Going for a Run

Lucky might be reluctant to work, but he knows what he’s supposed to do when he’s asked. It was bright and sunny and freezing cold (and he is still fat and less than enthusiastic about getting going) so I opened the gates and we went out. The woods are particularly noisy right now–all the dry, dead, leaves, down branches (alas, our big jump log has been chopped up for firewood), squirrels and chipmunks and birds, new growth on raspberry and rose vines sticking out. Lucky was on the alert side, but we kept it fairly short and he stayed cool. Out on the track, I’m not sure who was in worse shape, him or me, but in fairness to me he wanted to stop trotting before I would have NEEDED to stop posting. In fairness to him, I was close to getting left behind when I turned him around at the top of the stretch and he assumed it was time to gallop. The second try was a bit smoother, though he insisted on walking into that one.

Strange as it sounds, I think he might have needed that. Maybe a sprint was good for stretching out the winter kinks because in the ring, he was a lot more cooperative about the trot than he was Saturday. Despite the kefuffle going on in the paddock next door. We have a guest horse, who’s living here while his owner finishes building a barn, and he and Takota were busy chasing each other and playing the ‘got your halter’ game while sorting out who is boss. (Answer: Vandy and Trudy, but that’s why they’re in other pens. Don’t argue with the redheaded mares.) Lucky’s canter was increasingly less awkward, and we managed three times over the poles and crossrail without knocking anything down. On the third try, he even cantered off on the correct (left) lead. Not easy on him, as turning left requires going downhill, but he managed! He even worked up an actual sweat (though there’s still a lot of fuzz going on, which didn’t help) that required real rubbing down after walking. Of course, given winter coats, the girth mark will magically reappear later, but he appreciated the extra attention, including a liniment rubdown.

So, lesson of the day, if you want a happy, forward TB, try and breeze a quarter (or a furlong) first.

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.)

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.

Forward, Ho!

I probably shouldn’t be, but I find it surprising how much riding Lucky is like riding a “normal” horse. In other words, not a racehorse. I go to the barn, get him out, put him in the crossties, complain about how much sand he managed to grind into his coat, groom him, tack him up and go for a ride. Sure, there are little things (track-style picking of his feet from the near side, something I give up arguing with him about, the odd step-off when mounting, the fact that he likes inside rein/inside leg for a canter cue) but mostly, we’ve gotten to where I get on, he takes some prodding for the first trot, and it’s not far different from riding my old horse when he was eight, when he’d been four years off the track.

Forward is better. The whip is still a mandatory accessory as he needs a tap or two at times to get going in the first trot, and there is not much bending through corners going on (though there is a tiny bit.) Contact is slowly being achieved, and best of all the canter is now coming from almost a walk on the left, and with a relatively short distance of trot steps on the right. The lead is even more correct than not. Today he picked up the left on the first try, but when he stumbled I still don’t have enough contact to keep him up, and he swapped to recover. I think he scared himself a bit, too. The one major thing I would change at the barn, which overall is awesome, is the outdoor, while huge, has a significant slope. Not a big hill, but enough that he feels it going up and has to balance himself going down, which I suppose is good preparation for riding out, but does make balancing him harder. I do like that there’s the sand arena, but there’s also a long strip of grass down one side, so I can work him and jump him on two different surfaces without having to haul the jumps very far or find a wide-open spot on the grass when everyone’s turned out in the pastures.

I think he’s starting to get the idea about jumping. Though only for very short periods. I really need to learn to quit while I’m ahead, but when he’s going forward, and actually seeming to anticipate the X or the pole, it’s hard to make one pass and say “We’re good.” He is starting to pick UP speed, though, rather than slow down, though we had a “Whoa wait what?” moment trotting the poles at first (J. bought PVC pipe to replace the grayed, warping wood poles that tended to blend into the sand and I think the bright-white made Lucky do a double take.) But the second time, we rapped the X hard, and the third he knocked a rail down.

Tomorrow I’m not sure what we’ll do. I’m debating taking him out for a gallop and giving him a mental break, but it’ll depend on the weather. I had a cold towel around my neck, was wearing thin cotton tights and an open-neck polo, and there were still moments where it was simply hot.

Apparently, we have found one thing that Lucky will react to: I had a message from the B.O. earlier this week. They were having an estate auction across the road, and there was a loudspeaker system. Lucky is in the closest paddock to the road, with just a house and yard between him and the street and the house hosting the sale, and apparently could hear everything. According to the B.O., as soon as the loudspeaker came on, his head went up, and he started racing and prancing around his pen like it was off to the races. My mom, when I told her, asked the interesting question “I wonder what he’d think of the fair?” It does make you wonder what he’d think about a horse show and the public-address system.

Well, Good Grief

Look what Google finds you.

(Also, amusingly enough, in the entry about the 2008 MassCap, if you look at the large version of the last picture, in the far right corner, you will see a girl in a red sweater with a brown ponytail squished on the rail by the Winner’s Circle. So not only was Lucky featured on the blog, there is a photo cameo by yours truly as well!)

In which I put my hand farther up a horse’s mouth than would strictly be wise

Were he not lightly sedated and did he not have a speculum holding his mouth open, that is.

Lucky is probably a much happier horse tonight. The dental specialist came out, and his mouth was a complete mess. Not just his #11 molar was bad. His ridges felt like a “bumpy road” (one reason she wanted me to feel it) and the bad molar had actually caused a sore and damaged the opposite tooth. The baby teeth could come out and did (though I didn’t notice the smell she described them having. Then again. Puff had been throwing up last night and I think he has been surfing the litter box, so my tolerance for disgusting smells may have been higher than usual.) She also filed down his canines after fixing the back teeth.

He did get mildly sedated–xylazine and another sedative agent (I didn’t recognize the name, I’m only familiar with using xylazine with ketamine and we didn’t knock him out!) and he was pleasantly loopy. Even considering he was sedated, the dentist commented on how well-mannered he was. Apparently even when they’re out of it a lot of horses will try nibbling while she works on the front teeth. Lucky just accepted it. The dentist and her assistant were both happy with how he handled it. So was I, and I’m hoping that when I work him again, some of that inversion and resistance will go now that he isn’t biting himself in the mouth.

The dentist mentioned that her mentor, the owner of the school she trained at, had worked in Kentucky, and encountered a lot of resistance or just indifference from race owners and trainers to doing more than a filing. In her opinion, this results in horses who no longer want to lower their heads, lean into the bit and run. Given how Lucky uses his head, and how much he disliked a D ring snaffle (which could pinch and poke when he’s already pinching and poking himself with his own teeth) I could see that. It seems like it would be a cheap way of getting better performances out of them to just do their teeth better. I’ll find out how much he does improve tomorrow or Sunday–I have to work tomorrow, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get out there and be able to get home in time for the Derby. No, I don’t have a favorite. Anyone I pick will just be jinxed! If I were betting, I would pick Lookin At Lucky, and I would probably also bet the filly, Devil May Care, just in case. Well, that, and we’re not supposed to have much better weather than they are in Louisville.

After the barn (Lucky got a bit of recovery time, then I put him back out and puttered cleaning up his stall and where he left a ‘deposit’ while she was working on him, until he looked like he was moving around a bit more and didn’t seem to be too groggy) I had to head over to Mishawaka for a dance lesson. It’s only my second with New Pro, but so far, so good. And it’s surprisingly easy to get there from the barn. And after that, shopping. I actually bought plants, as I’ve been meaning to do something with the yard. I need more border plants, so I got a boxwood and a Colorado blue spruce (yes, I know how big it’s going to get. That’s rather the point!) I also put in some ground cover flowers, Alyssum and Lobelia. I still need to find something for the front yard–vinca minor would work well, but the garden center didn’t have any. Hopefully it won’t all be drowned by rain. Even if I had a lawn mower, which I don’t, I still wouldn’t be able to mow the lawn. Maybe I should get a goat. I don’t have enough land for a horse per township regs, but they might not notice a goat. (Or, given all the animals the neighbors have, care.)

Stylin’….

New tack! Oh, new tack. The nice leather smell, the fitting it to the horse, the first ride . . . .

Okay, so they’re not NEW. In fact God knows how old the bridle is–it came with a nickle full cheek that doesn’t look or feel like anything I’ve seen in bits in a while, and it IS a flat hunter-style English leather bridle. It’s also in a cob size. He’s now wearing it with the caveson on the second hole, the cheek pieces on the second hole, and the throatlatch just barely reaches, while in the raised (yuck) horse-size everything is on the very shortest hole possible and the cheek pieces are still too long. You can only punch so many extra holes before you run out of leather. I may take it down to this man in Shipsie who does leather work and have him make the throatlatch longer, but the rest fits pretty well. He just has this very teacup muzzle, dished short face, and then a regular old horse-style throatlatch. (Also, anyone know where to get a set of Havana brown snaffle and curb reins? Because my reins do not match.)

The saddle, meanwhile, is a Crosby Prix des Nations that has obviously been VERY well cared for. The flaps are like butter and the seat is beautiful. The tree, obviously, is fine and he does seem to take a medium comfortably. Even with a 17.5″ seat it’s still not GREAT for me. Still like sitting on a board. But he seemed to like it better, and it’s definitely lighter than the Stubben. He was okay with that, but lightening the load a bit can’t hurt.

He is still suffering from horsey ADHD. Anything a half-mile away is more interesting than what is going on, sometimes enough to get bouncey. And Trudy being ridden in the woods was downright mystifying and scary. (Apparently Trudy wasn’t thrilled to pieces with the idea, either.) We also had serious issues with standing still while dismounted and NOT using owner as a scratching post. We had a good amount of trotting in the round pen, and I realized very quickly why I have to shorten the stirrups about two holes from where I had them on the AP. Ow. Hi, knees. Sorry about that. Between this and the dance shoes this was not a good week for you. Something in the woods got scary and we had a minor spook, and finally a stop with complete ignoring of the bit. I got off and we walked over to the big ring and had a couple walks around to the far end where the scary things live. I got back up and again we had the inverting and the horsey ADHD. The BO’s daughter (mother of T., who rode Lucky a few weeks ago) hopped up and decided to take him around the ring, spooks or no. (I meanwhile was starting to consider the virtues of acepromazine as horsie Ritalin.)

It was VERY nice to not only stand back and watch him go under saddle but to have someone on him who had ridden an OTTB a lot. The BO didn’t quite get why I was not entirely thrilled with his brain, saying that he doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body, which of course he doesn’t. Her daughter got what I meant about ADD. He’s a looker. He is paying attention to everything everywhere all the time. She also agreed that there’s something just a bit funky with his right back leg. I watched her trot him, and she watched me trot him (and then we stopped as he had been ridden for almost forty-five minutes, the longest yet!) and while he’s not in any pain that we can see, he’s just kind of unbalanced. Not in a wobbly way, just in the sense that his right side is not as developed as his left and it shows particularly in his right stifle. When the ground’s uneven (there’s a bit of a slope to the big ring) it seems to work him harder. So nice to know I was not imagining that! We both agreed that the saddle is also a great ride. He seems to like it, too.

Back at the barn, we talked about our respective OTTBs, her old one and mine. Both were much more ‘hot’ than Lucky (who is not so much hot as very easily distracted) and yet both seemed to have a knack for knowing when their rider was not someone who knew how to deal. You could put a little kid on either of them (and I suspect Lucky, too) and they became the blandest lead-line pony imaginable. They were just smart like that.

Lucky, by the way, saw the vet and equine dentist while I was away (I had a ballroom competition on the east side of the state, which was a ton of fun and went extremely well for my not having danced in six months.) The vet gave him his vaccines and checked out the two hairless patched on his left shoulder. In her opinion, they are a benign sarcoid (yay, not mange, fungus or fleas) and I can treat it with an iodine wash and/or bag balm, and they will not bother him. They don’t seem to, certainly, not the way Old OTTB went mildly nuts with a fungal infection that made him itch. The equine dentist, meanwhile, was yet another ho-hum moment for Lucky (he was the only horse who did NOT need sedating) but his teeth are worse than mine. His funky double tooth in front is a baby tooth that never fell out. And there is one tooth in back the dentist could not reach and he is recommending having someone who uses power tools get it. Rather than call the vet back out, I’m first going to check with my friend B., who had mentioned having someone who uses drill grinders do her two Arabs and she was quite pleased with the result. She is an older lady whose family bred Arabs and she’s quite picky about caring for her two, so I would trust her recommendation.

And I came home from the barn with a, hopefully temporary, souvenir. While I was putting the iodine and Bigeloil away (iodine for the hairless patch, Bigeloil for his legs) I heard a loud kitten meow behind me. I turned around and saw a black and white kitten prowling the tack room. Now, the BO does not have a black and white kitten. However, her daughter is the source of Pest and Pest’s brother (who went home with another boarder) so I thought, okay, maybe she brought another one. I scooped the kitten up and called BO and daughter back to the barn. By then I’d seen the goopy eyes and figured that this was probably not a new resident-at least not a planned one. I held on to her while I gave Lucky his treats and put him away (he was very tolerant of the strange snuffly thing in my other arm, probably because everyone else was getting dinner and he just wanted to get to his stall) and the BO’s daughter (vet tech) took a look. Kitten is dehydrated, lungs sound clear but the eyes and nose as goopy, and kitten obviously is cold and tired.

Long story short, the BO’s dog would eat it if they took it in, daughter has a pregnant cat at home and can’t take a cat with an infection in, while I have a mud room where I can keep her isolated. BO had some leftover pink liquid (tetracycline–they make the same nasty pink stuff for animals as humans) from one of the other cats, loaned me a carrier and a big towel, and off she went with me. Right now, she’s curled in the cubby beneath my deacon’s bench, and has had her first dose of tetra, eaten a bit, and has a full water bowl, rugs and towels, and a small litter box. Hopefully she can get some rest and get in shape to be a barn cat. She’s probably eight or so weeks old-barely enough to be on her own. She did eat the little bit of food I gave her, and I think she drank some, so now I’m leaving her alone for the night. Pictures tomorrow, when hopefully she’ll be feeling more social. Tucker sniffed, Puff kind of glanced at her, and I don’t think that my cats (who don’t go in the mud room) even realize she’s here.

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