Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Horse Trading in 1916

I found this little book some place. I don't even remember where it came from. Probably some box lot from an auction, or stashed in a box of postcards dug out of the attic when we moved in, or who knows where else I could have gotten it. Today I peeked in it and realized there was this letter stuck in it's front pages and I never knew it. It reads:

Louisa, VA
May 11, 1916

Dear Robert.
I want to thank you for the many nice things you have done for me lately. The box got to Louisa with Gipp all right. She looked so pretty. After Hugh Goodwin knew he would buy at $135 he backed out after I got her here. I think he thought he would get her for $100 but - he didn't. 
Suppose Mr. Covington told you all the Lousia news. J.W. got home yesterday. Tad is also expected soon and Josie comes latter part of the week. Would be glad to have you come to see them any time. 

Very Sincerely,

Mildred -

I figure Gipp was a horse - a pretty mare. So she arrived in a "box" - I figure, a truck with tall sides on it, that they  used to transport horses in before horse trailers; or a box car on a train. Nearest I can figure.
Hugh wanted to buy her, but Mildred wouldn't come off of $135; so Hugh left empty handed. And Mildred sounded pretty proud of herself. Robert had probably advised her not to take anything less than $135 or she'd be a fool.
Or. I thought, maybe Gipp was a dog. A dog could arrive in a "box". But I can't see anyone paying $100 or even $135 for a dog in 1916. That amount of money seems more reasonable for a horse. 
So I am sticking with the horse story.

I just love things like this. I only wish there was a photo to go along with it - so I could see the pretty Gipp and her gutsy owner, Mildred.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hay, Man

We grow and cut all of our own hay for our horses. We plant several fields of oats for oat hay; which our horses love. The rest of it is regular "meadow" grass hay.

This year we baled and picked up about 1200 bales in a weekend; which buttoned up 1st cutting. Cutting the hay is done earlier in the week, and raking the day before baling. It's a good week of hard, hot, exhausting work. But we gotta feed the horses in the wintertime!

One of the hay fields

Kevin cutting another hayfield

My Dad and my brother Eli (and Brendan supervising) transfer oat hay bales onto a trailer to go to another barn. 

Naomi baling hay in the field behind my house

Me, changing the shear pin on the flywheel. 

Naomi. Below, my Dad is baling the lase several hundred of the first cutting.
Ethan and Emilie - this was actually taken last season.

Haying time is a family affair; almost every family member - from Grandparents to grand kids - come to the fields to help; including the little ones; who come along for the hay ride. When they're tall enough to reach a gas pedal; then they're put behind the wheel of one of the trucks.  By then they're also strong enough to pick up some bales, as well.

Lord willing, we do it all again in September for 2nd cutting; much of which is sold.

I complain, but it beats buying that much hay, that is for sure!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Vintage Equestrian Purse

I am a collector and seller of vintage clothing and accessories, and antiques. Very seldom do I find an item that combines my two greatest loves - old stuff and horses; but I did when I discovered this 50s era purse at Goodwill a few weeks ago.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Naomi and Pippin

My sister Naomi chose "Pippin" as her first OTTB project. We've had him a year and a half. He just turned 5 this January,  so I don't think he had an impressive career on the track and was "recycled out" pretty young. He is such a laid back, easy going, unconcerned, friendly guy! He seriously has one of the best personalities of any horse I have ever known. He was raced as "Bold Commet", but Naomi called him "Pippin" because he reminded us so much of the happy-go-lucky Hobbits Merry and Pippin in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy; and obviously if we'd called him "Merry"  people would think he was a girl. Which he is not, of course. 

He is extremely curious, and not afraid of much of anything. (Can you tell? He had so thoroughly sniff that tractor all over.)

We started riding him the week after he arrived at our barn from PA; with no issues ever. He's a little fidgety; so one of his nicknames is "Fidgety Feet" after the 1920s song. The first time I took him on a trail, he hesitated at every hill; going down. He wasn't too sure about those; and I almost figure he'd never been ridden anywhere besides the track - which is flat  - and certainly never on trails and in the woods. He wasn't scared of the hills; he just wasn't sure what it was or if he could go down safely, carrying a rider. Keep in mind, too, that he is just turning five; so he was only 4 at that point.   He went down the hills, slowly, one careful step at a time. It was so cute.

Naomi is doing a great job with him, and we thoroughly enjoy having him in the herd!

Friday, June 22, 2012

David and Amber

When my friend David (who also happens to care for our horse's feet with great expertise) bought this mare (a Paso Fino), she had been living in a show barn and had been pretty badly mistreated. As a result, she had developed some dangerous behavior as a defense mechanism against the abuse she suffered. Rearing, bucking, bolting, kicking, biting... you name it, she did it. David told me that one day she reared up and flipped herself over on her back in a protest against being handled. Using Natural Horsemanship techniques, David was able to gain her trust and teach her new skills and re build a good life for her.

Today, she is as gentle as a lamb, and so sensitive to every slight movement of her handler/rider.

David has taught her to lie down on command, which displays her compete trust in him.

She also lets David stand on her back. I think he usually does this with a saddle; so his boots don't hurt her back. He did this briefly as a demo on this day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More of Nell

We took Nell and a couple of the other horses to a de-spooking clinic last weekend.

I decided I am no good at this Natural Horsemanship stuff on the ground. In the round pen I feel clumsy, un coordinated and confused. So I am sure that Nell feels this way too.

Thankfully David stepped in and helped out. I think she appreciated him a lot more. 

I am so much better at working horses under saddle than on the ground/ at liberty.

I would love to be one of those masterful horse people that can work multiple horses at liberty using only a stick to point and voice commands and get the horses to do things that would blow your mind.

I just do not have the skills nor do I think I ever will have the skills.

I have much more confidence in my riding.

I've also decided that Nell must have been switched with a Quarter Horse foal at birth; because she is so unlike all the other TBs I have ridden in my life. She jogs like a Quarter Horse; she's even built like a QH - or at least an appendix QH. If it weren't for her lip tattoo I'd think she was a full blooded AQHA mare.

I joked to Kevin that I need to change her name to "Switch" because of this.

Ha, ha.

Anyways.... still hoping to make some progress with Nell so I can begin riding her.

I am on the verge of forgetting this round pen stuff and just skip right to the riding part; even if it means getting tossed on my butt a few times.

It's tempting but I am going to keep trying.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recently - With Nell

Nell was having some silly issues with fly spray, as I mentioned yesterday. Just downright goofy. So I realized it wasn't just the flyspray.... It's just that she is jumpy about everything. Fly spray is just one thing. A very silly little thing, but a huge big deal to her. I mean, a life and death, huge big dealio.

So I took the sceeeeeeeery, terrifying bottle of fly spray and a towel, and went into the round pen...... and basically did a sacking out.

"Sacking out" sounds so bad, like you're purposefully trying to terrify your horse and freak it out so it has a stroke or something. I have heard some people express the opinion that "sacking out" is cruel. It may have been cruel back in the day when "sacking out" included  tying them up to a post and basically beating the fear out of them. (Yeah, like that can happen -beat the fear out of them? What were people thinking then?) That is cruel. Nothing I did with Nell with my harmless little towel was cruel, though.

First I worked her in the pen, and did some flexing with her. 

Then, I put her on my 14 ft. lead and I just started flipping the towel about, and around her; touching her with it. Of course she shied or bolted away to the end of the rope. I just kept doing it, and talking to her in a calm voice and pulling her in a little closer  and closer.

Finally she stopped and let me touch her all over with it, under, around and even on her head. And she was very accepting of it. Then, and only then, did I break out the mean old bottle of flyspray.

And you know what? She stood still and let me spray her without moving away.  I could see in her eyes that she wanted to but she was choosing to trust me and let me put that sceeeeeeery flyspray on her, despite her doubts and fears.

So now, it's the same thing every day for the next few days: repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat - till it's old, and boring to her.

Then we'll move on to the next thing; which will probably involve riding her.

Me, in my new OTTB Tee's shirt I bought on Etsy, with my "crazy", silly girl Nell.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Money Back

This is Nell; raced as "Money Back". She is one of the stockiest OTTBs I have ever seen! She looks more like an appendix Quarter Horse.

I've had her one year but in that time she's had some issues; some soreness in her hips noted by my blacksmith. All that was required was some long term rest; so this spring I finally was able to get serious about starting her under saddle.

Though she was raced and obviously "broke in", she displayed some "un broke" behavior when I started trying to ride her. Like, bolting sideways as I draw up on the saddle; and when sitting in the saddle, jetting jumpy and bucky when I move my legs along her barrel.

Someone suggested that I simply start her like an un broke three or four year old. So I have been doing that, and she is responding wonderfully.

I've really been enjoying my Christmas Gift - a 60 ft. round pen for practicing  some natural horsemanship techniques I am trying to get better at.

I have been using my favorite western saddle for working this horse; I am just more comfortable breaking in horses in western saddles. This one is very lightweight; so it's not like she is lugging around 45 lbs. of heavy western saddle.

Also, I work her in a four knot  rope halter and 14 ft.  lead. Also you'll see in this pic. a headstall with a snaffle bit, a towel and a bottle of flyspray (she is having issues with running off when I try to flyspray her). The stick coming out the back of my saddle here is a training stick  like ones used by some resistance free trainers today. The stick is never used to hit the horses, just a lot of pointing and tapping.

Glad to report that Nell is responding very well to the natural horsemanship methods; I hope to be riding her in a few short weeks. Or days, depending on how much I get to work her this week with rain moving in and all......