Monthly Archives: July 2011

Rocky is SOLD and a day of former CANTER alumni

The horse world is such a small world which is sometimes good and sometimes bad 🙂 I met Judy a few years ago when I was riding CANTER’S Calabria Rose in a clinic. Judy wanted to come and see Bushy but he had sold and I said that she should see Rocky but he wasn’t yet advertised because I wanted him to look a bit better. She assured me that she could look past a bleached coat, some weight and lack of muscle. She fell in love with him but had a horse to sell. Earlier this week she called and said regardless of her horse she had to buy Rocky before somebody else did 🙂

We met up today at Oldehope where her friend was going to be xc schooling her lovely horse, Smarty’s Gold, who was listed on the CANTER Delaware Park Track listings.

I said that I would do a little baby first xc schooling with Rocky before he left for his new home. He was AMAZING!!!! He led the way around the facility while we warmed up and didn’t care whether he was way off by himself or if his buddy left. He started out a bit cautious over the jumps (well he’s only jumped twice before) but quickly caught on. He was super proud of himself. Boy am I sad to see him go but he will have an awesome home with Judy!

My mom’s group arrived and went out and about. Mom on her gorgeous CANTER MA horse Flint Hill.

There was also former CANTER Delaware Park listed horse, Meadow Mobster. He was in training with me for a while and is now with his new owner Miranda who is madly in love 🙂

I warned her that he has a big jump. I think he jumped her up into the tree’s 🙂

Rocky left for his new home and we headed over the the lay up farm to see some of the new arrivals as well as pick up the next retraining project.

It was slightly hot were not amused.

This is Big Talk- 4yr 15.2 h mare.

Escape by Sea

New gelding

Gavilian who is absolutely adorable but smaller than I expected. Growing..I hope he does it!

Very hard to take pictures when they keep doing this!

London Lullaby was my fav!

I don’t know this guy’s name

We brought Rusty home and he settled right in. It’s nap time for me and then a bath and mane pulling a bit later for Rusty.



Have to see to believe

I’m fairly open about the whole training process but there are times when I simply don’t post videos because the horses look so bad. I don’t want people to go all crazy on me like they can on the bulletin boards 🙂 If you haven’t been through the process of retraining tb’s then sometimes it’s a bit hard to watch. People might think I am evil or have no clue what I am doing. Sometimes I do wonder myself 🙂

Rockin Fun has sort of followed the trend of gorgeous, crashing, holy hell he looks bad and now on the road back up again. I had sent a video to Allie of him in the ring 2 wks ago and she went OMG that is painful to watch. It was that point where you know it’s bad but you have to keep going. Now that I have some comparison video, I will post the really bad video for the sake of learning purposes.

Some pics first:

Arrival from track- May 24

June 12

July 4

July 13


Now for the video. The first video was taken on 7/13/11 before he had his chiro appointment. It was the 2nd/3rd time he had been in the ring because I had just been trail riding him to build muscle. Allie saw the video and said OMG don’t show him to people..yeah it’s that kind of bad 🙂  He is just going ouch, ouch, omg this sucks. I just sort of promised that it would all be fine and he would be okay.

This video was taken today

It’s exactly two weeks between those rides and the difference is quite dramatic. During the super hot spel,l I very lightly lunged him introducing him to the vienna reins and showing him he could stretch and he was really into it. Today was the first day that I even took up contact with the reins and at first he was not getting it but then he caught on. I am riding him over tempo but right now that is where I want him to be because he needs to march up into the contact and no be behind the leg. The canter is dramatically different. I can’t even believe he softened his back at the canter tonight! I thought that would be a long way off still so I was excited.

I realize he is still funky all over but he is two months off the track so he hasn’t had as much down time as most of our horses do. Mainly because he prefered being in a stall so life on the lay up farm wasn’t his cup of tea.

I get their coats darker by putting fly sheets on them to protect from the sun and the color comes back pretty quick. He is really starting to put on muscle now and his neck is filling out. He absolutely loves to trail ride and is so quiet. I LOVE this horse. He doesn’t look super fancy right now but he has an amazing brain and is so willing. He will try absolutely anything you ask of him and horses like that are worth their weight in gold. He has been introduced to jumps just to see his general attitude and he was good but right now it’s more important to build his muscle.

I know that I always go on and on about how awesome CANTER horses are but seriously I don’t know how we end up with so many quiet/lovely animals. I do know we do a good job at giving them the time they need, getting them comfortable via farrier/dentist/chiro and then restarting them correctly. I think because they get a nice start there is just no drama and no rushing them. They really enjoy their new lifestyles.

It would be easy to panic when they look so ouchy and stop pushing through but you really do have to just lightly ride them to continue to build the muscle. It’s amazing how quick the progress can be. I will continue to ride him out of the ring as much as possible to keep him happy, forward and fit.

If somebody is looking for that nice quiet all around horse you should snap him up now. He has clean x-rays of feet, ankles and knees. Absolute sweetest horse you could ask for. I really can’t say enough good things about him. I’m hoping to take him along this weekend when I go to x-c school another horse. I may just pop some logs, walk in water, do a bank and a ditch and see how he takes it all in.

Hot weather whine

I think that I last rode on Monday night and since then the horses have just been hanging out. I just don’t ride when the heat index feels over 100+ degrees. I figure the CANTER horses don’t have anywhere that they have to be and no shows in the near future so why stress them.

I find that the thoroughbreds struggle a bit more with this warm weather and bugs then they do the cold weather. I have super gorgeous fields of grass and they WONT even go outside. I guess I could lock them out of their stalls (my stalls are attached to paddocks) but they are being self-destructive due to heat/bugs so why bother. If they want to stand in their stalls all night then I don’t care. It’s a bit more cleaning to do but worth it for happy horses.

Just this week the b-52 bomber bugs have come out. The horses are not thrilled with that at all. I see them go halfway out to the field and then get a bug and come running back to their stall. Ha, tb’s and bugs don’t mix real well. I do keep fly sheets on all of mine but those huge black flies are monsters! I have gotten bitten by them and it’s no joke.

Anyway..we had a little bit of rain here and the temps dropped enough to motivate me. I wanted to do some light lunging and just get them stretched out again. I started with Letterman and he was excellent. I used the vienna reins and he was really stretching across his back. I began to teach him to lunge to the right tonight which was good exercise for me as I had to really work hard to keep him staying on the circle. He is an absolute lovely horse. I am excited to be back on him this week and feel the difference after the chiro.

Next up was Rocky. Rocky was pretty sweaty before we even got out there and the bugs were after him but he was a good boy. I haven’t worked him on the lunge at all so I spent a bit teaching him to go forward. I had to keep him on a smaller circle to get him motivated. He is another one of those super laid back horses who is happy to do whatever asked of him. You have to be careful not to talk to him because then he just stops 🙂 I would say good boy and he would slam to a stop.

I put the vienna reins on him which is the next step of his training. At first he couldn’t figure it out and I just encourage him forward and then you could almost see him having a moment where he realized how good it felt. He was really stretching and his stride got longer and he was working from behind. Yay! I was careful only to do a few minutes as it will be all new muscles but I was super proud of him. I swear he walked back in with a swagger. He is a seriously cool horse. I bet he is going to be an amateur’s dream horse. Just super brain and very smart. I really love him. Not to say that Letterman isn’t as nice because he is probably the better mover/more athletic one of the bunch but I’m not sure if he will be as easy. He hasn’t proven he won’t be easy but he’s just more opinionated than Rocky.

I gave them both good soapy baths and treated all their little nicks they are getting from rubbing and scratching.

The both look really good and I can’t wait to get on tomorrow. Looks like a better weather day.

Yay for chiropractors

I bet Rocky and Letterman are feeling better this morning but they will both need a few follow-up visits. I have always felt that chiropractic adjustments play an important role in the retraining process.

I always compare the horses as people going from the couch to 5k program. Everything hurts at first and if you aren’t able to find relief then you may just give up or at least be really cranky. I am never opposed to bit of bute to help them through the aches and pains at first but I am also careful not to push the work. If you are super aware and keep the sessions short and sweet then you shouldn’t run into super sore horses.

With Rocky and Letterman, I was feeling the reluctance to go forward which is very common with the early training. Letterman was sore in his sacro and his ribs. We couldn’t get to his neck because by the time she worked on that he was PISSED. He wasn’t bad but his reaction was to say don’t touch me so she couldn’t get to the rest of him. He is a very interesting horse because there is not a mean bone in his body but when he is done then he really is DONE. He thought we were trying to kill him.

Rocky on the other hand is going OMG why are you doing all these weird things to me and his eyes are rolling around but he is just standing there allowing her to work. He wasn’t quite as sore as Letterman but had more of an overall body soreness which is exactly what I had been feeling.

The horses really do find relief after the session is over. Letterman was licking his lips and then was wanting to bite/play with the lead rope which he never does. He became super relaxed and then wanted to cuddle right up with the chiropractor 🙂 He just takes a bit to gain trust so I am sure he will be much better next time.

I found out my guy has lyme which is somewhat not surprising and makes me a bit frustrated I didn’t go there first. Hindsight is always 20/20 but he had just been having random lameness that isn’t severe but shifting from front to back. He has an old knee so it’s easy to explain away the lameness due to his old injuries but I have damn near x-rayed all his parts at this stage and nothing is all that bad. He isn’t lame enough to even point to one particular thing but as a rider it’s the type of thing that drives you crazy because they are just not quite right and you know it. He has also been tripping which is not like him at all.

Oh well at least it’s treatable and I have plenty of other horses to ride.

Yummy hay

This is a very random post but I am sure most horse people can totally understand the joy of having a nice supply of hay.

My hay guys are the most awesome people in the whole world. I’m sneaky and won’t share their info so don’t ask 🙂 My HAY, all my HAY!!!!!!!!! I found them about six years ago during the middle of a drought when hay prices were crazy high and there was no hay to be found. It’s a family run business that used to be dairy cows and is now beef cows. They sell hay on the side and are super loyal to their customers. They make sure I have my hay before they sell it to everyone else which is why I love them so much.

They have sort of taken us under the wing and always call us when the hay is ready, bring it over, help stack and tell me to pay when I have the money. I don’t know many people who stack gorgeous 3rd cutting alfalfa in your barn and tell you to pay when you can but that is the type of guys they are. I just bought two loads of gorgeous timothy so I was straight out of funds but needed that alfalfa for the Tb’s and they know I will pay them shortly when I collect the board checks.

We had run out of alfalfa from last year and had been feeding timothy so when the alfalfa arrived yesterday you could almost see the horses drooling. They scarfed it right up and were waiting for more this morning.

I might have been drooling over the hay too because it is really pretty and it smells so good. In this heat/humidity the smell of the hay is over powering.

Kurt was thinking that our horse (super fatty) probably knows that the rest of the horses are getting alfalfa and is jealous so he gave him a handful in his breakfast this morning. Kurt’s a sucker 🙂

I don’t think I will be riding these next few days. Looks like it will be unbearably hot. I am pretty tough but it’s just not fair to the horses to ride in that kind of weather. A few days off is good for them and we will pick back up when it cools down.

Hey Byrn update

I know we have a lot of folks who are following his story so I will give an update. Hey Byrn is off to the next step in his journey which is living with another awesome CANTER volunteer where he can have a bigger stall to move around in while we continue to evaluate him. I have an absolutely full barn right now and fit him in because he had to move right away off the track. My barn is a busier type of barn and not the right set up for him right now. He needs a quieter routine.

We have had some offers to move him to permanent locations and people who want to offer him care but he is not in a condition to ship long distances at this point in time. He is in great hands and we are doing all that we can for him at the moment.

As the drugs/injections started to wear off he became increasingly more lame on his ankle. This is not something that can be fixed at this point in time. There is a surgery that you can do called arthrodesis which is what Barbaro had done. You can watch a clip here- and we are looking into it. There are just so many complications of a surgery like that so options have to be carefully thought out at this point so we are sure to do what is right for the horse.

The main issue in his ankle is that there are many fragments that have just been left in there and as a result there is significant arthritis. There is also a total loss of joint space so the bone is rubbing on bone which is very painful.

We will continue to post updates.





Lots of hacking

Right now the CANTER horses (Letterman and Rockin Fun) are just spending a lot of time hacking out. We go trail riding all across the fields behind the house just taking our time and letting them slowly but surely build the new muscles.

Rocky is absolutely dead quiet. He leads, follows and even will bush whack across new trails that aren’t cut. Yesterday, Amy was riding him and we went on some new trails that required going up and down these mounds of dirts and then past a scary pond and lots of construction equipment. They must be logging parts of the woods so there were a bunch of tree cutting machines and all sorts of other stuff back there. Rocky could have cared less about it all. He pokes around on a loose rein not caring what the horse in front of him is doing. He is going to be super for any sort of rider.

Letterman is a more cautious sort but not what I would call bad just not relaxed like Rocky. He tends to want to scoot forward at any little noise in the beginning of each ride but gets better as you go along. He prefers to lead and isn’t too keen on following but we have been working on that and it’s getting better. We play leap-frog so I ride in the front, back and side by side. He has started to figure out that it’s no big deal. I often find that the more competitive the horse was on the track the less likely they are to just go along with things when out in groups. He isn’t being bad but he does think he is the man and shouldn’t have to be in the back.

It looks to be a super hot week so we will likely be doing just a bit of light work building muscle but not pushing them to hard.

Perfect home for Bushy!

Bushy left to go to his new home on Sunday but I am just now getting around to writing about it. It’s been that sort of week!

Patty had called about another horse on the farm and I didn’t think that horse would be suitable for her goals but told her that I had exactly what she described standing in my barn 🙂 She wanted something to trail ride, jump small courses on and just be a fun and safe horse. She has a lovely farm in Va and would be riding for pleasure but may do some local shows with the right horse.

She emailed to let us know that she has already been up on Bushy and he is exactly as described. I don’t think she would mind me posting some of her email.

Hopped on Bushy (been calling him Birdie – because he reminds me of Birdstone and his grandsire is Storm Bird) tonight for the first time, bareback with a halter.  What a grand horse!!!  He happily ambled around the small field and then the “big” field, quiet as can be!  You are so right that this is the type of Thoroughbred who blows that stereotype of the hot/crazy ottb away!
I had him vetted yesterday and all is well!  The only thing the vet  noticed was that his front feet were a little ouchy on the gravel and with hoof testers.  But he thought it was just footsoreness and nothing more and told me that front shoes would be best kept on.  All pulses were normal and no heat in feet.  He scoped great – the airway is fine.  Passed the flexion test (I certainly could not have!) !  No problem at all!!

I had someone else interested in Bushy and I told her that Rockin Fun was very similiar in personality although he needs weight, muscle and more time. She wanted to see him anyway and she loved him. He has the same great brain and we took him out on his first trail ride across the open field and he was perfect. She has to sell a horse first so couldn’t commit to anything but it’s always nice to have great shoppers who appreciate a TB with a good brain and work ethic.

Is it worthwhile?

My horse dentist was at the barn on Sunday and was asking me if I found what I was doing with CANTER worthwhile? I thought that was an interesting question but a question that I didn’t have to think too hard about. You see, I grew up with racehorses and a family very active in the racing industry. I have participated in all the various jobs that go along with the racing industry and without a doubt I always gravitated to the retraining side of the business.

I would beg and plead to try to help resell some of the horses we had instead of just watching them go to places that I choose not to mention. The tougher the horse, the more I would beg to give it a try. There were not many rescues or rehoming groups at that time. I think dreamhorse and were just getting started as a way to help market horses to the general public.

I immediately started buying and reselling Tb’s when I got out of college and then I found my perfect fit when I began to help with CANTER. It’s been about five years now that I have worked retraining the CANTER horses and I still get giddy each time I bring a new horse into my program.

I’m one of those people who truly enjoys the boring lunge sessions, getting on for the first rides, the first trail rides, the first jumps and all the antics that sometimes emerge as you begin to teach horses new things.

The bad parts of the industry can really wear on you if you let them but I have the fortune to go out each night and be reminded of the good people who do care that their horses have successful new careers after the track. This week I have been focusing on Letterman’s Humor. He was no slouch when it came to earning his keep at the track. He ran for 6yrs, retiring as a 8yr. He had one owner and one trainer his whole career.

Letterman is quite an interesting horse. When I picked him up at the track, it was apparent he had a bit of an anger management issue. He spent the whole trailer ride home kicking the trailer and being a real ass. He spent many months at the layup farm deciding he didn’t want to be caught. He didn’t wear a blanket this winter because they couldn’t catch him. I heard stories about how he could be super friendly one day and the next day wouldn’t give you the time of the day. He just couldn’t decide who he wanted to be.

I had never been able to catch him when I was at the farm! I did try but he was quite crafty with his evasion tactics. I would see him trotting away from me and think about how cool he looked. Really balanced, nice uphill build and quite sound.

When we made a group trip to the layup farm we ganged up on him and were able to catch him. Remember the video where I was lunging the horses and one took off? Ha, that would be Letterman. He did come back to the herd with the lunge line attached and I figured it was a perfect time to load him in the trailer. Gotcha! Bushy and Letterman stood on the trailer with the fans on while we finished up with the other horses. Talk about one pissed off horse 🙂

I left his halter on when he got to my farm and the first week or so he was still hard to catch. I have the advantage of having stalls attached right to the fields and if he wanted to eat he had to come in and then I would shut the door and spend some quality time giving him love.

He was still a bit guarded but I could see that he was coming around. I was able to take his halter off after the first few weeks as he decided I was allowed to catch him. Yes, it has to be his decision. He’s too smart to be caught if he doesn’t want to be.

His personality began to emerge and he started walking right up to me. I would go out to catch other horses to bring them in to ride and he was the one saying pick me..pick me…ME! He would follow me around and let me give him scratches all over.

Oh boy does he love grooming and you can just see his eyes light up when you bring out the tack. I truly wouldn’t have believed this is even the same horse. The transformation is just that amazing. You can tell he is totally ready for a job and he wants to be in a program. Just being in a program again has changed his whole personality.

I have been stressed out this past week and sometimes one of the best cures for stress is nice quiet time with the horses. It’s been hotter than heck so I have spent some time lunging the various horses and just working a bit of ground work. Letterman got his teeth done on Sunday and he had a lot of issues going on in his mouth. I had a feeling that was part of his fussy attitude. I changed him to the super flexible herm sprenger duo bit hoping it would give him a nice soft feel.

I was curious as to how this lunging session was going to go after his demonstration at the layup farm 🙂 I put the surcingle on with side reins attached very loosely. He started out giving me the finger which is pretty typical for horses who don’t know how to lunge. He was not wanting to go forward at all but then when I would tap or use the lunge whip he was trying to make the circle bigger so I couldn’t get him forward. I have a lot of patience which is a good thing because lunging horses who don’t know how to lunge can make you crazy real quick.

I encouraged him on a small circle and I could begin to see him figuring out what I was asking. He stopped worrying about the lunge whip and began to walk forward. When he was able to make a few circles without stopping, turning in or bulging out. Then we began to trot.

This horse is cool because he is just so athletic. He is going to be a stunner when he gets fit because if he can use himself this well being out of shape then he will be impressive in another month. I really just wanted him to go forward because the last ride I had on him he felt so tight everywhere. I encouraged him to have a big trot on the lunge line and he stepped right up into the contact and was absolutely gorgeous. We did some walk/trot transitions and about 10min of good work and called it a day. I don’t introduce the right side just yet as I want him to get confident first lunging from the left before throwing something new at him.

After his lunge sessions on Monday and Tuesday he is walking around like he is the KING. I can’t get him to stop following me around 🙂 It’s like he can’t get enough of the attention. His confidence is emerging and he has discovered that humans aren’t quite so bad afterall. I even taught him to eat some of the apple treats and not just regular carrots.

A little bit of him lunging today.



Life or Death Difference between 35 and 36 starts

Allie Conrad, CANTER Mid Atlantic’s Director, wrote an important article for the Chronicle of the Horse-