Monthly Archives: September 2009

Top Punch update & Hunting

As I listened to my friends message it was almost like I could hear her smiling through the phone. She had called to let me know that she did her first hunt on Punch and he was incredible. They had taken a lot of the young hounds out and they were really excited and silly acting. Her horse is the same color as the huntsman’s horse so Punch had to get used to a lot of hounds quickly and although his heart was beating fast he didn’t put a foot wrong.

To say she enjoys her new horse would be the understatement of the year. I am so glad that Punch has found his perfect home and I can not wait to be out hunting with them.

Speaking of hunting my club is cubbing this Sunday but I can’t go as we are off to the Retired Racehorse Symposium http://www.dodonfarm.com/symposium.html I believe we will be taking Top Punch and Escape by Sea (the chestnut mare). I am super excited although nervous about riding in front of crowds. Back to hunting..I hear I am getting a horse to hunt. Kid Klondike will be coming back to my farm to begin his hunting career if he doesn’t sell first. http://kidklondike.wordpress.com/ I am super excited and I have much love for the Klon. He spent 2-3 months with me but needed a bit more rest for his injury so headed back to the farm and I haven’t ridden him since. I have seen him out and about with Kelly rocking the x-c so I think he is going to love hunting.

Sea Flip went on his first trail ride over the weekend and he was excellent except for our log incident. A log had fallen over the trail and it had these spikes sticking up on it so you had only a 2ft section to step across. He was being a total butthead and not even thinking he could step over. I got off to walk over and he thought I was insane. I had Kurt tap him on the butt as I held his horse. Brillant move on my part as he said you crazy and tried to run back to the trailer after pulling away from me. Reins caught in his leg stopped him and Kurt caught him and he smartly walked back and hopped right over the log…geez you think! Just for extra measure as I was using the log as a mounting block he jumped over it again 🙂 Did I mention he is a bit of a smart ass?

He was super brave and very relaxed about the whole trail riding thing. We had a nice walk/trot going through some puddles and over tiny little logs to make a point he can do that. He walked nicely over the log on the way home and loaded up nicely on the trailer. I really like him and think he is going to be something very special. He is just a 3yr right now!

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Bella’s first off the farm trip

Bella took her first trip off the farm up to Janice Dugan’s for a lesson and to see an indoor. She was quieter than I even expected her to be. Unloaded and hung out in a stall while I rode and then stood perfectly to get tacked up. Was a bit wide eyed walking into the first indoor but within one minute she was very chill. Not even one spook from her. We did some very simple exercises as she has only jumped a few times. Cavalettis, then x-rails with poles in front. Then we cantered our first jumps which was suprisingly quite easy except off the right lead where she prefers to leave very LONG!!!

Janice gave Bella a demonstration on how to jump the boxes which made me laugh hysterically but Bella jumped everything so nicely. I rode like total crap. I have no idea why I am popping back in the air with my hands flying up everywhere. I hate showing my videos but look at the horse people..don’t watch me. I have been stuck on nothing but greenies for so darn long my whole riding position feels shot to hell so I have some work to do.

My horse who is still green but not as green was also lovely. I don’t write about him on here but let’s just say he has become so confident in the past few months it makes me smile everytime I jump him. Now he is starting to take me to the fences instead of me having to push, whip, spur and all that stuff. He is such a good boy and was very happy to get to ride with Bella all day.

This is one nice mare people..buy her now so I don’t fall further in love with her. We will be at the Retired Racehorse Symposium next weekend come and say hi!

Flip on the flat

Sea Flip has finally gotten into a bit of real work this week. The first few rides were pretty darn funny as he was moving like a giraffee with this tight back and legs not even moving. Everyone always assumes Tb’s understand forward but many do not especially when you are actually touching the mouth with a slight contact. He strikes me as a horse who can go pretty fast when he wants to but needs a bit of understanding about how the body is supposed to work.

I have really focused on just some basic work at the walk and trot teaching him how to move laterally off the leg which I find really important for teaching them to soften the topline. You have to teach them that leg has different meanings of both forward and sideways. This can be challenging but Tb’s are smart and learn quickly. Flip is no exception to that rule and has picked up moving off the leg quickly. Not to say that it doesn’t result in an OMG why are you touching me like that reaction where he puts his head in giraffe mode and moves like a pogo stick.

I am riding the trot in a bit forward tempo even slightly rushy but that is okay in my personal line of thinking for this particular horse. You have to create a foward energy coming from the hind end to push them out to the hand. His natural reaction is to go inverted and take short steps so as I push him forward he can elongate the step and work into the contact with a more elastic back.

When he first arrived he moved like a jackhammer but everything is looking much better. I am really good at looking at the future and not worrying about what you are looking at in this moment. I currently see a body sore 3 yr who is very recently off the track and in need of lots of trail rides learning to go forward at the trot and canter. I am really good at doing that 🙂

He is super comfortable and I love his canter but he is not sure what to do with himself there. I can feel those bits where he stretches down and the stride gets longer and feels great.

What I love most about him is his personality and willing nature. He is such a fun horse to work with. I look forward to this weekend hopefully getting him out on the trails. We live on the border of the state land but hunting season has started and we already learned our lessons about ruining the hunters day by crashing through the hunting grounds. Who knew Amish could be so mean!

Saying goodbye

The decision was made to let etrain have a pain free ending. It was the right thing to do but still very hard emotionally.  Everyone always asks me if I get attached and of course I do but it is so much easier to let them go when they are moving into a new home with people who love them. I am glad Etrain ended up with me because I gave him a great few months where he didn’t have to run on a really bad ankle. He got to hang out and just be a horse and was really loved. I am really thankful to my wonderful vet, Dr. Egli, who makes these sort of decisions as easy as possible.

I tried to have a relaxing weekend and I rode Sea Flip for the first time since his arrival. Well technically I had gotten on him once right after he got here because I couldn’t help myself but I made myself give him a real break. He was excellent and we really worked on teaching him to stretch down at the trot and move away from the leg. I did a lot of very baby lateral work and he picked it up quickly.

Bella is coming along fantastic and Tara rode her a bit over the weekend and was getting a bit shocked by how big this mare can jump! I have been shocked at how well the jump chute works at teaching the horses how to pick a spot and how to get comfortable with jumping. What a great tool that I will make sure to use from now on.

I plan on working them both in the jump chute a bit more today just 10 min at most. It is easy work and keeps it low stress. As 3 yrs both of them have a very short attention span which is fine so you have to make sure to tailor the workouts to keep them short and sweet.

Lots of new stuff

I am posting an email from Rosey’s new owners who took her on a judged trail ride this weekend. I am super impressed Rosey was able to navigate that course which sounds beyond scary to me!

You would have been proud!!!!!
What a good girl…very impressed with her courage.
 
Im listing the 15 judged events:
 
1. Find the man hiding in the trees and ask him how many deer he’d seen today. (He was hiding by event # 6 which was a standing log jump…..he was in the trees as we sailed over the jump…tricky)
 
2.Turn on the forhad 360 degrees with in a painted circle.
 
3.remove clothes pins with ribbons blowing from trees and move them to another tree (not too tough but a little hairy with the flappy colors)
 
4. (OMG this one) stay within a small fenced area in the formation of a Z…..pushing a huge white ballwith a broom!  YOu have to keep the broom and the ball ahead of you while you manuver thru the fenced zigzag.
 
      She got a lot of praise for this!  She was blowing, hopping, reversing,snorting…..but we did it!
 
 
5. trot by 3 stuffed deers and shoot a nurf gun balls at them.  lol
 
6. step over stacked logs…or pop it at a walk (which is what we did)
 
7. climb a 12 foot hill, quielty down the other side, then walk over a mattress, 4 foot piece of shiny glittery material, and then step on a plank of tin.
(she did a rosie dance but made it thru with a few extra beads of sweat)
 
8.The enchanted forest………..not so good.  Had to walk thru a large curtain of strung beads, listening to howling wolves, crows and goblin noises.  Pass thru a herd of goats and reach down into a crinkly bag of animal crackers.
 
Did everyting but the beads
 
9.  dismount, rub horse with a plastic bag attached to a stick, remount with out the horse moving.
 
fabulouse job
 
10.throw 3 tennis balls thru a huge wooden horse’s mouth.  Scary with the balls winging by her eyes, but we did all 3.
 
11. Walk across a board that teeter/tooters as they step on it.     She followed my paint horse……she was a little jittery but we made it.
 
12. throw a lariat over a steer head on a stack of hay. 
 
13. (OMG!!!!)  walk thru the woods to encounter 2 huge Christmasblowup figures with the motors buzzing to keep them blown up.   She was a little wiggy…but we made it passed them with out incident.  🙂
 
14. (SHe was a Champ at this one)  Walk into a large pool of murky water.  Have a long rope handed to you with a 4 foot blown up aligator attached that you have to drag behind you as you walk thru the water!
 
       This was tough for many horses!!!  Rosie pranced thru the water with that gater following her like she was in a parade. lol   awsome.
 
15.  This was horrible.  They put 2 vertical posts 6 feet apart.  6 holes each side with pool noodles sticking out horizontally like wiggly posts.  We had to walk thru this (but there was no visual opening.  You had to convince your horse he/she could go thru these without being eaten by the noodle gobbler).. I had Brooke stand directly on the other side and slowly walk away.  Rosie thought she was being left behind, so she only fought for a minute…..then charged thru!
 
Over the past two days I have been working to create a jump chute to work the two 3 yrs through. When horses are young you really don’t want to practice jumping a lot of bigger jumps so the free jumping allows them to learn the mechanics of the jump and you can judge their talent without having to stress them to much.
 
I have never made a true jump chute with a line of grids before so it was an interesting challenge and one that was quite a bit of work. Carrying all the standards, poles and barrels was a good workout. I wasn’t sure how well it would work but it was a work in progress. Sunday we worked Sea Flip through it a few times. He didn’t want to go through the chute by himself so I had to lead him into the top of it and then he would go down. Each time I had to go catch him at the end and bring him back up. Good exercise! I started with just a x-rail and then moved to x-rail and vertical and finally x-rail, vertical and then oxer. He was trying super hard but still a bit backed off.
 
Yesterday, he went through like he knew the job! I need to work on adjusting the distances and getting him to relax going through but it was super fun to see him go.
 
I intend to start teaching Escape by Sea (the 3 yr mare) how to do it as well.
 
Last night I also got the chance to work with Top Punch. He was the lovely 12 yr that came off the track this year and was sold to my friend. She has been having a blast with him trail riding and doing some x-c schools. He is everything she wanted and more which makes me extremely happy because as a seller that is our ultimate goal. I had seen him a week ago during a trail ride and she was bringing him over for me to ride so he could start learning his flatwork.
 
I think she has taken the right progression with him by first just trail riding him and allowing him to relax and recondition his body. It would have been very tough for him to start hard flatwork right away but now is the right time. Having raced for 10 yrs of his life he really doesn’t have much of a clue about how to soften his topline and work into any sort of contact. When he had been at my place we just rode on a loopy rein and I never asked for anything.
 
Let me just say that he wasn’t about to understand what I wanted him to do. I spent about 30 min working from the halt and walk trying to get him to soften into the contact. A very steady contact and lots of leg to get him to push into it. He pulled and leaned quite strongly. I was working on moving him laterally off my legs to get him supple in his body and inside leg to outside rein. Although I could get him to yield off the leg at the end of that time frame he was still not even considering softening a little bit.
 
I made a decision to bring out the draw reins (oh no did I say an evil word :)) I am not one for shortcuts but part of being a good trainer or at least a knowledgable trainer is knowing when to use a tool and I have used draw reins for a session or two on really tough horses just to show them the concept.
 
I worked about 10 min with the draw reins using the same concepts of inside leg to outside rein and a tiny bit of flexion both inside flexion and counter flexion to really get him loose at the base of his neck and through the topline. Making sure to really use the leg to push him so that I wasn’t just using the draw reins for a “fake” frame. He fought very hard for the first 5 min making me go strictly to the draw rein and not hold my regular rein. Then I felt him start to understand. I could loosen the draw rein and he was now seeking a lower frame and his back had started to loosen.
 
This was my signal to see what I had with the regular rein. Ahhh…when I picked back up the reins he had already given me a step or two of softeness which was something I didn’t have before. At this point, I had the draw reins knotted and loose just being held in my pinkie finger so not in play. Now I focused on being super steady and just using my legs to push him into this really steady contact. I was explaining to Alison how this contact is actually quite heavy perhaps way heavier than people would imagine it should be but the leg is really pushing the horse into it. The minute he softens then I soften. Wouldn’t you know within 5 min we had a softness in our walk. Then I went to the trot again thinking stay really steady with the contact so if his head goes up close both legs and slightly resist but when he softens then I soften.
 
OMG do you know what it feels like when a really tight upside down horse all of a sudden comes across the back? It was like he gained another 2 ft in his stride and he was loose and swinging everywhere. He was moving off the leg both directions and stretching down to the hand. I really didn’t think we would be able to achieve that in one ride after he has spent so long going his own way.
 
I asked Alison to just get on and feel it and she was in shock. She said it was incredible and she couldn’t believe how nicely he moved away fromt he leg and how different he felt. It was great to be on the ground to see him go and he did look like a totally different horse just by going in this different shape. We weren’t asking him to go in a frame just to slightly soften his topline and move off the leg. He had gotten it and I think he was so proud of himself.
 
I credit my lessons with Mogie Bearden Muller for refining my skills working with young horses on the flat. I really don’t think I understood the concept of being that perfect in terms of offering a steady and consistent contact at all time. It requires you to be that much quicker with your reflexes in catching it so that you are always there to provide the steady feel. Almost feeling the resistance of the horse before it happens and using both legs to send them back to the steady hand. I am far from perfect but I have really improved in terms of being able to make my riding adjustments in a quicker fashion so the contact stays steady.
 
Punch is coming back over on Friday and I am eager to see if he retained his knowledge. He is one of the classiest horses I have met in a long time. Just so smart and willing to learn. I always feel so rewarded when horses learn the new concepts. Love my job!

The ugly side

The good news is that I heard from Rosey’s new people and they are going to buy her. They are loving her and just can not get over how friendly she is. They said she prefers people over horses which is very true about her. The trainer liked her as well which is always good. There will be a lot of adjustment. Her new owner is 14yrs old but weights around 90lbs and she is coming off a 14h pony. She needs to learn how to sit up and half halt with Rosey as Rosey gets trotting a bit to fast but they are confident they will be able to learn together and I agree. Rosey is a very kind horse in terms of not taking advantage of her rider or doing something scary. She isn’t going to run away so when he new owner learns the half halt they are going to be golden together.

I have continued riding Bella (Escape by Sea) and she is just fantastic. We are now jumping x-rails and she jumped the straw bales the first time about 4ft in the air with her knees to her eyes. Just how I like it 🙂 I am taking my time with her to slowly introduce the concepts. I do believe mares are a bit more sensitive and you have to explain the concepts a bit clearer in the beginning and when they understand they progress super fast.

Sea Flip has settled in really well but I am still giving him time to just be a horse. I plan on getting him started soon. He has had one chiropractic session and I think that really helped him. It is important to get them comfortable in the body before starting hard work.

The bad news is that Etrain has not been doing so well. He was donated and said to be sound but that has never been the case which is always disappointing. This week he started to lay down a lot and he was standing like a foundered horse with both feet out in front of him causing me to panic. There is always a good chance a horse will founder in the opposite foot from the leg they are injured on. I was still thinking it was an abscess but there is nothing there to show an abscess is brewing.

He has a left ankle that has multiple chips, a bone spur and severe arthritis. We knew that already based on x-rays that I asked for after he was donated.  I called the vet due to his increased discomfort and the foundered stance. He was laying down so often I was having to go out and get him up to get him in his stall and eventually I just kept him in the stall. Bute wasn’t helping all that much but it really hasn’t helped him since he arrived.

The vet decided to x-ray the ankle to see what was really going on. From flexing it she could tell that the fetlock had arthritis and the ankle was fusing or collapsing down on itself. The x-rays showed very severe arthritis and that the ankle had started to fuse. There were several chips and a big angry bone spur. My vet is awesome and understands that CANTER doesn’t have a lot of funds and x-rayed the opposite foot for us for free. Thankfully, no signs of founder just really thin soles.

I always ask for her opinion regarding a future for the horse and what we can do for the horse to keep it comfortable if we decide not to euthanize. We have no issues euthanizing if the horse has no quality of life but I was not prepared to make that decision yesterday as Allie is out-of-town. She did think that either he is going to abscess or that his soles are just so thin he might have a bruise. The ankle has been this way for quite some time. More than likely, he was racing on it with all those chips in there and the spur. The x-rays showed it had gotten much worse in terms of arthritis since the last x-rays but that it was fusing. It can take 9 months or longer to fuse and then she thinks he most likely will walk with a locked ankle and could be pasture sound or walking trail sound. He may or may not be in pain it would be to hard to guess without knowing how it finished fusing. Some horses become comfortable and some do not.

For the moment, we are buting and keeping him comfortable until we hopefully are able to find an abscess. Before the foot thing he was getting around at the walk although quite lame and he was very lame at the trot. She recommended shoes or a sterofoam cutout in the shape of his foot to get him up off the ground and provide some sole relief.

I am frustrated with the situation because this is the sweetest horse you could find. He is beautiful, well bred and made money for his owner/trainer yet they knew about all these issues. It won’t be the first time we have been given a horse with severe issues and the former contact knew about the severity but claimed the horse was just fine. I already put down a gorgeous 3 yr that arrived with a full mid-body fracture of both sesamoid bones with fragmentation. His connections had the nerve to verbally assault a volunteer stating the horse was fine and didn’t need to be put down. My vet must be crazy. I did tell my vet that and she said she would be glad to provide copies of her x-rays to them which are excellent clear digital x-rays. It is that kind of attitude that makes me want to bang my head on the wall. I don’t want to put horses down but when it comes to quality of life I am huge believer that you should never make a horse suffer.

The reality is that we can not adopt out sound horses at this point let alone horses with these kinds of issues. Pasture homes are the hardest to find and is it responsible for us to spend loads of money on the horses with no future while we could be helping many more transition into new homes with that money?

I am not the one who has to make these hard decisions but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t weight heavily on me. I care for these horses and get to know every little thing about them so when it comes time to make the hard decisions I will always support giving them the kind end instead of pain and suffering.

Allie (Fairweather) on COTH started a great discussion on euthanasia in the racing forum. I don’t pretend to have the answers but there is a lot of valuable insight into the issues that the racing industry is facing. I will always believe that CANTER provides a great service but I do wish these owner/trainers would be more responsible for these horses. Our donations are down this year forcing us to stop taking horses into the program. We are still taking horses from Delaware Park which is the track that I volunteer at but only because the gave us funds to work with which help support the horses.  Right now we need to make sure we provide for the horses we do have until they can be rehomed or budget for them to live out the rest of their lives with CANTER.

When I get frustrated I do try to step back and remember there are many great owners and trainers who do the right thing by the horses. When you see these horses rehomed into new careers with people who love them it makes it all worthwhile.  I have a list of the horses that I have helped to transition into new homes and it makes me smile just thinking of all them- Flint, General, Tavern, Indy, Dewey, Dixie, Wildcat and Rosey.

This weekend is Owner’s Day at Delaware Park and we will be setting up a table. I hope that I get the chance to talk some of the owners and trainers about our mission and how we can help them. I love to illustrate what we can do with the horses in terms of retraining and rehoming. I hope that it would influence them to perhaps stop running a horse that doesn’t show a future or a horse that isn’t holding up.

Rosey heads off and Escape by Sea gets started

Rosey was picked up on Saturday to head out for a short trial period. Her potential new owner is a 14 yr girl moving up from a pony to a horse. She has been riding big horses in her lessons but her mom thought the 15.2 height would make a smoother transition for her. Rosey made the trip easily and they reported she settled in well. I got a call the next day letting me know they took her to a local trail system to ride where she encountered dogs, bikes, water, canoes, people and more and was just excellent. They said she is wonderful to deal with and so sweet. She has been calling to them and I told them that was the norm for her she loves people and always wants to be the center of attention.

I got a few more pics from the clinic of her. They are cute so I figured I would share them.

Escape by Sea has gotten her expensive sigafoos glue on shoes and is feeling much better. We still have a bit of residual body soreness but I expect that. One of the biggest things people don’t understand is these horses have to do a complete body remuscling. They are racing fit and then they get turned out and you have to rebuild all that muscle over again.

I have had four rides on her now actually doing some sort of real work and boy oh boy this mare is smart! I taught her about working into the contact on ride # 2 and now she is stretching and working across her back. She lacks the forward button so I have to really push her forward to keep her from coming behind the bit but it is a work in progress and for her limited experience I will take whatever she offers up at this point. She is very balanced to both directions getting both leads and staying fairly straight. We took this video yesterday..geez I hate watching myself on video..yuck!