The mysterious case of the flying bell boot

Bell boot
When I took Zelda for a ride today, Freedom was wearing two bell boots. When I returned, an hour later, one was outside the fence. Not just over the fence but a good 15 feet over the fence. One was missing in action. And Freedom was cool as a cucumber and not talking.

The Saddle Horse

The saddle horse
One of the “must see” exhibits at Mass MoCa for me was the horse made of pieces of saddle. I love his soulful eye.
Saddle Horse 2
The horse is a good size. I love how his mane is made from stirrup leathers.
Saddle Horse Hooves
His hooves were made of stacked horse shoes.

You can find the horse and many other animals in the KidSpace area of Mass MoCA. What a great museum this is!

Are the days of the Big Lick Walkers numbered?

Fran Jurga reports in her Hoof Blog that the USDA has taken action to restrict the use of Pads and Action Devices.
Fran Jurga reports in her Hoof Blog that the USDA has taken action to restrict the use of pads and action devices. Read her article here.

My first reaction when I saw Fran’s article was, it’s about time! Big Lick Walking Horses have been (in my opinion) subjected to an unusually perverted form of torture under the auspices of “performance” for many years. Who, after all, actually wants their horse to have gaits like this so badly that they use keg shoes, chains and soring?

Compare this to the more traditional Tennessee Walking horse below.

Obviously, the exaggerated gait achieved in the show ring, is not exactly natural. The sad part is how it is achieved. The video below is from an investigation undertaken by the Humane Society.

According to the Hoof Blog article:

The out-of-the-ordinary rule will strip hoof equipment off show ring “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking and racking horses, once and for all. While pads, shoe bands, weighted shoes and action devices (“chains”) may not directly “sore” the horse, they have been implicated as part-and-parcel of the decades-long soring debacle.

Walking horses will be forbidden to wear their trademark pad stacks and pastern chains, beginning 30 days from the filing, which may be today or early next week. Beginning January 1, 2018, a horse may wear a pad or pads only if it is prescribed by a veterinarian to treat a specific condition.

The new rule does not impose a shoe weight limit or a toe length limit, but does limit use to a “keg or similar conventional horseshoe”.

Note that the ban doesn’t prevent horses from being shod in pads, rather it bans the use of pads that raise the heel over 1″. And even then, they can be used for medical purposes.

Let’s just hope that this makes a difference for those Big Lick horses, because despite years of exposure, the practice is still going strong.

A Time of Healing

Winter conditioning
Freedom’s rehab is to stabilize and strengthen his stifles and SI joints. Luckily today it was warm enough to hack up and down some hills. Think lots of walk/trot transitions. The weather hasn’t been that good lately so if I want to keep him in regular work, it will mean renting some indoor time.

This winter both Freedom and I are rehabbing. He’s still off with his SI injury — massage is helping but with no indoor, it’s hard to keep him in regular work. With less incentive (or ability to ride) I’ve decided that it’s finally time to fix the aches and pains that have been bothering me. Like many horse people, I’ve ignored the things that hurt, ridden through some pain, and spent my money on the things that matter: kids and horses.

It’s my turn to get the physical therapy, chiropractic appointments and massages that my horses and kids have been getting. I’d like to come into spring a little stronger, a little more flexible and pain free.

Piriformis Syndrome
Like Freedom, I need to stabilize my SI joint. My therapy is more boring — lots of exercises at the gym.

Like Freedom, I’m working to stabilize and strengthen my SI joint. I’ve had chronic piriformis syndrome for several years, brought on by many miles of driving. I’ve made more progress than Freedom has, but of course I can do my exercises at the gym. For him, I’m thinking of renting time in a local indoor as I know that regular work is a necessary part of his recovery.

Next, I’m moving onto my rotator cuff. A few years back, I had rotator cuff and biceps tendonitis. I went through PT and had knocked back the pain, but once it didn’t keep me awake at night,  I admit that I

Rotator cuff
This injury is trickier. And in many respects, more painful to treat. I’m sure that hitting the ground a few times (like when I was knocked over by Freedom) didn’t help.

ignored it. Now, although it doesn’t hurt often (except during therapy, which hurts like the dickens), I’ve realized that I’ve lost (according to my chiropractor) 30% of my range of motion. I’d like that back, please.

The good news is that I’m a better patient than Freedom. I do my exercises regularly and I don’t try to bite or kick my therapist. He’s still not so sure about the massage. Although he greeted the therapist like an old friend, when she moved into some of the more tender, painful areas, he objected rather strenuously — who knew that a horse could reach so far to the side with his front leg? I don’t even think that it hurts him all that much; it’s more that he has to make the decision that he’ll accept the touch, because once he agrees to the therapy, she’s able to get deep into the tissue.

Still, I think about him when my therapist hits a particularly tender spot and holds it long and hard, occasionally asking how I’m holding up. It is at those moments that I think about kicking.

 

 

 

Snow Day

Snow
Fresh snow, bright sunshine, and a fresh horse.

There is something very delicious about laying new tracks over pristine virgin snow. We had about six inches of snow yesterday and today was the perfect day for a snow ride: blindingly bright and sunny with soft fluffy snow. It was like riding through a cloud.

Zelda and I went for a ride this afternoon and she was so fresh that I feared I might end up sitting in that new snow! I could feel her gathering herself for that big buck, but luckily contained it into some animated prancing and wore her out going up and down a few hills. She makes good tracks. And we made a lot of them.

Blue Snow
As the afternoon shadows lengthened the snow was almost as blue as the sky.

Horses don’t care about potential

Kronefurst
Kroni turned out to be a very talented horse, once I found him the “right” job.

Sometimes you’re lucky and you buy a horse that ends up with more talent than you expected. More talent than you, perhaps, need for the type of riding you prefer. And, more times than not, I hear those lucky people lament the fact that they are “holding back” the horse, who could achieve greater things with a better rider.

I read this on a friend’s FB page last week as she talked about her horse:

Honestly, she has so much ability! Sometimes I think she is wasted on me. Not that I don’t love her and do things with her, but she is capable of so much more.

She’s right that she has a lovely, athletic horse who has a lot of ability. But she is certainly not wasting that talent. Nope, this is a sensitive horse with, shall we call, an amount of “exuberance” that many people would not be able to ride. My friend rides this horse beautifully and they have a fantastic partnership. It sure looks like a happy horse to me.

I do understand where she’s coming from because years ago, I said the same thing about my Trakehner, Kronefurst, to my trainer. Kroni was a beautiful and athletic horse with extravagant gaits and a big jump. He also had some quirks, including a tendency to rear and a very defined opinion about how he liked to be ridden. After I said how much more Kroni could have done with a better rider, my trainer laughed and said he was damned lucky to have found me because his quirks might have led to a bad ending.

Patriot's day
For several years I rode him in a Patriot’s Day Re-enactment, rousing the Lincoln Minutemen. I could tell that he wasn’t crazy about riding down into the crowds, but he did it because I asked him.

Let’s face it. Horses don’t understand potential. They don’t hunker down at night and bemoan the fact that they will never gallop around Rolex.

I do believe they know when they’ve done a good job, and I certainly think that many horses like to have a job that they understand and can excel at. But they don’t care about ribbons and they never berate themselves for not achieving the human definition of success.  They want to please their human and that may well be enough. Well, that and lots of turnout and grass.

I bought Kroni with the intention of eventing him, but I only took him to a couple of competitions. He was always fussy with his mouth — partially it was because he had a thick tongue and a low palate; partially it was because he felt trapped when asked for any collection. After struggling with the dressage phase for several years, it became clear to me that this was never going to be his strong suit.

Kroni
Kronefurst, my Trakehner, found his true purpose in life foxhunting. Here is is in his bitless bridle, waiting patiently for the first cast.

Ultimately, he found his calling as a hunt horse. From the very first time I hunted him he let me know that this was what he’d been waiting to do. Out hunting, he didn’t need to have a bit — he was completely controllable with a bitless bridle. He was bold but never out of control. He jumped anything that was in front of him. And he stood at the checks on the buckle. We had a deal: I would never ask him to do something that he couldn’t do and he would take care of me.

Sure, if he’d had a different rider, he might have won more ribbons but I don’t think he would have had more fun.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of those horses with a little bit more scope than you actually need, just remember that your horse doesn’t care about potential. He only wants to be well cared for and loved, and to please you. So enjoy that extra bit of ability, give him a pat and know that he is only performing for you.

American Pharoah rings in the new year with his first foal

American Pharoah Foal
American Pharoah’s first foal was born at 12:30 a.m. on January 3rd.

The first of American Pharoah’s foals, a colt, was born early this morning at the Seitz family’s Brookdale Farm in Versailles, KY. The colt’s dam is Kakadu is a 4-year-old by Tizway and a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Protonico.

The timing of the birth was ideal: since all racehorses “age up” the first of the year, it’s a real advantage for a racehorse to be born as close to January 1st as possible, putting them at the older end of their racing age. A couple of months can make a big difference to a two or three year old.

This cute little colt is already reported to have quite the personality.

“A lot of foals are kind of skiddish for the first couple of weeks,” Fred Seitz said. “They don’t really want to be touched or handled, and they try to run behind their mother all the time. This one’s the opposite. You walk into his stall … and the foal just basically walks right up to you and starts sucking on your thumb.”

This little guy is going to be the first of many. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, American Pharoah bred with more than 200 mares in 115 days. His stud fee, for a live foal, was $200,000.

American Pharoah's first foal.