Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Welcome, New Boy!

The week before last I got a text from my trainer: "Small, bay, TB gelding, needs home. Good mover. Go look at him."

Guess where this is headed.

My response: "Small, bay, TB geldings are a dime a dozen, why do I need to go look at this one?" (Always the skeptic, me.)

Trainer: "Here is the number for the lady who has him, just call."

Fine. I call. I find out that the horse has been abandoned at this dressage training barn, and the barn owner is looking to find him a good home with someone who loves and understands Thoroughbreds (I'm assuming that's how my name came up). Also, he has an old bowed tendon. Also, no one knows how old he is or what his name is. This is just looking better and better!

But, my trainer insists that this horse is a good mover and worth a look. And, his asking price is my favorite number: 0. So, I hook up the trailer (because the horse is located two hours away and I'm not going back if I like him) and go see him.

I pull up to an absolutely immaculate dressage barn full of lovely horses and introduce myself to the owner. We walk down the aisle and stop at a very plain, very bay Thoroughbred. My immediate response was "Meh."

But, I look him over anyway, because I came this far.  He's a sweet boy, and I get a good enough look at his tattoo to see he's a 7 year old. The bow is noticeable, but it's old and he's sound on it. I find out the person who abandoned him there had been riding him for the last year with no soundness issues and was somewhat of a beginner. She had only done WTC with him, but he was solid and sane. They call him "Lovey" at the barn because of his sweet disposition. I ask if he lunges. The barn owner shrugs and says "Let's find out."

We walk him down to the indoor, the owner throws a lunge line on and asks him to move out. He trots out in the most beautiful, floaty, knee-popping trot I've ever seen on a TB. It was here that I decided he was going on the trailer, but I played it cool while she cantered and trotted him in both directions. He's a lovely mover, both directions, and didn't take a single bad step. So, we load him on the trailer.

He loaded perfectly, and off we went. Even when we got home, and my nincompoops started running and neighing, he stood quietly on the trailer and waited for me to lead him off and to his new paddock.  He trotted around a couple times, sniffed noses over the gate with the other boys, and settled right in.

Jack has no chill.

And now we have four horses again.

I still haven't gotten around to reading his full tattoo and finding out who he is. Part of the tattoo is faint, and part of me is lazy. We've just been calling him "New Boy" and he seems OK with that.

Of course, it's been a total monsoon here since I brought him home so I haven't been able to ride him. I have found that he leads fine, cross and straight ties, tolerates fly spray and integrates well into the herd. He's also much more interested in people than he is the other horses, which I like.

Jack also has no sense of personal space.

Everyone who I've told about him so far has been shocked and/or appalled that I would just go pick up a random abandoned TB with an old bow (They clearly don't know me very well.), so I'll offer a bit of explanation. I've been tentatively looking for a fourth horse since I lost Spider because four horses are actually easier to manage than three. When I need to split up the herd to manage pastures or use two horses, having only three leaves one horse by itself. It's much easier to have two and two. I have my own farm, so board is not an issue and four horses don't really eat or poop that much more than three.

He was free, so I'm not out much if he ends up not staying sound.  Not that I think he won't stay serviceably sound: bowed tendons aren't the end of the world for lower level dressage and/or trail riding. I'm also not looking to make him into my future Olympic mount, I'll be quite content if he only stays sound enough for trail riding (I'd trail ride Jack, but if I have to dismount I can't get back on Jack without a tall mounting block). And if he does end up being a good dressage horse, well, that's a bonus!

Even if he ends up not being reliably sound for riding, he can still be a companion for Jack. Spots and Beau do not play stupid TB games, and Jack has missed playing with Spider. New Boy has already shown himself to be an excellent playmate for Jack, and Spots and Beau are very happy to no longer be harassed into playing games with Jack.

In short: he was free, a nice mover, good personality and needed a safe place to land. What more do you want?

TBs: You can't just have one!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Girl Scouts and Ring Stewards

Last week was rather a blur, but I got to do two new things.

Thing One: My daughter is in Girls Scouts (Technically, she's a Brownie, but whatever), and there is a "Horse Badge" for her Troop. Evidently, my daughter is the only one in the Troop with easy access to horses and so I was chosen as Tribute to host the Horse Badge. Technically, my daughter was the one to lead the Troop in earning this badge, but she's nine, so I helped. A lot.

I took a picture of the requirements, because I'm scatterbrained professional like that.

Every once in awhile I get a bug up my butt to try going pro again. I was a pro years and years ago, training horses and running big farms, and I enjoyed it. But, eventually the people burned me out. Between the unrealistic expectations ("No, your 3 year old will not be doing PSG next year.") over-the top-demands ("No, I will not feed Princess 8 times a day and and change her sheets 5 times a day.") and just general insanity ("Are they having a fist fight over polo wraps?"), it was just tiring. Isolated as I am now on my own little farm, I occasionally forget how tedious I found dealing with the horsey set every day. Sometimes, I even miss it a little. Luckily, a group of giggling, shrieking nine year olds was just the cure for that.

They were actually fairly well behaved (particularly after they were shown my large and varied collection of whips). My daughter did a wonderful job explaining what the horses eat, their equipment and grooming items, etc..... and then it was time for me to bring out the sacrifice horse for the grooming demonstration.

I chose Beau, because he was really the only rational choice. Spots is the the perfect height, but I'm not sure how well he would tolerate the molestation that is a Girl Scout Troop learning to groom a horse. Jack would have absolutely loved it, but he's way too tall. They would only be able to groom his hocks and shoulders. So, Beau it was. This did not go over well with Jack.

"I volunteer as Tribute...."

At first Beau was a little... surprised. I don't think he'd ever been surrounded by that many children before. He took it in stride, though, and even enjoyed it once he realized he was just getting groomed. Afterwards, he gleamed like a model horse.

Honestly, I'm a little surprised he still had hair left afterwards.

Thing Two: I got to be a Ring Steward at a recognized show. This was fun! I'd never done it before, but I knew what the job entails and knew the USEF equipment rules already, so I was fairly prepared.  I met with the Technical Delegate before the show and got the final rundown on what I needed to do.

At a recognized show, the Ring Steward's main job is to make sure that the rider's equipment meet the USEF guidelines and that there is no blood on the horse. The Steward must examine 1/3 of the horses in each class. Since it was a smaller show, 1/3 of the class meant inspecting basically everyone and I was happy to do that since I wanted the experience!

As a competitor left the arena, I asked to check them. I put two fingers in the noseband, to be sure it wasn't too tight, then opened the horse's mouth and slid my fingers in to check the bit. Since I was wearing white latex gloves, this also checks for blood: any blood in the horse's mouth would end up on my glove. Then I looked at the rider's spurs to make sure they met the regulations and ran my hands down the horse's flank to check for blood. Finally, if the rider was carrying a whip, I measured it to make sure it was 120 cm (It's 100cm for ponies, but there weren't any ponies this day so it didn't come up).

Everybody passed my check, so I didn't get to find out what happens if you find something out of sorts. I suppose I can't really be disappointed at that, but it would have been interesting to know what the process is. I also learned a handy trick for telling the difference between a Dr. Bristol and a French Link: "A French woman has curves". I had asked the TD about it, because it can be hard to tell the difference between a French Link (legal) and a Dr. Bristol (illegal) even when you can see them, let alone when you're just shoving a gloved hand into the horse's mouth. So, you feel for curves and if you don't feel any you signal the TD who takes the rider and horse back to the trailer or stall and visually inspects it.

French Link on the top, Dr. Bristol on the bottom. Shamelessly borrowed from the University of Kentucky's 4H website.

I also learned that Spots should probably have a Pony Card, and that there isn't really a set way for the Ring Steward to determine whether a rider is on a pony or not without it. I was curious, because Spots will show at USEF recognized shows at some point, so I asked the TD what the procedure was for determining what was a pony and what wasn't for the whip rule. Her response: "Ponies have a Pony Card."  My response: "Uhhh... my pony doesn't have a Pony Card and he's a large pony, does that mean I can carry a 120cm whip?"  Her response: "Oh! You need to get him a Pony Card!" Point taken. Luckily, we can get him a Pony Card with the TD at the first recognized show he goes to, as long as it's before his class.

And now we're both caught up on last week. Seriously, it took this long for me to process all that.


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