Now For The Other Crazy Beast

Dressy`s hind leg seemed nearly normal today. Just a small lump left. Now that it`s reduced down, it appears as though she hit it somehow. It`s sort of on the lower inside of the cannon bone. Hard to say for sure how she did it, but I`d guess that she probably stumbled on all the frozen mud and hit herself with her other hoof.

I took her out into the round pen and tried to get her to trot around to see how sound she was. The footing in there is quite a bit better than in the paddock, since there haven`t been any horses in it for weeks. So although it`s frozen, it wasn`t all churned up before it froze. When I turned that mare out there… all hell broke loose. Apparently Dressy hasn`t had much exercise with the bad footing in her own paddock and with the injury to her knee and the hind leg she`s had no riding either. She was very excited to be able to move. Tail flipped up over her back, with much snorting and whistling. She`s really a very impressive girl when she`s all puffed up like that. It was too slippery for her to get up a real head of steam, so she mostly just bucked and spun for a while. I finally grabbed her and brought her back in before she killed herself.

After that display I figured she needed to go out for a bit of a ride. I was aiming for a quiet walk. But being cautious, I put the same bridle on her that I used on King yesterday. The one with the kimberwick bit. Thought that it would be prudent to have some braking power if needed. Good thing too. She was quivering with excitement for the first half hour and we had a couple of very exciting moments out in the back field with Dressy trying to get her head between her knees while spinning and hopping. She doesn`t buck often, but she means it when she gets going. That`s the first time she`s tried that at home though. It usually only happens at competitions when we are warming up before the start. She reverts back into a racehorse and cannot contain herself.

She settled down after a lap around the back field though. And was good thereafter. I am going to have to keep riding her regularly through the winter. She`s too fit to be standing around like a pasture potato. She`s looking glorious as usual. Her coat is glossy, eyes are bright (wickedly bright actually) and she`s at a perfect weight. Too bad we don`t have any competitions around here in winter…



What’s This? Oh Look… A Brain!

So today’s ride on King was considerably less exciting than yesterday’s.  He’s starting to revert back to his usual lazy self. We had a long easy ride today. Mostly walking, just exploring and trying a few trails we haven’t seen before. He likes to see new stuff, and a nice long walk like today seems to settle him into a whole different frame of mind. Well… that, and the Kimberwick bit I switched him to 🙂

Dressy still has some filling in that hind ankle, though it is reduced, and it doesn’t seem like there’s really any heat. I’ve got her on a low dose of bute. Hopefully another day or two and she’ll be okay.

It was nice to have lots of time to amble around. I actually got a day off work today. Harri, who normally works down at the track, offered to come in for me today. It was just wonderful. That’s the first day off that I’ve had (other than days off to go to competitions – which is not so relaxing) since a year ago in November. I normally work seven days a week, though only for half days.  But lately, I’ve also been helping with evening feeds, which makes it a bit closer to full time hours, seven days a week.  So I’ve been dragging my sorry butt a little bit lately. Tennis elbow in both elbows, a twinge in my occasionally bad lower back, and heel spurs giving me grief. Old age, yuck!

Anyway, I definitely felt more like riding today, after getting to sleep in until the dogs just couldn’t stand to wait one more moment (at 6:30… which is better than the usual 5-5:30 that they normally get me up!). And then getting to loll about drinking tea instead of feeding and cleaning up after 23 racehorses.


Return of the King

I haven’t been posting much about King lately, because really, I haven’t done much with him. But he’s been on the new diet for quite a while now, and has been looking good (well…. too chubby of course, but not stiff or tight). So with Dressy sticking a thorn in her knee last week, I took the bad boy out for a short ride. He was, of course, simply awful. Careening wildly around, buck jumping for fun, snorting at logs, star jumping at bird rustles, and generally just making me as insecure in the saddle as possible.

I was planning on riding Dressy today. But when I went out and had a look at her, she had a hind ankle that was a bit swollen. Doesn’t look like anything too serious… I suspect that all the muddy footing, now frozen into tiny craggy mountain ranges in her paddock is the culprit. She likely took a bad step. But I couldn’t ride her anyway. At least she’s saving all her little emergencies for the off-season!

So, being a glutton for punishment, I took King out again today. I thought he might be a little better since we had Diego’s company this time. And he actually was… marginally anyway. He only bucked once (though that was going down a hill… at an unrequested canter). He only spooked a dozen times or so, and none of them were his enormous 20 foot sideways teleports. And he never actually completely bolted away on me (though that was mostly because I kept running him into trees to slow him down). I did threaten him with a pelham wrapped in barbed wire at one point (I was KIDDING! sorta….).

I know, I know… he sounds dreadful. A couple of more rides, and he will settle back down to his usual reasonably steady self though. He is always a bit explosive when he’s been off for a long while like this. I think he gets bored when he’s not working and just can’t contain himself at first.

My boss suggested that I try longeing him before I ride. Which made me laugh “What and tire him out a bit first? He’s an Arab…. how long do you think THAT would take?”

The good news though, is that he seemed extremely SOUND. No muscle cramps. He was moving very freely (yeah, a bit TOO freely… I know). And he seemed happy to be out and checking out the trails. So that was quite cheering for me.


A Marathon Race (Though a Mere Sprint to an Endurance Horse)

Handy Harold ran today as well as Jasper. He ran in the longest race of the season at Woodbine. It was 1 7/8 mile. Which, for a thoroughbred is a very very long race. Harold has been having a good year, and looking very strong at the finish of all his races. He won his last race at a mile and a half. So he had a good shot at today’s race. But it was not to be.

However, let me tell you about an old friend of mine. His name is Sammy. I used to hot walk him back when I worked for Carol Walls. He’s a bright red chestnut by Maria’s Mon (Jasper’s grand-daddy as it happens). He was always a devil. I mean a really atrociously clever and evil fellow. Which, of course, meant that I really liked him.

He had one of those Jolly Ball toys. And he loved that damn thing. Loved it to death. He stomped it flat eventually. But the leaping and cavorting that would go on in his house was amazing. Have you ever seen a kitten leap up in the air and pounce something? That was exactly how Sammy went after that crazy ball. Rearing up with both front hooves beside his ears.

Carol had a rule that once Sam’s ball came out of his house, he wasn’t to get it back that day. Sounds kind of extreme doesn’t it? But there was a good reason for that. Sammy liked to fire that ball at newbies. He would grip the handle in his teeth, and start bouncing up and down, and when the baby horse (always a 2 year old freshly arrived at the track) would come by, gawking around at everything, Sammy would let fly. It didn’t always hit the baby horse. But often enough that you knew he had to be aiming. And often enough that there were occasionally some really satisfying (to Sammy) reactions. He also threw it at hotwalkers. And could usually hit them in the head or the shoulder.  Which also got a satisfying reaction of a slightly different sort. He must have thought it was worth being locked into solitary confinement (having top door closed too) to hear all the curses coming from the hapless hotwalker.

Sammy and I played a lot of games when I walked him. I would try to catch him off guard by stopping abruptly (when no one was walking behind us of course). If I caught him in my trap, I’d tell him, sadly, “oh no… SAMMY! You were not paying attention again…”   Sometimes I’d vary my speeds, and his task was to keep exactly beside me. He would focus intently on me, trying to figure out what I was going to do next. Which was always a very good thing, because when Sammy was not focusing on me, he was coming up with evil schemes to surprise ME instead. Which sometimes involved launching himself 10 feet forward and terrorizing the grooms into scattering into stalls. Or galloping backwards. Or spilling water buckets. Or diving for the carrot bag. Or just stealing hay out of haynets (which involved running me down in the process). As you can probably imagine, I was really extremely creative with the various games I came up with for Sammy to play. I used to poke and prod him. Tickle his chin. Make him step in time with my feet. Steal hay for him. Steal carrots for him. Sing to him. Tell him stories. Really absolutely ANYTHING to keep Sammy entertained.

All that creativity did not pay off for me, since it wasn’t long before Carol decided that Sammy liked me, and I was assigned to be Sammy’s personal slave hotwalker.

Anyway… Sammy is still racing and has been running against Harold in nearly every race this year. Harold has mostly been coming out on top (he’s had quite a good year). But today, Sammy managed to run them all into the ground. It was a very tough race. Harold ran great. He fought for every inch of ground from start to finish. But Sammy did too. It was a great race. Have a look…  Oh… and Sammy’s name is Stolonboy.


Jasper Goes To the Races…

Today was a very exciting day for me. Jasper had his first start at Woodbine. Jasper is a great big gorgeous grey. A son of Monarchos (Kentucky Derby winner in 2001… Monarchos had the second fastest time in Derby history… Secretariat ran it 2/5 of a second faster in 1973). Jasper’s mama was, of course, the late, lamented Freckles, who is also the dam of Reno (the orphan), Monster (my beloved), Vegas (big friendly doofus), and Parker (who is only second to Monster in my heart). So really all my favorite horses are out of Freckles. And she herself was a lovely, kind, classy mare.

When I first came to work at the farm, Jasper was just a scrawny little yearling. He was on stall rest due to a broken shoulder sustained at seven days old. No foal should ever have to be on stall rest. It’s truly torturous for both the foal and the mare. He was a big, strong, handsome fellow and really would have liked to be galloping around, raising hell. Instead he and his mother were cooped up on limited feed to keep them from getting too energetic (not that it worked so well) for months. Poor Freckles must have been desperately glad to be weaned from him. And in fact, from what I hear, she walked away from him and never looked back, never called, never showed the slightest sign of distress when that big day arrived 🙂

Jasper was always a longshot to become a racehorse at all, with that broken shoulder. He was a longshot to even be sound at all. Linda, his owner, used to say, over and over, “With any luck… he’ll get through this” (as she wrote out cheque after cheque for veterinary bills). So in the end, she named him “With Any Luck”.  He recovered perfectly from that injury. Then this year he ended up with EPM and was treated (thank goodness) very quickly with the super expensive stuff (Marquis) and again recovered perfectly. So apparently, Jasper does come with a little bit of luck after all.

Jasper coming out of the paddock for the post parade before the race

Anyway, I spent a lot of time with Jasper as he grew up (and UP… 17+hh now!). More than with the other foals from that year (Paris and Victoria). And did quite a bit of work on his manners, leading skills, longeing, etc. So I have a bit more of a sense of connection to Jasper than to the older racehorses. Which is why I was so excited today to see him run. I went down to Woodbine to watch this afternoon, and dragged along an entire cheering section too (Brooke, Jen, and Misha). As a show of faith, I bet $20 on him to show. As a first time starter, he wasn’t expected to win. And he didn’t. But oh my goodness… he looked fabulous out there!

He is the number 11 horse, so he started from the far outside. He came out of the gate well, and looked strong all the way around. First time starters are generally green and confused about what is happening. But he looked quite steady. If you watch the video, he’s very recognizable as the only grey and with a great big wide white blaze.  He ran around 3rd/4th place most of the race, and held onto 3rd place at the finish. A very good beginning to his career. The jockey was quite pleased with him and commented that he’d be happy to ride him again.

If you hear really loud yelling as they cross the finish line, that’s probably all of us jumping up and down and screaming “Go JASPER!!!” in the background. I was so proud of him, I damn near burst into tears (I don’t even want to imagine what sort of ridiculous display I’ll present when Monster finally runs… yikes). And yes, I cashed my ticket for $52 in winnings.

Here he is after the race, looking not even slightly tired. Though he was definitely very VERY hungry…

Got food???



A Little Motivation

Endurance Granny has set up something she calls the Big Bad Blogger’s Distance Race. It is a year-long competition to see who can log the most miles (using a GPS preferably) in the saddle. It’s open to anyone who writes a blog and rides a horse. Which is me. Well… so long as they are not a professional/champion endurance rider of course, Which is not me 🙂   I signed up of course, since it sounded both fun, and more importantly, motivation to get out and ride when the conditions maybe are not so tempting.

The competition started yesterday (December 1). But Dressy of course, with her swollen knee is out of action for a few more days yet. So… King, who has been laid off for a couple of months (mostly just because I have some trouble motivating myself enough to actually ride two horses regularly), was put back to work.

He was very happy to come in and be fussed over. He really would love to be a show pony. Loves being brushed and polished and fluffed. Would adore glitter polish and tinsel bows. Costume class would be perfect for him. Although I might have trouble getting him to move if there was a mirror anywhere in sight. He’s absolutely entranced by his own reflection and I can’t imagine how riveted he’d be by a glittery version of himself.  When he was getting dressage lessons, he had some trouble with the mirror in the arena… he kept stopping to kiss and admire the stunningly beautiful grey horse he saw there.  A mutual admiration society… King was in heaven.

Anyway, he did NOT look like a show pony when I brought him in.  It poured rain the other day, and the barn paddock is ankle deep and more in thick clay mud. So it took some work to get him clean enough to tack him up. I am going to have to put a rain sheet on him if I’m going to have time to ride him (Dressy too). Otherwise I’ll be grooming all the damn time.

We didn’t go far. Just three miles. Enough for his first day back. With the muscle problems he’s had, I am planning on going slow and steady. There’s no goal in mind with King… just trying to work through his issues and get his fitness up and weight down.

Of course planning to go slow, when King hasn’t been out for a long time, can be a futile proposition. I did manage to keep him walking for the most part.  The footing was soggy and quite slippery so any sort of speed wouldn’t have been safe anyway. But really, he doesn’t cooperate very well. We went around in circles a few times. Several buck jumps. A couple of short bolts (cut off by heading him into trees). And lots of sideways careening. For a simple three mile walk, he came back QUITE sweaty. LOL