Friday, August 19, 2016

Body, Y U Do That

This week has been the slowest blur ever, but a happy one. I haven't been this busy in forever, but I am SO grateful to be back at the gym and riding along with everything else.

This week, V is on vacation, so in typical fashion, I've been doing almost too much physically in riding both boys and Crossfit.

Finally, I dragged bribed a friend to come video for me in an attempt to document my glorious floppy return to equestrianism.

You know how when you're doing something and your like

And get all excited to watch yourself in the video and document your fucking awesomeness and then reality hits when you hit play and you're like

Yeeeah. That was me. I REALLY thought I was doing good, like honestly 100% was actively staying aware of my body and working to keep things in proper places. Especially keeping  my hands where they were supposed to be and my hip angle just right. I was riding around like, fuck yeah hips. You're amazing. Knees, I love you. Calves, keep up the good work. Shoulders, you fine bitches, ILY. Thumbs, god, you're fabulous, keep doin you. And then, the video proved I was lying to myself. Its fine though, thats why we document right? To build and improve?

Luckily, my horses have been actual fucking saints and put up with me flopping around in pure weakness. Sometimes I joke around and say that I'm riding like shit, but for reals this time, I am. Let me tell you, 6 weeks of doing NOTHING besides sitting at a desk all day and laying in bed afterwards until the sun comes up, means all of the muscles you worked so hard to obtain over the last year and a half DISAPPEAR.

At least I already feel little stronger, but that post about rider position is hitting me harder than I thought it would. Brick by brick.

My inside hand and hip angle struggles have only been exacerbated now though, and riding properly is apparently impossible.

Thank baby jesus that Yanks is a unicorn and pretty much does anything you ask, as long as you do it semi-properly. I wanted to build on what we had worked on last ride and he was pretty game.

Useless potato sack NBD for the Yanks
I always get a little flustered when anyone comes to video, because my phone generally only has 5 minutes of recording time because I was a total noob and only got 8GB instead of like a billion, and I am constantly deleting shit to make room for ponies. Therefore, I'm always like omg omg omg gotta get it in, gotta record the brilliance! And then I end up riding even more like shit. When will I ever learn?

Anyways, Yanks was great. We worked on a exercise similar to last ride except instead of counter canter, it was half pass at the canter. AKA, fucking hardest thing ever for my OG OTTB with a weak topline. He really tried though. There was the smallest of crossover and he at least maintained inside bend quite nicely. I am sure my wayward hands interfered a bit, so I was pleased with his efforts.

Sideways, my noble steed!

After the half pass, it was straight to a 10m circle, down to trot and across the diagonal in a medium trot.

Work that inside hind Yanks

He was a wee bit on the lazy side and trotting like a lazy asshole, so Mr Tappy had to remind the old fart that dragging hind legs and hallowing your back is not what proper gentleman do.

FINE, I'll do what I'm supposed to *tail swish in your direction*
After a few reminders, he was great though and stayed mostly through the contact and actively forward, again, despite my riding challenges.

Those feets < 3

After getting in the forward mindset, we worked briefly on renver and leg yields to finish up the ride. I was getting wicked tired and going fetal, so I knew it was better to stop before I truly started to unravel and ruin what we had accomplished that day.

Almost sad V is coming back because I truly love riding that horse and sometimes miss his buttons when I get on B, who has approximately 1/3 of Yankee's buttons, and they are still installing hahaha.

Speaking of B, he was quite stiff to the right yesterday, and the sand was drying up and he was like no thank you, so we rode in the grass.

Despite feeling our conditioning ride yesterday, he put in some good work on the flat. I was struggling pretty hard to keep up with him, already exhausted from riding Yanks, so I kept the ride short. We plan to jump tomorrow anyways, no sense in working him in the ground before then.

I felt like I was really flopping around on this ride, but he tolerated my busy hands and flailing legs and was almost a little lazy. Never one to really need much in the ways of leg, I would say he required a shit load of leg in comparison to normal. Mostly because he kept trying to sneak a shoulder in. Cheeky buggah. This of course made me extra tired, but he responded nicely and for the most part stayed in front of it.

I tried to canter him, but legit almost slipped off the side like an fucking greenie. His canter is absolutely massive, and apparently what little strength I have is not enough to sit it. Horrified and embarrassed I casually came back down to a trot and was like, this is where we live now. I asked B for a few more changes of direction and a bit more energy and we called it quits.

Practicing releasing inside rein to test self carriage

Overall, I could have been discouraged with how poorly I rode, but mostly, I am jacked I'm back in the saddle! I know in time it will come back to me and I just need to be patient...but its hard! I am so lucky that I have two fabulous horses to ride and spoil, and reminding myself at that really helps me stay positive. Hopefully in the next few weeks my core will get stronger and I can start seriously riding again!

Happy weekend ya'll!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tootsies Update

My life has righted itself. I got back to the gym. I got back to riding. Life is making sense again despite the ever mounting bills, the impossible task of finding an apartment that allows dogs that isnt eleventy billion dollars a month, stress at work and constant grad school homework.

Despite all the stress in life, horses give me focus and B's improvement gives me life.

Super, incredibly boring to some, but I find this barefoot thing fascinating. It has been just under a month (shy by a few days) since I said fuck it to shoes and kept them off entirely. However, his feet have been mostly bare for the better part of several months considering keeping shoes on was impossible. 

Personally I am counting my lucky stars and knocking on all the wood because B has hardly taken a a lame step or bobble since I stopped putting nails in his feet, and as of right now, his feet are doing great.

In need of a touch-up rasp

Some days they look pretty jagged, (like above), and others they look super smooth. As the nail holes grow out, his feet are starting to look a bit rough, but only on the edges. Underneath, magic is happening.

Behold, the tootsies.


I am literally mesmerized by them for some awkward reason, and have taken to staring at them on my phone during the most random parts of my work day. 

Boss: *walks in* Hey have you gotten any progress with the McCaughlin accou- what are you doing?
Me: *wipes away single tear, and hides phone* Just staring at my horses' feet, sorry
Boss *Looks at me questioningly* *quickly leaves*

For real though, I always forgot that horse feets are ALIVE and semi-squishy and really fucking cool and shoes are the actual worst.

I wish I could pull Yankee's shoes *le sigh*

Lets take a gander at these feets and their pretty drastic, yet small changes.

Biggest thing I notice, with my uneducated eye, is the frog expansion and the obvious, edges less jagged. Also, the foot is expanding slightly out and it almost has a polished look to it since every inch of the foot touches the ground with every step now. SO pretty. SO fascinating. 

With his problem foot, I see a MASSIVE difference in that frog. I mean seriously, look at it. LOOK AT IT. Its huge now! Those heels! That width! SWOON!

Also, not 100% sure if the flare on the outside edge is a good or a bad thing, but the farrier is rechecking him tomorrow (its been about 9 days since he was out last) to see if he needs a trim finally.

Regarding his soundness, hes been almost foot perfect. The indoor still gives him the ouchies, but the indoor turned to shit as soon as it got humid and the equipment was moved to the New Farm. I haven;t ridden him in there (no one has), but we have to walk across it to get to the outdoor. The outdoor has been wonderful for us, super fluffy and soft.

Two days ago he was ever so slightly tender because of the rain, but yesterday he was fantastic. We just went for a hack/conditioning ride beacuse 1) no jumps 2) ring flooded 3) he was a giant mudball

Yankee modeling his new look

We did laps around the field, 6 each direction, 2 per gait. and he felt incredible. I am still 1000% out of shape, so today we might either skip, lunge or just hack again because tomorrow we are hauling to New Farm to jump!

1 more week and then we move permanently! Stalls are being re-done as we speak! GAH.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Do Wednesday: When to Quit

Yesterday was a dream, I think. Not only did I get LOADS of leads for my hunt for baby pics (thank you everyone), but I GOT TO RIDE.

I've ridden twice in the last 6 weeks, even though I wasn't supposed to, for about 10 minutes only  & it was absolute torture. Combined with being unable to work out as well, I was miserable.

I broke the fast yesterday though and not only went to the gym, but rode BOTH my boys.

Don't worry, I didn't overdo it like a typically do, and I actually feel fantastic today, just a little sore. Taking the day off to recoup, but hope to ride again tomorrow then maybe Saturday haul to the New Farm to jump!

My question today I might have asked before, and there is no real definite answer, more of an explanation of a process.

But first, a recap.

V is out of town so I wanted to get a solid flat school in on him. Yanks topline is looking pretty dreadful and is not developing as fast as I had hoped, post surgery. To combat this, I am hoping V is willing to either lesson with me once a week, or let me ride him on the flat. Shes still learning dressage, so its not her fault at all, but putting him through 2nd and 3rd level paces once a week might help build that muscle.


Yankee warmed up with a good marching walk, and we got to it right away since there was a storm looming. I played with the adjustability in his trot, working on collection and then extension and back and he felt quit supple despite the lack of muscle across his topline. Canter was no different and he was perfectly obedient and in front of my leg. To warm up at the canter and check his strength I asked for walk-canter transitions every 4 strides down the long side. He felt fantastic and stayed relaxed and ready for any command. Deciding to shake it up a bit, we dove in to my favorite canter exercise.

This exercise combines halt-canter, with 4-5 strides counter canter then back to the wall for a 10m circle to halt, turn on the haunches and halt-canter, repeat. Then flip the exercise for the other lead.

Do you like my shitty diagrams, hahah

Yanks was able to repeat this twice on each lead before he got tired and I really had to use my aids to keep him in front of my leg and keep the energy moving. Totaling 6 times, 3 passes on each lead I moved on to renver (REALLY hard) and traver to half pass in the trot. Half pass has always been more difficult for Yanks and he could only hold it for 3 strides, before falling in. He tried his heart out though and was foot perfect and listening to my aids even without spurs (I've needed spurs in the past for lateral work). After just a few minutes at that, I called it a day with him since I am 1000% out of shape and he is still building strength for the more advanced movements.

Bacardi was ever so slightly footsore because it has LITERALLY rained for 5 days straight. Its like a freaking hurricane or monsoon. With all the wetness, I was not surprised that his feets (took pics, next post!) were a wee sore. Also, mildly concerning, his stifle was clicking. It stopped about 10 minutes in when I asked him to back up....really hoping this isn't the start of another issues though.

Therefore, I kept our ride to a walk but worked on shoulder-in to halt, turn on the haunches/forehand and then simply changing the bend in his body along the long side (almost like renver) back and forth while still maintaining energy.

Lateral work used to really get his goat and it was almsot impossible to work more than 3-4 minutes with him at it before he checked out and started rearing. He hasn't reared in ages, but he would flip his head about and start to jig after his time limit was reached.

Flying change practice last summer

Yesterday though, he was great! I was pretty proud of him. #GrowingUp

So back to my point.

When do we quit in our rides? How much is enough?

For literal YEARS I would simply warm-up, do what I came to do and if Yanks was wonderful I would quit right there. For the majority of his younger life, he literally couldn't;t handle much, and I wanted to keep his baby OTTB training positive. Then he got older and I didn't change a thing. Normally my rides were no longer than 30 minutes. I never felt like he really NEEDED to be drilled and I love to end on a good note, and fearing he would get worse, I always ended them short unless we were struggling and he needed more time to get it "just right".

However, at shows we were expected to go for much longer than that I would notice he would lose focus quickly. His fitness was never an issue, just his concentration. It took me ages to make the connection between my ridiculously short rides and the fact that I would lose my horse after less than an hour at shows.

After that revelation, I tried to keep my rides a little longer, but still never felt he needed it. He knew his shit, there was no point drilling him. This lead me to a lot of creative rides to get that saddle time.

Then B came along and was a total shitshow every ride. Still trying to keep with my mantra of "end on a good note", sometimes I would be on him for over an hour.

To be honest, I never really felt like that got him anywhere, so I went back to what I used with Yanks as a bebe. We worked up until he started to resist. If he resisted right away, I dropped all initiative and we would toodle.
Sometimes even that was impossible so I would go for the most basic, dumbed down goal of the day. Usually walking two steps without bolting or rearing. Yeah, he was a hellion. Once we got that, BAM, I was off and he was done.

Walking is good
It took about a year, but B shows up to work almost every day now. I collect the reins up and he is THERE. So little by little I push him. If he responds well, I end the ride. If he resists a bit, I back off and ask for something simple and if he relaxes, we go back to the hard thing. 

So for us, its dependent on his brain and how much he can handle.. With Yankee, he always perfect and then its easy to get carried away with asking for more and more.

Being good is hard

So how much do you push? How far is too far in one training sessions?

Hard to quantify isn't it?

I think of it like a weightlifter. I would get absolutely nowhere if I warmed up, then quit, because my form was perfect. I would never get stronger in that skill set. Therefore, I push myself to do more. I fail a lot. But then, I succeed and get stronger...little by little.

Thats how I equate training new skills with my horses. If I give up too fast, they will never learn. Theres a delicate balance between too much and too little, especially with B. So generally, he gets ridden about 30 minutes, sometimes longer to work on physical stength things. His max brain capacity I've noticed is about 45 minutes though, so anything longer, despite how poorly he may be doing, I need to cut off there. Yankee is like the little engine that could and rarely gets stressed about anything but flying changes, so a happy 40 minute ride I think is sufficient for building muscle. I try not to drill the fuck out of him, since he is the solid citizen of my herd.

If you managed to stick through my incredible rambling post with no new pics, I want to know what you all do.

In your rides, do you often  push for more each time or do you just refresh old skills as a tune up and possibly throw in a few minutes of new skill? Do you ride for an hour no matter what? Do ou ever end rides early? Tell me dear readers, what do??

Monday, August 15, 2016

OTTB Scavenger Hunt

First off, thank you to everyone for the positive words on my last post! I loved seeing the comments, even if I didn't reply back. Grad school is back in full swing, along with working my bum off to try and pay off some bills AND slowly packing because we are moving houses and barns (Bangor and myself getting an appt together-finally).... its just a bit overwhelming sometimes!

Sadly, along with everything else, I did not get to ride this weekend because of the torrential & constant downpour, but I am not complaining. Rain= softer ground. Our indoor is like actual cement right now and I refuse to ride B on it, so I am at the mercy of the weather until we move to New Farm. 

Which, by the way, I got a tour this weekend and I WILL be posting photos soon if Supertrainer is OK with it. It is...stunning...and massive. 60 boarders...yikes. Yanks DID have a clinic there this weekend with a catch rider (her horse was lame) and Cathy Weischoff and he was perfect, as usual. I wasn't in attendance but I got some pics (geek at the 200x200 arena, omg) on Friday was she rode briefly to get accustomed to him.

Sass master

This arena...I was standing in the middle of it. SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES

Yanks was a wee sassy because he hasn't been half halted properly in months and was mad he had to actually use himself, but otherwise they got along really well. Props to her for riding him so well! He might be the hardest easy horse to ride, if that makes sense. Yanks will ABSOLUTELY take advantage of you if you don't ask for the thing correctly and generally will loaf off like a goon. H made him wake up and actually use his back, but once he got over the sass he was lit and really enjoyed the jump clinic!

This post has nothing really to do with clinics, and jumping and riding though. It has more to do with racing. 

If you are not aware by now, both of my boys raced for several years and B was actually quite successful. I adopted Yankee from New Vocations in 2004 and I am actually an ambassador for them (ask me anything!). NV is an OTTB adoption center that helps OTTBs find new homes. I unfortunately either never got Yankee papers, or I lost them (probably the latter, I was an incredibly disorganized child). Bacardi I bought off Facebook, and paid much more than should have, but I had to have him. I knew his previous owner and she luckily had papers on him. 

And race pics!!

However. I still knew very little about either of them, except that Yankee was fast as fuck, but too aggressive to pay attention to racing, despite being the sweetest horse ever on the ground. Consequently, he was gelded early. B won a bit, was incredibly fast and strong, but apparently was handed around and not exactly treated the best, poor fellow. A lot of his baggage I am positive comes from the track.

Yanks doing what he does best
Despite the hate that quite a few popular bloggers spew about OTTBs, I am sold for life. There is nothing like them, and their heart and determination is unparalleled. If you can deal with the quirks, which for I actually love and find unique, they are simply the best. Incredible athletes and so very willing to try hard for you. Nothing compares to letting them open up out in a field and to feel their hoofbeats in your throat. Amazing, really.

All of my friends like galloping him too

However, because I adopted and bought second hand, I have almost zero history on either of them. Sure, I have their pedigrees...but that does nothing for me. I envy those that buy from breeders and have baby pics, show records, thorough history etc. I want that, so bad. Even the OTTB owners that have history...I low key hate you, haha.

Whats worse is I used to have a picture of Yankee from his yearling sale, but fricken lost it when one of my shitty laptops died on me. Back everything up people. 

End goal is to find some baby pics, maybe a race pic or two...but ultimately I WANT A BABY PIC DAMMIT. NEED THAT SHIT.

Yankee is coming on 15 years old this next January (WTF, how) and might be too old to ever find anything on him, but I should get points for trying, because I tried way too hard to find SOMETHING on him.

One weekend I spent approximately 4 hours googling and digging through the TB pedigree site for clues. I FINALLY found who bred him (Doris M Moses), but she might as well be a ghost. Google turns nothing up on her except other breeder listings of other horses. No website, no contact info, nothing. I've even tried looking at who she's syndicated or involved with and nothing. There was a Wolf Pen LLC, but that was a dead end too. FRUSTRATING.

I did find, after what seemed like digging forever through sale archives, his hip number, date and location of sale as well as who he was sold to; 

On February 2, 2003, Yankee Wonder, hip no 48 was sold to J. A. Mohamed at the 2003 KY Mid-Winter sale, found on Fasig-Tipton's site.

Initially I was incredibly jazzed thinking FINALLY, a lead! But again, his buyer is a ghost just like his breeder. WHOMP WHOMP. I googled the name with everything I could think of, including "thoroughbred", but nothing really turned up. Looks like someone with that name is either a Dr, or an author and not a horse owner. I can't find jack diddly on anything. I am sure they go to great lengths to remain invisible online, because of nosey people like me, but god dammit I just want a baby pic!!!

I might have to bug NV staff and see if they have any records on him, because I found essentially nothing and now I am sad.

In regards to Bacardi, I actually have the farm that bred him, R & R Thoroughbred Stables, but AGAIN that led to nothing... at first. After an extreme amount of googling, I found what might be an email contact for the farm, but I really am not positive. I have yet to hear anything from them since my email.

I need to go back through and look at his papers, but it looked like he had exchanged hands about 12 times in his short career, which is really sad, but I am hoping to find more insight on the giant scar on his front right leg, as well as his issues trailering. 

This is surprisingly the only "good" pic I have of it. It spiders  up and down his entire RF cannon bone , but you can't really tell from this photo.

I wonder if they are linked somehow? Maybe a trailer accident. I do know that even at 7 he is incredibly accident prone, so I wouldn't be surprised if the scar on his leg is from an accident as a foal. I just wanna know!!

But for real though. I just want baby pics. I WANT THEM BAD. I just want to see their cute little nosey's and maybe find a scrap of information about what they were like as wee bebe's. Was Yankee a shit head, or adorable? Was Bacardi timid, or not? I really want to know these things.

For those of you with OTTBs, how much do you know on your horse(s)? How did you find out? 

Any suggestions I will gladly take!