Lucky’s One-Year Anniversary

No, as observant readers of the blog will note, not of his coming to live with me. That’s next month. This week was the anniveresary of Lucky’s last start as a racehorse. It was race four on November 5, 2009, a five and a half furlong sprint on the dirt for a $4000 claim tag and $8500 purse forthoroughbreds three and up, non-winners of two this year . Lucky, the 2 horse, did not go off as the longest money in the field (that dubious distinction went to Chilling Judge), but he did carry the lightest impost of 112 lbs, the nearest horses spotting him seven pounds while most of the field gave him twelve. Lucky, according to the equibase.com chart, “saved ground and tired”, finishing ahead of precisely one horse, fellow seven-year-old Roscommon Express (who would go on to be a 2010 Finest himself), who reared and threw his rider.

This Monday, carrying . . . uh, more than 112 pounds and we’ll leave it at that . . . Lucky galloped a slow quarter mile on an otherwise-empty half-mile dirt oval in the middle of the hayfields in Michigan. To his credit, he jogged up and when I turned him around, did a fine leaping start. To his detriment, he blithely ignored repeated requests to swap and went around the turn on the wrong lead. But it’s not like there was anyone to worry about interference. We then went for a long walk in the woods. The trails have been raked, a lot more of the leaves are off the trees, and it’s starting to be more like winter than like fall. Personally, I’m ready for snow. We even had some Friday that stuck until Saturday morning. The previous week, we did a little jumping, though I’m slowing down on that in preparation for winter, when the footing will mean nothing too exciting. He did manage on Sunday to jump an X three times in a row without knocking anything down. Barrels continue to pique his interest, being one surefire way to get a canter out of him (at least on the last barrel–for those familiar, he goes right-left-left, and he very much enjoys digging in on that lasts barrel and at least kind of extending for home.) We also did a long, slow meander around the property one day, including a brief walk on the road itself.

Now, it being the end of the season at Finger Lakes, as it was last year, like Lucky quite a few horses listed are coming down in price or are being added as it’s clear that racing is just not for them. So for those who might like to jump, race barrels, take slow walks through the words, or play jockey on your very own Finest, here are some for consideration–see if you can beat the deal I got ($600, marked down from $1500):

Blue Ridge Guy: I find it hard to believe this handsome gray guy is not only still on the listings, but now with an asking price of $550. Contact (585) 455-8823

I’m Electric: I had an interesting experience riding Dino this weekend. The B.O. was holding him, and I decided to see if I could swing up from the ground (that just doesn’t happen with Lucky.) What a nice feeling, and if you take home I’m Electric for the negotiable price of $500, you can experience it, too. Shorter is sometimes sweeter! Plus, I never dismiss Tri Jet and his sire Olympia in a pedigree, as I’ve had two and they’ve never been a mistake yet. Trainer contact: (585) 313 – 1998

Dewanna Brushon Me: For those who like a pedigree predicting soundness, here is the piece de resistance. The clue is in the name as this is a grandson of the great handicap horse Broad Brush, making him three generations removed from the great Ack Ack, horse of the year and champion older horse (who also carries the highly-desirable sport lines of damsire Turn-To), himself grandson of the iron horse Armageddon. You want a pedigree that says longevity and soundness, a race record that says “I try harder” (73 starts, 7-3-5, $51,000) and a face that says “Take me home and love me”? Look no further. (No, please, don’t, I have no room for another horse. Buy now, save me from myself.) $500. Please call 787-310-3954.

Dino Hates Me

Well, probably not. The B.O. does not always get to ride as often as she’d like, so I offered and she nicely let me ride him this weekend.

Dino is not a bad horse. He’s just, like 99% of horses out there, not inclined to do more work than he has to. Lucky is another example. On Saturday, we decided (or rather I decided, as this is not a democracy) to jump the big log in the woods. (There’s a large tree down over one trail.) I realized, after our first couple attempts, Lucky was not so much refusing as he was testing. He wanted to see if, as there didn’t seem to be any way around the sides, it was possible for him to step rather than jump over it, or to knock it in some way as to make it lower. It’s just a shade too high to make that really practical, and it’s long and big enough he wasn’t going to move it, and so on about our fourth approach, he put as much hop as he was willing to muster into getting both ends over. He seemed quite disappointed by this.

Lucky does, however, show increasing enthusiasm for barrels. Not that he’s actually interested in RUNNING, oh, no, that’s too reminiscent of actual work, but he definitely has learned the pattern and in fact is getting very enthusiastic about turning close to the barrel (a little too much so, as we’ve actually tipped one over.) And on our first run-through Sunday, he picked up the canter without asking for the run back to the ‘timer’ (actually just back up to the fence.)
He is probably not going to be out-sprinting any gaming horses any time soon, but he does seem to be having fun pretending.

Dino, on the other hand, was not having fun. Dino does not like to go forward. I’m given to understand his previous owner mostly used him for driving for two years, and not much of that, so B.O. has had to deal with a horse who is no longer all THAT enthused about toting people around, despite having somehow survived as a trail horse another owner back. I rode him Sunday, after he’d been worked already, and just getting him to keep walking around the round pen was an effort. Trotting was not on his agenda. Having ridden four different horses in the round pen now, I begin to think a little of the problem (Dino’s laziness, Takota trying to buck at the canter, Lucky’s adamant refusal to canter on the right) in there is that it’s basically like riding a twenty-meter circle over and over. If the horse isn’t very fit and supple, it’s a ton of work for them to stay balanced. So Monday Dino and I skipped the round pen entirely and just went to the big ring. And trotted.

And trotted. And trotted.

I did not expect a whole lot of flexing or bending, but he did go forward. He tossed his head, we went forward. He tried to slow down, we went forward. He stopped, we went forward. He used stumbling as an excuse to walk, we went forward. We probably spent ten or fifteen minutes just trotting. One direction, then the other. Some very ‘vehicle makes wide turns’ circling and serpentines. We even managed a canter. On the left, at any rate. I didn’t ask for more than ten or twelve strides (as it’s been so long the B.O. was not even sure he knew how, but I figured as long as I had him out, why not ask) as he is woefully out of shape. But he has a very comfortable canter when he gets into it.

There just aren’t enough hours in the day, really. Dino and Takota need more riding, Lucky could progress much faster if I could ride every day, the B.O. bought that lovely pony cart for Dom and barely has time to use it . . . horse people need horse leave days, they really do.

The Weather Changes But Lucky, Not So Much

As folks who’ve looked at his pictures from the last entry may have notice, Lucky is, to put it politely, svelte. A little ribby, in fact. So the B.O. has been adding a morning grain feeding to his diet (previously he got all-you-can-eat hay plus grain in the evening only). As always, more grain can equal hotter behavior. It’s also officially fall now, the trees are turning, the acorns are falling, the dried leaves are crunching, the wind is blowing and the temperature’s dropped, meaning horses without their winter coats are now cool enough to feel a bit more energetic.

But then again this is Lucky we’re talking about.

Yesterday, he seemed a bit stiff, and since he’d had almost two weeks off, I was using the AP saddle, and had switched to the kimberwicke, I wasn’t sure what to expect today. I kept the kimberwicke, and (whether my butt liked it or not) used the PDN today. No galloping, just ring work yesterday and a little hacking in the hay field, and I started with the ring again today. The ring backs up on the scary woods of doom, which Lucky has been largely ignoring, which today were waving and crackling like Halloween come early. Lucky was more concerned with the monkey on his back wanting a lot of trotting than with the woods. I was doing a sort of half-remembered version of the training level one test (or what it was when I rode it years ago; I’m pretty sure I at least had the 20m trot circles in the right place) though that pretty much ended asking for a canter as going into the right lead was something of a scramble. As such, I think the last half of the pattern was somewhat out of whack, but going around the whole ring an extra time will do that.

I tried being fancy and setting up some proper gymnastics, which Lucky promptly knocked over for the most part. Though he did jump the x, after the first go-through. He demolished the back rail of the oxer and on the second pass took out the front rail, but when I cantered him at the three poles lying on the ground he took what felt like a massive jump over them. Deciding that was good enough, I followed everyone else out to the track where the B.O. was hacking Dino, and two of the other boarders had P-nut (looking much fatter and sassier than when he arrived) and Sky out for their amble around. We walked along with Dino, and Lucky was not in any hurry, nor did he show any indication of a desire to overtake. In fact a few times I had to bop the OTTB with the bat and jog a bit to catch up with the Gypsy Vanner.

After a leisurely tour of the hay fields, the B.O. and Dino headed back to the barn. Lucky tried to follow of his own volition, so to teach him a lesson I made him walk on past the gate and along the edge of the woods. The trail runs along the pasture and arena fence, with a relatively wide (golf-cart-width) path that only has a few overhanging branches. Which Lucky at one point stopped and tried to eat. The trail ends in the yard of the house next door (which has been for sale since I moved in) and I was debating riding him up along the edge of the road, but the ditch there is fairly steep. So my choices were to ride through the backyard, back the way I’d come, or into the woods and back to the track that way. It was cloudy, and windy, so of course I decided to go into the woods. Lucky’s reaction was mostly to prick up his ears. He walked over the acorns that were over most of the trail, let branches brush him, and though I did my best to steer around them, he stepped on downed branches if they happened to be in his way. Overall, the only down side of our ride today (if one discounts Lucky’s ‘shorter is easier’ view on jumping) was how sore I was when I got off after riding in the PDN that long.

In the barn, we may have a new resident. The B.O. and J. found a kitten by the side of the highway, looking lost and contemplating an ill-advised imitation of the proverbial chicken, for equally unfathomable reasons. She is a small and fluffy dilute calico who spent much of her time in the tack room, practicing the belief that “If I scrunch up and close my eyes, they can’t see me.” If she hangs around, I will get some pictures, as she’s very cute in a fluffy way. Nanook and the Pest aren’t entirely thrilled.

Now for an update, with photos!

Hopefully, I’ll also be able to upload some video, as Dad filmed some video of the riding (and the jumping at least looks better when we’re moving.)

TBs Together: Lucky and his new roomie.

Me setting jumps. Not sure why Mom felt like taking this one, but there it is.

Dad meets Dino. Dino meets Dad.

The B.O. was riding when we got there, and asked if Dad wanted to hop on. It took some persuading, as he hasn’t ridden since my old OTTB, Benny, died. He’d taken a few lessons on him while my brother and I were both at college, but that’s it for a while. Now, Dad is not particularly short. Dino is not especially tall. But Dino is BROAD.

Lucky and Dino. I really don't feel THAT much taller.

We were just walking around, killing time while J. finished dragging the track. The day before it had rained and their friends had brought over their trotting ponies to work after the races they’d been headed to were called on account of weather. Once he’d finished grooming it, we headed out so Mom could get some good pictures.

Jogging wrong way round.

We jogged for about a quarter-mile.

WAY down...

And then we turned back.

WHEE!

I like how he cocked his right ear back to listen to me.

Believe it or not, my stirrups are on the top hole, which I punched in them. I think I need to add another.

This is actually after we stopped after the half-mile pole, jogged back, and went for a walk/trot/canter in the field to the left in the photo and spooked up a little bird that was either a woodcock or bobwhite quail. See the crazy OTTB who must never be allowed to run because that's just CRAZY.

Seriously. Lazy-butt didn't even break a sweat.

After that, we went back to the arena for some flat work and a little jumping.

Some groundwork.

Jumping, with funny facial expressions (because I'm clucking at him. A lot.)

Cat crossing.

Did I mention Nanook really wanted to help?

They will NEVER find me here.

And here is the OTTB running barrels.

Speaking of crazy. Do not try this at home (unless you have a horse as sane as Lucky.)

Seriously, don't try this. Aren't you terrified of OTTBs yet?

If anyone’s wondering, yes, I’m riding aside on the PDN, and yes, he’s listening fine with the stick on the right and my leg on the left. The bit I’m riding in for all of the above is the rubber mullen-mouth dee.

Lucky getting a nice hose down and liniment on his legs. Not that he wasn't bone dry under the saddle. Lucky doesn't break a sweat unless it's 90 out.

Mr. Biscuit has no time for your shenanegans. (And in case anyone was wondering why there's cat hair on the barn towels....)

Yes, see the terrifying OTTB, who cannot be trusted outside the ring. For the record: rubber dee bit, no tranquilizing agents (though given he probably did that 3f in something like :48, he might as well have been on them), galloping, open fields (the track and the hayfield have no fencing), jumping crossrails, trotting and cantering barrels, letting silly rider tool around side saddle. And as for me, I’m happiest that while we were doing flat work, as I argued about picking up the right lead (LOTS of circles and rebending and trying it again) I lost an iron when we finally got the correct one and decided not to fuss picking it up and risk losing the canter. I stuck it so well my mother, the one who’s watched me ride for years, despite me passing less than three feet from where she was sitting with my right ankle at her eye level, didn’t even notice I’d lost it.

Lucky’s Not the Lone Ranger

Not anymore. Though his new roommate is not exactly in the same racing class.

The new boarder arrived Friday. Lucky is no longer tallest. I would guess his new paddock-mate is more in the 16.3 range, and he’s bigger-boned. Since I haven’t met his owner yet, I won’t “out” his registered name. His barn name is Zoey, and he’s twelve if the registered name is correct. He had two starts in his career, and according to equibase he was . . . we’ll say undistinguished. Does not keep him from having a very pretty trot and canter at liberty. Which he demonstrated. Repeatedly. Up and down and around. Because he did not like that I came and got Lucky, then taunted him by riding in the ring right next to their paddock.

I swapped bits again today and put the “fun” bit and reins on while I rode in the close-contact. (By “fun” I mean the rubber mullen-mouth dee and racing reins.) Lucky was either well-rested, as I hadn’t been out since last Monday, or just feeling good after a week of cold weather (despite that having changed drastically and gone back to the mid-nineties this weekend) but I nearly got left behind on a couple of transitions! I’m used to having to ask nicely, then ask more firmly, then potentially get the crop involved. Today, I had a couple times where I only had to ask once. And very nearly got bounced out of my seat. Maybe he was showing off for the new guy. I even popped him over an X (I hadn’t planned to, especially as I forgot to throw my low boots in the car and was riding in my work shoes. As my stirrups don’t have pads in, not too big a worry.) He was not hugely interested in jumping, but he wasn’t ready to pack it in immediately, either.

We even had company. The B.O. came out with Dino, and I actually got to ride with another person! Lucky was fine about it. He and Dino were not especially thrilled with the flies, though. They could bathe in fly spray and probably it wouldn’t make any difference: they’re nasty.

And of course, on a day when someone else was riding, and it was suggested I could get out Takota to ride if I wanted when I was done with Lucky, I didn’t have time. Lucky got a sponging down and his peppermints (peppermints: life is good) and I was off to the Meijers’ in Three Rivers, with a toss-up whether I had enough time to get from there to home and still have time to make it to my dance lesson. On the assumption I wouldn’t, I had packed a cooler with ice packs. And I was out riding Lucky despite having worked and having a lesson and having no food because I likely will not get back out until Sunday (when hopefully I can take Takota for a spin as well.) Dance competition on Friday–my first time doing all five Latin, and my first with the New Pro. So I don’t especially mind having to run like crazy. But it would still be nice to get a ride on another horse.

Versatility Horse

How is it that now I’m much too old for 4-H, I have the perfect 4-H horse? I also spent too much time at the fair yesterday to ride, though I picked up shampoo and liniment at the tack van (and is it sick and sad that I thought “Hm, they’ve got a good price on Mane n’ Tail and two bottles left, I’m out of shampoo at home” and bought two, one for him, one for me?) and drooled over a lovely brown suede bareback pad. I also think I need to start showing Western, just because one can never have too many sparkly things and then I’d have real considerations about what colors look good on Lucky, rather than dithering over weaves of navy blue. I stopped at the barn long enough to give him a bath with the new shampoo and to find he seems to have a new roommate. Dino’s been moved to his stall paddock, while Lucky’s now sharing with Dom, the palomino pony. Dom, despite the wash rack being in full view, was convinced I was taking Lucky in for dinner and leaving him out. Even putting Lucky back out didn’t seem to convince him otherwise.

Today the other boarders were out working with their horses, so instead of starting off in the ring like I’d planned, I rode out to where they were walking Sky on the track. Lucky was not any different about being out there than he is alone, which is nice to know. I gave him a jog and a little hand gallop, not that he was too interested, then headed back to the arena. In the interest of seeing if people might be right and he really might respect a bigger fence, I’d set up trot poles to an x with what, given Lucky’s canter, would probably be two strides to an oxer. The back rail was set at 12″, with an X in front and probably a 12″ spread, maximum. (It would have been closer but the standards only fit so close together. It still looked freakin’ imposing from where I was sitting. But I put him over the X once and stopped straight, went back and took the poles and X and just looked past the oxer. Darned if he didn’t bounce over it. I wouldn’t exactly say he cracked his back, but he didn’t stop in front of the jump, either.

For once in my life, I learned from experience and didn’t ask for a second try. Instead, inspired by gymkhana day Friday, I had set up cloverleaf barrels, and put up buckets with flags. We tried it at the trot, both ways (right-left-left and left-right-right) and I tried for a canter. I swear, Lucky had figured the general idea out, because when I asked for more speed, he was already head up and ready to go. He doesn’t corner very well, but he doesn’t corner very badly either. Flags, we stuck to trotting, more due to my lack of eye-hand coordination than anything else, but they went into the bucket. Lucky I think could see it in my right hand and on our first attempt he wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, so we missed the barrel, but we went around again and got the flag in. If we worked on some neck reining–well, he’s probably never going to chase cans for a living and I doubt he’s ever going to be super-fast around turns, but he could probably be a passable gaming horse. He also seems to be figuring out the jumping thing. He’d be a great 4-H horse, assuming he could handle the fairgrounds.

Now, the real question, though: can he handle hounds? Must find some and find out.

The Manner To Which He Has Become Accustomed

I’d like to know who started the myth that thoroughbreds at the track get no individual attention and are largely ignored when they’re not being worked. Lucky probably spends a good deal of time wondering why, precisely, he is not worked for a maximum twenty minutes, they bathed, poulticed, wrapped, hand-walked, and put in a stall with straw up to his knees and a full haynet 24/7. He’ll take being turned out on grass, don’t get me wrong, but there are times I suspect he’s wondering about this whole no-frills thing.

He is slowly getting the hang of jumping, or at least he appears to. However, while he’s going forward without stopping as much, I do notice a trend: he’ll clear each “fence” (6″ and 9″) on the first pass, and the second time he’ll go ahead and knock the rail down. He is CAPABLE of picking up his feet, but it’s as if he decideds “Nah, it doesn’t hurt enough hitting the pole to make it worth more oomph.” Considering, though, that he is now by and large not screeching to a halt before each pole, carefully examining it, and then leaping from a standstill when no alternative option is provided, I’ll consider it an improvement. We even had a little cantering after the rail, which is nice. And Sunday, he picked up the canter from the walk on the left, and hit the lead, and with a minimum amount (about 1/4 the ring, which is minimum for him) of huge trotting he picked up the right. It is not a slow round canter, but it’s a three-beat canter that keeps going forward. Improvement.

Monday, because I found a bite or rub of some sort just back of where the girth goes (it’s not a spur mark; I don’t wear them) I decided let it heal up, so instead Lucky had another spa day. Since the B.O. had Show Sheen and detangler around, we decided to do Lucky’s hair, or at least, make it all clean and shiney. Since I’m not braiding any time soon, who cares, right? He seemed quite pleased with his detangled tail–it makes a much more efficient fly whisk that way. The Show Sheen and detangler were on hand because Lucky is going to be missing his roommate for a few days. Dino is off to the county fair to be displayed as an example of his breed. I’m sure he won’t let this go to his head.

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