Monthly Archives: June 2011

Great first trail ride

I’m so in love with Bushy aka Bush Man. No clue where Bush Man came from but Kurt has been calling him that 🙂 He is just the happiest horse and so eager to please.

Yesterday, he headed out on his first trail ride. Amy was leading the way on my horse Junior who is the best trail horse and our fearless leader for all the greenies. We hacked out through the woods and then into the open fields. Bushy was completely relaxed and just followed in behind Junior. We had a nice little trot across the fields and then I switched positions to lead the way. We were just walking along chatting and I was paying zero attention when huge deer came leaping out of the woods and across the field. What a good man!!!!!!!!! He flicked his ears but almost didn’t even hesitate and just kept on walking. Yep, he is a good one.

We had a nice little trot around and then switched places for a canter and he just cantered along very casually not even taking up contact which is very good. Just sat really soft in the hand and was very balanced. We cantered the whole length of one of the fields and I could have ridden that canter for miles.

You could tell he was super proud of himself and really had a good time. I can totally see him being an eventer, foxhunter or just all around horse. He is super quiet and easy enough for anyone to ride. What I like so much about him is that he doesn’t seem to care about buddies. I often find him all the way out in the field by himself while his buddies are hanging out in the barn area. He was the same way out on the trail not worrying about being competitive with Junior but just happy to do his own thing. That is a great sign of a horse who is confident and will be easy for someone to bring along. No quirks 🙂

Personality emerging

We have gotten several horses donated from the same trainer and they have all been super well broke but what I would call stand offish on the ground. They are not sure of humans but they eventually warm up. Letterman’s Humor is a classy stakes winner who ran 57 races making over $168k. He is now 9yrs old and just starting his second career but he is very much like Bushy in that he knows his job and is totally game for whatever you ask.

I would say he is just slow to trust but being in a small barn with the same people handling him and a daily routine he is warming up to me. He loved Pat over at the layup farm but each time I tried to catch him he laughed in my face 🙂 Even now I still either have a halter or fly mask on him but honestly we are almost there. It makes a big difference when they come in for grain twice a day and get to stand in with their fans on each day. I go in and chat with him every morning before work while he is eating. Just scratching him behind his ears and letting him know that he is loved.

Tonight was his first ride and he was excellent. I expected him to be good because a horse doesn’t run for 6 yrs on the track and not know what the deal is when it comes to riding but he was very relaxed and happy. The first rides are very much at their own pace. I try to just stay out the way and let them go however they want. Very short and sweet type of rides just to feel them out. I don’t pressure them for anything at this stage.

If they run into the canter no biggie. I always have the neck strap and just hold on to it because you don’t want to pull back as forward is the right answer for them. I try to stay up and out of their way as much as possible. He totally cracked me up doing the lead change to his left lead! Amy was riding Bushy at the same time and they both seemed cool with other horses in the ring.

I think Letterman just has the “look” about him. He is one freakishly smart horse.

His vid-

In other news, I sadly took Mort back to the layup farm yesterday. He needs some time to rest that stifle and the right thing to do is turn him out. I brought back Rockin Fun and I am excited to get him started. I am totally going to sell some horses 🙂 Ha, if I keep saying it then it will come true but Letterman and Bushy have been at the farm since Sept of 2010 simply because we haven’t gotten to them yet. They both really want to have their own people.


A bit of stretch and the horse feels so different

I really try to address the issue of contact as soon as I feel the horse is ready because I believe that the horse needs to learn to come over the back in order to muscle correctly and they have to relax the back, neck and jaw to go forward properly.

I had just put a few relaxed rides on Bushy but today I started to teach him that contact meant to soften the neck while still going forward. At first he was perplexed and did some of this

He was really thinking though and I was gentle but persistent that I would keep the contact when he went to the giraffe mode. As soon as he softened then I would soften.

It is just amazing how different they feel when the back relaxes just a little bit and then when you really get them to drop the neck and stretch you can almost add another foot onto the stride.

I also worked his left side which is his stiffer side getting him to relax and bend but that was still hard and will be a work in progress. We did get a left lead which was excellent.

A new little video of him from today

Isn’t that a drastic difference in just one week?

I also rode Mort two days in a row. He is coming back from straining his stifle. He feels much better but will need to build himself up a bit more. I can feel the ouch in the canter still. Look at how much he has filled out! He is such a lovely horse. I am so happy to be back on him. One of my favorites to ride as he just has such a great feel about him.

I am hoping to get on Letterman tonight. He cut his knee and has some swelling but it has healed up and he is past the ouchy stage. The boys play very hard! Keeping them sound during bug season is quite difficult.


Behold the cuteness of Bushy

I haven’t gotten as much done with the new horses as I have wanted to but it has been a bit of a transition period for them so sometimes it’s best to just let them settle and now they are good to go. I also am temporarily housing a breeding stallion..long story but doing a favor because I could help some good people out. Adding a stallion to the farm has been some creative management but he is a very cool 10yr TB that has lovely breeding and is a super classy animal. He was rescued and is now getting evaluated to see what his future will hold.

Mort, Bushy, Letterman and Bratty Buck are all turned out together and watching them all play will keep you entertained. Mort and Bushy are absolutely hilarious!

Bushy had already been to my farm in April for a week or so when somebody was supposed to try him and then ended up not showing. He is such a sweetie and a true war horse who ran 59 races and made over $130k. He is only a 7yr! Personally, I love an older horse because they have been there and done that. He marches in the ring and just goes around like he knows the drill.

I stuck him on the lunge line and he was good about that and then we had a little w/t/c around. No real agenda just test out all the gears. He seems like a happy go lucky type of horse. I hate to say but these older guys can be harder to sell and he is only 15.2 so I have my work cut out for me but I am a believer in these types so I know I can find him a good home.

Some video


So much for that

Remember how I said that I was slowing down???? Ha, today there will be 8 horses in my barn. Hopefully, two are headed to the big farm very soon so they are just staying for a short period of time.

I had went over and brought Letterman’s Humor and Bushy’s Yield back with me. I have gotten as far as pulling manes, giving baths, clipping them up and putting on fly sheets. They have settled in nicely to the program. Since the arrived I have been absolutely crazy busy with other emergency situations.

I was supposed to meet the vet to have Mort’s stifle injected on Monday. He is much better but we are just providing him some relief with the injection to help everything quiet down. I had to change that plan as we got a call on Monday from another TB rescue that there was a Delaware Park horse at the sale and could we see if we knew him. I did know of the horse and we will be receiving funds from Delaware Park this year so we went ahead and bought him. I had to head home to meet the shipper.

His old CANTER listing

He settled in great and other than being thirsty he is in super condition. My phone has been ringing off the hook this week for CANTER related matters. We have periods that tend to be like this but it can get overwhelming especially on top of my regular job and life on the farm.

Yesterday, I got a call that one of former CANTER horses needs to be returned due to time constraints with her owner. Her name is Escape by Sea and she is an absolutely lovely mare so she will more than likely be standing in my barn today when I get home. One of the really great things about buying a horse from CANTER is that we will take them back. I literally said sure just drop her off and stick her in a stall. We also had another horse returned this week also due to time constraints. Sea Flip who was one of my absolute favorites is now down in North Carolina. I was told Suzanne has already hopped on him and declared him very cool…no surprise there! I understand people getting busy and not having enough time or money to campaign the horses and feeling guilty that the horses are just standing around.

I had to dig out a hilarious picture of Escape by Sea. We were asked to ride in the retired racehorse symposium in a very packed indoor. Bella was only recently off the track, had never been off the farm and had just started over fences. Sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it? I knew she would be just fine and sure enough she marched around that indoor. My friend Alison was riding her recently off the track 12yr tb, Top Punch so it was a cool contrast of horses recently off the track but very different ages. Steuart Pittman kept asking us to jump and this mare had never seen more than an x-rail. I had a very careful position because of this type of jump that I knew she could do!

See that rolltop right heading toward the crowd? Well she jumped the living daylights out of that as well and scared herself a bit. I am sure I looked horrible but better to stay on sometimes than worry about looking pretty.

I will probably take my new arrivals to the farm because I really can’t have so darn many horses at my place. I need to find some time to get on the new boys so hopefully there are no more curveballs this week 🙂

Some different pictures

Everyone helped to take pictures and these are some that Shannon got which are better than what we captured.

Rockin Fun

Lettermans Humor

Cyber Gray Vette

Wonderful Wise

Rusty Should Run

One thing that I didn’t say yesterday is that we really appreciate our farm owners. They are very funny as they worried that the farm doesn’t “look good.” I always think it’s heaven on earth for horses. You can tell the horses are relaxed and happy and look at those enormous fields of grass. She worries about the new horses that drop weight and finds fault in herself but I constantly remind them that it happens at every farm regardless of how much you feed them. The transition from track to farm can be a tough one and it just takes time. We couldn’t run CANTER without the help of our great farms. I would like to send all my skinny horses over there for a few months on that grass 🙂

Off to go evaluate Letterman. I have ridden Bushy before and he is a super sweet awesome guy. Letterman will be a project but I can bet he is super smart and should be just fine!

Show and Tell

We have horses on the farm that our director hasn’t even seen yet which I find pretty funny 🙂 Today we headed out to capture them on film and video which is quite the adventure. So very thankful to have the help of Lauren, Shannon, Randy, Mikaela and of course my hubby.

Have you ever tried lunging horses in huge open fields? Horses that don’t know how to lunge and think you are the devil? Well it makes for an interesting day. It’s a good way for me to get a read on their personality and movement before bringing them to the retraining facilities.

We started out in one field and did some pictures and video there. Remember Rockin Fun from the earlier blog post? He is a lovely 6yr and has been at the farm for a few weeks. Wouldn’t even recognize him. Bleached out and losing weight and muscle and he transitions from track to farm.

Next up was Luke’s Notion. He is a big 16.2 h and growing 3yr that never raced. He is in the long and lanky stage for sure!

I wanted to check out the new horses so we headed over to the other field. The two new guys are super friendly and came right up.

This is Hold that Halo also another big growing 3yr who is about 16h or so. He has lost a bit of condition since arrival due to the challenges of fitting into a new group and 100+ degree weather. I think he will be okay in a few more weeks but the transition period can just be a bit tougher on some.

Cyber Gray Vette arrived with Halo and they are best buddies. He was very tired from all the recent hot weather. It was cooler today but the humdity and sun still made it feel quite hot.

Excuse the really large halter. We grabbed two halters to take out and the one was for Pegagus Fever and he has a huge head.

Next up is Letterman’s Humor who is a super cool now 9yr graded stakes winner. He kicked around the track for a long time and came to us in September of 2010 and has just been hanging out. He has gotten a bit feral since arrival and this was the first time I could actually halter him thanks to having help.

Rusty Should Run is a 7yr who is just the sweetest boy you could ask for.

We finished in that field and decided that since we had the halter on Letterman he was coming home with me and we brought Bushy’s Yield as well who we didn’t get pics of. I stuck them on the trailer for the last hour or so of our visit. Letterman=not happy but Bushy was very chill about it all.

We went to visit the mares. We only have two mares on the farm right now that belong to CANTER. Devon O Seven is a big 4yr mare who is quite the tank.

Wonderful Wise is a dainty cute little 5yr mare who wants to be a little hunter pony.

Here is the video of all of them so be patient if you want to see them all.

Order of go:

Devon O seven (bay with white star)

Wonderful Wise (light bay being lunged)

Rusty Should Run (chestnut with wide blaze)

Luke’s Notion (dk bay)

Rockin Fun (super ouchy on feet)

Letterman’s Humor (bay in huge field)

Cyber Gray Vette (gray)

Hold that Halo (chestnut with white strip)

Luke’s Notion being ridden. He probably hasn’t been ridden since sometime last year at the track. He was a really good boy!

Please keep in mind that the horses are barefoot and the ground is currently concrete. The most recent horses (rockin fun, cyber gray vette and Hold that Halo) got shoes pulled recently and are very foot sore. Rusty also has flatter feet and is ouchy on the hard ground.

As we drove home we hit some wicked storms with heavy rain but it wasn’t raining at our house. I got Letterman and Bushy in the barn and into a small paddock with their attached stalls right before the storm got to us. Kurt and I had to hang out in the barn for a while until the rain let up. We were happy to see the rain. The ground is so hard here and it has been so hot. It was a welcome sight.

Horses in new homes and starting over again

I have gotten super updates on Diamond and Shoes. Shoe’s new owner has been taking him off the farm to ride and says he is smart and only gets better each time. She really liked him when she flew in to see him but I can imagine she had a lot of time to worry about whether it was the right decision or now. I think she has fallen in love 🙂 He has the best personality and work ethic so I figured they would be a great match.

Speaking of personality, Mort has turned into such a different horse. He actually has a personality now and he thrives on all the attention. I have been trying to get him to eat these regular treats since he arrived but he was strictly a carrot type of guy. Tonight I tried again and he actually took one and chewed and then you could see him figuring out they were actually yummy. Funny how such a little thing can make you smile but sometimes I swear these moments are why I do what I do.

I also had a fantastic session with the young horse that I am working with for a client. I don’t think I told his story but I am short on CANTER horse material so why not.

I put up all the Delaware Park listings and this guy was one of our listings.

He was a very big 2yr with a bit of an attitude and a bad reputation for being a tough ride. I really loved his pics but we were full and I did not need a 2yr. As the world turns he ended up with a lovely woman who was boarding at my mom’s barn. This was her first adventure back into horses after college and she was doing her best to bring him along.

I have had a few horses that have come into CANTER and basically felt like they were barely broke. No steering, no forward button and just piggish behavior. It’s typically the young horses who haven’t spent enough time at the track getting the miles and rides needed (should I also say the necessary discipline that comes with teaching babies the rules). This guy is very much like a barely broke horse but he has an enormous stride which makes it all that more complicated to kick him around like you need to do with these types. His owner had not brought along a green horse before. I would say there are different levels of green and he was the absolute barely broke type of green. Regardless of his talent she probably would have been trying for a very long time to get him going and just ending up frustrated. His bad behavior also wasn’t helping matters in terms of handling him on the ground. A really big horse like this with no concept of boundaries is tough to work with.

We ended up doing a trade and she is really enjoying the super awesome horse, Meadow Mobster. Mobster has a year of baby novice, trail riding, dressage and more under his belt and she can get on and go.

I have taken this guy back to step one. Knock on wood, I have not had one little bit of behavior so far so I haven’t had any real opportunity to evaluate that side of him but like all horse it will come out sooner or later. I was lucky enough to see him go a few times when she had brought him over to my farm and also on a paper chase. She did a really good job getting him out and about. I wanted to start to install some of the missing buttons.

Forward is the key button in my opinion. We all assume racehorse know how to go forward but that is often not the case. One of my favorite ways of working on this is going back to the groundwork. I like to use voice commands while lunging so that I can tie them in while ride. She did a great job teaching him to lunge so now I have been working on smooch means go forward. This can be tough because I really want him to GO. Right now we are doing a lot of transitions from walk to trot and when I say trot and smooch he must go. If he doesn’t then I will use the whip on him lightly. He is super smart and has learned this concept quick!

I had lunged in side reins and today we lunged in a loose pessoa rig. Just letting him get the idea of how to use his parts without worrying about a rider.

My rides have been very short and sweet. I’m not worrying about anything but forward and teaching him leg can mean move over. The first few rides were so hilarious. Major gate issues and just zero steering. I felt like a pony club kid kicking this big horse around and him going lalalala I can’t hear you.

He is not allowed to use the sides of the rings at all! That was rule number one. Don’t let them rely on the rail. I taught him how to do square turns and little baby lateral work. He is quite stiff because he doesn’t know that he can move off the leg yet but he is smart and is starting to figure that out. He quickly figured out that I am very mean because when I say go and he doesn’t he gets the dressage whip in a very hard fashion. It’s not about being friends right now. He needs to respect a very light leg. When I got after him he went flying forward and then did a half attempt at a buck and throwing his head down. Whack when the whip again and one hand on the neck strap. You have to reward the going forward but yanking the head down is not allowed. If he would have bolted off then I would have rewarded him. We repeated a bunch of transitions and he got so good that I just had to whisper with the leg and he was marching into the trot.

I am very aware of the clock and keeping the sessions short and sweet. You can tell he mentally wears down after 20 min and then everything falls apart. It’s important to have an idea of what your goals are going to be for the ride and if you accomplish them in 10 min then great maybe that is all you do for the day and then go for a little hack around the farm. Reward the good behavior!

I was a little worried I might have gotten in over my head with him but we were prepared to move him along to someone else if he proved to be tough. So far that hasn’t been the case so I think we shall be just fine. I am really used to tough horses and having to be firm about ground rules. I think this guy just needed some structure in his life. It was quite interesting tonight as I was lunging him because Mort/Junior were squealing and he got all puffed up. His 16.3 h 3yr self turns into 18h of huge trot, snorting and blowing. He wanted to do something but I kept him going forward on the lunge and did a spiral in and out on the circle making him focus. He quickly focused again on what we were doing but you can see how intimidating he could be. It’s important for me to put the basics in now so he respects me. It requires every bit of my attention with him and I am super aware not to let my guard down. I have been warned by his owner that he can be quick with a hind leg and will kick.

My plan will be to take him to several shows just to hang out. We will go and lunge and just see the sights. I want him to learn to take everything in without feeling the need to panic. I need him to learn to focus on me. When I have all my basics such a forward, steering and some sort of ability to ride him forward and down in the bridle then we will adventure out and about. I don’t like to take them out when they are still in the no concept of contact stage because then when they do get worried you have no ability to use your flatwork to release the tension.

Here is a video of him the first day he arrived at my farm. He has been off the track since Oct of 2010 and is now a 3yr.

I know his former owner was really sad about how things turned out and I really feel for her. There is just so much that goes into bringing along green horses especially horses who are just so athletic and tend to use that against you. No matter how talented the horse is there comes a point where you have to stop and evaluate where things are going. I think this particular horse is not yet an amateur’s horse. I have gotten plenty of young horses who are super easy and just go around like they have been doing it forever with no fuss. Then you get some that need someone who is always one step ahead of their every move to keep them on task and to keep the work progressing. I am far from perfect but I have a vast amount of experience with these types of horses.

I do think she has fallen in love with her new horse who is super fun. She should be out and about eventing and having fun this fall. I hope she has no regret because she has a horse that she can just go out and learn on. The one thing about a greenie is that you can’t focus on yourself! I am really excited to have this horse in my barn. He is a challenge but I LOVE a challenge. He has all the talent in the world so my job is to nurture it.

I am back to just trying to trot straight lines around the ring 🙂 Have to say that I really love this part of the process. Some people find these total greenies a bit boring but for me each and every day is an opportunity to teach them something. The learning curve is only upward at this stage and that sure is fun.

Spoke too soon

Ah, the joys of horses and their ability to totally mess with your plans. Mort had been going fantastic. I had tons of interest and someone vetting him. Don’t you know where this is going? He did something in the field and has come up sore on his stifle. The vet was out to block the leg and it is positive to the stifle more than likely he just tweaked it. He is getting rest, surpass slathered on his stifle and we will probably inject in about a week from now and see how it comes.

My horse also came up sore although he has a multitude of old injuries mainly his knee that has some spurs and arthritis in it. He has been super sound up until this point so possible he just did something to stress the old injury which had recently been x-rayed and injected. It was really a gamble bringing him back into hard eventing work anyway and he doesn’t owe me a thing so if he can’t stay comfortable then he will just be the hubby’s trail horse and lead me around on all the greenies.

I currently am only riding the big 3yr that is owned by a client. I was down to four horses but only one ridable horse leaves me bored so I am off to the farm to bring back more horses this weekend. Not sure who I am bringing over yet. Allie wants me to focus on some of the horses who have been there hanging out the longest and need to get moved into new homes.

I started thinking perhaps I will start shopping around for another horse for myself. I’m not sure though because really this year was to be about paying off debt. I might hold off another year and focus on CANTER horses for right now.

If anybody is in the Centreville, MD area this weekend we are going to try to go get some pictures and videos of the horses at the farm if you would like to join.

I love track visits for CANTER

I spent a large part of my childhood on the backside of the racetrack. My stepfather was one of the leading trainer’s at Delaware Park for several years and we had a very large barn there. I have always enjoyed the track.

When Allie asked if I was willing to start-up a CANTER MA group at Delaware Park, I jumped at the chance. I love the track and really enjoy being involved in helping the horses into new homes. This is our third year at Delaware Park and we are going strong. My favorite part is developing a relationship with the trainers and showing them that our program can work.

There are always going to be some bad folks at the track who don’t care about their horses but thankfully I find that there are more people who really care than those who don’t.

As we made the rounds this weekend I finally ran into Pam. Pam is a trainer who lists horses with us frequently but for whatever reason I hadn’t had the chance to meet her directly. She explained that it was an all woman barn. She only trains for women and they are very strict about selling the horses when they start dropping down in class instead of running them. If they don’t look like they want to run then she sends them back and they are sold as show horses. You can just walk through her barn and see happy horses who are relaxed and well cared for. We took two listings for her and when we went around to the other side of the barn this guy was taking his nap. She went right in with him and was giving him some love.

He wasn’t interested in getting up for his pictures so out she went to get the buckets of mints. She was standing at the stall door unwrapping the mints for him and he slowly got up. It was too cute!

We have been following Barrister Bay for the past year. He is an absolute lovely horse and his trainer just loves to talk horses. We always stop in and chat with him to see how his horses are doing and all that good stuff. I love being able to get a glimpse into the daily life of the horses. They might go out for a little work but afterwards they get a bath and then a roll in the sand.

Moments like this are worth waking up early Saturday morning to go make a track visit. You realize that you play a huge role in helping these horses find homes and the trainers really appreciate what we do. We have such a great group of volunteers who have put so much time into developing our program at Delaware Park. We take pride in the work that we do and there is nothing better than hearing the trainers tell us about their horses finding great homes.