Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Worry Wart Wendy

It's 56 F and pouring rain right now and has been all night long. At 3am I woke up and started to worry... the boys are outside, they have no run-in. Are they clever enough to go into the little valley near the spring and get protection from the trees and bushes? Are they cold? Toby's so old! Can he handle being out in this weather? I've cut them back on their grain so much. Was that the right thing to do? Is Toby looking alright or is it his thick coat that makes him look ok to me? Ollie's fine. Ollie's getting FAT! I didn't feel any ribs on Toby so he must be ok.

I'm a headcase. I'm trying super hard to get used to "horse care in Kentucky with outstanding pastures." Everytime I go out to see my guys, it warms my heart because they look so good! Toby used to cough when we would first begin a ride - not anymore. He's not stiff moving when we start out either. Ollie seems so settled and calm now. His poops are looking good again, he is easy to handle and I get a sense that he's feeling content. Why do I worry?!

I think it's because 1) I'm a city girl and my horses have always been in places that only allowed pasture time for part of the day and only in good weather, and 2) I've never had horses on good large pasture.

Ollie and Toby used to get 4 quarts of grain a day (2 in morning/2 in evening) with supplements included in the morning feed. Now, Ollie is down to only supplements and Toby is cut back to 1 quart of grain with supplements once a day. Even then, I've recently started to not feed every day. They get hay most everyday along with the other horses (who do not get grain and are all pleasantly plump) particularly on cold days. Since they are currently living in the hay field and it's been warm with the grass growing some, they don't get or need the hay on the nice warm days that we've had. The pasture alone is adequate. Once winter sets in they will be getting hay everyday.

The other day we had a cold front blow in during the night. It poured rain and became cold/frosty. I was worried...

I went out to check on them that morning. They had just been fed hay out in the field so I had to walk out to see them. Both of them were bone dry and happy as could be. I checked their coats all over to see if they were really that dry. They sure were! They have the thickest coats right now and it's hard to get down to the skin.

So this morning, I have to believe that after the heavy rains all night long, and while it's still warm out, that my boys are happy and comfortable in their thick, water proof coats outside in the pasture of their dreams.

I'm glad I never had children of my own. I'd be a headcase all the time...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful for Things

Matt and I have been busy - sounds like a repeating theme on this blog...

We spent our holiday weekend racing at Churchill Downs and some other fun things going on in our area which made for some great photographic moments. I'm not going to blog about these moments individually

Nope. Tonight I'm going to just post photos of equine things that warm my heart and made me thankful on this long Thanksgiving weekend:










Sunday, November 21, 2010

Herd Mentality

Toby and Ollie were introduced to the big pasture (over 50 acres) and the other 5 horses at their farm. The plan was to bring all the horses in, turn Toby and Ollie out in the big field alone so they could explore, then one at a time turn the other horses back out into the big field. Below are photos of the events and the day ending with Matt shooting photos of the barn with the full moon on the clear evening and me making sure the damage wasn't too bad - it wasn't at all... Enjoy the photos! And yes - Toby and Ollie did gallop the ENTIRE perimeter of the field - that had to be at least a mile long gallop with rolling hills! Toby was exhausted.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back To Their Roots

I finally visited the place I've been wanting to get to since I've moved here...

This is the farm that stood the grandsires for both my horses - Damascus (Ollie's grandsire) and Mr. Prospector (Toby's grandsire).
Both are buried at Claiborne but Damascus is buried at a different cemetery than Mr. Prospector. Mr Prospector just happens to lay at rest next to Secretariat...

And now Blame (better known at the Wooley household as "our horse") has retired to his place of birth to begin his life as a stud.
We were given permission to visit by Dell Hancock who knows all about our relationship with Blame. We were thrilled to see him! So we were up early to take his picture when he was first turned out. This is typically the time that a retired racehorse turned to stud muffin shows off in the paddock. Not Blame... he walked out and grazed. We got excited when he would walk with some purpose. Otherwise he was acting likes he's been out in that paddock a million times. We hung out and waited but nothing happened and it was overcast. So we went home and decided that should the sun come out we'd try again later when the other stallions were turned out in the surrounding paddocks (around 1pm).
This proved to work and we had much better light. The other stallions, particularly Parading, would show off when they first arrived in their paddocks and that set Blame off for some action



This lasted for about a minute, then he was back to hanging out in the far corner from us grazing and watching Parading who was doing the same in his paddock.
Blame is such a mellow guy!
While we were there, Blame was taken out of his paddock for prospective breeders to view him. This happened at least 3 times in the few hours we were there.

When he was turned back out he would give a little squeal and run again for about 30 seconds. The most action we saw was this hawk that was hunting for his lunch in an adjacent paddock. He was ridiculously close to us.

Finally, turn out time was up and Blame came in to get a bath and dinner.


He was still busy with visitors at this time...

and I'm a poor videographer with my still camera using a 300mm lens... LOL!

This photo I snagged is one that should be part of a caption contest - I have my fair share of ideas for it. Do you?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do I Understand Them?

That's been the question I ask of myself lately...

Everyone is settling in well in Kentucky. My horses have been living outdoors 24/7 and they are thriving with this lifestyle. They have stalls but everyone is living outdoors with the pleasant weather for now. They are both gaining weight and I've cut their grain down in half. I NEVER thought I would be doing that!! But having them on nice pasture has been a bonus. Ollie is really porking up. He looks like if I pricked him with a pin he would explode because he's so full and round.

Ollie's poops are as runny as they've ever been. That part disappoints me but is not unexpected. He had really good poops when he arrived but with the pasture and the excitement of a new home AND worming... well what can you expect.

It's nice that my horses are both starting to settle into their new home. It's been trying at times with them being so needy for one another. The arena is next to the barn and both their stalls look out at the arena. So when I ride one, I ride in the arena so the other can see us. Regardless, the one left behind usually has a fit and cries for the other. Eventually they will stop with this nonsense. But as I said, it can be trying at times.

Now I'm on my own in working with Ollie. It got me thinking about him and doing some analysis. I asked myself a bunch of questions about his behavior. Like, is he insecure? Is he nervous because of his insecurities? Is he trying? Can he become a pleasure horse? Is he just a "hot" horse? What EXACTLY is a "hot horse."

So this is what I think....

I think that Ollie is a very insecure horse. He needs routine, he needs to learn to trust before he can relax. He needs me to be his everything - which I am since I'm at a self care facility. Ok so maybe I'd like to think that but truly that is my theory. This idea came to me through a friend of mine who is actively retraining an off track thoroughbred in dressage. She told me all about her horror stories with her horse called Blake. Now they are competing in 4th level. Go figure!

My friend told me that she had to build a trust with Blake. The trust that started on the ground eventually went to the saddle. She said that if he acts up, that you need to be his pillar of confidence so he can overcome it and treat the situation more confidently next time. Also he needs to learn things such as, if he doesn't like your leg on him and goes sideways that it's important that I don't back off with my leg. He needs to understand that the leg is ok. It's no good to sit on my horse and be afraid to touch him! I also need to read my guy well. If he wants to go, don't say "whoa." Go is good. So if walking around the arena until he settles down isn't working for him, then go ahead and trot and if he wants to trot BIG then it's ok to let him do that for a bit. He WILL come back to me and be much more pleasant to ride!

The other thing I'm making a point of doing right now is going snails pace slowly with him while he learns about his new surroundings. Today it paid dividends. I'm doing things like tacking him up then hand grazing him (fully tacked) so his pee brain doesn't associate getting tacked up with "GO." I think this is working. I may end up spending an inordinate amount of time with him when I work him but I think it's important we do this.

Today it worked! We went through our whole routine and in the end, I had one of my best rides on Ollie that I've ever had. I can't describe the feeling when it happened. It's as if something clicked inside his head and everything came together. We had the most brilliant trot in both directions and we called it quits. So we walked around on a loose rein for him to cool off a bit, then I untacked him and took him out for a little hand grazing. He was so calm and composed. I was thrilled!

I also rode Toby today and he gave me a magnificent ride! It takes him a bit to warm up but once he did he was a charge to ride. He was fully engaged, on the bit, on the aids. He was swinging that hind end underneath himself. FANTASTIC!

I had a great day with my guys. And I believe the key to all of my success for today was my ability to read and understand my guys. I hope I can keep it up and we keep moving forward.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Their New Home

I've been super busy this past weekend with the Breeders Cup - which I'll talk about another time... Now it's time to talk about my boys new home!

What a fantastic place!

It has two 9 acre pastures, one 50 acre pasture and 3 small "dry lot" paddocks. There is a beautiful outdoor arena and a very cool converted tobacco barn for their barn. Everything is in fantastic condition.

Toby and Ollie were initially put into a small "dry lot" to limit their running around and allowing them some time to get acquainted with the new surroundings. After a day or two they were moved to the most beautiful 9 acre pasture.

And it's all to themselves! Toby hasn't been in a pasture this nice in a very long time! I think they've both gained weight already. Yes - I'm keeping an eye on that...

The farm is a private home with only 2 other boarders. There are 5 other horses who are currently turned out in an even prettier 50 acre pasture. Toby and Ollie will eventually be turned out with the rest of the gang in the large pasture. They are doing some quarantine time since they shipped on a commercial shipper. So far it looks like they didn't catch any communicable diseases. They are super happy and healthy.

If any of you are into the whole horse racing world, then you'll appreciate what else I find really neat about Toby and Ollie's new home. At the end of the road they live on is the Darley broodmare complex, then at the end of the next road is the farm where Zenyatta was born (Winter Quarter Farm). And on that same road, is the Shadwell Stallion complex where some of my favorite stallions live, Jazil (2006 Belmont Stakes winner) and Invasor (2006 Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse of the Year). They can be seen from the road as they graze in their paddocks. I get a smile on my face whenever I see them as I drive by. I think it's so cool that my horses are living in the same vicinity as all these great horses and great history! Cheesey, I know but it does give me a thrill...

I'm just happy to have my guys with me and I pinch myself that we found a wonderful place for them to live.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Still Making His Mark

Those were the words in the Subject line of an email I received this morning from my friend Ali Bannister who I commissioned to paint Jaguar Hope. You may remember I wrote about it in this post.

Ali was discovered by a staff person for the upcoming movie "War Horse" through this particular pastel of Jaguar Hope.

War Horse is a Walt Disney movie with Steven Spielberg as the producer. Ali's official title was "Equine Artistic Advisor" and she will be in the credits. I'm certain it was a life changing experience for her!

Here is a video clip of the making of the movie over in England.

Ali kept me posted every now and again about the movie and in ways that Jag seemed to keep showing up.

This is her update email I received this morning...

So Wendy, we had the official wrap party for War Horse last week in London's uber trendy nightclub Cafe de Paris for over 700 cats and crew.
'War Horse' branded canvas goody bags were handed out that contained a leather satchel, a War Horse t-shirt and a War Horse cap.

I hadn't been involved in the design of any of the above so imagine my surprise and delight when I saw the cap!!

I will do my very best to get hold of one for you if I can.

I hope all's well with you. The wedding looked amazing :0)

Take care,
Ali xxx

I feel like Jaguar Hope had his hoof in the making of this movie. I can't wait for it to come out in August December!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Things Are Looking Up

They arrived and my stress declined exponentially! I also got a call that someone wants to look at my home in Traverse City today. Woo hoo!

Things are turning for the better and I'm so much happier for it...

The thing that hit me straight to the heart was when Toby recognized me when I called his name. He may be old and getting a swayed back but he's my loyal companion. There's nothing like a loyal friend...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I've Never Been So Stressed

Bottom line - I have too much on my plate right now...

My biggest stressful issues are coming from my personal life. Trying to get my life put together with my husbands in our first 7 weeks of marriage is NOT easy. But we'll make it and things will smooth out. In the meantime, I've been having the occasional meltdowns and emotional roller coaster rides.

My friend that was to bring my horses had so many problems with her equipment that when my horses decided they were not going to go with her, it really was for the best. I was SO disappointed but I headed from Northern Michigan down to Central Kentucky with a truck loaded up with all my horses belongings and a bunch of things from my home. I had an overly loaded rig. While driving my mind was going a mile a minute trying to come up with a plan B that I could afford. C and W Horse Transport came to my rescue! As it turned out, they were already up in Traverse City to pick up horses to go to Florida. Their truck had room!

Then they were to transfer to a different truck in Lansing, MI which was making their weekly Kentucky run.

I got the dreaded call that my horses were not loading and if I had any ideas. I was shattered. I know that my problem child for trailering is Toby but this time it was Ollie! Not only was I shattered but I was shocked! Evidently he did not approve of the ramp onto the truck. Just when you think you know you know your horses...

The shipper and barn owner continued to try while I called my vet to talk to her about tranquilizing them. While I was on the phone with my vet, both Toby and Ollie had a change of heart and loaded right on. What knuckleheads! I'm so happy they didn't need to be tranq'd!

This morning I sit with my phone very close at hand waiting to hear they are once again on their way. My stomach is a mess with worry.

In the meantime, to add to my stress (or maybe to act as a diversion to my stress), Matt and I were adopted by a large black lab mix puppy. He wandered over to Matt's brother's house out in the central Kentucky woods. After 5 days nobody responded to the posted notes or called animal control/ humane society about the big lovable lug. So he lives with us now and the only command he seems to know (and only if you have a treat) is "sit." We named him Amos.

Photos of Amos and my boys arrival (knock on wood) are to come...