This evening Zola and Sweet Tea were sharing some hay and were in perfect position for a comparison photo. Amazingly, they stayed that way while I ran in, got my phone, and ran back out. So here is the evidence that Sweet Tea has grown, despite the fact that she was 6 when she arrived last May. In 5 days it will be exactly one year since the top photo was taken. It’s pretty clear that last year Sweet Tea’s butt was smaller than Zola’s and that in general Sweet Tea had a finer frame and was smaller. No longer. I would say her butt is now bigger than Zola’s. And Zola has grown since last year as well. When I first saw Sweet Tea my comment was, “what a little peanut”. She is no longer a little peanut.
Click on the image to enlarge it.
My personal opinion is that Sweet Tea was supposed to be at least this size, if not larger, and one of the effects of starting horses in training so young (normally 18 months), racing them at 2, then continuing to race them hard (Sweet Tea had 51 career starts from 2008 to 2011) can prevent them from growing. Certainly that appears to be the case with Sweet Tea.
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.
This is not a good photo. It was taken from indoors, through a screen, in the evening. Also the angle is misleading, it’s not a straight-on shot, it’s shooting up the fence line. However, I think it’s clear that Sweet Tea, even given the perspective, is at least the same size as Zola, and certainly more substantial than a year ago. The dark color is her winter coat – I’m assuming she’ll lighten up again when she sheds out.
It’s raining today, I’ll try to get a better photo when the weather is better.
The weather was again great. Lunged Zola, who went very nicely, with weak bucks at the canter, and actually had one depart without a buck.
Lena was next and she was very good, relaxed and calm.
Sweet Tea was last and she was more willing to relax, though she was not actually relaxed. She was also much more willing to stop from the walk and it only took two whoa’s. At the trot she would go back to the walk most of the time. At the canter she was too tense to really listen, but did stop much better than yesterday. By the end of her session (no more than 15 minutes) she was listening for whoa, so she could get a treat.
Zola’s withers have come up since last year. She really is a beautiful girl, and those withers go all the way back past the middle of her rib cage.
Lena’s is growing – apparently focus is on her butt at the moment.
I wish I had taken good photos of Sweet Tea when she first arrived. She has definitely grown. When I initially saw her, my first impression was, “what a peanut”. She was tiny and all leg.
I’m going to try to get another photo of Zola and Sweet Tea together, as I am sure Sweet Tea is bigger. In the late fall I noticed that her butt was higher than her withers, and now her withers are again higher than her butt. I frequently get her confused with Chance. She was actually quite beautiful on the lunge – looks like a different horse when she’s moving – and is a good mover. It’s easy to see why she was fast. Hopefully, the new bigger, stronger version will be just as fast, if not faster.
I lunged Zola the other day (the 16th). I worked all day on Wed and Thu, then it poured all night Thu. Things dried out nicely yesterday (a miracle) and today I lunged her again. This is not for exercise, just to build a routine of work, work out kinks, and judge mood. Zola was very good, but still in a bucking mood when cantering.
I also lunged Lena, which is still pretty new for her. The last time she was lunged was October so I really felt we might have to start from scratch. She surprised me by being very good. Relaxed and just walked off on a nice circle. When I asked her to trot, she responded very well and with a nice easy trot. Then the unexpected happened. Horses never cease to amaze me. All the other horses came flying across the field at a full gallop, looking as if they’d never seen Lena before. Of course the excitement had an effect on Lena and she started pulling away. I held her but she reared (she is a rearer more than a bucker). She ended up falling down and then stepped on the lunge line, breaking it, and took off. What a bunch of lunatics! They ran around like idiots – acting like Lena was a new horse.
I just followed along and retrieved Lena. I tied my lunge line back together and put her back on the circle where she did very well – again. As I went to switch the line to the other side of the halter she started walking off, right into me, so I pushed her off and she galloped away. Geez. Another long walk to go get her again. Once again, back to the circle and she was fine. So it all went well.
It’s inconvenient training a horse in a huge field, but I do have to say that it sure makes for trained horses. A horse who will behave, be calm, and obey in the middle of a field is doing very well. Often horses who are calm and obedient in an arena are not all that calm or obedient when they leave it.
Finally it was Sweet Tea’s turn. I put her on the lunge line and she walked off nicely. She moved into a trot without being asked, and then into a nice canter. Since I want horses to know the words walk, trot, canter, and whoa, I asked her to whoa. She clearly had never heard that word before and as I started to ask her, with the line, to slow down, she went faster. I kept shortening the line and she really kind of panicked. Just before I finally got her to stop she was galloping around me in a 6 foot circle.
I was wearing my fanny pack with horse treats and gave her one for stopping.
We spent the rest of the time working on walking and stopping. She was very good at walking, but really not sure about stopping, though she did finally get to the point where it only took 4 whoas. For each actual stop she got treats. It’s sad to see that while she is a very good girl, she really has only learned one thing. Go. The confusion and near panic at being asked to slow is especially telling. One also has to wonder if she was rateable, or if her resistance to slowing down is the reason she always went right to the front. I didn’t get the impression that stopping was something she didn’t want to do, but was instead something she didn’t think she was supposed to do.
I think Sweet Tea will return to the track this year as a more mature and confident runner. Not to mention slightly bigger and definitely sounder.
In all honesty, I don’t know.
The weather has certainly not cooperated! Rain, rain, rain, rain, snow, rain. Every time it gets nice enough to dry out and I plan on working with someone, the very next day it will rain again. It’s raining at this very moment.
I have retired Chance. He was an experiment only, and now that he’s 10, there seems little point in running him. He did prove to me that barefoot is better. I have never seen a horse come back from a race so fresh – and I mean while he was walking back from his race. He wasn’t winded. He wasn’t exhausted. He wasn’t unhappy. He was happy to go to the post as well. And he was sharp enough, despite living out 24/7, to break out of the gate first. He ran no worse than he had been running, and in fact he ran better if you take into consideration the following:
Turfway fall meet vs Suffolk Downs
$7500 claiming race vs $5000 race
And not fit – the race was to be a workout.
I really do feel he improved and if the meet hadn’t closed, with a few more races would have been competitive. But it seems fate had other plans for Chance.
Zola on the other hand, I feel, has the chance to be a successful racehorse. She is unstarted and totally sound, physically and mentally. She is mature, tough, and smart.
Lena is in the same condition. Sweet Tea, who also may run this year, is probably sounder than she’s ever been in her life, and she was blazing fast on the track – with a chip in her ankle and fractured sesamoids. It would be great to see what she can do when she’s at her best.
Still, the weather and finances will dictate if they make it to the track or not. Only time will tell.
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!
I galloped Chance on the 8th and today (the 11th). On the 8th, we averaged around 14 mph galloping (slow) as I was testing out the detour and the reconfigured clubhouse turn. They seemed to ride well, which is great. I only galloped 2 laps, and that is solely due to my lack of fitness. Today I galloped 2 laps again, but they were faster - around 17 mph – though I was a little cautious as it had rained earlier.
Chance continues to like (or appears to like) the Pee Wee bit, and readily opens his mouth for it. I have ordered a Shur-Win, in the hopes that it will help relieve any pressure on the bars. I’ve never used one, but it’s significantly less expensive than a Kineton noseband, and appears to serve the same purpose. At worst it will be an $11 experiment. At best, he’ll really like it. He also continues to stand still, with his ears up, when I girth him up. I take this as a sign that whatever issue caused him to threaten to bite, in the past, is no longer an issue. Perhaps it’s the addition of a dressage pad under the regular pad. Perhaps it’s something else. Either way, I believe it’s a good sign.
I haven’t done much of anything with Zola. Hopefully I’ll ride her tomorrow.
Lena is lame on her left front, due to the cracks she had when I got her. They have grown out about halfway on that foot, and I think it’s just painful in general, not an abscess or anything serious. She is improving, especially after I trimmed her yesterday (the 10th). I trimmed a hind foot this time. Only one needed trimming, as the other had self-trimmed pretty evenly and short. The cracks on her right front have not grown out as much, and I will try to remember to take photos tomorrow or the next day, depending on the weather.
The other day (Thursday) I went out to get Chance to ride him (no galloping, just some walk and trot to test out the new dirt, the detour, and the reconfigured turn) and all the horses were in the vicinity of the pond. I heard some noise coming from the pond, which turned out to be Zola and Sweet Tea. Both of them were standing in the water, grazing long grasses. Zola was dry other than her legs, but Sweet Tea was completely wet from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail. There was not a dry spot on her! I’m not sure how deep the pond is, and don’t know whether it’s deep enough for her to have had a swim, or if she just laid down completely on both sides, but clearly she had enjoyed a good cooling off.
Even though she is new to the herd and the farm, Sweet Tea is allowed to go out, loose, with the herd into the big field. She has certainly adapted well, and is losing her ‘not interested’ look. She and Maura seem to have become close friends.
My youngest son visited last week and together we dug and hauled dirt from the hill to the dip in the track. The dip was not a big problem while I was just trotting Chance, but now that we’ve started galloping, it has become a real issue. It took 7 wheelbarrows worth of dirt to bring the ditch level with the track. (See photo below.)
We got the dirt in the night before rain was expected, and it was my hope that the rain would settle the dirt and help it compact a little, as it was deep and powdery. Well, we got more rain than expected – 2 days worth – and though the dirt did settle it has not exactly compacted. When I walk on it, it feels very hard and the photo below shows my boot prints, as it holds my weight easily. Unfortunately, even three days after the last rain, it hasn’t dried, and is sort of similar to Play Doh or modeling clay. It sort of oozes in a very slow, heavy way. And worst, Chance makes deep hoof prints just walking on it. (See photo below.)
As a result, I haven’t ridden him since the dirt went down. Thankfully, the weather is calling for no rain for the next several days. However, as a backup plan I am hacking a detour which will bypass the ditch and create a curve in the track. Hopefully that will work.
Galloping Chance raised another issue. The clubhouse turn was not rideable at the gallop, one corner being too sharp. I have weed whacked the turn into a new configuration which should ride well. I also reconfigured the far turn – just making the cleared area larger, so that there are options for taking different angles.
Curious about how fast I can go around the turns, I tried to mentally compare them to those of a small track I rode on in the 70′s. In my memory, the track was not large and the turns were tighter than mine. But it was over 30 years ago. Then it dawned on me to use Google Earth! The farm was still there, as was the track and I used the ruler tool to measure the turns. One turn was 179 feet and the other was 120 feet. The distance (cutting through the center of the track) was less than 400 feet. So not very big.
Using my wrist GPS I measured the clubhouse turn this morning. Walking the center line of the turn measured 224 feet – so it is definitely a longer turn. Which is good.
Was very busy the last ten days. Three full and exhausting trimming days totaling over 1,000 miles of driving and 32 horses. My son visited, and I had a trimming student for 3 days (days only, she didn’t stay over). Anyway, no one got ridden, although four horses did get trimmed.
Chance and Zola are fine. Sweet Tea has the exact same swollen knee that Chance had a few weeks ago. Lena is dead lame on her left front – due to her hoof cracks growing out. I have to say she does walk much faster if grain is in the offing! In addition, she has become quite friendly and seeks affection. Unlike many horses, she doesn’t mind kisses to her face and actually seems to like them, as she presents her face. I have been letting her loose in the big field with the other horses – since she is lame – though I have to admit, she comes over to the gate when she’s ready to come back in. Sweet Tea is also now free to be loose in the big field. In fact, every morning I turn them all loose with the exception of Bettina, who has proven time and again that she cannot be trusted if Huey is out. She will graze for a while, then, when sated, lures Huey (and anyone else willing to go!) into exploring.
Hopefully, I’ll get my track detour done today – it’s no easy feat cutting through four foot tall grass, clover, and weeds. Especially after the rain, which seems to have made them much tougher.
Sweet Tea has been here two weeks today. She is not your usual race mare.
Though she has been on the track a long time she is very low key. She leads like Zola and Chance, walking along behind like an old nag. She’s calm, nothing seems to upset her. If you didn’t know she was a Thoroughbred and a racehorse, you would never guess either by looking at her. She is completely unprepossessing.
The dent on the right side of her face makes her look a little strange, but what really strikes me is her eyes. She is not angry, bitter, or anxious. The impression I get is resigned or hopeless. She has accepted life for what it has been for her. She is neither happy or not happy. It’s very sad. My goal, of course, is to see that look disappear.
She has made friends. Maura and Zola befriended her early, but have kind of moved on. She hangs with Lena most of the time. She cried the first few nights, if she couldn’t find one of her friends – only after dark – whinnying until one of them would find her. This is the first time I’ve experienced that kind of behavior in 9 years of having a herd and introducing new horses. I can only guess at why. It will be interesting to see what is revealed as Sweet Tea settles in and the herd works their healing ways.
I haven’t trimmed her feet yet. They were in pretty good shape when she arrived and she has self-trimmed them.