Everyone Ought to Have a Pokey Pony

Well, sometimes Lucky is a bit too lazy. He is not the world’s most motivated horse on the best days. The bugs are not helping at all. Now I’m getting eaten alive. Saturday, we took a long walk around the track, and the toughest part was convincing him that if he kept moving, the bugs couldn’t get him. Or at least not as effectively. We didn’t do much in the way of galloping or even a canter, and there was much bending at the walk. He was also perfectly happy to stand very still for his bath (with the nice Finish Line shampoo with tea tree oil, which smells very nice) because the water meant the flies had trouble landing. Sunday, I lunged with the side reins again. I actually saw something that might be dropping the head and engaging with the bit. Progress! I don’t think, though, he is ever going to be a big-moving hunter with a sweeping trot. His hind end does not work that way. As he seems to harbor ambitions of growing up to be a cowboy, this is probably not the colossal problem it might be elsewhere.

Monday I had the chance to hack out on a pokey pony. Yes, an actual pony! 13.1 hh. Over on Chronicle Forums, I’d mentioned that I was trying to find a western saddle for Lucky. (Someone, please stop me from buying that barrel saddle with the teal ostrich seat and teal heart cutouts? Must…resist…cute….) COTH poster fordtraktor let me know she had an old barrel saddle I could try, and since she doesn’t live far, if I wanted, we could go for a hack when I came by to get it. As I will rarely pass up a chance to ride a new (to me) horse, I said sure! The saddle, underneath the dust (it has been honorably retired for a while!) is red leather basketweave, and does clean up nicely. Now to see if it fits (maybe after Labor Day it’ll get cold and all the bugs will die!) After taking a look at the saddle, we went for a leisurely hack. I had the pleasure of riding one of those ponies who is big but little. I believe 13.1 is technically a medium, but as fordtrakor put it, she’s like a Quarter Horse body on short legs, and I didn’t have any issue with taking up leg. Pony might have had an issue with having a rider who is strong enough to make her actually trot (which can be surprisingly big when she wants it to be!) and even a bit of a bone-jarring pony canter. Even then, she still could only get halfway around the arena before fordtraktor’s Big Bay TB (to go with her Big Bay QHs) swept on by and lapped us. I know, pony, it’s tough to be short. It’s wonderful to actual go riding with someone–I’m used to hacking out by myself and working in the ring alone, to the point Lucky was moderately fried by having four others in there for the clinic this summer. Hopefully she can haul up to visit (as I’m tow-vehicle-less for now) and Lucky can get some thoroughbred company. (Maybe it will encourage him to speed up a bit, too. Then again, probably not.)

“He Was Something Like a Racehorse Undersized”


He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

Or not, precisely. But at the BO’s suggestion we tried her Australian saddle on Lucky today. This is the first saddle I’ve ever put on him where he genuinely looked a little bug-eyed at the bulk of the saddle. That, or the size of the flaps, which go very far back over his flank compared to the PDN or the McClellan. I was surprised by how heavy it was-it’s been a long time since I’ve hefted anything bigger than a synthetic western onto a 15hh horse (Lucky never feels so much taller than Dino and Takota to me, but then I had to get the saddle UP.)

He walked out okay, so I figured I might as well try it. I think, ultimately, Lucky was more comfortable with the saddle than I was. I’ve sat in it before on Trudy (the resident red-headed mare) and didn’t really like the feel of having those “fenders” for lack of a better word almost over my thighs–it had the unnerving feeling of being strapped in. Actually riding out in it, I had the strangest sense of being in a saddle midway between a dressage saddle and stock seat. My butt thought it needed to be back on my pockets, but my legs couldn’t quite line up with that. I wound up in a sort of half-forward seat, never quite adjusted comfortably. I also forgot my crop, and with that much leather between my leg and his side I could barely get my heels on. Of course, this was pretty much fine by Lucky! For all it was cold and windy he was generally all right, though he had a very looky moment at a flyaway sheet of newspaper. He also definitely remembers turning around barrels, and considers an upended bucket and acceptable substitute (tomorrow I might get the barrels off the cart where they were moved for winter storage.)

I didn’t ride for too long. I don’t think the saddle was heavy enough to be dangerous for him, but it just wasn’t comfortable for me! Lucky did his best falling-asleep-underneath-you impression while I stopped to talk to P-Nut, Vandy and Sky’s owners as they were going out to the pasture. Of course, that might have been a hangover, as the dentist was out yesterday and everyone (except poor old P-Nut, who’d been done by the vet the day before along with that ‘delicate’ cleaning some geldings need sedating for) had their teeth done with the help of a few ccs of Xylazine. Lucky’s teeth, by the way, are quite nice, and at the floater’s request I passed along the name of the dentist who did the major work on him for future referrals (as this dentist doesn’t do serious power-tool fixes as Lucky required last year and was happy to have someone to call.) The day before that, the vet was out for spring shots and Coggins, so if we want to go anywhere he’ll be legal! All we need is a trailer and somewhere to go. I’m starting to think it might be good to find a schooling show and simply go for the experience, even if I end up not riding, just so he gets the idea of traveling being something routine.

We did take a walk in the hayfield after I unsaddled him (and found the Aussie saddle is almost as tricky to get OUT of as it is to get on him, and lifting it off his back, rather than dragging it over, was another reminder of how tall he is!) I thought about a walk in the woods, but he preferred someplace he could snack as he went along. And anyway, with the wind, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tree came down on us. Lucky had the pasture all to himself when I left, as his three buddies were all getting their turn being ridden (or tagging along after his girlfriend, in P-nut’s case–he’s touchingly devoted).) When I got home I found one of my sheds with the doors banging open and my plastic watering can I’d left on the bench by my door halfway across the yard. The trash bin was also on its side, but then for all it weighs when I’m having to drag it to the road it seems to blow over if there’s just a stiff breeze! The dogs got an extra-long walk, wind or no wind, as the rain passed us by and the rumored s-n-o-w seems to have also given us a miss (lucky us). I think I have succeeded in wearing them out (as I got up for a bowl of cereal while writing this and Tucker, who is firmly in the ’round is a shape’ camp and never misses a chance at food barely even looked up.) I just wish wearing them out didn’t involve wearing me out!

Spring Fever

We’ve gone from the “blizzard of the century” to unseasonably warm in a matter of about two weeks. Lucky for me, Tractor Supply was having a clearance on grooming tools and I got a metal curry, because when I arrived at the barn, I had a brown and tan horse instead of a plain bay. Yes, someone discovered the mud. So in addition to a hairy horse, I had a dusty one, as most of it had dried. Which at least meant he didn’t smell too bad and it came off nicely. Of course most of it went up my nose, and what didn’t went on my coat and jeans, but such is spring.

I think I also have a fat, as-sassy-as-Lucky-gets horse. Today I put the saddle on, and I brought out the pelham on suspicion I might need a bit more leverage, as the ground is soft enough for some actual work but it was cooling off enough he wouldn’t be sweating just from standing around, fuzz or no fuzz. Most of the arena was slop, but the grass side was soft but no standing water. Lucky is definitely out of condition, as the expression goes. I know he’s not too chubby because the girth cinches on the same holes, but he definitely had to act like like the entire business was a massive chore, and required tons of effort. He spent a lot more time bent out, watching, than going forward, and I probably rushed the decision to canter as that resulted in more up than forward, with head-tossing and a very tucked-under, scooty butt. So more trotting, and a long series of serpentines at the walk. We did get some canter later that was more like a canter for a few strides, and I cut him some slack. He IS out of shape, and the footing wasn’t the greatest, and of course the grass part of the arena is on an incline, so too much work would not be fair. It’s probably time to have the dentist take another look, and I’m thinking once he’s a little further along the shedding process and the weather is for sure cleared up, I’ll call the massage therapist to give him a spring tune-up before we get back into three and four days a week and some barrels and jumping.

In bringing out the pelham, I put together an old bridle and was missing pieces. Just the cavesson, so I decided not to bother. And while it looked kind of funny it didn’t otherwise affect anything, as I don’t use a flash or a martingale. I found myself wondering, if you aren’t using any of those, what purpose does it serve, anyway?

Chillin’

At some point, yes, I’m going to the barn. But yesterday, besides work, there were whiteouts on the roads. Today, they still haven’t plowed on my road, and the “high” temperature today was about 20. Since we don’t have an indoor and Lucky resembles a yak at the moment, there wouldn’t be much point in any case.

Tomorrow, however, I’m hoping to get out there, and bring Lucky an early “real” birthday present (his actual foaling date was February 12.)

Here’s a sneak preview:

And thank you for all the good thoughts for Mr. Jet! He seems to be doing much better. Here is a picture after he came home from two nights at the vet, being inspected by Mr. Marcus:

If You’ll Indulge Me

I realize a lot of posts recently are basically me gushing about what an awesome horse I have. Well, in fairness, Lucky IS an awesome horse. Today was very, very hot, so I did not set out intending to ride for long. As much for me as for him, as I really don’t want a repeat of the heat prostration episode. I always feel torn between the sense I’m not doing enough, but not wanting to do too much at one time. Today just enough was some circles (generally in the vicinity of twenty meters) and changes of direction across the diagonal at the trot, and more canter transitions. Lucky still cross-canters at times. He apparently went out for a trial with a dressage barn and was sent back because he didn’t want to swap leads behind. Their loss, my gain. But we managed our first circle at the canter today that more or less bent the correct direction and stayed the same size.

We also jumped again. This time, we had rails down, but on the first try, he did in fact canter to the oxer and take it without a stop. I wouldn’t exactly call it a back-cracker, but it was a jump. I need to work on my landings, though–in the interest of not slamming his back or mouth, I’m not exactly sitting down per se. It’s probably a better workout to do everything in two-point, but when the fences get higher or he decides to make a last-minute change of direction, I may be in some trouble. Not that I anticipate the former happening for a while, though he certainly shows more interest in the higher fences than poles or low crossrails. He’ll also canter off, or stop, after a fence, whichever is asked for.

And I really do need to borrow a Western saddle, and sort out a Western bridle (since he seems to exhibit a distaste of some sort for snaffles, or at least the cheek pieces as he’ll go nicely in a jointed kimberwicke, the trick will be figuring out a bit) and see what he thinks, because he is dreadfully, dreadfully quick to catch on to the idea of barrels. Given the heat, we didn’t do much today, but after jumping twice we tried a couple runs around the cans. I started with a trot, but Lucky didn’t object to picking up a canter, or to stretching out a bit after the last barrel. And when I turned him back to try again, he picked up a canter on his own. He’s still not flexible enough yet to really turn and burn, but he’s more than willing to try. Which, truth to tell, is more enthusiasm than he’s shown for jumping. Maybe the competitive drive translates.

Happy Trails!

Guess who went for a walk in the woods all by himself? Well, whose name is the title of this blog? It was hot again, no surprise, so I wasn’t planning any serious work with him, and no jumping. Just to keep myself honest, I switched my stirrups (I really need a second set of irons and leathers) and used the all-purpose saddle today. I can jump in it, but it’s a deep seat and a straight flap so it doesn’t lend itself. Instead of going into the ring, I unlocked the back gate and we rode straight out. The trails in the woods are well-maintained, but there are still leaves, branches and trees that have come down, plants that grow out into the trail. And of course you can hear any noise from the neighbors, or from the horses in the pastures behind us.

Lucky was a champ. He was not bothered by the unusual footing and the noise it made, things brushing along his side, my occasionally ducking down flat on his neck to avoid branches (or spiderwebs; I hate spiders.) He even stepped over a downed log and was unimpressed when he stepped on it (lazy feet) and the weight made the end, in the bushes, move and make noise. We stuck with a walk, and it was no problem. He was so good, when we came out of the first loop at the far corner of the track, I gave him a little three-furlong hand gallop, letting him pick the lead. (Note to self: swap the stick to the RIGHT hand to get him to swap, as when he carries the right lead around the turn he drifts WAY WAY out and the track isn’t wide enough for that.) I walked him back along some of the other trails, including the one that parallels the big pasture where Trudy, Takota and Dom live. Lucky ignored hoofbeats, and the squealing when Takota was busy reminding everyone that he is boss. I’m not sure Lucky would have been quite so phlegmatic if one of them had charged the fence (Dom likes to pace the fence when someone’s riding along it, probably feeling left out.) But no one did.

Just to make sure he remembers we DO need to work for our living, I took him to the ring for a little work. He is getting better at trotted figure eights, and while cantering them is still a little beyond him (he’s not quite flexible and balanced enough for smaller canter circles) we were able to try a simple change across a long diagonal. Lucky remained unflappable even when the wet towel I had around my neck slipped out and bounced off his rump.

I sponged him down and put him back out, with peppermints, when we finished. Tomorrow, if I go out, it’ll be more ring work. But tomorrow’s the first day of the county fair, and the only day of it that I’ll be off work, so I’ll throw my boots in the car when I go and if I don’t spend all day at the fairgrounds I might head out for a quick ride.

Back to work!

Well, as much as we’re working. It’s hot and humid and more or less miserable out, though at least by the time I got to the barn it wasn’t raining any more. The horses were in, as there had been thunder, and I’d figured they would be. The BO prefers to put them away if the forecast is for storms, and I feel better about it. It’s a tough call, since they all have run-ins, but I read so many horror stories on COTH about lightening strikes that I feel better knowing he’s inside. He was not exactly overjoyed to see me, as that usually means work, but he did come out, and avoided stepping on Nanook, who had developed a fascination for being underfoot around big horses.

I had figured even if it was raining, I would at least be able to fit Lucky’s new tack. On the theory that racing bridles are made to fit Thoroughbred heads, not big fat warmblood heads, and being literally out of room to punch holes on his throatlatch on the other bridle while needing an extender for the flat cob-size, though the cheekpieces and cavesson fit, I ordered a racing-bridle set and yoke from Poor Man’s Equine. I also found a very reasonably-priced rubber mullen mouth racing D from an eBay store, both of which arrived while I was out of town. The first problem I encountered was that when I put the yoke on, it hung down around his knees. So, holes need to be punched.

The bridle, meanwhile, fit just fine. When I got up, I discovered just how long racing reins are and why exercise riders knot them up. I also noticed just how much rein you have to take up to get to the rubber grips: more than enough that you WILL have contact with the horse’s mouth. Lucky seemed to like the new bit, or at least he held off his usual constant chewing until the end of the ride. Since everyone else was still inside, I took full advantage and we started off in the pastures. Lucky moved out more, either the week off or the new bit, I don’t know. And he’s definitely improved at picking up the canter. We had more room in Trudy, Dom and Takota’s pasture, and even the scary woods of doom being right alongside didn’t seem to bother him much.

The BO had left some of the jumps up with maybe six-inch “verticals” (on the very bottom hole of the standards) when we went in the big outdoor, and after a complete circuit in both directions at the canter, on the appropriate leads, I put him back in a trot and pointed him at the jump. The first time through, he slowed to a walk again, but a second attempt got a sort of bouncy hop/halfway to a jump at the trot. He’s rubbing the rail a bit, but he came at both fences (at ninety degrees to each other, so going the long and short ways of the ring) and went over with much less “You WILL go straight” from my leg. I even felt brave enough to go at it from a canter. He dropped to the glacial trot and near-pause right before the fence-but he went over, and to my delight he picked up a forward-moving trot immediately on ‘landing’ without my asking. So on that note I decided he’d done enough, and we had a long walk around the place on the buckle, followed by a bath. Nanook nearly got a bath as well, trying to stick his nose in the soap bucket, but when Lucky put his head down for a sniff he decided the tack room was the place to be in a big hurry.

The storms seem to be passing, and hopefully the weather will hold, as if everything goes as planned, Lucky will have a visitor tomorrow.

And when I have a chance to sit down with wireless, hopefully there will be pictures tomorrow, and I can do my second “Horses of D.C./shameless vacation picspam” post.

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.

Bit of Bother

The weather is indeed very much improved. It’s colder than I think it ought to be in May, but it was sunny and clear, which was an improvement. (And of course cold means fewer bugs, so even that has its good points.)

I think that Lucky is not feeling the love for the jointed Uxeter Kimberwicke. First, he continued to be a butt about bridling, though part of that might be I can’t use my left hand as effectively with the splint on. Once I’m up, the curb action seems to prevent the giraffe imitations he was doing with the D ring snaffle, but he chews constantly and turns his head side to side, as with the Dee. I was trying the Kimberwicke as I think the rubber pelham I have is a little too large (not width of his mouth, thickness of the bit), but the only one I have on hand is jointed. In fact besides the pelham everything I have is a single-joint: the kimberwicke, the copper dee, a jointed eggbutt that is 5 1/4″ and would therefor be too big for him, and a full cheek that came with the used bridle that’s 4 3/4″ and would be too small. I think I need to find a thinner mullen mouth pelham, rubber if possible.

Or maybe I should borrow one of the BO’s Tom Thumbs. I have never encountered a horse less interested in bit contact. I almost wonder if he’s afraid that if he leans on the bit I’ll ask him to run! In the bits with a curb, he limits his head-lifting, but I’m starting to think I could ride him without the snaffle rein. Even at the trot (and the canter, when we get it) he’s going off my leg, but largely ignoring the bit. He’ll turn from the rein if I ask, he lowers his head if I tap the curb, but in general he goes forward from the leg, slows from the seat, and he’s grasping when to move laterally away from the leg as well. He even managed a very slow, very hesitant, lots of encouragement turn on the forehand today. (All right, moving away from the right leg required a bop from the bat behind my leg, and both directions took a VERRRRY long time, but it’s not a timed event, and he didn’t back or try to walk forward more than a step.) He also stretched at a stand-still til his nose touched my boot.

Yes, I did all this with the splint. We stuck to the round pen, as I didn’t want to chance anything where I might need to really have use of my left hand. We even got something of a canter, and it only took two tries for it to be the left lead. I’ll see the bone and joint specialist tomorrow, and hopefully get some idea about when I can start getting some use back.

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!

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