Sunday, October 4, 2009

it's been a while...

Still progressing. I was having a nearly impossible time getting Nina to go forward in the hackamore. She has been backed off a bit so badly that just touching a rein leads to a dead stop. No bit because of her reactions.....but wait....

I decided to try a rubber mullen mouth. No metal, no moving parts...worth a try.
The only one I could find was a pelham, which turned out to be a good thing.
She is fine in the rubber bit, better than fine...trotting and stopping...both!

I decided to hang the second rein and a curb chain on it...just in case. She was doing some rooting in it and I realized that with the rubber bit, if she grabbed it and ran I couldn't do anything about it. So the second rein is an emergency brake.

I am riding on the snaffle rein, she is accepting some contact, going forward, somewhat giraffe-like but still an improvement. The second rein is very loose but it's there if I need it.

good stuff!

Monday, September 7, 2009

it really doesn't matter, part 2

I was getting frustrated with the latest brick wall that Nina threw at me. And there has been a lot of negative stuff going on in my life, mainly my mother being sick. So I have been whining about not being able to do what I want with the horse.

Last week I was not able to ride at all, too many obligations and responsibilities to take care of. By the end of the week I was exhausted. Sunday I went to the barn determined to find time to ride. I didn't care if all she wanted to do was walk, I just wanted to sit on a horse's back. I needed to. It's my therapy. So I let go of all my frustrations and just enjoyed having a horse to get on. And had a great ride. And had an even better one today.
I can't do what I want in my riding right what. I can at least get on a horse and let my tension fade away. It's better than meditation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

it really doesn't matter

I just messed around with her for the last two days, not enough time to ride. And I realized that she has come a long long way and she is keeping me sane right now, so the rest doesn't really matter. We will get there, or not, who cares?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

so discouraged....

Apparently every single new thing that Nina is introduced to is going to be the same battle.
She is walking around fairly cheerfully, totally unfazed by other horses, and stuff going on around the barn. She did spook at the mounting block the other day but it took a long time to decide to do that and she was telling me that she was bored.

But ask her to pick up a trot and the battle is on. The exact same stuck, sucked back, head slinging, threatening behavior that went on for a month over walking. *sigh*

I tried laying out poles to trot over, just to give her something to think made no difference. She did trot a few steps following another horse so we may do that for a while.

With all the stuff going on at home, I just don't have the patience for this. I can see how people resorted to bashing her.....she makes it tempting. I need to be able to ride to relieve stress, not create it. I was so discouraged a few days ago I was ready to quit. Now I am willing to give it a little more time, keep working at it and see what happens.
Somebody taught her this behavior, I hope karma has caught up to them.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

cross country!! not really...

I went out to Spring Gulch xc to teach a lesson today and hauled Nina along just to see how it would go. Also she hasn't been anywhere for over a year and I think that she may not have ever gotten on a trailer without going to a new home. Might as well get over that.

She was reluctant to load as the ramp was unstable, but she got over it and got on in a short time. Unloaded a little excited at the wide open spaces and horses visible in the distance. But Scotty unloaded like a fire breathing dragon his whole life, so I am used to that.

Lunged her a little, just trot around and then dragged her around with me like a big black dog while I taught the lesson. She got over being a little timid very quickly and started trying to drag me around. I was glad to see her more interested in a likely looking clump of grass and not the lions and tigers and bears in the shrubs, but I think she needs a ground manners tune up.

She hopped right on the trailer to go home. Rode well both ways. This was very nice. I am looking forward to actually riding her out there. She hopped over some logs and popped off a good size bank without any looks at all. She is going to be fun!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

very layed back...

Spent a while this afternoon just walking in circles and loops around the arena. No one else was there. Stepped over some poles, got nice and straight before and after. She is turning off of my leg, walking out in a big relaxed stride. Every once in a while she has one ear forward and one back...I like that. Two ears back makes me a little nervous...Watch where you are going!

Early in the week I free jumped her a little in a big round pen. Started at 2 ft and just kept cranking it up. Her spot at the canter kept getting farther and farther away so she fixed it herself and trotted it a few times to a tight spot and then cantered again to a better spot. Cranked it up for one jump to 4ft, same as at 2ft except tighter knees, not excited at all. From one direction she clouted it at 4ft and scared herself, I lowered it to 3 ft and she popped over it.
Only jumped about 10 jumps. No chute, no big deal, never tried to run out. Stopped when she scared herself and then just trotted and popped over.
Either she has had some jump schooling with someone with great skills and soft hands or she is just very layed back about things until they are screwed up for her by some two legged twit.

Monday, July 27, 2009


that's all, just humming, maybe a little dancing....

I have a horse to ride! I did not know if this day would ever come. Nina has apparently decided to leave her past behind and start over.
Now, that doesn't mean that she won't try to dump my butt!
A lot of the old reactions seems to be slowly drifting is AWESOME!

Friday, July 24, 2009

22 months

For the first time in 22 months, minus one day, I feel like I have a horse to ride again.

Monday, July 20, 2009

big big deal

Not only had I accomplished most of what I could expect to do in a round pen...I was bored out of my skull. Nina ditto.
So today we went out in the big arena, me with a game plan for a buck & bolt. Nina with a great big yawn.
Total non issue.

She does have a big spook in her and was eyeballing ONE fence post in a line of identical fence I want to make sure that we don't do anything exciting for a while.
But kindergarten is over and now we can get down to business with training...and showing her that this can be fun...or at least pleasant.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

weather problems

The weather has been swinging from hot to cool, wet to dry, changing every hour.
Nina was slightly colicky today. After I got her comfortable I loaded her up on magnesium and wet mushy food. I think I will give her a couple of days off and lots of wet food.

Monday, July 13, 2009

this was different

Yesterday while I was tacking Nina up, she tried to lay down. Several times, girth was not tighter than normal and she had been acting fine. I got the tack back off of her quick and turned her loose in the roundpen. My first thought was colic so I grabbed a stethoscope and listened for gut sounds, everything sounded fine. Turned loose she wandered around, rolled once, nibbled on weeds and acted perfectly normal.
It could have been
1. a gas bubble that made her stomach hurt just as I was tightening the girth
2. she was holding her breath
3. this is another trick she has learned to get out of being ridden

Tacked her back up and then she was wild, running and bucking.
But when I got on her I get the best ride so far, just walking. Happy, forward, big even strides, no resistance of any kind, ever. I was very pleased with her.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I was so anxious I was holding my breath. Today was the day to take the sidereins off of Nina.

I don't like riding in them, they are dangerous and they are too restrictive.
I believe they did their job and made it easy for me to correct her for rearing and harder for her to rear as she got a correction from the sidereins before she was really committed to go all the way up.
But I needed to know.....if she can only be ridden with her head tied down, then she can't really be ridden. I was a little nervous about getting tossed but mostly I was scared to find out that she has only been being good because of the reins and not because she is starting to get it.

She was FINE. More relaxed than usual, probably because of the lack of restriction. And was great, even though her rider was as tense as a piano wire.

Onward and upward!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

TBs and TBs

Every TB I have ever had, no matter how quiet and layed back, has on occasion reminded me that they are the definition of 'hot blood.'

Nina picked today. Nearly ran over me twice, pulled back while being tacked up, but miraculously stopped before throwing my saddle (not yet girthed up) in the mud.
Zoomed around the round pen. I decided that this was too much pent up energy for a round pen and turned her out. She ran as fast as the space would allow (she has not yet hit her stride when it is time to slow down and turn), bucked HARD, spooked at every whisper of sound, every movement.
Tried to be 18h tall.

Having a party in her mind. Meanwhile the rest of us were slogging around in slow motion in the heat.

She is a TB, and becoming a fit one!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

a good test

Today was a good landmark. Every time that I have had to skip even one day it has been a setback. The setbacks have gotten smaller and smaller but still, two steps forward and one step back.
This week I did not ride Nina at all. Work, doctor's appointments for my mother, rained out big time one day...could have drowned! They all conspired to keep me off the horse.

Today I lunged her for a few minutes, got on and finally got the feeling that she would walk all day if I wanted her to. No time clock at 2 minutes, or 5 minutes or 10 minutes.

Didn't trot, a hard rain yesterday left the ground super slippery. I know the battles aren't over yet and I prefer dry ground and better traction.

Just happy with what I got today.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

pocket pony

A year ago Nina was spooking and running from me at the least unexpected movement on my part. Today I was standing in her run talking to a friend, hold a bucket about half full of water and sort of swinging it back and forth. Nina came over, grabbed the bucket, stuck her head in, drank it dry, dribbled a little water on me and sniffed at my jeans pocket and cocked a foot and listened to the conversation.
I don't think I intimidate her anymore.
I did suggest to her that there is a range of behavior between loco and obnoxious pocket pony...she declined to comment.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I think we have done as much as we can at the walk. She alternates a nice big stride, head nodding, relaxed...with a tight stuck stride, very light in the front end, ears pinned. Seems to be random. She will move sideways to light leg pressure, strong leg gets her stuck, but ANY leg got a bad reaction a week ago. She totally forgot herself and showed me that she neck reins yesterday.
I would like to just walk her until she feels like she would just walk forever, but I think we would both die of boredom or old age before that happens.
Time to start mixing it up and work on some walk/trot transitions.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

break through

Breathing....breathing is always good. Nina has been holding her breath, breathing very shallowly. Big breaths today, blowing down her nose, BIG sighs. First voluntary release of tension. All good signs.

Monday, June 15, 2009

and again...

Same thing again. This is getting boring and I am so excited about it. She almost forgot to try pissy today. Going to start extending the walking by about a minute a day, add a little trot when possible. See what happens.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nina, with and without rider.

Nina was quite tense today, walking stiff legged, but the good news is that she kept it together and was fine. A week ago she would have just wound herself up, today she did what she was told in spite of not being relaxed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

big step forward....

So I got on Nina on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday due to circumstances beyond my control she got the day off. Today I was not anxious to get back on. I just didn't have the energy to deal with a stuck horse. But, sometimes you just have to.
She was the best she has been so far. Walked out, totally relaxed, turned both ways. Stopped and started and walked out again, head nodding for the very first time. I'm still waiting for her to breathe but one thing at a time.
She got a little stuck once, thought about rearing, I over corrected but she was the adult and after a pissy head shake she did not over react to my over reacting and we carried on.
She even offered a little trot, but she also dropped her shoulder and got light in the rear and I decided that on the buckle was not the best way to do this, so I just said a quiet 'whoa' and she went back to walk.
Positively horselike.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A day off is a step back

Yesterday Nina got the day off, today was a step back. But not as much as the last time she got a day off so I guess that's progress.
As soon as I got on her today she offered to stand up. I was more than a little irritated and gave her more of a jerk to the side than I intended. Didn't do much for her attitude but she did put some weight in her feet. Very pissy today, resisting everything I asked and then giving in. Just testing I suppose.
Overall it is still steady progress.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

good day 2

Walking, walking like a thoroughbred with a big long stride. This is the first time I have felt different from a quarter horse. A little bit of balking, not much. She got stuck for a few seconds and was pissy, but then walking again. Figure 8s, turns, walking, even moved sideways off of my leg for a step....ok, that was probably an accident, but she didn't react to my leg by going up.
Very very happy with today.

Friday, June 5, 2009

a good day...

No rearing. Some head shaking and nasty faces and ears pinned, but no rearing. And she actually walked out like she was going somewhere. When the round pen dries out a little I will see if I can push her into a trot.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

this may work....

I have been very hesitant about confronting Nina about the bad behavior....absolutely chicken in fact. I told myself it was because there is no way to just kick her forward like you do with a horse that has had some training. Actually, I admitted to myself, it is because I have had this little doubt in the back of my mind that she might really be nuts and would throw herself over backwards to win the fight. In my opinion, horses that deliberately go over backwards are nuts and should be shot before they kill someone. Rearing is just one step away.

So today, as soon as I got on she reared a little. I was ready for it and just grabbed mane with one hand and pulled her head around with the other, pulling her off balance. This was the make or break moment...give in and get trained or fight beyond all reason.
She slammed her feet back down on the ground triple fast. They didn't stay there because she was PISSED, but I pulled her around the other direction the next time and she stopped to think about this and walked around in a circle each way with feet on the ground. As soon as she walked both ways I got off.

I think I can do this all day long....hopefully she will give in rather than escalate. Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

more rain

If we had ocean instead of mountains to the west, I would swear I was in Seattle. Mild temps and rain and rain and rain.
I went ahead a worked with Nina, in the rain, in the flooded round pen. She was ok being tacked up. In fact considering that she has not been saddled in several days, she was fabulous. Only minor face making.
After spending some time with my friend Reed's horse, Shiver, who gnashes his teeth and pins his ears back a lot...all a big show...I am beginning to think she is not such a big deal. I am just used to a couple of horses who would drag you to the jumps but were puppy dogs on the ground.

Anyway, just a few minutes of lunging with one side rein each way, no fighting, fussing or appearance of being uncomfortable. I thought about getting on but somehow I was sure she would toss me into the deepest, nastiest puddle.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

rain rain go away

And now it has been raining for about 24 hours and the round pens are knee deep in water.
It's not that I mind working horses in the rain, but I don't like getting bucked off in the water.
On the other hand she is still cheerful today, no tongue chewing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

starting again

I had to work late today, so I only turned Nina out and did not ride, but I am glad I did because it gave me a chance to watch her and I think another light bulb turned on. This one is just flickering.
When I got Nina she chewed her tongue...a lot. And stuck it out whenever she was trotting/cantering. With some horses this is just a little OCD behavior, but with some it is an indication of pain. When I treated her for ulcers some of this went away, teeth done...ditto, chiro...ditto. Lately she has been very easy to handle, wants to be petted and is not hanging her tongue out.
Last week, starting the day she reared while I was riding, she has been hanging her tongue out again. She also has been very aloof and does not want to be petted or touched.
She has a knot of tissue in her neck that has steadily reduced since I got her, but vets have said that it is indication of a serious injury probably a long time ago. She is very stiff through the neck, also improving, and sometimes moves as if she has a stiff neck. I assume that her neck hurts at least some of the time and the side reins I have been riding her with are both to discourage her from rearing and to keep me from pulling her neck around too far.
Yesterday I wiped some DMSO on her neck, which I have been using off and on to help reduce the swelling.
Today she was cheerful, wanted to be petted and did not hang her tongue out at all while running around the turnout.
I think I need to pay attention to this and not get on her when she is exhibiting this behavior....instead spend my time locating the source of the pain and doing what I can for it.
This might be another step to getting her confidence while being ridden.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

BIG step back

So it turns out that my friend who was helping me has this project very low on her to-do list and does not show up. Nina got worked one day this week so we are pretty much back to square one. When she gets worked everyday she makes progress, but she is so used to bullying people and getting put away for months at a time that a couple of days off and she is geared up to fight again.
So even though I think the carrots was a really good idea, she would have to have been weaned off of them sooner or later so I guess we are going to do it without the carrots.
I was really bitterly disappointed when I was blown off again this week and about to just pack it in and quit. But I realized that she doesn't have me scared any more and I am just going to have to do this by myself. It may take longer, but I can do it and I can do it everyday without waiting for someone else.
Since we are back to square one with her attitude, might as well start over. So Monday we will start with mounting and dismounting, this time without the treats.
We will get it done.
I was helping a couple of riders today at a 3Day Event and wishing I was riding.....'Nina could do this' I found myself thinking....yes....if we can learn to walk first.

two steps forward, one step back

Nina finally showed her old colors and tried a little rearing. It wasn't much, fairly half hearted but still disappointing that she had to try it. I was expecting it and hoping not to see this behavior at the same time.
On the good side she did manage to get her brain working again and walk forward quietly after.
I suspect we are in for a rough patch and she will be testing to see if she can get me to fight with her. My job will be to get her thinking about working without feeding into her temper tantrum.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

time to get on

The few times I got on Nina last fall she planted her feet, gnashed her teeth, pinned her ears and refused to move an any direction...totally stuck.
When other people have gotten on her she has reared, higher each time...then refused to move.
Almost a one-trick pony.

So I spent a day just getting on and off, many times. She was fine with that.
Then I had a friend with a handful of carrots entice her to move a few steps while I just sat on her like a sack. That involved pinned ears, but otherwise it was ok.

Then we started moving the bar up a tiny bit each day.
Walk on verbal command.
Move my legs around on her.
Eat carrots.
Move legs more.
Turn around with big plow rein and walk the OTHER direction.
Walk away from the carrot machine...this was was tough and involved some tail wringing and a half hearted attempt to rear.
Repeat all above.

Other than some dramatic gesturing with the head and neck...this has been progress. Her body is fairly relaxed, off and on, and if I ignore the dramatic face is mine.

This tiny bit of progress is the absolute most cooperation I have seen out of her since the day I got her. My friend with the carrots convinced me that Nina has come to trust me and at this point if she is going to let anyone ride her, it is going to be me. I think she is right. Nina is responding to voice, not just commands but also some growls when she starts to wind herself up.
Baby steps.

turning....what's that?

I found an English hackamore, replaced the curb chain with a strap, covered the noseband with sheepskin and tried that on Nina. That seemed to be perfectly comfortable no matter which way it moved or was tugged on, so at least I had something that I could ride in.

So I set a date and school began. I did a little lunging with her tacked up and very loose sidereins added. All was well. Then I did some lunging with only one very loose siderein, mostly to see if the hackamore had any influence when only one rein was used. This was an elastic siderein, adjusted so that it asked her to move her nose just a hair off of center, not any stress or pulling.
She went ballistic, bucked and ran and reared and tried to wipe the hackamore off with her front legs. I realized that I had never tried pulling on one rein at a time before, so after her temper tantrum was over I tried it by hand and got nearly as violent a reaction, combined with trying to get away from me.
So, not counting any damage done to her mouth, I think I had found the first place that someone had taught her to fight.

But amazingly, with a week of ground work, asking her to relax and give her head with sidereins and by hand, she figured out that it was not an attack, quit fighting and began to offer movement with ears up, waiting to be told that she was brilliant!

Monday, May 25, 2009

a step back...

As I try to plan how to retrain this mare myself I look for where her training stopped and I can't find the place where she knows how to do ANYTHING.
When I got her she didn't lead, tie, stand, pick up her feet, let you groom her....nothing.
Lunging was advanced work.
She does all those things now, and now I am trying to find where somebody did something...anything...right about riding her so I can figure out what she knows.
She knows how to buck, bolt, run backwards and rear...all the bad stuff.

I was playing around with a bit in her mouth a few days ago. She has gotten far enough along that she was standing with a foot cocked and half asleep while I played with the bit. Suddenly she squealed and stood straight up! When she landed she was wide awake and giving me a wide eye. I tried again, no response and then suddenly the same one. Three times and she landed with her ears pinned at me and I decided that I was positive enough that the bit had caused it.
So I had the vet who did her teeth back out to see if he missed something, a bad tooth that didn't look bad etc. Poked and prodded and found nothing. Suggested that considering her history, perhaps she had some nerve damage to the bars of her mouth.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nina, May 09 video

Nina, May 09 pics

Training 101, stand tied to be tacked up

WWIII broke out over being tacked up. The first day was dangerous, the second also. The third day was exciting, the next less so and by the end of a week she was standing fairly quietly, she cribs when you fasten the girth, no matter how loose it starts, and then later doesn't mind when you tighten it, so this is a learned behavior, but as long as she isn't trying to crib on my arm, it's ok with me.

May 2009

I had told myself all along that if her teeth were terrible I would try her again myself before spending the money on professional training. Her teeth were terrible, so, what the heck....I am going to give it a shot.

April 2009

So now that I have a plan, everything falls apart. I have been giving lessons and that money was supposed to pay for Nina's training. I lost 3 students in one month. One had surgery, one moved away and one got thrown out of the barn. It was a big income loss and now I can't afford to send her for training.
I am so frustrated with all this. I am ready to find a cheap place to retire her and find another horse to ride. I don't know what to do, but I don't want to keep a horse as a pet, I want a horse to ride. Very frustrating. Maybe something will work out.....

March 2009

I finally get Nina's teeth done, and as expected they were awful. The vet asked if she was terrible in a bridle. Hopefully this will help some with her issues.
And I got the chiropractor out twice to work on her, the first time she needed a lot of adjusting, the second time not so much.
The first time was sort of like having a velociraptor on the end of a rope, I swear she puffed herself up to about 19 hands and all that teeth clacking was more than a little unnerving. Since my last horse LOVED the chiro I was a little put off, but the vet just said that a lot of them are like that the first time. I think I would find another line of work if a LOT of them act that way.
It was exciting.
The trainer and I have decided that mid April would be a good time to send Nina up to him, that would put her back here around the end of May...perfect.

January, February 2009

So we are mostly just waiting out the winter. We are having a fairly mild winter, Nina is gaining weight, but her behavior has leveled off, no progress. She is still spooky, even with me, and the few times that I tack her up to lunge she is willing to go to war over every bit of it.
I have checked out the trainer and I am very impressed. He is very low key and confident and doesn't believe in fighting with a horse. So just waiting for spring.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

November 2008

So now we are into fall, I still haven't found the money to have her teeth done and winter is coming. It doesn't seem like a good time to send her off to a trainer for 45 days training. Getting her back in the dead of winter could make it very hard to carry on where the trainer left off. So everything goes on hold for the winter.
She if finally really gaining weight, by early December she is actually a little plump. Yay!

Monday, April 13, 2009

september 2008

By September Nina was looking pretty healthy, although I had been told by people experienced in horse rescue that you really need to give them a full year when they have been starved before you can see what you have.
Her ground manners had been re-installed, she was moving well, her disposition was good.

But I had put several very experienced riders on her, riders more confident about bad behavior than I am, and every one of them got off fairly quickly. She wasn't really doing anything, with one rider she reared a bit, but she was telegraphing loud and clear that she wanted the rider off...NOW.

So I started looking for a professional trainer. Not a NH guru and not a 'beat 'em up' type.
I know many of the H/J trainers in this area and they are not interested in risking their necks on a horse like this. Why should they, they have barns full of nice horses that need riding.

Taking on problem horses seems to have been relegated to the round pen pros and the idiots.
Then I heard about a trainer that a local H/J trainer had sent a problem horse to and was very pleased with the results.
I called, drove up to his place (70 miles) and got to know this trainer. He is a rare gem, a trainer who just gets on and rides and assumes that the horse can't unload him and that he can get off quick if everything goes south. He doesn't own a round pen, doesn't use exotic equipment and just rides; first in a deep arena and then out in the open. He thinks most horses are either fearful or spoiled and either way, they just need a job and somebody to be consistent.

Just what I was looking for.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

july 08

By July Nina was definitely feeling better and the Thoroughbred in her was starting to show. Energy was bubbling over and she needed a job. A couple of weeks getting her re-accustomed to tack and working a little on a lunge line revealed that she understood quite a lot, but was readily defiant. My few times of getting on her did neither of us any good. She was stuck, didn't want to move and when repeatedly urged to move she would rear. She also shook all over and was extremely defensive, ducking away from any movement from the rider.
I am a pretty good rider, but not the most confident in the world and I knew I was over my head. I started looking for someone else to get her started and found a very good, very aggressive rider who was able to get on and get her moving forward. However, both from the rider's viewpoint and from the ground, Nina appeared to be uncomfortable, moving stiffly and with great resistance. I needed to get more of her physical issues dealt with before I could reasonably insist that she behave under saddle. I decided on a couple of more months off and more massage. I was sure that she also needed her teeth done and a visit from a chiropractor was on the list.

a few months of good food...

By June a few months of good food and a little bit of exercise were becoming visible. She was putting weight on and calming down a lot. We had done a lot of remedial training on ground manners and she was now pretty cheerful about being handled, although she still had a big spook when startled.
She was also still carrying her head abnormally low for a TB so I had a friend who does myofascial release massage and energy work start working on her. The first session produced striking results with more natural head carriage and a more flowing movement. Nina had been trotting and cantering around with a stiff legged pony style gait, now she began to use her body and bend her legs. She was stiff as a board from ears to tail, but the first massage produced good results.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

welcome to my world

This horse was obedient enough to be handled...sort of. I had to herd her into a corner of her pen to get a halter on her. Then she would submit peacefully. Her idea of being led was as far from me as she could get and she rewarded all petting and grooming with biting and kicking.
We had several lively discussions about acceptable behavior and while she apparently had been properly trained at one time and got the point, it was not advisable to take an eye off of her while within range.

She was not impressed, but I cut off and pulled her nasty dry mane and gave her a proper haircut for a sport horse. While doing this she actually relaxed a little bit. Maybe no one had spent this much time this close to her for a while.
As skinny as she looks here, she was putting weight on fast, she was just shedding winter coat at the same time and her condition was becoming more visible. I added beet pulp to her diet. I had been told that she would not eat beet pulp, but she was scarfing down buckets full.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

time to heal

After the burst of adrenaline from the move wore off, it became apparent just how stressed and tired and hungry she really was. She was easy to chase off her food, she would snatch a mouthful of hay and run if disturbed when she was eating. She was either on full alert or asleep most of the time. I started cleaning up cuts, especially an infected one on her hock and tried to keep grass hay in front of her all the time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

the move

I brought her to a boarding barn near where I live. I didn't see any reason to spend the money on a show/training barn until I found out what I had. I rented a large square pen with a large shed where she would not be within reach of other horses.
After many safety precautions - just in case - she unloaded quietly from the trailer and was turned out in a sand filled pen to stretch her legs and roll. She was starting to lose her winter coat and unbelievably had a little shine to her new hair. But even under a winter coat her bones were visible. She was pretty leery of us but overall had behaved better than I had expected.
And she was in her new home with a pile of hay in front of her.

Monday, March 9, 2009

one born every minute...

I couldn't get the black mare out of my mind. Standing in the mud, covered with bites and kicks, looking regal.
I had discovered out that she came off the track at a cheap horse sale and had been originally sold as one of a lot of horses sold to a dealer in Wyoming. She been handed around to 5 or 6 homes as a 'trail horse' and was generally labeled unrideable pretty quickly, so she was bred, produced a foal and was sold. I wasn't sure why she hadn't gone to slaughter already. Maybe luck. Maybe because she was a classic looking TB people thought her foals, even unregistered, would be worth money.
I found out through the trainer network that she and her current owner were on a downward spiral and the owner had been advised to sell her.
She was one bad step away from a very bad end. She was very skinny, very distrustful and might be nuts. She also still had a soft eye.

I went back again and asked to see her ridden. Her owner, with obvious trepidation but courage born of desperation, climbed on and trotted her around a little. I got on and found that she didn't know much, but wasn't totally crazy. I gave her owner less than the going price for meat and got a receipt.

I called a friend with a trailer and a few days later we went and got her. Watching her refuse to be led and refuse to get on the trailer should have discouraged me but when I took the lead she walked right on willingly, stood quietly and we waved goodbye to her past.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

craigslist horses

I found Nina on Craigslist. Not an ideal place to find a horse, but there are lots of cheap horses there. She was listed as a Thoroughbred mare, not for an inexperienced rider. I called on the ad and the owner told me that she had listed this ad months ago, never got a call and never relisted it. That was strange because I found her at the top of the ads. Serendipitous computer glitch.

When I went to see her I was hugely unimpressed. Her owner was exercising her in a round pen. She was skinny, had her ears pinned back, kicked out occasionally and appeared lame on one hind leg. On closer exam, she had a deep infected cut on one hock. She was also barefoot and moved footsore. She stayed turned away from the person, but stood quietly when I approached and took a close look. She was a shabby, unhappy looking horse, but she also looked like she dished out as much abuse as she took. Her owner confirmed that she was unable to ride her much as she had a tendency to rear and to bolt. She had purchased the mare bred and raised the foal, which was now 3 years old and a sweetheart to work with. She was over her head with this mare, knew it and was ready for her to just be gone.

I followed when she took the mare back to the pen where she lived with a small group of mares, including her daughter. She had bite and kick marks on her and when she went into the pen she shied away from the other horses, who all pinned ears at her, confirming that she was low on the pecking order. She walked over to a corner of the pen, raised her head and stood looking like the aristocrat she was bred to be. Humbled but unbowed.

I thanked the owner for her time and drove away. I didn't need a horse that needed as much rehab as this one did.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

first, Scotty

Nina came into my life because of Scotty.

I have owned several OTTBs (off-track-thoroughbred). This is the sport horse world's shorthand name for these horses.
The most recent before Nina was a horse called Highlander, his barn name was Scotty.
Scotty raced until he was nearly 8 years old when a bowed tendon forced his retirement.

He was one of the fortunate ones. His bloodlines were known to jump trainers as being talented in show jumping. So he was purchased by a trainer, turned out to let time heal the tendon, consigned to another trainer for sale, where I purchased him.
Scotty was the love of my life. 17h, 1500# he was occasionally reminiscent of a runaway freight train, but he was honest, didn't have a mean bone in his body, loved to jump and taught me much.
Scotty died of colic at age 15. I had just let his insurance drop as the rates go from inexpensive to astronomical when a horse reaches that age. His death was devastating emotionally and financially. He was my friend, my partner; I spent hours everyday with him. Without insurance there was no way that I could afford to replace him, and I had the vet bills to pay.
Being without a horse to ride was not an option. I tried leasing, I rode horses for my trainer, but I really needed a horse to ride and school on my own.

So I started looking at cheap horses. That is a most depressing way to spend time.
Horses that were crippled or crazy, owners who thought they were worth money even though the owner couldn't catch them or ride them, didn't feed them well or take care of their feet. The list goes on and on. There are diamonds in the rough, it just takes a lot of digging.
This is how I found Nina.


This is the story of one Thoroughbred mare who came into my life. Her story is not uncommon.
At the time I am starting this blog, we still don't know that there will be a happy ending, but we are hopeful.

Keep in mind as you read about Nina that only a handful of the many Thoroughbreds who wash out of racing every year go immediately to homes where their new owners love, admire, and most importantly, understand the Thoroughbred. They are the lucky ones.
Many others have stories similar to Nina. Often handed from home to home, from owner to owner. Most Thoroughbreds off the track are not suitable for the average backyard rider. But the average backyard rider is often seduced by their beauty or their history and buys a horse that they cannot handle.
Many more go directly to slaughter, unwanted and unseen.

Nina has had an unhappy history which I will tell you more about. Much of it is unverified, but her story, as I have already said, is not uncommon.
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