Monthly Archives: December 2011

Making a difference

Those who know me would probably say that I’m not an overly emotional person. I tend to take life too seriously and I often think that I relate to animals much better than people 🙂

I just wanted to say thank you to those who have been donating to CANTER and have mentioned your appreciation of the blog or donated in name of a horse that you have bought from our program. I appreciate everybody who donates but it’s really special when I get an email from Allie that lets me know somebody made a donation and mentioned me in their donation. I feel like I have made a difference and that is an awesome feeling!

The holiday season always makes me reflect on just how we all can make a difference. I was reading some stories last night about the Kmart Layaway Angels and talk about getting emotional….geez no crying in front of your own computer.  What a great concept. I’m also a huge fan of the series that NBC has been running called Making a Difference. If you want to make yourself cry go friend them on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nbcmakingadifference or http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10397946/ns/nightly_news-making_a_difference/ Sometimes it’s just the little things that make such a huge difference in the lives of others. It really makes me so happy to see the great things that people can do. Sure beats watching all the depressing news stories.

There is an excellent story here- http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/vp/36880378#36880378 about First Lady Jane Beshear of Kentucky bringing a mobile breast cancer unit to the backstretch workers in Kentucky. You can see all the videos here- http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/vp/36880378#36880378 

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be involved with a program that I am so passionate about. I use my blog as a way to illustrate just what CANTER is doing to make a difference in the lives of so many thoroughbreds. Those who are donating can see where their money is going and put a horses face on their donation. I love that social media can bring so many people together. It doesn’t feel like work when I get to meet to many people who are passionate about our mission.

This year we listed 108 horses on the trainer listings at Delaware Park. Delaware Park has a fairly short meet from May-October so I find those numbers to be very impressive. Hats off to the amazing volunteers who bust their butts every weekend to ensure we help out the trainers finding homes for their horses. We also took in 16 horses from Delaware Park on donation. Those are just Delaware Park numbers (I head up that track so I keep spreadsheets to stay organized) but I imagine the numbers are sky-high across all of the tracks that CANTER Mid Atlantic is involved in. It is very rewarding to know that we are making such a huge difference in the lives of so many thoroughbreds.

I wanted to give a big thank you to Horse Force One for donating 150 bales of hay to CANTER Mid Atlantic. The hay went to our Centreville, Md farm where we currently have nine of our CANTER horses.

All of your donations and your support of CANTER go a long way in helping us to make a difference in both our track listing programs and our CANTER owned horses. Thank you all for making a difference!

Fantastic weekend with all the horses

I already shared my good news on finding an awesome home for Pegasus in my last blog post. This weekend was just a really great weekend where all things horse related seemed to be clicking.

On Saturday, my mom came over with her young horse (Hold that Halo) so that we could do some jumping courses together. I had moved the jumps all around and added some black barrels to jump. I figured it would be very interesting to see how all the horses reacted to the barrels. Letterman started out on the wrong foot when I went over to put some wings on the barrels and in the process of taking my reins over his head he ran backwards and got loose. He’s special 🙂 It took him about 15 minutes of riding all around the black barrels to convince him they weren’t going to bite. He’s not really a hot horse and he wasn’t doing anything bad but he’s not very trusting of change. The worst he was doing was not going straight and instead cocking his head so he could keep his eye on those barrels.

My mom’s 3yr is just so smart and awesome. He didn’t seem concerned by the barrels or my runaway loose horse. While we were riding the horses were running around in the field but both our horses handled that really well.

Letterman’s jumping has been steadily improving and he’s gained a ton of confidence. I think the free jumping session really helped him get a bit more forward and I’ve been cracking down on him about not being allowed to stop at the fences. He’s now much straighter between my hand and leg and going to the fences on his own accord.

Having somebody else there allows you to push each other so we both were sort of going oh crap we have to jump those damn barrels 🙂 Mom did her course first and did have a stop at the barrels which made me all that more determined to get around with no stops. I’m happy to announce that we jumped the black barrels of doom on our very first attempt. That is BIG news for Letterman. He’s really become confident in himself and maybe in me that he can do things even when he’s scared. He jumped everything in the ring and felt awesome. I was so proud of him!!!!! He’s such a fun horse to ride and so athletic. I really enjoy him and that is all that matters. It’s nice to have something of my own to play around on.

He’s an interesting horse to me because while he is very cocky he’s also cautious. I think that I have shown him that he has to trust his I’m hot stuff instinct more than his flight instinct. When he does something that is challenging he starts doing flying lead changes and strutting his stuff. He puffs himself all up like he is showing off. I love that and will keep working to make him feel that he can conquer everything.

I worked with London a bit on lunging this weekend since he really doesn’t know how to lunge. We practiced lunging all around the ring including lunging around the black barrels. He was very good and lord can that horse move. He is jaw dropping especially when he’s a bit fired up about scary black barrels. I want to put in some good groundwork to establish our relationship.

Areutrue is a horse that doesn’t do much for me when I look at him. I know that will change but right now he’s in need of weight, muscle and an overall change in shape. I put a pair of front shoes on him as he looked a bit foot sore. I can’t tell you just how cool this horse really is. He’s super broke, great balance, lovely feel in his mouth, naturally forward and just so willing to do anything. I ride him around and keep telling everybody this horse is going to be FANCY! Keep in mind this is ride number 2 and he’s very out of shape.

He naturally wants to go on the bit and work from behind. He just gives you a great feeling of a horse who has all the right stuff.

Here is some video of him on his second ride. Doesn’t he already look stronger?

I am lucky to have such a fun bunch of horses to work with right now. I also have two horses for a client and they are also awesome ottb’s that are super fun. Keeps me busy but you can’t help but to be motivated when you are achieving such awesome results of getting nice horses into new homes.

Pegasus gets a new home for Christmas!

Pegasus Fever was a $300k yearling but his body did not hold up to racing. His story interested me because when he hurt his knee his trainer had a surgery done to repair it. Then he was using him as a pony horse and he was so sound they decided to run him again when he bowed a tendon in the opposite leg. Looking at his track picture you can imagine he may hard on his body. He is an absolute tank of a horse.

 

When Pegasus came to CANTER he thought he was all that and then some. I took him to our lay-up farm and went OMG watching him run around like a stallion. I think he was pumped up on some feel good drugs. We were sort of intimidated by this huge horse who didn’t seem to slow down. He was quite sound and full of himself.

After a few weeks of turnout he did a 180 in the attitude department and quickly became the farm favorite. It’s hard to describe Pegasus but he’s sort of a big slobbering dog in a horse body. He’s always the first up to the gate, he lives for food, he has to be in your business all the time and he just loves people. Our farm owners absolutely loved Pegasus and their kids would go out and brush him. He loved coming over in the summer to be squirted down with the hose. Whenever I would go to the farm he would have to be picking up the lunge line, the lunge whip, dragging around halters and just getting into everything. He was not lacking in the personality department.

We had not really figured out what we were going to do with Pegasus. He needed a light riding career but with all his racing jewelry it would take the right person to come along and look past it. Finding homes for horses that aren’t 100% clean legged is very challenging. Since we had so many that were sound and easy to move into homes Pegasus just hung out. He had been at the farm since October of 2010 growing into his new shape 🙂

I was asked if CANTER had any horses that might work for some ceremonial police events as well as be a light riding horse for a beginner rider. Pegasus immediately came to mind as something that would work for that. He’s absolutely not scared of a thing and he loves people. His quiet personality seemed like it would work. There was one problem…I had never ridden the horse!

Um, yeah so we just sort of winged it and I went to pick him up yesterday in hopes that he would fit. I said I would get on him and make sure and if he wasn’t as good as I thought then we would just call it off.

It must be a Christmas miracle but he was even better than I could have asked for. It’s a cold windy day and he literally arrived in the dark last night. You know he’s got to be nervous considering he hasn’t been off our farm in a year but he seemed to relax once I started brushing him.

When I brought out the tack you could see him start to get very confused. He was making all sorts of faces and Kurt asked what he was doing. I said that was his display of nerves. I walked him out to the ring and while he was looking around it was almost with a sense of adventure. Yay, somebody is going to ride me. How cool is this? Wow, riding with jumps. Cool! Lots of things to see and fun things to do.

I walked him around and he didn’t seem to be even slightly bothered by a thing. He walked right up and sniffed the black barrels of doom

I lunged him around for about a minute before giving up on it because he obviously did not need it. I hopped right up and around we went. He’s fat, out of shape and slightly ouchy on his just trimmed feet but perfect temperament for a beginner rider. I flopped around, kicked him, pulled on him and tested his patience. He prefers to just stop so getting him to go was quite the challenge. I laughed so hard trying to get him to canter. He was not amused!

I felt like my legs barely fit around him so kicking him to getting him to go was hard! He’s a tank and feels like you are sitting on a barrel.

Here is some video so go ahead and be prepared to laugh. Don’t mind my cackling!

He was just making me laugh with his totally relaxed nature. He’s so out of shape so going fast was just not on his agenda for the day.

Bill has a lot of experience with standardbred’s and has been involved in the harness racing industry for many years so he is a good horseman but he’s not done a lot of riding. He wanted to work with the mounted unit and participate in some of the ceremonial events so he needed a quiet forgiving mount that he could learn to ride on. Some may think it’s crazy to pick a thoroughbred for something like that but Pegasus has exactly the right temperament. Bill could look past the old injuries and know that Pegasus would have limitations and that he will need some maintenance along the way.

He was shocked at how big Pegasus was both in size and girth 🙂 He is a total beginner rider but got up and had a walk and trot around. His wife and kids were in the car making bets on whether or not he would stay on 🙂 Now here is a horse who just arrived yesterday and is having his first day of riding. It’s cold and windy. My neighbor got a new four-wheeler and is riding full blast down the field right next to the ring. Bill is on the buckle of the reins with his legs around the back of Pegasus belly and Pegasus is just plugging along without a care in the world. Yep, this is going to be a good match.

Now we were just worried about big old Pegasus fitting in his smallish 2 horse trailer but Pegasus walked right up and squished his butt in there. I just got a text that he settled in great and they love him. I told them to bring him back if it doesn’t work out but we don’t see that happening. Bill will be taking lessons and riding Pegasus at home to get his riding muscles in shape.

I’m very excited at the thought of Pegasus representing CANTER on the police force! We will absolutely have to be there to get pictures.

You had to buy that one???

I believe that was the question that Kurt has been yelling at me several times over the past few weeks. He was home all last week but of course when you have a farm you are never just able to take a week off and not do anything. He was doing the barn chores and farm projects. I got daily calls cursing my horse 🙂

I sort of laughed it off because Kurt’s a grumpy sort just like Letterman. Not to mention Junior (my former horse/now Kurt’s horse) is a real ass so no picking on my horse! Apparently, Letterman wouldn’t go in his stall to eat and then when he got him in there and shut the door he plowed into Kurt and the proceeded to freak out. Um, yep sounds normal for Letterman. He has these little incidents sometimes where he just gets unsettled and he runs around with his tail up over his back snorting and doing big trots which then lead to madhouse gallops. Drives Kurt crazy because he rips up the fields and gets all the other horses running around thinking there is something to be afraid of.

I generally don’t let it bother me. I really don’t need a super loving horse on the ground. However, he really pushed my buttons this week when he wouldn’t let me catch him for several days. We had gotten a bunch of rain so I turned them out in the riding ring. All was well for an hour while we did barn chores and then he got them all started running. Well if you know me than you know how much I love my riding ring. I baby it and want it perfect. Kurt is even worse when it comes to the riding ring.

We managed to grab the two new horses in (London and Areutrue) because they are totally freaked out by Letterman and want to get the heck away from him. We are trying to catch Letterman but he wants no part of it. As we are getting the other horses he is galloping wildly in and out of them as we put their halters on them. He’s doing sliding stops and very impressive rodeo moves. Kurt was livid!

I manged to get Letterman’s buddy in but 30 min of trying to catch Letterman and he’s just not going to be caught. I tried every trick in the book. After a few hours he got hungry and wanted to come in so I was able to catch him.

The same not going to be caught behavior went on for a few days over the weekend. However, I was determined not to feed him if he wasn’t going to be caught. He couldn’t just walk into his own stall. He had to let me catch him and bring him in. Ha, take that. I finally got to the point where I could catch him but then he was giving me issues taking his halter off trying to bolt away from me. Nope, we will do 100 circles around your stall and you’re not going out until we deal with this.

The past few days he’s been back to normal Letterman. Searching for carrots and being nosey. I don’t know if it was just the new horses coming in that caused him to get a bug up his butt but he had me doing a l0t of cussing.

Thankfully, he does make up for it when I ride him. He has been really awesome and we are practicing cantering some cavaletti’s and he’s doing great. The free jumping really helped him get a bit more forward. He’s pretty slow to ride compared to the wild man free jumping display you all saw in the video. I wish he was that brave under saddle but it’s coming which I’m very excited about.

He really enjoys the jumping and I think if it was up to him he would never do flatwork. I’ve been trying not to stress the flatwork too much as it does make him grumpy. I acknowledged the fact that I wasn’t buying him to do flatwork and he’s more or less my go have fun horse. We all need one of those! We haven’t been able to trail ride as much due to lack of daylight and hunting so jumping is a way to keep him looking forward to his workouts. I think part of the reason that he let me finally catch him was that he got tired of seeing me ride all the other horses. He does like to work so maybe he decided it was worthwhile to be caught.

Areutrue and London are figuring out that beet pulp is tasty. Areutrue pretty much eats anything but London is more cautious of new food. I also make all their meals very soupy with warm water and London thought that was a bit bizarre. They have both settled in really nicely now and you can tell they have the routine down. Areutrue is one of those super-duper easy horses. Okay, whatever you want is always his answer. London is more of a baby always wanting to investigate, put things in his mouth, look around and he loves licking stuff which makes me laugh. He’s so sweet and just makes me want to hug him all the time.

I had a little lunging session with them both to introduce them to working under the lights. They both seemed to care less which is great!

London’s 2nd ride

I got busy riding other horses yesterday so I missed riding London but was pretty excited to try out a few different things today.

I changed the bit to a jp eggbutt with a round piece in the middle and I added a standing martingale. I also carried my whip. The martingale allows him to figure out the limits of where his head can go without me having to do anything and the whip allows me to encourage him not to stop at the gate and to stay forward into the transitions. It’s very important with the real babies that you make rules and I’m very strict about NOT having issues by the gate. Carry a whip in each hand if you need it but they absolutely must go forward past the gate. Nappy behavior starts when you lack a forward button 🙂

He’s a really smart horse who has a great brain. We had taken all the jumps down to work the ring and I sat them all around the sides of the ring. He didn’t even look which was very nice! I had some ground poles and a little gymnastic set up and he just went right around without even a glance. I really don’t care much about what they do at this stage as long as they give it all a honest try.

My focus on him is just staying forward in front of the leg. He was much improved from our first ride and the trot and canter felt even better.

Kurt got a few pictures of him as well.

I really wanted to ride Areutrue but I think he would be even happier with a pair of front shoes so I’m patiently waiting for the farrier to come on tuesday.

 

 

London’s first ride

My plan was only to take one horse to restart with winter quickly approaching. I had told myself take the older horse because he will be easy and it’s not fun starting a 3yr in the middle of winter 🙂 I caved because I really just couldn’t wait to see what London was all about so here I am starting a 3yr with winter on the way.

London came off the track in November of 2010 after a very unsuccessful three starts. He was quite slow. He had hung out at another farm before we could take him at our layup farm. He’s basically done nothing since a year ago but be a horse.

I was slightly concerned he may be silly because he’s young and nobody had sat on him or really done anything with him in over a year. I got a glimpse of his quiet personality during our little free jump session and I’m happy to say our first ride went great. He has a great brain!

I lunged him a bit and remembered he has no clue how to lunge. Ha, something to work on. I really couldn’t get him to move much so I thought well here goes nothing. He stood perfectly for me to get on and Kurt walked us a lap around the ring. Right as he let me go, Junior started ripping and running in the field in front of the riding ring. London just stood and watched but I decided to hop off just in case. No point in pushing my luck!

Kurt captures his idiot horse and I get back on London who was a bit perplexed by the whole thing. He was a little slow at first and I was trying to be quiet but send him forward without overdoing it. You just never know much about these guys so I’m always cautious with my legs at first. I just use a little smooch and cluck and he went on like a good boy. I kept some fingers in my neck strap as we went around but he was awesome. My ring is pretty spooky and he didn’t get bothered by anything.

Normally I wouldn’t canter but things were going well so I did have a little canter both directions. The canter is lovely! They haven’t been getting much turnout due to rain/mud so I was super impressed with how relaxed he was about it all. He has no muscle so he can’t hold it and it’s a struggle to pick it up but totally normal.

He was fussy about the bit so I will try something new on him. I use the herm sprenger duo for a first ride because it’s really soft. Some horses love the mullen mouth but some don’t care for it. He just had his teeth done this week too so he could have been a bit sensitive.

Here is some video

I think this horse is really special.  I like them all but some horses come in and you just know they have all the right pieces to go into upper level careers. I know it all looks rough right now but the basics that you need are all there. Now it’s just putting in all the mileage. I have a feeling somebody will snap him up quick and that is okay with me. I just want to ride him a few more time 🙂

Areutrue has his first ride

Areutrue is one of those horses that is just an old soul. When he came to our layup farm he quickly became the farm favorite. He just loved people and thought he should be right up in your pockets all the time. He had a hard time transitioning to the farm life because I think he liked people more than he liked other horses. He retired from racing at age 7 and I have always found that the longer they have raced the more set they are in their routine. He didn’t quite understand going out to eat grass!

I brought him here last week and you could tell he was curious as to what his next adventure was going to bring but he was eager to please. Walked right up on the trailer and dug into his hay bag. When he got here he was nervous but boy did he perk up when he saw the grain cart coming down the aisle!

I gave them some dinner and then decided that I needed to clean them up right away. Hey, I like my men clean cut! I put him in the cross ties and despite his buddy screaming he was instantly asleep with his lip drooping. I pulled his mane and then got out the clippers. He stood perfect for me to clip his muzzle, ears and legs. Then I got the treat out and I think that right there won him over. He will eat any kind of treat that you give him.

It poured several inches over the past few days so they were all locked up and even now they are just in their small paddocks. It’s probably not a super wise idea to get on a new horse when they have been in and the temp’s dropped 30 degrees in a day but I could already tell Areutrue is an old soul.

I took him for a walk around the ring in hand and he looked at things but just kept walking. I stuck him on the lunge line and he looked at me like I was the stupid one. I swear he was saying just get on already and stop with this lunging stuff. I listened 🙂

Kurt came out to hold his head and I quietly got up from the mounting block. We have our little routine where I stand and touch the horse all over while up on the block. Then I put my foot in and continue to pat them. Then I just go half way up and if all feels good then I settle over. Kurt walks me a lap and then off I go. I know it can be overkill but you just never really know. Aretrue was happy-go-lucky and immediately went about his business.

When you have been doing this for a long time you can almost instantly feel how broke a horse is right when you get on. He just gave me that feeling that he had a lot of great training. He was really soft in the bridle, nice mouth, moved off the leg, understood forward and was professional about his job. It’s always why I LOVE older horses. There is no discussion they just do their job.

He’s lacking muscle so he’s pretty weak everywhere and he will need front shoes but he felt great. He came to us back in July so he’s just hung out in the field getting to be a horse. It take some time to build the muscle back. He already wanted to stretch into the contact which is nice but I just allowed him to go around as he wanted. He was a bit unbalanced going into the canter but no big deal. I just loved the feel of him in all gaits. He’s a nice mover even without any muscle. You could tell he’s just going to be one that is really nice in the bridle and carries themself. Here is a little video of his first ride. I bet he’s going to progress super quick.

You could tell how happy he was to be back into work. He just loves the attention and of course the treats before and after his workout!

I am getting on London Lullaby today. Can’t wait!

New horses arrive

We went over and picked up Areutrue and decided to also bring London Lullaby home with us as well. It seems like there are a lot of people shopping for horses right now so I thought I would try to sell a few here while the weather is still decent.

Areutrue is absolutely as sweet and sensible as they get. I pulled his mane, clipped his whiskers and ears and he stood there sleeping. I didn’t get any pics/video of him yet because he got a bath and some treatment for his rain rot. He’s a gorgeous horse and a really cute mover.

Today we set up our free jump chute and had some fun playing with the horses. First up was London Lullaby. He’s a really very nicely bred 3yr who is lightly raced. He’s 15.3 h but obviously still growing and filling out. He has a really awesome personality and is quite brave. He had never seen a jump before but was really game which I appreciate. He’s a lovely mover and so light on his feet. I think he’s going to be a super star. Can’t wait to get on him.

Letterman remembered free jumping and thought he was just going to fly around and have himself a blast. I interrupted his antics with some random poles placed going into the jump chute. I imagine this is why the people who do all the warmblood approvals hand walk them into the chute!

I have a client’s horse who has done a lot of eventing and he acted like he had been free jumped before. He needed a bigger fence to make him pay attention but was pretty cool.

I really think the horses enjoy being able to free jump. I was amazed how much Letterman remembered and how brave he was. Now he just has to slow his brain down a bit and think about his feet. I was trying to make him add up the footwork the last few times in the video with some extra poles. He’s nowhere near that aggressive to the jumps when I ride him! I almost wish he was.

Lullaby got a bath when he was done and a rain rot treatment as well.

Looks like warm weather the next few days. I’m looking forward to getting on the new horses.

Causes of misbehavior

Wrong feed, lack of turnout, saddle doesn’t fit, poor fitting tack, wrong bit for the shape of the mouth, pain related issues or just plain old bad riding are some of the biggest causes of misbehavior in Tb’s. I try not to come off as somebody who is that pain in the ass know it all when it comes to ottb’s but many of my opinions on the above issues come from years of experience.

Growing up none of these things were on my radar. I was a serious pony club geek yet I knew nothing about saddle fit or how feed affected behavior. What do you mean some horses like different bits? Some don’t like certain girths? Feed makes horses hot?

Feed:

It’s been my experience that feeds that are very high in sugar can make certain Tb’s hot. I have seen it happen with my own eyes. I had a lesson student who I traveled out to teach. She has a lovely horse who was typically very quiet. His behavior had changed drastically and he was now spooking, bucking and just acting very abnormal. I had went out to give her a lesson and I normally rode him the first part of the lesson and she rode the second part. He was so high-strung we decided to free lunge him and he jumped out of the ring. Um, what the heck??? I was going over a long list with her of anything that changed in his routine. We got to feed and she mentioned she had switched him from TC complete to Omelene 100. If you read the list of ingredients it’s quite different between the two feeds. It was the only thing we could put our finger on so she said she would switch him back and see if it really was that easy. Imagine our surprise when he was back to himself in no time at all. Is it really that easy? I’m not saying that it always is but I very seriously consider feed as a root of misbehavior. Some horses are just that sensitive to sugar.

I feed my Tb’s TC Senior because it’s a feed that is one of the lowest in sugar on the market and has a very high protein and fat content. It puts on weight and you can feed a high amount of it without them getting the sillies. I also LOVE ration balancers. I had never heard of a ration balancer until I started reading about it on the Chronicle of the Horse bulletin board. It’s a feed that is high in protein and low in fat to be feed at a rate of 1-2lbs. Basically a vitamin/mineral supplement that is extremely low in sugars and can be used alone or to mix with your commercial feed.

My connemara/tb is an extremely hot type of horse but he’s an easy keeper. I can tell you that he looks amazing on just 1lb of the TC 30% ration balancer and he is calm. Seriously 100x calmer than he ever was on any type of feed. My easy keeping tb’s eat the ration balancer or a mix of the ration balancer and TC senior. I don’t believe in feeding a lot of concentrates because most Tb’s do tend to have ulcers or sensitive stomachs. Feeding high quality grain actually allows me to feed less.

When it comes to feed you really need to do your research. Don’t just assume what your boarding barn is feeding your horse is okay and there is no way it’s making your horse hot. Boarding barns often want to feed lower cost feed to increase their profit margins (Not saying this is the case with every barn) and this can really affect the horses.

What about alfalfa? I think that all horses are individuals when it comes to feed. I feed my Tb’s alfalfa and almost never see issues in behavior. However, if I do have one who tends to be really hot then I may not feed them alfalfa and instead go towards timothy or another grass hay. Alfalfa will give Junior (the conn/tb) the runs and his system just can’t handle it. Not to mention he’s an easier keeper and doesn’t need it 🙂

Feeding free choice hay can reduce ulcers in horses and I believe it removes the anxiety about feed time. We have slow feeding hay boxes that Kurt made so the horses have hay in front of them 24×7.

Saddle fitting:

Saddle shopping can be a nightmare! Fitting both the horse and the rider is a difficult process. Finding a saddle fitter who doesn’t just fit for one company and can bring a bunch of saddles for you to try is even harder. I hate shipping saddles back and forth in the mail and it costs a ton.

I think that a properly fitting saddle can make a world of difference in the behavior, movement and comfort level of your horse. I own a bunch of saddles in all different widths because of the large number of horses that I have coming in for training. I try to make sure the horse that I ride the most has a saddle that is fitted to it so I have all wool flocked saddles.

Now that I bought Letterman for myself I needed the saddle fitter to come and take a look to see what saddle of mine fit him the best. I had been riding him in my medium county conquest but she said he fit much better in the narrow county stabilizer xtr. She took some wool out of it to make it closer to a medium but she said the shape of the panels in that saddle fit him much better.

I have seen horses who are so painful in their back due to poorly fitted saddles. I imagine it’s like us wearing shoes that hurt and being asked to run. I have a lot of shoes that look pretty but hurt my feet so badly that I can barely walk comfortably. If the saddle doesn’t fit than behavior issues are sure to crop up. Some horses are just really tough and deal but others make their opinion know.

Way back in the day I had a horse named Bucking Beau Dandy. He was always really hard to get on the bit and bucked frequently. We had went for a lesson and the instructor asked to look at the saddle. Um, broken tree. My mom and I hadn’t thought to look but we think he rolled in the stall with his saddle on..hey I was a kid who didn’t think to tie the pony up 🙂

Kurt will tell you that Junior is very sensitive to saddle fit. He went through this period where he was bucking and bucked Kurt right off in the middle of a foxhunt. I can’t say that I didn’t know better about saddle fit because I did know quite a bit. I knew his saddle didn’t fit but I didn’t have anything else and had been lazy about getting the fitter out to discuss options 🙂 He had went from a medium to a wide (close to an extra wide). Found a wide county in a 19″ long forward flap for Kurt and life is good again.

Sometimes horses that are sore from bad fitting saddles don’t act out but maybe they don’t go forward or they pin their ears. You have to check for the subtle signs. It’s not that expensive to have a saddle fitter come to have a look. There are some awesome blogs out there about saddle fit and this is one of my favorites- http://www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com/

Turnout:

I think we all know that turnout can affect behavior. I’ve been dealing with horses that have been kept up in their small paddocks due to rain and they are being very silly. I rarely lunge but sometimes if they aren’t getting turned out then lunging is a great way to make sure you get the kinks out before getting on. Don’t put your body on the line 🙂

Bits:

Man, I just love bits. I have a huge bit collection that I like to look at but rarely use. All horses have different shaped mouths so the bit you ride in can make a lot of difference. I’m far from an expert on this top but I have found that horses with really fat tongues often like a thin bit or maybe something with a mullen mouth. I have serious love for nathe bits or the herm sprenger duo bits which are super flexible rubber mullen mouth bits. The tb’s that are sensitive or are just learning about contact love these bits.

When talking about bits it’s also important to remember teeth. The younger the horse the more often they need their teeth done. I try not to even start working a horse unless I know their teeth have been done. I had a horse (Boppus) that had some of the most messed up teeth I had seen. It was like they hadn’t been touched. He had embedded caps stuck up in his gums, horrible points and his canine teeth were actually cutting into his tongue becuase they were so long and sharp. He had a lot of resentment about contact for a long time but eventually got better.

Pain:

I could write for hours on this topic. There are so many pain related issues that can cause misbehavior. My blog readers probably remember me writing about Prospect Park aka Parker. He was this gorgeous lovely horse who raced until he was 6yrs and came to CANTER. He had this amazing personality and just loved life and loved people. He was with a professional trainer and having major behavior issues. He was pegged as just an asshole who didn’t want to work and was borderline dangerous. Allie sent him down to me to have a shot at figuring him out. I brought him along slowly and everything was going really well. I couldn’t figure out why he might have had issues in the past. He was this amazing mover and boy could he jump. It started to get hot and all of a sudden he became reluctant to go forward, started propping and was reluctant to do anything. I leaned towards ulcers because he was a very sound horse. Gave him some time off and treated for ulcers. He was drastically improved after the treatment and we started going out xc schooling and to little shows. He was still struggling to round his back and the canter and quite resistant about it when you would make him come through the back in the canter. We tried lunging, different bits, hackamore and tons of other stuff. It was puzzling to me but all along I kept thinking there is some issue that I am missing.

I had taken him out xc schooling several times and he was awesome. We went one really super hot day and he had what I will call an episode. This normally super quiet horse went crazy. He was bucking, rearing, running sideways and just panicked. I was out there with my mom and had no clue what was wrong. He was lathered in sweat and just mentally checked out. We went down in the woods just so he could relax and cool down. I decided not to jump anymore because something was wrong. It took him an hour to cool down that day. I called Allie and said okay I think he can’t breathe. Now he had never made a noise to indicate he was struggling to breathe but my gut was telling me something had caused this panic attack. Then I noticed he got to running in the field and came in and couldn’t cool down and couldn’t seem to catch his air. I emailed my vet and she was leaning toward onset of a heaves.

We have the vet out and start with lunging him. His respiration is extremely high. We go to scope him and immediately she goes OMG this is bad just so bad. I can’t recall everything but he had a paralyzed pharynx and so much scar tissue in there. Now he had been a horse that had choked several times quite badly so of course it all made sense once we got the diagnosis.

Another recent case came up with a horse that I used to have here in training. Kiss a Monster aka Monster was a 3yr when I had him and he always had this little buck in him. I thought he just needed some more time as he was growing. He wasn’t bad at all and almost sort of typical for a young horse. Allie had started him back up in North Carolina and said the same behavior was there. They had the vet go over him and he had a slight tear in the stifle area. They injected it and she tells me he is a completely different horse. An absolute puppy dog and as quiet as they come now that he doesn’t hurt anymore!

I know that Letterman was a real bastard off and on when I started riding him but again not in a mean sort of way. He raced for a long time and it was very clear to all of us that his muscles hurt. I can tell you that if I had pushed him during this time when he was painful from new muscles being used he could have been pretty bad. He was pretty explicit about his feelings and I could read him pretty easily so I knew that he needed a very gradual build up of work. I avoided the bad behavior just by reading what he was trying to tell me.

I think that I have gotten pretty good at listening to my horses and figuring them out but I sure have made some mistakes along the way which have helped me be more aware for the next time. CANTER does an amazing job at making sure we are not passing on problem horses. If they aren’t 100% right then we aren’t selling them!

Riding:

Let me just say that I do not believe in the typical stereotype that tb’s are hot. This blog shows that the majority of the Tb’s we get in are absolutely quiet enough for amateur riders. They are kind and forgiving. They don’t require a perfect rider or even a rider that has experience with tb’s.

However, there are many horses that just won’t work for a certain rider because their style of riding doesn’t match the horses personality or the rider’s schedule doesn’t work with how frequently the horse needs to be ridden. I have some horses who are so soft in the mouth they don’t tolerate bad hands. Some that are so sensitive they can’t handle somebody with grippy legs or seats. Horses that are really spooky and need a rider that is super-duper calm and can think before a horse even does something. Horses that have way too athletic of a jump for a rider that might not be that secure over fences. I’m always really careful that I make the right match to make sure the horse and rider will work together.

I have seen bad riding or bad riding programs ruin a horse faster than anything else. I do think that tb’s are so willing that they try to please but all horses progress at their own rate. You have to listen to the horse and the sensitive horses can become fried very quickly in the wrong program or a program that is pushing them faster than what they are ready for.

If your trainer doesn’t love Tb’s and doesn’t have experience riding tb’s than sometimes that turns out not to be a great experience (not saying you have to have experience with Tb’s but it does help). I have seen rider/horse combo’s do a complete 180 in a different training program. I often suggest that people get a second opinion from somebody who specializes in ottb’s  or green horses if they are experience training issues that don’t seem to be getting any better.

If the horse isn’t a good match for you then selling it is never the wrong thing to do. I have seen so many people who have come back and said they are now finally having fun riding again! Riding is supposed to be fun so don’t compromise when it comes to finding the right horse. There are many different types of ottb’s. I have had some 3-4yr’s that are the quietest tb’s you will find that are perfect for ammy’s. I promise you that ammy friendly ottb’s do exist 🙂 Just make sure you are buying horses that have been let down and restarted so you can get an accurate read on what their true personality will be.

Hope this can help anybody who is trying to diagnosis the root of a behavioral issue.

Helping out another group

Bev from Mid Atlantic Horse Rescue had emailed to see if I wanted another resale horse of my own which I had to decline. She had sent up shipping for some horses to come down from Finger Lakes but at the last-minute one of their horses wasn’t adopted and she didn’t have space for both horses that were coming down. I asked Allie if we could take one to help out and she said go ahead and take two. We had some room and we have just sold a bunch of horses so have a bit of funding to help out. There is a group that works out of Finger Lakes called Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds http://fingerlakesfinesttbs.proboards.com/ who list horses just like CANTER track listings. They do an awesome job and need some help moving horses as the track is closing.

We ended up getting a horse named Raymond and another named No Time for Love.

Here is Raymond

Here is No Time for Love

They had shipped down to MAHR and I went to pick them up there. Kurt and I are feeling our way around the barn with flashlights until we found the lights 🙂 Both horses walked right up on the trailer and settled in to eat some hay. We headed over to our Centreville, MD farm and unload them there into a small paddock. Both had a little trot around and went to their hay piles. They both are big and pretty. I will be over this weekend to see them in the daylight.

Early this morning around 1am, Burgiss left to head to Utah. He walked down the driveway in the dark and waited for the drive to configure the trailer. He walked right up and backed into his space. There were several other horses on so he will have some company. He was attacking his hay bag like he was starving and didn’t look at all worried that he was next to some strange horse on this huge van. Gotta love thoroughbreds!

I plan on picking up Areutrue this weekend. I’m looking forward to a new project. We have so many lovely horses that we will be retraining in the coming months.