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We Are Flying Solo

September 30, 2011

For Keeps

Encore has to stay now -- he is officially labeled.  Wow, my phone takes terrible pictures.

September 29, 2011

He's Still There

The setting sun makes a bright corona around orange ears as we ride directly into its fierce shine.  The light brushes seedheads and the leaves of volunteer corn stalks with an auburn glow.  A familiar, muscular neck defines my view of the edge of this cutover field.

When I last rode Solo on Friday, he felt flat, tired, depressed.  It made me feel ill and I couldn't summon the energy to let it go.  Determined to prove to him that his life wasn't over, we struck out on the trails on this heart-stoppingly gorgeous evening in early fall.

It only took two steps of trot to breathe the life back into him.  It was like watching a cardiac patient gasp their first lungful of air after resuscitation.  And it felt great.  I let him strike into canter in the next field over and he rolled proudly along the treeline with the easy stride I know and love so well.

Fixed?  No.  He remains just trail sound.  But my buddy, my partner, is still in there.  He is not lost or gone, he is just a bit sad because he thought the fun had ended.  It filled me with joy to show him he was still The Man, he could still explore the world in a swinging trot among the tulip poplars and the bottomland sycamores we both live to experience.  It was a dose of much needed medicine for us both and I, too, feel like I can breathe again.

September 27, 2011

Please, Just One?

I think Solo's feeling a little bummed out.  You would think he'd appreciate hitting the horse jackpot; his life consists of grazing in his favourite pasture with his buddy, Danny, like they are Siamese twins.  A couple times a week, he is subjected to short, light ride to stretch and move his muscles.  Otherwise, he is stuffed with treats and rubbed with his favourite brushes.

He reckons it sucks.

Well, I don't think he minds the grazing part terribly, but that's not a new thing.  What he minds is the part where he lost his job. 

We trot up the hill to the arena, passing through our jump field.  By the first jump, Solo leans hard towards it, begging pleasepleaseplease can I jump it??!  My heart hurts as I have to say, sorry, buddy, not today.  With a sigh, he continues on past the second jump.  He leans again.  How about this one??!  Again, I have to deny his request.  Each jump merits the same pleading from him and the same sad rebuttal from me.  It kills me. 

Stretchy trot work in the arena garners only resigned acceptance from Solo, so I give him some canter figure eights with flying changes in the corners and a hand gallop down the long side.  He is ok as long as we keep a soft, long contact.  That seems to perk him up a little bit, so I feel slightly better.

So now I must formulate plans including "things that make Solo happy" and I must make sure those things do not include any "things that make Solo more sore."  It's a fine line.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we can do a trail ride later in the week, that always perks up some red ears.

I am waiting and watching, as instructed, but I am not seeing huge improvements.  The vet that did Encore's PPE suggested a bone scan to isolate problem areas, since we cannot see into his back sufficiently with other imaging technologies.  It could very well be telling, but last I checked, bone scan prices hovered around $1200.  He said he could "work out a deal" with me, but unless that included a discount of, say, $1199....  I am researching the details anyway and keeping it in mind.  If it could pinpoint something we have not yet identified, then perhaps that information could lead us to a fix.  That would be worth twice that price.

September 25, 2011

Learning Curve

Encore finally got to meet Priscilla and her dressage magic this weekend.  For the first time, I was actually able to capture his mind on the task at hand.  Previously, he was always quite busy watching the pastures and checking everything out.  The simple requests I made did not even require his focus for easy fulfillment.  So P put us on a circle and set to introducing the leg yield.

"It doesn't matter that he is green; ride him like a trained horse."  I heard those words often.  You want to give the horse a space to fill with your body and aids.  You create this space out of expectation:  I will apply the aids for leg yield correctly, giving you a space and a direction to move in  and then give you the opportunity to come into that space.

We spiraled down out of the 20-meter into a circle just small enough that Encore had to work hard at it.  Then I applied the inside leg, directed my core and energy to the outside of the circle, opened the outside rein, and kept the inside rein soft and mobile to try and hold a little bit of bend.

At first, he did exactly what you would expect:  Oh!  Leg means forward, ok!  I calmly said nope, wrong answer with an engaged core and gentle closing of the rein.  Then I reapplied the leg yield aids, asking try again, opening up that expectant space again.

I could feel him thinking and then he went, Ummm, this way? as he stepped back out to the big circle.  Good boy! 

Brain is fullz!  No more dressaging!!
After several successful repetitions in each direction, we did a shallow serpentine exercise on a 40-meter line, seeing how he would react to changes of bend.  No problems there, he balanced nicely.  We then attempted a leg yield on the straight line, but he said Unnnggghh, brainfulldinnertime.  Which was fine, we had accomplished quite a bit and just wanted to finish the day with a couple hops over a crossrail to practice picking up all four of our legs at once -- as Encore loveslovesloves to jump, it would make a nice closing and reward for a good lesson.

With a placing pole on each side, I again presented him with a place to go and sat quietly as he attempted the exercise.  Trotting between the standards, he was intent on the horses coming in from the pasture nearby and as a result, hopped over the tiny X with his front legs, neglecting to bother lifting his back legs and whacked a pole to the ground. 

P raised the height to about 2' in the center to present a little more obstacle and we headed back.  Steering is not yet Encore's forte so he ended up a bit off center at a higher section.  Determined not to whack himself in the legs again, he bounced up off the ground as I wrapped my legs around him, giving that cross rail a healthy foot or so of room!  P announced that he lifted his shoulder beautifully, curling his front legs up like a showjumper and tucking his little hind legs neatly up behind.  She asserted that once we got him going steadily at the jumping, he sure would not be the one pulling rails in stadium!

I led him back to the barn with a big stupid grin on my face.  Well, ok, I do that every time, but I really felt like we took some good steps and I'm looking forward to the next couple weeks of homework.  I'll continue to build the leg yield, while focusing very hard on my own body.  Riding Solo for five years, I've developed my own riding quirks, like locking my left arm and riding off the back of my calf for a strong leg aid.  Those have to go and I must be very careful not to bring those forward with me in Encore's training so as to keep him as light and straight as possible!

September 22, 2011

I'm Afraid Of Good Things

There, I said it.  Because I have to admit, the magic of Encore scares the hell out of me!

Are you on crack, crazy woman? you query incredulously. He's a great horse, full of promise and potential, enjoy it!

Psssh, I can't afford drugs, I have horses! That detail aside, his awesomeness is exactly why he terrifies me.

I longed him today, his second longeing session (we'll not count the bolting gallop-fest that was his pre-purchase exam longe initiation). He politely walked, trotted, and cantered in both directions on a perfect circle. In vienna reins. All on voice command. And automatically switched directions when he halted because I showed him how one time.

See, in my world, this horse is too good to be true. He has a perfect mind, he is perfectly built, he is perfectly trainable, he is perfectly rideable, he has a perfectly professional attitude. He's like a damn unicorn -- absolutely amazing, but not something you'll ever find in your own backyard.

Therefore, I tiptoe through the barn almost afraid to watch him move, sure that he will go ridiculously lame or drop into a deadly colic. I am certain that there is no way the universe would EVER allow me to have a horse like this without some form of serious repercussions that I cannot possibly guess at.

I do remind myself that he still needs a lot of work. His feet are in need of some dedicated rehab; he's quite underweight; neither muscle nor balance are in very good supply and he breaks into a sweat after five minutes of work. So we do have a long road ahead of us and there WILL be speedbumps.

I think I just need him to have a good, old-fashioned idiot day, to just freak out about something ridiculous or do something incredibly stupid and assure me that he is not a hallucination from Fantasy World, but instead a real, flawed, and fully attainable creature who is not lying in wait to crush my soul when I least expect it.

In the meantime, however, I am having a freaking BLAST with this horse -- my barn friend stopped and looked at me the other day. "I don't think I have ever seen you smile so much since I have known you," she offered. "You've had a grin on your face all week, I had no idea you could be that happy!"

So, Jessica, Allie, Suzanne, mum, trainer in Delaware that I don't know, universe -- I am scared out of my wits, but I love it -- THANK YOU.

September 21, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Bell Boots

Every time I sit on this young horse, I get more excited about him. He has all the goods to take me wherever I want to go and he just blows me away anew each day. I feel sure he will go lame very soon, he IS a horse! After some transition work tonight, I did a few little jumps and pointed him at a 2'3" vertical with a mess of hay bales and orange cones piled beneath. He had not been presented to it before so I grabbed some mane. He analyzed the rail in one breath, sat back on his hocks and hopped right over. After I got over being weirded out by feeling a horse who sits on his hocks at the base of a fence, I hugged his awesome little neck. Kickass.

But what I am SUPPOSED to be talking about now is bell boots. With Solo, it is always a conundrum as he wears them full-time when he is in work. The best ones to use were the gum pull-on type. However, when competing on a regular basis and changeing boots around all the time, it is a MASSIVE COLOSSAL ANNOYING PAIN to pull those on and off over shoes all the time. I tried the velcro type for a while, but we shredded about a pair a month and buying bell boots in large lots got old quick. The no-turn kind pretty much always turned and stayed too wet for my liking.

I settled on this solution: petal bell boots. Yup, retro to the max. But they are inexpensive and were more durable than anything else I put on him. They moved constantly which kept air moving in and let dampness dry out. You can replace petals and straps individually; I love things with spare parts. And the most fun: you can colour coordinate! Well, to a point -- thus far I have only been able to find them in red, black, white, navy, and grey. But you can mix and match petals should you so desire. I got them from VTO Saddlery and always keep a pair in the trailer.

September 17, 2011

Baby's First Dressage


Now that we're clear on that...

In some fit of insanity, I decided to take Encore to a dressage show today. Because I've had him all of, what, seven days? I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get him out there in a dressage arena and start racking up the miles. Our goals: staying in the arena, not getting eliminated, and successful exposure to a show atmosphere. What could possibly go wrong!?

Yesterday, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and a layer of silky, grey clouds unrolled above us. Perfect weather for Horses Gone Wild, right?

I'd selected USDF Intro Test A, so simple a 3-legged pig ridden by a blind gerbil could do it. Except I've only ridden this horse twice in any sort of arena. And he doesn't know how to bend yet. Or half halt. And oh, there's my tendencies towards Idiocy Upon Entering At A.

After nearly falling out of the trailer upon arrival in his haste to check things out, Encore proceeded perfect. Well, he was about 17 hands tall for the first hour, but he still never put a foot wrong. Funnily, he was more interested in the woods than the people and horses and trailers and fences and booths and flowers. That little racehorse never spooked, never flinched, never rushed, never protested for even a moment. THIS is why I buy horses for their brains. The evidence does not lie:

I apologize for video quality -- the only thing I had charged was the helmet cam and given the high chance of rain today, I decided waterproof was the way to go.

Naturally, I managed to mess up even that simple test. Being trained for years to trot boldly down centerline upon arena entry, that's exactly what we did. Even though you are supposed to transition to the walk at X and walk all the way around to M. Ooops.

But Encore was a superstar; he held a rhythm, he even did some stretching! And we won! First place in our class of, oh, well, one. Ha! I can only thank the amazing CANTER ladies for what they have done for him. They took a horse who was sour and hated people (it's true, this babyfaced ham wanted nothing to do with the pink apes) and gave him a chance to blossom into the amazing horse he is already becoming.

September 16, 2011

Back To Good (For Half Of Us)

Wednesday, two shiny red boys went to visit Dr. Bob's trusty sidekick, Dr. Brian, who does lots of bodywork.

Encore was first; he needed his fall shots and a bloodwork panel (all normal, hooray!). In addition, his lumpy back and pelvis, all jammed up from exploding out of starting gates, needed some serious chiropractic attention. So Dr. Brian adjusted his withers. And lower back. And hips. And elbows. And neck. And pelvis. Did I mention he was jammed up? Afterwards, it was amazing, even his topline changed and softened. He gave a sigh of thanks and stood very still for his ministrations. I am very excited that we've reset everything to baseline so I can rebuild his muscle and condition from there.

Solo was next, the problem child. Dr. Brian went over every joint in his body, adjusted a few things, and then said, "Hm." The same sore spots in his loins and behind his hips tweaked as reliably as ever. I'd given him two weeks off to see if complete rest made any difference whatsoever. It didn't. Per Dr. Brian's recommendations, which agreed with Dr. Bob's, we'll keep up the light work schedule for another month, then re-evaluate. We don't want to let him down completely -- he's difficult to condition and just letting bad muscles sit merely gives you tighter muscles and less body support. That miraculous cure I was waiting for? Poor Dr. Brian didn't have it and got to watch my crestfallen face again.

So we'll keep on keepin' on. Encore has been threatened within an inch of his life to stay sound so I can stay busy with Project Horse 2011. Yesterday, he conquered the Blue Tarp of Doom without even a flinch over the course of about 30 seconds. I am baffled by a horse who learns faster than I do so new lesson plans are in order for the weekend!

September 14, 2011

The Ubiquitous Foot Post

Brought to you by the cutest face, which I finally managed to capture!

It's impossible not to love me.
Two brothers meet at last.  I hope Solo didn't tell him too many stories in the trailer ride.
Unskippable cuteness out of the way, I shall move on to the Encore Foot Examination 2011.  The study of hooves is fascinating to me.  They are constantly changing with their environment and physical demands.  Encore came to me barefoot, I believe his racing plates were pulled when he came off the track in December of 2010.  I wish I had taken baseline pictures the day I brought him home, because believe it or not, they have already begun to change.  In five days.  Mind-blowing.

His hoof walls look good -- they are strong, smooth, and fairly even.  They were a little chipped up until last night when farrier cleaned up the edges a bit and balanced the heels, but just nothing further than cosmetic issues.  He'll finish the trim next week when he comes back for Solo. 

When you pick up his feet though, that all changes.  Up front, it's not too bad -- his frogs look decent, although his heels are still contracted and he's got some thrushy bits living between them, ewie.  Racing plates rarely do any favours to horsie feet.

Left front
Left front solar view

Right front
Right front solar view.  This one has smashier heels and there's some goop down in the crack at the center of them.
 Then you pick up his hind feet and it's a different story.  I know you probably won't believe me, but there has been a big change in these already.  Both had thrush in the grooves along the frog and the heels were crammed together very tightly with more thrush between them, even more ewie.  I kid you not, those creases between the heels were crammed together tighter than gator jaws, not even space to stick a hoofpick in.  And the frogs were dry, tiny, and shriveled; they definitely were not performing as they should.

These pics (and the ones above) were taken this evening and his heels are ALREADY spreading, opening up that central crack.  His frogs?  Suddenly revived and looking plump again.  The farrier did almost nothing last night, just cleaned the edges and took a bit off the heel bars, I swear.  He has worked for four days on harder ground and coarse arena footing, quite a change from the sandhills!  But he shows no soreness.  The saddest part is that his soles now look as good as the BEST Solo's ever were barefoot.  Poor wussy Solo feet, just couldn't hack it.   

Right hind
Right hind solar view

Left hind

Left hind solar view

I can't wait to see what happens next!  I will probably need to shoe him eventually, but for now, he will stay barefoot unless he tells me he needs otherwise.  I've gone to town with the Thrush Remedy and the Durasole, so we'll all be goopified for a while.

September 11, 2011

First Dates

Encore is used to having a job, so I decided to spend the weekend introducing him to our trails around the farm.  We've got hours worth, winding through woods and fields, so it should keep us busy for a while!

I met up with a friend on Saturday so that her horse, Diesel, could provide Encore with a steady buddy. Not that he seemed to need one! He trucked right out in a huge TB walk -- I could feel his shoulders swing out beneath me in a smooth, open stride, what a feeling! With steady steps, he booked right by cars, mailboxes, dogs, shady woods, fallen branches, dead leaves and quite willingly dipped his toes in the ponds. Until....


As we came around the corner where a herd of Herefords were calmly dozing in the shade, Encore suddenly grew to 18.2 hands and stopped, shaking and blowing as if his life was over.  I quickly decided that since he wasn't going within 50 yards of them and he had only known me for a day, I was dismounting.  Poor little bugger was convinced they would leap the fence and fang him to death.  We just hung out and watched them for about 30 minutes, until Encore returned to normal size and started breathing less like a steam engine and more like a horse.  He dropped his head and licked his lips a few times, although still keeping a careful eye on the beasts.  I felt that was very good progress and I certainly wasn't going to pick a fight or drag him past them, so we turned around, remounted and headed home.

Project Cow Terrors filed for future work.

Today, we headed out with lifeshighway and Pete for a brief ride just to stretch everyone's legs.  Encore was fantastic and led the way most of the time with eager curiosity.  He seems to thoroughly enjoy exploring new places -- as soon as we got on a trail we had not ridden yesterday, his pace tripled!  When we got back, we walked over two small jumps, a tiny crossrail and an 18" bright green and yellow vertical with flower boxes.  As soon as he hopped the cross rail, he said "WHEEEEE, JUMPS, YAY!!"  He peeked at the vertical but jumped readily over, even remembering to pick up his back feet.

Finishing off the weekend, was a good scrub in the bath, a hair trim, and a brushing-out of everything.  The shine came out in the sun and he reveled in the hearty devouring of clover patches.

He might want to be a poser after all.
Inside of front leg.

Front of cannon.

Encore shows off his pinfire scars.  The theory behind this practice is that you use a red-hot bolt to burn through the outer layer of the cannon bone and stimulate the flow of blood and calcium to heal bucked shins.  Valid?  I'm not sure, but it sure looks insane!

I see shiny-ness!!!  Clover noms...

September 10, 2011

Thoroughbred Heritage

Warning:  longest blog post in history commences.

One of the exciting things about bringing home a gen-yew-wine (that's how we say it in NC) racehorse is that he comes with a paper trail.  His every move has been watched and logged since he set foot on a track and his family tree has been carefully charted.  So, as you can imagine given my irrepressible curiosity, I set out on a google quest and discovered that I had stumbled upon a pot of gold.

Watch Encore (running as "Joyous Jester") break his maiden with a bang at Pimlico in 2008. Well, now I know he can gallop.

Encore was bred for speed, stamina, and heart; his pedigree reads like a review of the TB leading sires list.  Great names that have almost been forgotten in modern racing spring off the page, as well as a few horses who were founders of the modern jumping sporthorse.  Settle in for a tour of the kings of racing and of the unstoppable heart of the Thoroughbred horse.

AP Indy
As I mentioned in my previous post, Encore is an AP Indy grandson.  AP Indy was purchased as a yearling in 1990 for a whopping $2.9 million, which turned out to not be such a bad investment.  In racing alone, he won almost $3 million and was crowned Horse of the Year in 1992.  He went on to even greater heights in the breeding shed, where he stood for $150,000 per cover until 2011, when he became infertile.  In 2003 and 2006, he was the leading TB sire in the country.  He sired many fantastic horses, one of which was Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness winner who was the first stallion chosen to breed the champion racemare, Zenyatta.

Encore's damsire is Allen's Prospect, a Kentucky-bred stallion, purchased at Keeneland's famous yearling sale for $560,000 (that was a heck of a lot of money in 1983).  A son of Mr. Prospector, he ended up siring a greater percentage of winners than the famed Storm Cat (who has a $500,000 stud fee) and topped both Seattle Slew and Unbridled in national stallion rankings.  He is also known for siring a number of VERY good jumpers and eventers, particularly through his broodmare line.   

It only gets better from here.  His papers include, from the USA:

Secretariat:  Does he even need an introduction?  Just in case you live under a rock, I wrote about him here.

Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew:  The only undefeated Triple Crown winner (1977),  the renowned tough guy Slew won the Eclipse Award in 1976 AND 1978, was awarded Horse of the Year in 1978, was the Leading Sire of 1984, and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1995 and 1996.  Before he died, Slew sired an amazing 7 North American champions and 1 European champion.  Encore inherits his toughness and speed from both his sire and dam's lines.

Mr. Prospector:  Descended from the Darley Arabian through Eclipse, Mr. P earned the affection of many.  He had the misfortune of racing in the same year as Secretariat AND Forego and it is a testament to his courage and speed that he came second to both.  A Leading Sire 6 times, Mr. P sired a winner of each Triple Crown race, as did his grandson, Unbridled.  He is buried at Clairborne Farms between his old rival, Secretariat and the Canadian legend, Nijinsky.

Swaps:  This 1955 KY Derby winner broke records left and right.  Named Horse of the Year in 1956, reporters wrote that Swaps would "go to the front of the race and say goodbye."  Also in '56, he fractured his leg in three places and most parties agreed he would have to be destroyed.  Swaps would have none of it -- he hung in a custom-built sling in his stall for four weeks and trotted out at the end of it to live a long life.

Nashua:  In 1955, he beat Swaps in a match race when the latter had an infected foot.  The two were hearty rivals and Nashua won out as Horse of the Year in 1955, when he won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.  He won over $1 million and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.  He stood at Claiborne with his sire, the Irish champion Nasrullah.

Citation:  In 1948, Citation won the Triple Crown and went on racing until he was 6 to become the first horse in history to win over $1 million.  Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959, he held the American record on a dirt track for 30 years until Spectacular Bid blew it wide open.  Citation is listed as #3 on the list of Greatest Horses of the 20th Century (he trails only Man O' War and Secretariat) but he won far more races than either legend.

War Admiral:  Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, this son of Man O' War was only 15.3 but he won both the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year in 1937.  He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and was a Leading Sire in 1945.

Bold Ruler
Bold Ruler:  As a colt, Bold Ruler was so accident-prone that Bull Hancock (owner of Claiborne Farm) would hide him behind the barn in his own paddock so visitors wouldn't see him.  He was forever cutting his legs to pieces and once nearly bit off half of his own tongue.  Nevertheless, he grew to win the Preakness in 1957, even though there was a 2 inch splinter from his fetlock imbedded in his leg tendons for some time.  As a result he won the Eclipse Award and Horse of the Year in 1957 and was inducted posthumously into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1973.  He sired Secretariat and was the grandsire of Foolish Pleasure, Bold Forbes, Ruffian, and Spectacular Bid.

Round Table:  Foaled on the same night at Claiborne Farm as Bold Ruler, this stallion was the greatest turf horse in US history.  He dominated the world of racing in 1958, winning every award there was, including Horse of the Year.  In 43 of 66 starts, he won $1.7 million and set or equaled 14 records, including 2 US records and 1 world record.  He was the Leading Sire of 1972 and when Queen Elizabeth visited KY in 1984, she requested her own audience with the great horse when he was 30 years old.  He is noted for contributing jumping talent and good temperaments through his genes.

Buckpasser:  Often called "the most perfectly conformed Thoroughbred ever seen," this stallion was an international record-winning two-year-old.  A quarter crack kept him out of the Triple Crown, but he still was Horse of the Year in 1966 and was the first horse to win over $1 million before the age of four.  He was syndicated for $4.8 million and was the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1983, 1984, and 1989 and is noted for passing on soundness.  His sons include Spend A Buck, Lil E Tee, and Silver Charm.

John P Grier.  I had to note this guy; he was the only horse who would race Man O' War in the 1920 Dwyer Handicap.  Although he did not win, he remains the only horse who ever ran neck and neck with Man O' War for a mile.  That, my friends, is guts.

There is a lot of very impressive international blood there too:

JJ Babu
My Babu:  I admit, I squealed when I found this one.  This French Thoroughbred is one of the most influential jumper and eventer sires of all time.  He set a stakes record in England in 1948 and in 1955 was imported to America for $600,000, the highest price ever paid to import a Thoroughbred to the US.  Syndicated for $1.2 million along with Nashua, he stood at Spendthrift Farm, where he was the Leading Juvenile Sire in 1960 and sired 47 stakes winners.  Even more notably to me, his blood produced Bruce Davidson's 1984 gold-medal-winning mount, JJ Babu, Anky van Greunsven's Bonfire, and the Grand Prix jumper, Sympatico, who set the world record for puissance (high jump) in 1973.

Princequillo:  Bred in France, his dam was shipped to Ireland, where he was foaled, to protect her from World War II.  His sire was less lucky and was killed by German artillery fire in France.  Princequillo and his dam were then sent to the US as the war escalated.  He nearly died on the boat ride over and was sold due to his poor condition.  His owner no doubt regretted the decision, as Princequillo went on to become the greatest distance runner in US history besides Kelso.  He was retired at 4 to the breeding shed of Claiborne where he was the Leading Sire of 1957-58 and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1966-70, 1972 and 1973.  He is the grandsire of rivals Secretariat and Sham and known for passing on soundness, good temperament, and large hearts.

Northern Dancer
Northern Dancer:  The most successful sire of the 20th century, he won 14 of 18 races and never finished lower than 3rd place.  He set the KY Derby record until Secretariat broke it (who still holds it) and in 1964 he was Canadian Horse of the Year, North American Champion Three-Year-Old, and an Eclipse Award winner.  In 1965, he was also the first horse inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (he now shares it with Big Ben) and in 1999 he got his own Canadian postage stamp.  With a $1 million stud fee, Northern Dancer sired a mind-blowing 147 stakes winners.

Nearco:  This Italian Thoroughbred was named one of the most important sires of all time.  He had his own bomb shelter in World War II.  He produced Nasrullah and Nearctic and was the grandsire of Northern Dancer.  Over 100 of his sons have stood at stud around the world, which is a world record apart from St. Simon.

Carbine:  This incredible horse from New Zealand won 33 of 43 starts and was 1 of 5 inaugural members of both the New Zealand and Australia Racing Hall of Fame.  He won the 2 mile Sydney Cup in record-setting time as a 3-year-old and won the 1890 Melbourne Cup while carrying 53 more pounds than the 2nd place horse.  He failed to place only once because of a cracked hoof.  Imported to England in 1895, Carbine's descendents include 8 of the 9 horses to ever win more than $10 million.  From 1914-1978, half of the Melbourne Cup winners descended from Carbine and in the US, both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra can trace back to him.

The Tetrarch
The Tetrarch:  An undefeated, white-spotted grey called "The Spotted Wonder," was named Britain's top 2-year-old of the 20th century.  An injury ended his racing career at 2, but he was Britain's Leading Sire in 1919.  His most important progeny was a mare named Mumtaz Mahal, called "The Flying Filly," who became one of the top broodmares of the 20th century. 

Gainsborough:  He won the English Triple Crown in 1918, he was the Leading Sire in Great Britain and Ireland from 1932-1933.  He left a legacy of conformation and stamina behind.

Cor de la Bryere
Dark Ronald:  Yes, that is his real name.  His sire was Bay Ronald; the owners were apparently not very inspired.  This stud stands at the roots of the modern show jumper.  He was purchased in Great Britain by the German National Stud in 1913 and his blood has produced horses such as Landgraf I, Cor de la Bryere, Furioso II, and Ladykiller xx.

Teddy:  Another founder of today's showjumpers and one of the most influential sires of the 20th century, Teddy was a French horse that raced in Spain and France in the mid-teens of the 20th century.  He won 6 of 8 races and was the Leading Sire of 1923.  Imported the US in 1931, he sired 65 stakes winners.

September 9, 2011

A Stork Came To My Barn This Morning

He was delivering red thoroughbreds.  SURPRISE!!!

Yes, the best picture I have so far is a crappy one I took with the farmhouse growing out of his back.  He minored in architecture...

Ok, jokes aside, THIS IS MY NEW PONY!!!

What?? How??? Ehhhh??? You ask -- rightfully so.  My amazing, wonderful mum stepped forward during my abysmal grief over Solo's lingering injury & offered to help find a Solo-understudy.  Yes, I do know how awesome she is.

I started poking around, rifled through my backfiles of all the fantasy shopping I had done over at CANTER's website & snuck down to Southern Pines last weekend to meet this guy.

Crucial Stats:
6 year old Thoroughbred gelding by an AP Indy stallion named Crowd Pleaser, out of an Allen's Prospect mare.   He's about 16.1ish feeling to me right now, might gain another inch with groceries & fitness.

At present he is barefoot & very athletic, despite his pinfire scars from the track.  He ran about 26 races, breaking his maiden at Pimlico as a 3 year old & finished his career at Delaware Park, retiring sound after winning his owners about $80,000. 

His Jockey Club name is Joyous Jester, however, that just doesn't do anything for me, so he is now wearing his new moniker:  Away Again.  In the barn, we'll call him Encore, a tip of the hat to his sire (who has a race at Delaware Park named after him!), as well as to his role in following in the giant hoofprints of the one & only Solo.

Crucial-To-Me Stats:
He is quiet, impeccably mannered, kind, honest, & brave.  Hacks out on a loose rein with a lovely, marching walk & hops over Novice sized logs without batting an eye.  He has jumped all of 3 times so far & is very green but has a heart of gold.  AND HE HAS A FORELOCK.  Don't tell Solo, he might get jealous.

He was picked up from Delaware Park in December of 2010 by Jessica Morthole up at CANTER's Delaware Branch.  He was tired & ready to be done with the racing game & his trainers were kind enough to donate him into a retraining pipeline before he was run into the ground.  He quickly found his way down to NC, where Allie Conrad & Suzanne Konefal did a FANTASTIC job turning his mind & body towards a new career.  He is gaining weight after a hard post-track crash & he is muscling up in all the right places. 

I have to sign off for the moment -- I am now going to run laps of my living room yelling "PONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONY!!!!!!!"

September 8, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Girths

Everyone needs a little something to hold the saddle on. But with 1,001 choices out there, how to decide which will suit your needs best?

My priorities: AFFORDABLE -- I don't need a dang $300 strap that no one can see that will just get covered in hair, sweat, and mud. Comfortable for the horse -- no chafing, slipping, etc. Easy to care for -- I have enough stuff to clean and keep track of, please make my life easier.  Must have roller buckles -- I think this is standard on all but the cheapest girths now, but billet protection is necessary!

Over the past few years, I have discovered the magic of the synthetic girth -- breathable and after your ride, give it a quick hose and it's dry in 15 minutes. LOVE!

My favourite: SmartPak Breathable Hunter/Jumper Girth. At $40, it won't break your bank. It does not tell you the colour in the product description (I took my chances when I ordered) but it's a nice havana brown and the waffle material feels good. The elastic on mine is actually all brown, so it looks quite nice and so far, after over a year of hard work, it still looks new.  When I pulled it out of the box, I really was surprised at the heft and quality feel and look of it, leather snobs need not feel cheated.

I have a similar one for my dressage saddle. I believe it's the Ovation girth, similar waffle weave fabric to the SmartPak one. It's not quite as nice as SmartPak's, but it's certainly not bad and is still durable and comfortable for Solo. Another great bargain at $31.  The stiching pulled out on the middle of the billet loops at the top, but they are not really essential, so I don't worry about it.  The rest of the girth is completely intact, I've had it for probably three years and it has climbed mountains, bogged down in mud, and sweated with the best of us.

I do generally use a leather one for stadium jumping, just because it's pretty (hey, we're all shallow on occasion). I save it for shows mostly as I try to minimize leather cleaning and I got it on a crazy clearance sale and want it to last a long time! It's Dover's overlay girth (no way did I pay even close to $100 for it though!). I think my elastic is green (why are elastic colours so subject to change?).  In all honesty though, I think my synthetic one is lighter and more comfortable for Solo and use it for all jump schooling and XC.

September 5, 2011

Tying Up Loose Ends

Just a few updates and teasers!

(1) Ecogold is still completely awesome. I decided my magical pad really was too big for my saddles and for Solo, so I contacted the company and asked what the dimensions were on the standard size (I had ordered the XL). John Da Silva wrote me back and said, "Well, why don't we just make you one that's exactly the size you want?" I was flabbergasted, to say the least! I sent my dimensions, they spun up the machines, and voila! Now I have perfectly fitting custom sized magical pad! Very very cool.

(2) On a less exciting note, Solo's back is not feeling much better. His muscles feel smooth and knot-free, but he is very sore in his lumbar area, so I have reduced riding dramatically. I have a call in to Dr. Bob to discuss several things, but we will probably just have to let time take its course.

(3) On a more exciting note, I will have an introduction to a new character coming up soon. I will not give any hints, you will just have to wait and see. I can say, thank goodness, it's not another cat.

(4) I also have several product reviews filed in my brain for soon-publishing. Need to replace that girth with saggy elastic? Looking for durable, customizable, inexpensive bell boots? Well, stay tuned!

Thank you again for all your kind support for Solo and I -- while it's sad to watch his hind end muscles fade (So. Much. Work.), he seems shiny and happy wandering about the grass, so I'll take that for now.