Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas and Moving Into the New Year

We wish everyone a very happy holiday season!

Now that Christmas is behind us, I'm starting to look forward to my new year. I'm super excited because I believe I finally have a horse that I can take to a show!  Ollie just mentally can't handle it and I don't want to put either of us through it. He is the king of meltdowns. But he's a blast to ride so we will keep on with our work and perhaps one day he won't be so anxious about going into canter.

In the meantime, I want to set myself up to get Canoodler going! We're lucky here in Kentucky that we have many schooling shows. Even in winter! The "go to" schooling shows for winter are the Snowbird Dressage Series. They have a show each month except in January. So we have plenty of time to work on our strength and suppleness before the next show. It's a low key show that is perfect for newbies both equine and human.  I happened to take Ollie there a couple years ago but we never made it into the show ring.

The barn where Canoodler is located has several horse and riders that will be participating in these shows as well. This is perfect because I'll be clueless and need my friends to help me out.

Assuming Canoodler can handle going to a show, I want to set up some goals for future shows and real shows! Not just schooling shows.  I guess that means I need to fill out memberships to everything - USDF and Kentucky Dressage Association. It's all so new for me! I love having goals!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Solstice lesson with Sharon Vander Ziel

December 21st, 2014

Jim Koford has headed south for the winter (look for him at Wellington) and I want to keep working with Canoodler. So on this winter solstice, Canoodler and I took some coaching from Sharon Vander Ziel. Sharon works for the US Dressage Federation, is active in coaching as well as conducting many clinics in the local Lexington area. She regularly comes to the barn where I keep Canoodler so I thought I'd give her a try.

I explained to her where we were, what I saw as issues and what the Canoodler team (chiropractor, masseuse, vet) saw as issues to work on.  Clearly, suppleness and strength are where we need to work.

Canoodler has a much more difficult time going to the right than going to the left. When pushed to carry himself correctly, he tires quickly. We worked for a long time at just the walk. Sharon explained the bio mechanics of where we needed his jaw and poll to be in order for the rest of his body to align correctly which in turn allows his back to be used. Then we worked a long time at trot. It's just difficult for him to hold it for any length of time. It was most obvious with our attempts at canter to the right.  In the video you will see that he only canters a few strides before falling out of it.  I had him moving so nicely at the trot at the point of asking for the transition that he lost his balance and fell apart when asked for more. Regardless, it was a small success from which to build on!  This one time where we captured the right lead was after a few failed attempts, so that's why I was excited about it.  LOL!

Here is our video - it's not very exciting but I want to document our progress.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together

It's been a month since my last post and things are moving along swimmingly! Canoodler is improving physically and mentally each and every day.

We've had Michele Haman of Equi-librium Therapy, LLC out to work on him. She gave Canoodler a very thorough massage to help him work out some of his soreness.

In November, I got Canoodler a start in being straightened out with a chiropractic adjustment by Core Therapies', Dr. Larkspur Carroll. I was thrilled with the results as you can see in my previous post! 

I felt he needed massage to help him out as well. So in came Michele Haman. She spent 3 hours working out so many tight muscles.  Both Dr. Lark and Michele came to the same conclusion that he may have had a poor saddle fit for a long time that put him into his current uncomfortable situation. He is very tight on the left side of his neck and in his right hind. Horses get messed up diagonally... So she worked and worked to unblock those muscles and get circulation to those areas needing help. One of the hallmark indications of poor saddle fit is where the horse is very sore in the base of the neck (wither/shoulder area) and in bad cases their back is roached.  This was Canoodler. We are still working on the roached back (it's a slight roach) and it will take a long time but we have already seen improvement. The best sign of improvement is in the way he moves. He is becoming more supple and slightly more flexible. He lets me know he's feeling better by running out in the field now.  Best news is that my lovely Albion saddle that was fitted for Ollie is a fantastic fit for Canoodler!  What luck!!

The other ingredient we brought in was our coach Jim Koford. Jim is a gem. He worked with Canoodler and me to get him to flex/bend to the right for a long time. Keep in mind, his issues are left shoulder/neck and right hind. We are asking him to carry himself more on the right hind and stretch those left shoulder/neck muscles when we go to the right. But he was trying and trying hard! So proud of him! Ultimately, it has helped to loosen up those muscles even more! He has become much more supple and he's looking more like a proper dressage horse!  I'll try to post a video in the next couple of weeks.  To quote Jim, "The best part of Canoodler is that he will out you when you ride improperly!" Jim likes him...

At this point, I have a great team of people helping me with Canoodler's aches and pains. I feel we are in a really great place and working in the right direction for him.  He seems so grateful for the help.

I have another lesson with Jim this week. 

I'm riding the Noodle-man most every day and each day I go through a stretching regime with the big boy. Today's stretching produced a whole lot of popping sounds from his bones which I KNOW had to feel good. His whole neck popped and his tail bone, when pulled, gave a loud pop around his hip area.  This is telling me loud and clear that we are helping him and putting him back into to place! 

In the meantime, my rides on him, especially after having Jim work with us, have been amazing! He's so much more supple and balanced. Now we can work on building up his strength and keeping those muscles loose!  And a bonus with this horse is that I can work more on my position when I ride. I was rather defensive when I rode Ollie because Ollie was just so tense and nervous. Canoodler is just a laid back guy who will give me just what I ask for to the best of his abilities. We're going to be a great team together!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What Chiropractic Work Can Do

I realize it's a bit quick to post again however I can't contain myself!

What a difference in Canoodler after his chiropractic treatment!

This is our "Before" video:

and this is our after video taken the day after his treatment:

He's still very inflexible but now he's not inverted and avoiding pain.  He's not above my hands! So happy with this!

Just had to post!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Our Starting Point

Finally getting around to having some time for Canoodler!

Canoodler is like no Thoroughbred I know. He's huge, big thick boned with correctly proportioned hooves.  He is completely out of shape right now but that will change as we go along.

Due to his big boned self, I was unable to give him any Toby/Ollie hand-me-downs. So I ordered a lovely new halter from Quillin's Leather and Halter Tack in Paris, KY.

It's a warmblood size and I had a nameplate put on with his name and my phone number (in case he ever escapes me at a horse show or other outing).  I have to say, the leather is fantastic and it's super well made!  I'm very happy with the purchase.

The other new purchase was a bridle that would fit his big head. I had used Ollie's bridle for a couple test rides but I had the buckles let out to make it as big as I could. Also, the leather is more delicate to fit Ollie's small dished face.  So I went to Ebay and found a great bridle for a very good price - We got a brand new Red Barn Centerline dressage bridle in the oversize size. It will look great on him!  Super nice leather too!  I'm very happy with it but at the time of writing this, I haven't put it on him yet. I don't anticipate any problems.

As for Canoodler himself, he has some issues I want to point out so you know what I'm working on. One issue that I can't do too much about are his front feet.  The Noodle is pigeon toed.  This will cause him to paddle in his movements and wear out the outer side of his front hooves.  This will also quickly wear out the outside heel and make it underslung thus stressing the outside of his other leg joints.  So he has front shoes on to protect his hooves and allow his heels to grow out.

Once he had shoes put on, I got on him for a real test ride to see what we had.

Going to the left was not so great. His trot felt uneven and odd.  He could not pick up his left lead. He felt pretty good going to the right. His canter feels nice too, much like a rocking horse. He has a nice "go" button but not aggressive.  He had troubles holding a frame for more than a second or two.

We followed up the next day with a visit from our favorite equine chiropractor, Dr. Larkspur Carroll of Core Therapies. Canoodler didn't exactly trust her and kept one eye on her at all times but after a couple adjustments and releases by him (lots of licking and chewing), he was feeling much more comfortable.  He had a real problem in his lower neck ( C6b, C7b and his ribs near T9,T10,T11.  His TMJ (jaw) was also very very tight.  We think the lower neck area was caused from being ridden in a poor fitting saddle in the past. So we checked out my saddle on him.  Amazingly it's a perfect fit!!  What are the odds of that?! In fact, it fits so well that I was instructed to not put too much padding underneath the saddle as that will make it narrower.  So a single saddle pad with no fancy sheepskin 1/2 pad is how we will go.

The Noodle has very little in the way of topline muscles and a weak hind end. This is from years of never learning how to carry himself properly. This will be a slow process but we are going to improve his suppleness and strengthen him up so he can carry himself in a nice frame.  This will be lots of ground work so he can learn to balance himself without a rider as well as lots of trot work.

So that's where we are today.  He has a couple small spots of rain rot that I also need to treat but other than that, he's in good health and ready to get to work!

Canoodler with his nose up his ass. ;)

Me and the big boy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Breeders Cup Weekend

This time of year is always crazy busy for us. People don't seem to think about photos until they see the gorgeous fall color and then they say "Hey! We need to get photos of this!"  So that's been our life for the past couple of weeks. 

To get you up to date on all our activities, Matt and I photograph weddings, all kinds of equestrian work, pets and architectural. It keeps us busy.  Then you add in the Keeneland race meet, Breeders Cup and the Fasig-Tipton Select Sale the Monday after the Breeders Cup and you can kiss our October goodbye! 

So getting a new horse in the midst of my busy season is not ideal but we had to make it work. Canoodler has settled in well. He has such an even temperament.  Everyone at his new barn says he's "totally chill". The funniest part is that he instantly bonded with the burro, Peso.

They make quite the pair out in the field.

And in their first greeting, Canoodler was showing us some fancy dressage moves!

I haven't gotten on him yet. My plans are to test him out when I get back from the Breeders' Cup and we get past the Fasig-Tipton Select Sale and my "To Do" list becomes more manageable.

In the meantime, Matt & I are in California for the Breeders Cup.  You'll see our work on The Paulick Report. and The Racing Post.  Here is a link to our stuff from last year's BC!  Breeders Cup '13

Who do you guys like for the BC Classic? Or the Turf Mile now that Wise Dan isn't running?

Friday, October 17, 2014

I'm Blogging Again...

Let's go back in time and remember some moments I posted about a horse named "Canoodler"...

It all began back in 2009 when I made an offer on the largest, cutest horse I've ever been around.. I'm going To Jinx it, and again I mention him a couple weeks later on Illinois Champions Day

Then his name is mentioned in cameos in a couple posts, here after the Preakness in 2009, then again here when I made an offer on Ollie, and then again from the Arlington Million. My most painful post about him was this one when I found out he was neglected at a hunter/jumper barn - what a day... and finally my last word about him in November of 2009 On The Bit. That was the last time I had any news on Canoodler. I always had an offer open for him and reminded his owner after each race that it still stood but was always turned down because of money. Or lack of money on my part.

That was until April of 2014. That's when I got an email from a young woman in Pennsylvania. She wrote..."Hey Wendy!  I recently purchased a TB gelding from auction and (after some tattoo deciphering) thought that I had a match.  So I googled the name and your website popped up with photos of him from spring of 2009!  His name is Canoodler and you were hoping to get him from the track."

My heart sank.  What you don't know is that oddly, on that same day, I talked about Canoodler to a friend and said "I always have wondered how he was doing." That exact same day!

The auction he went to was the New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania. It's essentially a last chance place for horses before they go to an unspeakable end. Some are lucky. Some are not. Thank you so much for making Canoodler a lucky one!

That email shook me up so much. I cried. I cried because he didn't deserve to go to such a place and I cried because I was so happy he found a home! I sent his new owner photos that I had of him from his racing days and wished them well!

Some time goes by and Canoodler's owner contacts me again. This time it's because she's putting him up for sale. He just isn't a good fit for her. Totally fair and good to say! However, I felt that I could handle all I could handle with 2 horses and said I could not take him. A few months later, I broke down.  He was now listed as "free to good home" and that always makes me worry because in my mind, this is a horse with a great deal of value. I loved him! Now I was constantly worrying about him. I realized that I would always worry about him. That's when I had a talk with my husband Matt. At first we both felt we could find him a great home but that lasted about 10 minutes. Canoodler needed to be in our home.

 What I wasn't prepared for were all the people behind this decision and willing to make it happen!

I always knew the people that worked for and with Graham Motion were the best of the best. I just didn't have any idea how much they would dig down to help out one of their friends.  They made it happen for me since Canoodler, fortunately for me, was located very near by to them! So first off was to get him to a farm where a shipping company comes to and the handlers are some of the best equine professionals in the business. These would be my friends Fenella O'Flynn and Bridget McFadden. They operate a lay up facility called Gratton Farm where they have some pretty cool horses that need down time come to hang out. I once visited them when they had the race horse Pluck on their farm.  They had room and welcomed Canoodler for a few days until he would ship out.  The next piece of the puzzle was finding a shipper.  That's when Sue Kenny, the office manager at Herringswell Stables and Maggie Kimmitt, office assistant and photographer at Herringswell Stables took over. They contacted their people at Brook Ledge Horse Transportation.  They all made it happen without killing my piggy bank. I never could have gotten this kind of service and help without all of them! Brook Ledge was incredibly great to work with and happily loaded up Canoodler onto my little 2-horse trailer for me when I picked him up at their Lexington facility!  They even stopped to let me take their picture for the records.

  Canoodler was all about photo opportunites.

So here we are! I have 3 horses. One who is 24 yrs old and pretty much hangs out to care for Ollie.  Then I have 14 yr old Ollie who has been coming along in dressage but at the moment has a bruised hoof and needs a little time off to feel better and be less grumpy about riding.  And we now have 10 yr old Canoodler. I haven't ridden him yet and I have no idea what he can or cannot do. All I know is that he fox hunted for a few years after his racing days and because he was 10 yrs old, he was sent to the New Holland Auction.  Yes, that's what we were told by the gentleman that took him there.  His elderly female owner that fox hunted does not keep horses that are 10 or older.  Makes me sick to think of it.