Is One Week Without Something Breaking Too Much To Ask?

I’m fortunate as far as horses go. I know some people have animals who are constantly on layup for one thing or another. Lucky may not be the fittest horse on Earth, but he doesn’t need a vet out twice a month.

Now, is a house that doesn’t need a plumber, a furnace installer, and a well driller out in less than two months too much to ask? I was late to the barn this morning because I was waiting for an emergency visit from the well-drilling guy, because in the middle of last night my running water stopped running. Luckily for me, there was a well company answering their phone on a Sunday morning, but it did mean an hour of waiting for him and replacing the part. The furnace (which was twenty years old and really did have to go) was replaced last week. Before that, the plumbing backed up. How am I supposed to get anything done if nothing in the house works?

At least Lucky works. Grudgingly. But now the snow’s melted and the ground’s thawed so actual riding could occur! I unlocked the gate to the track and we tried for a little jog around the track. It was cold, overcast, and windy enough that Lucky wasn’t much for keeping his mind on things. We went halfway one way, and halfway back, and then went to the arena. Cantering is going to take some work again, and I think he definitely needs a visit from the massage therapist. That, and/or lots of round pen work with bending whether he likes it or not! Someone is more out of shape than I am. (Though I’m sure he’d say round is a shape.) I might even have to buy a 48″ girth!

Someone left an X up and ground poles, so I figured, why not. Lucky actually managed to more or less jump the crossrail three times without knocking it over. I called that good. It was starting to rain anyway. Of course, Saturday, when I had to work, was gorgeous. Lucky got his peppermints either way, though, so I think he was happy, and we did finish before the downpour started, which wasn’t long! By the time I got to the stores in Three Rivers is was a torrential downpour and of course the poor kid at Tractor Supply had to run across the parking lot to unlock the shed where the straw bales were. My trunk fits exactly one straw bale, which I’m going to use to try straw-bale gardening. It can’t possibly do any worse than I do with dirt!

And as far as Tucker the Corgi is concerned, I am the BEST OWNER EVER. I finally figured out that she wanted a BIG fuzzy squeaky toy (all the destroyed kitty mice were a clue.) And (since Meijer’s has buy one get one for $1 this week) I got her TWO. It’s better than biscuits! Definitely better than long walks like the one they had yesterday. Tucker feels about long walks the way Lucky feels about jogging a half mile–really better for someone else.

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Lucky’s One-Year Anniversary

No, as observant readers of the blog will note, not of his coming to live with me. That’s next month. This week was the anniveresary of Lucky’s last start as a racehorse. It was race four on November 5, 2009, a five and a half furlong sprint on the dirt for a $4000 claim tag and $8500 purse forthoroughbreds three and up, non-winners of two this year . Lucky, the 2 horse, did not go off as the longest money in the field (that dubious distinction went to Chilling Judge), but he did carry the lightest impost of 112 lbs, the nearest horses spotting him seven pounds while most of the field gave him twelve. Lucky, according to the equibase.com chart, “saved ground and tired”, finishing ahead of precisely one horse, fellow seven-year-old Roscommon Express (who would go on to be a 2010 Finest himself), who reared and threw his rider.

This Monday, carrying . . . uh, more than 112 pounds and we’ll leave it at that . . . Lucky galloped a slow quarter mile on an otherwise-empty half-mile dirt oval in the middle of the hayfields in Michigan. To his credit, he jogged up and when I turned him around, did a fine leaping start. To his detriment, he blithely ignored repeated requests to swap and went around the turn on the wrong lead. But it’s not like there was anyone to worry about interference. We then went for a long walk in the woods. The trails have been raked, a lot more of the leaves are off the trees, and it’s starting to be more like winter than like fall. Personally, I’m ready for snow. We even had some Friday that stuck until Saturday morning. The previous week, we did a little jumping, though I’m slowing down on that in preparation for winter, when the footing will mean nothing too exciting. He did manage on Sunday to jump an X three times in a row without knocking anything down. Barrels continue to pique his interest, being one surefire way to get a canter out of him (at least on the last barrel–for those familiar, he goes right-left-left, and he very much enjoys digging in on that lasts barrel and at least kind of extending for home.) We also did a long, slow meander around the property one day, including a brief walk on the road itself.

Now, it being the end of the season at Finger Lakes, as it was last year, like Lucky quite a few horses listed are coming down in price or are being added as it’s clear that racing is just not for them. So for those who might like to jump, race barrels, take slow walks through the words, or play jockey on your very own Finest, here are some for consideration–see if you can beat the deal I got ($600, marked down from $1500):

Blue Ridge Guy: I find it hard to believe this handsome gray guy is not only still on the listings, but now with an asking price of $550. Contact (585) 455-8823

I’m Electric: I had an interesting experience riding Dino this weekend. The B.O. was holding him, and I decided to see if I could swing up from the ground (that just doesn’t happen with Lucky.) What a nice feeling, and if you take home I’m Electric for the negotiable price of $500, you can experience it, too. Shorter is sometimes sweeter! Plus, I never dismiss Tri Jet and his sire Olympia in a pedigree, as I’ve had two and they’ve never been a mistake yet. Trainer contact: (585) 313 – 1998

Dewanna Brushon Me: For those who like a pedigree predicting soundness, here is the piece de resistance. The clue is in the name as this is a grandson of the great handicap horse Broad Brush, making him three generations removed from the great Ack Ack, horse of the year and champion older horse (who also carries the highly-desirable sport lines of damsire Turn-To), himself grandson of the iron horse Armageddon. You want a pedigree that says longevity and soundness, a race record that says “I try harder” (73 starts, 7-3-5, $51,000) and a face that says “Take me home and love me”? Look no further. (No, please, don’t, I have no room for another horse. Buy now, save me from myself.) $500. Please call 787-310-3954.

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.

Thoroughbreds Do It All

No, really. Anyone who doubts it is welcome to come visit Lucky. An OTTB who finished racing a little under a year ago can go out, do an old-school work (jog 1/4, gallop 3f), go for a walk in the woods (proved to be a tactical error, though he’s vaccinated for encephalitis even if I’m not), walk around the track and go for a canter in a wide-open hayfield, walk back to the ring, do a few canter circles, and toss in a couple turns on the forehand before letting his rider play around with sitting ‘side-saddle’ (disclaimer: experienced rider on lazy horse. Do not emulate.)

That was Lucky’s day today. Yesterday also featured a track gallop, but after that mostly ringwork, including jumping. I am proud of him–on the third try, he took the oxer at the canter from a spot I picked, rather than from the best we could manage as he wove coming in (he still does a little, as if he’s not quite sure how to look at the fence) and he cantered off after. Strictly speaking, the line from the x to the oxer should probably be five strides, but I’ll take a slightly choppy six without a stop. After that, he got a turn around the barrels, at the trot and the canter. I don’t know if it’s the cooler weather, but he’s picking up the pace, by and large. He’s also gone from being stuck on the right lead to being stuck on the left (even on the track–he swapped for the turn and I couldn’t get him to switch back, even swapped whip hands to see if that helped. It didn’t.)

The dogs are coming home this week, rather than my going to pick them up, so hopefully I will get out to the barn again this weekend, possibly with pictures. I’d love to get some of him on the track–he likes to run with his head up (classic sprinter style) and his ears pricked.

As to why the dogs were gone, I was away this weekend at the Windy City Open dancesport competition in Chicago. Hopefully I’ll have some pictures of that, too. I can do something that does not involve barn grime, too!

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