Saturday, December 27, 2014

Warhorse Spotlight #1

It's true that I have a huge soft spot for the Thoroughbred "warhorses" - the racehorses who have made a lot of starts with many years of racing under their belts.  These horses are often wise beyond their years, having spent many years on the track seeing and doing it all.  Soon is an excellent example of the Thoroughbred warhorse: calm, quiet, outstanding work ethic, willing attitude, kind, and loyal.  Those attributes are why I made the decision to look at older ex-racehorses.

Many prospective buyers shy away from horses with a lot of miles on the track, because they fear the wear and tear on the animal's body, or they think the horse would not be as easy to train into a new sport.  Also, younger horses are more marketable for those looking to retrain and sell the horses into other disciplines.  Some truly wonderful "older" horses (6+ years) get overlooked because of the above reasons.

The reality is, any horse that has made it through 40+ starts and is SOUND is going to hold up for whatever other discipline we could possibly think of as a second career.  Some may be clean-legged, others may have track "jewelry" (osselets, bowed tendons, pinfiring marks, etc), but if truly sound after a long racing career, that horse is an excellent candidate for retraining as a sport horse.

I'm not sure how many people really look at this blog, but I figured the least I could do would be to spotlight a few of these horses as I come across them online.  Tonight's batch comes from CANTER Mid-Atlantic's Mountaineer listings.

Canoe In A Slew
Canoe In A Slew (photo
This 9 year old gelding looks like such a wonderful old soul.  He's not the biggest (15.3hh) or the flashiest (plain brown wrapper), but I believe you can tell a lot about a horse by his eye.  This horse has a lovely, soft eye and clearly has a huge heart - 59 starts and hit the board (first, second, or third) 29 times!  Video

He's not a big mover, but that because he's either a little sore for some reason, or just being careful on the pavement (Soonie didn't have a big trot in his listing video either).  I doubt he'd have a Grand Prix trot extension, but if you're looking for a solid, kind, and quiet partner to do lower level anything with, who cares?  I wish I could afford two horses, because this guy looks like he'd be a very careful and fun hunt mount.  I admit - he reminds me a lot of Soonie.  Something about this horse really speaks to me and I'm compelled to write about him.  I hope someone gives this guy a great home, because I'd be willing to bet that he will make an incredible partner.

One Vote
One Vote (photo
This guy strikes me the same way that the above horse did.  One Vote is an 8 year old with 89 starts under his belt, and earned over $120K. He's just over 15.3hh and as seen in his video, isn't interesting in getting anywhere fast these days!

He seems like an excellent amateur horse or even a kid's mount.  I could totally see him packing someone around the 2'6" hunters, going on hunter paces, doing some dressage, or being a kickass trail horse.  He looks very sweet and kind, hopefully a person matching that description comes along and scoops him up!

Parker's Love
Parker's Love (photo
Tall, dark, and handsome!!  This 7 year old, 16.1hh gelding had 45 starts and hit the board 11 times with 4 wins.  He's very leggy as you can see in his trot video - lots of potential there as a sport horse, tons of power and range.  He does seem to have an osselet on the right front, but if set properly that is not likely to be an issue in a second career.  This horse appears to have a nice, uphill build to him, and I'd imagine he'd be successful in a number of potential disciplines.  Nice prospect!

Blues In The Night
This one comes to us from the CANTER Mid-Atlantic Charles Town listings.  I've had my eye on this guy for quite awhile (not that I'm looking to buy!), mostly because he's stunning to look at thanks to his dappling.  He was originally priced much higher, and I've seen his price slowly come down, so I do not know if there's any issue with him, or if people just weren't biting at the higher prices.  The ad does not mention soundness or the state of his legs, but IF he is sound and on clean legs (or even if he has old injuries that aren't going to affect him), he would be quite the looker in a new career.

According to Equibase, Blues In The Night had 68 starts and was a stakes winner, earning over $330K in his career.   I think it goes without saying that this horse is probably a real trier, one that wants to please and work hard for his people.  I'd imagine that the lucky person who gets him will have not only a beautiful sport horse, but also a fun and successful one at that. 

So if you're in the market for an off the track Thoroughbred and you want one who has proven its mettle, has a confirmed work ethic, has seen and done it all and will not be impressed by whatever you throw at it, please consider a warhorse.  It's been my experience that they come off the track and settle into the quieter, slower routine extremely well, and make incredible riding horses.  Even though considered "older" by track standards, an 8 year old horse is still very young and has many great years to give to you. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Horse Therapy

This horse...

Was foot-perfect today outside in the jump field, doing a jump school in company.  I am so thankful for our discovery with the uber short reins and how completely consistent and wonderful he has been over fences (outside) since.  Soonie got some lovely compliments about his rhythm and form from the folks that were out watching. 

I'm even more thankful that a great ride on him and just being around him can really make my whole day.  Sometimes when real life makes you crazy, the best therapy is horse therapy.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Massive Middleburg Hunt Review Post and I love my horsey

In short, I went to Middleburg last weekend for the annual Hunt Review and Christmas Parade with a wonderful friend and had a fantastic day!  We did some shopping, I picked up those oh-so-"fashionable" wax coats (which was immediately useful thanks to the heavy rain that day) and managed to come home with yet another potentially unnecessary, but  beautiful show coat.  So there's that.  We're not allowed to go shopping together anymore because this always seems to happen.  Problem is shopping is so fun.  So. Fun.  And even though I lived in the area for a couple of years, Middleburg never gets old.  Ever.

Photos from the Middleburg Hunt Review:

I was so distracted by the horses that I forgot to take a picture of Santa

And then I had a crazy week, where my back decided to check out completely and I didn't get to the barn for four straight days.  I knew Soonie would be fine; he's blessed with the ability to be the same undersaddle if he's ridden every day, or once a month.  I finally made it out to ride today, and suffice it to say, Soon makes my heart happy.  So, so happy.  Like, I can't believe I stayed the fuck home on nights where I could have at least gone to the barn for cuddles.  Would have saved on the crankiness on Thursday and Friday, I'm sure. 

I can't thank my barn ladies enough for checking in on him while I was absent, I love you all!  Soonie and I had a great flat school today outside on the track (walk/trot/canter).  He just felt awesome and I felt good in the saddle.  I didn't do anything super complicated given that my back is being a bitch and Bubba had most of the week off, but the leg yields were good in all gaits, he was forward and soft, and great both in the shorter outline and in the stretch.  All in all, a super productive ride and there was a lot of cuddle time before and after.  I needed that big time.  I missed this boy.

Looking good!


Soonie loves stretching.  He just disappears down there

So handsome...

...and noble.

Four days away and I honestly freaked out and took about 25 pictures

I just love this horse

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

REAL Stories of Abuse (Warning: disturbing photos and video)

I saw some things today, horrific horse abuse cases that truly sickened me and made me sad for these amazing animals.  It's also maddening to me that New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio is actually introducing a bill to ban NYC carriage horses by 2016, animal rights activists and ignorant public are calling working horses "abused," when there is REAL abuse taking place not far away.  There is no comparison to what you're about to see...

Monica Thors is a harness trainer in New Jersey who has been brought up on two counts of animal abuse for allegedly repeatedly filing her horse's feet down so severely that they bled.  Three horses have been put down due to hoof infections, some were missing entire hoof walls.  The "Stop Monica Thors" Facebook page has extremely graphic photos of these horses' feet, the deranged woman standing over them with Dremel and rasp in hand, smiling.  Those familiar with the case say that she purposefully files or Dremels the hoof walls down until they bleed, and then launches into extreme efforts to save them.  She seems clearly mentally ill.  Other allegations state that Thors cuts her cats' claws and whiskers off.  Her Facebook page is almost entirely shots of her under her horses, destroying their feet, and her with a smile on her face.  Her horses were recently seized and those that were not lame were described as overweight. She claims those horses were in "race training."  I have never seen a horse in any kind of race training that fat; not Thoroughbreds, and not the Standardbreds I see every week here on the training track.  Full of lies.

The other case I came across today was a story out of Copiah County, Mississippi, where approximately 80 horses were discovered in various stages of starvation and neglect.  About 20 corpses were discovered laying uncovered in open areas, likely where the horses collapsed and died.  One mare was stuck in a concrete trough; she bloodied herself in the struggle to get out, and died there.  Click through the photos of dead horses and wounded/starving horses on that Facebook page; be forewarned, the photos are also extremely graphic.

Ladies and gentlemen, the above stories are TRUE examples of equine abuse and neglect.  Death.  Destruction.  Pain.  Suffering.  Animals who endure silently while they're being tortured, or starve slowly out in fields until they drop dead, and are left to rot.

Please, if you're a horse owner and horse enthusiast of any kind, I urge to you please support your local ANIMAL WELFARE groups; groups and local shelters that have a direct impact on cases such as these.  Groups who will use your money and donations to good use for animals.  Please DO NOT support animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  These groups seek to pad their bottom line and their ultimate goal as animal rights groups (NOT animal welfare groups) is the complete elimination of all animal use.  That's right....companion animals too.  No more pet cats, dogs, fish, birds, no eating beef or fish or poultry, no using horses for anything at all....don't support their agenda.

And yet, these propaganda monsters are attacking the NYC Carriage horses, calling the practice of working animals "abusive."  Check out my previous post about supporting NYC Carriage Horses, why I know first hand that these animals impeccably well kept (because they have to be!), and the difference between "animal welfare" (good) and "animal rights" (bad).

Please support the Carriage Horses and their drivers!  I hope the bill is just a symbolic effort on DeBlasio's part to please his real estate mogul buddies who funded his campaign (they want the property the horse stables currently occupy.  But if it isn't, and it gets passed, the ban on carriage horses in NYC would set a horrible precedence that the animal rights agenda would use to ban carriage horses in other cities.  After carriage horses, it could be show horses, or race horses, or pleasure horses....the slippery slope would eventually lead to the end of all horse use and ownership. 

Healthy, content working animals are not abused.  Using horses appropriately, and caring for them with strict standards is not abuse.  It makes me SO ANGRY that ignorant general public who have NO idea about ANYTHING relating to animal husbandry, let alone livestock care, are smearing the tightly-regulated carriage horse industry in NYC and convincing other ignorant people that the practice is horrid.  I hate, hate, hate that these assholes who haven't spent any time on a farm other than some stupid little petting zoo they went to once, are somehow anointing themselves "experts" in horse care.

NYC Carriage Horses are not abused.  See the first two stories above for REAL cases of abuse.  If you're in NYC and care at all about horses, please call your Councilmen and urge them not to approve this bill.  Remind them what real abuse looks like.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Perfect Horse is PERFECT

Soonie got the majority of last week off due to a busy work schedule, cold temps, and perhaps a little laziness on my part.  He certainly didn't seem to care.  I spent the day in NYC on Saturday, because work sponsored a day trip and for $20, why the hell not?  So I saw The Phantom of the Opera for probably the sixtieth time, and sadly that exaggeration is actually not very far off the actual number.  So. Yep.

I love horses, hockey, and this damn show
Soon and I went hacking on Sunday, did a flat school on Monday out on the bluestone track since the footing everywhere else was soaked.  That track is such a savior; when the weather is too nice to ride inside and the footing outside is no good, that track is always in great shape.  And at 70 degrees and sunny, no way was I staying inside.  Bubba felt great, giving me nice, through forward movement and using his back well in the shorter/higher outline at the trot.  He is so much stronger now.  We did one turn around the track in counter-canter in each direction as well to end the ride.  Canter is his best gait, and it's nice to ride that kind of balance and power in the counter-canter on a horse like that.  I was definitely thrilled with him and his dressaging out on the track. :)

We did a jump school outside today, and it was probably one of the better ones we've had out there!  That ultra-short rein concept is absolutely the key to him jumping; I feel a little ridiculous with my hands up by his ears, but it improves the communication ten fold, allowing us each to make very small, quiet adjustments.  And despite him having almost a week off and it being a lot cooler today, he was foot perfect out there.  Super quiet and soft.  I had one of the verticals and the triple bar up at 3', which is on the higher end of his jumping experience thus far, and he felt fantastic.  We didn't do any rollbacks, turns, or combinations today since I didn't trust the footing to do anything more demanding than just straight approaches. 

We reviewed the arrowhead jump concept as well, since one of the trainers had set one up outside.  I jumped him out of it to start to remind him, and then once into it (acting like an actual arrowhead), and yes he was perfect.  Dead on straight, confident, just like we wanted him to be.  I made sure to keep my eye up and shoulders back so as not to get ahead of him, because he's very sensitive to my upper body position.  He only needed those two refresher jumps, he felt so good about it I just couldn't get over how quickly this horse learns!

After that, we jumped the 3' vertical to the triple bar, which were both great efforts, and I called it a day immediately after that.  He was listening so well and so stinking perfect that he didn't need anymore.  It was maybe 25 minutes worth of work, and that's fantastic. 

Bubba loves triple bars

He got his two carrots, lots of pats and hugs, wrapped for the night, and afterward I enjoyed this beautiful sunset.  Amazing day.

If you're reading this blog lately and thinking "Geezus, everything is all fucking rainbows and unicorns"....yes.  Yes it is.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Field Trip!

Soonie and I had an incredible afternoon with one of our best barn buddies!  We loaded the boys up and went down the road to a state park to spend an hour or two on the trails.  It was a great day for it, and a nice chance for me to see how Soon handled himself off the farm.  He was (wait for it....) perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  This is how overly-proud parents must feel when their kids do something special.  Because holy shit, I could just hug that horse ALL DAY.  All day.

He loaded perfectly, shipped fine on the short ride, unloaded calmly and took about 2 seconds to look around at his new surroundings before shoving his face in the grass and eating. 

Zero fucks were given

 He was totally chill from the start, it's like he got off the trailer and said to himself, "Yep, we're in the woods," and went merrily about on his way.  He was happy to hack through the woods, across wooden bridges (never seen one before, but walked right on over it!), share the trail with cyclists and hikers, and generally just be foot-perfect the whole time.  I was thrilled to have a nice, relaxing hack and be able to chat while he walked along on a loose rein.  The scenery was beautiful.

 This was a fantastic first time out.  He has great trailer manners and I'm excited at the zero drama.  He got tons of carrots at the trailer and again at home.  Love this horse!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adventures in Jumping the Mounting Block

Soonie and I had another jumping lesson with Awesome Trainer Lady tonight in the indoor.  Now that we're stuck to riding inside on weeknights due to the daylight hours, these indoor jump schools are probably going to be very interesting.  And tonight really set that tone!

Standing over his accomplishment

Soonie learned how to jump arrowheads and corners today!  And it has been eight or so years since I did any, so it was a great re-introduction for me too.  I'll cut to the chase and say he was amazing.  We introduced the questions to him slowly, and by the end of the lesson he was doing both with lots of confidence.  And yes, it was freaking weird jumping straight over the mounting block in each direction.  It's late and I'll add more details later, but I cannot get over how fun that was and how great Soon was.  He got about four carrots for awesomeness.

All tucked in and ready for bed!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Awesome Jumper Lady

This ^ horse was a total boss today over fences with lots witnesses to verify our sane jumping-ness.  The extra EXTRA short reins are working, we had a great jump school today.  It was so nice to be able to ride in the daylight during the week and with warm temps.  Another wonderful day.  :)

If you're getting sick of the "EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL!!Q11!" posts, feel free to change the channel.  I'm blogging the shit out of this stuff, man.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fall Fun

Soonie and I enjoyed a wonderful hack today with some of our favorite barn friends.  :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wild Goose Chase

Really.  We literally chased wild geese out of the dressage arena today.

This has been an overall good horsey week.  Had a breakthrough jumping lesson on Wednesday, where Awesome Trainer Lady had me shorten my (what I thought to already be very short) reins to what I now call my "Pony Jock" reins.  Or racing reins.  Basically uber short with my hands two miles out in front of me.  Soon can get up and short in the neck on the approach, which makes it difficult to adjust and properly communicate with him if my reins are too long.  Where we had some moments starting out (aka the Return of Scary Jumper Lady and taking the flier), shortening the reins to an extreme actually made all the craziness stop.  Suddenly the quiet distance was attainable, he was perfectly adjustable to the base, and we had a lovely last couple of schooling rounds.  I was VERY happy with that development and will have to remember to ride him like an overgrown Welsh pony in the future.

Thursday I was physically broken and lazy, so Bubba and I had a nice walking school where we revisited the turn on the haunches and worked on correcting our shoulder-in.  Yesterday we did something and I'm sure it was important (I do actually remember and it was just another flat school, working on going from working on a shorter outline to stretch and back).  Today I rode him and Zen, did laundry (horsey and human) and generally procrastinated.

Soonie did some unwanted remodeling on his stall yesterday since he doesn't share well with others, and his personal bubble extends into everyone else's stalls.  So after some carpentry (which I did not do because mine would have involved copious amount of duct tape and crying), the damage was repaired (thank you barn owner and hubby!) and they installed a plywood divider to Soon's new stall at the end of the barn.  Now he can't see his neighbors, and there was instantly peace in the kingdom. 

Oh, and I am so not ready for colder temperatures.  I absolutely prefer them to 90+ degrees, but it was damp and just fracking COLD feeling tonight.  I am old.

Don't look so excited

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How 'bout that

Another great outdoor jump school in the books!  This time in 50 degree weather and 20mph wind.  Soonie was super, very quiet and relaxed, and jumped around like a hunter.  Love him!!  :)


Saturday, October 25, 2014

What a wonderful day!

Spent a fantastic night at WIHS last night and had a ball with my barn girls!  Thanks everyone for coming!  :)  Three cheers for my college buddy who was kind enough to take our photo in front of the Puissance wall!

Kevin Babington over the Puissance wall early on

I went to the barn this morning to tape a friend riding in a dressage clinic.  It was a real pleasure to watch and so nice to spend most of the day in the barn.  After her ride, I brought Soonie in from the field (I felt badly because it was a beautiful day, it was only lunch time, and he was actually grazing instead of cribbing), and we went outside to the jump field for a light jump school.  I had my fingers crossed that he would not be a lunatic like last time I attempted to jump him outside.  I had set out a single pole to walk, trot, and canter over in a figure 8, and wanted to use that as a gauge.  If he was not rideable over that, I'd skip the actual jumping and just stick with the pole exercise instead.

HE. WAS. AWESOME.  For the first time in awhile, he was a push ride to the jumps today.  We had schooled trot poles on Tuesday, canter poles on Thursday (which he was trying to jump those, so...I wasn't expecting greatness today), and he was dead-head hunter quiet the whole ride.  Since the figure 8 pole exercise went well at the canter, we moved on to some trot fences, which were very quiet, and then cantered a couple small gates off each lead a couple of times.  We ended with one jump over the triple bar and called it a day.  Every jump was in rhythm, every effort was consistent and soft, every distance was there, and it was lovely.  I was so happy with him!  Hunter Soonie has returned for at least a short time!

Very pleased with himself after the ride

So. Good.

And adorable

I'll just have to keep putting him over poles regularly and jumping at least once a week to keep the rhythm, hopefully that will help reduce the number of Batshit Crazy experiences we have in the future.  He also got a warm bath and his first clip of the season today.  I got tired of the "Let's stay at the barn an extra hour and dry out sweaty horsey with the winter coat and not eat dinner until 9:30pm" game.

So this happened after I finished and everyone else was getting fed dinner.  His flappy lips are pretty much my kryptonite.  :)

"I want my dinner"

Derp.  Dinner.

Soonie with his special trace clip

I modified his trace clip this year, taking a little more off now that we're not going to be hanging out in -30 degree temps on a regular basis, and I also extended a section on his barrel that will hopefully help protect him from getting leg/spur rubs like he did last year.  Looks goofy, but practical!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Horse Therapy

This horse made my day today.

Handsome man

My grandmother passed away this afternoon.  It was not unexpected, but it's still painful, especially being away from family and alone.  I spent all day waiting - it was one of those days where you just don't smile, the hours pass numbly...word came as soon as I got home from work.  I went to the barn thinking I'd just hop on and take a quiet walk (in the indoor, since it was pouring outside), just talk to the horse and mostly avoid conversation with people.  Cuddly time with Soonie was badly needed, my motivation came to me and we had a nice, relaxed little flat school and popped over a vertical.  We are redeemed!  He was forward, yet soft, patient, and relaxed today about the jumping - definitely foot perfect.  We did straight approaches, even some angled jumps to make figure eights, and he was great through all of it.  It was nice to do something simple to build confidence and have a great ride.  I think we both needed that.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I am....Scary Jumper Lady

After two disappointing jump schools two days in a row, I feel like I'm officially the farm's Scary Jumper Lady.  :-(

You know, the lady who's horse runs around the jump field like a maniac, completely ignoring all input from the rider?  Or the lady whose horse just refuses all the jumps and you're just standing there trying not to be judgey, but inside you're like:


Yep, I feel like I'm that lady that other people feel that (^) way about.  I came out on Sunday and set up a small jumping exercise in the indoor, but then discovered the footing in the jump field was dry and firm despite the rain the day before, so I said "Yay let's go jump outside!"  And because my horse had spend two of the previous three days inside, and we haven't jumped outside in probably three weeks...HE WAS BATSHIT CRAZY.  Like, trying to leave eight feet from a trot fence crazy.  Way too strong, picking his distance five strides out and trying to run to the jump, etc.  So I decided to move it indoors to our little jump exercise, and he was totally different inside.  Soft, quiet, rideable, patient...perfect.  It was a complete 180.  I have three witnesses that can attest to him jumping around like a perfect little hunter gentleman after the extreme shenanigans outside, which I unfortunately also have witnesses for.
He really was jumping the snot out of everything today

So today I decided to do a little refresher and repeat the same stuff in the indoor.  Just a single vertical in the middle, about 2'3", and another single vertical on the quarterline, with canter poles on either side.  Soon figured that out yesterday, and I thought it should be pretty straight forward today.  Everything was lovely warming up, once again the perfect hunter canter, perfect distances, he jumped very nicely and soft and quiet.  We went through the little mini-grid and the first two were fine, the third time he took out the top rail, and the next time through he was good through it.  I should have stopped there and called it a day.  I will kick myself for the next week for not stopping then.  The rest is entirely my fault.

I raised the rail 2 holds to make it 2'9" (3'?) and it blew Bubba's mind.  We had a series of stops even after putting it back down, and I was officially Scary Jumper Lady again, only now with a horse that wouldn't jump at all.  Poor guy had just shut down mentally and lost confidence.  And yes, of course there was an audience and of course they had to see us in a really shitty moment.  I had to put the rail all the way to the ground on one side and rode him through at a walk to get him through the grid.  So to get the confidence and understanding back, we walked through it a couple times, trotted through the half cross rail a couple of times, trotted it as a vertical twice, and then cantered it once all successfully.  I called it a day then.  So we got to a good place at the end with a horse that was forward and willing to figure it out, but holy shit I was embarrassed and felt bad that his confidence got trashed for a bit.

I mean he was seriously awesome early on
So hopefully anyone watching yesterday/today that is reading this doesn't think I'm that Scary Jumper Lady that just yeehaws around and doesn't give a shit about her horse.  He got his confidence rattled and I should have put it all the way down to the ground after the first stop.  And no, running around the jump field is not normal or acceptable either, he can be every bit as soft and quiet out there as in the indoor.  Oh well.  We'll take it easy the next couple of days, with some light flat schools and hacks.  I will probably put that little vertical back up in the middle and do a couple of figure eights over it in conjunction with the flat school, just to keep his confidence up.  We'll see.  Can't wait for Awesome Trainer Lady to get back so we can do some real jump lessons.  Got some good screenshots from the video, he can really jump when he wants to.

My barn buddy was absolutely right:  it was a bad day today, he's a pretty green jumping horse and we're still figuring each other out.  Chock it up to another learning experience.