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.
It’s hard to believe that it was February 2nd when I had my best ride ever on Zola – and that I haven’t ridden her since. Between the escapes, and subsequent minor injuries (turned out Zola ended up not just with a hoof abscess and some hide off of her right knee, she also had some scrapes under her “arm pit” and directly under her chest), and the ongoing precipitation – there has been no training going on.
The weather was so incredibly gorgeous – a record 4 days without rain – then – rain!!! Then snow. Then rain. Then snow. Then rain. In between there were some days without rain/snow, but only 1 or maybe 2. Mud is rampant and there is standing water in spots in the field.
There is good news though. The entire herd continues to become even more contented and relaxed. This is evidenced by their behavior at hay feeding times (3 x per day). The dominant horses (Shadow, Huey, Roxanna) still can have whichever pile they prefer – and there are still a couple rounds of musical hay piles – when one shifts they all shift – but it is very casual and calmly done. More telling is the degree to which hay sharing goes on. It’s nothing to look out and see three horses eating from the same flake, while others share as well. And it is not always the same horses. Shadow will share with Zola, Lucy will share with Zola and Lena, or with Beauty or Chance. Bettina will share with other chestnuts (Lena, Zola, Lucy), etc. I have seen as many as five at one pile at one time.
The relaxation extends to individuals as well – naturally. Lena is much more approachable (for me) and also more in the thick of the herd. Maura who was very nervous for several weeks after her arrival is now calm and happy to see me. Things that scared her – like the wagon I haul the hay out in (which rattles) – are now accepted as non-threatening. She was extremely head shy when she got here – in fact it took a few weeks to be able to get her halter off, as it had been on so long the leather had stiffened to a degree that required some force – and she wouldn’t stand for much fiddling. That appears to be much diminished and she is not even afraid of the dressage whip I carry to keep the horses from sneaking up behind me and pulling the hay off the wagon. I can even point it at her (she too will try to grab the hay) or tap her on the butt and she takes just enough notice to walk away. Shadow has recently taken on the role of guardian of the hay and drives away anyone looking to steal some, while herself remaining a respectful distance from the wagon, so the whip is really no longer even needed.
Beauty can now be turned loose in the big field with only a halter, no more dragging lead rope. She is also coming to enjoy the attention. The more she realizes that life here is very different, the more cooperative she has become. She is a very tall horse and while not difficult to halter, kept her head at its normal position. She now, with no prompting from me, lowers it very nicely for the halter. She is lowering her defenses as well – very quickly for a horse – and I think changing her name and telling her how beautiful she is has made a difference.
Zola is funny girl. She looks like the most laid back, relaxed horse – which she is – but that is not the whole story. She is also a dominant horse. It’s no accident that she shares hay with Shadow, and that aside from the leaders’ hay, she is free to take whatever pile she wants. She’s deceptively sweet – but don’t cross the line. Only yesterday I was reminded of that. Bettina, Zola and Beauty were eating their grain at the same time. Beauty took a step toward Zola – and instantly Zola fired off a hind foot and made “the face”. Sharing hay is one thing – grain is something else again! Interestingly, when Bettina was done she too approached Zola’s bucket and Zola allowed her to share the few remaining bits, while not yielding the bucket. All of which confirms my opinion – better to be Zola’s friend than to try to dominate her.
The more I watch Lena, the more interesting she too becomes. She is also a sweet horse, but doesn’t appear to want to be dominant at all. She is however, very independent. From day one she made it clear she has no problem doing her own thing and doesn’t need the herd. She has also proven to be bold and adventurous. She and Maura have become friends, and it is not unusual right before feeding time to look out and count 8 horses – and to find Maura and Lena off on their own. From what I see – and it could be only part of the story – I think Lena will actually be a cooperative horse to train to ride.
As for Chance – he too is a sweet horse, but he does like to dominate where he can. Just to do it. He’s not a dominant horse. He makes me laugh and I kid him that he’s just the pawn of the girls. I never would have planned it, but as it turns out, I have a pretty natural herd, in that there are 10 horses and 8 of them are mares.
Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow – again! – hopefully some good weather will finally arrive and stick around.
Tiz Life and More Oysters joined the herd over two weeks ago. As usual they were kept on the outskirts at first, and gradually the distance between the herd and the new girls got smaller and smaller. The two mares are clearly bonded and up until the last few days were always near each other. I was a little concerned that they would stay that way and not integrate into the herd, but they are horses and so they have stopped depending on each other and have become herd members.
Chance, always the lady’s man, can usually be found in their vicinity, and Roxanna seems to have befriended More Oysters. It was interesting to watch Roxanna take charge of the social interaction in the early days. She controlled who could approach the girls, and in what way, and also how close the girls could come to the herd. Herd behavior is fascinating and informative.
I have given the girls nicknames. More Oysters has become Maura (a pretty name that sounds like More). I had a harder time thinking of what to call Tiz Life. Tizzy rolls off the tongue easily, but really she is not a tizzy. I find that Tiz Life has a special spirit. I can’t prove it of course, but I believe she has been hurt emotionally by comments made about her since birth – due to her leg. But she has remained a kind and affectionate horse. The other night, in bed, I tried talking to her. (Basically, I just visualize talking to a particular horse.) I asked Tiz Life what she would like her name to be. I immediately was bombarded with a response, but it wasn’t words or pictures, and it was so fast I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. But it was clear that she had definite thoughts about it! What often happens is that shortly after receiving information, it seems like my subconscious understands and will process it to something my conscious mind can comprehend. In this case, about 5 minutes later, it came to me – Beauty. And so that is what I now call Tiz Life. Beauty. And surprisingly – as I am not one to choose names like that – it comes out very naturally and easily. Which makes me think I definitely have it right.
I went out the next day and spoke to Beauty and gave her some neck scratches, which she likes, and she turned her head to sniff me very carefully. I think she was interested in what a human was like who cared what she thought.
Of the two, Beauty is the thinker. Maura is more nervous around humans and doesn’t seem to expect anything good to come from us. It will be interesting to see how the girls change as a result of being with the herd and getting affection without agenda.
I posted not long ago that I was being given two TB mares.
Some time ago I came up with the idea of finding an old barren mare to “rejuvenate”. It’s my theory that mares are not really healthy, or mentally and emotionally as happy as they could be. Here in Kentucky, the TB mares are turned out a lot, but other than that things are pretty “old school”, or what I consider old fashioned. Grain, turnout, lights to get them in season early. Turnout with other mares. Early weaning of their foals. Pretty standard stuff.
My idea is to have the mares out 24/7 in a herd of mixed ages and sexes. Minimal to no grain (grain makes the body acid). No hormones. No artificial light, etc. Free choice minerals. Free choice Redmond salt blocks. Free choice kelp. And exercise. At least every other day, riding or lungeing or ponying. Something to keep them reasonably fit. Being a couch potato is not enough. Happy healthy horses, stimulated by living in a herd with geldings.
If my idea works, I thought I might open the “Mare Rejuvenation Center”. This would earn income for me, and also help mares that might otherwise end up badly.
I wanted a barren mare to prove my idea would work. I had called a farm who said they had a mare that would fit the bill, but they never got back to me. In the meantime these 2 girls came up.
Of course, these are not old mares, one is 6 and the other 7. However, the six-year old has had one foal that either was born dead or died shortly after birth. She was bred back and pronounced in foal, but slipped or reabsorbed it. So not successfully bred. A good candidate for my plan. I’m not sure about the breeding history of the other mare, haven’t had a chance to really sit down and discuss everything, but will find out.
Now for the exciting part!!
The six-year old is named Tiz Life and is a daughter of Tiznow. For those who know racing, little more needs to be said. For those who are not familiar with Tiznow, here is a link to his information at Winstar Farm. Briefly, he won the Breeders Cup Classic twice – the only horse to do so. He earned over $6 million. He was Horse of the Year and is in the Racing Hall of Fame. Only in Kentucky, would such a mare be free at the age of six.
The other mare is named More Oysters. She is a daughter of More Than Ready. Here is a link to his information. His current stud fee is $40K. Though not the runner Tiznow was, he was no slouch. Out of 17 starts he had 7 wins, 4 seconds, and a third, earning over a million dollars. He is a Grade I winner, and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He won his first 5 starts which I find impressive, and 4 of them were stakes races.
Anyway, there is my exciting news.
My plan is to wait until 2013 to breed the girls. And I’ll be breeding to race, not sell.