Jasper Had a Good Race

Jasper (With Any Luck)

Yesterday I went down to Woodbine to watch one of my kids race.  Jasper. The big grey goofy guy.  He is Monster’s older brother and just like that entire family, he’s got a ton of personality.

He had a tough go of it as a youngster. Broke his shoulder at 7 days old and was on stall rest until he was nearly a year old. So when he first starting going outside, he had to learn how to trot and canter. He had never had a chance to get that all figured out.  He was underweight, with no muscle, and a huge, ungainly head.  Gawky doesn’t begin to describe him.

He’s raced a few times already, but he’s coming back from a year and a half layoff (he had an injury, but it was not quite as bad as that – part of the layoff was just due to a shortage of available stalls and bad timing).  That’s a long time to be away from racing, so you kind of expect them to need a race to get sharp again.

However, Jasper adores his job. He is very happy at the track – much happier than he is at home on the farm. He has a whole bunch of little routines, and he LOVES his routines.  He knows everyone’s schedule and watches for his favorite people. Only Harri is allowed to groom him. No one else understands the rules. You must always do everything in the same order. Once something is in the routine – it must stay in the routine.  He has to look out certain windows when he’s being walked in the barn. He has to go back in the barn as soon as you put the scraper down after his bath.  Sooooo many rules Jasper has.  And at 17+ hands, it’s kind of hard to argue with the big guy.

He came swanning into the paddock before the race with his ears up, cheerful as can be. He knew what he was there for and he was ready. Not stressed at all, just marching around. READY.

The pony that took him out on post parade was probably an average sized Quarter Horse. But he looked like a 13hh pony with Jasper towering over him.  Jasper was good as gold going out. Ears up, looking for the starting gate. He loaded into the gate perfectly. And for a first race back… you couldn’t ask for a better race. He tried his heart out and was a very good second at the finish.



A Few New Photos of the Mares and Foals

I still make plenty of mistakes with my camera. But I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m going to get in the end when I press the shutter. I know better how I want the camera set up for specific situations.

The other morning I got a couple of nice photos of the mares and foals just as the sun was coming up. I knew when I took them that I’d have to do a bit of editing to fix up the exposure. The first couple of photos below were taken before it was light. And they were handheld. So they were underexposed and very dark. But I took them in RAW format and was able to bring them up when I processed them.

Broodmares and Foals at Dawn
All three broodmares with their three foals, moving out into the pasture. That’s Bernice, Dora, and Loula. The foals are Ruby, Sammy, and Gabriella.

Ruby and Bernice at Dawn
Ruby is a very exhuberant filly. So it’s easy to get shots of her in motion. Her mama, Bernice is quite often in motion herself (though not in this photo), so Ruby takes after her. When there is this little light though, it’s very difficult to prevent motion blur (or blur from camera shake). So I was very happy that this one turned out as sharp as it did.

Ruby And Bernice
Ruby and Bernice again. The sun was above the horizon here, so I didn’t have to do much to fix the exposure.

Dora’s foal, Gabriella. The very perfect filly.

Gabriella and Dora
Gabriella, with Dora in the background.

Bernice and Ruby
Bernice and Ruby

Bernice’s filly, Ruby

Diva and Sammy
Sammy, introducing himself, rather rudely, to Diva. Diva is Dora’s foal from two years ago.

Dora and Gabriella
Dora and Gabriella

Monster Moves In

I took the truck and trailer down to Woodbine Racetrack this morning and picked up my Monster. And… as of today, he really is MY Monster. I need another horse like I need a hole in the head. But it’s Monster.

I met Monster an hour or so after he was born. He was the most gorgeous foal I’ve ever seen. Perfect, chiseled head. Small, shapely ears, full of darling little curls. His mane and tail were all fluffy waves and ringlets. He was correct and balanced from birth, and stayed that way through all the normally awkward stages. He is 16.2hh, with big, solid bone and strong, healthy feet. The very image of a classy Thoroughbred. He has been my favorite of all the horses at work from the moment we met.

He went down to the track last year for the first time as a four-year old. He caught a very nasty virus and was really sick for a long time. He lost a lot of training time to the virus, and also to sore shins. Ana (who was his groom last year) thinks his stifles might have been sore too, and that seems likely, given his size. So he never ended up racing. This year, he’s been looking very good. He was showing that he had some talent. But unfortunately, also showing that he didn’t really want to be a racehorse.

A few days ago, he made a complete ass of himself at the starting gate, and sent the boss to hospital with a dislocated shoulder. Apparently he was jumping all over the pony who was dragging him, against his will, over to the gate (for gate practice). The gate guys got hold of him and shoved him bodily into the gate and, from the sounds of it, they hit him as all this was going on. When the gate was sprung, Monster came out and turned hard left. Then right. Then left again. There may have been a buck or two involved. The boss made it through one or two zigs, but missed a zag and came off hard. Witnesses said it was very bad. Monster was focused, determined, and angry.

Monster does not take being hit very well (and never has reacted well to it… since he was a wee little guy). He’s ejected a few exercise riders, and it was always some variation on Monster refusing to do something he was asked to do, the rider hitting him, and Monster dropping them in the nearby shrubbery. He’s efficient and quick, and very very powerful.

I’ve worked with Monster a lot, and honestly, I have NO clue how this behaviour developed. I never had much trouble with him (other than the standard hormonal rudeness that all the colts have before they are gelded). He’s a big, calm galoot of a horse. He is not afraid of anything. Not at all spooky. He’s kind of slow-moving, but he never ever refused to do anything I asked him to do. Of course I never actually rode him. Just did groundwork, trailer loading practice, lungeing, etc. But I did work with him every day for years. I really never expected anything like this from him.

Linda (who owned him), promised me from the beginning that when he was done racing I could have him. Everyone at the track is just done with him. The boss won’t get on him again and neither will the other riders he’s dropped. Everyone is pretty mad at him, but despite that, Linda doesn’t want him going off to strangers who might try to get after him with a whip and get hurt. There was no shortage of people who wanted him. Both last year and this year, various people mentioned that they’d be interested in him when he retired. The boss doesn’t actually want ME to get hurt and is quite opposed to me having him. But – not his decision. And I’ve gotten a lot more cautious in my old age. I have no intention of jumping blithely on him without doing a TON of basic training. I don’t have the skills that the riders at the track have, so I have to work out the difficulties before I get on him. Maybe it won’t work out and he really won’t be safely rideable. But I do love that horse, and I have to try to figure out what’s wrong.

Monster loaded up perfectly (though he’d been tranq’d, so he was very slow to amble up the ramp). The trailer is really much too small for a horse the size of Monster. But he generally carries his head low, and he didn’t fuss at all. We had taken out the back divider and converted the two standing stalls to a box stall for him, and he wedged himself in at an angle.

Once we got home, he was still perfectly calm. But he really didn’t want to get off the trailer. I think with the tranquilizer, he didn’t feel competent to step down the ramp. So he just stood there for a long time. Maybe 15 minutes or so. No fighting or dancing around. Just not moving. Since that is pretty much his default resistance, I didn’t want to get into a confrontation before he even got off the trailer at his new home. So we waited until he was ready. Eventually he decided to come down. He was very slightly unsteady, and the ramp is very steep, but he managed it without taking a header.

He’s in the little side paddock for now. He’s being really good. Calmly eating his hay and wandering around in between mouthfuls to investigate. After he settles in a bit, he will go out on the pasture with the rest of the herd for a month or two to just be a horse. Then I guess we will start groundwork. And of course… when (and if) I get around to riding him, I won’t be hitting him… that seems like a no-brainer.

Ana is pretty excited to have Monster here as well. She can’t afford another horse. But Monster was also her favorite last year when she worked down at the track. She has dreams of learning to jump, and riding Monster in schooling shows. We’ll have to see how he progresses of course, but if he gets over his issues, that would be good for him. He’s not likely, given his size, to make an endurance horse. But perhaps he’ll enjoy jumping.

Esmerelda Goes to Town

Esmerelda is Exclusive’s daughter. She was born on the day of the Triple Header (in 2011, which makes her a three year old). Three foals in ten hours. What actually happened that day was that we were still dealing with Freckles and her new colt, and neglected to check on Exclusive for a couple of hours in her paddock. When I went out to have a look, there was Exclusive, lying down in the shelter with a newborn filly walking around her. Esmerelda was up before her mom, bright, cheerful, athletic, and smart from the moment she was born.

I ran for the barn to get Linda. I think Linda nearly passed out from shock when I charged in and banged on the wall to get her down from upstairs where she was watching the foal cam. We ran back out with Linda panicking totally about how we would get this newborn in through the snowdrifts and muck and ice. “No problem!” I told her. She hadn’t seen that sprightly little filly yet. Exclusive was up by then and Esmerelda was trying to figure out the nursing thing. Linda led Exclusive and I wrapped my arms around Esmerelda and guided her in the right direction. She trotted along like she was on a mission. “Come ON! Let’s get in that barn so I can get back to that milk bar!!”

Esmerelda is still cheerful and smart. She’s been no trouble to start, and both the Boss and Anastasija have been riding her in the arena with no fuss. She does have opinions, and a strong sense of her own importance. But she’s not the least bit exciteable. Although the two boys, Reno and Al, were sent off to a training centre to get a bit of legging up and schooling before going to the track, Esmerelda really isn’t that complicated.

Monday morning I went in to work with my truck and trailer, and we brought Esmerelda out. She’s never seen a horse trailer before. But I did do some ground work with her, teaching her to walk on plywood, through poles, over obstacles etc. Basically Esmerelda will do anything I ask. So long as I have food to offer in return.

She inspected the trailer ramp. Tapped it with her toe. I gave her a cookie. Okay. She slapped her foot on the ramp and looked at me expectantly. I gave her another cookie. She put her other front foot on. And yep… another cookie. “Good deal!” she told me, and walked on. No fuss at all.

Off we went to a training centre, to pick up Silent Flourish. That’s a new filly that Linda bought a couple of weeks ago. By Silent Name, one of the Adena stallions. He’s been producing some decent runners lately, and the filly seems like a nice sort. She also loaded well, and we carried on down to Woodbine. Esmerelda had been a bit restless before we picked up the second filly. But with company she settled down and rode quietly the rest of the way.

Esmerelda was very impressed by the hay net
Esmerelda was very impressed by the hay net

The two fillies unloaded cautiously but politely and other than a few snorts walked directly into their new living quarters. Word is that they are both doing very well and have settled into the routine easily.

Esmerelda: Didja see how much HAY is here? I'm gonna be eating ALL night!!!
Esmerelda: Didja see how much HAY is here? I’m gonna be eating ALL night!!!
Harri, feeding carrots to Silent Flourish (she needs a barn name)
Harri, feeding carrots to Silent Flourish (she needs a barn name)

Since I was there anyway, I was able to take some pictures of my kids….

Jasper: Who's got treats for me?
Jasper: Who’s got treats for me?
Monster, busy eating. What else is new?
Monster, busy eating. What else is new?
Monster (my boy!)



Two Lovely Fillies

We’ve been waiting impatiently, ever since Sammy was born last week, for the other two mares to foal. I’m sure the boss was more impatient than any of the rest of us, since he’s been on foal watch every night for several weeks. After which he leaves for the track at around 5am to train the older horses. So I would imagine he’s longing for a full night’s sleep by now.

Sammy relaxing in the arena. It was pouring rain, so no sunny paddock today.
Sammy relaxing in the arena. It was pouring rain, so no sunny paddock today.

This morning was exciting though. First, Ana let me know that the boss had called to tell her that Bernice had her foal around 1 in the morning. Ana headed in early to see the new filly. A lovely sturdy little chestnut with some very flashy markings. A big wide white blaze and a hind stocking right up to the hock. She is by Giant Gizmo.

Bernice's flashy little chestnut filly
Bernice’s flashy little chestnut filly
Check out the high white stocking on her hind leg
Check out the high white stocking on her hind leg

I was just ambling around at home, contemplating a quick cup of tea before going in to meet the new baby, and to help Ana move the yearlings, when I got a mildly panicked call from her… “Dora is foaling!!!! What do I do???” So I abandoned the tea and ran for the car. When I arrived, I found Ana and Linda, both in a bit of flap. Dora had gone down with her tail to the wall. No way for a foal to come out safely, much less for me to get in and help at all.

We got her up (Dora is really quite a cooperative mare) and she went down again. Even tighter to the wall. So once again we had to get the poor mare up. This time she went down in the middle of the stall with plenty of clearance. Big relief!

Two hind feet and a nose were visible. That’s exactly what you want to see, so I relaxed and just let Dora push. Eventually I got hold of the feet and helped her a little bit. But it was all pretty much textbook, and the baby was trying to look around before she was even halfway born. She is a bright little spark with a beautiful, dainty face. I think she might end up looking rather like her mama. Dora has a lovely head. This filly is a bay with a big star on her forehead. She is also by Giant Gizmo.

Dora loves her babies
Dora loves her babies

The fillies seem to be faster to get up than the colts, and faster to figure out where and how to nurse. This filly was no exception. Girls rule 🙂

It takes a lot of concentration to make those long legs work properly!
It takes a lot of concentration to make those long legs work properly!
It's amazing how quickly they figure out how to use those long legs
It’s amazing how quickly they figure out how to use those long legs

So we are all done foaling for another year! Everyone has arrived safe and sound, and mamas are all very pleased with their babies 🙂


Loula’s Colt

Loula’s colt is doing very well. He’s not at all shy with humans, and will undoubtedly be pure trouble very shortly. Anastasija came up with a name for the little guy… Sam. And the boss didn’t immediately ridicule it. So Sam it is.

They went out to the paddock to enjoy some sunshine this morning. He started out wobble-legged and worried. But soon gained a bit of confidence. Mind you, he is carefully staying glued to his mama’s side!

Isn’t he cute?






William, Clicker, and a Foal

It’s always difficult to keep an injured horse on stall rest. They get bored and frazzled, and have no idea that they are fragile and breakable (or at least… MORE fragile and breakable than all horses are at the best of times). Most horses will paw and fuss and call. When racehorses get really fit, they are even more difficult to keep in a stall 24/7. William went back down to the track at the beginning of March, so he’s pretty fit by now. And of course he’s always been a bit anxious anyway, so we were expecting at least some fussing and silliness.

But bless William’s little heart, he is being a remarkably good boy. He is calm and happy. Happier even than normal, not just ‘okay’. It’s hard to know what goes on inside a horse’s head, but the boss believes that William knows that his leg is broken and that we are fixing him. He greets his visitors with regal grace and polite inquiry about the possibility of treats? He stands for bandaging, allows Ana to clean the stall around him without crowding her (so long as he gets an occasional kiss or scratch on the neck). He might be the most gentlemanly invalid I’ve ever seen.

After the original injury, when William had to get on the trailer at Woodbine to go to the vet clinic in Milton for surgery, the boss was very worried that he would fuss about loading. The leg was in a cast, and the fracture was not displaced. But it would not have taken much to shatter it. He’s been difficult to load in the past, and I spent a good deal of time last year clicker training him to load quietly (that was a HUGE breakthrough btw… convincing the boss to let me use positive reinforcement!). Normally I do the trailer loading at the farm, but I don’t work down at the track, so the boss had to load him. And I am pretty sure it’s the first time in his life that he used treats, sort of correctly, to work with a horse. (The boss is a good trainer, and kind. But he is quite traditional.) William walked directly on the trailer, quietly, and without jarring the leg at all. For two treats – a small price to pay! I even got an actual thank you and credit for that afterwards 🙂

At this point, it seems that I have finally convinced the boss that clicker training for trailer loading is a magical thing. He had me work with Reno and Al before they went off to the training centre a couple of weeks ago (where they are reportedly being very well behaved. Amazingly LOL!) and also with Esmerelda (who is too well behaved to even need to be sent to a training centre in the first place – the boss and Ana are both riding her, depending on who has time). It makes trailer loading a much less stressful affair for us all.

On another note… the first of this year’s foals was born last night!!!! A strapping big bay colt by Silent Name. Out of Loula. She was a very good racehorse, and is a gorgeous big mare. She always has lovely foals. This boy is very active, confident, and friendly.

Here are some photos. Click any photo for a closer (and cuter!) view.


Scratching Itches

William is very happy. Really VERY happy. Harri (his groom at the track) says that he was visibly sad and worried before he went for surgery. And the surgeon apparently reported that he was very lame walking in to surgery, but walked out like a sound horse (albeit heavily bandaged) afterwards. So from William’s point of view he somehow seems to recognize that the humans fixed him.

Handsome boy
Handsome boy

When I went in to see him this morning, he was thrilled to see me. He loves to be scratched, and I know all his good itchy spots. I’ve been scratching them since he was an itty bitty little guy. Most foals are itchy all the time but William was the itchiest we ever had. He could be instantly immobilized with scratch on the neck. He hasn’t changed one bit either. He gets quite silly about it.

"Come here and scratch my neck!!!"
“Come here and scratch my neck!!!”

I will have to try to get a photo of the bandage. It’s huge. But he’s standing on the leg and appears to be quite comfortable. He will have six weeks of stall rest, a vet visit for x-rays, and if all is well another six weeks of handwalking (that is always fun…). Limited turnout after that.

So he has months of rehab ahead of him yet. He’s handling it all very well at the moment. Quiet and well-behaved.
He really is a very sweet horse.

Class and No Class

In racing, there are classy horses…

Yesterday Black Caviar won her 25th straight race in Australia. She did it easily, just galloping away from the competition. It’s a beautiful thing to watch her run.

And then there are the not-so-classy horses….

Also yesterday, Spicer Cub, while leading easily in a claiming race at Pimlico, bolted to the outside. The jockey, Xavier Perez, got him back into the race, but the the horse bolted again. This time going so far out that he went around the outside of the starting gate (which was pulled to the outside of the track). Perez lost his stirrups and, in what I suspect must have been a case of total adrenaline overload (due to sheer terror), got after the horse with the whip and straightened him out again. Spicer Cub very nearly won despite all the zigging and zagging, but managed to maintain his spotless record of 0 wins in 8 starts. It was a remarkably athletic feat on the part of the jock. I’m guessing he may decline to ride the horse again though!

Loula’s Filly

Loula had a very flashy, handsome filly this evening at work. I’m sorry the pic is so bad. It was pretty dark in the stall.

She’s a chestnut with a blaze and four white feet. Three stockings and a sock. So she is going to be eye-catching! She is Max’s (the flying yearling) little sister… well, half sister. Max is by Old Forester. This new filly is by Strut the Stage. I’ll take more pics in better light tomorrow.