Saturday, December 10, 2011

More Holiday Horses

I have found a nice slideshow software program so I was messing around with it and in my previous blog post I put up that slide show of Toby and Ollie from last year...
The fantastic equine photographer and friend Sarah K Andrew was in Kentucky yesterday and met the boys.  She inspired me to try a wreath on them.  She insisted that most horses don't mind it.  So here are the boys in their holiday best for 2011.

They really didn't mind it at all!

This time my slide show will be of the out takes from the photo shoot.  Toby was a saint and posed like a professional in his festive garb.  Ollie was just a little bit busy...

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Horses

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The First Show!

Maybe I need to include in my blog description that I'm a middle aged woman, amateur rider working with a sensitive OTTB with a big lovable heart trying to find our way in the dressage ring...

I know I'm not the world's best rider but I'm not horrible.  I get my enjoyment from making that connection with my horse and being able to understand and communicate with him.    Yesterday was one of those days that puts a perma-grin on my face because I could see that I could do it.

Anything could have happened in the course of the day.   Ollie could have had another day like last week when we traveled to Masterson Station Park.  But instead we had a "We're rock stars!" day!

Ollie loaded well for Matt and me.  He had been a bit of a challenge but we've been practicing and he's improving.

We arrived at the Kentucky Horse Park and found our way to the stabling area.  We unloaded Ollie and put him in a stall with water and hay.  He was a little anxious but not too bad.  He was doing some stall walking and an occasional whinny but overall pretty darn good.   We let him decompress in the stall and we hung outside of the stall with him.  When he settled down I decided to put a bridle on him and walk him around the property for his first look around. 

Getting Ollie acclimated to the surroundings at the Kentucky Horse Park.  In the background is the new outdoor stadium which can seat 7400 people.

He seemed to take it all in without a hitch.  He just looked alertly around at the other horses and activity.  I thought for sure that the lights for the "Southern Lights" holiday exhibit would get to him but he didn't bat an eyelash at them.

He seemed to be doing well so I took him back to his stall and tacked him up.  Again, I took him around for a tour over the same area.  It was no big deal...

I felt that I could get on him and ride him in one of the warm up arenas.  I didn't want to just jump right in there so I had Matt lead him using a lead line with me on him, then I had Matt take off the lead line but had him keep walking with us.  Then finally I had Matt just stand in the middle and we rode around him.  Ollie was fine!  In fact, he seemed to be better than some days in our own arena!  I think it was important that we took the time to let him see and hear everything going on.  As one friend says, "We need to spell out everything in capital letters and in crayon for him."  I was so proud of him at this point because this was the exact opposite horse I had last week!

Can you see the scaffolding supporting a holiday light rocking horse behind us?  Didn't bother Ollie a bit...

Here's a video of our ride around the warm up arena.  Matt was in the middle so I started to tell him where I was going so he could follow and get out of our way too...  

I am just so proud at how calm cool and collected Ollie was throughout the video.  He only got quick  once out there.  And he could stand and look around without getting wound up over it.  He looks like a good horse!  So unlike last week where everyone was trying to get out of our way...

Needless to say, I am very proud of us.  I think I handled him well, he responded well and I have faith that I could actually compete and not just go as a non-compete.

I don't pretend that I'm a great horseman.  I'm just learning as I go along with my horse.  I get all my enjoyment over our accomplishments and isn't that what owning a horse is suppose to be about?   I'm just a middle aged, average rider who can do it (with the help of professionals) on her cute spunky OTTB.  I'm still grinning...


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bless Me and My Sensitive Horse

 Yesterday was a full day of equestrian activities.  My day began with the Blessing of the Hounds ceremony which opens the fox hunt season for the Woodford Hounds at Shakertown, Kentucky.

Shakertown, an old restored Shaker Village, is like stepping back in time.  Having an old tradition, such as the Blessing of the Hounds, fits right in with the atmosphere of the Village.  Also, there are wonderful trails at Shakertown to take you horse for a small fee.  During WEG, this was the home location for the U.S. Endurance Riding Team. 

After the Blessing was made for the dogs, foxes, coyotes, horses and riders, the hunt galloped off throughout the surrounding countryside. 
 Later in the day, I had scheduled a riding lesson at a Lexington park which has a wonderful equestrian area.  Matt came along to help me load Ollie and otherwise be my assistant.  Of course he had his camera in hand. 

In a nutshell, Ollie was on his toes with the new surroundings as I suspected he would be.  He was doing fairly well UNTIL...

Three other horses entered the arena we were in.  Ollie made it clear to me that he did not know those horses and he had a meltdown.   There was just too much stimulis for him and he panicked.  I'll fess up that I did come off at one point and a gal who was standing nearby was able to catch him.  Several people remarked how beautiful he is and asked if he was an arab or anglo arab.   I told them, "Nope!  Just a thoroughbred who is lacking some brain cells at the moment..."

Julie arrived soon after our incident.  She directed me over to the dressage arenas up a hill.  But at this point, Ollie's brain cells were gone.  So we spent our time in the dressage ring getting him to settle down.  Even though it wasn't like a traditional lesson, I learned a lot about owning a sensitive animal and dealing with it.  Next time I'll probably be better at nipping things in the bud. 

Here are some not so glamorous photos of getting Ollie to relax and come back to earth.

We are finally walking flat footed in this next photo...  phew!

Here is a photo of an exhausted horse and rider.  My helmet still is askew from my earlier tumble...

So while he wasn't a rock star on this day, we did learn a lot.    Julie and I spoke about the show and she encouraged me to still go.  I'm going as a non-compete.  This way I'll be able to use my running martingale which we still need (especially under new situations) with Ollie. 

I can't say enough good things about working with Julie.  She's very supportive, still likes Ollie and she's been in my shoes before with a hot horse.   I truly value her input and her amazing understanding of a sensitive horse. 

This first show is going to be all about getting Ollie's feet wet with a positive new experience.  One from which we can grow.  Sometimes it takes baby steps...

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm Committed

I filled out the entry form, made of copy of Ollie's health certificate, wrote a check and put all of the items in the mail.  My first show in a long time!  I'm excited!

My rides on Ollie have been more of the same (see video from previous post), he anticipates, makes himself anxious, and eventually after practicing for awhile, he gets it.   Julie and I are trying to get together for a lesson but the weather isn't cooperating.  It's been wet, soupy footing and we don't have an indoor arena.  I haven't given Ollie time off just because of the weather.  I did some ground work with him today and he was good in the warm wet weather.  

I think we can put it together down the road and each day is a new adventure.   It just takes Ollie a lot longer to learn to relax than most horses.  He's lucky to have me! 

Outside of Ollie, I've been having fun with photography.  I had a photo shoot with the nicest young family.  One picture from that shoot just warms my heart so much.  It's of their elderly jack russell being walked by their 18 month old little girl.  SO CUTE!  What a good dog...

Then I dragged Matt with me to help out at the Lexington Humane Society's big annual fundraiser - The Beastie Ball!

This year the LHS had "The Wizard of Pawz" as their theme.  The byline being "There's no place like home" for all the animals in their care looking for forever homes...

Not unexpectedly, Matt and I ran into many people in the equestrian world attending the event.  We had fun and hopefully we did our small part to help the LHS animals find their forever homes. 

That's all  from this neck of the woods for now.  Hopefully the rain will stop, Ollie will relax even more and everyone can have an enjoyable Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Awful!  That's what we were today.  AWFUL!

I had a very fresh horse who kept trying to think for me.  He was all about cantering when we went to a corner.  Going straight wasn't easy and occasionally we could actually halt at X. He was just busy, busy, busy.

I rode him and I cantered him around to get the edge off.  I STILL can't keep my seat in the saddle.   I get so aggravated with myself.  I'm trying!  I really am!  Sometimes I can do it but I just can't maintain it.  I have to think of myself as a jellyfish in order to do it. 

At any rate, I'm committed to showing on the 3rd and by George we'll do it come hell or high water.  We guarantee to help any others who may be competing in the Intro levels.  I even video taped our best effort this morning.  Truly - it's our best effort for today.  We were pathetic!  Ollie just had "GO!" on his mind.  In hindsight I should have lunged him first.  I have to remind myself that he's like Amos.  Amos, our not yet 2 yr old lab mix, needs to run around and get his yahoo's out before we work on obedience training.  Otherwise he just can't listen.  He just wants to play and go!  Ollie's the exact same way.  If I want a good citizen then I need to let him get out some energy to get there.

Note to self, ride him a good long time before we go in for our tests at the show...

So here is our video for this month.  It's not pretty but he's SO CUTE when he goes well if even for a few strides...  The song is by one of my favorite artists K T Tunstall (think Black horse and a Cherry tree song) - Hopeless!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Beginning to Obsess

I'm beginning to obsess over the Dec. 3rd Snowbird Horse Show.  It's been a long time since I've been to a show.  Even then, those shows were schooling shows.  This show is sanctioned by the Kentucky Dressage Association.  My mind = Big Time.   Ok.  I know.  It's not.  But...

I have multiple sheets of paper on my desk where I drew out the tests.  I'm talking Intro A and Intro B.  (I can hear you laughing).   I tried on my show clothes.   I rode Ollie through the tests - hmmm we need work.  We practiced without the running martingale too.   He was great until he realized it wasn't there...

Last night I tossed and turned in bed worrying if we'd embarrass ourselves.  In my mind, Kentucky riders are more serious than my supportive group of riding friends in northern Michigan.

Right now he looks like a "wooley" lamb, the end of his tail has that awful yellow tinge, in fact his whole body has a yellow tinge to it.  It's too cold to bathe him and he'll roll several times every day anyways.  He's kept outdoors so I need his wooley coat and he needs to be kept outdoors to maintain his sweet demeanor. Why oh why did I get a gray horse???? 

But in my heart of hearts, what I'm most excited about, is that I CAN take Ollie to a show!  I have a feeling we'll be horrible since we struggle with halting at X and in just about any corner he wants to transition into canter from the trot.  At home, we own the walk.  But that's at home...  I'm realistic in my goals and my main goal is to get him through the test as steady as we can and to gain him some experience.  To his credit, he rode the tests fairly well while he was eye-balling a large buck in the field next to the arena.  I took that as a good indicator of how he will be.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ollie's In Good Shape

Ollie had his scope today and he seems to be just fine and normal there.  His teeth seemed to be in good shape and there are no early signs of EPM.  In a nut shell, he just eats too fast and swallows too big of gulps.  When I water down his feed into a soupy consistency then he has no problems.  So that's what we're going to do from now on.  Easy enough!  

In other developments, my husband felt badly about my riding britches so after attending an open house to meet Havre de Grace, he stopped the car at my favorite tack store in Lexington - Wise Choice!   I have a pair of new white show breeches and two pairs of full seat breeches for schooling that I bought on consignment.  Great prices!  Great products!    I'm ready to sign up for the next Snowbird Show in December!  Woo hoo!

Havre de Grace at her meet and greet hosted by Vinery and Fox Hill Farm.
 I'm also excited to see that the Paulick Report picked up the War Horse story that Fran Jurga wrote.  Very cool! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

I hate that I haven't been posting on a regular basis - thank you to my regular readers for staying with me!  I've had so many things going on.  Living in Lexington (as opposed to Traverse City) means that I have a stream of visitors coming and going during peak equine events in the area. 

It also means that Matt and I are attending many of those functions as well..

Paulo Santana going through the Grand Prix competition at the Alltech National Horse Show

Jessica Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen's daughter) competing in the Alltech National Horse Show.
Royal Delta sells for $8.5 million at the Keeneland November Sales a few days after she won the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.

Multiple graded stakes winner Blind Luck sells for $2.5 million at the Keeneland November Sales.
And we had visitors!  Here is Tracie Fream Noel who came over to help feed Toby and Ollie one morning.

In a short capsule - Ollie has been having issues with choking on his feed.  Twice in a week.  So I have a vet coming out tomorrow to scope him.  Right now he's being fed his feed that is well watered down.  It's like soup and he wears it like a baby eating spaghetti.  Entertaining until he rubs his food covered mug on me!

I had hoped to take him on Sunday to the Snowbird Dressage show at the Kentucky Horse Park as a non compete but it's not looking so good now.  I need to get his eating issues resolved. 

Also, my loving husband washed my clothes one day.  That included my riding britches.  There was an ink pen that found it's way into the laundry.  The rest is history.  So I need new show britches too. 

But today I wanted to make sure I posted a link to Fran Jurga's blog on Equus Magazine's website.  Fran and I have become friends via the social network.  I'm hoping one day she'll be a visitor to Lexington and can meet the Wooley's!

Fran wrote a wonderful piece about Jaguar Hope, me, my friend Ali Bannister and the movie War Horse.  She put our story together beautifully! It's a perfect piece for Veterans Day:  Racehorse To War Horse 

Thanks for sticking with me!

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Comes To An End

Winslow Homer (gray horse) running down the backstretch in an allowance race at Keeneland.
I've been so busy with work this October!  It's the most beautiful time of the year here in Kentucky...

Edgar Prado coming back to the winners circle with Senada at Keeneland.

Weanlings at Shadwell Farm.

Nana the St. Bernard puppy.  She's only 15 weeks old.

Chantal Sutherland after her stakes win at Keeneland.
  Matt and I have been doing all we can to keep up with our work.  It's a nice position to be in! Matt recently blogged about some of our fun photo shoots - Capture The Light.   I've had a few photo shoots for Peeps and Paws which were great fun too!
A Rottweiler puppy born a few hours before this photo was shot.

A fun family portrait!  :)

Nana the mischievous St. Bernard puppy...

Nana the mischievous St. Bernard puppy - again...

And best of all...  on the closing weekend of racing at Keeneland, I ran into Ollie's old trainer.  Once again I was told of his horrible antics, how he tore down stalls, was nicknamed "Chuckie" and how much trouble they had keeping weight on him.  I was happy to say that he's fat and happy a few miles away from Keeneland and that I'm aiming to take him to his first show in either November or December.  The look of surprise was priceless.  The trainer's wife said, "He's a little nutty in the head..." and made that international sign for crazy by twirling her index finger around her ear. 

I told her he was much more settled and calm and a great trier.  I'm more determined than ever to keep up with our good work!  He's doing great and I'm so proud of him!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Progress Report - Canter Departs

October is a very busy month for Matt and me.  First of all, it's the Keeneland Fall meet time of year.  We've been having a grand time at the races...

If you haven't been to Keeneland then you're missing out on something very special.   The best horses come from all over the country and the racing is excellent as well as the scenery and atmosphere.

We've also had weddings to photograph and well I'm trying to keep up with my progress with Ollie in between all of it.

I dragged Matt out this morning to video tape our ride so I could show all of you (as well as myself) that we're doing better. 

We struggle a bit with our left lead and at one point in the video you'll see us on the wrong lead but come back on the correct lead.  It was a lovely flying change that was completely missed on the video and which I was completely unaware of until I felt the correct lead underneath me.

I talk to Ollie often and pat him when we do well.  The verbal commands help us.  And if you're curious, I put music to this from one of my favorite artists - Sara Bareilles, "One Sweet Love."

The video is great for me to see where I'm making mistakes when I ask for canter.  Like it would help Ollie to pick up the correct lead if I had his nose tipped in rather than out when I ask for canter.  Oh well!  I do want to get another lesson with Julie soon!

And if you want to see from where we came - here's our starting point video: