Thursday, December 31, 2009

ok, I'm ready for summer now.

I brought work home with me last night to do so that I could ride this morning. Lucy was pretty strong but I am not surprised. The last time she was ridden was Saturday, by G (I paid her for a training ride so that Lucy didn't sit the whole time I was in NY). Then on Monday we did our little lunging thing with the crossrail, and yesterday we went on a low-key walk around the neighbourhood. All together, not really a big workout schedule for a former racehorse.

I got some nice trot work out of her, and we practiced coming into the contact and then going on the buckle, then coming back into the contact. She did a nice job with this. We cantered, but it was kind of a disaster. She more or less careened around the ring at mach 3. The paddocks are so hard and icy that I doubt she really moves around at all when she's turned out. I would have liked to let her run around the indoor before getting on, but the barn was buzzing this morning. By the time I finished riding, there were four horses being ridden! It was great having people around at the barn to ride with!

It started snowing while I was riding, and by the time I left the barn, the roads were a collective disaster. On my way home from the barn I witnessed multiple accidents, my car slid right through an intersection even with the anti-lock brakes working overtime (and I was going no more than 15 mph), and I didn't see a single plow. LOVELY!

Here is my friend Devon giving some love to another one of the OTTB mares at the barn, Lexi. Lexi and Lucy came off the track around the same time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lucy-related art!

I work full-time as a graphic designer and do pet portraits on the side. I got a new drawing table for Christmas and decided to break it in tonight and do a little drawing of Lucy.

You can read more about my art at my Polar Square Designs blog.

You know it's officially winter when 35 degrees feels warm!

It was 35 degrees today (practically tropical!) and I left work a bit early to get to the barn when it was still light out. I took L for a walk in-hand, just down the street and around the development that is right next to the barn. She was very curious about everything but remained level-headed the whole time. A huge dump truck passed us and she looked at it but didn't seem freaked out. I hope she is as brave when I'm riding her, and not leading her!

I used my yellow polo wraps (which looked fab on her) and I wore my bright orange reflective vest so that cars could see us really well. I like that the barn is in a residential area-all of the cars that passed us today slowed down almost to a crawl while going past. A runner joked "usually you see people walking their dog around here, not a horse!" as he ran by us :)

The ground is really hard right now, as you can see in the photos of the outdoor. Lucy sure uses her brain in situations like that. Usually when I turn her out in the outdoor, she waits patiently until I unclip the leadrope, then happily takes a quick lap around the ring. Today, however, she gingerly tip-toed around the edge, avoiding most of the ice.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

pile of poles

After not seeing her since Wednesday, I went to the barn after work yesterday all excited to see Lucy and ride. Unfortunately no one else was around, so I had to keep it to ground work and a bit of lunging.

After Lucy had warmed up properly in the indoor, I set up some poles to lunge her over. She did great. It took a few times through for her to figure out that she didn't have to do anything special with her feet except trot through them. She tried to adjust her stride at first, and ended up stepping on the poles. Once she relaxed and went through normally, she was fine, because I had already spaced the poles out to match her stride.

She went through at the trot and canter and seemed quite chill about the whole idea, so I decided to set up the teenciest of crossrails for her. Of course that meant I had to set up a jump chute, so I spent 20 minutes lugging standards and poles across the arena, much to Lucy's entertainment. She kind of just stood there and watched me, probably wondering what on earth I was doing!

The crossrail that I set up was literally less than 6" off the ground, but Lucy was quite unsure about it. I led her over both directions. She'd walk up to it beside me and stop just before stepping over it. She'd look at the poles, then look up at me, then look at the poles again, like, "so do I really need to step over this thing?" but then she'd proceed over the poles and immediately come back to me for lots of pats and happy sing-song-voice praise.

I asked her to trot over the x-rail twice, and then she cantered over it once in each direction, and then we were done! I was expecting a giant leap over the "jump" at the canter, but she didn't seem concerned at all, and it was really nothing more than a normal canter stride. What a good horse.

Tonight Kenny is coming with me to the barn, and I think there will be a bunch of other people there because Tuesday is usually quite busy there for some reason. I am hoping to have a couple of really nice canters and maybe get some on video if Kenny is feeling cooperative ;)

Edit-we'll go to the barn another time. It is just way too cold tonight!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Merry Christmas, everyone.

I celebrated Christmas with my own family last weekend, and today I am on Long Island, New York with my fiance to celebrate Christmas with his family. Lucy will be enjoying a lovely Christmas mash for dinner tonight thanks to the wonderful people I do the co-op program with at my barn. All the horses are privately owned, but we feel as though they're all our "babies" and spoil them accordingly. Thank you to all the other boarders at my barn who have welcomed Kenny, Lucy, and I so warmly!

Santa was very generous this year, and I can't wait to get back to RI to put the new nameplate I got onto Lucy's halter. I also got a gorgeous drawing table that I have been wanting for a while :D, along with some warm clothes and a great book about equine massage.

Never would I have thought this time last year that I'd have my own horse after years of dreaming about it. Here are a few things I am thankful for:

I am so thankful to have an amazing mare. After having Lucy in my life for less than two months, I couldn't ask for a better horse. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you already know I am head over heels for Lucy, but I truly cannot believe how lucky I am to have found her.

I am also thankful to have a family who supports my horse addiction, even if they think I'm nuts! I was so touched that my parents took a whole day to come meet their grandpony.

Kenny, my fiance, has been so amazing and supportive. I feel so complete with him and Lucy, like we're a little family (we'll eventually add human kids to the mix, but not for a while!!). He helps me with the barn when it's my day to do stalls, and I know he adores our pony just as much as I do! To top it all off, he is a pretty good rider!!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday, surrounded by those they love. Give your ponies a kiss for me!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

fences: just a suggestion

Lucy had an absent-brain moment yesterday. I turned her out in the outdoor to let her play in the snow, thinking she'd want to run around because for some reason all the horses were left in yesterday. She galloped around once, then came back to the fence line, and attempted to JUMP over the fence, but without really picking up her front end. She scraped up her front legs above the knee and had some small abrasions, but I just left them alone because everything seemed superficial. She actually scared me big time because after it happened, she stood with her RH leg up in the air, not wanting to put any weight on it, but after I had a thorough inspection, I decided she was just being a loon, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with her hind legs. There wasn't any major damage and she trotted out sound...thank God! I hope that doesn't happen again.

I also hope she doesn't plan on going around a jumper/xc course without picking up her front end in the future!

I had a FABULOUS ride after I made sure she wasn't broken from her battle with the fence. I spent about twenty minutes just at the walk, getting her moving off my leg and asking her to bend just enough that I could see the corner of her inside eye. Then we picked up the trot, and executed some lovely sweeping figure 8's and serpentines. I let her trot on a loose rein first, and she seemed to appreciate the opportunity to move out a bit. She was still very much in control of herself, and there were no theatrics, and I was impressed that she listened to me even on the buckle. After she was moving really nicely through her back and hips, I let her walk for a few minutes and then picked up the contact a bit. We worked through some leg yields and lots of changes of direction, and she got tonnes of positive reinforcement. Every time I felt her relax through her back, I'd say in a sing-song voice, "Good GIRL!!!!!!" and give her a huge pat with my inside hand, and make a big fuss over how wonderful she was being. She is just the cutest thing...whenever she gets praise, she chews on her bit and pricks her ears and just acts so happy. I love this horse!

Once she was going really well at the trot, I asked for the canter. The trick is not to ask for a canter until the trot is exactly what I want it to be, and that way I will get a nice forward but relaxed canter. The first time she picked it up we were going to the left, and she kind of exploded into the canter because she wasn't quite ready for it yet. I asked her to transition back down to the trot and I got her back together, and then we picked up the canter from a much better spot and it was beautiful. We cantered BOTH directions and it was just so amazing. She was fluid, not rushing, collected, happy, and IN CONTROL! WOOHOO!!!!! :D I was totally excited.

Here are some photos of her playing before she decided the fence was in her way. I'm sorry they're a bit dark-the sun was just about to set.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hello, are you there?

Lucy has progressed so much since I decided to start riding her like she's a horse, not a china tea cup that might crack if I squeeze it. She is learning about contact through my seat, legs, and hands, and she is taking everything in stride.

Here's a video from a few nights ago.

She is starting to be able to maintain a slight bend, and she is learning to give to pressure, whether it be through the bit or off my leg.

The past two weeks have been very hectic with Christmas fast approaching, and deadlines looming for me at work. Last night I was exhausted but I decided I needed to at least have a horsey cuddle, so I went to the barn. No one else was around so I did not ride, but I brushed her while she munched her hay, put her blanket back on, and then sat next to her hay pile in her stall and just enjoyed being next to her. I think she was kind of confused about what I was doing, but at one point maybe she thought I wanted to share her dinner(??) and she took a huge mouthful of hay, moved her head so that it was over my head, and dropped all of the hay right on top of me like "here, mom, have some yummy hay!" I was like, well thank you darling.

Then I went shopping and got all sorts of weird looks, and of course when I got home I discovered that I had a giant piece of hay sticking right up out of my hair like Alfalfa in the Little Rascals, when I thought I had gotten all of it off me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


As a refresher, this is what Lucy looked like when she walked off the shipper's trailer on November 8th with a BCS of 2.5 according to the vet who did the PPE for me:

All of her ribs were visible, her hind quarters were sunken in with her tailhead quite prominent, the fleshy part above her eyes were sunken in, she had no extra fat on her whatsoever, and the bone structure of her shoulders was clearly visible.

After five weeks and two days, this is what she looks like:

I would say she's at a 3.5 or 4. She is starting to build up muscle and fat along her withers and barrel, her top line is rising, her hind quarters are filling out and gaining some muscle definition, and her shoulders are starting to bulk up enough that you can no longer clearly see the bone structure.

She still has a lot of weight to gain, but she is looking MUCH better. I am really happy with her response to the feed plan we developed for her. She is on a fairly high fat but low protein diet, with lots of hay. She eats a complete feed and hay stretcher, and also gets corn oil, which is very high in fat.

Lucy got her feet trimmed and shoes re-set today and everything looks fantastic with them. She actually had some decent growth over the past five weeks. She is on a hoof health supplement and I'm sure that has helped a lot.

Monday, December 14, 2009

baby steps

Having a young, green horse really makes me appreciate the small stuff. Tonight's ride was 75% walk, 20% trot, and 5% halting and I loved every second of it.

Lucy started out with a bit of resistance to my attempts at establishing some form of contact. In order to evade the contact, she tried trotting. She tried wiggling. She tried halting. Eventually she realized it would be easier just to at least try this contact thing out, you know, give it a spin, and that's exactly what she did.

We had a kick ass little bend going, and she had a few really nice moments of really giving through her back. I could feel her top line rising under me when she really accepted the contact and relaxed through her jaw. After fifteen minutes, she was almost looking for it. I would ask her for the contact and go through a few serpentines/changes of direction/etc and then as a reward, she got to walk on a long rein for a few minutes. It got progressively easier to pick her back up and get her "together" (well, as together as you want a horse to be at this point). I asked her to move sideways off my leg, and once she got the idea, we put it together with going across the diagonal, and wah-lah! We had a leg yield. We had attempted that during our lesson with Gina the other night, but our first few tries were pretty unorganized and messy (which was fine!). I was really impressed that she figured it out so quickly, and of course she got lots of praise and stretchy walk on a long rein for a job well done.

I had to continuously run through my position checklist in my head. I started at my eyes and went all the way down to my toes. Was I looking where I wanted to go? Were my shoulders open? Was I sitting tall? Was I posting properly? Was I staying relaxed through my hips and not pinching with my knees? Were my legs underneath me?

This seems like pretty standard stuff, especially for someone who has been riding for a long time like me, but my position has gone off the deep end lately. It turns out that when all my ducks are in a row (i.e. heels, hips, and shoulders), Lucy goes very nicely. If she got fighty and quick, I ran through my checklist and the problem was usually that I was hunched over, or balancing off my knees, or something equally horrendous.

After she was going nicely at the walk, we did some nice stretchy trot work and gradually I asked her to come into the contact at the trot. She did really well!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Indoor = giant playpen

I was not motivated to ride at all last night, so instead I let Lucy play in the indoor. She had a blast! I figured she needed to move a bit since it has been so cold and icy, and the paddocks don't lend themselves to lots of playing.

I think she enjoyed herself, how about you? :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

happy medium=happy horse=happy rider!

I went to the barn tonight hoping that someone else would be around so that I could ride. I was in luck! I tacked Lucy up and we warmed up. G, the trainer at the barn, was finishing up another lesson, and I mentioned that I really wanted to set up a lesson with her. It turned out that she had time right that instant to teach a lesson!

I looooooooooooooove her teaching style. She is concise, eloquent, doesn't hound you with a million instructions to think about all at once, and builds on skills as the lesson progresses. She has a background in eventing and her style is kind of a cross between dressage and hunt seat. She talked a lot about me getting my pelvis under me instead of sticking my butt out (aka the cursed hunter perch, which I didn't even think I did that badly but after riding tonight I realize it was actually pretty bad!). She let me ride Lucy in a training martingale that she has, which really helped encourage her to travel straight through her shoulders. We started simple, with just walking and asking Lucy to lift her rib cage/spine into my seat, instead of traveling around hollowed out. I had to remember how to use my leg to support, not just as a "speed up" tool. I have also gotten into the terrible habit of hunching through my shoulders and bracing against Lucy. If she got quick, my response has turned into me leaning back, sticking my legs out in front of me, and bracing my entire body, all BIG no-no's! The saddest part about the whole thing is that until G was telling me how I should be sitting, I didn't even realize that I was doing any of that! Sitting properly felt like heaven. My whole upper body and thoracic spine was practically sighing with relief because it could move and not be so tight and rigid all the time!

We progressed into the trot, and did lots of spirals, both downwards and upwards. I had to concentrate on using my inside hand and outside leg as "walls" on the downward spirals, and my outside hand and inside leg as the walls on the upwards spirals. We did spirals in both directions at both ends of the arena, with periods of relaxed walking on a loose rein between them. I noticed a huge difference after finishing the spirals in the way she traveled down the straight sides of the arena. She felt so loose and swingy and wasn't trying to bulge at all. It was SO NICE!!!

We did some exercises like beginnings of leg yield and shoulder fore to get Lucy used to leg not being the enemy. We worked on an instant reward system: as soon as Lucy did what we were asking, she got one whole lap of long rein and lots of attention and pats. She did her little wiggly maneuvers here and there (and at one point tried to run right out the door to the arena and almost ran over someone who was watching the lesson!) but I was glad she was pulling her usual tricks, because then G was able to walk me through the best way to fix them.

At the end after a lot of really nice work at the walk and trot, we had two very short canters. They both started out strong, but as soon as I stopped looking like I was auditioning for the part of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, got my leg underneath me, and relaxed through my hips, magically the horse was happily cantering around on a soft (but round and in control) contact.

It was amazing to ride Lucy as we were going through these exercises because I was finally speaking her language with G's guidance. My horse absolutely gave 150% effort tonight and just tried her hardest to please, and I couldn't have been happier!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

to leg or not to leg

I have been thinking about trying Lucy in a different bit, and many people whom I spoke with suggested a Waterford. I went to Dover after work yesterday and picked one up. I had great plans to go to the barn, let L zoom around the indoor for a bit, then ride. I got there and there no one else was around, and I have a rule not to ride alone, especially on a horse as green as Lucy. It worked out well, though, because I let her run around the indoor a bit and play, and then I spent half an hour telling her about my day and hugging her and stroking her neck. I had a frustrating day at work, and she stood calmly and snuffed my hair and let me get everything off my chest. I noticed that she kept looking around the ring, almost like the herd leader checks the horizon every few minutes, to protect the members from any danger and alert them to predators. It was comforting to think (even if this is not the case) that I am one of her "herd".

Tonight I am going to ride and I have a few plans brewing. Lately Lucy has been getting fast and strong, now that she's feeling like a new woman. The circle circle circle method worked to slow her down before but it's not as effective lately.

As far as I can tell there are two different theories on retraining OTTB's. Well I'm sure there are lots more than two, but these are the two trains of thought I most often hear and read about:

1. When retraining the OTTB, stay off their face and let them learn balance and straightness through the shoulder/hip by riding them on circles, zig-zags, and various other shapes that are curvy. If they get fast, CIRCLE. If they start leaning, CIRCLE. If they bulge, CIRCLE (and pick up that inside rein!).


2. When retraining the OTTB, start off by teaching contact. So far, the horse has learned to lean against the contact, as if it's a wall that needs to be pushed until it gives way. He now needs to learn that contact is supposed to be a method of communication and support, not a challenge. Teach him to give to the pressure, and from there teach him how to bend.

Since Lucy had several body mechanics issues that needed to be worked on by the chiropractor and massage therapist, I adopted thought process #1, not wanting to start demanding things out of her that were physically painful for her to attempt. For instance, with a lateral displacement of her spine that measured almost 20 degrees, it would have been really difficult for her to give to pressure going to the left. She could barely even go in a circle to the left, and that was moving like a piece of cardboard. Both therapists who came out warned me against putting her in side reins, because she is still so sore through her SI joint that cranking her head down would cause more damage through her back and hips. They said they'd rather see her travel straight and level than adopt a false roundness.

Now that she is feeling much better, she is moving totally different than how she did before her various therapies. She is also getting stronger and with that, comes speed. I have tried doing the circle circle circle and circle some more! thing, but I am not sure that is the right choice for us right now.

Instead, I need to mush the two theories together. As someone said to me, "She needs to learn to accept your leg!". So far I've been riding her with zero leg, which makes fixing the leaning around the circle thing difficult. When a normal horse leans around the circle, you're supposed to support with your outside rein and inside leg. The instant I put any kind of leg on Lucy, she is ready to go run the Preakness, and then we have to do ten more circles to get her attention again. Then we come back to the "give to pressure" thing, because if she knew how to give to pressure from the bit, she might better understand what I am asking her to do when I support with my outside rein and inside leg.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Aqua Horse

Here is a cute video of Lucy enjoying running through the puddle in the ring last night:

Lucy and the Puddle

I had planned to ride her on Wednesday, but the horses were all de-wormed so I played it safe and waited until Thursday. She was very happy to be out and about. We had a nasty rain storm here Wednesday night into Thursday so she had some extra energy, but she was still on her best behaviour.

She got quick at one point during the ride but a few circles and a bit of a reminder ("hey, I'm still up here, and this isn't a race!") got her attention again. My favourite part of the video is at the very end, when we are ending with a nice stretchy trot on a loose rein.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trigger points are not your friend.

Lucy had her massage appt last night. Up until last night, she has been very tolerant of all of the poking and prodding that I have put her through. Last night we saw another side of her, though, and it wasn't very pretty!

The Massage Therapist's name is Meri and she is very nice. As soon as she arrived, she did a quick overview of Lucy and asked me what kinds of issues I had been having with her, and I filled her in on the story so far with her left side and hind end, and told her about the stuff Dr. Katz had done during the chiropractic evaluation and treatment. Within five minutes, Meri had pretty much scoped out L's entire body, and knew exactly where all the trigger points were.

She started on Lucy's left side. At first, Lucy danced around a lot. She was very very sore. Her neck and shoulders weren't too bad, which I was surprised about and so was Meri, given the history with her feet being torn up as badly as they were. She had trigger points all along the top of her rib cage, which Meri said was from the racing saddles they use at the track. She said the tree on a racing saddle is half the length of a regular saddle tree, and it ends about one foot back from the shoulder, and that is exactly where my poor pony was the most sore.

Once she got to the hind end, she found that Lucy's hamstrings were very sore and tight, and she has some scar tissue running along them. I got to feel what she was talking about, and instead of the muscle feeling like regular smooth muscle, it felt like she had guitar strings running up her back legs into her dock area. Meri assured me that with proper care and rehab, the scar tissue would disappear in time.

By the time Meri got to the right side of Lucy's body, the horse was beginning to relax (and dare I say enjoy the massage). Again, her neck and shoulders were pretty good, but once Meri got to her back, Lucy was clearly in a lot of discomfort. Just like humans, horses develop knots in their muscles, and Meri works mostly with direct pressure into the knot, to help release some of the tension. This can be very painful while it's happening, but it will help Lucy feel much better in the long run. Of course I couldn't convey that to her so she thought we were torturing her. She did show some signs of relaxation at times by yawning, taking some deep breaths, and relaxing through her back and neck, but that would only last for a few seconds before she was back to dancing around.

When Meri got to her hind end on the right side, Lucy started to get really annoyed. At this point, Meri had been working on her for almost two hours and I think Lucy had had about enough. She was very sore and very tight through her right hip and SI, and when Meri got to the really really sore spots, Lucy kicked out at her and tried to reach around and bite her with her ears pinned against her head. I was shocked! I hadn't seen this horse make a nasty face at anything up until this point! Meri said a lot of the hind end issues come from the starting gate at the track. When a horse launches all 1,100 lbs of itself into a flat out gallop from a standstill, that obviously takes a huge effort from the hind end, and the wear and tear placed on Lucy was very obvious last night. Thank goodness she came off the track before she sustained any permanent injury. All of the issues Meri found last night are fixable with proper conditioning and stretching.

Speaking of stretches, Meri showed me a few that I can do with Lucy to help her loosen up through her hind end, topline, and shoulders. One is the "carrot stretch", where I coax the horse to turn her neck and head around towards her back end to reach for a carrot. Lucy tried to "cheat" by turning her hind end and basically doing a spin, but we got her to do the real stretch by putting her closer to the aisle wall, so that she couldn't get her back end around all the way. We did that stretch on both sides, and then moved on to stretching her front legs. To do this, I am supposed to pick up one of her front legs and gently pull away from Lucy's body. The idea is that she will kind of pull back, and then give into the pressure, allowing her shoulder and back to get a nice release. Again this was done on both sides of her body, and then she got lots of treats.

So I hope with all this therapy that Lucy will be on the mend soon. I am supposed to give her today off, and then I can start riding her tomorrow and just do some low-key "long and low" work with lots of circles and serpentines. By the end of the week we should be back to the regular wtc workout that we have been doing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Today we warmed up in the indoor because someone had turned their horses out in the outdoor. I got some super nice relaxed but attentive trot work out of her, and we did the usual figure 8's and zig-zags. Until today, all I have been asking of Lucy is to travel straight, and have been using very minimal contact, directing her mostly through my seat and upper body. I decided today that it was time to introduce a bit of contact and see how she did with it. At first she was like, "Hey, what are you doing with my face?" but she quickly figured out that if she softened through her neck and back, she got a release. As soon as she softened, I would praise her and let her walk on a long rein. Pretty soon she was eager to give to pressure, and clearly happy when she got her long rein. I worked on this for about ten minutes and then noticed that the outdoor was free.

I decided to do a little experiment, and without dismounting, I asked Lucy to walk out the indoor's side doorway, around the barn and across the driveway to where the outdoor is. She was like, no problem boss! She was SO good about it! We walked around the outdoor so she could check it out, because it had been about a week since I rode her in it, and then I did some quick reviews of contact with her. Since we had already warmed up in the indoor, we moved right onto cantering, and had some fabulous canters each direction. Going to the right was like heaven; she was so soft and happy and not rushy at all, but then I lost my stirrup and she got a bit quick (probably because I was trying to get my stirrup back and was accidentally nudging her with my toe...she doesn't need a lot of leg at all!).

There was a single pole along one of the long sides of the ring, and after I got my stirrup back, she cantered over it in both directions. Last time we worked over poles, she just walked and trotted over them, but there were three in a row. This time there was just one pole but I was asking her to canter. A long time ago, I watched a friend teach her greenie to canter over poles and the horse jumped about eight feet through the air, thinking it was a jump. I had that in the back of my mind on our first approach, but luckily she was cool as a cucumber about the whole thing. The first time she cantered over it like it wasn't even there (which I loved) and then the second time, she kind of hopped over it and switched her lead mid-stride. After that I made sure to be clear that I wanted her to stay on the same lead and she got it every time. She is SO SMART!

Each time I ride, I hop off at the end of the ride and think to myself, "wow, that was the best ride!" When every ride is the "best one", I cannot help but be ecstatic. I love this horse.

Tonight the lucky lady is getting a massage. I bet she'll love it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The race horse comes out to play

I headed out to the barn today with my brother and his girlfriend because they were visiting and they wanted to meet Lucy. Brenna thought she might even want to ride, which I thought was awesome.

Lucy had been cooped up because of the nasty storm that had come through during the latter half of the week, and she hadn't gotten much turnout. When I got her out of her paddock, she was polite but I could tell she had some excess energy. I decided I'd let her get her kicks out in the outdoor before riding because though she has yet to do anything bad under saddle, I didn't want to push my luck!

She got a nice thorough grooming and then I let her into the outdoor. Let's just say that I could totally picture her on the race track! She zoomed around for a good twenty minutes and was very much enjoying herself. Tail flagged and heels flying, she looked exuberant. The best part was that she made a point to run through the small puddles in the outdoor on her trips around the fence line, whereas most horses I know would avoid the water at all costs. Might I have that fearless water-loving event horse I've always dreamed of?

What made me so proud of her, though, was that after she was done being nutty, she came right over and let me clip on the leadrope, followed me quietly into the barn and stood like a statue on the crossties, and then w/t/c under saddle with no issues. Nice!!!!

Brenna opted not to get on because she was freezing her butt off, poor girl. I doubt seeing the horse running around like a maniac in the beginning of the visit made her feel very comfortable, too ;) Maybe another time!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lucy and the Trot Poles

Last night was our second ride since Lucy's adjustment. The first ride was supposed to be just walking and trotting, but we were allowed to do a bit more on the second ride. We did the usual warm-up and then since there were already trot poles set up in the ring, I asked her to walk over them. The first few times she went over them, she picked her feet up really high. It was the cutest thing. As she got more comfortable with them, though, she settled right down and walked and trotted over them with no issues. She is so smart!

We moved onto a bit of canter work and she did not feel as though she was rushing as much as she had before she was adjusted. She still felt fast, but after looking at the video I am realizing that she has such a long stride that everything feels so much bigger than it looks. She felt much looser through her back and hips last night, and she even stretched down into the (minimal) contact a few times, which she was promptly praised for. I try to make our rides short but sweet and to the point, and we always end on a good note. I try to start with something she already feels comfortable with, then introduce something new, then go back to practicing whatever we had worked on in the last session. That way I feel like we always end with both of us feeling confident.

Kenny rode after I did. He does such a nice job with Lucy. He is a naturally gifted rider and he communicates so well through his position and voice.

Here is a rather long video of our ride last night.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We now have an engine!

I was excited to get home from work and ride last night to see how much of a difference the session with Dr. Katz had made. I got her out of her stall and tacked up, with a quarter sheet to keep her hips warm. She was raring to go! Not nutty, but just excited to be doing something, since she has had a really easy week. I let her stretch at the walk and we did some circles and figure 8's. I could feel the difference in the way she was going right away. She was really swinging freely through her hips, and turning to the left was smooth like butta. I didn't ask anything out of her collection-wise; the goal was to let her stretch. Dr. Katz had said to take it easy for first few rides so that we didn't undo a lot of the good work he had accomplished.

I rode for just over fifteen minutes, and we did a lot of trotting in circles. She got quick a few times, but the doors on the short sides of the indoor were open and I suspect she was getting a little spooked. I think her "spook" is hilarious: she simply gets a little faster for maybe four strides, then slows down and forgets about what happened. I can handle that!

After she was cooled out, I applied some Sore No More liniment gel to her SI joint area.

She also got some bell boots because I have noticed a lot of little cuts just above her front heels. I'm not sure what she's banging herself on; the cuts don't look like damage from her back feet, but hopefully the boots will prevent them from now on.

Monday, November 23, 2009

That's the spot!

This morning, Lucy saw the Dr. Katz, the wonderful chiropractor whom everyone in this area loves because he works magic on our horses!

He watched her walk and trot and settled on the fact that her right hip was all locked up and was lower than her left. Also, her spine was curved laterally to the right, which would explain her resistance to turning left. Her poll was out, her neck was out, her shoulders are very sore but he said that was most likely from her feet being in such terrible shape. She was sore through her SI joint and a lot of her odd behaviours made more sense as the her was going through and showing me all the trigger points she has. For instance, when I pick up her back feet to clean her hooves, she picks her head way up and kind of kicks out with the foot I'm picking up. I never thought she was trying to kick me-it's totally not like her to do something like that, but it seemed like she was either confused about what I wanted, or that she was uncomfortable. Since I know she was a track horse and I'm sure she had her feet cleaned daily, I was pretty sure she knew what I wanted, so that left pain as the only explanation. After the chiro had finished adjusting her he picked up both her back feet and she was so good about it and didn't kick out at all. The other odd thing that she has done is if she's laying down in her stall and goes to get up, she almost has to roll halfway over and then roll back up and use that momentum to get on her feet. Most horses can get up by going into a pseudo-sitting position and then get up with their back legs but with her pelvis so messed up, she could not "sit" like that.

She was so good about everything. Seriously, what a good horse. Dr. Katz said she was an "absolute pleasure" to work on. She stood quietly the whole time and licked and chewed when he was doing her head and neck.

So I hope she isn't too sore. I am going to go back to the barn after work and we'll go on a little walk, per the chiro's suggestion, but no riding tonight. She will get Sore No More applied to the SI area. Tomorrow I can get on her and do some nice stretchy w/t work. He'll be back in two weeks to do another evaluation and we'll see how she's doing from there.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Working on suppleness

Lucy has been consistently really hard to ride to the left. She doesn't really turn, she kind of moves sideways. At first I thought she was being resistant but after last night's ride it was clear that something is way off with her (I'd suspect a few ribs are out on the left side and maybe some SI issues are present, too) and turning to the left is physically uncomfortable for her, poor girl. This explains her tendency to rush going to the left, and that whole nose-to-the-outside thing that she does. The chiro is coming out on Monday so until then we will take it easy. During our ride last night, we did a ton of circles at the trot (I don't think I stayed on the rail for more than half the length of the indoor). Everything was circles, serpentines, "snowmans" as a girl at the barn called them (start with a big circle, go across the diagonal into a medium sized circle, go across the diagonal again into a small circle, and then weave backwards through the pattern until you have traced a snowman shape), and spirals. She seemed to do really well.

My new (used) saddle is arriving today and I am pretty excited!

Also, check out what arrived in the mail today! It's the win photo from Lucy's one and only victory in December of 2008 at Philadelphia Park:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A visit from the grandparents

Today was a successful ride because my parents came to see Lucy and I did not die. That right off the bat is success in my book! But in addition, we got some great progress in the canter, i.e. steering while cantering. She is way too nimble and intelligent, though. She has figured out that while going around in a circle, if she wants to switch direction, she just changes her lead (I have NOT taught her to do that!) and then drags me to the outside. This caused us to have a few "discussions" but by the end of the ride I was just giving her ridiculous outside support around the circle with my outside leg and I was not letting my outside shoulder collapse, and she seemed to understand that these cues meant "stay on the damn circle, horse!".

I rode her for about half an hour and as always, ended on a good note. She was really hot, anyway. It was almost 70 degrees here today and very muggy, and of course she's halfway done growing a winter coat. My friend Samera had come to watch me ride also (as had Jenny...I love that my friends are interested in meeting my horse!!) and she asked if she could have a pony ride. I figured as long as I was leading Lucy it would be ok. She was pretty tired so I couldn't imagine her doing anything stupid, so Samera got a leg up and we just walked around in a little circle, then she hopped off. I untacked Lucy, brushed her out, and we all went on a walk to cool out down the road. My parents brought Cassie with them and so the dog was happy that she got to go for a little walk.

A video from today.


My little claiming pony

I don't know where I heard that Lucy ran only five times, but it turns out that she actually ran fifteen times! I'm sure glad I got those x-rays!

Kenny did a bunch of sleuthing and every single race she ran was a claiming race. She raced at Suffolk, Philadelphia Park, Calder, and Penn National. She won one race at Philadephia Park on December 7, 2008, and the only other time she placed was a third. I got the idea of calling the Philly to see if I could get a copy of the winning photo and the photographer called me back and she was able to track down the image and they are sending me a copy! I am so excited.

I did a little YouTube search of her and came up with only one result, which was her second race. You don't even really see her run because she threw her jockey coming out of the starting gate. That's my girl!

You can see as she comes out of the starting gate she does this wild crop hop and off the jockey flies.

Here's the video.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

impromptu horse show

When I got home from the barn last night I had a FB message from one of the barn moms that they were having a mini show at the barn this morning, and would I like to participate? I was like sure, why not!

I was a bit worried because we are in the middle of quite a big rain storm and the horses were turned out for half a day yesterday and not at all today. I pulled Lucy out of her stall, quickly groomed and tacked her up, and got on without letting her get some energy out first. Before today, every time I have ridden her she's had at least 20 minutes to move freely in either the outdoor or the indoor, but there were people already riding in the indoor by the time I got to the barn so I couldn't do that. This was also her first time as far as I know being ridden in a ring with a bunch of horses. Five horses and riders participated in the "show" so basically I was asking her to behave without having been turned out or warmed up in an indoor with four other horses. That's quite a lot for a three year old TB brain to handle.

There were four classes: equitation, pleasure, hunter under saddle, and a dressage test. Keep in mind this was all in good fun. Our "pleasure" class was not exactly pleasurable, BUT I did feel confident enough in her to let her canter with everyone else and she did great!!! Everyone was so shocked at how well she behaved. It's really asking a lot of her to be ridden with a bunch of other horses going past her but also asking at the same time that she stays slow and steady. She's been taught her entire racing career to run fast and win, and here I'm telling her to let the other horses pass her and not get upset. She was such a good girl.

We called it a day after those classes because we ended on a really positive note, and she was getting quite strong. She got a nice grooming, a bit of massage, and lots of cookies. Once she was all cooled out she got a lot of nice fresh hay and some snuggles, and then I had to head out.

My parents are driving down tomorrow to meet Lucy. They are bringing my dog and I think a few of my friends want to come over and meet her, too. I am really excited to show her off. I think everyone will love her. Maybe we will take her for a walk around the field that's down the street. My mum actually asked to come and meet her...she said (and I quote!) "I really want to meet my new grandpony!" LOL!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

First canter!

Kenny and I went to the barn today to ride. We weren't planning on cantering but Lucy was going so well and so going around a corner at the trot I asked her gently with my outside leg and she picked it right up! She was a bit quick at the beginning but does really well with half halts, and I actually got a few really nice strides of balanced canter out of her. She is much more balanced to the right than the left (I really can't figure that one out; hopefully the chiro will help answer that question when he sees her next week) and she had a bit of trouble picking up her left lead, so on the second try I got off her back and used an open inside rein and she got it no problem. She is simply amazing. I am head over heels for this horse. She even nickered to me when I walked into the barn this evening!

Kenny rode her after me and did some great trot work. She was really stretching through her back and into the contact, asking for some more rein. He did a great job with her. Like most OTTB's, she doesn't respond well to a lot of contact with the reins, so it's all give and take with her (I must have said "half halt, release!" about 10,000 times this evening lol). She responds REALLY well to the rider slowing down his or her posting if she is getting quick at the trot, and her steering has greatly improved already. We were doing serpentines and circles with minimal popping of the outside shoulder.

I also asked her for the beginnings of a bend tonight, which she did not like so much, but it will get there.

I think I may need a bit with some more leverage for her as she gets stronger. At the canter she was quite strong and again I really had to use my seat more than anything else to control the pace a bit. I am retraining myself as much as I am retraining her! I didn't ask her to canter for long, just once or twice around the ring at the very most. I am so pleased with her. I checked her hind end and she didn't react at all to my palpations along her SI joint, so I guess she isn't as sore as when I first got her. I'm not sure if she tweaked herself out in the paddock at her old barn and just needed a few days to recover, but I am happy it's not anything big.

She is such a sweetheart, too. After we were done riding she required almost an hour of cooling out. The weather today is really strange: in the low 50's, very humid (my hair wanted to curl today!) and raining, so she took forever to dry out. I got my heavy wool cooler to start out and when she was mostly cool I switched to my lighter fleece cooler to finish the job. Anyway, the entire time we were cooling her out we just walked in the indoor and she followed without a halter on. She walked right beside me and every so often kind of put her chin on my arm, wanting a bit of love. Then we did some stretching exercises with treats, asking her to stretch around to her side to get the treat or reach down in between her front legs, etc. She did really well with that.

Basically what I am taking forever to say is that I am so happy with this horse so far, and I've only had her for five days!! I am really excited about where we will go together. As I was riding her tonight I thought she would be a really great dressage horse, but I think she'll be versatile enough to do whatever we want with her.


Free lunging in the indoor.

Me riding.

Kenny riding.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

First ride

My plan was to give Lucy a week or two off, but she has improved and perked up so much already that I don't want to give her too much time off to think of ways to get in to trouble! I decided today was a good day to get on her for the first time. I did ride her at her old barn before I bought her, but it was at night in the dark in a ring without a fence around it, and I was not able to really see how she goes. My barn has a humongous outdoor with a nice sturdy fence around it, and I felt perfectly safe letting her trot around in there.

She had a few baby moments but nothing that involved any crazy stunts. Her biggest issues are wanting to stop at the gate every time we go past it (she knows that's the way out!) and also she has a tough time going to the left for some reason. You'd think going to the left would be easier for her but she fought to put her head to the outside the entire time.

Other than that, she was very easy to ride. I thought calming thoughts the entire time because she got a bit quick sometimes, but she steered fairly well. Both Kenny and I rode her w/t. Total time under saddle today was about half an hour.

Here are two videos of the ride:

Me riding.

Kenny riding.

And here are some photos:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Looking better and better each day

Lucy had her feet done this morning and I was there to hold her. She was a bit of a brat about standing still for him but she was very good seeing as it's the first time she's ever been hot shod, and some horses have major issues with all the smoke. She didn't even look worried.

I think she is looking much better already. She has a bit of mischievousness in her eye, but that's nothing abnormal for a three year old tb :D I like a horse with some spunk, anyway. Then she stood really nicely in cross ties while I pulled her mane. Then her whiskers got clipped and the end result was quite lovely! I am convinced that she is already putting on some weight. She's getting her grain, a complete supplement, and 2 tbsp of oil per feeding, along with free choice hay. She is feeling goooood, as you can tell from the photo above, which was taken right after her feet were done. She is going to stay barefoot behind for now but luckily he was able to get shoes on the fronts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Work? no way!

I spent my entire day at work wishing I was at the barn, and when I was finally set free I stopped at the feed store to get some shavings and headed over to the barn. I got there around 3:45 and Lucy was already in her stall munching on some nice hay. I took her out of her stall and gave her a really nice thorough grooming. I was going to pull her mane but I couldn't find my pulling comb so that will be a task for another day.

We went into the indoor and worked on some basic "this is my space, not yours" stuff. At first I let her walk around and look at everything. She spent about five minutes staring at herself in the mirrors! SO CUTE. Then it was time to pay attention and her young age definitely showed. She wasn't bad at all, but she has a very short attention span. At first we were just practicing her stopping beside me whenever I stopped, and the first few times were very messy. She learns quickly, though, and by the end of the session I had her halting from a walk and trot besides me as soon as I stopped, and she was beginning to understand backing up, too. What a star.

She got a nice warm mash for dinner and she is going to start to be weaned off of the senior feed and onto the Triple Crown grain they feed the other TB's this week. She got a handful last night and loooooved it. She seems to be very motivated by food, and I'm not sure if that's a result of her poor condition or if she just really loves food. I guess time will tell! She also started her supplements tonight.

I love my barn so much. I love the people there. I love how laid back it is and how much people care about Lucy. One of the barn moms gave her a kiss on the nose as she was walking out to go home and said "I am so glad you're here!" They are really nice people.

On my way home I stopped and got a gallon of corn oil because I want to add a few glugs (yes that is the technical measuring technique) per feeding to her diet to try and brighten up her coat. It's so dull and dry. I also got her a 5# bag of yummy looking carrots.

I had bought a fleece sheet at the Dover sale to use on nights like tonight, when the stable blanket would be much too warm but it's slightly too chilly for Lucy to be without at least something. Turns out the sheet doesn't have belly straps, and is really only to be used as a cooler, which would be great except I already have a very high quality wool Triple Crown cooler. I just ordered her a lightweight blanket and it should be here in a week or so.

Lucy gets a nice pedicure tomorrow morning. I am curious as to how the farrier is going to fix her front feet.

She's home!

On Sunday at around noon the new horse got on the trailer and a short time later, arrived at the new barn. I am thrilled with her.

Her name is going to be Lucy. I had narrowed it down to Mystic, Lucy, or Zoe but as soon as she walked off that trailer in her adorable purple plaid halter I said, you are totally a Lucy, so that settled it! I love it. If you watch the video you will hear Kenny say "Lucy is not an option" as we are discussing names haha. Poor guy! I told him he can pick her show name and that seemed to make him happy.

I had her weighed by RI Horse Weighing and she came in at 1020 lbs, which was more than we all thought she was going to weigh by the looks of her, but she has quite a big frame and I think she will really fill out.

Her feet are in terrible shape and she is unsurprisingly very very sore. She is going to be trimmed and evaluated tomorrow by the farrier. I hope that he can even put shoes on her...the other front foot is much worse, as the little pieces have broken off and taken some hoof wall with them. I don't even know if there is enough there to nail a shoe to.

Here is the video.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Vet check!

The vet check went really well. They checked her eyes, mouth, ears, temp, legs, listened to her gut and heart, and flexed her and watched her trot out.

I also chose to do x-rays because the vet said that her sesamoid bones were more prominent than they should be. He did four views and discovered some very slight changes in her fetlocks (more unevenness of the surfaces of the outer bones than anything else), but he said he expected to find that in any ex-racehorse, and that she flexed/trotted out completely sound with no issues so he thought she has many years of good use in her. That was good enough for me; I'm not planning on eventing at the prelim level or anything so she will be perfectly sound and happy doing low hunters/jumpers and maybe some low level eventing if we get that far.

I am glad to have the x-rays because they are a good baseline for the future, so if she's ever off and I end up doing more x-rays, I have something to compare the new images to. The view he took are all digital and he's going to email them to me.

She was sooo adorable throughout the entire thing. The vet LOVED her. He was awesome and I hope he can be our "usual" vet. So hopefully she'll be coming home tomorrow :D

Here she is standing quietly for the x-rays:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My first horse

After 23 years of asking for a pony for Christmas, I finally went out and bought one for myself.

Pending a clean vet check, she will be coming home this weekend. She is a 3 y.o. TB who raced at Suffolk Downs this past year. She had 5 starts and then her trainer realised she just wasn't enjoying her job. She was sold to a family who did a great job with her w/t but then decided she was just a bit too big for their daugher. I am so excited about this mare. She is totally green (turning? what's that?) but she has a great mind and she is very sweet.

I will really miss working with my lease horse Caesar, whom I've been riding for the past four years, but this was the right thing for me to do and I am on cloud nine to finally have my own horse.

I actually met this horse about a month ago when I photographed another horse at her barn. Her owners asked me to take some shots and she happily trotted around for the camera.

I haven't settled on a name for her. I'm going between India, Mystic, and Java.

She had only been off the track a few weeks so she's looking a bit scraggly. During the vet check I'm going to see what the vet thinks would be the best course of action to get her safely up to the weight she needs to be.