I had to get hay this morning before I turned the horses out. They have to be in the fenced 20 acres when I’m not home, obviously. When I got back and had the hay put away I opened the gate and called the horses. They came running! Part of the way I could only hear thundering hooves, then when they came into view Roxanna was in the lead. As they turned to head toward the gate Chance came from the back and took the lead – way out in front, and running.
Normally they would run out, do a little circle and start grazing, but not today. They were all fired up for some reason and took off across the field at a serious run. Maura and Chance had determination in their faces and I have never seen Chance run so fast. Certainly not during his works at the Training Center in 2010.
It’s amazing how they can all look like a bunch of crossbred pasture pets and then transform into racehorses in the blink of an eye. Chance looked fantastic. I wish I had had my phone with me! I have totally taken back my plan to retire him from racing and will try to get him to Kentucky Downs in September. He must have run at least 6 furlongs altogether. At one point I was standing in the road and he was running the length of the pasture and I yelled out, “Go Chance! Go!” And he actually dug in and went faster. What a thrill. Of course everyone was running, but not as hard. And not all in the same direction! What a video it would have made. They thundered by me several times, into the fenced area and back out. In and out. Across the field – up and down. As they slowed there was rearing and bucking and prancing. I’ve never seen them that wild and I loved it.
Lunged them all a little while ago and they all went well, not too surprisingly, as they had clearly taken the edge off. This was Lena’s first time on the lunge with the saddle since October, and only her third time total. She was good. She did half of a stiff-legged crow hop and that was it. I won’t say she is completely comfortable with the saddle, but she was not afraid.
Zola went around once at a lazy trot and stopped – as if to say, “I worked out this morning.” I asked her for a canter and she gave one without a buck. I sent her the other way and she stopped again and looked at me. Since the whole point of lunging her is to get her to relax and be calm, I made her walk one more round (only so she wouldn’t believe she is in charge) and then quit.
I had lunged Sweet Tea first and she went well. Much more relaxed, but still not sure about whoa. But it’s definite progress.
Quite an enjoyable day.
I changed the horses’ schedule again a few days ago. Only because Huey has a near pathological desire to avoid bot flies and no one was going out to eat! One morning I woke up at 4:30 and thought, why not turn the horses loose now?
I threw on a pair of pants and my boots and walked over to the gate. Of course the horses were up on the hill, so I called “Huey!”. After a moment I could hear them coming. When they got near the bottom of the hill they started galloping. It was pitch black so this is all sound, I can’t see them til they get close. It’s quite an experience to stand in the dark and hear horses thundering toward you. Kind of eerie, but in a good way.
The next day when I woke up it was 3:30, but I decided to stick with my new idea and went out and opened the gate and called the horses. The third day the same thing. This morning it was 4:06 when I woke up – and the horses were outside my window waiting.
I want to say that I jump right back in bed after the horses are out. I am not that much of a morning person.
I was going through the photos I took of Lena yesterday, and below is a good shot of how nice and straight all her legs are. Thanks to the flies, her tail is out of the way and you can see how nicely muscled her butt is.
This morning, as I brought Chance and Tina out to get their breakfasts (Sweet Tea gets one too, but she appeared to be staying in the barn), the rest of the crew came along to get their little bit of grain as well.
While they were all filing over, I heard a whinny. Looking in that direction I see two horses on the hill – the hill that’s not fenced! A quick check revealed the missing herd members – Roxanna, cunning mustang that she is, and her new protege, Sweet Tea.
There are some sections of my fence that are (were) nothing but rope. A trip up the hill revealed the bottom strand had rotted and left a place for clever girls to duck under.
It was a simple matter to open the gate I created so Chance and I could gallop up the hill, and call the girls, who were more than ready to come in. Not so simple was the necessary fence repair I had to do! While the girls had gotten out at one spot, there were several sections that needed to be secured. With the exception of the fence down by the barn, all the fencing is barbed wire, a material I have really grown to respect. As horse people, we hear how terrible barbed wire is. I have to say, I like it. It’s a pain (literally) to work with, but once up, I don’t see how it’s so awful. I was worried at first that the horses wouldn’t see it, that they might get in trouble. But none of that has come to pass.
It appears the horses see it, and respect it. No one tries to scratch their butt on it, a common problem with wooden fences. There is nothing to chew (not that mine are fence chewers). In Paris, with the fancy wooden post, foal-safe mesh, and oak top rail, several boards met their demise, broken by butt scratching – and leaving spears of wood to potentially impale someone. In some cases the entire board would fall off, landing in the grass with nails up! I have seen the results of horses hitting high tensile wire – basically a cheese cutting wire for flesh! The horses accept the barbed wire as something to be avoided – like the hot tape.
So now the fence consists of all barbed wire, or hot tape. Hopefully there will be no more escapes!
I was planning on riding Chance today, but now I am so sore I can barely get up after sitting! It’s a quarter mile (uphill!) to the section of fence that was repaired. So, aside from the actual work (no easy task) there was 1/4 mile up to see where the horses got out, 1/4 mile down to get materials, 1/4 mile back up with tools and material. Another 1/4 mile down to get more materials, then 1/4 mile up to fix the fence. And a final 1/4 mile down.
So much for my relaxing Sunday. LOL!
Read the article by clicking here.
The Kentucky Derby was War Admiral’s third start in 24 days. Since he’d never gone a mile and a quarter, his trainer worked him the Derby distance four days before the Derby. He won the Derby of course. The Preakness was only a week after the Derby in 1937, and War Admiral worked nine furlongs four days before the race. As we all know, War Admiral won the Preakness. The Belmont Stakes was his fifth start in 52 days. That was not considered a particularly grueling campaign at the time, so just to be sure that the Admiral was ready for the 1 and 1/2-mile trip, Conway worked him not once but three times over the Belmont distance during the three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont. He won the Belmont in a record tying time of 2:28 and 3/5, again leading wire to wire despite slicing a quarter off his right heel breaking from the starting gate.
Clearly our modern trainers could learn something from trainers who trained horses – instead of running them on drugs!
Dawn Willoughby wrote about Chance on the Easy Care blog, and today a comment was posted with the following link, and the question did I think being barefoot gave Vo Rogue an advantage?
Vo Rogue raced barefoot in Australia. He won 26 races from 83 starts and earned $3.1 million! From the description of him as dirty, I’m guessing that he also lived out. He looks pretty happy in the photo – which I also think is a factor.
Unfortunately, his trainer died in 1994, 3 years after Vo Rogue retired, so there’s no contacting him to ask questions.
A few days ago I got an email from a woman who had googled her old horse’s name, in an attempt to find him if he was alive.
The google search returned a link to TRE! The horse’s name, Top Khat, showed up because he was listed as a member of the herd in Paris.
I was happy to tell the previous owner – daughter of Toppy’s breeders – that he was alive and well and still living in Paris. I also gave her the phone number of his current owner. They have since connected, much to the woman’s relief. What a great thing, to know that your horse is okay – at age 32. We all know it could have been a far different story.
So score one for TRE!
“Do they understand us?” “How cooperative are they willing to be?” These are two questions I included in my post yesterday.
When I put Roxanna back in yesterday afternoon, I rubbed her neck and face and told her that if she wants a relationship she’ll have to trust me more. I didn’t mean trust exactly, but it was the only word I had. A rough – very rough – approximation would be she has to take the next step in making herself clear as well as trusting me more. Since horses read our minds, Roxanna “heard” what I really meant, which I don’t have words to describe.
Today, after riding Zola, I put Roxanna out to graze. My plan was to worm her when I was ready to put her in. I wasn’t expecting any problems, as I’ve had Roxanna since 2005 and she’s never been difficult to worm. I would have wormed her first, but some horses don’t like to eat right after being wormed – I’m guessing it’s because the wormer makes things taste bad – and I didn’t want to spoil her grazing time.
An hour and a half later, I went out to get her (she was wearing a halter and lead). She stood perfectly still and let me pick up the rope. She then reached over and touched her nose to the syringe of ivermectin in my pocket. It was kind of odd, but my only thought was that I hoped she wasn’t going to try to avoid getting wormed now that she’d smelled it. I took the syringe our of my pocket and started to raise it. Before I could get my arm up, Roxanna grabbed the syringe in her mouth. I instinctively (?) tried to take it out. What perverse creatures we humans are! Every time it started to come out Roxanna worked harder to keep it in. Finally (duh) I just wormed her. Then she let me have the sryinge back.
I have wormed a lot of horses, including Roxanna, and NEVER had that happen. EVER. I do not feed treats in wormer syringes. I have never used the “trick” of practising worming using applesauce, or anything else. When I present wormer to a horse it’s wormer. I don’t believe in lying to horses.
So what was that? My opinion? Roxanna was trying to show how cooperative she can be. And how much she understands. And that she definitely wants our relationship to go to the next step.
Wow is how I feel. Wow. I really can’t get over it. What an experience! If she had hands she’d have wormed herself. That’s a statement.
Our relationship is still developing and I am still letting Roxanna set the pace. My goal is to see how free can a horse be, how cooperative, when allowed to choose. To see how much of their intelligence they’ll reveal, and just how well DO they understand us?
Part of my daily routine is grazing the horses in the big field in the afternoon. Some I turn loose without halters, some with halters and lead ropes. Some I hand graze as they are not yet at the point where they can be trusted loose.
Roxanna started out as hand-graze, but after a few times I let her loose with a halter and lead rope. She was fine.
Many people do not think horses can be trusted to be turned loose. And all horses are not ready for that, it’s true. However, I think a large majority would surprise people. Horses are in kind of a catch 22 situation. They are definitely smart enough, willing enough, and trustworthy enough to be turned loose, but because people don’t believe it, they don’t get the chance to prove it.
I don’t want my horses to be slaves, or to do things because they’ve been specifically trained to do them. My goal is to have cooperative relationships with my horses. I want our interactions to be communication, not behavior modification. I believe horses can read our thoughts if they’re clear. My feeling is that if we have a language we both understand, we can engage in conversation. New things and new situations are then easily introduced to the horse because “training” is not necessary – merely an explanation. More than that – the horse becomes free to express his/her self and offer things we never even thought of.
Of course this does require that the horse like me, or at least considers me a herd member. And trust. Between both parties.
As an experiment, I’m trying something I’ve never done before – with Roxanna. She has always made it clear that she wants a relationship with me. She’s also made it clear she doesn’t completely trust humans. Not surprisingly. And I confess, as a result, I do not completely trust her. We are working on this together.
As the next step in this experiment, I decided to take a risk and let Roxanna out without a halter. The big question would be what would happen when I went to bring her in. She has already shown that haltering isn’t necessarily something that is guaranteed to happen.
I left her out until last – as she clearly understands that as a privilege. When I walked up she faced me. Good. Then she walked past me, across the field, toward the gate to the fenced area. It was clear to me that she knew it was time to go in, and she was willing to go in. I am pretty sure that if someone had been there holding the gate open she would have gone right in. But, as usual, there were at least 5 horses clustered at the gate and it was impossible for me to hold it open for Roxanna, without several going out.
I gave Roxanna three chances to go in on her own. When she didn’t (don’t blame her), it was clear that I’d have to halter her. Ah . . . problem. Not surprising. However, though Roxanna avoided the halter she never strayed far from the gate. She didn’t take off at a canter across the field or down the road. In the end, after several minutes, she allowed me to put the halter on and I put her in.
So, another step in our journey together.
Sally ran again the day before yesterday and finished second again, just getting nipped for first. Here is the report from Leanne:
“Update….. Sally ran 2nd yesterday, once again her run was impressive as this time she flew the gates & ended up wide then in front with no cover.
She lead them into the straight & held the lead until the post where she only got pipped 3/4 length by a horse with a good reputation. No whip… so we are happy. . . I call her a “racehorse pioneer!” She’s such a little star, far from fearless however very very brave & so clever.”
Sally (aka Fantastic Times) raced on November 26th. Below is the report from Leanne in her own words. NOTE: 3 kg claimer is what we call an apprentice rider or bug Here apprentices get a 5 lb allowance, in New Zealand apparently it’s 3 kg. A 2 win 20k race means a $20,000 race for horses who have won 2 races. ‘This girl” would be the rider not the horse.
“Sally raced on the 26th in a 2 win 20k race as there wasn’t any other at 1200. I had to get permission to race her without a whip. What an ordeal!! Jockeys don’t want a bar of it. They announced at the races & on tv several times that she would be ridden without a whip. At 1st I felt like an alien then I got brave & held my head high. Anyway I ended up putting a 3 kg claimer on her. This girl is kind though not overly experienced. She missed the jump & ended up 4 wide all the way no cover, Sally the little star just cruised around them & ran 3rd only 1 length from the winner with very little help from her rider. The girl really just sat there while Sally made ground. The good thing was she was so happy when she pulled up. She has never finished a race so chilled. What a wee star she is. I am hoping she will start again on Sat 10h as she normally takes a month or so to talk to me properly after a race, this time she is back to normal.
I ‘m also not sure if i told you Sally has what I think is a protein allergy. She works on barley & can’t seem to tolerate anything higher in protein. A very interesting little mare who ticks all the boxes in the ALTERNATIVE HORSE!
So now her record stands at 3 trials for 3 wins, 6 starts for 2 2nds & 2 3rds. The other starts she ran 7th. All but one start she has been hit.
I plan to do my very best to never have a whip used on my horses again!”
What a triumph for Leanne and Sally – as well as barefoot and keeping horses as naturally as possible. This is the horse who gallops free on the beach! Running out of her class (higher) and yet what a performance.
Aside from the obvious, I am thrilled that Leanne uses the phrase “she normally takes a month or so to talk to me properly after a race, this time she is back to normal”. These are the words of someone who knows horses and cares what they think. And they do think.