America’s Most Wanted TB Recap….

It has been a whirlwind summer, and so much of our focus was on the Retired Racehorse Project America’s Most Wanted TB Challenge…………and now it is done. We are still smiling about last weekend- for those of you who could not be at Pimlico, no, we did not win the top prize–we were 4th— but we accomplished everything we set out to do.

We started with a horse just off the track- D’Sauvage- donated by top flight Maryland connections. We chronicled his progress and his setbacks. He went from a kind but green TB to a professional show horse who loved his new job. He learned to “flat”, he learned to jump, he learned about cameras and ribbons, warm up arenas and leadline and sidesaddle. Our team also learned a lot along the way. So many folks joined us in our adventure, including Lynne, Troy, Jennifer, George, Justine, Jeannie, Tina, Martha, and Valerie.

If we were to write D’Sauvage’s story, the final chapter in our part was to find him a home with a kid or an adult amateur, one where he was adored, and could continue on the path he started on and excelled in. At Pimlico, that hope became a reality. Thanks to some networking by our friends Fran and Jennifer on the TB Alliance Show Series committee, we were contacted by a mom with a 13 year old daughter ready to move off her pony. They weren’t sure about a thoroughbred, let alone a young one, but after reading our blogs, coming to Pimlico, and seeing all of the fantastic TBs, they wanted to meet D’Sauvage in person. They spent time with him, watched him go, fell in love, and took him home from the Challenge–so you see, he DID win the top prize.

Isla, mom Rita, and trainer Shelly are going to give D’Sauvage an easy week and then will start writing a new chapter. We all expect it will go smoothly, because that is who D’Sauvage is, but if not, MAHR will always be there for him.

We met so many great people at Pimlico and had a fantastic time. We are grateful to the Retired Racehorse Project for including us in this wonderful event, and to the sponsors, judges, employees, and volunteers who made it all possible. Everyone was there because of the incredible thoroughbred. We were definitely “feeling the love.” It has been quite a ride, and we are all looking forward to whatever the future might hold–but for now, it is back to work, there are so many thoroughbreds waiting for their chance to shine…….

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A Long Way in a Short Time

My, how time flies. It seems like it was just yesterday that Banker came to Justine and Marc Howell’s Whysper Wynd Farm to continue his college-level training, but 2 months have passed just like that. I am so amazed at what Team D’Sauvage has accomplished in that short time: clipping, braiding, trailering, lead-line, cavalettis, cross rails, real jumps, gymnastic exercises, lessons, hacking out, a flat tire, horse shows, the MAHR open house, a kid riding.  Did we really ask him to do all that? Yup, we did, and he answered with a resounding “what’s next?” to all of it!

One day I had plenty to do, so I asked Justine’s 13 year-old daughter, Lizzie, to ride Banker. A smile came across her face as she said, ‘sure’, and off they went.  Lizzie rode him like a pro and even jumped him over a cross rail several times. (That’s her sister, Josie, in the pink and green cap.) Did he care that he was being ridden by a rider just out of ponies? Nope. Its all in a day’s work for him.

Tomorrow we will pack up and head to the America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred contest where we will show off what we’ve accomplished. I’m hoping that we can find his next home while we are there.  He is such a lovely horse and is so ready to go on to bigger things, be it with a junior rider, an amateur, or a professional.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for him!

http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org/2014-thoroughbred-makeover-a-marketplace-and-national-symposium

And Down the Stretch They Come!!!

How many times have we heard that call? As the horses move past the quarter pole, everyone starts to make their move- the horse on the lead might hang OR draw away, the horse flying up on the outside might not get up in time, the horse on the rail might get racing room-so much can happen.

We are at the quarter pole in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Most Wanted TB Challenge. I think all of the teams have done a really good job. When we were asked to join the challenge I was not thinking show hunter because of my strong eventing, pony club, and dressage background- but between Phillip and Icabad already doing the event thing, and the fact that D’Sauvage just said “show horse” to us, we went out of my personal comfort zone and went that route, and he has been a star. D’Sauvage came off the track in April and started in work. Lynne took him home in mid July to polish the basics. Since that time he has gone to 4 shows and gotten multiple championships in three- so win lose or draw, we are proud of his progress.

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As an eventer, I always dismissed the show hunters to some extent, because it seemed so EASY. Well guess what? One of the hardest things about showing is making it look EASY. I would much rather ride a twisty stadium course than a smooth hunter round, because the twisty stadium course is easy compared to the finesse and skill it takes to put down a good hunter round. At the Fair Hill TB Show, Steuart noted that all thoroughbreds off the track have a lead change—true, but do they have a smooth seamless change on a nearly invisible command? That is not so EASY. Getting a horse to jump in his best form, with his knees up to his ears? Getting a horse to lengthen his stride in the hacks while staying relaxed and keeping his rhythm? It is HARD to make it look EASY. There are no shortcuts to this, no tricks- just the solid classical principles of riding- lots of leg, soft hands, forward and straight, relaxation and rhythm. In fact, it sounds a bit like my dressage schooling sessions!

This past weekend, we had noted hunter trainer and judge Nancy Ashway come to MAHR to give a TB clinic sponsored by the Thoroughbred Education and Research Foundation (TERF). Almost every rider was an event  rider, and it was neat to watch Nancy work on rhythm and straightness and relaxation, rather than just getting to the other side. All of the horses showed marked improvement and ease over the fences- they made it look EASY.

I personally have learned a lot about the hunter world through the TB Alliance Show Series and this challenge. I have shown jumpers in the past, and even some Medal Maclay when I was young, but hunters not so much. With what I have learned and observed, I may even now try a few HUNTER shows with my own rescued horse.
This challenge is helping thoroughbreds everywhere to gain interest and support in the sport horse world and we are thrilled to be part of it. We came into this never expecting to win, just to have fun and raise the TB flag to the top of the pole- of course now we would LOVE to win because that money could save a lot of TBs wink wink…..

I hope everyone will come to Pimlico for the weekend! RRP once again has done a fantastic job- you will see and learn stuff that will surprise you!!!! We have a little surprise planned for Sunday with D’Sauvage. No, he is not going to lie down on command LOL–a search of Youtube about methods for teaching a horse to lie down did not inspire me. Come to Pimlico and join the fun- just make sure you stop by our booth or stalls and say hello, no matter who you vote for!

A Visit Back to MAHR

We have been thrilled with the progress D’Sauvage has made as a show horse with Lynne. He pinned at his first show, the Totally TB Show at Pimlico, but more importantly, learned that horse shows were great places to chill. From there, he went to three more shows and got multiple championships at each. Under the tutelage of noted HJ trainer and USEF “R” judge Troy Hendricks, Lynne worked on his rhythm and stride and jump.  D’Sauvage happily picked up on his new career, with nice hacks cross country interspersed between those schooling sessions. We are still trying to put more weight on him, so he looks more like a show horse, and have recently added Dengie Hi Fi to his diet which he loves.

This past weekend, Lynne brought D’Sauvage down to MAHR for our Open House. He has changed since he left us two months ago.  He walked into the new barn like a recent college grad, with a new found sense of self and satisfaction. He enjoys his work, knows he is good at it, and really relishes being in the limelight.

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Lynne and Banker schooled in the ring, and we could see the show horse he has become. His canter is stronger and  more rhythmical, his jumping is more seasoned and with great form, and all in all, he is a happy camper. After the session we wanted to take pictures, and he stood posed with his ears pricked for as long as cameras kept clicking.

DSuavageOpenHouseAt last weekend’s horse show, I noticed he was sometimes a half a stride late behind with his lead changes, so I had Martha Grace, our amazing massage therapist, down for a session after his schooling. She noted he was tight behind, especially through his stifles, but let go easily. She said that he might be going through a growth spurt, as she sees that often. While she was working on him, Lynne was at his head with a full cup of Turkey Hill Iced Tea. Banker got a whiff of that and insisted on having it himself! He loved it, and shared the rest of the cup with Lynne, while we all watched and laughed.

We all have learned so much and had a great time along the way. We would be thrilled to win, because we could use the money to rescue more TBs, but no matter what, we are grateful to RRP for this opportunity. We can’t wait for the challenge. Lynne will continue to school him and blog in preparation for the final presentation. We do have a surprise planned for the Sunday session at Pimlico, but you will have to be there to see what it is!

Finding a Rhythm

Last week’s lesson with Troy began with a question, “So how is this guy going?”, to which I answered, “Champion and champion”.  Troys response was, “that’s all fine and good, but how did he go”?  What a great reminder of priorities to have when horse showing!  Troy and I talked about how we have asked so much of Banker by accepting the challenge and taking him to horse shows, and that he has done everything willingly and with great trust. Typically, a horse would have more time over fences before going to a show, but we needed to see how Banker would fit into the ‘horse show scene’.  He proved to us what a great mind he has, and that he thinks standing around at a horse show is no big deal.

After our warm-up, Troy started us trotting over a single cross-rail set on the rail coming toward the gate.  After several times over that, he built a second fence set at 2 strides.  As we trotted into the gymnastic, I concentrated on having impulsion and a good rhythm, the things we worked on in our last lesson.  Banker easily took the 2 strides and landed in a soft canter.  Troy then built a 3rd element at 1 stride, which really made Banker think about rocking back to jump off his hind end.  Again, he was soft thru the entire exercise.  We then moved on to trot a brick box set on an angle at the quarter line a few times, then started at the beginning with the gymnastic and continued around to canter the brick box.  As we cantered to the single jump, I counted 1,2,1,2,1,2 to keep the rhythm and we hit a nice distance.  The last element Troy added to the small course was a line across the diagonal that we trotted into and cantered a nice easy 5 strides to the last jump.  We did that twice by itself, then went back to the beginning gymnastic.  Banker continued to have a consistent rhythm and had a nice canter-trot transition before the last line. I needed to keep my leg on thru the corner to keep the impulsion, but then I could just relax to the jump.  We ended the session by putting together a consistent course.  I so enjoy riding with Troy because he builds a team’s confidence slowly and easily.  Everything he has asked of Banker and I is built on what we learned in the previous lesson.

Banker and I went to our final show this past Saturday. I had planned on doing the 2’3″ divisions, but the morning was damp, the rain was fast approaching and there was an hour delay in starting our ring. Instead, we did the first 2 cross-rail divisions in order to get done before the storms hit.  Banker won the hacks in our 2 divisions and was champion Thoroughbred over x-rails.  But the best part was the feel that he had jumping: rhythmical and steady. He came up in front of my leg and marched down the lines in our first 2 classes.  It showed me that he really learned about pace and consistency in our lesson on Thursday.  During the last 2 jumping classes, I could feel him getting a bit strung out, so we’ll work on staying balanced at home this week. We ended with a 2nd and 3rd in those classes.

 

After all he’s done so far, Banker has earned a bit of a rest. Even though he gets the day off after a show or lesson,  I’ll give him a few extra days to relax.

Making Progress!

Before I talk about our latest adventures, can I tell you how comfortable this horse is?  The first time I rode him, he was so boing-y I thought I would bounce off.  Heels down, I kept thinking! Now after consistent riding, his stride has lengthened and he has become a soft, smooth ride, one where you could ‘do your hair’ as you trot along. His canter transitions are no longer rushed, and its easy to sit and enjoy the ride.  Although I’ve never ridden side saddle, I imagine his gaits would be perfect for it!

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LC1Labor day weekend brought Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show, the big Chester County 3-day show and country fair with lots of white tents, ponies and people everywhere.  As Banker and I headed down to the main ring, I felt him tense up under me as he saw all the tents and general busyness.  A cowboy friend of mine told me that when a horse is tense and unsure, do something they are comfortable doing. So we headed to the schooling ring and after 3 minutes of just trotting around, Banker was much more relaxed.  When our turn came to school in the ring before our classes, he kinda kept his eye on what the other horses were doing, I think to make sure no one ran into him.  Banker showed very well, jumping the jumps easily and getting all his flying changes.  We had a few baby mistakes where he didn’t understand what I was asking, but I was very proud of him.

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During the hack class, he started each transition with his head in the air, then would relax into my hand and lengthen his stride. Our canter was so soft!  While we didn’t win any ribbons that day, I was thrilled with how he accepted the commotion that is Ludwig’s Corner and focused on his new job.

That next week we went for a lesson with Troy.  Banker warmed up with a nice trot showing off his much improved long and low hunter pace.  Troy had us trotting a 2′ jump with a ground pole 9′ out and told me to just let Banker figure it out.  I used a lot of leg to get Banker moving up into my hand and balanced around the corner and coming down to the pole, then just supported him.  He was slow off the ground the first few times, then figured out how to roll back and jump off his hind end.  Troy had us alternating the approach direction  to prevent becoming one-sided.   We finished the lesson by trotting a 2′ brick-colored box with a rail on top, which really got Banker’s attention.  He had to think about what he was doing and ended by cantering off nicely with a balanced turn.  Troy is very happy with Banker’s progress.

This past weekend found us at the Fair Hill Thoroughbred Horse Show, a lovely show with inviting jumps and friendly volunteers. We met Bev at the show grounds and headed in to school before our classes. Banker felt like an old pro, hacking around on a loose rein and jumping the jumps.  We didn’t school very long, I just wanted to make sure he saw all of the jumps.  While I know as his career progresses he may not be able to look at the jumps before going into a class, there is no reason not to let him see them now.  Our goal is to build his confidence, so no surprises! The first division had 2 hack classes and Banker won them both! He just poked his nose out and relaxed. All his upward transitions happened quietly and he kept his head down! The jumping class in the first division went very well until the last line where he pulled 2 rails on a line coming home. Whether it was the heat, the gate or just being a green bean, we don’t know, but he wasn’t upset by it.  We ended that division with the championship!

The next division found us with 2 more blues in the under saddle classes. I’d say he has the hack class down pat! The last class was a hunter hack where we had to jump the 2 fences where he pulled the rails. I was anxious to redeem ourselves, but we pulled a rail over the first jump in the line. We finished 6th in the class and Champion in this division, too!Fair Hill Ribbons

I’m not too concerned about the rails we had down because he is so green and is so careful about picking up his feet in our lessons. Since he’s been with me, he hasn’t pulled a rail at home or at Troy’s.  Being at a horse show is a totally different experience than being at home, with lots of noises and sights to distract even the most seasoned horse. I am confident that with more time and training that his concentration will develop to match his jumping talent.  He is one super horse!

Monday Monday

We had such a great time at the Fair Hill TB Show over the weekend- D’Sauvage and Lynne have really been working hard on their flat work and it showed- they won every hack class, and they were large classes! After the MD State Fair, I thought that he was a brilliant jumper but might not ever win the hacks. In the Saturday AM warmup, though, I could see a big difference in his movement, so was excited when he kept getting the call. He was a bit green over fences- maybe a step back from where they were, but that is a green horse. He has been so good that it is not hard to forget he only started jumping about two months ago. They did end up champions in both of the divisions he entered- and we were thrilled. Lynne will blog about that this week.

Monday was back to normal for MAHR- New Holland Day. We had gotten a call from our “guy” who had picked up a gelding for us, so Tom and I headed up to the sale. When we got there, we did a run through the barn looking for thoroughbreds. There were not many horses there at all. One of the first horses we saw was a thin bay TB gelding with a bit of rain rot. His legs looked clean, and he wasn’t too old- a 2003 model. He was tied up with a “halter” braided out of baling twine- but that didn’t hide the class in his stance. He was so very affectionate, like he was trying to show us how intelligent he was, and that he knew we appreciated him for who he was. I know, it sounds silly as I write this, but truly, that is what he was telling me…… We got a partial tattoo, wrote down his hip number, and then noticed an older man watching us. He told us that his 13 yo grandson had owned the horse and had ridden him all over. We didn’t want to get into a conversation– because of the horse’s poor condition, I might have said something I shouldn’t, so we just sort of nodded and walked away.

We spied another 2004 gelding in a stock, and got a partial tattoo on him. He was in great shape. As we walked through the rest of the barn, we saw an older mare, shiny with western saddle, but that was it for TBs or so we thought. In short order, the 2004 was saddled and run through the ring. He went very well- we bid him up to $600, and saw he was going to go to a private buyer, so stopped. A girl in the stands got him for $625-. As I turned around, they were leading a big dark bay TB into the ring- I was surprised bc I hadn’t seen this one. They announced he had a spot in his eye and he came from the same place as the last one. The bidding was very quick back and forth, and the hammer dropped at $575—– to a kill buyer! That was quite high for a kill TB and surprising to us. We did not ID him- this is the only kill buyer who will not sell TBs to us (old, long, and strange story). That made me sick to my stomach but I made a call to someone who could get him out, and the good news is that he was to be bought today and safe.

Our skinny guy came through shortly after, as a lead in and with a signed paper, which means he has the Export Document for kill. They announced he had been owned by a 13 yo boy who “rode him all over but didn’t feed him.” We bid against the kill buyers and he was ours. Afterwards we were able to positively ID him as Black Hawk Soaring, a turf horse who had won over $100K racing around the midatlantic region. Who knows how he ended up where he did, but now he was safe. We put a new halter on him and went to find our shipper and the vet for a coggins.

The older mare in the western saddle came from a lesson program in the DC area. They said she was a little too old for their program- and she sold to a dealer. Finally, a tall almost black good looking TB came through the ring. I didn’t see this one come in– probably when we were out in the parking lot picking up the horse we had originally come for. Bidding on the black horse flew up to $1150- and he sold to the same gal who bought the first one for $625-, so we felt pretty good about them.

The sale was done by 1:30, we loaded up our two and sent them back to the farm. We are looking forward to starting these horses, and getting them on the road to a wonderful future……