Checking In On Dressy

My Standardbred mare, Dressy, went over to live with Brooke at the beginning of January. Brooke rode Dressy in competition for one season a couple of years ago, and the two of them got on remarkably well. Dressy likes to be worshipped. And Brooke worships. A match made in heaven.

Getting tacked up. Lots of purple going on there.
Getting tacked up. Lots of purple going on there.

She spent a week or so just working with Dressy on the ground before starting to ride her again. I think there were a few moments of more than optimal excitement in the first few rides. Brooke made the mistake of thinking that Dressy would be calmer in the arena if there were other horses. Then decided to try cantering the mare while all the other horses were cantering. Ex-racehorses are not always so good at calmly proceeding, at speed, in a crowd. However, Brooke managed to deal with her and decided that perhaps riding alone was a better idea after all.  At least for now.

Dressy and Brooke

Yesterday I went over to observe a riding session in the arena. Jen and Anastasija came with me. I took my camera. But of course it was very dark in the barn and in the arena. I took lots of photos and most are so grainy and dark that I couldn’t really rescue much, even with Photoshop.  But I post them here purely as evidence, not art 🙂

SAMSUNG CSC

Dressy seemed happy to see me (or the carrot I was feeding her maybe). But I think she was just as pleased to see Brooke when she showed up. Apparently my horse doesn’t need me at all.  She’s looking good. Freshly trimmed feet, glossy coat, and in very good cheer.

SAMSUNG CSC

 

 

SAMSUNG CSC

 

She was good in the arena. A little speedy at first, but Brooke got her dialed down within a few minutes.  She walked her until she stretched her head down and relaxed. Brooke commented that she never had to put any leg on the mare to get her to go. Nope. That’s for sure.  All you do with Dressy is think about trotting, and away she goes in a huge Standardbred power trot.   After some walk/trot work, Brooke finally pulled out the big trick. The thing that had her glowing with pride. Dressy. Cantering. “Good MARE!” I said, out loud, and Dressy’s head whipped around to look at me inquiringly. Jen and Ana both cheered and Dressy looked over at them too, ears perked. “Oh yeah? Yeah! I AM a good mare!” She marched over to me for a scratch and then carried on. She does love an audience. 

SAMSUNG CSC

I was impressed. She couldn’t hold the canter, but she stepped into it almost every time Brooke asked. A couple of times she made it right down the long side and around the end before it fell apart.  It’s not a good canter yet. But it’s far better than I expected after this much of a layoff.   I didn’t see her pace even once tonight. Not that she paces under saddle much, but if you ask for canter when she’s feeling tense, it’s a toss-up whether you’ll get pace or canter. So the sheer volume of canter steps tells me that Dressy is feeling calm and confident with Brooke.

She has her going over a very small set of cross-poles too. Dressy doesn’t appear to be at all concerned about the jumping thing. She was always a very confident jumper on trail, going over logs and banks. So I expect that she’ll do fine once she figures out the mechanics. I tried to get decent photos, but it was just way too dark in the spot with the little jump.

SAMSUNG CSC

After she was done riding, Brooke hopped off and stripped the tack to do some groundwork. Dressy was very attentive (clicker training will do that) and very cheerfully practiced a few things. Primarily the new trick they are working on… a bow.

SAMSUNG CSC

Brooke’s mother asked me if I missed Dressy. She seemed a bit surprised by how emphatically Jen, Anastasija, and I all replied in unison, “YES!”  She’s a mare with a huge and quite endearing personality. Despite how much I love The Queen though, she is having a great time with Brooke, and getting some very valuable schooling.  She cannot be a distance horse anymore due to her metabolic issues with heat. Horses that lack a career are horses at risk. She’s a strong, athletic, intelligent mare with a big engine and a bit of spook. Not to mention that she’s a Standardbred pacer, which turns most riders off before they even see her. That’s not a recipe for a safe backyard trail horse or a school horse for beginners. While I certainly don’t plan on it, if something should happen to me, this could be her ticket to safety.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Still No Riding, But Lots of Pictures

The footing here is still dreadful. It has snowed, and in places the snow has stuck to the ice. But there are polished sections of ice hidden under the snow in any of the well-travelled areas, and in the fields there are two layers of very hard, very thick ice over layers of snow. The ice is hard enough that sometimes it will hold a horse’s weight, and sometimes it won’t.  It’s just completely unsafe for the horses.  My hay guy told me that he was asking our local dead stock removal guy if he was busy. And yes… very busy. Lots of catastrophic injuries to horses and cattle from the ice.

So I think the entire winter is going to be a washout for riding. Unless we get a massive thaw at some point.  I work on the computer a lot, so I really miss being outside riding.  I’ve been taking lots of pictures to get myself outdoors. Each batch gets a little better as I understand how to set the ISO, white balance, shutter speed/aperture, etc. to deal with the blinding white of winter scenes. 

Twister and McCool have been galloping around in little circles in the side paddock (which, since it was trampled down throughout all the storms, is relatively safe albeit very small).  McCool is looking exceptionally sprightly and cheerful these days. It’s a bit scary to think about riding him again actually! I attribute that to both the extensive dental work, and the chiropractic adjustments. He is one HAPPY guy these days.  Venice goes out with those two boys for the day. I think she gets pretty disgusted with their antics. But it doesn’t seem to have any dampening effect on either of them. 

Diego is fatter than I have ever seen him. He’s an A-framed and very lanky Arab. Very prone to worry his weight off.  I manage him as if he has ulcers (no medication, but lots of forage, beet pulp, and probiotics as needed… stress management, 24 hour turnout, etc.)   He has no visible ribs now. In fact, at this point he doesn’t even have detectable ribs. I was poking and prodding at him the other day and couldn’t find them. He’s very round looking.  He’ll lose some of that once the ride season starts. But I am very glad for him to have that buffer.

I am going to be starting a short course on basic digital photography tomorrow. So I am hoping to get a bit better at all this. But here are some photos from yesterday…    You guys are welcome to critique them if you see errors that I’m making 🙂   Click on the pics for a closer look.

 

Getting the Settings

I got a new camera recently. It is a Samsung NX1000, which is what is known as a “compact system camera” or “mirrorless camera”.  Although much smaller, it is sort of like a DSLR in that it has interchangeable lenses, manual and automatic settings, and takes much better photos than a point and shoot camera. Well… it is capable of taking better photos anyway. It’s not going to do that until I get a bit more of a handle on how to use it. And, let’s face it, until I get better glasses so I can see when it’s actually in focus!  (Man, I hate getting old. )

I got the camera just before I went to Florida. So I took it with me. But I am used to my little pocket camera that charges from my laptop. And I assumed that I could do the same thing with the Samsung. And I left the charger at home.  The battery did last all the way to Florida amazingly. But died on the second day there.  Whereupon I discovered what a dumbass I’d been to leave the charger behind.  But I did get one or two quite nice photos with it in those few days.

Once I got home, got the camera recharged, and read the manual, I started taking some photos around here with it. I’m still learning, but getting there. We had quite an ice storm over Christmas. The power was out for three days in my house, and for eight days on the rest of the farm. The ice was rather magical to look at. But trying to negotiate it with a camera in hand was very precarious.  And it sure did wreak havoc on the trees and the plumbing.

Jimi – my border collie
Diego in silhouette
Venice (Woizero)
Venice (Woizero)
King
King
Comical as usual
Comical as usual
Diego. Handsome in purple.
Diego. Handsome in purple.
Venice in winter mist
Venice in winter mist
Diego
Diego
Sundog
Ice on the Weeping Willows

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

jimi

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But Does She Canter?

Dressy’s new barn offers coaching as well as boarding. So when Brooke told the coach about Dressy, he asked if she was a pacer. Which of course, Dressy was when she raced. Pacing is a natural gait. Standardbreds from the pacing lines are bred for it, just like other gaited breeds (Tennessee Walkers, Rocky Mountain Horses, etc.)  And Dressy never cantered or galloped when turned out in the pasture. She paced faster than the Arabs could gallop.

dressy-win-close (2)

Dressy had a reasonably long career on the track (76 races, 12 wins). So she spent quite a lot of time in a bridle with an overcheck. That encourages a very upside-down and hollow outline (nose up, neck straight, back hollowed). In order to perform the pace, a horse has to stiffen their back muscles, so the overcheck just exaggerates that tendency.

I usually rode Dressy in a loosely fitted running martingale so that she would get a mild reminder to drop her head when she went into her upside-down mode.  In the beginning that happened fairly often. And the earliest pictures I have of her under saddle show a long, gawky outline.

I never tried to force Dressy into a frame. I just worked on encouraging relaxation and a low head. She’s a very responsive mare, and just telling her “good girl!” whenever she relaxed and dropped her head made a huge difference. (Do NOT look at my footwear! At least I am wearing a helmet. Sigh.)

Dressy

Dressy was always able to trot. But the canter was elusive for a few years. We sort of backed into it by learning at first to gallop wildly up hills. It was riding with Arabs (who canter easily and often!) that triggered it. The steeper the hill, the harder it was for Dressy to keep up at either trot or pace. The first couple of breaks were just awful. Crazy eggbeater gait with Dressy’s head straight up and eyes full of alarm. She was just amazed when I said “Good GIRL!!!” and hugged her wildly.  “Really? I was SUPPOSED to do that???”

Over time, I was able to get her galloping in a more controlled way with correct leg sequences.  And bit by bit we got it slowed down. It was kind of four-beat (it should be three), and she could not sustain it for long distances. But it was available on cue.  One of the more interesting consequences was that she started cantering and galloping with the other horses in the pasture.  I’d never seen it until a couple of weeks after her first real gallop up a hill under saddle.

Eventually Brooke took over riding Dressy for a season. She did some work in the ring and focused on getting Dressy a little rounder. She used the clicker to really encourage Dressy to frame up a little bit. It still wasn’t collected, or even truly round. But it was a lot rounder than she started out anyway.

 

I rode her for a couple of seasons after that, and her muscling kept changing. She looks like a whole different horse now than when she came out of racing.  One day a friend looked at her, shook her head, and said “You’ve turned that mare into a Thoroughbred!” I suspect, mind you, that Dressy was actually trying to become an Arab… She does the Arab head fling and flipped tail thing with distinctly Arabian panache.

006 (17)

Brooke turned her out in the arena last night and took a couple of very short video clips of her. The new coach happened to come in while she was careening around. And Brooke was able to say, smugly, “See? She canters!”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Dressy’s New Adventure

Yesterday, I dug my horse trailer out of the ice that it was encased in, broke up the ice filling the bed of my truck, and hauled the trailer out of the ice bank.

This morning, I loaded Dressy up and took her over to stay with Brooke. It’s a free lease arrangement. Brooke gets to keep her 10 minutes from her home, and I get to go check on her obsessively anytime I like 🙂

Brooke is a teenager who rode Dressy for a season a couple of years ago, and the two of them got along famously. So now that Dressy has developed anhydrosis (she does sweat some, but not enough that she can exercise during hot weather, and definitely not enough to do endurance safely) she needs a new and safer (for her) career.

The new barn is fairly upscale hunter/jumper place. Big arena, outdoor ring, plenty of paddocks, box stalls, wash stall, heated tack rooms, etc. Brooke is going to try to turn Dressy into a show pony. I’m sure Dressy will enjoy all the attention. Brooke is her favorite person, and Dressy is Brooke’s favorite horse.  Unless wildlife (like deer!) invade the arena, Dressy should be relatively spook-free and steady in a controlled environment.

It’ll be fun to watch Dressy doing something new.  Though of course, I’m fussing like crazy about it. The poor guy who owns the new place listened patiently as I gave him what I’m sure was far too much information.  I never like putting my horses in anyone else’s care.  But it’s a very nice place, and the horses all look to be in excellent shape.  Brooke has promised to send me weekly reports.

After leaving Dressy in her new palace, I took the trailer up to a friend’s place and left it there. Her husband is going to do some work on it.  It’s a sound trailer, but it’s old, and it’s looking rather shabby. Beyond the usual safety stuff like repacking the bearings and checking all the lights, etc.  he’s going to see what he can do to control the rust and try to make it look a bit more reputable.