Monthly Archives: May 2012

Team Bad Decision rides again- Fairhill trail ride

Those of us who train for CANTER often call ourselves Team Bad Decision because we tend to do things with our ottb’s that most people would consider a bit crazy. I think that Allie and Suzanne take the cake with their midnight bareback rides on horses who just started retraining but I think I could easily be convinced to do that as well.

Letterman is out of commission so when we got invited to go on a group trail ride at Fairhill this weekend I kicked around the thought of taking one of the newbies. Raymond was perfect on his first ride out so why not? Um, so he has only been in training for less than 2 months. He has a great brain! Well those of you who have ridden at Fairhill know that it can be an eye opener. Bridges, tunnels, water, wide open fields, hills, people on bikes, other groups of horses and so much more. It can make even a seasoned trail horse think twice but it is one of my favorite places to ride. I couldn’t say no.

Kurt and I convinced ourselves it would go just fine so we loaded up Raymond and Junior and headed up to meet the rest of the group. I think there were 12 people overall making for a nice group. Raymond was a bit wide-eyed when he got off the trailer. We parked across from the steeplechase field so there was a lot to see and he was sure he was at the races but all he did was walk a few circles. Kurt held him while I tacked up and Junior was actually behaved tied to the trailer.

When I got on I thought he might be a bit up but he just walked very nicely and we did some laps at the walk and the trot while waiting for the rest of the group to get on. I like to keep them moving in the beginning just as a way to focus them. I had Kurt carry a leadrope just in case we needed a lead at some point. See..that was good decision-making 🙂

We never ended up needing the rope because he once again proved that he is a total pro. We had to go over the bridge that crosses the highway pretty early in our ride and I thought that might give him cause for concern but he was great. He did a little flinch when a car passed under the bridge but who wouldn’t!

This is the bridge

 Our second obstacle was the water crossing which is sort of scary because it has a concrete pad under it and a bridge next to it. I once got stuck there on a horse that I was eventing who decided there was no way he was going across. I had to wait for somebody to come along because I wasn’t letting him say NO. We had some other greenies on this ride who were not sure about the water so we all got bunched up trying to get everybody across. Those who were having issues pulled to the side and the rest of us walked across. Raymond looked for a second and then went right across. What is interesting to me is that he is so calm about it all. He doesn’t feel a bit nervous and never gets anxious as he starts going across these scary things.

Kurt had to go back and lead people across and one horse jumped and reared right onto the back of Junior who was the total packer and just towed him right across the scary water. Junior to the rescue!

When we got out into the cross country field it was potty break time and then we went to play in the water jump. I find that walk trail rides can be super-duper hard for green horses but Raymond walked flat-footed the whole time. Junior jigged and jigged as he is not one for walking 🙂 Raymond calmly standing waiting for those taking a break.

He loved the water jump and happily trotted in and out.

Everybody was trotting and cantering around and he didn’t mind that a bit which I found impressive. We headed down the xc field and while more people used the bathroom we went to jump a few jumps. Kurt gave me a lead down a nice line of elementary jumps and we jumped a little bench, ramp and house thing. Horses were going all over and he was just happy to go wherever I pointed him.

We headed out of that field and crossed through the scary tunnel to get over to the international side of the xc course. These tunnels are very dark with water running through them and of course they echo as you walk through. I wasn’t sure what to expect but he didn’t even bat an eye. I think this picture is on the 2nd pass through but you can see what they look like.

We were all going to do a trot and then I think somebody decided to canter which then turned into a gallop. I was slightly concerned because we were in a huge wide open field with big rolling hills and there were a bunch of horses. I was keeping my eye on Kurt as well hoping Junior was behaving but pretty soon Kurt was galloping ahead of me so I could watch him and just enjoy the ride. We booked it across those hills but he was listening really well. We came to a big downhill at a full gallop and that was a bit hair-raising but at that point everybody was galloping and there was no real choice but to go for it. Good practice for future foxhunting 🙂 He pulled right up when we got up to the group who had stopped and then proceeded to walk on a loopy rein which again impressed me. Some of them get revved up and don’t come back down after a gallop like that one!

Everybody was hot and tired so we headed back in and enjoyed the gorgeous view.

He tied nicely to the trailer while I cooled him down and then ate some grass and had a nice roll 🙂 Junior was more impressive because he can roll over multiple times on the end of the lead rope. I was holding them both as they did their rolls and had a good laugh. Funny boys! They got to hang out on the trailers under their fans while we had some yummy tailgate food.

Today we are all resting but the boys looked great this morning. Raymond will go up for sale here shortly. I was just waiting for him to get some weight and muscle back on. I don’t feel the need to put a bunch more time into him because he is just so straight forward!


Using the free jump chute

Raymond really needs to learn to come forward to the jump and I think that allowing him to canter around in the free jump chute is a good way to help him figure it out. Part of his issue is that he is just so QUIET 🙂 He was so cute today studying the jumps. He just really wants to think about it but he is very honest. What a nice mover! I got a good workout chasing him around as he kept stopping to eat 🙂

Love makes me laugh hysterically because he really thinks jumping is fun and I am just so happy that he is feeling better. He strikes me as a horse that is just going to get better and better as he goes because the parts are all starting to come together. Raymond was hard to get going but Love wanted to canter and throw himself all around to show just how much fun he was having. He just strikes me as a horse that is going to make a great eventer. I love the way he sort of cocks his head and then lines up the jump. He would trot into the chute and then measure out his canter strides. I like to see that in a horse.

I used to make grids for the free jumping chute but I discovered that it tended to back of these guys who are super green so I now just start out with a simple jump and then as we do it a few more times I will add a placing pole and a grid after they have become confident.

I’m going to ride them tonight after it cools down. Hot one today!

The Rehomer’s Dilemma

I wanted to post an article written by CANTER MA’S Director, Allie Conrad, for those of you who aren’t on facebook or don’t read the Chronicle of the Horse. is the link to the article and I think it is a really important article to read to understand the thought process that goes into each horse that comes through the CANTER program. It offers some insight into why we operate the way we do.

We get so many requests about the horses that people know that we have but aren’t yet advertised. What are you doing with that one and why isn’t it up for sale yet? Can I buy one out of the field? Why are your horses priced higher than typical ottb’s? I don’t want somebody to restart the horse, I can do it myself.

This article explains why we feel it is so important to give every single horse an evaluation. If you would like to support our program with a donation we would greatly appreciate it. You can find info on how to donate here-

Broken teeth hurt!

Last week was a week was dentist, farrier and chiro for the boys. CANTER tries to cover all the bases for the horses in our care so that they go into their new homes with everything having been done in terms of body work, teeth and farrier. That is one of the great selling points of the retraining program.

I think that sport horse people would be shocked at the condition of the teeth on some of these guys. You just never know what you will find. I can almost tell right away who has issues with the teeth but sometimes even I am shocked at what we find. The dentist called me over and asked me if I had been having any issues with No Time for Love and I said that he was a horse who was really worried about his mouth and his body was all out of whack. He had me put my hand in there and feel the broken wolf tooth that was cracked down the middle! It looked like somebody had tried to remove it but failed so it was broken into two pieces and just dangling in there. OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That explains quite a bit 🙂 Both Raymond and Love had a lot of sharp edges but nothing that a good float couldn’t fix.

I actually went away on vacation for a few days so the first ride on them after the dental work was today and what a difference. My friend, Amanda, was out so she rode both of them as I had the vet out in between for Letterman (Yes, he does have a fractured splint but it didn’t break all the way so it will heal with rest).

Love was a different horse under saddle. He wanted to stretch down into the contact and he just seemed relaxed in his mouth. She popped him around the little jump course and he was just so happy. He even cantered with his head down. I feel so bad for him but these ottb’s have such an ability to forgive. I think he knows we are doing everything to help him.

He is so used to going like this

Ah, this feels better

His mouth actually had nice foam

His first time jumping and he took right to it.

Raymond is really filling out. He actually “jumped” the jumps for the first time today.

A little video of him and he actually is cantering away from the jumps. Steering..well you know that is highly overrated 🙂 That all comes in time but he is honest and willing.

Since Letterman is out for a while these boys will be filling in as my trail horses for a while. Can’t miss out on this nice weather before the bugs arrive. Letterman has a few more months of stall rest ahead of him. Poor guy is miserable.


Chiropractors make a difference

I never really thought about chiropractic adjustments before I started working with the CANTER horses but I quickly became a believer. When I get on a horse I can really tell if they could benefit from an adjustment. I spoke with Allie earlier in the week and suggested we get the new horses worked on because each of them felt like they could use it but No Time for Love really needed some body work.

I try not to say too much to the chiropractor and just see if she finds what I feel. She went to work on Love and said oh boy this guy is  a train wreck 🙂 She said he felt like somebody had just hand rode him and pulled on him. BINGO! It seemed like she worked on him for quite a bit and adjusted everything. I think he will be feeling much better.

Raymond was excellent for the most part and just got a bit of adjustment behind especially in the sacro area. He said he was extremely flexible and loose up front which I find to be true.

The new guy was overall good. He only got a minor adjustment.

I can’t wait to feel the results of the adjustments. They all get their teeth done today. You can always have surprises when doing their teeth. Some trainers at the track do routine floats but others do not. I have had horses that have so many horrible things going on in their mouth that it amazes me they are even behaved. The boys will feel like new horses after the body work and dentist!

First trail rides and a new arrival

Kurt and I took Raymond out for his first trail ride and he was a total blast. Got off the trailer, looked around and put on his happy face. When I got on him, he immediately started down the trail not even waiting for Kurt 🙂 Walked right past the scary gate and just marched down the trail like he had been doing nothing but trail rides for the past few years. He was happy to go in the front or the back and when we cantered I was kicking him to keep him going. Kurt got way out in front and he was happy to just mosey along. Yep, this guy is pretty darn cool. I plan on advertising him here soon. He has put on weight and muscle but I just want a bit more weight on him.

Happy horse!

Junior not looking happy after his trail ride 🙂

Love had his first trail ride as well but dummy me forgot the phone. He was also excellent! Not quite as flat footed as Raymond but it will come. He relaxed as we went but he strikes me as the type that just needs to process things.

I had an excellent ride on him today. I have just been working on letting him slow down his brain. When I started riding him he was just so tight and wanted to trot around super fast with these quick steps and he was always grabbing the bit. He just expected me to pull on him. I’m letting him just go on a loose rein and learn that it’s all just no big deal. He is a really smart horse so he is figuring it out quickly. He rushes into the canter and wants to just zoom off but once he realizes that I’m not going to pull then he relaxes.

He is quite a smart horse. I really like the way he thinks and I think that he is going to be quite nice with some time. He just needs to figure out where all his parts go but you can’t hurry him. He is not ready to be ridden in the contact quite yet so we work on the basics.

Here is a video of him tonight. You can really see the difference in his eyes. Instead of being frantic you can see that he is relaxed and listening. He lets me drops the reins and he doesn’t get faster. He has come a long way in a short time. I ride him sort of loose and floppy just being as relaxed as possible up there. Giving him lots of pats and talking to him. You can see how he goes upside down at the canter bracing the bottom of his neck. He has to learn that I’m not going to pull against him and will just keep dropping that contact. Soon he will be ready to learn about how to stretch and use his body correctly.

Kurt and I went to pick up our latest arrival on Sunday. He is a really cool horse named Bling Star Dreams. I just had to get on him but now I will give him some time to get settled in. He is a big guy at 16.2+. I need a 3 step mounting block!

We had a lot of this at the beginning of the ride. Ever ridden a 16.2+ horse that doesn’t know how to go forward and wants to pretzel? It’s like you are going to tip-off the front end. Fun stuff!

I had to give him some good old kicks and he got moving forward again. He has been off for 8+ months just hanging out so he is just out of practice. I loved how he didn’t look at a thing and he was really professional about it all.

 He gets his shoes on Thursday. The dentist will also be here to do all the horses. The chiropractor is also coming. These boys will be in tip-top shape! Nothing but the best for the CANTER horses.

Letterman is in jail due to his sore splint. He is very unhappy right now 🙂 Glad I have some other horses to ride while he recovers.

Finally back in the saddle

I don’t normally get sick but I got knocked on my butt by a nasty cold which has kept me from riding for the past few days. Normally I just tough it out but this one was a real doozy.

I was so excited to finally feel good enough to ride last night. I wanted to get on Letterman first as I was eager to see the difference after his schooling session with Mogie. When I went for a lesson on Saturday with a few horses I was already feeling pretty bad. She did the ride on Letterman for me and it was very educational. I had been having some issues with him being extremely spooky and lacking focus. Typically, when horses are spooky you can really use your lateral work to get them supple and zone in their focus but during these episodes he would completely ignore the leg and just lay on my leg so it was tough to get him into the outside rein. I had been telling her that he was probably one of my toughest rides because he is difficult to get soft in the body.

She immediately triggered his anger buttons and he gave her a show on just how resistant he can really be. This was actually super for me because I watched her work him through this by using the dressage whip to tap his inside hind over so that he didn’t lay on the leg. In the canter she even reached across to hold the inside rein with her outside hand because he was being that resistant! Normally horses pick on direction but he can lay on both legs equally. Aren’t I lucky 🙂 He is a very physical ride and she got off and said that she was going to be sore tomorrow. Promised me that I was on the right track and it will come together. I was bummed I couldn’t ride for a few days but Letterman is super duper smart so I figured he would retain the knowledge.

Sure enough he had and boy did he feel amazing! However, he was not sound. He has a newish splint on his left front but it hasn’t been bothering him at all for the past week or more. I don’t know if that is the culprit but he was very ouchy. He quickly got stall rest, icing, surpass and wrapping and we will see what happens. Letterman is one tough cookie so you know if he is hurting enough to not be sound that you need to be worried. He randomly came up with a splint on his other leg sometime during the winter and it’s a hunker. Seriously big splint but he never took a bad step on it. I don’t know if he is doing something in the field or what but really???? Enough!

He looks good though!

He is a tank! We are both very much on the easy keeper diet plan 🙂

Whitney was giving Raymond some exercise. He is starting to fill out but as they change I think they sometimes look a bit worse before they look better. I would like fill out that neck!

I worked a bit with Love on the lunge line just because I wanted to see what he looked like now. He was kind of fugly..well okay he was really fugly there for a bit. He just need a bit of time to get into the program so there was no point in rushing him.

He is now starting to come around. I can see a shine, some muscles and just a more relaxed look in his eye.

I don’t think he has ever lunged before but he was totally relaxed about it. A bit too relaxed as I spent a lot of time chasing him around getting him to trot 🙂

I think there is a nice horse in there but he really needs to be taught how to trot. He does this short quick step and goes very inverted. He just doesn’t know how to use his body which of course is totally normal. Lunging in side reins in the first step in teaching him but it has to be gradual as he isn’t fit enough for much yet.

We finished up with walking over jumps. He has never seen a jump before so I just showed him that he could casually just come up and walk over everything. I love teaching horses that jumps are just part of the program and nothing to get excited about. It really pays off in the long run. He was a bit unsure about how to walk over them but soon he had it down and was perfect.

I do a lot of these silly sort of things to keep the work interesting while they are building muscle. It’s not fair to them to push them too quickly but when they are fit enough to add the jumping in then it will be no big deal to them.

Looks to be a gorgeous weekend coming up. We are headed to Delaware Park to do a track visit tomorrow and then picking up a newly donated horse on Sunday. More details to come on him. He looks lovely!


Raymond over his first jumps

Whitney was giving Raymond a ride for me as I wasn’t feeling well and it’s always nice for me to see them go. Raymond had done these weird little hop things the day before and I was pretty sure they were just from weakness but it was helpful for me to see him being ridden so I could make sure it wasn’t anything else. 2wks into the riding he is building muscle but he when asked to push under at the trot he wants to do a hop as if he is going to canter.  He is telling us it’s hard!

The day before I had walked him over the jumps in hand. I loved how he was just totally relaxed about the jumps with flowers and other scary things. Just no big deal following me over everything. It’s always interesting to watch a horse their first time jumping. You can see how he is just wiggly but willing to give it a go. I LOVE his reaction because he doesn’t overreact if he taps the jump or brushes through the flowers.

He just casually does some walk/trot steps but picks up his feet. Sure, he isn’t really jumping but that all comes in time. I love seeing a horse that is this relaxed to a jump. It means he is going to be really quite easy for a large range of riders to ride to a jump. He won’t be the type of horse that rushes the jumps and look how brave he was about the jumps. He showed his willing attitude.

Whitney hadn’t ridden him since the first ride and got off going WOW! It’s amazing how much they change in just a short time. When she saw him in the field she couldn’t see past all the ugly hair, lack of weight and muscle and just general funk. I had said this one is going to be fancy and now you can really see it. Just wait until he gets stronger because then he is going to have even more push from behind and will be an even better mover. He can really float in the trot when you get his back relaxed. I didn’t ask her to ask him for anything besides just go forward. His forward button is much better installed.

He will go out on his first trail ride this week and I will hopefully do a bit in the jump chute with him but I’m not in a hurry.