Some Equine Pictures

Since it’s the holidays when everyone is stuffing themselves on cookies and peppermints, instead of any updates, here is some equine art:

Sir Richard Sutton and the Quorn Hounds

With a scent breast-high

Derby Day poster

Wall of Win!

Lucky's Allowance Win

Benny's ONLY Win!

Hot Dice

Hunting print of some sort

Yep, Lucky is in the news again!

Lucky to Cope is dancer’s newest partner.

(With cameo by Nanook, who has been renamed Sylvester because, well, look at him.)

Thank you, Susan! See, buy an OTTB, people will interview you! (And if anyone is interested in one of those ballroom dresses, just ask. One’s on ebay right now. There’s another thing–you can’t put a horse on ebay. And now you’d better believe I’d want more for Lucky than I’m asking for the dress–maybe if someone offered me his weight in gold, I’d think about it.)

The Kittens Have Something To Share

Nanook and the Pest would like to share the following:

Does anyone want a small puffball of a calico kitten? Free. Will ship.

The older two kittens (well, one year, and probably about a half year) are very clingy all of a sudden. I think the presence of a certain small dilute calico puffball is grating on their nerves. This is somewhat unfair, as she’s very quiet and waits her turn to eat, and is far less pesky than some kittens I have known. She IS going to get stomped on if she doesn’t learn that you can’t just wander underneath horses who cannot see tiny little you. Nanook and the Pest have decided to remind everyone around that they were here first and they’re cuter. Nanook did this by nearly taking a nose dive into Zoey and Lucky’s water tub while he tried to balance around the edge. Pest followed everyone everywhere. When she climbed up on the fence and looked like she was seriously considering a leap onto Lucky’s rear, I grabbed her and took her for a ride. (Lucky, it should be noted, is capable of executing a turn on the forehand with me riding one-handed with a cat in my lap.)

The weather’s getting colder, which may explain why Lucky was bouncy and inattentive yesterday. Well, that and the fact that everyone went in. I gave up fairly quickly, but I also hadn’t thought to grab a coat. He’s also turning nicely fuzzy. And brown. Unlike Benny, Lucky stays noticeably bay in winter, but he turns chocolate brown instead of blood bay. (Benny was a ‘dark brown or bay’ who turned seriously black in the winter.) He’s also dusty, but it’s now officially too cold for baths.

Had an interesting conversation about horses in the movies and actors who can or can’t ride. Especially with “Secretariat” coming out I think I need a horses in the movies post.

Fun At the Fair

No, Lucky didn’t get to go. That whole no-trailer thing is kind of a drag sometimes. But I did decide to check out the Cass County Fair yesterday.

I will confess: I am one of those 4-H kids. I didn’t do much in the way of rated/”serious” shows, as the ones I did seemed very expensive, not a lot of fun, stressful, and did I mention expensive? I don’t know if there were Pony Clubs in the area. I’m sure there must have been some. But by definition, “Pony Club” seemed kind of limited. You don’t have Home Arts categories in Pony Club, after all. Or goats and chickens. (Not that I ever got goats or chickens to show. My parents did draw the line somewhere.) So Fair (Monroe County, MI) was like the highlight of my summers: hanging out in the barns all day, Fair Food, lots of stuff to look at, showing even when it was frustrating, watching the dads set up the dressage arena or the jumps, being on the fairgrounds super-early before anyone else was . . . good times. My old OTTB was increasingly mellow as the years went on, and pulled another OTTB trick out of his hat at the very first one: after he’d had a meltdown at the spring clinic (no one but the Horse and Pony people on the grounds) I was dreading the Monday-afternoon exercise hours as I was sure he was going to be a basket case with the midway on, all the lights and crowds and cars and people. He’d been a complete brat that morning, when it was quiet again. He came out, we got on, he gave one spook when we got to the corner nearest the midway, and then he was totally fine the rest of the week. In retrospect, being with just other horses, in relative quiet, with a loudspeaker on (see prior entry about Lucky and the PA) the circumstances were probably just track-like enough to break his five-year-old brain. Crazy carnival rides? Obviously, this is NOT the track, and I should cool it.

The Cass County Fair is smaller than the fair I went to, and is missing any real Open Ag animal classes other than draft horses (who are still impressive.) When I get the chance, I will do a photo post including pictures of the various barns (the horse barns for 4-H are a hodgepodge, having been built over time, with some . . . nicer than others), the lovely arena and warm-ups for the horses, and when I have that big barn of my own, I totally need a team of draft ponies. Little black ones. They’re just THAT cute. (And, okay, little is a relative term.)

My stomach, of course, is not going to forgive me for a while for fair food (but hey, corn dog and fries with vinegar and funnel cake are okay once a year, right?) And I got a tiny bit sunburned. But now I’m having fantasies of contacting the local extension and seeing about volunteering. There must be a local club who needs a insufferable know-it-all enthusiastic English specialist to help out.

Oh, and while I foolishly did not get his registered name, I did have one OTTB sighting–a tall eight-year-old bay waiting for his go in Dressage. I hope he does well.

The Addressing of Reins

I had thought today was going to be a bust, given the huge storms this morning. Poor Puff was a nervous wreck, and spent some time in the crate (it was that or my lap, and he weighs forty pounds.) But by the time I got out of work, it had cleared up and turned sunny. Not that hot, fortunately. I can do without another round of heat prostration.

Even so, I didn’t ride for too long. For a start, I discovered when I arrived that if everyone is in the barn, and you give ONE horse a drink, EVERYONE needs a drink. Because of the storms, all the horses were inside, and a couple had empty buckets. It was close enough to feeding time that the ones who didn’t need water assumed that I must be there with dinner. So everyone got a little extra water so we could all see no one was getting anything exciting.

Thanks to a recent thread on COTH, I found I’ve apparently been holding pelham reins wrong all these years. I’ve been holding them the way I was taught (snaffle between the ring and little fingers, curb rein beneath the little finger.) Apparently one is supposed to run the snaffle through the ring and little fingers, but the curb above between the ring and middle fingers. Besides feeling quite odd, it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference so far, but as it doesn’t seem to do anything bad (besides mess with my muscle memory and as a kinesthetic learner that’s profoundly annoying) I will work with it. Wouldn’t want to be wrong, and Lucky does not seem to care either way.

After yesterday’s scorching temperatures and storms starting in the evening (which I spent at my first dance party at my new studio here, which was a lot of fun for everyone except my feet) today was actually quite nice. Still hot, but there was a nice breeze. I don’t know if Lucky was enjoying the cool weather, or figured that cooperating would get me off his back faster, but overall, he was good. I’ve been suspecting that he’s a little footsore–the protest-by-stopping, without obvious lameness or back soreness, and his tendency to pick things up in his hooves (I’ve cleaned out more pebbles from his hooves in seven months than I did from Benny’s in fifteen years) so I think he may be more tender some days than others. Today was apparently not one of those days–he was a little fussy about standing still, in fact, and despite not especially wanting to bend right he eventually decided to trot on.

Today was a good day for cantering, in the sense of picking it up. In the sense of getting the correct lead, not so much, but he was consistently wrong–first try to the right he picked up the left, first try to the left, he picked up the right. I did get probably a half-circuit each direction of the correct lead. On the right, we had a stumble, as I picked it up at the far end going towards the woods, which is a downhill slope, but he got it back. On the left, it took a great deal more fussing and a smack on the shoulder (which is probably reinforcing a racing command, but if it gets me a swap, I will take it.) I suspect I’m also a victim of muscle memory here, as the canter cue has always been one thing, but he has the ‘opposite’ racing cues just as ingrained. After getting a good lead each way, I let canter go for the day.

We now have white poles for jumps, and after working on trotting ground poles in a straight line (left to his own devices Lucky drifts right like a car in serious need of an alignment) I took him over a 6″ and a 9″ “vertical” (they’re on standards so they’re not really cavaletti, and yes, I know, baby heights, but baby steps here.) And first time through, we have achieved jump! The canter to it was not asked for, but since he picked it up I went with it. The spot was not the prettiest in the history of over-fences, but he actually put a little effort, I didn’t catch him with my seat or hands, and I didn’t have to go to the stick and heels to keep him forward after the fence. Now, if I’d been smart, I’d have quit there, but I told him “One more and we’re done.” So this time he took the top rail down. Being sans ground crew, I decided to let it go, as there was no stopping and he went forward over both jumps without stopping, and I didn’t want to push my luck. So, .500 for the day overall, but I suppose I should count it as a little bit more victory than failure as he is learning to go ON.

Now it just needs to be a little cooler so we can go back on the track for a little galloping. Or at least a little less humid. Mr. Florida-Bred probably thinks I’m a wuss, but I notice he’s not complaining about getting a hosedown and Vetrolin brace after working, either.

Lucky Gets a Spa Day

I hit the barn after work, and of course, since I’d worn tights and boots, it was hot and I really just didn’t feel like riding, adequately hydrated or not. This worked out fine anyway, as I’d picked up the old braiding kit and the clippers at my parents, and Lucky needed some work. His bridle path was a mess, as in an actual knot, and I was also curious to see how he handled the clippers. I assume that he’s been clipped in the past, at least had his bridle path done. I also wanted to pull his mane–not short enough to braid, but at least I’d get some weight off his neck with the weather as hot as it’s been.

I confess, I’ve never done either of these things myself. I don’t braid, either (as I mentioned to the BO today it took me until my twenties to be able to braid my own hair and anything involving yarn or thread is best left to other people or it comes out looking like a Boy Scout knot-tying merit badge project gone seriously awry.) My trainer, generally, pulled Benny’s mane, and as for clipping, after the incident at my parents’ barn one summer where an attempt to clip his ears (which had always been a pretty easy prior to that, except the last time our old trainer had nicked his ear) lead to finding out how panic snaps work and a farm call by Dr. Pol to sew his forelock down where he’d bashed his head on the rafter, that involved the vet and tranquilizers. Lucky is laid-back as a general rule, so I didn’t expect drugs would be required (for him, anyway) but I still wasn’t going to experiment with the ears. I figured, start with something hard to screw up and then get his mane thinned down.

Lucky, more or less, was a champ as usual. I am glad I have no reason to try doing his ears, thought, as even brushing them accidentally with my hand or the clippers’ cord lead to head-tossing (I ended up putting a chain over his nose again.) He’s not been a fan of even putting roll-on repellent on, so I suppose it’s not surprising. But once I got going, he suffered the indignity of a buzz cut with good grace. I did a longer clip than I suppose is strictly fashionable for show hunters, but then he’s not going to a show any time soon. I was tempted to roach the whole thing off, but then he would just look funny. I did a bit of testing with the clippers around his fetlocks and his muzzle, and it seems as though so long as we avoid the ears, it’ll be fine.

Pulling took a while, and I can see where it would be very easy to get carried away. Also, horse hair could make an excellent substitute for piano wire if necessary. His mane is now much thinner, and it all more or less hangs on the right. I don’t actually care if he has a split mane, but the overwhelming majority has been flopping on the right now, so best it’s uniform.

I gave him a Vetrolin bath when we were done, mostly to help with the cooling, and also because some of the ingredients are supposed to help with flaking skin and he looks like the before shot of a Head n’ Shoulders commercial along his neck. This time, I walked him and let him graze on the lead while he dried, instead of letting him out to roll right away. We’ll be having some visitors tomorrow morning, and since one is a little girl who is very excited about meeting a real live horse, it would be nice if he could be a nice, clean, shiny real live horse. (Yes, I’ll be getting there before they do and grooming.)

Ho. Lee. CRAP.

So I may have mentioned that the barn has a training track. I decided that today would be as good a day as any to see what Lucky would think about a turn round it. With the new bridle, bit, and reins I felt about as ready as ever to see how he listens. The barn sits on a corner of two rural roads, with the track at the far end of the property. You can see clear across the hay fields to the houses on the other side. Lucky, as usual, was more interested in the party going on at the house on the corner and all the cars parked there when we started going round to the right. In fact he dropped to a walk even when asked for a jog, and it took a few taps to get his mind on me. Figuring that between the warm weather and the distraction I was going to be working for ‘forward’ again.

Then I turned him around to the left at the top of the stretch.

Ho. Lee. CRAP.

First we got the biggest trot ever. Whoever called these ‘jogs’ really needs to try riding a nice western peanut pusher for comparison. For once I didn’t even have to ask. Then I actually put my heels on. I have heard it called ‘falling into’ a gallop, and that’s exactly what he did. It wasn’t really the huge kick, either, just moving all of a sudden. He was still cantering, on the right lead going left, and I took up rein and pushed my hands down.

A t my 4-H graduation we grads were allowed to take a ‘victory gallop’ of the arena (galloping usually being a big no-no at Fair.) After my turn, with that year’s other two “graduates”, one of my fellow club members told me one of the moms asked her “Is that as fast as Benny [my OTTB] can go?” My fellow 4-Her, knowing better, said “That’s as fast as Jennifer is letting him go.” This was not as fast as Lucky can go. This was as fast as I was asking him to go. And at this point, even though I know, I really know, that we aren’t in fact going THAT fast, I am simultaneously thinking “Come on quarter pole come on quarter pole” as my legs, in jeans, are starting to ache from holding on, and “WHEEEEEE.” A little more pull gives me a little more speed.

The brakes work, counterintuitive as it is to those of us who started out riding riding horses. He bounced a bit turning around, but loose reins and my sitting really did work. I walked him back across the “infield” (actually part of the hay field) and back up to the barn. Two minutes after galloping a quarter he let me close the field gate from his back with plenty of maneuvering around like turns on the forehand. Back in the ring, some forward trotting and circles, and three attempts at a left lead (third time’s the charm) and finally we hopped over a 9″ “jump” a couple times both ways. He still weaves a bit coming in, as if he’s not entirely sure, but no refusals, no run-outs, and even with some hard rubs no rails. After that a long buckle-walk to cool out.

Then I took him back in the barn and I keeled over.

So, heat. Funny thing. Even when it’s not that hot per se, if it’s humid, it’s hot. Lucky, at most, seemed mildly puzzled that I was on the ground, and he very kindly let me pull myself up by his neck. I managed to get his bridle off and his halter on, so he was standing tied instead of with the reins dangling, but at that point unbuckling the girth was more than I felt up to. Instead I made it to the barn door, in view of the house, and managed to call for help. The B.O., her daughter K. (previously mentioned) and another daughter arrived. K. got Lucky untacked and sponged down while the B.O. sent her grandsons for the golf cart as walking to the house was really outside the realm of possibility at this point. J. brought ice and I got put on the couch, boots off, with water, ice, and damp cloths. It’s always helpful, I will say, to have a B.O. who is a nurse–having a blood pressure cuff and knowing how to use it is a handy thing. My bp was good (100/80 for the curious, which is a touch low for me but not worrisomely so) though my pulse was racing. I got to lie in the A.C. sipping lots of water until my face was no longer red and everyone was satisfied that I was not going to keel over. Hours and a meal later I do feel better, though it did set off a migraine that an aspirin is only mildly touching. So PSA, kids: even if the horse feels okay, if you don’t, get off. Drink water. Go inside.

We Might Have A Racehorse After All

No, I didn’t see the Belmont, either. I got home right after the race. I had to work today, and I went straight to the barn afterward. There was a brief break in the rain and I wanted to take full advantage! It had been an actual storm earlier, so everyone was inside. Lucky wasn’t too upset about coming out, though everyone seemed mildly disappointed I wasn’t coming to feed them.

Going from our start in the arena, I wasn’t sure that this was going to be such a good day. Lucky was fine for mounting, and he walked nicely, but trot got a little high-headed, and cantering started out more up than forward. I tried a few circles, a fairly flat figure eight, changes on the diagonal. The outdoor arena is sand, but it’s not a perfect square–there’s a wide strip of grass along one long side that makes it kind of an oblong L shape. We were having more issues than last week with the left lead, and I decided it might be a good idea to try cantering straight along the grass. I took up rein (yes, the splint is off, and I’m supposed to be working my finger to get the stiffness out), got my leg on–and we were at a bouncing jog, moving at a 45-degree angle to the track. I sat deep and he went back to a walk, head still up. I decided to try some more trot circles, and he decided to go back to lugging towards the gate corner and refusing to stay in a trot.

Because they’d been inside, I’d opened the gate to Lucky and Dino’s paddock, figuring we’d go ride in the field. Given his mind didn’t seem to be with the program, I considered not bothering. I’m honestly not sure why I changed my mind. The old me definitely would have stayed in the arena, or even switched to the round pen. Today I decided that the rain was holding off, I don’t often have the pastures to myself, and if he was worse out there, I could always get off. So we opened the gate, and despite that being his wonky corner in the ring he backed for it and went right out. In my head, I was planning on keeping it to a walk on loose reins, but once we got in the pasture (it’s probably about five or six acres; the one Trudy, Takota, and Dom share is a bit bigger) it just seemed too wide-open to pass up, so I asked for a trot. This time, it didn’t take nearly as much leg and no reminder taps with the whip. At this point, with no swerves at the fence or runs for the gate, I figured what the heck and asked for a canter, in the general direction of his favorite, ie the right, lead.

Needless to say he picked up a left.

A few entries back, Natalie at Retired Racehorse wrote a post about letting a retired racehorse act like a racehorse once in a while. We weren’t quite blowing it out (for a start, I don’t think Lucky really wants to work THAT hard) but we were definitely were not working circles and figure eights. He still wasn’t exactly leaping into a soft, round, show-ring-ready canter, but on the grass with me in two-point he was much more forward, far less interested in stopping but ready to come back when I stood up and asked. And the idea of going forward bothered me substantially less than it used to. I don’t remember how long it took for me to be comfortable with Benny wanting to go fast, let alone with the idea of riding outside the nice safe ring.

I suspect the difference is with Benny, I was twelve, and pretty much all I knew about racehorses I learned from watching network coverage of Grade I stakes (this was in the pre-TVG days), and reading Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry books. I had no idea about any of the nitty-gritty details, like how ‘pull’ means ‘go faster’, what kind of stabling hours they are used to, or how alien the idea of rounding and bending can be. I also didn’t have any idea that most of them, at least those who’ve been at it for a while, really will stop if you just ask nicely. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to test that theory in the open hay field (with no fences, and two roads, and those dogs across the street with no fences on their side) and on the track (all of the above, plus I know from hand-walking him that he knows what it’s for). But I am figuring it might be worthwhile investing in a neck strap and reins that are easier to grip.

Just someone stop me from buying the white leather. Fashion aside, it would be a pain the rear to keep clean.

Gone Walkabout

Between cramps, fatigue, and just a general desire not to deal with anything up to and including getting out of bed (fortunately for the dogs’ bladders I managed that part) I decided not to ride today. Instead, I figured if I did a lot of grooming, I might not get all the winter fuzz off, but there’d be less of it next time. In an interesting inverse of my old horse, Lucky appears to be shedding out to a darker summer coat than his red-brown winter coat. Benny would turn black in the winter, and shed out to seal brown. Today he got the curry, the stiff brush, the soft brush, and the rub rag, and he was more than happy to stand there all day if I wanted. I’m starting to see the light at the end of the winter-coat tunnel.

And it’s not that I doubt the vet. But I still very strongly question her calling the bare patches and dandruff sarcoids. For one thing, I wouldn’t expect those to respond to iodine and bag balm. I am tempted to treat one of the spots with a topical fungicide and see if that speeds any healing. I had thought about giving him a full iodine bath today, but the high today was maybe the low fifties.

So instead we took a walk. The farm has a training track–nothing too impressive, just a half-mile sand oval that’s pretty narrow. I haven’t had Lucky out there before, and I’m honestly not entirely sure he recognizes it as a track, or at least I wasn’t three-quarters of the way around. Even though we did spend the last furlong with him jogging and crab-stepping, I don’t know for certain that he decided this was a track and that was appropriate, or if he was simply anxious to get back to the pasture area and closer to the other horses. We also hit the scary, scary woods and the trails there, and in that case I’m pretty sure it’s simply that he can smell and hear the others, but can’t see them. Especially when Dom and Peanut (next door horse) started calling. As long as he had the chain on, my arm got tired, but he kept it to prancing. We also had a lesson while walking on the track in “Crowd my space, get poked with my elbow.” Lucky does at times have issues when walking with “my space” versus “his space.” He’s not being aggressive, just I think genuinely clueless.

After our walk, he got another rubdown and his iodine and liniment, followed by cookies and a peppermint (his favorite part of the day.) When I put him back in his pasture, he had a gallop in a circle before settling down to graze. No bucks, and it wasn’t exactly a flat run, but it’s good to see him being a horse.

I brought home his extra halter (the track halter) to clean so I can swap them out and clean the one he’s wearing, which has sand ground into it. I cannot be the only person out there who gets fed up with the fuzzies and sponge bits from trying to use a rag or sponge and just puts the mink oil on with their hands, right? Right?

Also: In the time it took to write this, I normally would have scanned most of my favorite forums on COTH. Instead, I barely finished reading the one thread about McLain Ward and Sapphire at the World Cup. I don’t know what’s a bigger train wreck, the FEI ruling or this thread. I can’t believe it took until page 17 or 18 to get Godwined, but it’s still going on. Godwin means thread’s over, guys!

WHEEEEEE!

We have achieved canter! And my horse is wired backwards. Apparently, in his world, you ask for the canter with the inside leg. Outside leg to inside rein results in a counter-canter. I assumed the first time that he was just off-balance so we stopped and tried again. Same result. Then I remembered the one person on Chronicle Forums who had replied to a thread about cues by saying they had always learned to use the inside leg to ask for the canter. Pretty much everyone had replied with “You crazy, lady” but I decided what the heck, try crazy, and asked in complete reverse of how I’ve always been taught to ask. And what do you know, left-lead canter!

And since my parents came to visit this weekend, there are even pictures with me in them:

Lucky drifts left, but he does pick up his feet.

Lucky’s masseuse was also out this morning, riding with the BO. (Yes, Lucky has a masseuse. She just finished studying equine massage and Lucky was her graduation project.) She got a few pictures of Lucky going under saddle for her portfolio. Yet another person thoroughly impressed with Lucky’s ground manners. I said he probably figured the massage was the first time since he got here that he was receiving the treatment to which he is entitled. The BO laughed and said he definitely acted like that sometimes!

My parents were also impressed. They obviously knew my old OTTB and have been watching me ride for a while. First, they absolutely think Lucky’s taller than Benny (who was 15.2.) Lucky isn’t HEAVY, so I don’t think of him as big. The absolutely love his mind, and are thoroughly impressed with his behavior and indifference to things like the gunshot across the road. (No, no idea what that was about. Next door sometimes target shoots, but this was one shot and across the street.) They definitely think that for a sight-unseen, taken on word of mouth from three-states-away horse for $600 I absolutely got a bargain.

Did I mention it was pushing eighty degrees today?

Lucky got a sponge bath after riding. He actually did sweat up, mostly from his coat still being thick, and he appreciated the hosing. He didn’t even mind having his ears and face done, something that annoyed my old OTTB to no end. I’m sure that he was counting the seconds until I put him back out so he could find a good patch of dirt to roll in, but he enjoyed the hosing down.

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