Blitzburgh Chronicles Day 2–2/16/14

Ok, so now we are dealing with the snow and ice-hoping that by Wednesday it will be as warm as they say, and we will be able to work in a slushy ring. In his first day back after retiring from the track, this past Wednesday, Blitz proved that he is very smart, very sensible, very trusting, and very brave. Typical thoroughbred! In order to succeed at this trail challenge, the biggest job is to really get him yielding from my leg both ways quietly and easily.
Today only the driveway was clear so we used that to do our second day of training. As you can see from the video, he kind of got the idea that first day, went home, read up on it, and came out ready to roll. On Day 1, we could only get a quarter turn, more easily away from my right leg. On Day 2, we got a full half turn without too much trouble- again, more easily from my right leg, but not too shabby from the left leg- and I was pleased because he didn’t get as worried about what I was asking him to do. It was a little harder to work on leg yielding without the fenceline, so I didn’t push that- but worked on solidifying turn on the forehand to the point I even asked him to do a complete 360- not something that we do a lot in dressage but it is a popular item in the trail challenge- anchored by a hula hoop. We won’t worry about the hula hoop until he totally understands the turn on the forehand- both ways.
I generally don’t like to introduce the turn on the haunches or shoulder fore until the turn on the forehand and leg yield are automatic but I had the sense that I would be able to move his shoulders more readily than his hind end, so tried that a couple of times and was very pleased with his response- again, a little harder moving from my left leg, but it is there, so I probably won’t worry about that too much for now.
Tomorrow we will get to work again-we will concentrate on the turn on the forehand and leg yielding, which will eventually become a “side pass.” In the challenge, he will have to sidepass over ground rails- but all in good time. I also may see what he knows or doesn’t know about backing up – but only if the footing is good enough that we can trot forward and get him in front of my leg if need be.

We did borrow two blue barrels that we will have learn to jump, and a beginner lasso for dragging stuff, and are working on building a bridge, so later in the week we will have more obstacles to play with. Oh, and I guess we will finally do something with that big exercise ball that Tom bought a few years ago…….



The Blitzburgh Chronicles Day One…..

Sorry not to have posted since my initial blog back in November! Between the holidays, horses, family matters, horses, the great TB Alliance Show Banquet, horses, and these infernal storms, time has gotten away from me. In December, when we were planning for the MD and PA Horse World Expos, I remembered last year’s PA Expo- I had seen some of the entries for the Trail Challenge practicing some moves early in the AM and thought- huh- a TB could do that! As we were doing the paperwork for this year’s Expo, I clicked on the Trail Challenge entry and before I knew it, I signed up for the challenge with Mrs Holden- I chose her because I thought she probably would still be at the rescue and could use the exposure- what the heck, right?

After hitting “Submit” I decided to go to YouTube to see what I could find out about this whole deal- holy cow! To tell the truth, I was a bit relieved when Denise emailed to say there was a wait list, (but there was a good chance we would get in.)  Time went by, and just last week, we decided not to bring Mrs Holden because of all of the stallions that would be in the vicinity— we had ridden her but hadn’t started working on the challenge–AND Denise called to say we were in the Challenge- yikes! We now had to step up to the plate or bow out.

After going through the horses at the farm, we knew it was time for Blitzburgh to start into work. Blitzy had been a decent runner, a son of Afleet Alex with 4 starts, 1-0-1, when he came up with a tendon. His connections gave him some time and started to bring him back, but the tendon carried some heat again, so they decided to retire him. Dr Kathy Anderson called us to see if we could take him- she kept him at her farm so he could be in during the day in the late summer, and not stomping at flies on the leg. He then came to us in the fall to finish his rehab. Kathy gave the OK to start him in January but with the winter we were having, we didn’t ever get to him.

By now, his tendon had healed, and he was always coming to the gate to see if he would get to do something- so with the Trail Challenge looming, he was the lucky one! I read up on the rules and the scoring, realized that a lot of it was rideability- moving away from my leg- and figured we would give it our best- after all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, what is the point? On the same vein, we are taking this challenge seriously, because we want everyone to KNOW that TBs rock!

Today, Feb 12, was the first day we rode him, the first day he had been ridden in well over 6 months, and the first day of official training for the challenge! We leave for Harrisburg two weeks from tomorrow, and our ride time for the challenge is Friday morning- so we have 16 days, and no indoor. We figured that with a smart TB and some common sense horsemanship, we could at least get around the arena. I think the part that worries me most is being able to get on from a small mounting block-he is a good 16.1h and my left knee is pretty questionable.

When I first sat on him, he was a little fussy- we walked and jigged slightly, he was a bit curled up in a racehorse ball, but after letting him jog around, it didn’t take long for him to relax. We then went to turn on the forehand, using the fence along the long side to help teach him- he moved more easily away from my right leg than my left, and could only get 1/4 turn- but he got better as we went. The exercise got him a bit worried again, so we did another lap or two around at a jog to settle him, and returned to our long side. We went back to turn on the forehand and added some leg yield- he tried very hard, got a little tight and behind my leg again, so back to the jog and then we finished. He stood so nicely I decided to put the stick on the fence and pick it up again, as if it was the mailbox challenge- and he was totally cool. As you can see from the video, the first session was about 10 minutes period.

After we went back to the barn we figured we had better start some obstacle training- we pulled out a tarp- he watched and actually took me over to see it and walk on it- he doesn’t believe in the old saying about curiosity and the cat. We led him over it several times- that was a no brainer- so we pulled out a lunge line and found a board. Our friend Tina had told me that we really should use a lasso because they are stiff and won’t get wrapped around the legs like a lunge line- so we kept that in mind until we can borrow her lasso. We started on the ground still- I had a bit of a hard time leading him from the off side and dragging that board, so Jacqui jumped in to help. He only gave it a moment’s notice and didn’t mind when it hit his legs, so we decided to go on to the same stuff mounted.

THAT was the first major obstacle of the day- me getting on from a bale of straw- my knee and titanium hips just don’t work that well- but after I took my chaps off and put the iron down, I could do it- problem solved. Blitzy continued like a champ- tarp no problem- we left the board in kind of a divot and when we first approached it, he stepped on the board and it came up and hit him- so he wasn’t too keen on sidling up so I could reach. We have to get our yielding to my leg better- so until then, Jacqui handed me the lunge line and we dragged that around both ways.

We didn’t have stuff to practice some of the other obstacles with, and Blitz was such a star, we called it a day- Patty had her carrots ready and he was so happy just to do something. We were all tickled, but not really surprised–because after all, he IS a thoroughbred!

Oh and that horse you heard sometimes neighing from the barn in the second video? That was Nathan, who was in getting his feet done. When we brought him out to put him back in the field, he took Patty right over to that tarp and walked across it too~We might have to start an All Thoroughbred All Star Mounted Trail Team!

An Introduction

MidAtlantic Horse Rescue has come a long way from our start in 2002……..we are now permanently based at a beautiful 158 acre farm in Warwick, and thrilled that our racing industry is now tackling the critical issue of aftercare. For several years I have been asked to write a blog about our life and our horses here at MAHR. Now that we are settled into our new farm, here goes…………………

A bit of history–Ginny Suarez and I met at Delaware Park- we were both training small strings, and had a shared passion for rescued animals. Ginny has a successful dog rescue, Paws for Life ( we knew how many thoroughbreds were leaving the tracks each week for a final journey to a fate that none deserved- and decided to do something about it. Over the years, my husband Tom and I had been buying a few thoroughbreds here and there at New Holland, retraining them and placing them, but we wanted to do more. One Monday in September 2002, there were close to 30 thoroughbreds at the New Holland sale- Mrs Allaire duPont put up a small stake and we jumped in, buying three horses. We got busy with a website and advertising. We sat down with Herb and Ellen Moelis – Thoroughbred Charities of America gave us a small grant and we were on our way!

Over the years we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps- we would place one horse, then buy one more- eventually we would place a horse and buy a couple, place a couple and buy several more-we worked hard, built our reputation, and grew over the years. No one handed us anything on a silver platter.

Those first few years were tough, with Ginny and Eric slogging through all sorts of weather to make sure the horses were well cared for. We were fortunate for the support of our steadfast board of directors; Dr Wright, who provided so much free expertise; Caroline and Bill Prickett, who graciously allowed us to call Great House Farm our home; and our support crew, including Darl and Tracie.

We eventually outgrew Great House Farm and moved our base of operations to Woodstock Farm, home of the now deceased Mrs duPont and the late great Kelso. We had close to 90 acres on this lovely historic farm. Lana Wright was very kind to let us move into the Hunter Barn, and Yvonne came on board as our business manager. Ginny got increasingly busy with Paws for Life, while MAHR also grew- so we each had less time to devote to both rescues. Owen joined us, caring for our horses. MAHR was fortunate to have Patty move to the area from VA and jump in with both feet- the very first day she visited, we put her to work!  Tom also devoted more time to our work here.

Just this year, Woodstock Farm went on the market. We were working towards purchasing a part of the farm when we were approached about moving to Greener Pastures in nearby Warwick, the farm of the late Mrs Doris Wear. When Mrs Wear passed away over 10 years ago, she preserved the farm with the purpose of always serving as a sanctuary for animals. Back in 2003, Herb Moelis had approached us about moving there, but at that time we were not in a position to take on such a task. Several rescues were based at the farm over the years, but now, in 2013, it was going to be available again. After a bit of soul searching and careful evaluation, we signed a long term lease with the Greener Pastures Foundation run by Mrs Wear’s children and grandchildren. Our dear friend Jacqui (proud mom of MAHR grad Jet Above) agreed to move into the tenant house, initially just to feed the horses and keep an eye on things- lucky for us, she has now taken on the role of farm manager. We spent the summer rehabbing the farm– fixing and adding fencing, cleaning up, building sheds, cleaning up, chopping down weeds, cleaning up, letting the grass grow back- and on August 31st, we moved in……..

Blogging is a learning experience for me, so be patient while I get this going. Jacqui is also starting a blog, Jacqui’s Nicker Notes, to reflect on her life here at the farm…………

So, here we are today- excited about the future and a better life for thoroughbreds after their racing careers are over- tie down and get ready for the break!