Reno and Twister Photos

Here are a few pictures of Reno and Twister from today. Reno is the orphan foal, and Twister is his companion gelding. Twister is absolutely amazing. He watches over him, gently but firmly bossing the dumb kid. Guards him while he’s sleeping, and suspiciously checks out strangers who come to see the baby. They look remarkably like a mare and foal out there.

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Uncle Twister

This morning, when we put Reno in the arena for his playtime, we took Twister (an 11 year old 3/4 Arab gelding) down and let him stand outside the gate and watch. He seemed very calm, so we took him into the arena with Reno to see how he would react. Linda held Twister, and I took in a lunge whip just in case of emergency.

Reno was entranced. His eyes were huge. “Wow! Look at this big guy!” He sort of snuck up to Twister’s side and reached out really slowly to touch him. Then leapt back in gleeful alarm. Snorted a bit, then tiptoed back and inspected Twister’s tail. Twister flicked it at him and Reno leapt straight up “EEK!” and then ran away. Twister looked mildly bored throughout this performance. After a few minutes of this we decided that Twister was looking totally non-threatening and turned him loose to see what would happen.

Twister stood there quietly. Then ambled over to the hay. Reno was absolutely beside himself with excitement. He was quivering, eyes huge and shining. He darted in and darted out, not sure if Twister was going to be nice to him. Twister walked nonchalantly. Ate some more hay. Reno quivered some more. When it got to be too much for him, he would go over to the arena wall and lick the dust. Twister observed this for a while then walked over and pushed him away from the wall. “Listen dummy… you don’t eat dirt. Don’t you know anything?”

It took a while, but gradually Twister taught Reno to walk around with him. A couple of times Reno did stuff that Twister didn’t approve of, and he nipped him gently and moved him on. Reno is totally star struck. He cannot believe his good luck. “You see this big guy? He’s my FRIEND! He told me not to eat dirt!”

Twister got down and rolled at one point and Reno looked very alarmed. “Oh my gosh! The big guy fell down!” He looked over at us, very worried. Then Twister jumped up and Reno did a huge star jump… all four legs off the ground. “Yikes!” And then galloped around wildly.

Twister is a total star. He appears to think that this dumb little kid knows nothing and it’s his job to sort him out. Which is exactly right. So far, he’s the perfect combination of bossy and gentle. No kicking, no striking, and no pinned ears. Just the occasional nip and push. We were all very pleased and relieved watching this. Reno desperately needs to learn some horse language and become a real horse.

I didn’t have my camera at work today. But I will take it in tomorrow and get some pics of the two of them.

Pony Horse

Nikita really screwed up her mission as a companion pony to the orphan foal. Yesterday she was just being a total pill. Snapping at the baby and charging. So today I organized a little swap. We tacked up King, haltered Twister, and I ponied him the three miles down the road to the farm. Jen (Twister’s owner) followed in my truck with the flashers going to try to keep the traffic from getting too close to us.

King was really quite good. It’s only the second time I’ve tried ponying with him. The first time was with Dressy, and she was ponied (or “towed” as the Standardbred race people call it) rather than jogged in harness for at least the last year or two of her racing career (Dressy was kind of umm… strong in the bridle when in harness, so “jogging” was hard to do). So Dressy knew what ponying was all about. Twister hadn’t a clue. And didn’t think it was really the greatest idea initially. I had to drag him for about the first quarter mile. King, bless him, just dug in and pulled. And he’s bigger and stronger than Twister.

Eventually Twister figured out what it was all about. Luckily that happened before we got off the driveway and out onto the main road with traffic going by. By the time we got to the intersection with traffic lights, I was able to get him trotting with King. Those lights change quickly, and it’s a busy intersection. So we have to move through it fast. Twister was really pretty good for a horse who hasn’t left the farm in years. He wasn’t spooky. But he did keep nipping King. I think he just couldn’t help himself. King was right there, and wasn’t allowed to fight back. The temptation was just overwhelming, and his skin was so close!

Three dump trucks came past us at one point. But neither horse reacted at all. Nor to the school buses. But there was a horrifying bit of styrofoam in the ditch that brought on one of King’s snort attacks. And a dog that ran out a driveway. I was having some trouble organizing all the lengths of rope. Eventually I figured out that I needed to tie a knot in the reins to shorten them up a bit so I could just hold them with one hand if need be.

When we arrived at the farm, Twister was really upset. I’m not sure why his reaction was so extreme. But he worked up quite a sweat when Jen took him into the temporary stall in front of Reno’s stall. He started weaving frantically, and then jumped out of the stall in a rather amazing leap from a standstill. I have never seen Twister jump anything in his life, but he popped over that large straw bale (the great big ones that weigh around 600 lbs) like it was crosspoles for a shetland pony.

Once we got that all sorted out, I got back on King, grabbed Nikita and headed home. Linda drove my truck back instead of Jen, since Jen needed to stay and watch her horse.

Twister had no problem keeping up with King, but Nikita was another story. She huffed and puffed like a little steam train beside us. Short pony legs churning, shooting dirty looks at King when he went too fast for her. To give her credit though, she does lead well. She is much softer on the shank than Twister.

King spooked at a few things in the six miles (and all just little spooks). The styrofoam monster, a radio put out in someone’s garbage, a huge pile of garbage bags, and a rezoning sign. But the mailboxes, construction barrels, dump trucks, schoolbuses, landscape trucks, and speeding cars didn’t concern him in the slightest.

Five years ago, if anyone had suggested I could pony horses with King up and down a busy road… or that I’d even entertain the notion, I’d have written it off as a suicidal and laughably impossible idea. He’s come a long way in the last couple of years.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Twister had worked himself into quite a tizzy. Weaving, sweating, and stallwalking. We broke out the Acepromazine and gave him half a dose. Not sure how much effect it had, since he managed to spit some of it out. But he did improve steadily after that. We put Reno in the arena and Jen held Twister outside the gate. She clicker trained him to be nice to Reno. Each time Twister reached out and politely touched the foal, Jen clicked and treated. Wasn’t long before Twister actually licked Reno. I don’ t know that he actually LIKES Reno yet (though Reno definitely adores Twister!) but he doesn’t dislike him and he’s showing interest in what the kid is doing. Whether it was the Acepromazine or the clicker training (likely a combination of both), Twister was much happier by the time we left a few hours later.

It does appear that Twister likes Reno a lot more than Nikita did at any rate. And Twister is an amiable and very playful soul. Fingers crossed…

Jasper Learning About the Starting Gate

Jasper is three years old. He went down to the track (Woodbine), five weeks ago to start his training. This video shows him learning to come out of the starting gate.


So Long Dot

Dot ambling out after breakfast

Well, we lost our old girl… Queen Dot. She was 24 years old and has had colic off and on for the last couple of days. The vet let her go today.

Dot was crazy. There is no way to soft pedal that. Back in her racehorse days, she had to have her own pet goat. When Dot won a race and went to the test barn afterwards, someone had to make an emergency run for Natasha the goat. Dot would not calm down until that goat was there. She didn’t like flat bed trucks, and would start weaving crazily in her stall when the feed truck pulled up. Loud music bothered her, so radios had to be turned off. She was claustrophobic, so instead of a closed stall door they often just left a stall guard across the doorway.

But for all the craziness, Dot was well-liked by everyone who knew her, and loved quite intensely by her groom. She was kind and very gentle. And she won races. Twelve of them in fact. She was a front runner, and as a handsome grey with a big stride, I’d bet she was glorious to watch. She was quite lovely even in her twenties with her long white tail streaming behind her as she galloped around the pastures with the younger mares.

Dot was claimed in her last race and sent off to be a broodmare. She had at least nine foals, and when she was retired, the breeding farm sold her to her old groom for $1. Corinne brought her to my boss, who had been Dot’s trainer, to retire her. She’s been running with the broodmare band ever since. We let her live out, the way she wanted to do. She’d come in for meals, but we had to leave her stall door open so she could amble up and down the aisles peering in at the other horses (rather smugly, I always suspected), then darting back into her stall to grab another mouthful of feed. She liked to drool feed over my head when she had the chance. And escape out of gates that you just left open for a split second to bring a wheelbarrow through. Once loose, she’d cavort around the courtyard, chortling at the futile human efforts to catch her. Crafty old mare.

It won’t be the same without her.

Downhill Skid

Brooke and I went out for a nice ride today. The weather was lovely, and we were out for nearly two hours. We planned to go across the road and explore the trails over there. But when Brooke got on Dressy, the mare was a little snorty. So it seemed wise to make one loop around the farm until Dressy got over her excitement. She settled down after that and we headed over.

The ice has almost all melted off the trails and in some sections they were dry enough to have a few short trots. But larger sections were still soggy and slick. So it was pretty much a long walk. We did have one moment of excitement when we almost fell down a hill. It looked reasonably dry and not too steep, so I started King down it at a very slow walk. He seemed fine, so I told Brooke to go ahead and come down after us on Dressy. Just about that point, King lost traction and ended up sitting right down as his feet skidded out from under him and we careened down about 10 feet. I yelled at Brooke to stop, but it was a bit too late. Dressy had a skid of her own going and went sideways. Thank goodness, Dressy kept her wits about her and Brooke just sat still and let Dressy extricate the two of them. I thought they were going to broadside a tree at one point, but she crouched and jammed one front foot down to the side and managed to brake herself. You wouldn’t think an ex-racehorse would be so trail-smart. But she’s awesome. Brooke too actually. She kept herself perfectly still, didn’t say a word, and just let Dressy get on with it. Cool-headed kid.

King rescued me too of course, but King’s got a lot more years on trail than Dressy, so I take him for granted. Both horses had to go back up the hill at an angle through the trees to get traction and had to do a bit of bushwhacking to get back on trail. And both kept calm and thought their way through it without any panic.

I do love my horses.