Friday, December 14, 2018

RRP TB Makeover-The First Outing

In my last post, I left off with having a couple of months freed up to prepare Ivan for the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover. We had worked on the basics all summer and it was time to introduce Ivan to the wonderful world of showing. 

Looking like a real show horse, obviously.

With my fingers crossed that I would not meet my early demise, we went to school at a h/j show at the National Western Complex. The trainer and I loaded Ivan and another horse into the trailer and headed on our way. 

The other trainer at the barn told me that if Ivan could stay sane in that coliseum, he could stay sane anywhere. She said it could be very intimidating to horses. Keep in mind he only retired from racing a little over three months before this excursion and was still a bit “racey”. It would be interesting to see how things went.

Intimidating, but still cool.

She wasn’t lying about it being intimidating. It’s in Denver and right next to busy train tracks. The warmup area is small and can get hectic. The loud speaker echoes throughout the complex and it’s LOUD. I started out with hand-walking and Ivan was being pretty good, until the announcer started talking. If he’s sensitive to anything, it’s noise. After a good lunge he settled back down. My trainer rode him, I rode him. We didn’t die. 

“So...what time do I race today?”

Really, Ivan was very good despite some tension. It wasn’t the type of tension that you felt like you were on a ticking time bomb or where he looked like a llama, more like Ivan was thinking that he wasn’t 100% confident in this situation. I was just happy that he kept it together in an environment that he wasn’t totally comfortable with. It was a great opportunity to be able to put him in a show setting without having the added pressure of actually showing.

With that out of the way, the time was drawing close to our first dressage show.

I had a short time frame to get Ivan exposure. Normally, I would have just shown at a quiet schooling show for his first outing. What are your favorite ways to introduce a horse to the show world?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Meet Incremental

*This post contains a graphic image of an eye injury.

Wow! It’s been a long time. No excuses, I’m not even sure why I haven’t posted. Life in general, I guess.

There’s not much need to backtrack, so I’ll just start with where I’m at now and introduce you to Ivan.

I sent in an application to be one of the trainers for the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover. This hadn’t been  something that I had completely been planning on this year, but then Incremental came along.

Okay, so he had been in our barn for over a year, but I didn’t own him. Last fall, Incremental (barn name Ivan), had won a race at Zia Park. He had gotten hit in the eye with a dirt clod during the race. It was clouded up and runny. Our vet spent a week treating him, but he continually got worse and the vet said to get him to a clinic. 

The vet at the clinic spent several days trying to save it. It wasn’t getting better. She called The Fiancé and Ivan’s owner to tell them that they could do surgery or remove the eye. Long story short, T.F. and I become Ivan’s proud new owners for the price of the future vet bill. We needed another horse like a hole in the head, but we decided to take him anyway. I’ve seen one eyed horses go on to do amazing things. Still, after talking to the vet and being given a 50/50 chance of being able to save his eye, we opted to do the surgery. She put in a corneal disc and the it gradually started to get better. After 45+ days in the clinic, Ivan was ready to come home.

Good luck trying to say “No” to that face.

I guess that I should have started by saying that Ivan was T.F.’s favorite horse to train at the track. He adores that horse, even if Ivan didn’t win that often. The vet said that it wouldn’t hurt to try putting him back in training and see how he handled having not much vision (due to scarring) in that eye. We did and after a couple of days, he had adjusted like everything was normal.

When we agreed to take Ivan, my first thought was that I wanted to do the TB Makeover with him. T.F. and I had talked about how he would make such a nice saddle horse since he’d first come to our barn. It’s something I had wanted to do for years, but wasn’t sure when I would get the opportunity. The fiancé and I agreed that we would run him once and retire him immediately if he didn’t run well, but that he would retire no matter what (even if I didn’t get accepted for the TB Makeover) once the meet in Denver started.

His first race back after his eye injury. I was really proud of him from running as game as he did considering I thought that he’d need a race.

The Fiancé sewed a special cup on Ivan’s blinkers to protect his eye while training and racing and he won his first race back at Sunland Park. Then he won his next race. Then he ran 4th in a $75,000 Stake. Then he won another race and we retired him while he was still sound and healthy.

Ivan’s first dressage ride just after he won his first race back.

Once we were all moved in at Denver I took Ivan over to a H/J barn that I had boarded at before. While we were in El Paso, I had hauled him out to where I boarded Indy for his first dressage rides. It was pretty neat to be able to introduce a racehorse to dressage and have him win two more races at the same time! He began officially training for his second career in the middle of May, this year.

It’s been an adventure, one that I’m loving.  It’s not always easy to train a horse that has immediately left the track. Actually, it wouldn’t be that hard with Ivan if I didn’t have to aim for a deadline. I’m very happy with his progress in the last four months. It may not be enough to do extremely well in Kentucky, but it’s enough for us to go and have a great time while getting more experience. I’m just enjoying riding him.

I wasn’t able to get away for shows during the race meet, which we would need to do before going all the way to Lexington. It was time to move to New Mexico for the winter, but they don’t have much for horse shows down there this time of year. I also didn’t want to put Ivan through the stress of moving to Ruidoso, then to Hobbs, and then having to ship back and forth to Lexington within a few weeks. The Fiancé told me that it would be okay for me to stay in Denver until I get back from Kentucky. 

Having basically two months where I don’t have to do anything but ride and show one horse has been a bit of a shock to my system after having 95% of my energy go to a barn full of racehorses almost every day for nearly a decade. I seriously had no appetite for a week after they all left. Not because of stress, just restlessness. I’ve adjusted now and I’m having a wonderful time with my boy. We’ve had our rough patches, but he truly amazes me.

Now that I have time, I’ll post about Ivan’s first dressage show soon. 

*A huge thank you to Dr. Bessire of Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, TX. She is not only a wonderful vet, but was very kind and amazing about communicating with us. The care that Ivan received was amazing and he was truly happy every time I went to visit him. You could tell that he was getting groomed regularly and received a lot of attention. He became a much more affectionate horse while he was there.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Since it's been so long since my last post, I'll start this with a quick catch up. After Turf Paradise finished in the spring, we went back to Colorado for the season at Arapahoe Park. We had a very good meet there and then opted to go to Zia Park in Hobbs, NM, instead of Phoenix, where we also had a good meet. There aren't any dressage barns there, but I found a nice western barn to board at. Little did I know, it was exactly what I needed. The barn owner/trainer is an amazing horsewoman and an even better person, now she's one of my dearest friends. I ended up leaving Hobbs with a completely different mentality about riding and now find more joy in it than I ever have before. We are currently in El Paso. I don't have much love for the city itself, but Sunland Park Racetrack is clean, nice, and feels much safer than when we were here the last time. I'm boarding at a friend's and am really happy there. The night the last load of horses arrived, Indy kicked the living hell out of Summer. At first we thought that she broke his hock, it was just horribly cut up. The vet stitched him up the best he could, saying they'd probably only hold for a few days. They lasted a week. So begins the saga...

This is CD. He's pretty much the coolest horse ever. The little firecracker would squeal at the flag when he started working it. He wasn't hard to ride on the flag, but he'd get down and hit it when we worked cattle. He's quick! I came really close to eating dirt a couple times and have never had more fun almost falling off!

When your horse literally almost kills your other horse, it makes you angry. It was Indy's fault that I was standing there crying as I knocked on the vet clinic door at 7:30 pm on a Saturday, interrupting their Christmas party. It was because of her that my heart sunk as everyone in the clinic turned their back to me, clearly not wanting to be bothered, while Summer bled all over the place in the trailer.. None of the emergency clinics had returned my calls. This clinic was my best and only option and it wasn't looking like they were planning on helping my horse. It was beginning to look hopeless, all because of Indy.

The stitches go along the inside of the hock too.

Before the stitches ripped out.

Fortunately, my friend showed up. Her husband had given me the vet's number and when they hadn't answered my knocks or call, he called the owner of the clinic, who wasn't in the room full of vets ignoring me at the time. The on-call vet finally opened the door and she was PISSED. 

I got to ride my friend's awesome QH  jumper while she was gone for Christmas. He's 17+ hands of awesomenes and you'd have a hard time believing he wasn't a WB if you saw him in person.

I stood there sobbing and apologizing, telling her I didn't know where else to go and that it really was a real emergency and that I certainly didn't want to be there interrupting their party. My friend stood her ground with the vet a bit more than I did, telling the vet that her husband was on the phone with the boss and that they needed to come out and help my horse. Then the owner popped his head out and saved me. We had used him when we were in El Paso before and had had a good relationship then. He's a good vet. 

Even though I know I wasn't wanted there, him and another vet were very kind. He offered us food, saying there was plenty. I couldn't eat, but it made The Fiancé happy. The on-call vet warmed up and started being nicer. She was fine by the time Summer was finished with X-rays and sewn up. She had been up for an ungodly amount of hours, so I can understand the grumpiness. Long story short, they got Summer patched up the best they could and he stayed at the clinic overnight. That left Indy.

I still love the heifer.

I was a little less mad at her once I learned that Summer's hock wasn't broken. At least, I got to the point where I quit threatening to kill her. She was just being a horse. I still gave myself a day to cool off, and to recover from the mental exhaustion from the night before, before riding her. Riding exhausted and infuriated is never a good combination.

That first ride was a tough one, mentally. I was still mad, but I knew that it wouldn't be fair to ride her angry. She obviously wouldn't understand why. The entire time spent tacking her up, I drowned out any thought of Summer with what I wanted to accomplish that day. Her first ride at a new place is always a challenge, my mind stayed on what excercises we needed to do to keep her focused. It was hard to separate the past from the present. That's where maturity comes into play because ten years ago, I probably wouldn't have been able to accomplish that. Detaching myself from the personal aspect and approaching that ride from a professional perspective was the only way we were going to get through it without a meltdown. 

The moment I got on her, she wasn't my horse. My goals and dreams with her in the future no longer mattered. I wanted to work towards developing a horse that anyone can ride, that people would actually want to ride. One that was getting ridden hard enough to not have the energy to do nasty things. There was no more making excuses for her, absolutely no babying. She was going to work in a respectable manner. Key word WORK. I went from being the owner to being the trainer, no longer stressing over the injury that she was given way more than enough time to heal from. She became a job, not my pet. 

Don't mind my hands. My neck injury had flared up and was bothering me really bad. I didn't have much strength in them to keep the reins from sliding some. We're still working on her not swinging her haunches in. We have a ways to go, but she's getting a lot better about it.

In a horrible way, she gave me the right mentality to actually accomplish what I want with her. Our rides are no longer spent with me wondering what she's going to spook at.  I'm done finessing around resistance. If Indy wants to flip her head and fight me, we gallop forward until she relaxes into my hands and gets over it. There's no more baiting me into a fight. Any antic she has thrown at me gets ignored and ridden through. She's expected to give me an honest attempt the first time I ask, not whenever she feels like it. She gets rewarded for the good, and the bad results in her working harder. Everything has become much more black and white. An honest effort is all that I'm really looking for while she gains her strength. Indy is allowed mistakes, she's allowed an opportunity to process things, and she's allowed a fair chance to comprehend what I want. She isn't allowed to flip me the bird and take over.

Being pretty helps.

My trainer in Phoenix would often say that Indy was lucky to have me as an owner because not many people would be as patient with her as I was. I'm still patient, but the days of worrying about what she might do and trying to prevent it are over. There's no more avoiding the things that piss her off just because my only goal is for her to have a "positive experience". 

We've had nothing but good rides since she almost killed Summer. I haven't had to deal with very many behavioral issues. Indy loves the part of our warm-up where I go into two-point and let her really gallop forward. We're doing more canter work than we ever have and it's improved immensely. She's happy in her work. I'm braver and more confident on her than I have ever been.

I'm proud of Indy every second I spend with her. The anger at her comes back out when I'm away. It comes every time I have to change Summer's bandage because you have to change a hock bandage frequently to keep it from sliding down. It hits me when I have to ace him to keep him calm in the stall because he hates being in a stall and gets frantic. I get disgusted with her while I'm hand-walking him and he seems so grateful just for the sunlight, when he puts his head against my chest for comfort, and when he's standing there drenched in sweat from stressing. I just make sure to separate myself from that anger every second I'm around her.

Has anyone else been in a similar situation? How did/would you cope with it?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Breeders' Cup Del Mar

I've been looking forward to going to Breeders' Cup at Del Mar for a very long time, since I knew that it would be held there, and it's FINALLY here! There are a couple of bloggers that I know are going. My plans have been a little up in the air, so if I haven't reached out to you, I will soon. If there are any other bloggers going, feel free to give me a shout. I'd love to catch up with you where the turf meets the surf!

The day after BC at Keeneland 2015

BC Santa Anita 2016

Bourbon BC 2015. Because bourbon.

Freaking love Tourist! Can't wait to see how he does as a sire.

Arrogate. No need to say more.

Gun Runner's on fire right now.

Gary Stevens BC 2016

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Siegfried Winkler Clinic

I have a hard time turning down an opportunity to ride in a clinic. I LOVE them! As much as I enjoy showing, clinics are even more fun to me. So, when a friend in my barn was bringing in Siegfried Winkler and needed more spots filled, I decided to sign Summer and I up.

Watching us warm up.

I was worried how Siegfried would feel about a green OTTB, but was assured that he is very kind and gladly works with all levels of horses and riders. My main concern was over-facing Summer and everyone agreed that Siegfried would not do that. With that in mind, I figured that it was only money and my pride at risk, I might as well give it a try
Summer was really excited about it!

Six weeks after his last race, Summer and I participated in our first clinic. Siegfried was amazing! He is kind and patient. He pushes, but not past your and your horse's limits. He points out everything that needs to be fixed, yet let's you know every time you and your horse do something correctly. There were lots of walk breaks in which he made sure that I understood what he was saying and why it was important. One thing that I really loved about him is that he taught everyone with the same amount of enthusiasm, it didn't matter what kind of horse the rider's had or what level they were at. It's very obvious how much he loves horses and his job.

I had only signed up for two of the three days, figuring that three might be too much for where Summer is at mentally and physically. He's still only four and I do my best to remember that. 

Working in the quality of the walk.

The first day of the clinic was fairly easy. We just walked and trotted, as I told Siegfried that we hadn't done a whole lot of canter work yet. Here was the focus on day one:

  • Keeping my lower leg closer to the girth. I ride with my stirrups shorter on Summer, which jams my long legs up into my thigh blocks more, which causes my lower leg to come back too far. I can keep it where it needs to be, but it was something I wasn't even aware I was doing until Siegfried pointed it out. Keeping more weight in my heels and not letting them come up in the transitions was also part of this. He had me do this to help keep Summer more forward (especially when he tries to pull down) and to help with him wanting to drift over a shoulder.
  • Play with the bit and supple, don't hold. Summer steers pretty well, but not great. Sometimes, I use the inside rein a bit too much to get him lined out since he doesn't quite understand the outside rein concept yet. We worked on this a lot with supplying to the left and right.
  • Turning my shoulders to weight my inside seat bone to create bend. I was keeping my outside shoulder back too much, so when I was trying to get Summer to circle left or right, my shoulders were positioned as if we were going straight. #dumbass Between correcting this and the previous two issues, Summer's steering improved immensely.
  • Keeping my shoulders back. I do this well in sitting trot, everything else, not so much. Especially, when I'm riding green horses.
  • Downward transitions when Summer wants to start pulling down.
We worked on these things in the walk and trot, doing lots of transitions and introducing some leg yielding. I had a much improved horse by the end of my ride.


On day two, we worked on pretty much the same things, only we added canter work. Siegfried worked us both A LOT harder. Summer started out even better than he had ended up the day before. Having the time to process everything the evening after my ride really helped. We struggled with picking up the correct lead, especially to the right. Summer would pick it up when we were going to the left, but not when we were going to the right. Siegfried suggested that I should continue on and then change my direction to the right when he picks it up like that, just so Summer starts to associate going to the right with his right lead. I'm not too worried about it. At least he can canter on both leads, it's just a lack of understanding on something that we've barely worked on. My little guy is smart, I have no doubt he'll understand the concept soon. This is a short clip towards the end of our lesson on the second day:

This video makes me want to smack myself, but love Summer all that much more.

Summer was so good as far as behavior. He never set a foot out of place, even when a guy was cracking his whip while free-lunging his horse a hundred miles an hour in the pen next to the arena. He gave me 100% even when he was beginning to get tired on the second day. The improvement he made in two days was incredible.

I am definitely looking forward to riding with Siegfried again in Colorado. I was ecstatic to find a clinician that frequently goes to both cities that I bounce between throughout the year. Riding with him was one of the best investments I've made in my riding education.