way to go about it but when you feel like you are on a ticking time bomb it helps to let them get the energy out before asking them to focus on work. It has kept me from getting launched many times and I do think it requires a degree of braveness to let the horse that feels so spunky go ahead and take a couple of laps around the ring. Now if they are really rank with some bucks or rears then maybe a lunge line is best in those situations but typically I am able to get them around without to much airs about grounds. Dixie was on edge which I could not at all blame him for. I was on edge too and the whole sky looked creepy.

I do my best to keep their minds very busy with work when you know they are thinking of all the scary things around them. He wanted to look at all the jumps and do a bit of spooking. I don’t let horses look at what they are scared of because I believe they get more scared (not all instances do I not let them look but depends on the situation) and then act more silly. Instead we did a bit of over-bending to the inside when we would go past the scary stuff or little leg yields and then back to straight. I keep them so busy thinking with transitions and changes of direction they forget to be silly. This takes relaxation on my part because I have to give them the confidence with my riding to let them know everything is okay. Leg on with a soft hand asking them to stay forward and work into the contact. If they get real spooky I will either ignore it or give them a kick and tell them to knock it off (depends on the horse and always err on the side of caution first :)) We had one of our best rides yet. He was light in front and really tracking up from behind. His canter felt more uphill and balanced. I am still only riding him for 15-20 min right now because he lacks muscle to do anymore. On the weekends, he will go out for some longer walk/trot trail rides to build up.

 I also rode Indy (he doesn’t have a blog but I can mention him right?). He’s a very cute guy 15.2 h 5 yr tb that ran two races and then got to hang out and be a horse for a year. He’s been in training for a few months and from day one he’s been quiet, brave and fun to ride. He is a forward mover at the trot and Allie nicknamed him sirtrotalot. He can cruise around but we seem to have that under control now that he is listening to half halts and has more of a mouth installed. He went to his first hunter show with under a month of training and actually warmed up on the track and then went in the indoor like he had been doing it forever…darn these Tb’s are crazy! Indy is not as lazy as he used to be now that he is fit and has the muscle to carry himself but he wouldn’t do anything to scare you. His canter is actually very slow and once he finds his balance at the trot it will all come together. I am looking forward to taking him cross country because he has the right mind for it and loves to jump. Indy has quite the story and he was a horse that was almost put down. Now he is enjoying his second chance at life and there is nothing cuter that his face over the stall door in the morning. He loves to work and I hope to find him a home with somebody that enjoys him as much as I do.

Many people think that the CANTER owned horses have something wrong with them and that is why they were donated. I would urge everyone to learn more about these horses. So far I have been blessed to retrain and rehome several of the CANTER owned horses. Flint Hills, was the quietest horses I have sat on in a long time. He was so reliable that I convinced my mom she must buy him even though he cribbed. They have been clean at every event and she trail rides him out with her friends and has regained her confidence. I sold General Forrest to a lovely teenager who is now showing him in the hunters. General did not start out as confident as Flint. He was quite the opposite and was scared of everything yet so talented. I spent a lot of time building up his confidence with baby jumps until he realized he was a star. His teenager is so in love with him and we get updates frequently. Then I had Klondike (he has a blog) and he was also quiet and brave. I was so bummed that he had a minor strain with his tendon because I was having a blast with him. Finally, I had Yellow Tavern. If you doubted there were nice horses that came through CANTER he would sure change your mind. The horse was simply stunning and I am still depressed I broke my wrist and didn’t get to do much retraining with him. He went to a very special adult who will be eventing him. I suspect we will hear more about him in the near future. These are just the horses I have been blessed to work with but I have met others that are simply amazing.

Thinking back about some of these horses if I had seen simply a picture I might not have been at all interested. Heck, I don’t think Dixie looked to attractive in his picture on the CANTER site. Looking at that picture I would have never guessed he could be so nice. I remember Allie had emailed me a picture of Yellow Tavern and let me know he would be the next horse I was training. I was not really excited about him and thought he looked kinda ugly (well no horse is really ugly but he wasn’t my dream horse). Would you say pictures can be deceiving?

Seriously

Wait he's black? I though he was bay!

welcome to the real world

It’s always interesting to see how horses handle getting moved to new barns and starting into their new jobs. Since Dixie had been hanging out in a field since July he was not keen on the whole barn concept. His separation from his girlfriend was not helping with his anxiety issues. I have those cross ties that unvelcro when the horses pull back and I love them. Dixie managed to unvelcro my cross ties no matter whether he was on both of them or just tied to one. I was not concerned because I could tell the whole being in the aisle-way of the barn was overwhelming him and he would get over it. Yesterday, he stood cross tied just as nicely as could be and took a nap while I groomed him and tacked him up. He really loved when I curried the spot at the top of the tail. He almost fell over he was so into it! He has gotten a bath, trim of mane and tail and clip job. He’s now looking the part.

 Over the past few rides I have been working on teaching dixie how to stretch across the back with a bit of long and low. He is very smart and picked this up quickly. We do a lot of patterns and changes of direction with transitions mixed in. During our flat-work, we might pop over a very tiny jump or go through some ground poles. I try to keep him interested. He’s very easy to ride so far and has been a quick learner. One thing I have found is that like most tb’s he is a bit stiff throughout his body. He’s supple in his neck but not sure how to move his body at the same time. I like to use the exercise when you spiral in and out on the circle and also use the long sides for some easy shoulder fore. I don’t want to fluster him yet since he’s not fit but it’s good to start teaching them now.

 Yesterday we cantered for the first time. Cantering can be one of those unknowns. Sometimes they have a lovely trot and the canter is quick and unbalanced so I am always eager to try it out. He has a slow canter which felt a bit downhill. I am sure that is because he still lacks strength and muscle. Our transitions into the canter were quite funny. I always start out easy with just a bit of leg…um dixie are you there? Nope, he needed a big old pony club kick! This guy doesn’t understand what fast is and it can take quite a bit of leg to get him moving. I do always carry a crop but with the greenies I would rather just let them figure it out in the beginning. I don’t care if they run or get unbalanced since they don’t have the muscle to support a good transition at this time. We cantered once around both ways and then stopped. He had a tough time picking up the right lead but he floundered all around and finally found his gear.

 He is still scared to walk down the path to the ring. I don’t really blame him since there always seems to be something new on the path. Currently, there is a big 4 horse trailer along the path, a red slide off of a playground laying there, a dog house and then the pen with all the chickens running around. Yesterday, the farm owner parked the manure spreader there. I didn’t make it far before I decided to get off and walk him out to the ring. He was doing his best to be good but he was honestly scared and he was shaking. I could have forced the issue but it wasn’t necessary and I try to stay away from that if at all possible.

Dixie’s arrival

Arriving at CANTERAllie brought Dixie and his girlfriend (lovely CANTER owned mare named Cryinginthechapel) down on Sunday. He has been hanging out just being a horse for the past seven months. Dixie is the fifth horse from CANTER that I have had the opportunity to retrain and it’s always exciting to watch them journey into new careers.

Despite the strong winds that were blowing us sideways we decided we should go on a trail ride. I rode Indy’s Wolf (another CANTER horse I am retraining) and Allie rode Dixie. Now Dixie had not been ridden in seven months but Allie was sure he was going to be just fine. She was right of course. Indy and Dixie took turns leading the trail ride and we headed through the woods out to the fields. We went through big puddles, natural ditches filled with water and encountered all sorts of spooky stuff. Both horses trotted along just as quiet as can be despite wind blowing right up their tails. We came back and rode around the ring a bit. Allie could not stop gushing over how great Dixie felt. She trotted him over some poles and a little jump and he could have cared less. You never know what kind of training a racehorse has received so when you get one that is soft in the mouth, supple through the body and understands the leg and hand you want to do cartwheels because your job is going to be easy. We switched horses and boy was it fun to sit on Dixie. He’s a big boy at 16.2 h and quite stocky. He lacks muscle right now but he just has that feel that I look for. Forward moving, good off the leg, nice in the mouth and the brain we all want. He is very weak in the hind end right now and not all that attractive to look at so you might think we are both a bit crazy gushing about this horse if you happened to see him standing out in the field. I like to call it the “vision.”

The ability to see and feel what a horse will be like several months down the road with weight, proper muscling and training is a skill you develop after looking at and retraining many horses. We all look at the pictures on the various CANTER websites and pick out our favorite horses but can you find that diamond in the rough?

Since his arrival at my farm Dixie has been allowed to settle in. Yesterday, I brought him in and finished pulling his mane. He will get a bath and a clip job this week. It’s hard to do much with all that hair! I took him out for a 15 min ride. In the beginning, I keep it short and simple. He has no muscle so we just did some basic walk and trotting. At this point in the training I am not asking them to do anything besides go forward and little baby lateral work. We walked and trotted across some poles laying around the ring. I like to start this from the first ride so that it becomes part of the routine.

I have discovered Dixie really likes to eat 🙂 His girlfriend is only a week off the track and she likes to wander off to stare out into the field and he tries to go and steal her grain. At my farm, the stalls turn right out into the fields so they horses can just come and go as they please. He was not eating any grain but now that he will be in work he is getting some grain and beet pulp. I also feed them as much timothy/grass hay as they want to eat.

Photo Above:  Dixie upon arriving at CANTER

Dixie now:dixie 3-10-08