Tuesday, May 21, 2013

There's been big doings in my life, so I haven't been to the barn or updating. I'm currently at the family casa in RI because 1) I'm on vacation and 2) my dad had a heart attack scare early last weekend that got me up here Saturday morning. It turns out the chest pain wasn't a heart attack, but probably a complication of a previous car accident that left him with an intermittent esophageal motility impairment. Phew!

For an update, I have a video of Sherwood out in the arena with her first buddy! Dennis and I talked about which horse of the boys to first introduce her to, and Bandit won- hands down. An alpha who's old enough to know and teach manners, but not so aggressive that he'll pursue her into a breaking point of beat the snot out of her for kicks. He's also fast enough on his feet to get out of the way of her unskilled but pretty powerful kicks.

As you can see on the video, he doesn't put up with her shenanigans, but also lets her think about the stupid things she's done and how to NOT do them again. After the video is over, they stayed together in the arena for another 2 hours and there was no further trouble. I threw them some hay and they peacefully ate out of the same pile- with Jovi (the dark bay in the background) keeping watch.

Earlier that day, she proved she may be similar to another mare I used to ride- and loved to bits. Dan, a 15h gray Polish Arab mare, would have hissy fits if I didn't show up to ride/work with her every other day- minimum. Miss a week? You better buckle your helmet down tight because you were going for a RIDE! Although she never bit, kicked, dumped, or stomped me- as she did to many other people- if I didn't show up, she'd threaten to do so with mock bites, pinned ears, a half-hearted strike that missed by inches... Did I mention she was a horse that no one else wanted to deal with?

In any case, Sherwood was giving me some trouble when I got there Thursday - crankiness, pinning her ears, over-reacting to any input, incessant pawing on the crossties, yah de dah- and I marked it off to her getting more comfortable and now starting to show her true mareish colors. I mean, honestly, no mare is a much of a peach as this girl has been, right?? But, as soon as we went out and lunged for our standard 15 minutes and worked on some in-hand stuff in preparation for the show, she was back to being her peachy self. Even to the point of standing quietly for bug spray and grooming in the arena versus the aisle for prep to meet her Senor Bandito. Methinks it's a classic sign of the "Mare Work Bug."

Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm so disappointed- it been beautiful out yesterday and today, and... I'm stuck inside studying for finals this week. Grrr... This is my morning break for breakfast and to vent my frustration.

I checked in with Dennis and Sherwood hasn't had an ounce of soreness from taking the back shoes off- yay!- so it would be reasonable to get over there and lunge her for 15 minutes, have some grooming time, and maybe work on my newest idea... Want to hear it??

In view of her pretty awesome ground skills and manners, I got the idea of showing her in-hand and getting her used to shows from the ground before even asking her to behave under saddle. Unfortunately, after looking about at the shows for this season, most of them are either breed specific- aka inspections- or straight hunter shows where there are no in-hand classes. Boo Hiss. EXCEPT for one. The Young Horse Show in mid-June. Which... is kind of a big deal in the land of rich folks and warmbloods. And fairly soon. Eep.

First problem is my insecurity and blue-collar background rearing its ugly head. I don't belong there. My horse is "just" a giveaway OTTB with fairly poor leg conformation, although admittedly nice movement and brain. I'm just a schooling level rider who's out of her league in taking on an OTTB to begin with, nevermind dreaming that she can show at anything other than backyard shows. It's an ugly place in my head, isn't it?

EXCEPT. If I want to break out of this circle of insecurity in my head, maybe an in-hand class is a good place to do it. I've always felt a little bit more secure on the ground, and yes, my mare does have some pretty good conformation faults, but we're not there to do anything but learn. Winning is a nice goal, but keeping our heads in the game, doing our best, and proving that OTTBs aren't the crazy lunatics everyone on LI seems to think they are- those are our true goals.

I'd also like to point this out- she won just about $90k in 30 races and never had an unsound day (Knock on wood, KNOCK ON WOOD!!!). So... suck it, conformationalists.

Break's over. Back to studying.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Farrier has been out, and now I'm reporting- see, Mom? I'm not an errant child, I do give you updates on the grandbaby. :)

First picture is of her waiting for her food- real crazy TB I brought home, standing there and waiting patiently for her hay cubes to soak while everyone around her gets fed. Watch out, she might rub on you!
 And then... the farrier came! First, we did Fred. She was, quite frankly, amazed with his progress. No cross ties, just his halter and lead rope, and half the time, Dennis wandered away from him, leaving the lead on the ground and no one holding him. He stood like a stone, gave his feet like a gentleman without any antics, kicking, or uneasiness. He stepped over when she needed to switch sides with a quick hope, but didn't jump or throw his head too high, and not even a leap forward. All of which were commonplace events in the past. It was really amazing to hear her version of what he was like even up to the last visit and the difference in him now. I informed her that he liked it better when you verbally asked him to "lift" before tugging on his fetlock or squeezing his tendons, and she joked, "Oh, he needs to give you permission?" but then she did it and was visually surprised and pleased at how much easier he picked up his hoof for her. She joked around, "You should have taped him before and after- you could hang your sign up and have people pay you to be their trainer!" I just laughed- can you see it now? School, pup, pony, and side business! Like I don't have enough stuff on my plate!

Then Bandit, who was just a good ole boy- like he is for everything. Love that old man.

And then... Sherwood. Who also was just great. Stood like a stone on crossties while the farrier did her shoes, stepped over easily and without any antics, and... here are the pictures to prove it!
What a good girl!!

Pulling the nails out...
Removing the shoe itself!
The farrier asked me what I was planning to do with her after commenting on her conformational deficits. I acknowledged them- I mean, we know she's got super long pasterns and she's over at the knee, and... I could probably find other issues as well, but those are the biggies. So when I told her I was hoping to do baby eventing, she gave me this look like I was nuts, and who knows, I might be. But I amended that statement with my plan to basically use her as my project horse, learn the basics of retraining, horse care, and whatnot, do as much with her as she can and wants to do, then retire her to trails and hubby horse status once I'm making more money and can afford a competition partner to go beyond what she is able. Not that I truly care what anyone thinks, but I believe some of her "This girl is a loon," look subsided. Honestly- do you think I would get a free horse from a nasty track to be in denial about her issues? And then plan to take up a hard sport without any reality check on her suitability? Oy.

Baby's back shoes are off!!
Yay!! Free back feet!!
In any case, on the way out, she made a comment on how amazing Fred's behavioral changes were, and that my new mare was super quiet and well behaved. The look on her face when she asked me Sherwod's age and when I got her was awesome. "Oh yeah, she's four, and I got her off the track last Thursday." "Oh, so when was her last race?" "Mmm... I think Equinline said April 13th." "OH! So you mean you just got her off the track!"

On the way out, I paid what I owed after she packed up her stuff, while Dennis and she were chatting about Fred's amazing turnaround. She said something about how incredibly well behaved Sherwood was, before she turned to me with this serious look. I thought I'd given her the wrong amount, but instead she just said, "You have a gift," and grinned, and got in her car.

Very nice to hear, and a far cry from the claims that I "ruined" a horse earlier this year. Honestly, it made my day. I feel like I've come far in the past year or so with my horsemanship, but most days, I go out to work with the two of them and feel like I never have any idea what I'm doing. I watch Youtube videos, read up on retraining exers and ground work, so those help, but watching someone else and doing it are very different, and you never want to screw up your or someone else's animal. I just go out and do the best I can with what I know and how the situation feels, and it's really awesome that a stranger who's never met me before and has no preconceived notions, can see the difference in one animal and appreciate the status of another. Means I must be doing something right. Now, I must get on with studying. Wheeee!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

It's been raining for the past three day, with today being a slight exception and tomorrow looking to be the rule. So.. I went over and worked Fred and Sherwood today, and ended up showing Dennis that maybe, just maybe, us English people know something about something, and that maybe everything we do isn't because our horses are well trained by professionals. We started showing Fred how to lunge a couple weeks ago and worked on it some more today, after I played with him and some of the basic groundwork principles- giving me his head when I apply pressure to the cheeks of his halter without swinging his whole body... I think he's finally starting to understand that he can bend his neck, he's not stuck being straight, and that maybe it won't kill him to trust us just a little bit.

Dennis even lunged him a little bit, and was amazed at how difficult it was to stay in the "v" when your mule is super reactive to every move, sound, and breath you make. Poor thing, he must've been beat on so badly.. And he is really sweet when he relaxes. We got him walking, trotting, and whoa'ing on command today on the lunge, with minimal jumps, fly-aways, and panting. We even got some chewing and licking, so.. We're doing something right. He'll even let you approach and catch him in the paddock now! I'm so proud of him!

As far as my own wee babe, she is starting to feel good! Still not the crazy mare I thought I'd have, but pretty good! We taped her the day after she came in, and yesterday- almost an exact week and... I'm not sure if we did it right, but it looks like she went from just under 900 lbs to 942! She doesn't act like she has ulcers and we figured out- after careful weighing in the kitchen with Roseanne- that we'd been gypping her about half the recommended food per day! I've been reading "Off the track: From racehorse to riding horse," and they recommend giving 8-10lbs of grain and about 15-20 lbs of hay per day to a retired racer so they don't lose weight, and after weighing her portions, we'd only been giving her 4 lbs a day! So... We fixed that. Now she gets 4 lbs of grain and 6 qts worth of hay cubes per feeding, as well as free choice hay all day long.

We've been working on grooming on cross ties, leading and basic giving-to-pressure lead line work, as well as lunging. We started cross-tying in her stall, so when there was no problem, I tried cross-tying her in the aisle today and... She was fine. Someone has done a nice job teaching this mare the basics, and I'm reaping the benefits. Yay for me! She dragged me across the arena yesterday, my boots left little skid marks from where I "skied" across the wet sand! Haha I was trying to get her to stop coming in on the lunge, so I pointed the whip at her shoulder and... Well... I went skiing! Today, I worked on desensitizing her to the whip, and I think she's now getting the idea of "out" as a command. Oh yeah! She also comes on command now, too! I wouldn't trust her to do it across the arena, but she's solid across 15-20 feet. I screwed it up once today when she made it almost to me and then stopped to sniff and I tried to pressure her- which then promptly scared her away, but lucky me, she's forgiving. So we got it twice more and called it a day. I let her loose for another 20 minutes then grabbed her for some grooming and dinner.

Already her coat is clearing up, some of the scabs coming off and looking much better. I keep applying vet cream every day and it seems to be working. I can also show sheen her tail without her flinching and jumping everywhere, so it looks like when it grows out too longer length, she's going to be one of those few TBs with a very nice tail- her mane is much thicker than most TBs I've worked with. Yay! Tomorrow we have the farrier out to check out her feet and recommend a course of action,  I'll make sure to take video and pictures for the record.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sherwood got rave reviews yesterday from Kristin, who posted on Facebook immediately after, "Quietest off the track mare I have ever met! Sooo sweet!"

Kristin thinks she's good to go to work since she's happily adjusting to her new home, so we started on 10 minutes of lunging today- W/T and whoa commands. Our homework is 10 minutes of lunging to solidify those commands, as well as working on leading skills and cross-tying. I need to get legit cross-ties bc the ones in the aisle are scary. Who uses chains as cross ties? Don't get me started!

She was so cute when I crept into her paddock today- playing beached whale in the sand and pretending she didn't see me walk in and sit down with some homework.
She lay there for another 15 minutes before getting up- seriously, what happened to spooky, crazy racehorses? I don't know. But I'll take it! It was kind of fun watching her puff sand everywhere and obviously just love her life of leisure. Then she proceeded to come over and snuffle all around me eating her hay while we wait for Kristin to show up.
Here, you can see Kristin after she evaluated Sherwood and came to the decision that... this horse is settled in, calm and content, her ankles and legs look awesome- cool, tight and without swelling- and... let's keep her going while she's got a work ethic! So... we tested out her lunging skills. And.. this is about 2 minutes after starting. Kristin was impressed and I was ecstatic.

Update: We put her on one chain crosstie and I had Dennis hold the lunge from her other side while I curried, picked feet, and sprayed some bug spray around her. She was fine with everything. No hysterics, no sidling, a little bit of front and back during bug spraying, but... I'm thinking she's either a dream come true or just waiting for her moment.

We also did our 10 minutes of lunging today, and she's voice command solid W/T to the left, solid W on the right, and a bit more sticky with T, but honestly. It's our second day. What do you expect? Perfection?? She is really starting to understand about disengaging her hindquarters in both directions, and flexing her neck, and backing up is getting pretty solid. She still mows you down if she's not paying attention, but it's already improving!

We also found out that I had a sheet for her- so when it rains tomorrow, if it gets cool, she's all set! Thanks Danielle!! We also threw down some ground poles in the arena so she could check them out while she's in it and... she leapt over the two I put down, but then gave us a GORGEOUS trot over three!

Yay! I have an awesome mare!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A bit overdue, but... I was home all weekend and not wasting time on my computer that I could spend with friends and family!

Friday, Dennis and I decided to let her out of her little paddock, since she was doing so well, and explore the big arena. We roped all the boys into the other side paddock and let her go with her new cob-size royal blue halter and... were greatly disappointed at the antics that went on. None. She sedately walked about, sniffing everything, looking over the fences, checking out the trees in the rear portion, the manure pile, the water buckets, and the other stuff that can be found. She hasn't kicked the fences in a while and she's still sound, so... yay!


After about an hour or so of watching her and marvelling at her sanity- "I really was not expecting you to bring home such a nice horse, Abs." "Me neither, Dennis." - we decided to try to get her to perform some antics, like.... trotting. I learned a very valuable lesson- she definitely did NOT want to be a racehorse anymore.

Then we snapped a leadline on her and while Dennis held her head by the fence, I took the soft curry, some showsheen, and some vet cream, and groomed her. She didn't seem to mind the curry, although she didn't lean into it at any time, but I did her hind end and she stood like a rock even while I did her lower legs- she has some skin issues going on so I think maybe we'll try a medicated wash on one of the warmer days coming up. Then I ointmented all the scrapes she'd accumulated in the last several days and again, she stood like a rock while I fiddled with her legs, girth area, belly, all those sensitive spots horses generally will act up about. As we were getting onto about 20 minutes of standing, I decided to try one last thing- Showsheen. She was very calm about it, allowing me to spray her forelegs and shoulder, but getting past the girthline she showed some uneasiness, so we called it a day. I gave her some good patting and let her roam for another 20 minutes before we put her back in her paddock.

All in all, a good session. I hope for a lot more like it in the future. Oh, and... my hip is fine, too. A giant horseshoe shaped bruise, but I think she pulled her punch bc it really wasn't as bad as it looked.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Miss Sherwood came home today!! I've uploaded the video I asked Dennis to record of her getting off the trailer and being settled into her new place. Looking it over again, I'm amazed at how well-behaved she is- and she only continued to leave me stunned from there.


We had 4 people arrive at the barn about fifteen minutes after she got there, and proceed to gather round and admire her beauty, charm, wit, and... temper. While we were standing around, I stupidly got too close and when she decided to kick out at the fence because one of the boys annoyed her, my hip was in the way. Holy crap, OW! What a way to start a relationship, right?? Eh, I evidently needed the reminder that yes, although she's mine and I'm wicked excited, she is a strange horse in a new situation and... Well, I had a blonde moment and paid for it. It could have been way worse.

Anyway, about 5 minutes later, we watched (from outside the fence) as she proceeded to double barrel the fence so hard, she stunned herself into limping. I couldn't help but think, "What the HELL have I brought home?" while watching to make sure she hadn't seriously hurt herself- she's fine, thankfully, and learned a valuable lesson for about... 3 hours. At which point, she did it again and got her right hind between the rails and I thought for sure I would be saying hi and bye to my racehorse in the same day- when she broke her leg trying to get it out of the fence. Yelling calmly (or trying to, anyway) for Dennis to get out there, I watched in awe as she jerked on her leg- hanging from the fence at hock height- twice, then carefully extracted it back through without any hysterics at all and... went back to eating her hay. Sane? Or well practiced? Guess we'll find out..

Fred the Mule tried to steal her hay by sticking his nose through the fence and pulling her bucket closer to the fence. Well, he got about two bites from it before she marched over from the opposite fence, yanked her bucket away from the fence, and pushed it into the middle of her paddock. Feisty mare. 

I also found out she's going to be that horse- you know which one I'm talking about- at the show whose head is too small for its body. I bought her a full size halter and... it doesn't fit! 16.1 hands and she needs a cob size halter! We'll call it "dainty" for now, later we can discuss body proportions. :)

On the good side, we had a moment where I brought her some alfalfa cubes and my new brush- a super soft curry to get out the remains of her winter coat- and we stood there eating and brushing. I think she's going to be very sweet when she settles in- but I think she's going to be handful no matter which way you cut it.


In any case, I'm home now sitting with Loki bug with an ice pack on my hip and aloe on my sunburnt arms, thinking that... All in all, this was a good day. Tomorrow? We'll have to see when it gets here. I think working in them AM then driving to RI is going to be a bitch with this bruise. Serves me right, a lesson I won't forget for a while!