The Story of Ink – Part 2, Hello You.

The Story of Ink – Part 1, Putting a Face to the Image.

I had put a face to the image of “Ink Spot.”  I finally met him.  The journey very much began that very day, possibly even before.  I was excited to get to know my new horse and was ready for this challenge.  I stepped onto the new, yet un-paved path.. 

When Ink came home, I put him into a stall with an attached paddock.  Similar to the size he was in at Joe’s.  I wanted the big bay to be outside, but I wanted to get to know him and make sure he wasn’t going to hurt himself before I turned him out with my other horse in the pasture.  The pasture was the goal.  I wanted him to experience life out there.  To relax and unwind in the presence of a horse I knew would help him do that.  Even though Ink appeared tough and strong, I could sense he was a velvet fist in a iron glove.

My first interactions with Ink, happened in between visiting my other horse and riding her.  I would rest my head on the pipe panels at his paddock and just stare at him.  He was quiet and very observant.  He wasn’t in to me very much in the beginning.  I was just another person in his way.  But I knew, Ink needed time and space.  So I gave it to him.  Slowly I began to go into the paddock to give him a treat or a pat.  He was not into physical contact.  He was not scared, he just was a macho horse with a huge wall up.  As a person, it was disheartening because I cared for him so much and he didn’t care for me. 

One of Ink’s issues was during feeding time.  He would pin his ears as you’d open the manger and put the hay in.  Once the hay was in, he would become very aggressive and agitated, if you didn’t quickly walk away.  I had many people telling me different ways to deal with this, which would have been logical with a different horse, but Ink needed understanding.  So, I would simply ignore his reaction for now. 

I dreamed of grooming the big bay into a gleaming shine.  But that was easier said than done.  For a reason I will never surely know, Ink did not like the grooming process.  It could be perhaps, that at the track grooming is minimal.  It could be he just simply didn’t like it.  Thoroughbreds are known to be thinned skinned.  I wasn’t going to bother too much with grooming in the beginning, because it was unnecessary while he was still settling in and getting used to his new life. 

A month or so later, Ink was turned out with my other horse.  A sweet, older mare who I knew would show him the ropes.  She was tough and was known to demand attention.  Once they met, Ink was able to go out into the pasture with her, where, sure enough she put him right in his place.  I had already had a chance to develop a basic trust with Ink before I simply turned him out, which allowed me to determine if he would be good with another horse.  My instinct was, that the horse I saw inside, would be one that Errika (my mare) would bring outside.  That’s just what she did! 

Ink’s social skills involved abruptly nosing up to other horses.  “Like me, me, me!”  He seemed to say.  He appeared to have little to no understanding of personal space.  But it was good to see him so kind, loving and willing to be with his fellow animal.  Although I knew inside he was just a big softy, I had little actual external proof to base my facts on.  

Ink wasn’t the easiest horse to be around.  I quickly learned about his unique quirks.  He did have a more “fight” reaction than flight.  He preferred to show you how it was, rather than the other way around.  But as quickly as I learned about his quirks; kicking, nipping and wind-sucking, I also learned about what made him react the way he did and then why.  Learning the reason behind the reaction was my one of my first challenges with him.  I knew that this was my first step into getting to know the big bay and eventually how I would communicate to him that certain reactions were not acceptable. 

I spent the first months getting to know Ink by taking him on walks.  I wasn’t comfortable with him, because of the reactions he offered, to jump into anything.  But, even if I was comfortable, I knew the best course of action was to move slowly.  The hand-walks, started in short durations, gradually increasing time and distance traveled.  My next goal was to be able to walk Ink from the pasture to the barn.  Within the walks, that’s where we really learned about each other.  I became more understanding of who he was and more trusting of him.  Eventually the walk to the barn was not so exciting or scary. 

Our next adventure began in the roundpen, where I was able to get to know Ink in a different way.  The roundpen created more of a meeting ground for us.  A mutal place where I would have the direct line to dial his buttons and vice versa.  To start the long, tedious process to disassemble the very strong wall he had placed up.

This was going to be special.  It was going to be the first chance at a look inside the mind of a very wise horse.  

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The Story of Ink – Part 1, Putting a Face to the Image.

I’m writing out the story of Ink and Reason for my friend Ashley, who is doing research on the horse racing industry.  I thought I’d share what I’m writing for her, with you all too.  Enjoy! 🙂

 

I was 17 years old when I first decided to adopt my first OTTB (off track Thoroughbred).  I spent about a year researching information on them and what exactly was involved with giving them a home after their track days were over.  There are so many things to think about when getting an OTTB.  They are athletes, no short of the word.  Very fit animals, used to living in a predictable daily routine.  They know their job and most of them live for it.  They need time to let their minds and bodies relax and heal from the high demands put on their young bodies.

I went about adopting my first OTTB in a way which was probably questionable to some (I jumped in with both feet.  Although nothing would have stopped me from adopting Ink, a pre-purchase exam would have been a good idea.  I don’t regret anything and a vet exam wouldn’t have changed my mind.  But, it’s always a good idea!).  I saw, who was going to be my first OTTB, through a photograph on the internet.  I was immediately drawn to him for whatever reason. He sure was handsome.  I was never so sure of anything in my life.  I quickly called my mom over to the computer, where I pointed to the screen and said, “That’s him.  That’s the one!”  She agreed, he was quite the good looking horse. 

A couple days later, both my mom and I were on the way to Woodland, CA.  The home of TBFriends.  A place for OTTB’s to go and find new homes.  I remember who hot it was.  Insanely hot.  The thought of getting out of the air conditioned car was ludicrous.  But I could care less about the heat.  I was so excited to meet the horse in the photo.  As we pulled in the drive-way at TBFriends, we were greeted by Joe Shelton and his wife, Kathy.  Both were kind and welcoming.  Little did anyone know, but my calm appearing self, was jumping up and down inside.  Internally, I felt like a little kid!

I remember Joe pulling out various horses for me to look at.  I enjoyed looking at a couple mares he showed me, which were sweet and you could tell would sit with you all day, pouring their hearts out.  But, even though I liked the mares, I kept peeking around as Joe put one away after another for the big bay gelding I was absolutely dying to see.  I heard some noise next to one of the barns in the back, where a tall bay gelding stood.  I couldn’t see him that well, but something told it was him.  I told Joe I wanted to see the gelding, “Ink Spot,” who was on his website.  When Joe came back, he came leading a big bay horse.  The moment came like slow motion.  The horse had serious presence.  It was in that moment, right there, that I knew.  What I was feeling and what I was thinking was walking towards me.

“Ink Spot” walked towards me like he was going out to run the Kentucky Derby.  His head held high, very serious, intense.  You could tell what he lived for.  You could tell he was a bit conceited.  I don’t know if Ink noticed me, but I sure noticed him.  Joe handed over the lead rope and for the first time, I was leading my first OTTB.  I remember walking him thinking inside, “Oh my god.  He’s amazing.”

There was no doubt, I adopted him that day.  The next week, he was home.

This was my first challenge.  It was time to get to know this horse.

Having a Sit.

Well yesterday, I planned to spend some time with Reason, doing what at the time, I wasn’t sure.  He was notably quiet and relaxed.  Taking on a curious yet lazy persona throughout the time we were hanging out in the arena.  Just the exposure alone, to other horses, horses working, the overall commotion is good for him.  A tractor scraping and clunking about, in close proximity is nothing scary to Reason and to most ex-racehorses it seems, but a horse being worked in the same space, is a cause for alert.  Not “scared” alert obviously, but interest, excitement and usually reaction of some sort type of alert (lets go racin’!).

Ink and I worked solo, as in his early days we were at a privately owned, backyard barn, where there was no commotion (no other horses being worked in the same space at the same time for the most part).  Not only that, but I had months of time to do stuff such as round-penning etc, to work through this new found enviornment.  When it came to riding amongst other horses and the concern of him reverting to race mode, it was just that, nothing to be concerned about.

My thoughts are that, if I can develop aids, vocal commands, as well as a herd fixture with Reason, I can take him through exposure in a way where he can react and observe as he wishes but will respond and come to me for answers as to what I want from him in that moment.  “You can look, but you can’t touch,” idea.  That way, when we get under saddle, we have established lines of communication to build upon, that will further-more develop a safe, comfortable, enjoyable space for us to exist in.  

I have this sense of “space, openess” with Reason.  I know he’s young, but I feel as though I need to allow him to feel like he can be himself.  And this doesn’t go for just reactions etc.  I also firmly believe that this also will be the key to developing him physically.  First off, I don’t think, in any way, you should restrict a horse off the track.  They need time to decompress their minds AND bodies.  Light, relaxed and kind (yet direct) should be the keys to approaching them.  And that should also be how you approach them when you begin riding.  Light hands, light seat.  Too much stimuli too soon can create a hollow, resistant horse I believe and one that is not comfortable or relaxed in space or mind.

I am far from perfect, but I want to learn, and a majority of the time I’m analyzing everything, usually sub-consciously.  I trying to be more self-aware of what I’m doing and when.  One of my latest challenges is staying calm and present.  I’m not timid, I find myself pretty relaxed generally, but I want to get better.  (Not worrying about how object A might make my horse spook, for example.  For each new experience, object etc, can be a positive learning experience if you allow it.)  I’m constantly trying to keep myself out of that “vicious cycle.”  You know, when your horse reacts, you react, he reacts to you, you react to him, kind of thing.  So my horse can react, but I remain calm and therefore, he calms, cycle ended.  Lets move on.

My long-term goal is to have a very happy horse who is comfortable in their environment.  I think Reason is on the right track!

Yesterday, after hand-walking and pressure exercises, I thought, why not have a sit up on the dark horse.  Reason was being so good and he seemed to welcome the idea.  He stood calmly at the mounting block as I tied the lead to make reins and climbed aboard.  First of course, I laid over his back, off and on, testing the buttons and then swooped on.  I swiftly and gently climbed aboard and before I realized it, I was looking down from above!  This was my first time sitting up there without Matt on the ground.  Uneventful but at the same time, so eventful.  Reason stood still as we watched A* work a horse around the arena.  Slowly, Reason asked, inch by inch to walk towards the fence where another horse was in the cross-ties.  He was so curious about the other horse and wanting to meet him, I couldn’t help but smile.  OTTB’s are social butterflies!

 

The Leg Improvements.

I haven’t written about Reason’s tendon lately, which is over-due.  The healing process has been great.  Although I have no experience with tendon injuries, let alone a bow, it’s obvious that Reason’s bow is a good looking one.  Reason had his feet done yesterday by Stanley*.  An experienced horsemen with knowledge of bows, so I can’t tell you how good it felt hearing his positive remarks on the tendon.  How nicely it’s healing, how fast it’s healing and how little scar tissue is evident.

To the uneducated eye, the tendon looks almost normal. 

The farrier appointment went great.  Reason was a sweet and quiet fellow throughout.  Was I expecting different?  No.  I knew he was going to behave, but it was nice to see what I thought would happen, actually happen. 

All things point positive.  He’s a happy guy who loves people, is curious and interested in everything around him, learns really fast (which can be hard for me, lol), has a good mind, has a great conformation which is working in his favor regarding the bow (Stanley*’s words), is an easy keeper and who’s tendon is healing beautifully!  

Reason has an ultrasound appointment coming up soon.  I’m nervous only because I like him so much that I don’t want anything to show up that could put us behind.  A ultrasound is really going to tell us what we can’t see and there is unnerving.  Hopefully the vet will give us a good prognosis and a long-term rehab program that will allow us to do more than just hand-walking.  I’m not in a rush to get a leg up.  But if that would be the next step (or within the next couple steps/months) for the better of the horse, that would be exciting. 

Reason is still barefoot as well and will remain barefoot until he needs shoes.  I’m not sure what “needing” shoes means as of yet.  I don’t want to say it would be all for comfort, but possibly for support of the tendon once he’s in work? 

That is all for now.  Yay for Reason!

 

 

A Glimpse of "Home."

Riding.  The feel of the reins in your hands, the rhythm beneath your seat, the wind in your face, the power and kindness within you, all comes out to play, when we ride.  A place that is so close, yet so far away, the saddle.  The softness and communication within your hands, the reins.  The distance, closer to heaven, closer to peace, horses.  Riding is like nothing else in existence.  Horses and like nothing else in existence.  When we pair the two together, they can truly make life brighter, a smile larger and happiness, greater.

I began riding a horse at the barn.  It has helped me get back into the art and science of riding.  I have missed it so much.  As soon as I ride, I think of one thing… Ink.  I remember rides and experiences we had as I travel through the arena.  As I make my way down the arena and around, I see him and I again, right there in the same spot.  The flashbacks keep coming, flowing strongly like a river, an endless journey.  It is in these moments, that I know Ink is with me and I appreciate what we had and what he did for me.  Itmakes me want to keep going.  It is what makes me want to keep loving horses and always respect, appreciate and enjoy riding.

Ink made me a more confident, understanding, horsemen and rider.  Thank You my handsome boy.   

I Love the Long Shot.

I went to see my first concert ever this week.  I saw Gary Allan, possibly my most favorite-ever, male artist.  That’s a big statement, there are a bazillion male artists out there.  I grew up listening to Gary Allan.  His music has transpired over the years and he’s still producing great music.  From country with a cowboy hat, to country with an edgy rock-like tone.  I like it a lot. 

What am I trying to say?  Listening to Gary Allan, seeing him sing, was awesome.  When you hear the music on the radio, you might relate to it and love it, but seeing the artist up-close and personal belting out the words to the songs, really makes you relate and understand where the passion is behind the music you hear over the radio.  It’s a great experience to feel the passion flow across the room. 

Watching someone who is a well-known human being, a celebrity share their journey, through their music was something else.  I have to do that again.

Gary Allan’s new song, “Get off on the Pain” really hit me as relative.

My life recently has been so different.  The things that have happened, have changed me.  Right now, I’m struggling through these changes and inner demons.  But I know I’ll get through it.  As long as I feel the sting, acknowledge the pain and look forward, I’ll come out for the better. 

But let me say this..  I have not been able to have a ready-trained horse and have not been able to go forward with my riding on made horses.  I used to think that this was a bad thing.  Ya, maybe sometimes, in some cases I wish I could go places with my riding.  Sometimes I wish I could be conquering my fears and flying across the cross country course, maneuvering a course or performing a tedious Dressage test.  But then I look back.

I see Ink and I remember that I put everything into him.  I put blood, sweat and tears into him.  And in return he allowed me to sit center stage, watching his concert.  There is more to see, than what we see from the back of a horse.

I have to admit… I do love the long shots, the left out lost causes, hanging out on the back of the pack with the dark horses. 

I will never forget what Ink taught me and what I was lucky to experience with him.  I love ex racehorses.

Uncovering The Reason

One neat thing about race horses is un-covering their past.  It’s exciting to learn who your horse actually is and what they did (or didn’t) do during their career at the track. 

I haven’t done any research into Reason’s past.  I was told his registered name, but just had no real desire to look into it until now.  For some reason I thought that finding this information out would cost $50 through the JC.  (I did this deluxe research package with Ink through them.)  But, I happened to forget that EquineLine offers this free service to look at their pedigree and simple stats like races finished etc.  It also lists the breeders name, DOB and a couple other stats which are interesting.

Upon looking up Reason’s name “Good Folks,” I came across his pedigree which shares some similarity with Ink’s. 

Here it is:

I thought it was pretty neat.  “Bold Reasoning, Reason to Earn, Hail to Reason.”  I never knew about the relation in his pedigree to his name, when I decided to call him “Reason.”  I think it’s pretty neat and I like how each name within his pedigree describes something about him or this journey!

“Event of the Year,” Reason’s sire is a beautiful horse, which baby Reason shares some resemblence with.  That little tail, color, resembling conformation. 

 So now I have some idea of who exactly “Good Folks” is and it appears he didn’t have a successful race career to say the least ;), which could very well mean his is cut out for a different career as a sport horse!