Saturday, October 8, 2016

Photo shoot!!!!

I took advantage of Nolan's great condition (and nice looking coat) to get a quick photo shoot done and he really brought his A game. If he fails as a riding horse, he can surely get a career as The World's Cutest Cob Sized Model!

It's always a good start when you go to grab your horse from the paddock and he's posing perfectly.

Phew. Hello gorgeous.

Just finding his light like a boss.
I just love this little guy!

Wearing tack, round one.

One of my favorite things about working with OTTBs is the amount of skills they already know before they become "riding" horses. So when Nolan arrived I could count on the fact that he should know how to single tie, stand to be groomed, tacked, bathed, etc. He should stand for the farrier, load and unload, and be relatively "broke" to ride. Nolan worked as a track pony for a few weeks before I found him so he had the added bonus of a second career start before leaving the track.

So, although he was fit as a fiddle when he arrived, I wanted to get his post-track training started right away. He had a few days of 24/7 turnout and I felt like it was time to start with some basics. He stood fairly well for grooming (although he was extremely sensitive with anything other than the softest brush) and we played musical tack while I figured out which pieces of Riley's tack would fit him (hint: nearly none of it). Turns out, the little guy wears the smallest girth we have and a cob sized bridle. I noticed while bridling him that his teeth were SUPER sharp, but he was really well-behaved despite that.

Aw, so cute!
We just hand walked him around a bit in tack, but he was so good and quiet, I opted to climb on. In general, we try to always have someone on the ground as a "lead person" while the rider gets the horse used to someone at the mounting block. Since they are typically used to having a rider legged up at the track, the mounting black/having someone above them to get on can be a little worrisome for them at first. We find that most march away once the rider is on board, so it's good to keep to the whole thing relaxed and uneventful, moving forward with them once the rider swings a leg over. Forcing them to stand still with that much energy can often yield poor results in our experience. Usually a few sessions of having a handler and the horse will be able to be mounted solo. At this point in my training, I'd sat on enough horses for the first time (or held them for my trainer) that I knew what to expect with Nolan at the mounting block. Turns out this kid is going to keep me on my toes.

We have a very large mounting block with three steps just outside the barn that we opted to use (which was mistake number one). He was extremely nervous around it, but we just got him comfortable standing by it while I stood on the first step. The poor guy, his whole body just turned rigid and tense and it was all I could do to reassure him. Once he settled and was okay with me on the second step and putting weight over his back and into one stirrup and swung a leg over. He panicked a bit and started to back up, hit the mounting block, started to fall over so I hopped off. He was pretty freaked out, and we tried starting over again. However, at this point he was getting more and more agitated by the snap on the lead line hitting the bit (see: teeth needing to be done) and he actually started behaving extremely aggressively... like, in a way I haven't seen with any other horse. Ears flat back, whole body tensed up and thrashing about. Soooo, we tabled that discussion for another day, scratched our heads a bit, and tried to end the day on a good note (he was fine for untacking, etc). I scheduled my vet to come out the next day to float his teeth as I was certain that was a big contributing factor.

Points for being matchy-matchy, even is his big brother's too-big-for-him-clothes
Back to the drawing board for this guy... Why does MY horse have to be the quirky one!?!

Friday, October 7, 2016

What's in a name?

I was really excited when I bought my new horse simply because he didn't have a terrible Jockey Club name. I know it's silly, but I think it's really nice to keep their JC name for showing as a way to create a record of the horse's whereabouts, a paper trail so to speak from the racetrack onward. Unfortunately, Riley had the WORST Jockey Club name, Women No Easy, and there was no clever way to make a barn name out of that, and I really didn't like it for showing, so I changed it. And since he was foaled on St. Patrick's Day, I came up with Irish Goodbye.

My new horse's JC name is Double No. Let's look at his pedigree to see where that came from:

Hm, well that doesn't clear up where the name came from!?
Well, wherever it came from, I think it's pretty cool and it's already led to lots of silly nicknames but I ultimately I needed a barn name. I'm a big fan of human names for animals and I usually like them to be two-syllables (I always tell people to imagine what the name might sound like yelled across a pasture). When I researched "double no", I found that it's a reference to baseball, specifically a baseball game in which a team is not able to record a single hit. Turns out Nolan Ryan is the all time record holder for no-hitters so I thought it fitting to name my new horse Nolan! 

For those of you into pedigree stuff, you'll see that Nolan is very well bred, Discreetly Mine being a notable stand out. I've heard really good things about Tale of the Cat progeny so I'll be curious to see how any of that plays out as he develops into a riding horse!

So far Nolan has been enjoying turnout with a couple of quiet geldings. Shenanigans have been limited since the first day or two and he seems to be taking to his let down time swimmingly.

First day or turnout in a sacrifice paddock. Looking confused.

Settling in, exploring and looking really handsome!

How do you guys name your OTTBs? Do you keep their Jockey Club names or make up something completely new? I'm so curious as to how horses get certain names and the stories behind them!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Introducing Double No

We scheduled to pick up my new horse a few days after seeing him, and my trainer joined to pick up a project of her own. We completed all the necessary paperwork with the officials to transfer ownership and papers to me, I handed the trainer an envelope of cash and we loaded them both up. Just like that we were on our way home! On the drive back to the farm I was flooded with feelings of nervousness and excitement, buying horses directly off the track is not for the faint of heart!

Meet Double No, 2013 bay gelding.
When we get new horses in from the track we try to take a few conformation photos and get a baseline of their movement at liberty. While they can move a bit tight right off the track, some of the best stills/videos we've gotten of our sale horses happen when they are very fit and feeling full of themselves! The photo above was taken not long after he arrived. What a hunk!

If you can imagine, eating as much grain as he was, being a little cooped up because he wasn't racing and being very fit made him pretty hot to handle when he got home. But, after spending the previous months immersed in a program that retrains OTTBs, I was feeling more confident than ever to try to do as much on my own as possible. Leading him up the ring was pretty hysterical, he basically just piaffed the whole way!
Don't mind me, just flying a horse shaped kite over here
It's amazing how a 15.2 hand horse can seem much bigger when they're all puffed up! I brought him up to the ring to let him stretch his legs a little and even though I thought he looked really nice and sound when he was jogged at the track, he proceeded to blow me away moving freely.


all four off the floor
Well damn dude, you got my attention. I mean, I realize he might not ever move quite this athletically again, but I was floored by his natural suspension and scope. And, although he has quite a puppy dog personality in his stall, he's got a cockiness about him that I think will translate well in his new career. He got to settle in for the rest of the day in his new stall (Riley's old one) to take in the sights and sounds and meet a few new friends between the stall bars. His trainer was kind enough to give me a supply of his track feed, so for the first couple of days, we'd wean him off that while adding in our current feed (10% pelleted grain). Much to my surprise, despite being completely uninterested in any grain, he got right to eating hay! Phew!

I think that a few days of daytime turnout with a couple of quiet buddies is in order while he figures out his new life.
I think I like it here!
Stay tuned... while he gets settled in and I think of a barn name!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Let's start at the very beginning...

First and foremost, thank you for following me over here on my new blog!

When I last left off, I made a big announcement that I was leaving my job of 10 years to pursue horses full time. I thought I should give it several months before I started to blog again, to give myself some mental time and space away from the blogosphere, and devote my focus toward my new position at the farm. It's been a whirlwind so far with horses coming and going, the sale business growing exponentially and my education developing with every hour spent at the barn. I'll post more about the nuances of my education as this progresses, but for now I have plenty to catch up on!

In early September, I sold Riley (as most of my readers know by now)... it was a tough decision but it was the correct one. We had reached a point in our relationship where we were just clashing more than we were moving forward, and I knew he was fancy and athletic and had loads to offer another rider, specifically someone with competitive goals. It's a humbling experience selling a horse you've brought along yourself, luckily for me it was also a really positive one. I didn't advertise him broadly, and only sent him to very specific potential buyers. Only two people looked at him, and the second set up a vetting (both loved him). I felt so proud watching two strangers school my horse and watch him go around so obedient and correct on the flat and brave and quiet over fences. The girl that bought him took him to an event (with ever xc schooling him) and came in 2nd at their first show together. I couldn't be happier for them both.

With Riley sold, I looked toward the future and thought acquiring a new horse to retrain, after all, now I actually had all the time and resources to do so! And this time around I had some parameters I wanted to stick to... OTTB, preferably gelding, age 3-4, between 15.1-15.3, compact with a nice shoulder (cute face helps, always). Only a few weeks after Riley sold, my trainer sent me a photo of a horse at the track and the message, "15.2 gelding, wanna go look at him tomorrow"?

I mean, c'mon... that face. Yea, I want to go look at him. By now over the course of the last 6 months I had spent plenty of time visiting racetracks throughout the area, speaking to trainers, watching horses being walked and jogged and I felt pretty comfortable going to look at one for myself. Better yet, this guy was with a trainer that we've previously purchased horses from and she bred him so it put me a little more at ease. One of the toughest things about going to look at horses directly on the track is the gamble that the trainer is actually being 100% truthful about the horses. This is not to say that all or most trainers aren't truthful, just that you as the buyer need to come prepared with the right questions and generally trainers will speak volumes about their animals without much prompting. But, they also don't want to deal with people that don't know what they're doing on the backside. There's a protocol and language that must be adhered to and more often than not you're catching a trainer toward the end of their day (say 10 am) so you want to be sure not to waste their time either. So I kept my emotions in check, prepared my questions and with the assistance of my trainer, we headed up to Parx.


In this instance, since we knew the trainer, we had information on why she was looking to re-home him before we arrived at the track (he wasn't showing much competitive drive at the track) and she needed the stall. He was well bred to run (she also bred him) but turned out quite small and not that fast. She had used him as a pony horse after his last race to give him a job, but with two ponies already she didn't need another. Typically, the trainer will pull a horse out of the stall, give a little background info and walk and jog the horse. We usually ask to take photos or video, which is really useful to review later in a less-hurried environment. If the horse has no know injuries, we'll run our hands over their legs, look for asymmetries and flex the joints to get an idea of range of movement. This horse was exceptionally clean legged, only ran 9 times so there was little wear and tear on his body. He was very fit and full of himself (as they almost always are) and he was described by his trainer as being a hard keeper, eating 16 quarts of grain a day and not that interested in hay. I felt pretty confident that getting him off the backside and turned out a bit would help with that, but I don't have much experience with a hard keeper (ahem, Riley = air fern)! I was pretty sold by his silly face, but he jogged really well for a fit, tucked up racehorse and he had a totally puppy dog personality. At 15.2hh, with two white stockings he was exactly what I was looking for as my next project. And, it's always a good thing when your trainer nudges you and says, "he's perfect, and don't negotiate".

 Next up! Bringing my new OTTB home!