Monthly Archives: January 2013

I’m going to guess this one is really quiet!

I always say that the first few days tells me quite a bit about a horse. We headed over to pick up Halfway House at the CANTER farm yesterday. We grab him out of the small field where the farm owner left him for us. He greeted us at the gate with ears up and a nice expression. We got him out and as I went to let the horse out that was keeping him company, two of the other horses ran in there. I was trying to get them out of the pen but they were running, bucking and acting like loons. Kurt was holding Halfway House and he was falling asleep waiting for me. I gave up and just left the darn gate open and sent a text to the farm owner about the silly horses who didn’t want to get out.

It was dark by then and we loaded right up on the trailer. He never looked around, never hollered to his friends and just seems more interested in an adventure than anything else. We unloaded at home and he walked right into the barn with confidence. Went out and met Ridge and started eating some hay.

Tonight I get him out for a beauty treatment. The barn sounds like it will blow down as we are having wind gusts and things were blowing around everywhere. He stood sleeping in the crossties while I pulled his mane, clipped his ears/legs/muzzle and banged his tail. He was so relaxed and he already knows what cookies are 🙂

Then he got a nice bath and he let me clean his sheath! He LOVES playing in the water and was drinking out the hose and spraying water on me. Total goofball already. This guy has a big personality and boy is he sweet.

He reminds me so much of Areutrue (former CANTER horse) in his looks and personality. I didn’t stick him but I would say he is 15.2ish but wide. Very excited to get on him!!!! I am going to be shocked if he is anything but a packer.

We all have the same mission

When I started working with CANTER Mid Atlantic six years ago there were not many groups that were offering retraining as part of their rehoming mission. Now there are new groups popping up all the time and also groups that didn’t offer retraining that are now adding it to their program.  I think that every group operates a bit differently which is what makes studying them all so interesting to me. I am easily fascinated by various aspects of all the different groups out there. It is so interesting and fun to reach all about them.

I would argue that New Vocations does the absolute best job of taking professional pictures out of any group. I follow them on facebook and their pictures always make me click on the ad to read more about the horse. They know how to make a horse look their absolute best and they frame the picture perfectly. If you are looking how to make your horses stand out than they are the group you need to model!

One thing that has the ability to bring me to my knees is going to auctions and looking into the eyes of the horses that know their fate. Heck, I can’t even walk through my local SPCA without crying. I have so much respect for Midatlantic Horse Rescue- who is willing to take on the role of buying the thoroughbreds from local auctions. They are local to me and I have bought horses from them in the past and will continue to do so.  Bev is a straight shooter who does a good job assessing the horses.

I was introduced to this next group when I read a few complaints about their high prices for “rescue” horses. I actually never consider most thoroughbreds to be rescue horses so that always gets my hackles up. I was curious so instead of judging them based on the complaints I thought I should go learn more about them. is a group based out of the Kentucky Horse Park. They have an excellent retraining program that I find very similar to our own program. You can learn a lot about a group just by watching their youtube videos to see what the training process is for each horse. Their channel is here- They spend quite a bit of time with groundwork, flatwork, introductory jumping, trail riding and xc schooling.  The horses are very marketable based on their age, height, soundness, breeding and athletic ability so I do not find that they are overpriced. I find their horses to be well worth the value but I would say the same about our horses which people often say are overpriced 🙂

I was so impressed with their videos that I clicked all around the website and found their blog which I absolutely LOVE! A recent post came up in my facebook feed and I thought it was just beautiful. I often describe to people why I think what CANTER does with our horses is so very important but Suzanna knocked it out of the park with her description

All of which brings me back to where we started: the greatest challenge to reschooling a horse is to trust the process, no matter how long or short it takes. I have adopted horses out in as little as 24 hours. Others have been with me for over a year. The longer a horse stays, the more expenses it accrues, the more eyebrows are raised about the initial selection of the horse, the way it has been trained, the adopters I may have turned down because the fit wasn’t right. At such times it is so tempting to become a horse trader. Money for feed, horse shoes, or the water bill. Large numbers of horses adopted per month impresses our board and our donors. Why not let people find out on their own that the horse has vices, a lack of manners, or a hole in its knowledge? Why not keep our mouths shut when we see that the rider’s riding style or personality is going to cause relationship problems down the road? Why open ourselves to the very real dangers of liability by letting people ride our horses at all? Other adoption organizations don’t.
My best defense to all of this, is to trust the process. Each horse has needs that must be addressed. Each adopter does too. We are not dealing in commodities. We are dealing in souls, two and four legged. Our job here at the MMSC is to be of service to both, no matter what the temptations to cave in to money shortages or the status of high adoption rates. It has been my experience, that all will work out as it should be, in the time that it takes, if we have faith in the process.
Doesn’t that just say it all! I have never met anybody in their organization but just from reading their blog I know that I would feel very comfortable buying a horse from them.
After the Races is another group local to me- I had been following them on facebook and they were at a local tack auction that we all went to. I stopped by their booth just to say hi and tell them that I like what they do. Not to mention I snapped up a rambo blanket they had for sale 🙂 They were all very nice and I have heard good things about them.
Each group operates so differently. Some only save horses from auctions, some work directly with tracks and others get horses privately donated. The pricing structure varies from group to group ranging from $1 to $10,000 for retrained horses that have been donated. Some groups do extensive retraining, some just a few rides and others don’t retrain at all. Many require extensive contracts which don’t allow for resale, some allow resale after a certain time frame and others support resellers. Many groups don’t allow you to ride the horses but some encourage several rides.
We can all debate the merits of which model works best but at the end of the day we all are working towards the same goal. Each of us involved in one of these organizations is doing whatever we can to rehome thoroughbreds in homes where they will be appreciated.

Corey found an awesome home!

You know that you are doing a good job when your friends send their friends to shop. Alison (Owner of CMA Top Punch and CMA No Time for Love) had told her friend Kim about CANTER and Kim was impressed by Alison’s horses.

She will be using Corey as the all around fun horse where she will foxhunt, event, compete in local hunters, trail ride and more. She was impressed by his great brain and willing attitude. I got a text that he has settled in really well and she rode him yesterday and he was perfect. Yay!

All of my project horses have sold and went off to their new homes as well. I am down to five horses in the barn today but only one rideable….yep you guessed Letterman is lame again. He had gotten such nice growth on the hind feet that I turned him out with Junior and Bear. All was well and then he came up a bit sore. The ground was super hard so I figured the feet were bothering him because I could find nothing else. He went back to solo turnout where the ground wasn’t chewed up.

Wouldn’t you know that as soon as the ground unfroze I could immediately see that we were dealing with a front end lameness that had gotten much worse. He has a nice knot on the outside of his cannon bone that looks like another SPLINT. Letterman…oh Letterman. Vet is coming out today and likely we will xray it to see what is going on. He just can’t behave in the field. He loves to play blanket tag, fake halter tag (no halters on in the field) and he just plays and plays and plays some more. I guess he might just be one that can’t get turned out with others but that kind of bums me out. I like for horses to interact with others but I also like my horses to stop racking up vet bills and earn their keep 🙂

It is very frustrating because although I really love riding all the other horses there is something to be said about riding your OWN horse 🙂 I really enjoy riding Letterman so I am bummed out. I am shopping for another resale project for myself just to have something of my own to ride again.

I will also be bringing CMA Halfway House (that is his name and I LOVE it!) over to the farm this week to get restarted. He is a cool dude that I briefly met when I shipped him down from our MD farm. I mistakenly thought that Ridge would sell and I would restart Corey and Halfway House but Ridge didn’t sell so it was one at a time. It will be warm the next few days so I will get him all cleaned up and ready to go. Very excited to see what he is all about.

Allie told me that I should just take a break but I really don’t know how to do that. I am so bored with only having Junior to ride. I did got out trail riding with him yesterday and he is a ton of fun. He has limited use due to his fusing hocks and bone spurs in the knee so I feel guilty pushing him too hard in the ring. See..I need more horses 🙂

Why I think a good trail ride can sell a horse

As a buyer I would want to see the horse out of the ring especially if that was a big concern. As a seller, I believe in taking buyers out on trail rides to show that the horses are exactly as I say they are if not even a bit better. I think sometimes you have to see a horse in action to really appreciate them.

Corey is one of those horses who is wise beyond his years and has a great brain. I had a buyer come out who rode him in the ring yesterday and asked to come back to trail ride him today. We tacked up here and threw them on the trailer to head to the local trail place. Kurt was on Junior, buyers daughter brought her pony, buyer was on Corey and I was riding a boarders horse named Bear. Bear is a 20yr old mixed breed more than likely a morgan/qh.

We headed out and Junior was in the lead and fired up about it. We had a nice walk just to show that Corey could walk nicely. We jumped a little log which was the first time Bear gave me the feeling he wanted to be silly as he jumped and landed bucking and wanting to take off. No! We had a little trot and then came down to this part of the trail where you have to make a sharp turn walk down a ditch, across the water and up to the road. Corey had a little look since he had not been there before but then navigated it very quietly.

We all crossed over the road and had a nice trot. Kurt was way out in front on Junior and I thought he may be having a bit of a tough time but I couldn’t really tell. Corey followed nicely. I kept company in the back with the really nice pony who was being a good girl. Bear was strong and pulling to go faster but we all trotted for a nice long time settling them all in.

I asked if she wanted to canter Corey and she did so we let them go first and we hung back a bit. Well old man Bear started bucking and twisted sideways pushing the pony right off the trail. Bad Bear!!!!! Corey and Junior just went about their business while we regrouped 🙂 Then when we did some log jumps Junior got wound up and started his bucking. I think at that point the buyer thought Kurt and I were crazy b/c our horses were being horrible!

She marked how nice Corey was about leading or following and not reacting to the other horses. He was happy to go any pace. We had jumped logs, went through water, ditches and water filled ditches. Corey never put a foot wrong and this was only his 3rd trail ride. He is such a good boy!

Not sure if she will buy him or not but I would absolutely snap him up for an eventing, foxhunting, trail or lower level fun horse. He is just a happy-go-lucky type of horse. Loaded back up on the trailer and headed back home.

I really miss being able to take Letterman out. He was sore behind today and I think those feet are bothering him. Very frustrating but I just have to wait for him to build up some sole.

Well that was fast

Two of the horses that I had bought for resale have already found awesome new homes. Hope for Spring and Strike up the Jazz will both be heading into eventing as their new career. They both got amazing homes with really good riders who will appreciate their talent. I am so excited to watch their progress.

Corey has been coming along so nicely. I have started to canter fences on him and he is just such a good boy. He had a really nice trail ride this weekend and he makes a great substitute for Letterman who is still not allowed out on the rocks. I just love how smart he is and how quickly he figures everything out. Not to mention he is so darn sweet! I put Corey’s ad up on CANTER so pass it along to anybody who is looking-

It has been hard to stay as consistent as I would like due to weather. We are under water at our farm and it keeps raining. I am lucky to have my stone dust sacrifice paddocks so the horses can at least move around some but I really can’t turn out in my fields because our clay soil makes for slick conditions and it is not worth them getting hurt.

I was able to get Letterman out to a lesson over the weekend and it was very educational. He had been doing really well before his time off but coming back I ran into some of the same issues that we had fixed before he got hurt. The main issue was that he wouldn’t move off the left leg at all which made him stiff, heavy and inverted. Kelly got on him and showed me some really educational ways to address the problem and we also talked about how Letterman is very smart and creative so he gets me off the topic. He jigs, throws his head up, threatens bad behavior and spooks at anything just to distract you from the topic at hand. She showed me that I need to be tougher and do a better job at staying on the topic. No matter what he does he has to move off that left leg. The leg works in a tapping type of fashion so that the leg isn’t stuck in one place encouraging him to lean against it. I was to exaggerate the left bend so that it almost encouraged him to pop out the right shoulder and off the left leg. The left rein was used in a sponging type of fashion and I was to keep my biceps on my side to encourage my arm to be soft. Look over my left shoulder so the hip comes back and the pelvis encourages him to bend left. The right rein was almost an opening rein to invite him to go out to the right with the shoulder so that we could push him off the left leg to the right.

He gets pretty darn mad about such a simple request but she stayed persistent yet soft with him. When he correctly moved off the leg she immediately quieted the aids as his reward. Every time he offered the right answer she rewarded. If he got very stuck/stiff she would use a small circle to help her with the positioning of his body and then try to return to a larger circle or a straight line when he stayed correct.

I was able to get on and feel it and then the next day I was able to replicate it. It always amazes me how one piece of the puzzle can make the horse feel completely different. He went from stiff, pulling and locked to soft, reaching and flexible in one ride. He is also so smart that I didn’t have to repeat much of it to him the next day. I am really disappointed with all the rain so that I haven’t been able to practice. I have also had too much going on to be able to get to the indoor.

The neat thing about the lesson was that I gave a lesson to the buyer of Hope for Spring the next day and we used the same tools to work on his right side and he absolutely went better than he ever had. It was so fun to watch him loosen up and he started to move off the right leg. He began to stretch, come over the back and it increased his already huge stride. We worked the same in the canter and was able to keep him from cutting the turns with that new understanding of moving off the right leg. Smart boy and much more agreeable than Letterman 🙂

Hopefully I can get Letterman and Corey out to the indoor.


Needs a good gallop!

I found myself muttering to myself that Letterman is in need of a good gallop to blow out the pipes and settle him down. He is not exactly a fun ride when he is on small paddock turnout with no buddies. You would think he would have lost some fitness in the 6-8 wks off. Oh no that is not the case at all! He feels so good right now and getting him to focus on any kind of real work is just not happening. I am trying not to become frustrated with him but OMG seriously he is worst than all the babies. I have taken my own advice about making sure he is not hyped up on anything. He gets just timothy hay and a ration balancer. He looks like a million dollars. I just can’t turn him out on uneven footing or with other horses due to that plate on his foot.

My rides have been going a bit like this- OMG jumps sitting in the corner. Will die. Will not go near them. OMG faster. The wind is blowing..the trees moved..omg the trees are moving. Panic. Run. Spook. Was that a noise? Omg what is that noise? Is somebody after me? Look around frantically. Spook. Run. The other horse left the ring. I am all alone. OMG I’m alone. I’m scared. Panic. Spook. Invent more things to panic about.

None of this really bothers me  but there is not a lot of relaxation in our rides at the moment. Kurt and Jess were laughing because he was just being so stupid. Kurt moved the gate and Letterman about shot me right off his back with a scoot and spook. Really, the gate moved and you thought that was spook worthy? You can ride and ride and ride and he doesn’t seem to relax.

Lunging doesn’t seem to help with him. You absolutely have to lunge him with equipment on (side reins or something) because if not he is way too silly. I do think I should so some more lunging to at least see if I can try to get him focused a bit more but he just wants to go and go and go.

When he is tough like this he just spooks and grabs the bit in his mouth and you don’t have a lot of power to influence him the right direction. I am sure if he wanted to be really bad he could be but he never has ever wanted to take it to the next level. He just creatively gives you the finger in a way that makes your ride unproductive. I will say all the dressage work has made him more rideable when he is being silly because I can at least move him laterally but I do feel like I am having to be very strong with him. He is a tank of a horse and when he locks up he feels like 1200lbs of solid muscle. I get a work out just trying to resist his attempts to blow me off.

I think that a good gallop to really blow out his pipes will help. He does seem to do much better if you just let him have a good gallop. He will spook the whole time you are galloping but it allows him to let go of all that tension. Right now it has been hard to do that during the week because of the lack of daylight to get to the trails. It isn’t like I can free lunge him either because our smaller ring is muddy (just grass footing) and he builds up way to much speed in the big ring not to mention he tears up my footing and that isn’t allowed. Once he can get the plate off his foot than he can start getting turned out with other horses again. That should help him burn off some of his energy. In the meantime, if you are out at the C&R and you see a bay horse having a good gallop and a girl with a grin on her face. That will be me 🙂

Letterman is back and update on my new horses

It was a fantastic start to 2013 because I was able to get on Letterman. He is getting some growth on the frog and the sole of the foot but he is still wearing the metal hospital plate for protection. I take it off every three days and treat the foot and generally just try to keep it clean and dry. He was so happy to be out and about. Right now he is confined to my smaller stonedust paddock all by himself. Mainly to keep him out of trouble and also a dry spot for his feet.

I lunged him a bit to start and he had his tail up and was showing off his fancy trot. He cantered around like a pogo stick just bouncing away. Too funny. He was as spooky as he could be to ride which is normal when he hasn’t been out to the ring in a while. He was giving everything the hairy eyeball.

I am probably convincing him not to go shooting off in either direction here. He was like a bouncing ball.

I have really been having fun playing with Hope for Spring who I am just calling Big Red. Pitiful but I am not very good with names and he is the only red horse in the barn. This guy just has a top notch brain and feels way more broke than the five rides we have on him. I have taken him out on the trails and he is awesome. He is just one fun horse. We gave him a clip job and it makes him look much thinner. Right now I have them on a light work schedule while I am fattening them up.

I am working on getting him off that right leg but that comes in time.

I have been trying to resist the urge to bother Jazz who was just off the track when he arrived. He has put on a good amount of weight and has really relaxed. We did get on him once and he was just lovely. Very quiet and straight forward but since then he has just gotten to hang out and be a horse. I thought I would do a little lunging with him yesterday and for the heck of it we played around over a little jump. It is a real shame he isn’t athletic 🙂

I threw that black barrel in there just to see how he would react because it gives you good insight into their braveness for an eventing career. He just came around and jumped it bigger. Very smart horse and so talented. He belongs in an eventing career.

Faz is getting some time off to recover from the abscesses. It is good to have two that needed a bit of time so I can focus on a few. The goal is to sell them on when the right homes come along. I am thrilled with them and having a lot of fun. Knock on wood the weather has been cooperative. Rainy but not that cold.

My typical process for the first trail ride

If you are lucky enough to have trails with good footing right off you farm than I am jealous 🙂 I actually live right next to state-owned land with lots of trails but Delaware is so wet and swampy at this time of year that taking the greenies out there isn’t exactly easy. Not to mention that the fields are just big wide open fields which is what I try to avoid for my first few trail rides.

Instead we take a short 5 min trailer ride over to another state-owned trail system where there is actual sandy footing with nice wide trails that weave in and out of the forest. You are contained by trees on both sides which is in my opinion an excellent way to do a first trail ride. It keeps the outside stimuli to a minimum so the horse doesn’t have too much distraction. It also removes the omg the barn is back that way factor which can be damn near frightening on some horses 🙂

I tack up at home and just put the bridle on when I get there so that I don’t have to deal with a nervous dancing horse. In my opinion, what works the best is to just get on and go. The less you try to make them stand still the better (at least at first). We take a lead horse who is sensible. Never take two green horses together!

These trails are wide so you can ride side by side and there is enough room for passing or to get out of trouble if needed. Generally I will try to just walk at first to let them look around but if the horse isn’t keen on walking than I let them trot. I know.. this probably isn’t typical for most people on their first trail ride but remember if you try to contain a horse that is on fire than typically they want to go sideways, backwards or up and none of those are good in my book. Kurt rides with me and he absolutely knows the drill (this is VERY important!!!!!!!!!). The rules are that I am on the green horse. Whatever I say goes. You never pass me unless I say it is okay and you stay back away from me if the horse needs some space. If I need a lead than you quickly come up and give one so that I don’t get stuck.

I find that most of the horses on their first trail ride are going to want to break right to the trot because they are nervous. Sometimes you can feel that they are nervous but other times they just internalize the nerves. Most of the time they are very respectful about not going any faster than a trot so I just let them trot until they relax. This might be 5 min or it may be 20 min. Yes, we do 20 min trots 🙂 As I am trotting I will work on some changes within the trot just checking out how my brakes are working and how well the horse is listening but I let them keep going. I try not to touch them too much which can be hard but you don’t want to get into a fight. Put your hands down and just let it be at first. If they break into a nice canter than I will allow for a few strides and then bring it back. I generally don’t allow the canter b/c it can sometimes build into more and I don’t want to risk that. Some horses don’t have brakes on their first trail ride and that is a bit scary but generally gives me some insight into what I will need to do on the next ride. When I don’t have a lot of brakes than I don’t get out to far from the trailer. I might go out 10 min and come back because I don’t want to risk them building up on me and running into a problem. I also will use my lead horse as a brake if needed. If you are having to half halt just make sure you aren’t pulling. You have to give and take on the reins because horses are used to pushing into a hold so if you hold they often think that just means go. It can be hard to soften but you have to do it.

99% of the horses that we get immediately take right to trail riding and are quiet and relaxed. The 1% will need some more training in the ring on half halts and changes within the gaits and then I go back out but I may go out with a bit more of a plan. Sometimes this may be a bit with more whoa power and sometimes it could be draw reins (yes, a gadget but one that is very useful for certain situations like a horse that is just running through half halts with the head in the clouds). I find that a lot of times the horses just need to learn that being in the open still means they must listen to me. We will do 100 transitions until they are focused on me. Once in a blue moon we run into a horse that just doesn’t do well on trails and I think they can be hard to change.

Once we have them relaxed and happy in small group situations on confined trails then we expand to bigger groups and more open spaces. I have some horses that do great in small groups but don’t like big groups so that is always another test. I find that you generally get a good idea of whether that is going to be the case just from your initial trail rides. Junior (our conn/tb) is one of those horses that is awesome in small groups or even out alone but winds himself up in big groups. I foxhunted him the other day and was reminded of what a pain in the butt he can be. He isn’t bad but he just never settles when in big groups. He always wants to be in the front and is pissed by what he deems as horses challenging him. He also isn’t keen on slow rides either. He is a horse that prefers to keep moving and he spent most of the foxhunt 2.5 hrs or more cantering. If people were walking and trotting than I was cantering in place. He can’t help himself and years of patient training haven’t helped. You can’t change their true nature so instead I think it is important to know what you can handle and point them in the direction they prefer to go instead of forcing them into things they aren’t so good at.

We took Estrella Corredor aka Corey out for his first trail ride yesterday as he finally got his front shoes on (our trails are rocky). He was absolutely perfect as I had guessed he would be. Hopped right on the trailer and stood quietly. Quiet to get tacked up. Stood nice for me to get on. Lead the trail but was happy to follow. Didn’t even spook at all the logs sitting near the trail (um, Letterman has to spook at them every single ride :)) He was so relaxed and was even stretching into the contact. We just walked and trotted but he would have been perfect to canter as well. Just slow and easy for the first ride. He got right back up on the trailer and fell asleep waiting for the rest of the horses to get on.

I think he would do great on a foxhunt right now but I will do a few more trail rides with him just to build up his fitness and confidence before we head out to hunt.