Monthly Archives: July 2010

Hurry up and wait

Things were absolutely crazy there for about a month with a huge influx of horses coming in and lots of shifting around to find places for them to go. I moved most to the farm over in centreville but I still have Diamond H, Sonrea and Track’s Protege at my house.

They are the most atypical racehorses that I have had in terms of their comfort level of being outside. They come in to eat their morning and evening grain and otherwise I barely even see them in the barn. We have gorgeous grass and they are happier outside eating. Why is this strange? Well my friend Alison will tell you that sometimes teaching racehorses that they can go outside is hard to do.  Her horse, Top Punch, who raced for 10yrs of his life prefers being in the stall and almost panics when he is forced to go out.

My farm is set up so that the stalls are open via dutch doors right into their fields so they can come and go. Fans are on during the day and the barn is cool. Most of the horses who come from the track are much more comfortable standing in and would rather be in away from the bugs than outside. The weather has been brutally hot and I look out and those guys are way down in the field sweat running off them but happily eating. I guess they are just happy to have the grass and I enjoy how low maintenance they are. Sonrea does come up at times to much on some alfalfa in his hay feeders but track’s protegé prefers the grass.

Diamond H would much rather be in the stall so he does tend to stand in but I think the other two have trained him to go outside a bit more. His tendon is looking great! We had someone who made a really kind donation of two 6 pocket ice boots which I tried out last night. Awesome! I ice him 2x a day but the walking in turnout is good for the tendon. They don’t really run to much unless they get a big bomber fly on them.

My farm has been quiet lately as every horse has some sort of reason to not be ridden. They racehorses are all resting for another few weeks. On Saturday, I come in and find my clients horse down in the stall moaning and groaning and not wanting to get up. He gets up and his front leg is hot and swollen and pounding pulse. Yep, good old abscess. At first he was convinced I was trying to kill him putting hot water on his foot. We had much hysterics about the soaking but he figured out it would be okay. Then I wrapped the coronary band with the animalintex poultice pads as I was sure it was coming out there. Typically, when they are non weight-bearing and in that much pain you know the abscess is going to blow out there. Sure enough on Sunday night a nice big slice appeared on the coronary band and good drainage. It’s the one time when you are really happy to see puss.

Yesterday, I’m all set to ride the one remaining rideable horse on the farm. I’m bringing him in and looking down thinking mmm that looks like crusty mud down the back of his elbow. Wonder why? Tilt my head down and he had tried to slice off his leg at the elbow. Nice deep wide puncture wound but it looked old (day old?) and not stitchable so that got flushed, scrubbed and treated. Started on antibiotics and a bit of bute.

I find that life on the farm goes in patterns where everything is going great and then boom everyone is broken. All minor wounds thankfully but amazing how you can have a farm full of horses and nothing to ride. It won’t last for long so perhaps enjoy the break while I can? Mr. Abscess looks much better but still sore and draining.

It’s possible that I am going to bring back some horses from the funny farm this weekend but still waiting to confirm details and make sure they are ready to go to work. The good news is that my ring is completed and the footing is awesome. I am ordering some fillers for other the jumps to have a jump course that will really prepare the young horses for all the scary fences they will meet in competitions. Slowly but surely everything is coming together on the farm. We have been there for almost 3 yrs now and there is still so much work to be done. Building a farm from ground up is a lot of work!

I’m thinking we need a goat after visiting the goat barn at the state fair last night. I really like the pygmy goats but Kurt likes the bigger boer goats. I always had goats growing up and that right there should deter me from getting one. They get into everything but they are just so cool. Maybe if we don’t get a goat we can have a donkey? I used to have a mini donkey growing up that I trained to pull a cart. I called him sam-mule and he was awesome. Perhaps we can have both??? Ha, hope Kurt doesn’t read this he will threaten to leave me. I’m already on the verge of becoming the crazy cat lady 🙂

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Opportunity to just be a horse

Everyone keeps asking the prices on the new horses and at this point they aren’t available yet. CANTER Mid Atlantic likes for all of our horses to have minimum of two months with us to just be horses again, get the dentist, farrier and chiro if needed. The horses get turned out 24×7 in lovely grass fields with run-ins and at my place with the option for stalls. If they really indicate they want a little bit of a job then we will ride them lightly but for the most part they get to be horses and relax into the new lifestyle. This allows the retraining process to go smoothly and also allows their bodies to recover from the stress of racing. Even when they are sound the still tend to move a bit tracky at first and this let down times gives them time to let anything that might have been bothering them quiet down. Their muscles hurt and most times their feet tend to hurt. We pull their shoes if they have good feet or shoe them up front if they appear to need it.

I went over to the layup farm that I shuttle the CANTER horses to to drop off Shine my Shoes for his extended rest period and see the rest of the horses. We have six over there right now.

You might remember the bay and the gray horse we dropped off in February- https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/blizzard-of-feb-2010/ They were both headed to the place of no return. The gray sadly had to be euthanized a few months ago as he had inoperable chips in both knees and could not get around comfortably. He had a great end to his life with people who loved him, grass up to his knees and his horse buddies. The bay horse has thrived and went from being scared to loving humans again. He does have some large ankles which are fused but he is sound. I will get on him within the next week or so and get some video. We hope to place him in a trail home or as a pasture pal. He loves people and is super to work around.

Finding light riding homes for these horses is very challenging so please spread the word. This guy went through hell and back and would love to have his own person.

Remember Indy’s Chic? https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/dees-first-ride/ She was at my farm for a few months really doing awesome and headed to her first show https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/parker-and-dee-rocked-this-weekend/ Then we found out she had fractured her stifle at some point during her race career and could only have a light riding career. She went to hang out at the farm as well and we are desperate to find her a home. She has the best personality and is a great ride. Check out happy she is!

King Remda was turned out with the girls and he is loving life 🙂 They said this guy is going to be special and I agree. Looks like he has picked up some weight already. He is such a lover and came right up for some loving.

Lady Wheaton has settled in right away and they remarked how quiet and sensible she is for a 3yr. She was not posing for pictures as she was to busy licking my shoes?

Last but not least we have Rock

I love seeing a bunch of happy horses. We will be letting these guys get some rest and then eventually bringing them back for a bit of restarting before we advertise them. I’m hoping to take one/two more horses to the farm and pick up some that may be ready for riding at the farm at Long Lane. Keeps us busy but I love it!

First ride on the new boys

I had to wait a bit longer in the morning as the hubby was slow getting up so it was hot and buggy. This humidity is just awful.

Track’s protege was up first. He stood very quietly to be tacked up and walked around the ring with no worries. Kurt and I have a system that we tend to do. First we walk them around in hand with the leadrope on. He holds them and then I climb up on the mounting block and get them used to me standing up there. I touch them on their backs and their sides to get them used to it. I find the hardest part is getting them used to standing at the mounting block.

This proved to be the case with Track as he was like OMG why in the heck are you standing up there and was eager to RUN far away. He was just worried so went spent about 15 min moving around and getting him used to me standing above him and touching him all over. When his eyes were soft and relaxed then I knew it was time to go up. I always just put the tip of my toe in and slowly stand 1/2 up. I don’t swing over until I go up and feel them say it’s okay. He could have cared less.

Kurt gives me a pony ride around once or twice just to get them comfortable and then off I go. He was totally chill about everything but ouchy on his foot which is missing a shoe. He was not happy about having to trot 🙂 I did a tiny bit of trot both ways and then quit with that and will see if he feels better when he gets new shoes on. He is such a sweetie but a bit cautious. Once he knows what you are doing he is like oh okay no bigge. He got a nice cooldown and went back to his stall.

His reaction to a big bomber on his butt was just to swish his tail and I was turning around trying to kill it. Those things are awful!

Sonrea was up next. I was kinda thinking he might be a bit goofy because he is attached at the hip to the other guy. I couldn’t have been more wrong which is always good. That is why I love tb’s because they are often very professional once you give them a job and they can stop focusing on OMG my buddy.

He is a narrow horse and my 48″ girth was to big. He is a bit pushy on the ground so we will work on that. He was totally relaxed about the mounting block so I went right up. He felt great undersaddle and had a nice natural way of carrying himself. He was a bit crooked in the way he traveled but they all tend to be and let down fixes that. He quietly trotted and cantered around. Only had a right lead as the left side felt pretty crooked. Lovely soft canter. He is a cool horse and I loved the way he felt already so with some time off, dentist and chiro I imagine he is going to be quite fancy.

I’m going to take Shine my Shoes over to the turnout farm later today. I’m up to 9 horses and 8 stalls again 🙂 To hot for someone not to have a stall right now.

Farrier will be out tomorrow so I can hopefully get shoes on both of the new horses.

New arrivals

We went to pick up some new arrivals yesterday at Delaware Park. Thankfully, the rain had let up as I was pretty nervous about driving horses in the pouring down rain. They got small paddock turnout last night and this morning their grass field.

This is Sonrea- 4 yr gelding about 15.3 h.

Track’s Protege- 5yr 16 h

Shine my Shoes is happy to have buddies!

Sonrea is all about touring the field

Track just wanted to eat but kept getting interrupted by Sonrea who would run around in circles until they both started to run around a bit.

They both are sound and very nice healthy horses. We are happy to have them and they will get a few months to just be horses before we start really working them.

Products that I love

I jinxed myself yesterday by talking about how much I love the cavallo hoof boots that I bought as the horsey came in without a shoe! I had always wanted hoof boots but thought they are to expensive and I can just do the good old duct tape boot. I bit the bullet this year because I have a few horses that absolutely can not be without a shoe and duct tape boots only stay on for so long and I was tired of wrapping feet.

I have gotten a ton of use out of the cavallo boots. I use them for horses that have lost shoes, packing feet, treating thrush and everything else that comes in between. They are so easy to put on and they seem to wear like iron. I can turn the horses out in them and not worry about them rubbing and their feet don’t chip up. I keep one of each in the trailer as it seems like I tend to lose shoes out x-c schooling so these are a good option. You can ride in them as well although the horses take a bit to get used to them.

Diamond H has some thrush that is really bad on his left front foot. I have packed it with some antibodic cream and threw the boot on it. Easy!

I also love the classic equine top load hay bags. They make my life so much easier for horses on stall rest. I actually use my wooden box slow feed hay feeders for some horses but Ring Dancer seems to want to cut herself on it. She walks and grinds her stall up so the hay feeder keeps the hay off the ground and the stall neater. They have to take small bites so it keeps hay in front of them all day. You can fit 3-4 big flakes in there and it’s so easy to put the hay in.

The absolute best thing in the world are the hay feeders that Kurt built- https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/staying-positive/

They keep the hay off the ground, it last longer, doesn’t get peed/pooped in and no waste. The other morning, I threw hay in the stalls as it was pouring outside and the horses wasted so much hay and the stalls were a total mess. It’s much easier to clean the paddocks then clean the stalls that have hay mixed up in them.

Testament to good temperament

I couldn’t tell you anything about how Ring Dancer or Diamond H are to ride but I would almost bet they are going to be really quiet and easy. I base that guess on how good they both are on stall rest.

Ring Dancer injured her sesamoid on May 1st and I picked her up the following weekend. She was racing fit and yet she calmly walked on the trailer and settled in here instantly. She has been on stall rest for 2.5 months now and no drugs needed. She is wonderful to work with and I am in and out of her stall several times a day. She is always friendly and well mannered. She is excellent to wrap and work out. I have started hand walking her and she just calmly walks along looking around but never offering to be silly. She is such a pretty filly and I’m interested to see what she wants to be in the future. Looks like she might be a hunter but can’t say for sure.

Diamond H is also one of those horses that is an old soul. He reminds me of Top Punch in many ways. He is a bit bored so he does have a habit of kicking the stall walls which isn’t really good. I did buy some kicking chains for him because he can’t stand in and kick. I had never used kicking chains before but the vet recommended them because apparently he was kicking quite bad after his tendon surgery. They are basically cuffs that go around the ankles and have chains that are attached. When the horse kicks the chain smacks them back. The chains drag on the ground so he should have been scared/nervous but nope he was just pissed 🙂 It has stopped the kicking so mission accomplished.

Now he was also racing fit and he is a big boy. I would say 16.3 but massive bone and a really wide back and chest. He is a puppy dog to handle. The vets complimented him on how well behaved he was and how brave he is. Nothing phases him at all. Today he was so stinky that I had to bring him out and give him a bath. He walked right in the wash stall and stood perfectly for his bath. I rewrap his leg every other day and he is always good for that. I have him pretty spoiled already with treats. He loves attention and is fun to love on.

One of the best aspects of the racetrack life is that the horses get handled so frequently. For the most part they are all good for baths and to have their legs worked on. It makes layup care much easier and I have always found the Tb’s way easier to deal with than sporthorses. My horse was a total turd on stall rest and did require drugs! Hand walking wasn’t happening so I just got on him. He was always better to ride than deal with on the ground so that is how we did things.

Shine my shoes is moving around a lot better now. He had cut his foot around the pastern..I’m sure it was because he CAN NOT keep his legs out of the water trough. He is alone right now in his paddock and that seems to keep him out of trouble. He is now out on the grass field and is doing really well. He was initially scared to be alone but has figured out he will survive it all. A good growing up experience for him.

Diamond has a little more than a week until he is off of stall rest and I hope to have the x-rays done on Ring Dancer when the vet comes to take out Diamond’s stitches. She should be good to go for small paddock turnout and then gradually to big field turnout. I will be excited to not have any horses on stall rest! I am still icing lots of ankles and tendons.

My friend, Melissa, is donating another ice boot! I am working with the one I have and making it work. The boys are excellent about icing but Melissa’s boot is one of the pocket one’s where you can just put it on and leave it. That will simplify things.

This week I need to work on pulling Ring Dancer’s mane. She needs to get polished up a bit and probably needs a bath too. Stall rest horses = stink!

Teaching independence

Almost everyone that is looking for a horse wants something they can trail ride and hack out alone if they desire. I also really enjoy trail riding and for me one of the best stress relievers is a nice trail ride alone in the fields near my farm.

Now, how many of you have a horse that is truly good out alone? Can you leave the farm and ride down the road in the fields near the farm when the horse knows that home is right around the corner? Do you believe that horses are either naturally good by themselves or is it a taught skill?

I’m undecided on whether they are just naturally good at trail riding/solo rides or if you can teach them. I have had horses that enjoy being out of the ring more than being in it (Dixie is at the top of that list) and some horses who despite years and years of hard work always were totally awful to ride out of the ring. The horse that I grew up riding was just plain awful on the trails to the point of it being no fun. He had moves that would make you jaw drop and a spook that could unseat a rodeo rider. He was scared of his own shadow. He couldn’t be in front but god forbid you try being in the back. Solo trail rides riding away from the barn…ha, I dare you to try 🙂

One observation that I like to make about horses is how do they do in the field alone or when a buddy is removed. This really gives you a clue into how they may behave riding out alone. For example, my latest project horse is owned by a client and is a lovely 4 yr. He is so very quiet with an excellent brain. He has never cared about what the other horses are doing but he does like to test the notion of having to go away from his buddies.

I find it very normal for horses to test you so can you figure out how to teach them that they do have to go and win the battle? I was thinking about this as I rode my project horse out for the first time yesterday. He has done several group trails rides and is absolutely excellent! I was riding him out to go school some puddles as he thinks going through water is option which is not ideal for an event horse. He went to his first starter trial and was excellent. Very relaxed and easy going but decided that going away from the crowd was not something he wanted to do. He had never picked this particular fight at home so it was a bit of a shock 🙂 Now he’s a 4yr doing his first ever starter trial so all within normal limits of behavior. I basically lost power steering and he wanted to spin to the left so we had some refusals not really because of the jumps but more of the I don’t want to go there type of things.

So I ride down the road and he is just totally relaxed riding away from the farm and his buddies. We get to where I want to go which is a narrow path with corn on one side and a tax ditch on the other. It leads out to the big fields that run behind the farm. Here he decides heck no he is going home. I’m a believer in having the right tools for the battle so I had worn spurs and carried my dressage whip. Last time we rode out with a friend and he decided he wasn’t going into the water so today NO wasn’t going to be an option.

He wasn’t even near the water when he spun left. I quickly used the right rein and left leg and just made him stand still. When a horse is spinning and popping up it’s easy to lose that battle with gravity so standing facing the direction I wanted to go was his only option. He could only move forward but if he tried going either left or right he had to stand again. He did a few more spins and pop ups (basically very mild form of feet off the ground but not scary or serious) and I quietly steered and tapped. The dressage whip gives me the ability to keep steering with my hands on the rein while saying you must keep going forward.

This horse has an extremely good brain and within 2 min he figured out I meant business and marched forward not even glancing at any of the puddles that I asked him to walk through. Now there is a horse nearby hollering and he still didn’t get flustered. We walked to the end of the path and turned around and came all the way back to the road. Then I asked him to turn around and go back down the path. He gave one half ass attempt at a protest and I gave him a little tap and he quickly marched forward. I gave him big pats and walked a ways down and back home we went. He walked quietly home without jigging just on a loose rein.

I consider him a very quiet horse who just needs to learn the rules. He’s a 4yr who came off the track in February. I wouldn’t expect him to understand or be perfect about leaving his buddies but if I put the time in to show him that he can go alone using a quiet and relaxed method the chances are that he will become very confident in a short period of time.

Some horses just don’t enjoy trails or being alone. I wrote a post about a horse that I had in training who was perfect in the ring but blew a lid out on the trails even with another horse. He was very barn/buddy sour. It’s hard ot train that out of them in my personal opinion. If they don’t enjoy being in the open then maybe a career in the ring is a better option.

It also really helps to take baby steps and remember they are racehorses they don’t understand trail riding let alone solo trail rides. My first trail rides are always with another quiet/brave horse and are very short. Think 15 min just to let them see something different and see if they handle it. Gradually increase the length of time. It also helps to ride on paths if you can that are closed in by woods so you have some boundaries. Open fields can often lead to a disaster on a horse who isn’t used to them. The whole looking into the distance and getting across the field and sitting on a horse who totally knows where it came from and wants to go back RIGHT now is not fun. I’m a fan of letting the horse go forward so be brave and just do it. Choking back an excited horse can make it more anxious and lead to other bad behavior. I just put on my vest, make sure I have my stirrups short and trot/canter on if needed. Most horses just need to get that bit of excitement out of their system but sometimes it can work against you if they are the type that builds instead of winds down.

To teach a horse to go first I gradually switch with the other person and try to go in front. I like to do a bit of leap frog riding both in the front and the back. Once the horse is comfortable in smaller groups then you can try a bigger group.

Solo trail riding is not something I do that often simply because I ride young horses and I don’t like to ride out to far alone. If I do then I take my phone and let people know where I am at. Accidents happen even on the quietest horses and you need to be smart. I start my solo rides here on the farm. I will ride out into one of the pastures to see how they handle that. Then go down the driveway and back. Then ride down the road and so on. Each time going a bit further until you are sure they are okay. Keep it short and simple to build their confidence. Once they realize it is fun and they will return back to the barn/buddies eventually they do fine. Now some will just let you know that it isn’t their idea of fun to go out alone so maybe that just isn’t their cup of tea.

I really enjoy this process as long as the horse isn’t going to hurt me 🙂 I had so much fun galloping Dixie on all the state owned land getting him fit for foxhunting. He was excellent out alone and he always listened really well. I used to fly across the fields near the farm we leased on my conn/tb and it always made me giggle because I swear he was faster than the tb’s. It could just be that his legs were shorter but man he could fly. He goes from 0 to 60 with just a smooch.

We got a lot of rain so I will be doing a lot of puddle practice and more solo rides to improve my youngsters confidence out x-c.