Pedicure Day

For Lucky, not for me. For once, the farrier (Rich) came on a Monday instead of a Tuesday, meaning I was free to get up early on my day off and go out to the barn. The nice part, besides actually getting to talk to Rich in person, was finally getting to meet Zoey’s owner. Z’s Mom is a nice but busy lady, and I did mention if she wants him handwalked or groomed (he’s working an abscess so no riding) and she can’t get out to the barn to let me know and I can always get him out while I’m at the barn. I hope she does call, and she says she’s put her son on notice that she needs free time, too! (Wish I could say the same thing to the dogs. Or potty-train them.) I wouldn’t mind giving Zoey some TLC. He’s a sweetie, even if he did beat up on Lucky when they were out together. He tried that with Dino. Dino may not be tall, but he is wide, and he was having none of that.

We debated heights. Zoey apparently sticks at 16.1 I can see he is taller than Lucky, but not by much. I really need to get a good measuring stick and get an accurate measurement.

Rich is still quite pleased with Lucky’s feet. He is apparently growing lots of sole, and besides one small crack on the left front that doesn’t want to get trimmed away, his feet no longer have the shelly, flaking look they did when he was growing out nail holes. Rich is, as a rule, not a fan of thoroughbred feet. He mentioned Big Brown specifically, and I did point out that his feet were spectacularly bad, even for a thoroughbred. With which he concurred. Lucky, however, has nice feet now, though there was a little bruising on the left hind. Rich also asked if I’d ever ‘opened him up’, and I admitted I had, or at least as much as Lucky felt like opening up. Rich approved, noting sometimes it’s nice to let them get it out of their system. I agree. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun.

The bad part? It was freezing. I rode yesterday in the wind and while Lucky was fine with it, I was done in about a half-hour. Winter is indeed coming, and the fuzzy faces at the barn are no longer the only indicator.

And I caught this fine lady when I got home and was watching TVG’s Finger Lakes simulcasting while doing housework. Someone please go get her. She plainly does not want to be a racehorse any more.

Little Good, Little Bad…

Mostly the weather. Bad. BAD. Mid-forties, constant rain, and wind. The kind of weather that’s depressing when you’re indoors.

Of course, where was my crazy horse when I got to the barn today? Horse who has all-day access to his nice cozy stall with straw and a full bucket and a manger full of hay? Standing out with his butt against the east fence in the cold rain. Though he wasn’t all that unhappy about being taken inside. Grooming involved quite a bit of scraping and toweling–though oddly enough mostly on his right side. He just seems to get dirtier on his right side.

The farrier came on Tuesday. I wasn’t able to be there, as I had programs to do at a school fifteen miles the other way from home. Because of the garbage weather, I didn’t take my camera today, and I wish I had, because I took some “before” shots of his feet last weekend. And they were pretty darn ugly. Lots of flaking where the nail holes were growing out, his right front (with the quarter gouge) was very obviously too long and his left front was very clearly too short and too heel-high. Well, Rich again worked miracles. His front feet aren’t perfectly even yet, but they’re much, much closer. There’s nary a speck of flaking or shelling to be seen. Could we have a barefoot OTTB? Stay tuned. (And for those concerned, this farrier wouldn’t hesitate to put on shoes if Lucky needed them.)

Call me crazy, but we saddled up anyway. Lucky decided that he was not going to be especially cooperative today. I suspect a HUGE part of that was the weather. It took several tries to stand for mounting in the big ring (though to his credit he did not step off until I asked once I was up) and then we’re back to inverted, head up, evade, today with bouncy bouncy instead of a dead stop. It became clear pretty quickly he was not going to pay attention and we were both getting soaked, so I decided to settle for a circle and a halt. He had the circle down, but the instant we were into the wind the halt went out the window. A request for a ‘stand’ was interpreted as ‘back’, and the instant pressure back released he was bouncing forward again. I finally got off without a good halt and decided that if the big ring was full of too many interesting things we could try the round pen. It’s a rail fence, and not quite six feet high, so he can still see out of it just fine, but it limits his options (and is a little farther from interesting things like the pasture and the horse who lives on the other side of the woodlot.) He was not thrilled that we were going to the round pen instead of away and we had another minor discussion about standing to mount. I won, faster this time. Again, he didn’t step out until I asked (smart boy!) and this time we had a minimum of bouncy-bouncy. And I’m quite pleased the gate swinging a bit on its hinges was not even worth his attention. He’s a looky-lou at times, but he seems to at least reserve it for things which are actually interesting. By this point, my nose is running, we’re still wet, it’s still windy and we’re still cold, so we went around the ring a couple times, and as soon as I got a good, steady, continued halt, we were done. When I left after wiping down him and the tack, he at least seemed to have decided the nice warm stall was the place to be.

On the subject of his needing to be looking around, I registered at calracing.com, which has race replays from several tracks outside California, including Tampa Bay, Presque Isle Downs, and Delaware Park. So I registered and got a chance to actually watch Lucky run. I find it very educational that his trainers have felt it prudent to run him in blinkers. My old OTTB Benny was, according to his race owners, very prone to racehorse ADD–”Hey, look, a horse to my right! Oh, wow, is that a crowd over there? Hi people!” He ran in blinkers. I also VERY much enjoyed his race from July 1, 2008 at Delaware, where he went off as the longest shot in the field, 25-1, and paid $60 to win after getting out front and opening up too much daylight to get caught when he started to fade. It’s also good to know, looking at his front-running trend, if he ever runs away with me I just need to hold on ’til the 3/4 pole and he should be done. (Kidding, but he does show a pattern of going to an early lead and being done at 3/4 and fading.)

Barefoot In the Park

Lucky had his appointment with the farrier today. I basically took my BO at her word that this guy (Rich) was good, and figured we would see how it goes. It was, for a change, a beautiful morning (though it’s since gone back to monotonous gray overcast) but bone-chillingly cold. I’m not the most highly motivated person in the mornings and a little sunlight helps. I got to the barn while the farrier was finishing up with Takota, and groomed in Lucky’s stall while he did Dom, the trotting pony. I’m not one hundred percent convinced that Lucky is as tall as I think he is–sometimes I just think next to Dom, and to the barely-scraping-fifteen-hands Takota and Trudy, he looks bigger than he is.

I brought Lucky out on the lead and let Rich have a look at him. The shoes came off right away. Lucky does not need racing plates with toe grabs on the back, especially not in deep powder snow. He toes are long (no surprise), his heels undershot, and while the quarter grab is indeed almost grown out, he had flaking, calloused heels on that foot and on the other three. We debated a bit, and decided that the best course of action is to just try and let him go barefoot and grow in more hoof. The snow right now is deep, soft powder to act as a cushion, rather than frozen ground, and I won’t be riding much or at all until after the thaw. Hunting and steep plates with studs is even farther off. Rich is leaving an old file for me, and gave me my first lesson in how to rasp off any flaking, shelly bits that come up.

According to Rich, his diet must have changed for the better since he’s been here, as there’s a visible difference between the old hoof and the new growth. Lucky’s diet these days is (besides peppermints, and cookies laced with joint sups) less than a quart of sweet feed and all the timothy-mix hay he can eat. Come spring, there’ll be pasture grass as well. Now it looks like we’ll be adding biotin, and I’m thinking it might be a good idea to try SmartPak. Having pre-measured, labled supplements where I don’t have to worry about doses being missed or forgotten might be worth the extra money.

Lucky continues his campaign to rewire people’s thinking on off-track thoroughbreds by being utterly blase about the entire experience. Rich joins the list of those who’ve commented on what a quiet, relaxed horse he is. He stood, lifted, and held his feet up when asked, with a minimum of punitive leaning. With the chain on his nose, he even kept attempts to nibble to a minimum (one thing I will say, he is a very mouthy horse.)

Rich asked if I were following a particular system, and this seems a good time to mention my feelings on ‘natural horsemanship’, training systems, carrot sticks, horse whispering, religious devotion to barefoot trimming, and so on. I told him no, not really. I’ve had horses since I was six (with only the recent five-year break) and my only real system is I do what worked before, and don’t do what didn’t work. He said it sounded like a pretty good system to him. I don’t think there is a training gimmick or system out there that will work every time with every horse, or that is always beneficial. I’m not so old yet that I think it was a different world when I was growing up, but those of us who weren’t heavy into the show circuit would just throw on the saddle and go. While I did have many years with various trainers, in some cases learning a lot more about what NOT to do with a hyper, recently-gelded OTTB, a lot of what I learned came from my best friend and I getting on our horses and just riding around. There was no step by step process. You went with what worked.

Rich had some concern that Lucky was going to be sore with bare feet, after probably having spent the better part of his life in shoes with low heels and long toes. He mentioned that if there’s a problem, we can try casts, but to give it a few days. Then he had me walk Lucky up and down the concrete aisle, and said maybe we weren’t going to have to worry after all. Lucky stepped off like nothing had changed-no worries about the hard surface and no hesitation or ouchy mincing. The BO opened the door to his paddock and I put him back in his stall to let him go out if he wanted. Lucky has been, up to this point, mostly walking out along the fence line that runs from the end of the barn to the corner and back, and not exploring much farther, at least since the snow started in earnest. While Rich started on Trudy (the BO’s redheaded mare), I went out to see how Lucky was doing.

There are already tracks in the snow across the middle of the paddock. While I watched, Lucky went to his usual corner and whistled (whether to Takota and Dom, who were in their pasture somewhere, or looking for Trudy, who’s normally just opposite him, I don’t know) and then looked for a place to paw. After trying that, he got down, and for the first time that I or the BO have seen, he rolled. Like every thoroughbred I’ve known, he can’t seem to roll all the way over, and got up and dug another spot so he could get the other side. Once he finished, he came back to the fence briefly, with snow on his face, and then went back to walking as if he’d waded through snow all his life. I don’t know if it’s comfort, or whether pulling shoes is a cue, but Lucky finally seems to have decided that work is really over for the year.

Another Day with the Crazy Ex-Racehorse

Besides the snow, we also have bone-chilling windchill. Puff and Tucker still require walking a lot but I’m trying to convince them that going south on our road (past the big open fields) is a bad idea. So not much outside-the-barn time today or yesterday. Yesterday, Lucky got a walk with a bridle on, and I’m hoping that copper really does warm up faster than steel. I did my best, but I wasn’t going to go so far as to put it in MY mouth to warm it up!

Lucky is, I think, a little bored with no real work to do. Today I got to the barn and picked out the stall. It’s actually covered, as I have him on full board, but it hadn’t been done yet, and I was there. Lucky also can come and go from his stall all day, while the others can’t, and he seems to have a preference for voiding in the stall, rather than outside in his paddock. (As he demonstrated when I put him away today.) I think I’d prefer a real pitchfork rather than the barn’s apple pickers when you’re dealing with straw bedding.

As I showed in an earlier photograph, we have a pesky barn cat:

Today Pest got to go for a pony ride. I stuck her up on Lucky’s back to keep her out of my way while I cleaned his feet, and because I admit, I was curious. Feet are the last thing I do before tack, or since today I was just using the chain lead, before I take him out. So I left her up there to see what Lucky would think when I walked him out. Despite having a wobbly, meowing passenger, he was laid back about the entire thing. The Pest, on the other hand, made it out to the end of the aisle before deciding she’d had enough and bailing. Lucky went for a bit of a walk. The BO’s used the tractor to clear a little bit of the lane and a loop in the outdoor. We had an adventure in plowing through a snow mound. Given how cold it is, the snow’s powdery and sandy, and Lucky was a trooper about it.

He has a date with the farrier on Tuesday. I’m hoping to get his back plates pulled, and see what can be done about his front feet. The left is nice, while the right has the quarter grab. I can see, looking head-on, where it’s spreading more than the left. There’ll have to be something on it for a while, but if the back can lose the shoes and we can start raising all his heels a little, I’ll be happy.

I’ll be happier, too, if the weather eases up a little. The windchill tonight is bitter cold. The dogs will have to go out once more, but I think it’s going to be a very short trip.

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