No energy to actually blog but here are some faces for your Friday morning.
This is not my normal kind of post but I thought I’d do something different.
A couple days ago, a friend of mine posted on facebook asking if anyone knew what happened to Gentlemen (1993).
For those who may not know, Gentlemen was a champion 3-year-old in Argentina before coming to the US. In total, he won more than 3.6 million dollars on 2 continents. He was a winner of multiple Grade 1 stakes including the Pimlico Special, the Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pacific Classic. In the US, he was trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by Gary Stevens. He was, arguably, one of the best racehorses of his generation.
Following his retirement on the track, he was less successful as a stud. He started off at Walmac in Lexington, KY before ending up at Elite Thoroughbreds in Folsom, LA with a stud fee of $1500. He was last bred in 2011. He was never heard from again.
Some sleuthing thanks to some wonderful friends ultimately found that Gentlemen died sometime between 2011 and 2012 with no fanfare at Trader’s Rest Farm in Carencro, LA. His death was never reported to the Jockey Club (I reached out, they confirmed that they had no death record).
A horse that won over $3.6 million was just forgotten. He never received any accolades or tributes or memories. He received nothing.
I made 2 small donations in his honor last night. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
To Gentlemen, I won’t forget you. You ran with a great generation. You were one of the greatest. I just wish he had been able to spend his final years at a place like Old Friends. I wish he hadn’t fallen through the cracks.
Ugh. I noticed that Nay Nay had started to drop weight. It’s hard to notice these things when you see your horses every day. This is one advantage of boarding. You don’t always see your horse daily, or multiple times daily. I’ve had blankets off for at least a week and the previous weekend he looked OK. I had been taking pictures every other week for weight/muscle changes and suddenly I looked at him and his butt looked… Bad.
He was still eating and I decided I’d take my lesson. He had gone on a hay strike the week before, but I sort of dismissed it. I was at the end of one batch of hay and Nay Nay was still inhaling hay outside. It was just inside his stall. Then, he started eating hay again in his stall so I figured maybe there was something in the last couple of bales he just didn’t like and he was holding out for the alfalfa. It HAS happened before.
Except on Saturday morning? He hadn’t finished0 his Friday dinner. Or touched his hay. And then he didn’t eat breakfast. There was too much poop to be colic though he looked like he just felt crappy. Shit. Looking more closely at his stall, lots of mushy manure. Another sign. Crap.
So, we’re taking this self-quarantine seriously. I’m not scoping because, well, it’s a lot of money and he’s got all the signs. I can scope, confirm he HAS ulcers, and then treat and be broke or I can treat and be a little less broke. Either way, treating is going to happen. Plus, I really don’t want to put him through the stress of scoping, ESPECIALLY with vet offices limiting appointments, reducing contact, and all that. If I need to scope after treatment, then I will. I’m using the call for social distancing to give Nay time off and try and heal the ulcers.
I’ve had really good luck with Abler products in the past. Except, shipping might be an issue. I’ve placed my order and I’m hoping I get the stuff (they have a delay warning right now). I’ve started on ulcergard now and I’m hoping the abler gets here as quickly as possible so I don’t go bankrupt. I do have Nexium on hand as well.
Anyway, since he’s been on Ulcergard, he’s back to eating dinner (breakfast? not so much) and cleans up his alfalfa. He’s picking at his dinner hay, but spends a good chunk of the time outside eating hay so that’s good. As of yesterday, he is eating a meal at 5-6 pm (pre-dinner) as I believe his ulcers are stemming from fence pacing/stressing to come in for dinner, NOT stressing about work/riding. Every night, he comes to the fence/gate around 5-6 and waits there until 8-9 when we bring in. Some days he’s VERY anxious to come in (rain). I’m hoping pre-dinner will help curb this. While he’s still happy to come in, he’s been less panicky the last 2 days since eating “pre-dinner.”
Horses, they drive us crazy, right?
I’m going to split my blog into a couple of posts this week and start by focusing on the happy before I get into Nay Nay’s ulcer induced vacation. It probably comes at a good time with Corona-geddon, but still, no one likes to see their horses miserable. Hopefully, he’ll be feeling better in a couple of weeks and we’ll be back in light work. But, it the meantime, I’m going to take advantage of social distancing and self-quarantine recommendations and just stay home and pump omeprazole and alfalfa into his system. More to come…
But, before Nay Nay took a turn for the worst and scared me half to death by not eating either meal, we finally got in a lesson AFTER 5 WEEKS SOLO! This was our chance to see if all our hard work was noticeable or if I really screwed him up in that time… LOL
I got to the barn and it was pretty busy for midday on a weekday. Turns out all the college kids suddenly had time on their hands with our university closed to students (not staff… I was just off for the day) and decided to ride. Nay tried to take it all in stride in the outdoor, but as we walked around in hand, it was a little too much. So, we moved to the indoor for our actual lesson. **He did nothing wrong, but the goal was to not stress him out** Inside, instead of 3-4 horses canter/jumping every which way, we joined the resident western pleasure trainer (yes, I’m at a hunter barn that has a western pleasure trainer renting out stalls) walking around on one horse while his student jogged on another. Much more Nay’s speed.
Very quickly? All was right in Nay’s world. We need to work on the outdoor and we need to work on crowds, but that day wasn’t the day. 2 quiet horses in the ring? Happy camper.
As we were walking, the phone calls started coming in announcing the end of the world (first schools were closing). So I started my own warm up. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been here for 5 weeks… And show off Nay Nay did. He gave me some of his best trot work ever. All of a sudden I hear, “Who is this horse? He is so even and balanced!” At some point we’re instructed to add in some figure eights, but otherwise, Nay just shows off what a solid citizen he’s become.
Next comes the message about USEF shows. So, follow up calls and text take place regarding that. I understand in a sense, but also, whatever. Short term plans were seeing who wanted to show this weekend who hadn’t originally planned to before no more points. Long term discussions were Devon points. Then, will there be a Devon? Nay Nay and I canter, adding circles and his left lead, which hasn’t been as great, was lovely. Then the right lead was pretty good, SO MUCH BETTER THAN 5 weeks ago, but not as nice as some of the other right lead canters we’ve had because, on a circle, I leaned it, and then we lost it… But, user error. Still, trainer couldn’t get over”his balance, consistency, and pace!”
Then it was time to really focus on me and we were asked about our over fences work. I explained that I really went back to the basics and stuck with tiny jumps and worked on asking at the base every time. Basically, micromanaging because he’s not consistent enough to get away without the micromanagement. And, he sometimes makes poor decisions on his own. [Leave me alone for too long and I get way too analytical!] I also mentioned that he loves the freaking straw bales of all things which is insane. “Have you cantered anything yet?” Gulp, no.
So, the plan was to work on a figure eight. Trot down over the little plank jump (it was like 18″ around the corner and up over the pole. Next time, when I got back to the rail, ask for the canter and canter both a few times. And… we did.
Trotting wasn’t an issue at all. Cantering? Nay got pretty damn excited and launched himself over the plank because he’s awesome. LOL and then I had to work to keep leg on him while he tried to toss his head in celebration. It was cute. It took us a few times to keep the canter and canter the pole vs trot step/canter the pole but we got there. I did eventually have to hold a touch for the plank so that someone didn’t gallop, but he was very, very excited and happy. It was adorable.
Next, we were going to canter the straw bales. Right lead. I did interject and ask to trot first and approach from the LEFT LEAD and that was fine. See, I have to work too hard to keep him from drifting to the right and I just didn’t want to. So, we trotted it once, circled, and cantered up and over like he’s been doing it every day, cantered down over the plank, and then cantered up over his pole. And with that, Nay Nay cantered his first baby course.
You guys, the jumps were small, but he was awesome! He was so proud of himself! I can’t wait to ride again, whenever it is.
Forward was the theme for my rides this weekend despite the fact that Nay Nay was slow and lazy.
Saturday it was windy and the day started off sunny but freezing with 15-20mph winds. My favorite kind of day. My original plan was to ride in the morning before my farrier appointment, but it was so cold that… I just didn’t. So, I broke my rule of not riding after the farrier and rode after our trim. The wind died down late afternoon and things were fine. Nay was fine. Possibly a touch foot sore? But, it was only questionable when we were trotting and he worked out the iffy-ness at the canter. Again, no lameness, but a little (not even) tenderness, more just lazy, not really going to put full effort out or move truly forward. It’s hard to describe. But we cantered and even though we were both huffing and puffing after our canter (slow as freaking molasses), everything felt better after that.
I sent up some small fences (2 verticals) and decided if I felt brave, I’d tackle a gate and the straw bales. Both the verticals were part of lines (as was the gate) so I had to be strategic how I tackled them less I teach Nay Nay to go around them, and the straw bales? Set up without standards so they were all about steering. Lol. Just 2 random bales on down the long side.
Thinking over the past week, I realized that I’ve been expecting way too much from Nay Nay. When I approach something small, I expect he’ll jump it. We’re not there yet. Or, if we do something 3 times in a row, I expect he’ll jump it the 3rd time. We’re not there yet. As a result, I don’t ride and Nay decides he needs to make a decision. Sometimes he jumps and makes the right decision, sometimes he says, “Oh! Freedom! Let’s not do this!” Right now, until he knows he doesn’t get to make that choice (unless, dangerous), I need to ride and ask at the base every time. I need to be assertive. If I’m assertive, if I add leg (or spur), I then can expect him to jump because leg/spur means forward.
So, turning to our first vertical, I added spur because he was asleep and he immediately woke up and cantered (LOL) and I wasn’t quite ready to canter my first jump without my trainer there. So without using much hand and still apply that leg (yay for voice training trot), Nay came back to the trot and jumped the snot out of his vertical because? I rode. No pause, no hesitation. There was no way we weren’t jumping it. We repeated it several times and while the enthusiasm died a bit (he jumped and cantered out vs jumping a foot over the thing), it was all good.
We did the same thing to the next jump. It didn’t matter that this jump was in the location we had issues with. It was fine. Our approach wasn’t perfect but it was fine. Springy trot towards it, leg/spur, jumped with enthusiasm and no hesitation. Rinse, repeat.
So I was left with a dilemma. And decided to try the straw bales. We started to the left. I overrode in…fear that all my issues would come crawling back and… a little bay horse launched himself over the straw bales and cantered out. The second time? He carried himself to it while I still asked. After repeating this, I thought about ending because no good deed go unpunished, but decided to take on the other direction…
To the right, Nay Nay drifts in. I know this. And it was an issue. But, despite this, I caught it and we got over. Now, by calling him out on the drift, he did catch the straw bale with his left (I didn’t add as much leg here either as I was course-correcting) so we knocked a bale, but we got over. He doesn’t care. I hopped off, fixed it, and we proceeded to ride it perfectly now that I was prepared with extra inside leg and outside hand (so much work I need to do here). The 3rd attempt was even better and Nay Nay was so freaking proud of himself.
We stopped after that fence but holy crap. I think I finally get it? I could have it all wrong, but…? I ride, he jumps? Granted, everything was tiny, the straw bales being the largest, but the concepts are there…
Sunday my ride came early (a 1-9 workday ruining my weekend). Nay Nay was tired from his previous day’s work, but his trot work was lovely, if not slow. Things fell apart at the canter. There are days you pick your battles and there are days you don’t. I decided I just didn’t have time for a fight.
I struggled to pick up the canter. Nay just didn’t want to move forward. Like the trot, he just felt slow, but didn’t feel lame or even stiff. Once I got him cantering, the canter was completely fine, but his focus was anywhere but me. See, turnout was changing and 2 horses were face fighting outside the indoor and grunting/squeeling and I just couldn’t keep him focused. I ultimately managed to pick up the canter a few times, kept it down a long side, and asked for the trot and called bring him back myself a win. Sometimes picking a tiny victory is what you need…
Since he wasn’t necessarily himself, I didn’t exactly want to jump much. But, thought I pop over my 2 verticals (still set at yesterday’s height a couple times each). They were small enough to walk over and mostly I wanted to reinforce the lesson from the day before. Heading to the first fence, someone was focusing on anything but me… And tried to slam on the breaks because horses. Outside. More interesting. But somehow? New found confidence? Said NO WAY and kicked and next thing you know, we’re over without actually stopping. Maybe it was at the walk, but it was moving forward. We circled, trotted over without hesitation and immediately trotted our other vertical. Lesson learned.
And because I can’t leave well enough alone, I pointed him to the straw bales. And suddenly the feeling of slow and plodding disappeared and someone woke up. I guess he likes his straw bales? We did that each direction twice and called it a day. All was good (excepted something at the end of the arena was also distracting and causing him not to focus).
While Saturday’s ride was THE RIDE, Sunday’s was a lesson in how to handle distractions and picking battles. Ideally, Sunday would have just been a flat ride (my original plan), but I needed to work on something as someone’s brain had left the building. He definitely needed an easy recovery ride after Saturday, but if he’s going to let his brain leave the building, he’s going to have to work a little harder physically. Oh well, he can recover this week.
Now that it’s getting light in the evenings, I’m hoping to eventually get a ride in during the week. We could both use it! I’ve been on my own for an entire MONTH. Hopefully next week I will finally get a lesson! Or there will be a horse show. LOL.
Saturday was cold, windy, and generally miserable.
I decided to head out to ride around noon only to find that a certain bay idiot has broken part of my fence… Not to name any names, but his name rhymes with hay. He left part of his tail behind as evidence… After fixing the fence, I grabbed him and off we went to the barn to ride.
Normally we get there and he’s pretty chill. Instead, he pawed the entire time in the cross ties and was generally annoying. My guy told me it was a good idea to throw him on the lunge line. So I did.
He proceeded to try and tune me out, but thankfully trotted and cantered and trotted and cantered and trotted and cantered…and tuned me out. Rinse, repeat. Once we lunged for a while, I thought we might be safe… Then he started to scream to every horse everywhere and tune me out again. So we lunged some more before moving down to the other end of the ring and continued, this time lunging over a pole. Every time I thought we could stop, he found some reason to tune me out. Idiot. Eventually, we found some common ground and did some in-hand work, and walked over some low fences. Finally, I got on (which was challenging because…idiot).
At the walk, Nay was fine. I was going to end there, but me being me, had to push boundaries. At the trot? Holy speed and lack of steering. Seriously horse! With the amount of time trotting and cantering, what the hell? Thankfully after almost crashing into a standard and one lift of his head, someone came to his senses and the rest of our ride was fine. We trotted, did some poles, and managed a few small jumps. I decided to skip the canter because I valued living.
We finished up our afternoon with a nice, quiet mane pull… Guess who doesn’t care about getting his mane pulled? Yeah.
Sunday? It was still cold but the horse I brought out didn’t resemble the idiot from the day before. Maybe he was tired, maybe he was sore, but regardless, he was quiet and normal Nay. I set up 4 low cross rails and on I got.
We trotting and worked on the set of poles and did some leg work with the spurs. Nay put his heart into everything. Somewhere in the ride, something clicked for me. At the base of each pole, I started added both spurs as practice for the jumps. Nay gave a little more. We did trot circles, Nay BENT, moving off the spur. Then we did our cross rails, adding spur and the base each time. Nay pushed off. Normally I sometimes remember to add the first time but don’t continue adding each additional time. This time? I continued to add the spur at the base EVERY TIME and what a difference it made. Something clicked for both of us.
After our cross rails, we cantered. He was tired and maybe a touch sore from yesterday, but gave it his all. His left lead we’ve struggled with lately because he just wants to toss his head like an idiot at the in gate, but a shake of the reins keeps him focus. His right lead? Fabulous. He was tired, but just kept going and giving it his all. And, because we need to push a tiny bit past comfortable, we trotted a few cross rails to end and they were the best of the day. He truly gave me 115% this ride.
We finished with some final mane pulling and tail brushing (I’m determined to keep his tail gorgeous — it’s been knot free and silky since I washed it last week — I just keep spraying in leave-in conditioner and it looks amazing… of course no tail pictures) and all the treats in the world.