Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Time in Kentucky

I'm doing a whole lot of traveling in the next couple of weeks but this past weekend I got to spend it in Lexington, KY! It's getting busy around here with the big breeding farms showing off their newborns, the forsythia blooming and Keeneland's spring meet about to begin.

I keep thinking about how much my horses will like the weather here so much better than in northern Michigan. Especially Toby with his aging bones and arthritis.

So I'm helping out Matt on weekends for some of the big races coming up. A few horses have already arrived at Keeneland and preparing for some upcoming races. We were lucky enough to see She Be Wild, trained by Wayne Catalano, work 7/8's. She looked great.



and we walked back to the barn to see her cooled out, bathed,


and in the end "She Be Happy"


That afternoon we headed north up to Turfway Park to shoot the Lane's End Stakes (a prep race for the Kentucky Derby). I was having come equipment problems but I managed to eek out a couple photos of Dean's Kitten win but not many...



It was a busy but very fun day! Next weekend will be the opening weekend of Keeneland where She Be Wild will be testing her muster against other 3 yr old fillies in the Ashland Stakes (a prep for the Kentucky Oaks). I'll be posting then!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

There's NOTHING Like a GREAT Ride!

Hola is out while his back heals and Toby is in. In fact, Toby is WAY IN!

I had my lesson with the Tobster on Tuesday. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we decided to ride outdoors. This is good for the long bodied Toby.

He was great - rather, WE were GREAT! We are better and better at holding a nice round frame, we are better balanced and we cantered! I haven't been able to canter in our indoor all winter. The indoor is just too small to risk it with Toby. We have fallen before in there and we just don't want to do that again.

On this day we were going along so beautifully that Betsy said, "Let's try cantering!" So away we went, round, balanced and I had a stupid grin on my face. Toby really has a time getting his body together to be round. Betsy even said that his back legs are much longer than his front, making it really difficult for him to get them underneath himself. Well he tried and did it the best he's ever done it. I was so proud!

Toby didn't even work up much of a sweat! He did have some sweat and since it's too cold to bathe yet, had to dry on him before I put him back out in his paddock with the gang of merry men. Hola, evidently missed Toby and came to the gate to greet him. Then he smelled the salt on him and proceeded to lick and lick and lick him. It was as if Toby was a walking salt lick for Hola. Toby didn't care for it and let Hola know it. It was most amusing. I love their interactions.

So it looks like I'm going to meet an Albion saddle fitter in the middle of April. I'll keep you posted on how this develops. We are working out the details now.

Also, I'm traveling for the next couple of weeks for both business (golf) and business (racing photography). Should be fun but really busy. The guys get another break from the action.

Finally, my barn had a very sad day. It's owned by a family that shows Morgan horses. On the farm are her retired show horses. Yesterday, Beamore - a three time World Champion - passed away from colic and kidney stones. Beamore was (I believe) 23 yrs old and was very special to everyone at the barn. He was certainly one of the friendliest horses on the property. Ollie liked to play with him often:


i love you man


He liked to check on Toby too:

watcha doing

We're all going to miss him much.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spinal Manipulations

The chiropractor came out and worked on both my boys. Toby is used to him and is more consumed with reaching over to get treats from him during the stretching exercises than anything else. In fact, he will keep stretching even when we don't want him to just to show us he can reach really far for a 20 yr old and get a treat for it. Show off! Toby is unfazed with his hips being moved all around and bounced. And he feels great afterwards. Toby's a pro!

Hola was into this for, what I believe, his first time. He stretched for the treats in both directions beautifully. In fact, the Doc was very impressed! But then we found some rotation in his spine around his withers (caused most likely by the saddle) and then again some slight rotation in his hip area. Hola was darn good while his shoulder area was being worked. He was a drama king when it came to his hips. The Doc came off the mounting block once when Ollie jumped through his skin when the spot near his hips was being worked on. The Doc worked on the spot as much as any doc would dare which wasn't all that hard at all. Hola thought he was going to become crippled - oh the drama!

In a nutshell, the Doc is going to come back in a few weeks to work him again. Hola has some spinal rotation in his shoulder area and some lesser rotation going on in his hip area. The plan is to continue with rest and for me to continue to massage the muscles down along his spine. Light exercise is good but no riding just yet. And when I do ride him I should use a treeless saddle until his shoulders are better. Whatever I do, I am NOT to use my saddle on him. He needs to get a better fitting saddle for long term use.

As it just so happens, a couple people in my barn actually own treeless saddles. Admittedly they are the ugliest saddles I've ever seen:

We put this on Hola's back to see what he thought about it. Keep in mind he has been giving us strong opinions... He liked it! Not even an ear twitch in protest!

So, as a temporary solution to my saddle problem until I get a saddle fitted for Hola, this is what we'll have to use. In the meantime, it'll be a couple of weeks before we put the treeless saddle into action...

I hope Hola enjoys his little vacation of massages and free time.

Spring Time

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sore, Sore, Sore

I've given Hola time off to recuperate from his soreness. I'm also, trying in my amateur way, to help him out. He seems to get that I'm trying...

So here is the situation as outlined in the following diagram:

It's easy to figure out why his shoulder area is sore. The saddle is pinching and restricting the movement there. And as you may have noticed in some of his videos, he has a lot of movement to offer! He is more sore on his left side than his right side but he is sore on both sides.

Then there is the left hip. A very tight, tight, tight muscle. Perhaps from kicking out at his buddies? Perhaps not. At any rate, my friend Karen helped me out. She's very knowledgeable on equine bodywork. Karen showed me how I can release some of the tightness and "blocked energy" using pressure points and massage. Hola was all about it.

A great thing about Hola is that he's expressive and dramatic when talking to you. He wants to make sure you really understand things. Karen would feel down the muscle lines and he'd stand when she was in areas that didn't hurt, turn his head towards her when she got close to a sore area then throw his head WAY up when she hit the sore area. Then as she applied a pressure point he'd begin to relax, drop his head lower and lower and his lips would be making this funny action like he was talking ala Mr. Ed.

Karen could really get to the spots and then she had me try. While I wasn't nearly as good at it as Karen (according to Hola), I still managed to help him out. The lip action was the best. I'm also doing some warm epsom salt compresses to pull out the bruising and bad juju in those sore areas. Bigeloil will be next to help increase the circulation to the areas.

I've placed all three of my saddles on Hola's back. Nothing fits. The Albion actually fits the best and as you can see from the results it doesn't fit! Plus, based on the dirt marks on the saddle pad, it bridges. Karen has several dressage saddles I'm going to place on his back. Maybe I'll find something that's more comfortable until I get a saddle fitted for him. It can't hurt to try because right now I've got nothing!

At least Toby is there for me! That's the beauty of owning two horses. If one is out of commission I still have the other. And thankfully Toby is ready and able.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Remembering Jaguar Hope

Hard to believe but it's a year ago today since Jaguar Hope had to be put down...

He was a quirky guy that hated other horses, cribbed like there was going to be no tomorrow, was very athletic, gorgeous and smart. He was the most opinionated and self confident horse I've ever been around. He NEVER spooked. Not even when a wall of ice fell from the roof just a few feet away from him. His rider spooked but he marched on doing his job. He had tremendous focus.

I'll never forget the first time I took him on a trail ride. We trailered over to a friends house alone. I met up with my friend out in a field that we had to get to by going through the woods - alone. Jag marched in pure determination to get where we had to go even though he had no clue where that was. But march he did! Once we met up with my friend, we went hiking around several hundred acres of fields and woods. We had an owl fly up from the ground in front of us, deer run away from us through the woods and a porcupine climb up a tree. Nothing fazed Jag. He was rock solid! I've NEVER been on a horse like that!

In hindsight it was really stupid to do that.

So today I've been thinking about him and his quirks. My last lessons on him had the two of us having big discussions over who was in control. I've learned a lot since then.

I'm grateful for the time I had with him and where he has led me. He is responsible for getting me into photography and because of that I've met my perfect match and am getting married in September. I'm also much more knowledgeable about dressage, training and everything that is involved with it. And Jag is responsible for me writing this blog!

I miss him tremendously and I'm moving forward. I continue to grow from everything he taught me. Here's a trip down memory lane - from first seeing him at Great Lakes Downs to him embarrassing me whenever we did stretching exercises and his girlie squeal at the "Scentless Bastard" in the mirror.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"He was a Train Wreck"

Yes, that's how Betsy described her ride on Hola to a mutual friend of ours...

I was actually a little grateful that he was acting nutty for her like he has been for me. I really was convinced it was the nice weather and that he cannot run around in his paddock because of all the mud. Betsy had a much more intelligent thought. She said she thinks he's in pain.

Hola is usually a very happy, friendly horse with a ton of "try." The horse we have right now is grumpy, has an occasional blow-up, and not a lot of try in him. We figured something was wrong with his back, and we figured it was caused by the saddle. It made a lot of sense. It would also explain that the more I worked him the more crazy he would become with a rider on his back. He's quite nice on the longe line.

Now I'm an obsessive sort of person and I wanted to learn more about saddle fitting. Therefore I cruised the internet and found this very informative video:

Cranial Nerve 11!! We are hitting it, I'm certain! No wonder he's looking like "Bill The Cat!"

Now I'm obsessing on my next step. First and foremost is to get the chiropractor to come out! My chiropractor is terrific however there was a time when during adjustment of one other OTTB, by the name of Jaguar Hope, that the chiropractor made an unplanned exit when a sore spot was being worked on... I figured I needed to sweet talk the chiropractor to work on my new sensitive guy. So I carefully crafted a nice email but included full disclosure that Hola could be similar in reaction to Jaguar Hope.

I've been doing great. I have so much to tell you too! but i'm sure you've heard my news through the grapevine.

You can hear it all first hand if you come out to adjust my new guy Hola.

I think my saddle (I'm 90% certain) is the problem. He used to be so "happy go lucky" and now he's a freak and grumpy. I'd like to have my "happy-go-lucky" guy back but he needs help. I must disclose to you that he is a VERY fidgety guy and he won't be easy to do. I wouldn't put it past him to send a back leg flying in protest at whomever is hitting a sore spot.. Much like Jag. He really is a friendly nice guy otherwise. Especially if there is no more pain. And he loves treats...

Are you willing to help the guy out? He needs you!

It worked! Hola will get adjusted within a week.

Now my next obsession is with the saddle. My immediate concern is what to do right now. I have 3 saddles, my Albion, an old DeKunfy and a lovely all purpose Pessoa Gen X. I'm going to take the other two saddles to see if they fit him any better. I'm hopeful the Pessoa will. While it's not a dressage saddle, it will still work until I can get a well fitting dressage saddle. I'll let you know how that goes.

Then I checked the Albion website and found there is a fitter in Lansing, MI which is about 3 hours away. Perhaps I could work with some other people in the area who are Albion people to get the saddle fitter to come up.

I love my Albion saddle and would like to stick with Albion since 1) I really like it, and 2) they won't break my bank.

So I'll probably continue to obsess over saddles and cruise ebay all the time wishing I had some money right now to get a nice saddle. Sigh...

Friday, March 12, 2010

It Was A New Day

Yesterday the horses were in because of the horrible footing. So my plan was to let my two guys out in the arena for a little social time, clean them up, work Hola and call it a day...

The plan worked beautifully! Toby and Hola yahoo'd their hearts out. Then I brought Toby into the barn and groomed him and left Hola in the arena to continue doing his thing. There are 4 horses stalled there. Being the social guy that he is, he went one by one to say hello and to check on any crumbs they may have dropped outside their stalls during feeding time. Hola thinks this is a great past time.

Toby was cleaned up, did some stretching exercises with him and trimmed his bridle path. He was feeling special. He's had a swollen right knee the past few days which I'm afraid is caused by arthritis. It's happened the past two times his feet have been trimmed and while that hoof is trimmed he flinches (or does a small bunny hop rear) when that particular hoof is lifted up to be trimmed. It's the first time that Toby has shown his age for me. Although it's swollen, it is not hot and he's putting full weight on it and trots soundly. Perhaps it's a twisting motion that causes him pain? It has me stumped. It sure doesn't hurt him when he's playing with Hola! Regardless, I'm not taking chances so I'm not riding him right now. :( I kinda miss that...

I put Toby back in his stall and brought up Hola. I groomed him of all the arena footing he was wearing after his roll, tacked him up and went back into the arena to longe him. No draw reins. He didn't do a single twitch. He marched around like a good worker bee in both directions so I went to get on him myself. He's still playing the "back-up-when-your-foot-is-in-the-stirrup" game at the mounting block but eventually he quit and I got on.

Two words describe the ride: ROCK STAR! He pleasantly motored around and flexed and bent for me in both direction. At one point I had to urge him on! He even stretched (BIG TIME) into the bit. I praised him profusely, told him how brilliant he was and we called it a day.

I was thrilled and any doubts I had from yesterday disappeared. There is NOTHING like a horse that will stretch down and into the bit!!

He looked a lot like this:

stretching into the bit

Happy! Happy! Happy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I didn't have a lesson on Tuesday since I had to do a day trip for work. So I've been working with Hola often to prepare him for his next time with Betsy. There will be some improvement! At least that's the theory...

Yesterday I went to work Hola. The Gang of Merry Men's paddock has turned from slushy snow to ice and mud. Horrible footing. And in some spots, such as the gate area, the mud is so deep it nearly sucks your boots off. The horses are smart about the footing and walk carefully in the slick areas where the ice hasn't melted.

When I went out there, my two boys seemed to be the clever ones, hanging out in the driest spot of all, inside their run-in. Of course, they wouldn't come to me when I called them. I had to trudge through the mud and ice to get them . That is SO unlike Toby who LOVES to come running to me when he sees me. That is except when it's raining and he's inside the run-in. I guess the deep mud is similar to rain in his mind.

I brought them both in and cleaned them up. Then I set to work with Hola. I decided to longe him first with his draw reins before I would get up on him. He was fine while I was getting him ready except for a minor complaint when I tightened the girth (ears pinned, dirty look). Then I walked him out to the indoor arena. I asked him to walk and away he went. He tossed his nose up into the air and felt the draw reins, then he felt the fibers of the baling twine on him and his twitching increased. In no time at all, Hola looked like this:

He was trotting around in a big ugly trot, nose twitching into the air, hooves swinging out big time underneath him, going as fast as he could in a circle around me at the trot. I asked for him to walk by singing it to him in the way we always do. Amazingly, he settled down to a walk. I kept him walking for a bit but he'd get riled up again and start trotting and then look like this in no time.

Now I love Bill The Cat, but that's not what I want out of my horse when I work him. I removed the draw reins thinking he'd settle down but no. When asked to trot he'd get wound up again. He kinda looked like this but with a saddle, bridle and longe line attached:

Ollie shot with new Canon 1D Mark IV

Amazingly, he'd always settle down to a walk when asked. You have to realize I'm looking for any bright spot at this point. I was really getting discouraged. When I'm around my horses, I try to view the world through their eyes to figure out what they're trying to tell me. And it dawned on me that Hola had some pent up energy from not being able to yahoo outside in his paddock! I decided to end his work, untacked him, and let him loose in the arena to get "it" out of his system. He was as high as a kite! I went into the barn and grabbed Toby to join him. Toby was the same way. Toby practically pulled me to the arena so he could get his daily roll in (he wasn't able to with the mud) and then raced around with Ollie, bucking and farting the whole time. I'm grateful they get along so well.

I sat down in a chair to watch them and started to wonder if Hola would really be able to get to a horse show. He's gets wound up so easily. Then my other voice would tell me, "Wendy, remember how he was in cross ties? You didn't think you'd ever be able to cross tie him in the aisle and he's perfect in them now! Don't lose faith!"

So I'm trying really hard to keep the faith. Sometimes it's not so easy...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Did We Over Do It? Hmmmm - Yes!

I think we overdid it with Toby. The day after his "photo shoot" he developed boobs on his chest. 2 edemas... I'm fairly certain it came from that moment when he imagined he was a race horse and was trying to beat the gray by going on the inside


or maybe it was the next day when Ollie demanded a rematch..

Toby and Hola

Either way, he overdid it. It's gone down quite a bit and as of yesterday afternoon it was practically disappeared. For an old guy he sure does have some zip on his doo dah!

The weather has remained spectacular! Clear cold nights, warm bright sunny days. This can make for slippery footing at times until the mid morning sun warms things up. It also causes roof snow avalanches. A novelty for my busy body gray.

I took Ollie into the indoor arena to be worked and he was very jumpy. He kept steering clear of the ends of the barn and would startle at any noises he heard. Since he was jumpy, I lead him around the arena so he could check it out. I remembered in my "notes to self" that Ollie's not the bravest sort of guy and he relaxes much more when everything is written out for him in large letters in crayon. So I let him check everything out to assure him that there were no horse eating monsters around. Then I longed him with our baling twine draw reins (which he broke twice from little spooks) before I got on him. Slowly he overcame his fears and got into work mode. Then I got on and we walked all over the arena to keep his mind on me and off of the snow and ice on the roof which he was sure was going to fall while he was in the arena. Ollie has witnessed the crashing snow/ice while out in his paddock. Then, of course, it's his duty to alert his "gang of merry men" to the danger by running all around with his tail up in the air. I'm guessing he could sense the loose snow/ice while in the arena and wanted to be on the ready to alert his buddies.

We ended up being lucky and avoided any major avalanches while I was in the saddle. He eventually became extremely relaxed in his jaw and through his back. He was terrific! I repeatedly told him how brave he was throughout the ride and chatted with him to build up his confidence and get him relaxed. He loves to be spoken/sung to. The more you coo to him the more relaxed he becomes. The minute you raise your voice is the minute his head pops up in the air and he starts looking all around. So babbling/singing on and on with Ollie is a good thing for him. I know the show ring judges won't like it (especially my singing) but I'll bet that whomever is on him for his first few shows will be chatting to him the whole time. He needs it and it works!

Hola C Bright

I cleaned up Ollie and put him back out with the gang of merry men to enjoy the bright warm sunshine. And finally before I left I shot a couple pics of the daughter of one of my barn friends and their dog to practice my photo skills while they were hanging out at the barn:

All in all we had a great day!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Photo Op Day

It's been gorgeous around here lately. Anyone familiar with "Lake Effect" will appreciate and understand how rare it is to have blue skies in winter!

Matt was visiting and he wanted to try out his large 500mm lens on my boys in a paddock that had pristine snow since it is not used. This is some of what he got...


Hola C Bright

Hola C Bright and Toby

Hola C Bright and Toby

Hola C Bright and Toby

Hola C Bright

And then I asked Matt to take pics of me riding Hola since I had not a single photo of me on his back!

Hola C Bright, Toby and Me

Hola C Bright and Me

Hola C Bright and Me

And there is nothing like a good scratching in the hard to reach spots during shedding season...

Hola C Bright and Me

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 2nd Lessons

I often wonder how my lessons will go when I haven't ridden or worked my horses for a little while. After 3 weeks of no work I was really wondering! Toby is usually good and he was! I had a wonderful ride. I felt very connected with him like we were fine tuned dance partners. Poor Toby though, he's a bit out of conditioning and huffed and puffed. I didn't ride him long and he was steaming when we were done.

Ollie was my big question mark. His last lesson was a bit so-so but towards the end he was doing well. So what would he do this time...

Well he was terrific! Once he settled down and stopped his hind end from wanting to pass the front end, he was doing things he had never done before such as stretching down and into the bit. Betsy was able to slow him down using her seat more which was huge. Ollie is a very sensitive horse and the slightest change usually revs him up and he goes faster. So I picked out the appropriate music for the video.

I think he's going to be awesome...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Finally Home!

Finally home and able to get some equine therapy!

The boys looked to be in fine form...


And the first signs of spring are showing with them both shedding hair as if they were going bald. You can just touch them and hair goes flying all over the place.

I decided to work Ollie a bit so he would behave for his lesson on Tuesday. For not being worked in awhile and with his busy body personality, he was pretty darn good! The only time he became too much of a busy body was when he was circling me while I tried to tie up the stirrups to longe him.



Toby will be worked later today and hopefully he'll be good. He usually is his best when I ride him after being away for awhile. It's as if he me to remember that he's a good horse too...


On the drive back from Lexington (via Detroit to visit my parents), we stopped in Cadillac, MI for an Equine Expo where I knew Betsy was going to have a booth and speak about dressage. We arrived just when Betsy was speaking. She did a nice job of explaining the history of dressage as well as dispel the myth that dressage is a "prissy" sport. We know it's NOT Prissy!! Betsy mentioned that few dressage riders, except at the highest level of competition, have grooms to help them. Dressage people are the "do it themselves" type. I never thought about that. In my hunter/jumper days we had grooms! Usually it was one of the kids in the barn trying to make a few bucks to help with expenses. So this begs the question, do any of you utilize a groom when you show? I know I don't since I started riding dressage.


Betsy is such a nice person and an excellent representative of the sport. I'm just lucky to be able to work with her!