Room For One More?

So there’s an empty stall at the barn. And the B.O. asks me on occasion, “Found your second horse yet?” In the winter time, when weather and lack of daylight make it hard to deal with one horse in any detail, it’s easy to brush it off. The days are getting longer, though, and the snow’s melting enough to make riding faster than a walk feasible, and there is that empty stall, which is of course begging to be filled. And when it’s Sunday, and there’s really no need to rush, and Lucky’s only fit enough for twenty minutes (that grass verge in the big ring is on an incline, so we’re doing some incline training–he should just be happy it’s not any steeper) it feels like there’s plenty of time. Though I’m not sure I could survive being buried in that much more horse hair. The yak is shedding out, and his mane is getting long, though I gave him a racing clip for the bridle path last week. (Yes, I like the look when it’s half down the neck, so sue me.) Though looking at Clancy’s horse in “The Man From Snowy River” tonight I still keep thinking I ought to just roach the whole thing. He won’t care and if I don’t like it, it will grow back. Plenty of time for that.

There’s also plenty of horses for window-shopping. For some reason (probably the price), I found myself looking at this one last night. Someone, please tell me I have not been drinking the racing Kool-Aid and that horse actually is fat? I mean, I opened the link and my reaction was “Fattie fattie two-by-four, can’t get through the feed room door.” Yet, I find him oddly appealing. Partially, I”m sure because he’s a chestnut. No more bays, really. I swear. At least no more totally unmarked bays with no white on them.

And of course, there is always craigslist. Though I have to admit, some of the people around here have somewhat optimistic appraisals of what their “could be finished for anything you want!” horse. Not a lot of total freebies, though there are some that tug at you. Like this guy, who at twenty might still have get up and go, but really, people. Or, up near my parents you have the could-be-worses, the reasonably-priced, and the…what now?

Gold star, though to this ad. I think that is first craigslist ad I’ve ever seen that references HYPP status (and N/N to boot.)

And on craigslist, there’s also the ducks. I’m trying to keep myself out of Tractor Supply until chicks-and-ducks-time is over, but the prices on craigslist always seem so reasonable . . . and the fat corgi does need something to herd. Besides the cats, anyway.

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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.

If You’re Not Almost Falling, You’re Not Almost Learning

Well, Frank Carroll didn’t say the part about “almost.” I owe msj from Chronicle Forums an apology–Lucky did in fact jump me out of the tack, at least enough for my knees to come much higher up his sides than I strictly find comfortable. Ironically he wasn’t actually jumping anything especially high, having knocked one rail down of the X oxer and being very reluctant to go over my strategically-placed buckets (serves me right for giving him something ‘interesting’ to jump.) The next time through, he picked up the canter with substantially less arguing and jumped it without quite so much drama. And, as I pointed out to the B.O., back when I was taking lessons and riding the old OTTB a jump like that and I’d have been eating dirt, so I must be doing something right.

He also seemed somewhat enthusiastic about barrels, actually wanting to run for the finish line (though as long as he takes to get rolling, it’s probably not going to be beating any Quarter Horse gaming types any time soon.) Saturday, and to finish up today, we took it outside. Saturday was just pure play–a little riding on the track, and some wandering through the woods, semi-enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. All the fall colors, and the falling acorns, and the suicide squirrel squadrons racaing across the trails. Lucky did have a leery moment when we came up behind one of the houses next door and they were burning brush in the yard, but he relaxed when the man waved and the woman said hello and he could tell they were people and not horse-eating tree monsters. We pretty much did nothing but tool around, and he got what’s probably his last bath of the season courtesy of the warm weather. He was more than happy to stand there dozing off while I did it. The new puffball kitten, meanwhile, likes to sit and stare at whatever you are doing, even if she has to sneak up very quietly behind you to do it. I actually plopped her on his back in self-defense, as it seemed the place where she was least likely to get stepped on! Lucky didn’t care, the puffball just thought it was interesting to have a better view of the saddle going on.

After riding Lucky on Sunday, I took the B.O. up on the offer to get Takota out. As there are only so many hours in a day and Dino needs all the work he can get, Takota’s had a few weeks off. It showed. Probably the most interesting thing about riding someone else (besides going “WOW, he’s short!” while I was grooming and could actually see across his back) was how used I’ve become to Lucky’s relative unflappability. Takota wasn’t really spooky, he was more fresh and experimenting to see what he could get away with as far as the new monkey on his back went. Answer? Probably not what he wanted to hear. I wouldn’t call any of it a genuine “come to Jesus” meeting but the experiments with bucking at the canter ended right quick. Probably surprised the heck out of him, too. He also was determined to scare himself looking at the woods (something he’s perfectly familiar with and should know better than to spook at) so I had to spend mmost of the time convincing him that it was far less work to come quietly than it was to be a goofball. It was an interesting change from tooling along on Lucky, who naturally tends to prefer the path of least resistance.

In a public service announcement: It’s October, and that means the end of racing at Finger Lakes is coming up sooner than you think. Some horses are already looking for new homes and careers, and since I really haven’t got the place to put another one, please save me from myself and consider horses like Dewanna Brushon Me. Quite the handsome devil, and look at those gentle eyes. For my fellow pedigree fanatics, why yes, that Brush in there stands for Broad Brush, his grandsire, which makes him the great-grandson of the great Ack Ack. And please note one two, not three, but FOUR crosses on Turn-to, so if you’re looking for a sport-horse prospect, won’t you please think of him? All for the low, low price of only $500.

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.

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.

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