Thursday, February 26, 2009

What a difference a day makes...

My human friend was so much easier to work with today. I guess that taking her out to play in the snow really helped. What else helped is that it was almost 50 degrees out today, and all the hard spots in the arena have thawed. This improved her outlook on life so much that she even said I looked clean today.

We long lined to start getting in shape a little for riding. She said my stifles looked really good today now that I've been back on my joint supplement, and I have to say they did feel pretty good. We practiced trot-canter-trot transitions which I really like because doing one thing for too long is really boring, and you can get pretty dizzy going in a circle without thinking about anything. She said she was going to go and learn about long lining this weekend, so we'll see if anything changes in the program next week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snow Angels

Have you ever had one of your humans get so cranky you just couldn't do a thing with them? Mine is like that lately. She can't take a joke, she is short fused and dissatisfied about everything. Yesterday when she came to visit all we did was argue. I got her straightened out in the end and she gave me carrots and we parted as friends. Well, she must have seen the error of her ways and felt bad about her behavior so she made a special trip out to see me today at lunchtime instead of going to the Jim to work her self out. I don't know who this Jim fella is, but I get pretty jealous because he takes away from our time together.

It was such a bright warm sunny day, and I thought she could use some fresh air and sunshine, so I suggested that instead of running around in circles or worrying about the brown stains on my coat, we should just go outside and play and remember how much fun winter can be. So, I took her for a walk in the snow. She was happy because she thought maybe I'd roll in the snow and get some of this grunge off me. So I did roll, just to make her happy. First I dug around to see if there was any mud under there because I would have really preferred to roll in mud than clean white snow. That would probably have put her over the edge.
I dug and dug, and there was no grass, and not enough mud, and that makes me mad. I pinned my ears back and stomped around and dug some more. Oh what I wouldn't give for a mouthful of nice sweet grass right now. In the end, I rolled several times and left big grungy snow angels everywhere. My Mom went to the house and got the camera. I chased her when I saw it.

We had a real nice time, and got to spend some quality time together. When we got back to the barn, she just complained that the damp snow had smudged all the spots together into an overall browness. She said whoever thought they wanted a white horse ought to have their head examined, and that the fairy's tail was all over. Then she washed my tail, which I don't really mind. It came out while and glistening. I hope that made her feel better.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spring is coming!

First you turn grey, and then your hair falls out... it's a familiar progression.
I have begun to get very itchy, and my hair is starting to come out. Brita says this is a good thing since it's all dirty and grungy anyway, and my winter coat resembles an O possum, and she makes that sound like a bad thing.

My friend Copy, the barn queen, started shedding three weeks ago, and has been getting all the attention because she is pregnant, and Brita says there are a lot of hard to reach places on a pregnant mare. I figured I had better let loose. After all, February is almost over.

When I was turned out this morning, I went to a sunny spot near the door, dug up some fresh sand and had a good waller. Then Brita took me back to the grooming area, and got out that Dirt Devil thing and got the worst of the dust off. The hair was starting to billow all over and stick to things, so she gave that up and got out two of the best rubber currys to loosen stuff up.

So, the next couple of weeks will be very itchy, and we will spend more time grooming than exercising. The only up side is I will loose all the white chicky-fluff on either side of my forelock that everyone teases me about, and hopefully the clipper tracks on my cheek will fade. Finally...Spring is coming!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Once Upon a Time.... Conclusion

So, Ganey had determined that it was time for my Grandmother to part with some of her money. Ganey (like many horse trainers) always assumed that other people had money. Which, in relation to himself, was usually true. I had been showing horses since I was 7 years old, and was now 16. Besides the nice trail horses of various descriptions I had grown up on, I had also managed to borrow at least one Saddlebred. I had shown all seats in 4-H winning up to the state level, and had shown huntseat on our competitive saddle club circle, even capturing the high point award one year. But for the most part my dreams of showing horses like I had seen at Louisville went sadly unfulfilled. What I really wanted was an elegant three gaited horse and a top hat. So, we went horse shopping.

Ganey was in his element. Not only did he get to burn up the phone lines telling everyone he knew that he had some money to spend, but he got to ride around the countryside in a much newer car, lunching in backwoods restaurant in 3 states with what he considered to be a whole posse of good looking women. Besides horses and money, women were also a big deal to Ganey. Especially long legged women, since he was about 5'4" ("they aren't too tall on a couch"). I remember for my 16th birthday he insisted I come up with the most elegant red dress I could find (specifically "no pigtails") and meet him at a restaurant so he could take me out to dinner. I don't even remember what restaurant it was anymore, but he had been feeding the bartender all sorts of stories, and he needed an accomplice.
So, he got permission from my mother, and we all played along. He instructed me with just as much detail as he had about my ringmanship about how he wanted me to walk into that bar. I have to say, it's a lesson I have kept with me to this day. Not only do I know better than to pull up a cantering horse in the middle of the long side of an arena, but I know to walk into a bar like I meant to be there, with a destination in mind. Knowing my mother I am still sort of baffled that she had no problem with an 85 year old rascal like Ganey parading her teenage daughter around a bar like a trophy girlfriend, but by then Ganey was like family and he was good fun.

We looked at a few horses. Ganey was ready to buy each one, but none of them were really a good match. Finally, he said he thought he had located a good horse in our low price range, and we headed to Richlon farms. See, I told you at the very beginning this was about how I met Lonnie Lavery... While Ganey and I ran sort of a shabby operation in our old has been of a barn, with our string of has been show horses, Richlon Farm was at the other end of the spectrum. The stables were very well run, and the lounge (noticeably absent at the other places we had been) was luxurious. Within minutes of our arrival, I was prepared to have a pretty good time. Even though we were "no one from nowhere" here to look at one cheap horse, we were greeted with great hospitality. I'm sure this was not only due to Lonnie's graciousness and professionalism, but also was being done as a favor for Ganey. The horse we had come to look at "Bold Type" was ready, but Lonnie told us he had two other similar horses to show us so we could make a fair comparison with what we were looking at.

The first horse was a very pretty, refined gelding with nice motion. He had the neatest pair of Valley View Supreme ears at the end of that long neck. I still remember rounding the far end of the indoor looking through those ears thinking "pinch me I'm dreaming". He was a very kind horse, with a wonderful mouth who tried every day of his life to do what you asked him. After we rode that one, Lonnie brought out a cocky little flaxen horse, followed by a really nice horse, much like the first, but with more age and experience. He was also twice as expensive. I was allowed to ride each one, and each one was beautifully trained, and packed me around willingly.

It was pretty obvious that the first horse would fit the bill nicely, and also was what we could afford. But, not to be rushed into any decision involving a horse, my dear mother asked if we could ride him a second time. We had already taken up a good portion of the Lavery's morning riding horses, but no one missed a beat, and the first horse was quickly readied and brought out again. This time, we tried him in the outdoor arena with the beautiful cinder track. I was truly living a dream. Of course, we were all behaving like Hillbilly's at Disneyland. My mother was snapping photos and my Grandmother was bending the ear of Lonnie's lovely wife Renae. I don't recall what Ganey was up to at the time, probably hiding in the corner trying to pretend he didn't know us.

We did buy the first horse. He turned out to be a wonderful teacher. First he went back to Ganey's while we got to know him, and then I took him home. I used that horse as a guinea pig for every training device that could be either purchased through a catalog, or rigged up from the picture. I showed him for years in everything from three gaited to pleasure, and on down to western (never beaten) and then leased him to a gal who showed him successfully in country pleasure driving. We also spent hours trail riding, and driving along the roads in a cart or a sleigh. I even took him calf penning once and he tried his very best. Some years later, I decided I would rather have a five gaited horse. So, I taught him to rack. He really wasn't five gaited material, and was aged at that point, but I do have a video of him racking along as true as can be.

He was the perfect first Saddlebred and I am indebted to Ganey and Lonnie Lavery for matching us up. I think that was my most successful horse shopping experience ever. It certainly was a memorable day.

Once Upon a Time... Part 2

Things were starting to liven up around the old Terrace Farms. Besides Saturdays, several times a week, when I got off the school bus Ganey's ancient, ramshackled, Cadillac would be waiting in the driveway to take me to the barn. We would work the horse, then put him under a cooler, and my real education would begin. We would retreat to the warmth of the local diner for a sandwich (there was never any food in the Ganey household) or we would go to the Horse Room which held the largest collection of photos, books and magazines about the Saddlebred that I had seen before or since.

I learned more while that horse was cooling out... Ganey and I were a good team. I did the high stuff, and he did the low stuff. We hauled trunks full of ancient tack out to clean. I learned how to tell the difference between "Shit and Shinola". I saw wonderful old fashioned equipment like wooden sweat scrapers and handmade bits... and a blonde, wooden "walk-trot stick". I learned how to take care of a set tail. I learned never to trust a measuring stick, and to bring my own when horse shopping. I learned that not all L.S. Dickey's horses were really by Des-de-mon-ee-a Denmark, and that (unofficially of course) Guided by Love was named that because that's the only way anyone could steer him. Ganey was a wealth of knowledge, and of entertainment. He had a hundred stories, and they were all entertaining. My Grandmother said at first she thought he was lying, but over the years the facts never changed with the telling, and she said that was how you could tell a story was true.

More horses started to show up in the barn. There was the black three gaited mare with nerve damage in her mouth who had developed the nasty habit of trying to knock her rider off with her head, and at least three Tattersalls specials including a "Nine Year Old" gelding who turned out to be 17 when his papers were finally found. During the week, I would work these renegades trying to figure out their quirks well enough to get them to go nicely for their owners and not get anyone hurt. Ganey had never been much of a rider (but was a darn good minor league baseball player), and he would be the first person to admit this. He was short legged, and ham fisted, but his wife told me "he was the best damned ground man I ever had". He would hold my finger tips and show me how he wanted me to feel the reins. He taught me to "con" a horse, to get him to do what you wanted. We also rode everything in the same snaffle bit. The day he told me to "put the work bridle on the black mare and ride her around the farm" I objected. Strenuously. He told me if I couldn't ride her in a snaffle, I might as well not ride at all. It was true, she couldn't feel any bit, so which one we used wouldn't matter much. Ganey taught me that bits don't control horses, your mind does. If you can't learn to get along with a horse, and reach some sort of amicable arrangement, no fancy equipment was going to solve your problem. The mare and I had a nice little walk around the farm, and thankfully I managed not to piss her off before I got her back to the barn.

We did make it to some shows over the next two years. The second year was the summer I met my good friend Adolph, who was the son of Al Morando who had been a horse trainer back in the day. His wife had started to trail ride for fun, and as was Adolph's nature, he took over the hobby and went whole hog. He had tackroom curtains made with his farm name, and Ganey's old colors. We found his wife a fancier horse, polished up the old black mare, borrowed Ganey's wife Theo's outdated riding clothes (which didn't fit me), and headed to the Erie racetrack for a show. The racetrack was a pretty appropriate place to show that black mare. She did a bank turn off the announcer's booth, lengthened the ring with my knee on the other end, and lined up on top of the ring master. But, we had a blast anyway.

Adolph had bought an old schoolmaster of a gaited horse by the name of Sparkling Five Speed. He was a pretty good old horse for our area, and I was happy to go the shows and groom while watching that golden horse burn up the tanbark. Ganey was feeling pretty young again. He had gone from doing absolutely nothing to do to having a barn full of horses and being the hub of the horse activity in our area.

Besides working the renegades, we were trying to gait the 3 yr old colt, but things were not going well. We started by just raising his head, progressed to shaking him, and finally out of desperation, nearly knocked him over! Still nothing. A few people sent mares to be bred to him (we rode those too, just in case there was something good in the lot) and he was developing a stallion's attitude. He was never mean, but if things got complicated, he would simply tune you out. Ganey finally gave up, and the lady sent him to Lavery's. They also found that the horse didn't want to rack, and he was later sold. Since the ASHA website has become so well developed, I've looked the horse up and see that much later in life he actually placed 6th out of 10 in a jr. exibitor five gaited class... Lonnie and I remain skeptical about this fact. The problem this all posed for Ganey, is that he now no longer had a decent horse to get ready to show. We were busy working about 5 horses, but it was becoming more and more obvious that none of them were any good. There is a lot to be learned working renegades, but if you want to learn how to improve a nice horse, you need some nice horses to work with. He decided that my education had progressed to the point where I had better have my own show horse, and so he went to work on my Grandmother.

Once Upon a Time... Part 1

I would like to hijack Grey's blog for a moment to thank Lonnie Lavery for adding us to his favorite links on his Ask the Trainer website. Since I consider Lonnie to be not only a very respectable and knowledgeable horse trainer, but an excellent writer as well, I take great compliment in the fact that he finds this blog entertaining.

Let me tell you how I met Lonnie and how he gave me one of my most memorable Saddlebred moments... Because this sort of ties into how I got into Saddlebreds in the first place, and because I've been looking for a good excuse to tell this story anyway, I'm going to start right from the beginning. I am also going to borrow a technique from Lonnie, and give it to you in parts. Otherwise, it would probably be a real snoozer! Anyway, here it goes....

I grew up in a Saddlebred family. My grandmother had a broodmare, and she raised a few colts. Since Saddlebreds were pretty scarce in our area, and because she was a pretty nice mare, most of the colts were sold before they reached a trainable age. So, I grew up riding an Arabian pony, and an assortment of Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and borrowed Saddlebreds. My father was from Shelbyville, KY, so every year we would go visit family during the Fair, and of course, attend just about every night of the World Champion show. I clearly remember every five gaited World's Grand Champion from CH Belle Elegant through CH Sky Watch. That's about 13 years of watching from the sidelines.

When I was 13, I began riding for an old retired Irishman named Charles Ganey, known to everyone, including his wife, as simply "Ganey". In fact, the only person I ever heard address him as "Mr. Ganey" was Don Harris. That about knocked my socks off. About a year and a half ago, I had the distinct pleasure of introducing myself to Don Harris while at Tattersalls. I proudly identified myself as one of "Ganey's Girls". He paused for a moment, taking that into consideration and then said "I'm probably the only person in this building that would mean anything to anymore.". It's true, most of the rest of the horse world has long forgotten him, and he was truely one of the old time treasures. Ganey was a wheeler dealer, a good old fashioned horse trader. His favorite person had to be L.S. Dickey. To say those two were "In Cahoots" would be an understatement. When I think of them, the first phrase that comes to mind is "Thick as Theives." Anyway, one day, Ganey called the house and I answered. I'll never forget these words.. "your Mama says you want to learn to ride horses." Well, I already knew how to ride, and Ganey knew that. Otherwise, he would not have said what came next.... "I have this 2 yr old stud horse here, and I need someone to ride him." Yes, to repeat, I was 13 years old.

What was going on over there, was a lady from up in Grand Island, NY had sent Ganey this colt. Saddlebred barns are in pretty short supply in this neck of the woods, and I think everyone else was full at the time. He was the only horse in the barn besides a retired road pony, and having this horse was what got Ganey out of bed every morning. He doted on him. He started him in lines then got a local guy to come and get on the horse a few times. From then on Ganey was cross tying him in the lower barn, climbing up from a hay bale, unsnapping the cross ties, and riding this horse. The colt had thrown him at least once, and besides getting himself hurt, I'm sure Ganey was worried about the horse getting out in the road and getting himself killed or worse. I may be off by a year or two, but at the time, Ganey was at least 81 and had both hips replaced. So, putting a 13 year old horse crazy girl up on a 2 year old green broke stallion was actually an improvement in the situation. Plus, I worked for free which was an important consideration. Well, my Mom and Grandmother not only trusted Ganey not to get a child hurt, but they trusted my riding ability. The next Saturday, we all went to see me ride this horse, and yes, we were all excited. From every view point it was a wonderful opportunity.

We started in the round pen on a longe line, and everything went smoothly. The horse wasn't too tough, just quick, and I was every bit the rider Ganey thought I was (almost certainly better than I am 25 years later). I only came off him once, it was the following spring, and I landed on my feet. However, Ganey refrained from telling the owner about our arrangement for a few months until the colt turned 3, and I turned 14. He said those numbers sounded better than 2 and 13 did. Of course, the lady rushed down to put an end to it, but after seeing things first hand, she decided Ganey had everything under control, and the horse stayed. Now that Ganey had a horse, and a rider, he was back in business. To say we breathed life back into the old place was an understatement. We staged the biggest comeback ever seen in the Western NY Saddlebred world!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spooky Day

Have you ever noticed how nervous humans get when it is really windy out? Really, I don't blame them. The doors are banging... the walls are creaking... unidentified objects can suddenly fly past the window... sometimes there are sirens and you know someone is in trouble somewhere. That can make anyone uneasy. The wind started up after bed check last night and has been howling like a freight train non-stop since then. This is the one weather condition where my stall is not in the best position in the barn. It faces full west and is right next to the big sliding door which can be drafty, and tends to bang now and then. Mom has it packed with hay and my stall is well bedded, but it is still difficult to sleep with all the noise out there.

Soon some of the other horses will go outside to play and will probably act like fools, jumping and spooking at the littlest thing. I will spend the day in the small indoor arena where I have safe footing, a view out the east door, but no wind or rain. The last time it was this windy, we actually went out for a ride. Brita was excited that all the ice on the driveway had melted and we could get safely to the field. Mom was beside herself... you know how humans get in the wind. She was all flighty and fidgety. She said no one in there right mind would take a horse outside for the first time in 7 weeks, and ride in that wind. I was a little offended since even at a young age, Brita would take me out in all weather as long as the footing was safe. The worst I've ever done is snort and flag my tail. If you want to make a human really nervous, just plant your feet, whistle through your nose, and wave your tail around. You won't violate any rules, but they will expect you are going to do something really big any moment. That makes me laugh. We have ridden in winds so high we couldn't hear each other speak. That was a little inconvenient since I rely a lot on her voice, and not being able to hear her worries me because I might miss some important information like "watch out, there is a dangerous hole you might fall in".

I remember this last time we went out, we went for an easy stroll around the hay field which was too soft for any trotting or galloping. I was so pleased to get a new view of the world and walked patiently on a loose rein. I doubt we will get to go outside today. Even though the ice has melted, the gas well people were here last week, and made a big mess of the hay field road. I watched it all from my window. They had a big bulldozer and they must have left ruts two feet deep. I am afraid of muddy ruts. They aren't safe to walk in. I think I will ask to stay inside today and play with my jolly ball. It's not a fit day out for man nor beast.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Attack of the Dirt Devil

I had the most unexpected experience today. Seeing as how I am a grey horse, and it is mid winter with shedding season fast approaching, it seems as though my human is getting desperate to figure out ways to keep my coat in order. She said that "desperate times call for desperate measures."

Now I realise that the new sand in the arena does pose a bit of a hygiene problem (for her not me), but I think we may have gone a step too far. Today she produced a box with an odd little contraption in it. It was red and shiny, and the worst part was that it had a long cord. I am vary wary about things with cords. Not so much because they are noisy, but the cords remind me of a snake, and they just look dangerous like they might wrap around my legs and stop me from running....if running were suddenly required.

She plugged that thing into the wall, and it began to make a whiny buzzing noise and puffed right up like a tick. A very very large dangerous sort of tick. Then, and I knew this was coming, she touched me with it.

Well I don't need to tell you that I was horrified. I snorted and blew and got real tall just to let this contraption know that I am a big, dangerous, noble steed, and not to be trifled with.

It buzzed and vibrated and tickled like nothing I've ever felt before. I had the strangest sensation that a cold breeze was creeping through my coat. Brita told me to stop being such a sissy and rubbed me all over with it. I held my ground valiantly except for the time the giant tick monster went for my throat. Then I thought it might be a good time to just sort of ease on out of there and go stand somewhere else. But, in the end I stayed for it all and sort of got used to the weird breezy sensation.

She kept rubbing until she couldn't raise anymore puffs of dust from my rump, and my entire coat was slicked down and headed in the right direction. I admit I felt pretty good afterwards, and I was proud of myself for having kept my wits about me. I got the biggest carrot I've seen in a long while. Then I was turned back out to enjoy the afternoon, and I waited until she had left the barn before I rolled in the sand again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

25 Things About Me

I heard of this game and thought it might be fun to try. In fact, I thought it might be fun if all my Blog-Buddies would try it too. If you don't want to do 25 things, maybe you could do 10 or 15 instead.

  1. I was an embryo transfer foal.
  2. I received my basic education at Melinda Moore’s stable in Kentucky.
  3. I was sold through Tattersalls as a two year old when my Mom went to buy a broodmare. I was purchased by my Mom because I reminded everyone in the family so much of their first Saddlebred, a grey named “Star”.
  4. I am 16.3 hands tall and wear a size two shoe.
  5. Even though I’m grey and you can’t tell, I was born chestnut, have a white stripe on my forehead, and my left hind hoof is lighter although I don’t have any socks.
  6. I have an old scar on my right hamstring, and while I don’t remember what it’s from, I’m still very uptight about anyone messing about with that leg.
  7. I haven’t been trailered much. I rode like a champ all the way from Kentucky to New York, but nowadays I get claustrophobic having to stand still for long and tend to kick the walls.
  8. I like to play in water, but I don’t like baths much. Running through mud is no big deal.
  9. I am very level headed when experiencing new things and tend to take them all in stride, even sudden noises.
  10. I HATE wearing a crupper and because of this have never learned to pull a cart. I am, however, very well educated under saddle and in lines.
  11. My favorite treat is pears, but I’ll eat almost anything and I know how to drink out of glass.
  12. When I get frustrated, I lick my chest.
  13. When I don’t feel good, or think you might poke me with a needle or something, I will give you a low wuffling nicker just to make sure we’re still friends and you will take care of me.
  14. I LOVE to gallop. I’d rather gallop than trot any day, and I can do a fancy little canter.
  15. Two years ago I went to a horse show, and in my first class I got last, but the next day I had it figured out, and I won a blue ribbon.
  16. My favorite scratchy place is my throat right between my jawbones.
  17. Curb shanks tickle my whiskers and make me sneeze.
  18. I know three tricks. I can bow, pick up something if you drop it, and nod my head yes.
  19. Sometimes I forget my manners and bite. Really I just want to play, and I forget it hurts.
  20. My best horse friend is Rudy the Quarter Horse whose stall is right next to the arena doors. We play over the gate a lot and sometimes he ruins my halter.
  21. When I was younger I fell into a hole and hurt myself. Now I am verrrry careful about where I step.
  22. When I go outside in the summer, I like to lay in the warm sand and make sand castles.
  23. I am really good about the barn routine, and can handle clippers, and people sweeping under me, and tractors driving in front of me, but the steam out of the wash bucket still worries me.
  24. My head might not look big, but my noggin is very wide and I have a hard time finding a bridle to fit me.
  25. My best human friend is Brita. She teaches me lots of stuff and always makes sure I have fun and have everything I need.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Saddlebred Memories

During the long winter months, we spend a lot of time browsing through the internet and books trying to get our horse fix. Time spent in the barn is whittled down to bare necessity as the temperatures plunge near zero. One of my favorite places to visit is Saddlebred Memories where I can shop for books, and my favorite George Ford Morris art. You can also get a variety of Jeanne Newton Schoberg prints. Saddlebred Memories also has a Facebook page which is a great place to keep abreast of her new arrivals and promotions.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Under the Spotlight

Check out this new painting of my big brother Preston (CH Revolver) by Jeanne Newton Schoborg. The original will be auctioned at the ASB Museum's Fine Art Auction in July. Prints are available from Jeanne's website. I think everyone needs one!

8" x 10" $35.00

13" x 19" $50.00

painting by Jeanne Newton: Copywrite 2009 used with the permission of the artist