Monday, October 25, 2010

Beyond the Homestretch

I saw this book for sale in a catalog I get with gift items for horse lovers; and I went on Amazon and bought it.

Beyond The Homestretch - What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses, by Lynn Reardon

Well, I got it in the mail today, and am a couple of chapters into it.....

And let me tell you, I am LOVING it.

And I promise, I will get back to the story about "Secret Time" (aka Montana) very soon......

I have been extremely busy opening a shop in an antique store....

Anyway, please do check out this book. Anyone who loves their OTTB should, I think.

See Y'all later on!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In The Beginning.......

It was September 2009.

We had made the trip overnight to Philadelphia, arriving at the race track/casino in the very early hours of the morning. It was still dark, so we parked our truck and horse trailer in the empty casino parking lot.
Exhausted, we reclined our seats and tried to catch a few moments of sleep before hitting the road again later.

Activity starts on the race track early..... it was still dark when I heard the first noises and ruckus from the stables and saw the shadowy forms of horses being exercised on the track.

A little while later we called the trainer to let him know we were there. He, in turn, called the gate and said he'd meet us there to get us through. Security is tight on the track, and no one comes or goes without passing the security guys.

Travelling in our trailer was a three year old colt, "West", who we had collected from the "lay up" barn in Virginia where he had been since the spring, recovering from a surgical procedure to his knee. He had stayed overnight in our barn, before heading out late in the evening the day before. He was expected to go back into racing again; and in the year since, has gone on to win many races and earn a lot of money for his owner.

West was unloaded, inspected, approved of, and stalled. We were then introduced to the horses we'd be hauling back to Virginia - a tall, bold dapple gray and a fiery chestnut - "Secret Time".
The gray was going back for someone else; the chestnut we were keeping. At least for a little while; till we could re-home him; as we had planned to do with the retired racehorses we picked up from the track. We had already successfully re-homed one of the horses that we had picked up the year before; and two we had personally kept because we fell in love with them. We also had picked up a mare the month before, and we were unsure about our plan for her.

The trainer - who, unlike some cruel, sneaky trainers who find ways to secretly spirit horses off to slaughter in a round-about way - is a kind man; older, caring, and refuses to allow the horses in his barn to go to slaughter, or for that matter, questionable homes where the horses are not properly fed and cared for. He shows us around, and we chat in his office, where he has security cameras feeding images onto screens in front of his desk where he can see all the activity going on in the stable.

Exercise riders come in and report about horse's progress, and get instructions from the trainer on how to school the next horse.
We conclude our business and paperwork; and I snuck off to get my own personal tour of the track and stables.
Horses that were not being saddled and ridden or unsaddled and cooled, were being hand walked around the stable for their exercise. Their stalls were clean, and the doors were all fitted with stall "nets" so the horses had few view of their surroundings and open air flow. The horses were glossy, in excellent condition, and friendly; unlike some of the skinny, mean looking horses I had looked at in ads from other tracks on the east coast.

Kevin and I headed to the track kitchen for some breakfast, along with the other grooms, trainers, jockeys, etc.

When we got back to the stable, the vet had been there, to sedate the two geldings for the ride back to VA. I didn't understand why they needed to be sedated - the other horses we'd picked up had not been.

We also spoke to the vet about the issue with our horse's knee. We were fully aware that he had a bone chip in the knee, and that it could flare up at any time.
They loaded our horse first; and as the groom led the muscled chestnut out, the trainer warned me to move back ..... which I thought was odd. We'd never had an issue with any of the other OTTBs we'd picked up from here kicking.

The geldings were loaded, we said our goodbyes to our friend the trainer, he wished us a safe journey back home to Virginia, and away we went with our newest horse.

I did not know then that that was the first day of a whole year of problems..... mysterious, "unexplained", frustrating problems.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Well Hello There

I know I have been dreadfully absent from my blog..... But I decided to take the summer to rekindle my enthusiasm; which I lost early this spring after the loss of two special friends a week apart.

It was a long, hot, difficult summer riddled with problems..... and I have so much to tell.

I am collecting my thoughts and will begin at the beginning ... a very good place to start!

My horses and I have been on such a journey; and I have learned so much about myself, them, and the power of positive thinking.

More later; I have to run now.......

Friday, July 2, 2010

Karen and David O'Connor Three Day Eventing Camp

This past Wednesday I drove up to Lexington, VA (A couple of hours) to the Virginia Horse Center to audit one day of the O'Connor Eventing Team eventing camp being held there.

(I have to do audits such as this to retain my CHA Instructor Certification.)

(Inside the main arena)

It was the first time I met any famous equestrian, and I was pleased to find that Karen and David, while extremely professional, are also real, down-to-earth people.
In fact, David signed my schedule form that I have to send in with my re-certification paperwork. :)

They used a dummy for teaching XC positions:
(Karen in the pink shirt.)


I was thrilled to see that the O'Connor's are implementing the natural horsemanship techniques of Pat Perelli in their instruction. Here, Karen is observing the campers as they warm up on the ground, using the "give to pressure" type of exercise the Parellis are famous for.



David teaching showjumping.

This is Brew, Karen's dog. He came right up to me the moment I got there and sat down. He was my buddy for the day. Here, he was resting in the shade I cast in the 150 acre CX field.

Me in a judge's box observing Karen work one of her competition horses. I look like such a slouching slob here..... I think this is one of my biggest problems in riding, also. The slouching slob look. :(




For an unmounted lecture, the O'Connor's groom used Mandiba for demonstrating proper turnout for a show. Mandiba is the horse Karen placed 7th with in this year's Rolex Three Day Event. He was such a cute, people-oriented horse.

During the lunch hour, I observed both Karen and David and one of their team members workout their competition horses.




In this shot, Karen shows exactly what it means to turn and look at your next fence on a showjumping - or any - course of jumps.

Kathy, the other instructor and team member.





I really enjoyed the clinic/camp, although I wished I was riding instead of auditing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


My month long stint of working 100 hours a week is over today! I am so frigging excited!'

From now on I plan on devoting a lot more time to Jazz so she can be placed in a new home, and Montana, with all his issues.

All three are shedding out, of course, and they shed out to being nearly bald! Today I plan on bathing Montana, his skin/coat condition is pretty nasty.

I rode for the first time since Major's death the other day. It is my policy to never ride when I am at the farm alone; after as many falls, crashes, and accidents I've had with horses, I cannot afford to get hurt and have no one know where I am. But I did ride her, in her paddock, at a walk. There are many things you can do with a "green" horse in training. For that lesson, I was schooling her in responding to leg pressure. (Away from.) And bending. One thing I have noticed about these OTTTBs is that they don't quite get "soft" and bend readily. They tend to like to lean on the bit.

(But not nearly as bad as a spotted saddle horse/shire cross fox hunting horse named "Johnathan" I rode in one my my instructor clinics at Zion Farms, in Georgia. This horse would snatch that bit and nearly yank your arms off, pulling you out of the saddle and rattling your teeth out of your head in the process. NONE of the TBs I have ridden are this bad.)

So we had a talk about that. She really is a good girl; a bit "mare-ish", but a good girl.

I have also been thinking about when to get another horse. Major was "my" horse. He was the one that I had decided to keep, and event. When he died, all my desire to show, compete, and ride at all this year died with him.

I've had a couple of offers on horses already, and I just cannot get motivated to pursue any of the offers right now. I think once I place Jazz and get our Quarter Pony sold, maybe I will be ready to begin again, with a clean slate.....

Anyway, I'll be posting some pics, and maybe videos of the horses. I have never posted videos of them on this blog before!

So....... stay tuned. :D

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moving On

Convicted by my husband's "lecture" to me about the other horses, and knowing how right he was, I resolved to do better.

I called my sister and we decided to do a big Barn Spring Cleaning on Friday morning. It was drizzly, but warm, and we attacked my mess head on.

Naomi wonders how my feed room got into this mess in the firs place...."what the"....?



The tack room was just as bad...... I have just been dumping stuff in piles everywhere. Bad, bad, bad.


My English saddles on their floor rack are hidden behind those bridles somewhere....

Air compressor tack rack in the middle of the floor - has to go.

And, we're keeping things like this old broken curb chain why? Toss it....

The dressage test Major did in the eventing clinic, still on the bulletin board.


Yes, yes, this is my butt. And I am ok with this.

While Naomi and I were cleaning the barn, Kevin and Daniel fixed fences and gate posts.

Halley and Millie look on.....

Done! All clean!

Wow - I can see my things in there now.

Still not great in the feed room; but better. I think I need some shelves on that back wall, and I'll be all set. I think I know someone who could help me out with that.....

Even Jett gets some attention to his appearance. A little clip about the face...

Major's stall................

Monday, March 15, 2010


My sister drove up and jumped out of her car in her PJs. As she walked towards us, I shook my head. She broke down and started stroking his head and neck.

Paul, Kevin and I spoke for a moment about the whole day.

"What do you think about his being dehydrated?" I asked. "The tank was full; I just can't see him not being able to get to the tank to drink."

"Nope," Paul said. "I don't think this was caused by him being dehydrated. I think he got twisted early in the morning, and then didn't drink all day because he had a 'tummy ache', and that's why he was dehydrated," Paul said.

" Ok, because Dr. Smith acted like he was colicing because I let him get dehydrated," I told him. She had indicated that she thought it was my fault because I "let" him get dehydrated.


"I was here this morning, and he was fine. So if he was twisted then, why didn't I catch it then?"

"It would have taken a few hours to start. The circulation was cut off to part of his gut, and then the gas started building. So you wouldn't have known immediately, anyway," Paul explained. "You can do everything right - less feed, more hay and grass, turnout, less stall time, exercise - everything you do for him - and it would still have happened. Freak things just happen like this. They can be fine and dandy one day and drop over dead the next and there is nothing you can do about it. And it sucks - totally sucks that he was so young and talented..... I am so sorry."

We covered him with blankets, and went home. I cried my eyes out on the drive home, and crashed from physical and emotional exhaustion when I got to bed.

The next day, I went to the barn to do my morning feed and chores, I parked my truck in front of the barn and looked at his body under the blankets, and lost it.
Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility kind of freaking out. My feet felt like lead, every breath was a chore.

From there I went to my parent's farm three miles away to feed, and when I saw the fresh grave of our old horse Cavort, it made it worse.

We brought our backhoe to the farm and buried Major on the hillside behind the turnout shelter. Watching Kevin move his body to the grave brought fresh tears.

We shut his stall door, and hung his blanket and halter there. I still haven't cleaned his stall. I'm just leaving it be for awhile.

When my mom called me to find out how I was doing, I told her I just felt like taking a break from the horses for a while. Kevin knew how I felt, and he sort of chewed me out. "You can take a break all you want," he said. "But there are other horses in the barn than need us. Jazz and Montana still need attention and training. We can't just give up on them because we feel like crap about Major. They need us, too."

I knew he was right; I have to set aside my instinct to retreat from the pain; and be there for Jazz and Montana, who are still in need of lots of care and training.

So I am going to the barn, and I am doing my job. And I cry a little less each day. It still feels like a rock in my stomach when I pass his empty stall; his blanket hanging there, and his halter.

I haven't ridden yet. My sister and Daniel have. But I plan on it, soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Only The Good Die Young


My sister Naomi and her friend Daniel have been helping me with schooling and riding the horses recently. Naomi has been working with Major on his canter transitions, and Daniel has been riding my Perch/Tb cross mare that will be turning 6 in a few weeks. It was she and Daniel who found Major that afternoon. At that point he was standing, but clearly not right. She called me, I called our vet's office, and Kevin and I headed right over. The vet got there within 30 minutes and by that time he had collapsed in his stall. She examined him, gave him pain meds, determined he was not impacted, and tubed him. This was about 3 PM. He was also dehydrated, and she heard a heart murmur.

He was up and down all evening, drank some water, nibbled on some hay; etc. We were hopeful for a few hours that he was going to pull through and make it.

By 9 pm, he was not better, and a sickening dread had begun to fill me. He should have been getting better by now.

By 10 mp he was worse. Kevin gave him a second dose of Banamine, and we waited.

He started groaning, trying to thrash about, and was sweating. At 11pm Kevin said "Call Paul." (Paul is our regular vet. The vet from earlier was Paul's associate.)
"I can't do it," I said. "You call."


Paul got there shortly before midnight. I was so thankful that it was Paul on call that night. I have known Paul since he first got out of vet school and came to this area to practice. He is just a few years older than me, and we've always been friends. We've been through some dooseys together with horses. (One time, he did send me with a horse (belonging to a friend who was out of town) to Sate; she came through the surgery, and fell over dead the next day.) He is honest, funny, brilliant, good with horses, explains everything to you so you know just what is going on, sympathetic, practical - the perfect vet. Much of the time, I call him on his cell, say "This is what is going on", and he can walk me through a treatment on the phone. But not this time - this time, we really needed him.

He checked him over: guts, gums, heart rate. He slowly stood up.

"He's not good," he said. "More than likely he is twisted, and at this point I don't even know if he'd survive the trip to NC State, or the surgery."

"Surgery isn't and option for us," I said. "We just can't afford it." (With Kevin out of work, the $8000 - $10000 or more bills would sink us.)

"Well, I could give him a more powerful pain drug....."

"Why?" I asked. "What good is it going to do him?"

"Right. If I did it, it would buy him a few more hours; but..."

"NO. No, I can't do that to him.... I can't sit here and watch him suffer for another hour,"

"No; that is not right."

He paused, and then said the words I had been dreading and knowing were coming all along:

"Well.... do you just want to put him down, then?"

Kevin and I nodded. Kevin went to the tack room, weeping.

Daniel knelt by Major's head, soothing him.

Paul went to the truck for the fatal dose.

I thought about retreating to the feed room and avoiding the whole scene. Then I decided I owed it to my boy to be there until his last seconds.

Paul Came back from the truck and stood next to me. "Are you ready?" he asked, quietly. I nodded.

I had to turn away as he put the needles in Major; then I went to his side. Kevin came out and stood with Paul in the cold and the silence.

Major took three deep breaths, and lay still. I thought he was dead. Then I reached and touched his face, and he took on last shuttering breath.... and was gone.

It was exactly midnight.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why? Why, why, why.........again.

My dear friends............... once again I bear no glad tidings for this blog, which seems to grow increasingly dark and morbid.

Last night, at exactly midnight, I tried to soothe my horse, Major, as he took his last shuttering breaths in the darkness.

The pain is too much, I cannot bear it, I cannot elaborate right now; I cannot think right now, I can hardly see through my tears to write this right now, I cannot.

Just please, think good thoughts and say a prayer for me these next few days because I am ready to give up, throw in the towel and quit all together.

This pain is too much. My heart can only bear so much.

We bury Major this afternoon. He was 5 years old. I had him 2 years.

And now, he is gone.

Just like that.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

Juliette at Honeysucke Faire very kindly passed this Beautiful Blogger award on to me. Thanks, Juliette! Although, I haven't felt like much of a beautiful blogger recently. In fact, I feel like I have not blogged at all on this blog of late.
This has been a really awful winter for me; and I am so looking forward to Spring, and finding a new start.
Anyway, the rules are: Link back to the person who gave you the award, (check) tell seven things about yourself, and pass the award on to 15 other bloggers. I'm afraid I don't really know 15 other bloggers but I am going to do what I can do...

7 Things about me:

1. I sort my snack foods. Candy, chips, crackers. I sort them by color, size, and shape - then I eat them according to how I "rank" them - which I will not go into here, it's far too complicated.And with chips, I eat the folded ones first. It's a little OCD, but true.

2. I ran for public office in my home town when I was 27. I lost; but I ran my own campaign and took the State's treasurer's training so I could handle my own campaign finances. It was one of the coolest things I ever did in my whole life thus far; and something I hope to repeat one day.

3. I was home schooled through the 12th grade. The only thing I regret about it is not being able to be in marching band. I think I would have liked that.

4. My family took a road trip from NC to Montana when I was 12 years old for my brother's wedding there. Ever since, I have loved that state, and want to go back.

5. I have an extremely touchy sense of smell. Smell is a big deal for me.

6. I hate spiders; but not snakes. Snakes are ok with me. I have picked them up on several occasions, to rescue them from people who want to kill them, or mow over them..... just not venomous ones.

7. My Dad's pet name for me as a child was(is) "Chickadee".

And here are the blogs I am bestowing the Beautiful Blogger Award onto:

Herb of Grace

Journey of a Daughter of El Shaddai

In the morning when I rise... give me Jesus

Pink Porches

Further Up and Further In

Thanks again, Juliette.
And sorry the blog is so bare and sad these days, folks - it's just a really bad time for me in the horse department.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Goodbye, Kavort

I found our horse, Kavort, lying dead in his paddock today. This came as a complete shock to my whole family.
We knew he was quite old; up in his 30's. But he was in good health, and living happily in retirement on my parent's peaceful farm in North Carolina with his pasturemates.

I entered the paddock to put his rain sheet on him, as the day is cool, and a light rain was falling. He seemed to be sleeping on a pile of old hay next to their hay bale they were eating on.

"Kavort," I called.
"Kavort!" I called louder.
Then I knew.

There is no evidence that he struggled, was in pain, or was under any stress. He was just lying there - peaceful.
For that, I am grateful; as I have begun to dread watghing horses get old, and die in pain and misery. If I could choose a way for my horses to go, this would be it.

Me riding Cavort in his first show.

Kavrot was TB/Arab out of an Arab mare. My sister Noelle always joked that it made him "Arab-Anglo" instead of Anglo Arab. I first met Cavrot when I was 14. (This gives you an idea of how aged he was.) I was helping out at a Therapeutic Riding center, and he was being donated. I went with the barn owner to pick him and another horse up. The girl donating him cried bitterly when we loaded him onto the trailer. But she had gotten a new horse, and her mother couldn't afford to keep more than one horse at the boarding barn. I rode Kavort in many dressage lessons in my teen years. I kept him one summer on our farm and tried to train him for therapy work; but he was too high spirited, and very few people were able to handle him. He threw me on more than one occasion, when he was tired of work. A few years later, he was sold to another worker at the center, and I didn't see Kavort for many years. I let it go - thinking he was gone forever.
Years later I got a strange call. It was from the girl who had bought him. She was moving to the South West, and wanted me to take Kavort and keep him until she could find a place to move him there. I agreed.
My little sister Noelle was outgrowing her welsh cross pony, Teaberry, and needed a new mount for shows. It all worked out perfect; we brought Kavort home.
I rode Kavort for a few weeks and worked out all his "kinks", schooled him intensively, and then Noelle began showing him the next season. Kavort cleaned up in the shows; excelling primarily in Jumping.
Three months after bringing him home, I got another call from his owner: She was getting married, no longer wanted the horse, and asked me to sell him for her. That is when my parents decided to buy him for my sister.

Noelle and Cavort in a NC State Championship show

Noelle won a High Point award in her age division at one show series we attended; and the same year, competed in a NC State Championship show with him. They didn't place, as it was one of those HUGE shows with 40 people per class; but just being there was a thrill for us.
Kavort liked to ride backward in the trailer: he would load up just fine, facing forward, and then turn around so he could look out the back of the trailer.
He hated to be alone. He hated to be stalled. He was such a fireball for being a 14 hand horse - I'll never forget the time he was getting all worked up after a schooling session with my sister. As she slipped his bridle off, and was trying to slip his halter on, he threw up his head, escaped out of the barn area, galloped down the paved street to the pasture gate, and in a huge leap, jumped the gate - which was mounted on a gatepost that put it at 5 1/2 feet tall. We were all blown away.

Noelle got very busy with High School and quit riding in shows when she was 16; at which point I gave Kavrot one year off from shows, and then put him into my lesson program.
He did that about 1 year or so, and has been in 100% retirement for the past 2 years; happily enjoying doing nothing.

Cavort's story is one of those that makes me believe that certain horses are "meant" to be with certain people.
He could be such a pain in the neck; but he was our special, very own pain in the neck; and we loved him for all his endearing little kooky ways.

Goodbye, Kavort. We will miss you. Thanks for all those wonderful memories and experiences. You will be in our hearts forever.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake

This weekend was gorgeous. (By Winter standards.) Up in the 50's Saturday and Sunday.

Did I get to ride my horses?


And I am a little bit depressed about it.

It's been bad enough, working all the time, no daylight to ride, and every single weekend for the past month or two, it has snowed, rained, iced, or been so windy you can't accomplish anything out doors.

I have not been on one of my horses since Christmas, y'all; and it's starting to get to me. I am getting depressed about it.

So yesterday, I was baby sitting for my niece; and I got to the barn and managed to lounge Jazz for about 15-20 min. She was great. Such a good girl.

Today hubby and I head to the barn to ride, and the owners were there, for the first time in awhile; (we lease our barn on some one else's property) and my sister and her friend were there; none of whom I was expecting.

So I brushed horses, saddled them, and everyone took off for a trail ride.

And I stayed at the barn and listened to Mozart and cleaned Jett's nasty stall and listened to Millie and Cisco (who are a.) not broke in and b.) elderly and arthritic) make a racket because they were left behind.

It was really great for the horses to get out and have exercise; and I am so grateful to our friend Ted for riding my TB/Perch cross mare who's training has been so neglected. I am grateful that Kevin took Jazz and she behaved so astonishingly well in light of how bad she freaked on the trail last time she was out.
I am so glad the owner's wife got her first ride on one of my horses ever, had a blast, and Prinny was an angel for her.
I am grateful that the owner gets along so well with my Major and thinks he's the greatest (I agree). And I am thrilled that my sister got to take Jett out and he was so happy too.

But even though I am glad because all that really matters is that the horses get worked and ridden and loved.....

I feel so dang bummed out. Because I am selfish and wanted to ride, because riding makes me feel useful and feel better and gives me perspective and relaxes me. I wanted to ride for me. Selfish, I know.

I mean I am totally in the dumps right now. Rain comes in tomorrow for the next two days; and after that, they're talking more snow.


I am afraid I have bitten off more than I can chew with four TBs in training. With a full time job, nasty weather, and no daylight, I am getting exactly NOTHING accomplished.

I have to re-certify with CHA (Certified Horsemanship Assoc.) in May; so I have to complete my 40 hrs. of continuing education; which means auditing a bunch of boring dressage lessons at the nearby University ES program; meaning less riding time until I get it done. If I don't, I loose my hard earned instructor certification.

4-H started back up, but it is too cold to do barn activities with the kids, so we're stuck doing classroom stuff. That is unfulfilling.

I seriously need a cupcake.

And some perspective.

Three cheers for Daylight Savings time and Spring.................!!!!!

(And three cheers for the lemon cupcakes I made, with coconut cream frosting.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Catching Up

I know I have been sort of absent from my horsey blog recently..... there's just no a lot going on at the barn these days!

For 2 weeks it was so cold everyone just stayed bundled up. I don't think I took the horse's blankets off for more than a few minutes to brush them every other day or so. I know, bad, bad, bad. I should have done it every day but......

The horses have been eating an incredible amount of hay, and drinking an incredible amount of water! I have been filling the 100 gallon tank in the paddock with 5 horses twice daily. The paddock with my "three skinnies" I fill up every other day. I figure the hay has less moisture content than fresh green grass in the summer, so they drink more to compensate....

The rain rot is getting better on Jazz and Montana; scabs coming loose and falling off in clumps now. I hate rain rot. I simply hate it. They both have a lumpy appearance from it and it just looks terrible. Now they're beginning to shed a little bit, so I guess in a few weeks most of the hair on their backs and rumps will be gone................ *sigh*. This is exactly what Major did his first winter post -track, in turnout. Par for the course for my TBs for some reason. Bleh. I hate it.

After being so cooped up with rain all the time, then snow, then bitter cold, I finally decided I had enough. Poor Jazz and Montana were stocked up every morning from just standing there and eating in their paddock and stalls, and getting little or no exercise. So I started taking them for walks up our mile long drive. They LOVED it! It made them so happy! Last night Kevin and I took them up the drive and Jazz was so excited I had to pull her back as hard as I could; she wanted to run, run, run! Stocking up is gone.

The weather has been simply wonderful for about a week; and as luck would have it, on the first nice weekend I could ride in don't know how long, I have to work part of Saturday, and then it rained all day Sunday...! Tomorrow, I decided I am going to get off a little early and Kevin and I are going out for a ride on our boys!