Monthly Archives: February 2012

Ottb’s have value

I am sure most of you have been following the Retired Racehorse Training Project- but as I was watching the live stream this weekend I heard Steuart say “ottb’s have value.” I think that the project has highlighted the fact that the retraining adds the value to the horse. Each of the trainers started with a horse with a clean slate. What would the value of those horse have been with no training? What would you have paid for them? Would you pay more for them now because you get a clearer picture of what they are capable of since they have had some retraining?

I think the answer is that most people would be willing to spend more money because the horse has had some retraining and you can get a better idea about the horses talent, movement, personality, brain and all the things that we want to know when we buy a horse.  Not to mention that many people simply don’t want to be the first person on the horse to test it out 🙂 I get so many people who say that they are specifically buying a horse that has been restarted because they don’t want to be the test pilot on babies first trail ride, first off the farm trip, first xc school or first jump.

I find that many people are on the fence about CANTER and our prices. Some people tell me that our prices are super reasonable for the amount of time and retraining we put into the horses but others tell me that the horses prices are too expensive. Most of our horses range from $2500-$5k with two months of retraining but you have to remember they have all been let down for several months where we addressed the teeth, feet, worming, chiropractor and more. That let down time cost quite a bit of money if you are boarding a horse so I guess it depends on how you look at things.

I have never seen our horses as rescue horses or as cheap horses so I suppose that affects how I view the pricing and why others may view it differently. Yes, they are donated to CANTER but not because they are unsound or not valuable. For the most part, they are donated because they are  lucky enough to have owners/trainers who care enough about them to place them with an organization that has a good reputation for finding horses homes.

I thought about the whole concept of value over the weekend. Do you all remember Calabria Rose aka Rosey? Read about her here- When I think about her it just always makes me smile because she was a horse that had been passed over so many times. She was too small, not pretty enough, had a weird head and the list went on and on. I got her at my farm and immediately recognized this horse was quite special (Allie/Kelly knew that as well but she just needed a program so she could prove it to the rest of the world). She had an amazing brain, super jumper, loved trail riding, loved xc, super personality, sound and just the best attitude you could ask for. We upped her price significantly and she sold within a month or two of being at my farm. We couldn’t get people to look at her for $800 but for $3500 there were people fighting over her. Last week her owners called me to ask what I currently had for sale as they had a friend who was shopping and they wanted something just like Rosey. How cool is that! When this friend called me to talk about the horses that I had for sale she told me that Rosey was the type of horse that she wanted. She has seen Rosey at lessons, shows and hunter paces and is always amazed at how sensible and brave she is. She told me that Rosey just stands on a relaxed rein and just takes it all in. She went on to tell me that money really wasn’t an issue but she absolutely was going to buy an ottb because they are her breed of choice. She went on to tell me all the things that she loves about Tb’s and I couldn’t help but to smile. That is a person who recognizes the value of an ottb!

She really wanted to come see Areutrue but I told her that somebody may have laid claim to him already but I wasn’t sure.  Over the weekend, a foxhunter came to try him out. We didn’t ride in the ring instead we tacked up on a day where there were 40pmh wind gust and stuck three horses in the trailer for a trail ride. Kurt and I were slightly worried about our horses behavior because they hadn’t been ridden in a while. Letterman had a shoe off and a bruised foot and Kurt is preparing for his trip so he has been doing farm projects instead of riding.

I wasn’t a bit worried about Artie even though none of them got turned out on Friday due to wet fields. I just know he doesn’t care much about things like that. We headed out down the trail and the trees were blowing and it was a bit spooky but the horses were all great. We all just walked on a loose rein enjoying the day. Artie’s person knows the area a bit better than we do because they hunt there so we rode down the side of the tax ditch. The tax ditches are basically very steep banks on both sides and filled with water. They can be quite spooky to ride down because you have a steep bank on one side and woods on the other. You can get a lot of stuff jumping up out of you and birds flying up.

 He let Artie move on into a big trot and was just going down there on a loose rein while Kurt and I were holding our horses because they wanted to go. Letterman was cantering along wanting to be silly but doing his best to keep it together and Junior was behind me squealing 🙂 The wind was blowing so hard the water was whipping up yet the horses just marched along like it was just no big deal.

We got back to the main path and he wanted to try out the canter. I wanted to give him some room so Kurt and I held back a bit. Oh boy Letterman was not happy with me. I need a stronger bit!!!!! The best damn thing about Letterman is that despite being a stakes winner and a pretty damn good racehorse he is very considerate to his rider and he doesn’t freak out if he’s in the back. Junior on the other hand was pissed. Artie has a big canter so he was pretty far out in front and I could tell they were doing just fine enjoying themselves. Kurt and I were working hard to maintain our distance. At one point, Letterman grabbed the bit and took off for a few strides so we did catch up but Artie’s rider was slowing up and Artie didn’t care a little bit that he had these two horses breathing down his neck.

We got back to the trailer and he asked how Artie did riding away from the other horses. I told he that he was great but go out in that field and give it a try. Kurt and I stood in the parking lot while he took Artie out in the corn field and rode out and back. Letterman was having himself a pissy fit about being left behind but it’s great practice for him. Artie didn’t mind a little bit that he was asked to leave his buddies and go way off. He didn’t even speed up coming back towards them. Very impressive!

I think at one point in our ride I looked over at Artie’s rider and told him that not all horses are so good 🙂 Artie is pretty damn special if you ask me. Where can you go to horse shop that will take you out trail riding on a horse and let you really see it in action. I know that the buyers of Houndy, Dixie and Burgiss all went out with me on trail rides to see the horses in action. Each of them feel a bit more in love with the horse after getting to ride it outside of the ring.

I place value in all of these experiences that we give the horses and I know the buyers do as well. I’m very excited for the retraining project and all the great press that it has gotten. I believe it was Allie who said that the secret may now be out about just how awesome ottb’s really are.

The tiny bit of video we did get of the xc school

We knew we only had a tiny little bit of battery so I just tried to show that he was quiet upon arrival, did a little water crossing, didn’t care to wait in line to jump and was really having fun in the real water jump. The little log jump was a bit ugly but it was his first jump and I think even the kk loose ring may have been too much bit. I think overall you can just see how calmly he took in his first schooling. We wanted to video other stuff but no battery. Sad!

He got his first chiropractic adjustment tonight. Can’t wait to ride him tomorrow as they always feel better after the chiropractor works on them.

Our xc outing

Artie once again proved how awesome his brain is during his first xc schooling. We had issues with our video camera called somebody turned it on in the bag and drained the battery so it was dead. Very frustrating!

We went to Carousel Park and rode out with my mom on CMA’S Hold that Halo. Did I mention that I would like to steal him??? Wow, he’s just so lovely. She brought him over a week ago and I didn’t want to get off of him. Not only is he just lovely to look at but he jumps anything you point him at!

I was super proud of Artie. He didn’t look at a thing and hacked around on a loose rein. At one point my mom went off to jump a course and I was there all by myself which on a greenie can sometimes be a really bad thing. Artie didn’t even care. Yes, he noticed but besides pooping several times you wouldn’t have known he was at all nervous about it.

He really seemed to enjoy the water jump and we practiced going up and down some banks which he thought were fun.

Whoa…calm down…wild ottb on the loose 🙂

Look how hard he’s concentrating

Down banks always feel so awkward

55 degrees in the middle of February and out for a stroll

 Modeling his gorgeous bridle donated to CANTER MA by Five Star Tack.

Kurt caught this great picture of my mom jumping her first jump into the water on Halo. What a brave boy!

We were supposed to get snow but looks like that is not happening now so I think I may be able to get in a nice trail ride tomorrow on Artie where we go to jump some more logs.

I have now documented the awesome

What a perfect day to be off work. Kurt and I put three horses on the trailer for a trip over to my mom’s farm. We had sand added to our ring so we are letting it set up a bit before we add the jumps back in.

The first gush about Areutrue begins with trailer loading. I have a 2+1 so we take out the first two horses to load and he just quietly stands in the barn without a peep. Not caring that his two friends just left him. I take him out to load him on the box and he just stands there with the lead rop over his head while I stuff the hay bag.

We unload him first at my moms and take him in to brush him (he got a bath first thing this morning) and he was just chilling out. We try to get him to perk up a bit for his conformation pictures. He’s looking so much better. He’s quite a wide horse and is going to be a tank when he finishes adding muscle/weight.

Hilarious face!

What I love so much about him is that he’s just so professional. I know I’ve said it tons before but it really makes a big difference for somebody who wants a horse that will just do it’s job without all the drama. He didn’t even look at a thing in the ring. Just went right to work. He progresses so quickly it is almost amazing. My mom had just seen him last week and thought he already looked a ton better in his frame. He has the tendency to curl so I have played with bits. I didn’t love him in the herm sprenger duo so I tried the super thin kk loose ring and he liked that.

He’s still weak in the canter but the hind leg is amazing and when it all comes together it’s going to be amazing! You have to use a ton of leg to keep him up in the canter. He wants to curl a bit and then break to the trot so it’s leg..leg and more leg. He is really starting to figure it out. Here are all of his pictures if you want to look-

Um, this is the hind leg!

He’s not done a ton of jumping but he really likes jumping. He’s been dead honest to everything in my ring but my mom had a bit more to look at so I wasn’t sure how he would do. Why do I even question these sorts of things. He was totally awesome. Please ignore my position..really I hardly ever jump so my position feels like a struggle. Everytime I start something over fences it sells and I go back to not jumping again for several months.

Just look at how cute he is. He’s pretty blah over little stuff because it bores him but give him something bigger and his ears perk up.

He had never even done a line before or cantered a fence but he was totally game. Here is his video.

When we finished up he loaded back on the trailer and stood there eating his hay bag for another hour if not more. I rode another horse and then took Letterman off and found a twisted shoe. Poor boy didn’t get to be ridden and I know he was disappointed.

Tomorrow Areutrue gets to go XC!!!!


Comparison lunging video’s of Letterman

I was getting a bit riled up today reading the Chronicle of the Horse Bulletin board. I really try to ignore most of the things that people say regarding Tb’s but the whole they look lame thing sometimes gets to me. I have shown on this blog just how funky horses can look when they are letting down/starting retraining. They are body sore, muscles hurt, feet hurt and are being asked to travel in a completely different way. They do not look like show horses and it’s normal. You have to look at what they will become not at what they happen to be at that very moment. I will get off that topic before I get riled up again.

I was writing on that thread about Letterman and how he was body sore, angry, lacked a forward button and just was a horse that looked unhappy. I knew he was sound because I could feel that he was sound. It was just his muscles and body protesting the new work. He had been at the track for 6yrs and now we were asking him to use all new muscles and carry himself differently. Yes, he sure was sore. Who wouldn’t be?

Lunging in July of 2011

Lunging tonight

I love at minute 2:30 when he gets all sorts of silly. You can hear the Letterman snort and we get the prancy trot. Hilarious! Watching the two video’s which are 7 months apart it looks so different to me. He couldn’t canter at all before! Now he still finds cantering the small circles hard but he can easily make the transitions in a balanced fashion. He’s forward, stretching and relaxed. His expression is one of a happy horse who is enjoying what he’s doing and is looking for things to spook at just because he feels good 🙂

When he came in to his retraining I just kept him out of the ring as much as I could. He trail rode several times a week and just learned to go forward and use those back muscles. It took time but he did get worse before he got better. He’s still a bit weak behind right now because I only ride him 1-2 days a week but for a horse in winter shape I won’t complain.


How can this be?

I have no pictures of Areutrue!!!! That is how I know that Kurt and I have been beyond busy the past several months. I was all set to start writing up an ad for Artie and then boom no pictures. Guess I know what I will be doing this weekend 🙂 Kurt has been working more than ever and with lack of daylight the only time to get pictures is on the weekends which are typically our farm projects time. He comes out and does some pics/video for about one horse before he goes off to work on his projects. He will be leaving for 6wks here soon so I need to work on pics/video before he goes.

We were giving Artie some time to gain some muscle and weight before we advertised him so I focused on London for a bit. Now that London has went to his new home I’m set on finding the perfect person for Artie. He’s looking really good now and has gained quite a bit of weight. His feet are balanced up and he has gained a bunch of muscle finally starting to fill out his big frame.

Part of it is that I have also been reluctant to let him go. I know it’s my job but there are always certain horses that just steal your heart and he is one of them for me. I think it’s just because he has the absolute best attitude that a rider can ask for in a horse. He’s kind, smart, willing and sensible. He gets better every single ride and when you ride him you just feel that he is giving it his all every time. He really won me over when we made that trip to the indoor and he walked in there on a loose rein like he had been in 1000 indoors when we know that is not the case 🙂 He went right to work and when the horse that was in there with him left the indoor he went on like he didn’t even notice. Um, my horse noticed and made a huge fuss. He also stood perfectly to be tacked/untacked coming right off the trailer in a new place. That I can really appreciate!

Artie is a farm owners dream horse. He doesn’t care what is going on in the barn or where his buddies are. He doesn’t even holler. I just got a new horse in over the weekend and moved Artie in there with him because I know that Artie just accepts everybody and instantly makes friends. He has perfect manners and is so quiet that sometimes you forget about him.

I have shown him to a few people who have come out horse shopping (he’s not advertised yet though) and while they like him they haven’t loved him. I acknowledge that he is still a work in progress but he’s still my favorite 🙂

He’s not a spring chicken at 8yrs old and he is just 16h. His feet needed some work but they are really coming around. He does have one foot that is a bit clubby but it’s very mild and I suppose that I’m so used to that sort of thing that it’s just no big deal to me. He has good quality of wall which is the most important factor that I look at because I know that feet take time to adjust so if the quality of wall is good then I’m happy.

He’s the type of horse that you watch go and you think he’s cute but perhaps not fancy enough. However, when I ride him I think he will be fancy because all the pieces are there. I have begun jumping him over bigger fences and oh my!!!! Over little stuff he just steps over but as the fences have gotten bigger he has such a good jump. I just start giggling because all of a sudden you are flying and he gives you this awesome feeling in the middle of the jump. Hot damn! Yes, he still moves a bit up and down and he wants to curl behind the bit but he’s only had two months of training. That all comes in time and for me the trainability is what I want to see in a horse. I can fix the rest.

I call him the ultimate professional. When you are working he’s forward and focused but when he’s done he is happy to stand there on the buckle and is often falling asleep. His little lip droops and his cute little ears flick forward. He’s totally relaxed. I appreciate that in a horse because I want them to have an on/off switch. My friend Rebecca who bought Burgiss from me would appreciate these qualities him. She told me that it was important that the horse would be quiet enough after a lesson to hang out and drink a beer off of 🙂 Yes, that is important!

I suppose above everything, I find him to be FUN! I bought Letterman because every time I took him on a trail ride or paper chase I came back with a huge smile on my face and a better outlook on life. Artie is the same kind of horse because he’s just so darn game to do anything you want. He’s that all around horse that an amateur rider can feel safe on because you aren’t going to be worried that you might get hurt. He’s honest and willing which makes you look forward to riding not dread it.

I didn’t get to take him xc last weekend because of the bad weather but I hope to get him out and about somewhere this weekend. I promise to have pictures and video 🙂 I also see that one of my vet’s has a lovely course set up in her ring for the greenies so I may see if I can take him up there to ride. We are in the process of adding more sand to our ring so I don’t have a course up right now.

London Lullaby has found his person

I am one of those people who believe that a horse picks its person. I can typically tell right away if it’s going to be a good match. Some horses are just so easy peasy they don’t seem to care who rides them but others are slightly opinionated 🙂 Horse shopping is stressful for buyers but also for sellers. I do get nervous each time people come to see horses. I just want everything to go smoothly. The first showing of London to his new person did not start out very smooth. I had gotten that horrible head cold that was going around and the day before I took two lessons and about killed myself. I kept getting dizzy and decided that there was no way I should be riding a horse. I told the buyer she was welcome to come if she wanted but I wasn’t going to ride. She was game as she had a whole trip planned to see several horses in the area. We had tacked up Areutrue and London and she decided to ride London first. I had worked with him the day before but because I was sick I had only lunged him and it was on that trip we took to the indoor. I think it had gotten him a bit unnerved because when she got on him he was in full fledge being an ass mode. There were some dramatic moves being displayed and he also picked a corner of the ring to be deathly afraid of making a huge deal of it. Kurt and I were sort of looking at each other like OMG how embarrassing. It’s like your kid throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store and you just want to run and hide. Here is this girl on a horse that is being a complete jackass and yet she is smiling, laughing and just kicking him around telling him to grow up. She was absolutely not even phased by him a little bit. She made him get into the “evil” corner, laughed at his antics and went to work at figuring out his buttons. The more she rode the more she smiled. She loved the trot but was giddy over the canter. She couldn’t get over how nice he was for just two months of training. She rode him for quite some time and when she finished up he was in puppy dog mode just relaxed and happy. He was stretching into the bridle, swinging across his back and looking like the horse that I know he can be. She really loved Areutrue as well but I could see she was leaning towards London. She decided to come back for a second ride on London and I had been able to ride him so he was back to being a good boy. It was nice for her to see the more behaved side of him but a relief for me to know that she could handle him even when he was going to challenge her. He’s an extremely talented horse who at times is going to use his athletic ability in naughty ways so it was important for me to have a rider for him that would absolutely know how to channel his ability in the right direction. The second ride was just gorgeous and it was very obvious that he was the perfect fit for her. She is a patient rider who enjoys the process of bringing along green horses. Her plan will be to bring him along as an event horse. Her friend Amy also has a young horse that she is bringing along so they will be able to ride together. Here is London’s final video. He had come a long way in two months. I’m super excited to deliver him to his new owner on Saturday. I know she is looking forward to getting started.  I may try to take Areutrue along and fit in a xc schooling at a local course depending on weather/footing. He’s going great and is so cute over the jumps.

For those who like before and after shots

CANTER Mid Atlantic stopped selling horses out of our lay-up farms about a year ago. We found that most people have a very hard time looking at a horse who is being pasture kept and picturing what they will become. They are not fit, lack muscle, may lack weight, sometimes have yak hair, unkept manes and unbalanced feet. They aren’t being ridden and are used to living in a herd of other horses so if you go out there to show them to people they can sometimes act like feral animals 🙂 You have all watched my lunging videos where I try to lunge horses in big open fields in a herd of their friends. It’s quite the show and if I manage not to fall down or have a horse run away with the lunge line attached then we consider it a success. It’s so much easier for me to work with a horse in my home ring where I have boundaries, the right equipment and lots of time on my hands.

The other component to selling a horse to somebody out of a field is that you truly know nothing about that horses personality or what they want to be when they grow up. Will they like riding out of the ring, how about jumping, will flatwork be easy or hard, what is their personality like, spooky or not, herdbound, hot/quiet/in the middle, can they take a joke, easy/hard keeper, need to be ridden consistently or can you ride them twice a week and the list goes on. I can often figure out the answer to most of the questions in just a few rides but if I sell them out of the field then I really can’t answer most of the above questions. Just a month or two of retraining adds a lot of value to the horse and ensures that we are going to know that horse well enough to make the right match.

Horses at the track are absolutely gorgeous but when you take that horse out of work and reduce the amount of calories they were eating they often look like the before pictures here- and then we bring them into the retraining program and in a few months you get the after pictures. How many would buy the horse in the before picture? I’m pretty darn experienced at this and a few of them I wouldn’t even go to look at 🙂

I plan to keep adding pictures to that part of the blog of all the CANTER horses that we have had so that people can see how much a horse can physically transform with a few months of correct muscling. All of the CANTER MA horses get a minimum of two months of field rest before they start their retraining and then we put two months of retraining on them before they go up for sale. It ensures that they smoothly transition right into a new home as smoothly as possible.

It’s nice to look back at some of these pictures and see how far the horses have come. It’s also nice for people who are bringing horses off the track to know that it’s fairly normal for them to go through a transition period where sometimes they look worse before they look better.

The difference a horse can make in a rider

Last night I was showing a horse that is owned by a client to some prospective buyers. The buyer came with her friend Michelle who had bought Rustyshouldrun from me earlier this summer. When Michelle had come to see Rusty she had been horse shopping for several months with lots of disappointing stories. She was having some confidence issues and although she loved thoroughbreds she knew it would take the right horse to make her feel comfortable enough that she could work towards regaining her confidence.

When she rode Rusty she said that he was the first horse that she felt comfortable on but she still had to be pushed by her trainer to canter him on that first ride and really had to be convinced to just trot him over some poles. I would have to look back to see when she bought Rusty but it was in the early fall and since then she has been riding him both on her own and in lessons. She proudly told me that she cantered her first vertical on him and how great it felt.

Last night, I rode the horse that I was showing first and then the prospective buyer asked Michelle to get on first. I was shocked that within several minutes of her getting on him she was cantering him all around and even jumping him over some x-rails. She had a huge smile on her face and the confidence just rolled off of her. It was like watching a completely different rider. I couldn’t help but to think that this is the difference that the right horse can make for a rider.

I also taught a lesson this weekend to Bill who bought Pegasus Fever from CANTER. I regret not getting a bit of video just to show that here is this huge 16.3 h 5yr TB gelding who only had race training but is packing a beginner rider around like he was born for the job. Bill is learning to post and steer but Pegasus just plods around patiently tolerating any and all mistakes that are made. I smiled for days after teaching that lesson. It has been fun watching Bill gain confidence in his riding skills. I will be really impressed if he can get that big old horse to canter. He tells me that Pegasus can get back to that gate awful quick when he wants to but I will believe it when I see it 🙂