I’m taking a break

Last year at this time there were 10 horses on the farm and I was super stressed out with everything that I had going on. I am very good at multi-tasking and somehow it actually was all working out just fine. I am not sure what convinced me that bringing that many horses to my farm was a good idea but I was determined to get CANTER horses sold and that actually did happen. I brought Houndy and AllaboutMack over thinking they would sell quickly and they sold in a month or two so they didn’t stay for long.

I have this running conversation with myself that I WILL NOT work so hard this year. I head up the CANTER MA group at Delaware Park which involves track visits, shipping horses in and out and the retraining the CANTER horses. I also have my own horse and several clients horses that I am riding along with boarders. It has the ability to overwhelm me if I let it.

We get a lot of emails asking to see horses that are on the farm. Our layup farms are private facilities and I believe one of the reasons that they like working with CANTER is that for the most part there are not people in and out of their farm. They don’t have riding facilities on the farm and they don’t have insurance to cover people riding on the farm. I do my best to keep our farms happy because without them CANTER simply does not function. We love our farms and the horses couldn’t have a better place to relax and enjoy life.

This means that even when the horses are 100% ready for work and can be sold that I can’t show them to people until they come to one of the retraining facilities. It does slow down the placement of horses but we don’t have enough people who do the retraining to move the amount of horses that we own through the system. I can only take one or two CANTER horses at my farm, we have one with Kayla in Centreville , one in Damascus and several down in North Carolina in retraining. The rest of our herd is just hanging out getting to be horses while waiting for space to open up in the retraining program.

We have a lot of people who email and say they don’t want a horse that has retraining and will buy them right out of the field but our experience is that despite people saying this it rarely turns out well. Horses in the field do not look like polished show horses. They look under muscled, have long manes, are often a bit tender on bare feet and generally don’t present themselves very well. I could show you a picture of a horse the day it came off the track and you would think the horse is gorgeous and after 2 months of field turnout you would probably look at that horse and think YUCK. If I tell you that the big 16.2 h gelding that is 4yrs old is $3500 and you are looking at it standing in the field you will think I am crazy. If that horse has one or two months of retraining and has shoes on, a pulled mane, nice muscle and is doing basic work then the price is very attractive.

I was bringing horses that people were interested over to my farm to ride and show them just for a weekend but this lead to more frustration on my part when people didn’t show up. It’s 45 min to the layup farm and with gas prices the way they are it cost quite a bit of money to go over and pick up a horse and bring it home and then take it back. It’s also quite a bit time commitment on my part as I have to get the horse in to my farm and quickly pull it’s mane, clip it up, give it a bath and then get on it once or twice to ensure things go smoothly when a buyer shows up. I realized that I simply couldn’t make this work and that I was left feeling very angry and frustrated when people didn’t show up and I wasted my time and money.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that I am only one person and I can’t rearrange my life all of the time just to sell a horse. Allie, CANTER MA’S director, has also realized we went a bit overboard last year with the number of horses we took in on donation and has encouraged me to slow down a bit. Stop and realize that we are good at what we do because we take the time to do it right and rushing the horses in and out isn’t going to get us anywhere.

One of the people who donates horses to us has another TB rescue group that actually has horses at her facility. I asked her why she didn’t donate her horses to them and she said simply because they do not have riders who are qualified enough to be handling young green horses and she thought they would get hurt and the horses would not actually get any training. She went on to say that those of us who retrain for CANTER MA are specialized in riding ottb’s and actually put on very good training and also have the tools to work with horses who are super green or may not be the easiest. She also said we are riders who know how to place the horses in the right careers so that they are happy in their new homes and not simply “sold.” I was really happy to hear her observations about our program.

I have always said that one of the reasons that I love working with CANTER MA so much is the freedom that I get to have in bringing the horses along. Of course we need to sell horses but the goal is never about the money but about the home. I don’t have to rush the horse along just to get it sold but can take my time to figure out what the horse wants to do in it’s next career. If we go along and realize the horse may not pass an official vet check but is sound we may give that horse away to somebody who understands that some horses may never pass a vet check but are sound horses. I was telling somebody that the freedom to just be 100% honest is what makes me so happy and hopefully makes people attracted to our program. If the home is not right then I can just say hey you are a great person but I don’t think this horse would work for you and not feel bad that I turned down a sale. I rarely have to do this but sometimes you just know it’s not the right rider or situation so you have to speak up rather than just setting the horse up for failure.

At the moment, I have four horses on my farm. Yes, only four horses!!!!!!!!! I have my horse, a boarder’s horse, one CANTER horse (Mort Robbins) and one client’s horse. We had to get down in numbers temporarily because we completed all our farm projects and needed to reseed our fields. I want to give the grass a good 6 months to get firmly rooted. The lack of rain is not helping our new grass grow..go figure nothing but rain until we planted 🙂

My boarder is moving her horse closer to home at the end of July so I will bring another CANTER horse over then and try to have two CANTER horses at all times. Having fewer horses will allow me to do a better job with the horses that I do have and I will be able to focus on riding my own horse. I am aiming to have a fun fall eventing season with my horse and have been out and about on him again. Wow, it’s pretty cool to ride a made horse and just focus on my and not worry about green horse behavior.

I have a bunch of interest in Mort and had someone who vetted him. Of course being a horse he did something before the vetting and is sore behind. Nothing visible to the naked eye so hoping he just tweaked something. The vet will be out on Monday to block him out so we can determine where the soreness is coming from. I think with this really hot weather and the bug the horses have been restless. He might have just slid up under himself or torqued something.



2 responses to “I’m taking a break

  1. You have to keep some balance or burn out forever. Do what you have to do.
    I laughed at your description of the horses on turnout. I got the very best horse I have ever owned because he came to my barn as a sales horse after 7 years on the track and 6-8 months turned out in the high mountains. He had a hay belly, a heavy coat, no muscles on his topline and what my trainer called ‘well developed eating muscles’ She couldn’t get any of the jump riders that she had in mind for him to even look at him. I saw a big Michael Jordan walk, a curious eye and 7 years of muscles under the fat. A year after I bought him I was offered 10x what I paid for him by one of the people who had refused to look at him. You have to know what you are looking at to see a field rough horse.
    I didn’t realize that your field horses are pretty much left alone without buyers coming to put them thru their paces, I think that is terrific for them.

    • jessicamorthole

      Barbara, they get to hang out on huge farms that have grass galore and just be horses. The minimum time they get is two months before being brought into the retraining program so that ensures they get enough time to get the track out and just relax. Some don’t care for the pasture turnout and those we try to bring into the retraining programs a bit earlier.

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