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.


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.

We’re Horsegirls, Not Cowgirls

See the terrifying, crazy OTTB!

So I mentioned yesterday Lucky got his spa treatment so he’d be all nice and pretty for a visitor. This is Riley. Riley is a horsegirl, not a cowgirl. She doesn’t ride cows, after all. Not that she gets a lot of chances to ride horses, either, as her family doesn’t own one. However, her dad’s parents happen to live one town up from where I board Lucky, and her mom and I happen to be old friends, so when they came to visit this weekend, I said of course Riley could come and meet Lucky. I got out to the barn early so I could get him cleaned up and worked a little, and they pulled in just as I was leading him out. I did some trot work, with circles and serpentines, and a little cantering, and then we headed over to the round pen. The B.O. has some smaller helmets for her grandchildren, and the littlest one just fit. Eliz lifted Riley up, and Lucky gave his first pony ride. Riley is very good at sitting up straight and holding the reins (and for those concerned by the above picture, I unbuckled the curb rein and pulled it through so I could lead with it, and she didn’t have much real contact with the snaffle.) We did ‘walk on’ and a heel kick, even though her heels don’t actually reach past the flaps, and ‘whoa.’ Eliz walked alongside, though Riley did a very good job sitting up and didn’t slip at all.

For anyone considering an OTTB who hears that they are crazy, that it takes months for one to be safe for any inexperienced person to handle, and especially if you’ve been told that the longer they raced the worse they are, please consider the photo above, and recall that Lucky is eight. He raced from the time he was two, until November of last year. The only issue we had with him today was once he stopped, he really would rather have stayed stopped. Obviously, that is not the case with ALL OTTBs, but far more of them than you’d think are not wild, crazy beasts. Some are perfectly happy to give pony rides for peppermints.

Lucky had another Vetrolin bath, showed off his peppermint face, and then demonstrated for Riley what horses do when they’re turned out and still slightly damp–make themselves nice and muddy. Then she went to meet the other horses, of whom at least Dom was nice enough to come up to the fence. Nanook also put in an underfoot appearance and attempted to take a nap under Eliz’s car. Fortunately he knows when to move.

Hair, Hair, Everywhere

The weather up here is not conducive to riding. Everyone had a case of the windy crazies out in the pastures. I usually don’t have to put the chain on Lucky’s nose to bring him in, but today he needed the reminder. Dino also tried to make a run for the gate, while over in the other big pasture Trudy, Dom, and Takota were running laps. I can’t really blame them all–besides the constant blowing wind and the intermittent downpours (which was an improvement over the day before, which featured thunderstorms) it was cold. Cold enough for a flannel-lined raincoat and gloves, noses-running (his and mine) cold. And the wind wasn’t making it any better. Since I am still one-handed, more or less (the second x-ray is tomorrow, my appointment with the bone and joint specialist is Monday) riding in the wet cold while he was already zooey seemed like a bad plan. Hard to contain a spook if you can’t close your left hand!

I have to wonder if this is the universe conspiring to make me spend an hour at a time on grooming. I swear, every time I think we’ve made headway into this whole shedding thing, I come back and there’s more hair. I’m not exaggerating with the ‘hour’ part. Most of that involved the curry comb, too. I am starting to see what looks like a summer coat on his neck, chest and shoulders, but from the shoulder back, there still fuzz. Wet fuzz today, given it’s been raining on and off and even though they have perfectly good run-ins full of perfectly good hay, it’s more fun to stand out in the wind and rain eating grass and scaring yourself with trees blowing. Horse minds. Even in the barn, Lucky, who is normally pretty unflappable (see last entry for examples) was not exactly at ease with the big door closed behind the crossties and creaking in the wind. Leaving it open, though, would have turned the place into a (cold) wind tunnel, so he dealt. I spent probably thirty minutes just on the curry, and finished up with a rub rag after brushes, which I don’t always use. Overall, his coat looks better. There are a few scaly spots, but not the full-body dandruff. It was too cold to give him an iodine wash, so I spot-treated what I saw. On the plus side, it’s too cold to worry much about bugs!

He was actually pushy going out as well, so back to the chain again. Probably the weather, and he even did a big trot out and a canter circle with what might have been a buck when I let him loose. Dino was duly unimpressed. The sky was getting dark again, but they both kept standing out in the rain.

I am window-shopping now that the Finger Lakes trainer listings and CANTER are back in full swing. (Hey, every hunter needs a couple horses, right? Plus Lucky was so good about one-hand reining and jogging for me off the seat and legs, and is so disinterested in bit contact and goes on a loose rein, maybe he harbors a deep desire to go Western! He could totally do it! I even have a cowboy hat. 😉 ) Looking at all these nice sales pictures has driven home–Lucky has REALLY got a split mane. Half of it’s on the left, half of it’s on the right. He’d been not-quite-roached when I got him, but now that it’s grown out it’s really, really obvious. I’m tempted to just roach it, but he doesn’t really have a fantastic neck, plus a mane gives him at least a little layering to keep the bugs away. Plus I’ve never been a fan of roached manes–but there’s that hunting print I have with all these roach-maned horses. Maybe it wouldn’t look that bad. I’m not planning to braid him any time soon.

It looks like the stormy weather has finally passed by. I hope so–I’d like to get to the barn if the x-ray doesn’t take too long tomorrow. Plus, Puff does not handle storms well. To put it mildly. The other night I ended up with forty-two pounds of shepherd mix crawling into my lap. He has a very, very stressful day when it storms.

At least the weather’s improved!

It is back to being more like pre-summer than November. Although looking out the front window as I type this, the clouds are looking kind of gray in the distance.

Today was a busy day, at least for me. This was my Saturday to work, and it was also Tractor Supply’s one-day pet sale, so before work I ran down and picked up dog food, cat food, dog treats, and hey, there were 24-packs of AA batteries for $5 (and of course everything in the house takes AA, except for the occasional oddball remote that takes AAAs.) I really only went for the dog and cat food. Of course Tractor Supply is like Toys R Us for grownups as far as I’m concerned. Last week’s massive trip when my parents were visiting was a shopping spree including a huge discount tub of biotin, a new Troxel, and three pairs of my Best Jeans Ever. (When you find comfy jeans, stock up.)

AFTER work, which was uneventful except for the ghost haunting the office being especially noisy today, I went down to the barn. I fully expected this to be a short trip. I can hear you laughing. When I got there, it was still sunny and warm, but the wind was pretty fierce. As long as it’s not bringing in more rain . . . Lucky didn’t wander off to the very far end of the pasture, but he didn’t go out of his way to come any closer. Dino did not give us any problems about going out the gate, and we managed not to run over Pest, who was hanging out in the barn aisle.

Lucky is still fuzzy, though it’s starting to come out in large quantities, so I have hair all over everything. The recently-oiled girth is going to be fun to clean. Again. It was attracting hair before I put it on the horse. While I was grooming him, I found another of the spots the vet tentatively identified as a sarcoid. I don’t want to question the vet, but it really behaves and looks an awful lot more like a fungal condition. The old patches are responding to the iodine and bag balm, so I’ll keep treating that and talk to the vet. If I had a trailer I’d be tempted to haul him up to my parents’ and have Doc Pol take a look. I know he’s a good horse vet. Not that the vet here isn’t, but when there’s only one large-animal practice that people can use, you wonder how complacent they get.

We started in the round pen today. Lucky was having another ‘looky’ day and it took me forever to spot what it was. In the Big Scary Woods, the guy next door was cutting wood from downed trees (of which there are a lot–we had a huge storm this week and in some places whole buildings got taken out). And he was using a lawn tractor and trailer to haul it. I think I’m going to be really glad when the trees leaf out. As long as we were moving out it wasn’t really an issue, though, so I asked for a bit of a canter. As Natalie said over on her blog the opposite of “forward” is “up”, and we had a lot of Mach 3 trotting with the head well above the bit (hey, at least he goes on a loose rein), a wrong-lead canter, and a few strides of labored left-lead correct canter. The opposite direction we got almost all the way around on the correct lead. He is really the opposite of what I’d expect from an OTTB, much more flexible to the right than the left. While he’s not exactly bending, he does yield to my right leg more readily than my left (quite well today; “Yes, that is my foot, and that is the fence. You don’t have to go THAT far over!”)

I decided that since he was going so nicely, except for the ADD moments, we’d go into the big outdoor and do a few trot poles. I managed to open the sticky round pen gate from his back and we were good right until we were approaching the gate to the outdoor. This pointed us right at the scary man in the scary woods with the scary trailer of wood. Lucky decided to stop, and leg and stick had him thinking about going backwards. So I hopped off–I realize this can be construed as rewarding the behavior. As I’m out there alone (J., BO’s Husband, was in the house and knew I was riding but wasn’t anywhere he could do anything) I’d rather deal with issues on the ground if they seem inclined to head south. I flipped the reins and we walked into the ring, and walked down to the far corner closest to the scary man in the scary woods with the scary trailer. He got to have a nice long look, and it did seem to be less weird than before. I don’t know why things are just less scary when the monkey is standing next to him instead of on his back, but whatever works.

This also meant time for another solo attempt at using the mounting block. (Unless I grow two inches or he shrinks, the block is a necessity.) I have two choices in the outdoor, a big set of steps and a stump. Lucky has his own style of approaching the mounting block, mostly not doing it. He doesn’t make a fuss, he’s just very good at planting his weight. In the round pen we just use an upturned five-gallon bucket, and I can move that. I picked the stump, and it worked without too much fuss. He did step off again, but he stops right away if I ask.

We did some more trotting, and tried a line of poles, with a small stack of poles (a little pole pyramid, probably the height of two poles) at the end. Steering is still a big issue, but he is learning to pick up his feet. He even tried a teeny hop over the pile, once, before realizing that he didn’t have to make that big an effort. Lucky prefers the path of least resistance (or no resistance) as a general rule. We did the line maybe three times, and I figured we could finish off with a walk outside the ring.

We were okay approaching the gate, but it was like his feet hit the grass and that was just too much. I got him back once, and we were pointed at the paddock fence, and then he started a scramble again and it was half up, half backwards. I got a very short halt and hit and the ground, and decided we were going on a walk up the Scary Lane, which parallels the outdoor between it and the big pasture and ends at the gate to the trails through the Scary Woods. This is the direction he had decided to head very quickly away from, so we took a walk that way. He went from a bit of scooting to a fast walk to standing at the gate looking at the Scary Man in the Scary Woods to finally wondering why we were looking at the boring woods. I took him up the middle lane after that to the track gate and back, and since I hadn’t gotten off when I wanted, we went back to the round pen and I got on again (he was probably sick of it by this point) and we went around a few times. By then he was cooled out (I will be SO happy when he’s done shedding) so I took the saddle off and we went back to the barn. To his disappointment, I just curried (more hair, everywhere), did the iodine on the scaly bits, and put him back out. J. had put out their dinner and Lucky was hoping it was suppertime. I’m sure the treats tided him over.

On the list of “things you see when you don’t have a camera” I found the small flock of cowbirds following Trudy, Dom, and Takota around amusing. I know they’re nest-stealing pests, but at least they were doing what they’re supposed to do.

Weather permitting, I’m hoping to get back to the barn earlier tomorrow, since I don’t have to work. We’ll see how long I end up sleeping, though!