Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dawn Gives Pie the Hairy Eyeball

This afternoon, I noticed that Pie is beginning to respond to me - if he's in a small paddock he'll come up to the fence to greet me, and if he's out with the geldings, he no longer tries to walk away when I come up to him (which he did the first couple days).  He clearly knows who I am, and that I'm his person.  He's also getting a bit better about picking up his feet - we'll keep working on that.  His leading is now perfect (based on what I want from him) and he's able to easily soften when he backs in hand with a halter.

This afternoon we started working a little bit on his herd-boundness.  I was able to use the fact that he ties very well for this. After I got Dawn from the pasture and got her saddled for our ride, I left her cross-tied in the barn and went to get Pie.  I took Pie and a hay bag with a flake of hay in it to the arena and tied Pie, with the hay bag in reach, at one end, where he was out of eyesight of the geldings.  Then I went and bridled Dawn and brought her out.  Pie called once when Dawn and I were out of sight in the barn - I stuck my head out the door and told him we'd be right out.

Dawn was somewhat taken aback by Pie's presence in the arena.  But she was very good about it, although very distracted by him anytime we passed nearby.  We worked on our softening work at the walk and trot - this is the first real work session we've had in almost two weeks.  Every time we got near his end of the arena, she would prick her ears and focus on him.  Sometimes with other horses she knows she pins her ears and makes faces, but with him, perhaps because they haven't formally met, she was more interested than annoyed.

Pie spent some time trying to stretch down to reach bits of grass (out of reach), fidgeting from side to side, and pawing (only once), and settled down to eat hay, eventually with a leg cocked.  He even peed when he needed to.  By the end of Dawn's work session - we got very nice relaxation at the walk, including walking by a downed section of arena fence (due to the high winds last week) without concern, and less good relaxation at the trot, although not so bad for a horse that hasn't trotted under saddle in so long - he was calmly eating hay with one hind leg cocked.

Tomorrow the weather's supposed to be even nicer, so more horse work ahead!

First Trail Ride

It's beautiful today - highs in the upper 40s with some wind, and nice and sunny.  Pie and I got to go on a trail ride with Jill (of Buckskin and Bay) and Scout, and for part of the ride, Sugar and her owner.  I already knew that Pie had rarely been ridden alone, and suspected that he might be anxious if another horse wasn't present, and in fact this proved to be the case.  I rode him for a couple of minutes near the barn while the others were getting ready, and he wasn't too happy to be by himself, although he didn't do anything terrible.  He's pretty attached to his new herdmates already, which I would have expected after coming to a new barn - they're his security in the middle of all the change he's experienced.  So being by himself and herd-boundness will be something we will be working on over time.

I rode in Jill's Western saddle for security and Pie's familiarity, but ended up using a snaffle bit - he seemed not to like the curb bit I'd bought him.

Once the others came out, he was fine - he looked around quite a bit but was happy to head out down the trail.  We were out for almost 2 hours, and except for one spook (more on that later) he was exceptionally well-behaved for such a young horse in a new place and seeing lots of things for the first time.  With one exception, he just looked at things - I think having Scout along made a real difference, but now that he's seen a lot of new things, I think he'll be fine with them again without another horse (once we work through the herd-boundness).  We saw many things, some of which I think he was seeing for the first time - people walking dogs, joggers, large boulders (he looked hard at these), suburban yards with yard furniture, barking dogs and other stuff, the farm areas with plastic row covers and chickens and turkeys, the community garden, busy roadways, a train and the train station, paved streets with different surfaces (the black asphalt was a little worrisome), striped road crossings, the square with shops and a large working fountain, a school with a large playground area and children's play equipment, construction barrels and road equipment along the road that's being widened, and bicycles.  The only thing that caused him to actually move his feet in a spook was the bicycles - they approached from behind, and I turned him to face them as they passed by and he scooted sideways.  I'm pretty certain that he's never seen a bicycle, much less one moving with a person on it.  He calmed down quickly afterwards, but kept watching the bikes as they moved off into the distance.

I'd give him a A for trail manners in the company of other horses.  He's happy to lead or to follow, will calmly trot to catch up when needed, and knows enough to pee on the trail when he needs to.  I was pretty impressed.  After we got back to the barn, Jill took Scout inside to untack and I rode Pie at a trot up on grass area behind the barn and we did some circles and figure eights at the trot - even though he was worried a bit about being by himself he was willing to do what I asked.

We'll have some things to work on, but we're starting from a pretty good place and he's a really nice horse!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some Halter Work and Just Standing Around

Even though Pie had a rest day today, we actually did do a little bit of work.  His ground manners and leading are already excellent in almost all respects, but there were a few small things I wanted to fine tune.  It's clear he was taught to lead level with your shoulder, and I want him to lead behind me when he's the only horse I'm leading.  This means he's truly following me, can't lead me as we make turns and makes it easier to do turns to the right and also means if he spooks he's less likely to end up on top of me - not that I think Pie's a big spooker or that reactive.  (I was really pleased with something yesterday - when I went into the dry lot to retrieve him after his play time with the geldings, I haltered him on the far side of the pasture, and just as I did, Scout bolted away from Pie to the gate.  Did Pie bolt or pull on the halter?  No, he just looked and stayed right with me.  Really, really nice!)

We walked around a bit and I worked on making it clear to him how I wanted him to lead - he's good at getting out of my space when asked - I only had to make little popping noises to get what I wanted - his first response was to want to go around me on the right but he quickly got what I wanted and was happy to oblige - leading an arm's-length behind me on a loose lead, and stopping, turning and moving as I did.  He would call from time to time, but never got agitated.

He also tends to root or push on the halter sometimes - I expect he may have gotten an unintended release for this and has learned the behavior.  The man who owned him also showed me his head-down for bridling, and he tended to pop right up after responding to the pressure - this is really the same thing as the rooting/pushing against halter pressure.  So we worked on our backing in hand and our head down with the halter, without him getting a release for bumping/pushing/rooting against the halter, using my hands as a barrier - no pulling - just as I described in this post which is one of a series I've been working on.  The next post in the series, which I need to get done, is about just this sort of stuff - in-hand softening work.  Pie and I did this in short sets, mixed in with leading work.  He was pretty braced at first, especially for the backing - his first effort was to back his feet very nicely while staying completely braced in his head and neck.  We kept trying, and he figured it out and after that I was able to get a couple of repetitions of softer backing, where the feet moved in a relaxed manner and he was able to soften in his head and neck.

Pie's a quick learner, and I think this is the sort of work we'll be doing - making very small adjustments to what is a really solid foundation for such a young horse.

I also worked with him some on picking up his feet - I noticed when I was trying him out that he didn't do this all that readily.  I got the "Pie face" on this one, and although I did get his feet picked, we've got more work to do on this one.

Next we did some "just-standing-around" work - I really like this work.  I think it helps a horse learn to just "be with" you and also builds a relationship where you provide them a safe, calm place.  For a nervous, anxious horse like Dawn, this work, in hand and under saddle, has been critical to building her trust and relaxation.  For Pie, it was to start on building a new relationship - my just spending time being with him is good for that.  I know sometimes it's easy to get into just "doing" things with or to the horse, rather than "being with" the horse - I try to carry that "being with" feeling into all the work and the just-standing-around is a good start on it.  So Pie and I stood on the grass field behind the barn for a bit, with the loose lead draped over my forearm, and just watched what was going on.  If he fidgeted, I let him provided he didn't intrude into my arms'-length space.  He was pretty good about it, but it was clear he wanted to go back to the other horses.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get in a trail ride with Sugar's and/or Scout's owners!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pie Arrives!

Pie arrived this afternoon in very good shape - apparently he trailered well and when I went to get him out of the trailer he backed off calmly like a pro.  He spent some time in a small grass paddock, and called a bit to the other horses when he wasn't grazing.  He also took some good big drinks, which was good as he hadn't during the trailering.  Then I took him to sniff noses over the fence with the geldings - there was some squealing and a little bit of stamping by both Pie and Fritz.  Then he got to go in with the geldings - there was a bit of running around but I think tomorrow things will be pretty calm.  When the other horses went in, he wanted to go in too, so he's in his stall and seems pretty much OK there - I'll check on him later this evening.  I expect he's pretty tired after an 8-hour plus trailer ride.

So, without further ado, pictures of Pie!

I groomed him while he was loose in the paddock and he was great for that.  His former owner took the trouble to trim his feet and brush out his thick, beautiful tail before putting him on the trailer, which was really nice.  Tomorrow I'll give him a day off, and then we'll get down to work!

It Feels Like It's Almost Christmas . . .

You know that wonderful feeling you had when you were a child at Christmas time - that mix of anticipation and can't-wait-a-minute-longer excitement, when you had to wait for days and then got up really early Christmas morning and had to wait to open your presents?  Well, that's how I am today.  I spent some time this morning being sure that Pie's stall and small grass paddock were all set up - we'll introduce him to the other geldings as soon as he's a bit settled, perhaps as soon as this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

I also will be putting his bridle together - I have a lovely handmade caramel-colored headstall with split reins I bought in Colorado that I used to use on Maisie from time to time but haven't used in a while.  I hung a 78" rain sheet that used to belong to Noble on his stall - maybe it'll even fit him!  (I don't know if he's ever worn a sheet or blanket, so will test that out before flinging one up on him.)  I've made calls to the dentist, farrier and chiropractor - with luck the dentist and farrier will come soon - I'll wait for a chiro visit until the dentist comes, although I'll have her pay a visit anyway if the dentist (I use Mike Fragale and he travels the whole country and is often booked months in advance) can't come right away.  (Our chiro always prefers any necessary dental work to get done first as the alignment of the incisors, the jaw's lateral excursion and the resulting condition of the TMJs affect the rest of the horse profoundly.)  Nothing left to do, so I went home to do some cooking (roasted onions, carrots, parsnips, and a set of rhubarb muffins).

I spoke briefly to the seller to let him know the trailer would be a few minutes late - I had managed to screw up the driving instructions a bit - the trailer was pulling up as I was talking to him.  It was good to talk to him - I'm going to e-mail him pictures of Pie after he gets here - and I was glad to hear the trailer got there OK.

And now there is the waiting . . .  which will seem endless!  The earliest I figure Pie could arrive is about 4 p.m., although it's likely to be a bit later, so I'll be at the barn from before that time on, waiting . . .  just like on Christmas morning!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dawn and I Work on What Comes Up

The weather today wasn't all that promising - temperatures in the low 40sF with wind gusts to 30 mph - just lovely!  But better than the past two days, so Dawn and I had a work session today.  I wasn't too sure what she'd feel like with almost a week off and cold and windy conditions - wait, I knew almost exactly what she's feel like . . . That said, she is such a good girl - always trying and always wanting to please - that we were able to get some good and interesting work done despite the weather.  (I'm trying to work up to my resolution to work with the horses every day it isn't actively precipitating and the wind chills are above 10F and there's not ice - stay tuned!)

We groomed and tacked - I used the dressage saddle but put some wash clothes between the riser pad and the saddle pad just behind her withers where the saddle tends to bridge - this also helped with the tendency of the saddle to nose down and slide forward - I was able to keep the girth a proper hand's width from her elbows.  She was a bit snarky about saddling, but calmed down once she figured out it wasn't uncomfortable.  She's still downhill - withers lower than butt - and that's a major saddle-fitting challenge.

We went outside and I started to mount from the big mounting block.  Our p.m. barn lady had her truck parked nearby, and her dog was in the back seat barking - dark windows so Dawn couldn't see the dog - and the plastic cover on the truck bed was rippling and making noise in the high wind.  My initial objective was for Dawn to come up to the block and stand still as I mounted - she knows how to do this but there was too much going on, so we moved to the arena and the small mounting block which was farther away from the truck/dog/bed cover.  Our p.m. lady asked if it was OK for her to take the dog out and if Dawn would be OK and I said we'd work while she was doing that - good training opportunity.

So we worked for few minutes by the mounting block in the arena - she was also looking at the three fence posts and section of arena fence that had blown down in the windstorm yesterday.  We started with her standing still (I don't hold her in place - she's on a loose rein) for me to put my foot up to the stirrup - then a break and a nice walk around when she did it, otherwise just circling the mounting block and repeat.  Then on to my putting weight in the stirrup - nice walk around.  Then standing in the stirrup - walk around.  Then getting on, while she stood on a loose rein.  Dawn knows how to do this - she was just very distracted by what was around her and the high wind and her high energy level.  It was very good and she got a lot of praise.

She was bursting with energy, so we did a series of smallish circles and serpentines at the walk, focusing on softness and the best relaxation we could get - I wanted her to keep her head low and stretch down with softness which helps with relaxation.  Then the horses were being brought in from pastures, so we did our just-standing-around exercise - a great thing to work on patience and relaxation.   We stood for a while at various spots around the barn, in the high wind, while the horses were coming in, on a completely loose rein.  If she started to want to move off, we just gently circled until she offered to stop and then we stood again.  She eventually selected an area to the east of the barn - sheltered from the wind a bit - to stand and I agreed.  She stood there like a statue on a loose rein as the wind blew and horses came in.  She even blinked and shook her head a few times - good relaxation signs.

Then we walked back over to the scary truck bed cover, which was rippling and making odd noises in the wind.  She was concerned, and we circled, each time a bit farther away.  She didn't find a distance that was comfortable to stand - I was very please that she only wanted to move off quietly, not at speed - so I agreed that we should walk off back around the other end of the barn. I took her inside, untacked, put her halter on and put some treats in my pocket and we went back out.

Dawn has done some good foundational clicker training involving scary objects, which we used to our advantage today.  I led her close to the truck - the bed cover was undulating and making strange rustling sounds - and clicked (I just use my tongue to click) and treated every time she took a step closer.  Within minutes she was touching the rustling, rippling bed cover with her nose and even letting me rustle it with my hand - this is outstanding work for Dawn and I told her so.  She seemed very pleased with herself as we returned to the barn.  We will probably do another bit of work on this tomorrow, but it's a pleasure to see her self-confidence grow as she conquers these obstacles!

I was delighted with our work today - we didn't trot, but that didn't matter as we still got a lot of important work done.

Horse Pedigrees are Fascinating

I find looking at horse pedigrees fascinating.  I know a very small amount about TB pedigrees, and a bit less about QH pedigrees - I love learning about the classic horses in those breeds.  I know very little about the other breeds, but I'm interested in learning.

Oddly enough, Dawn and Pie are distantly related.  Here's Dawn's pedigree.  And here's Pie's pedigree. Dawn has War Relic (by Man O'War) twice in her 5-generation pedigree.  Discovery (whose grandsire was Fair Play, the sire of Man O'War) is there on the top line.  She has Nasrullah three times and Native Dancer twice, and also Dark Star, who was the only horse to ever beat Native Dancer.  Native Dancer's grandsire on the maternal side is Discovery again.

On the top side, Pie goes straight back to Wimpy through Bill Cody. Pie has Easy Jet three times and there's more Jet Deck (Easy Jet's sire) in there too.  Pie (farther back in the pedigree) has Man O'War three times, twice through mares and also through War Admiral.  He also has Nasrullah farther back.

One interesting thing about Pie's pedigree - his maternal grandmother and his dam are full sisters - that's where most of the Jet Deck influence comes from.  It's no wonder he's somewhat long and lean - there's a lot of TB in there, and in fact he somewhat resembles Easy Jet in build and carriage.  The man who sold him to me says he shows quite a bit of speed in the pasture and also when asked under saddle.  I have no plans to do speed events with him, but it's nice to know it's there if asked for!

* * * * * *
The wind seems to finally be dying down a little bit - it'll still be gusty today, but perhaps Dawn and I can get in a ride - it's been a while.  And then there are some preparations for Pie's arrival - I bought him a short-shanked curb bit with a solid mouthpiece and low port, very like the one he's ridden in now - as he gets used to me and his new surroundings I figured I'd change things as little as possible.  I also got an adjustable leather curb strap. This bit isn't it, but it looks about like this (sorry for the tiny picture) - the vet who did the prepurchase commented that he had a large tongue, so the port is a good idea:

It'll also be a good challenge for me to practice riding on a loose rein without any rein aids other than light brushings of reins on the neck or just picking up a rein - he's that sensitive and well-trained.  I've also spoken to my chiropractor - the next time she comes out she'll give him the once-over - and I'll be calling our dentist, Mike Fragale, to see if he's going to be in the area (he travels all over the country) as Pie's mouth has never been done (a good thing actually) and the vet who did my prepurchase said he had a few sharp places although none that are too bad.  I checked his incisors myself - very well-aligned - and the lateral excursion of his jaw - good too - most people who do dental work on horses pay no attention to these things and they are critically important for the jaw and TMJs to be in balance, which affects the whole body of the horse.  I also need to call my farrier, as he needs a trim and some balancing - the man who owned him did his own trims and Pie has basically self-trimmed walking over rocks and gravel since his last formal trim.  Also, the vet who did the pre-purchase e-mailed me his x-rays so I have them for my records - the hock x-rays are particularly interesting as the joint is so complicated.

The first thing I'll do when he gets here after he settles in a bit is to try all my various saddles on him to see if any will do until I get him his own - I'm looking to have a Black Rhino in cordura, either second-hand or built for him.  Same for Dawn - who knows, maybe I'll be lucky and they'll wear the same size?  I took some photos of  Dawn's back, and will also do some tracings, so the folks at About the Horse saddles (who make the Black Rhinos) can advise me.  Here are Dawn's pictures - I'm not all that happy with them as they were taken in the barn aisle with flash and they don't show her contours as well as I'd like - I think the flash tends to wash out the contours and natural light would be better.

Here she is from the sides - you can see that she's a bit downhill:

And here are the views from off the shoulder - these are supposed to show the change in shape from the shoulder to the barrel but don't very well - the transition between the shoulder and barrel is the issue that causes Dawn to be hard to fit:

From behind - she wasn't too sure what I was doing back there - I need to get this straighter and get a little more above her:

From above - the neck is to the top and mid-back to the bottom - you can see the indentation just behind her shoulder on the left, which causes saddles to slip forwards and down, onto her withers and pinching her shoulders:

And her hindquarters from above - this could be an abstract sculpture (tail to the top, mid-section to the bottom):

More pictures today, I think, if the weather and wind cooperate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Do Have Other Horses!

Now that the (almost) endless horse search is over, some of my other horses are clamoring to be noticed - or at least Dawn is.  Dawn can be plenty jealous, and it'll be interesting to see how she reacts to Pie's arrival - she won't be in the same herd with him but will see me handling and working with him.  No new pictures of Dawn - we've been having a howling windstorm for two days now and all I've been doing is grooming.

Lily, Norman and Maisie are living it up down in Tennessee at Paradigm Farms.  Lily didn't volunteer this time around for pictures, but Melissa got a nice shot of Maisie (on the left):

And here's Norm at his best (it must have been feeding time!):

It always mades me feel good to see how happy they look and how well they are cared for - thanks, Jason and Melissa!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Pie Got His Name and More Pictures

When I first called about Pie, I asked his owner how he got his name.  Pie is named after the horse Jimmy Stewart rode for more than 20 years in his Western movies - the owner said he looked a little like him.  Here's a picture of that Pie, and that site also contains a link to an audio clip where Jimmy Stewart talks about the horse.

Here are some of the pictures I got of Pie's past.  Here he is as a baby - that's his mother on the left of the picture - I think he's adorable, but then all foals are adorable:

Here he is as a yearling - I like how he's confidently striding out:

He spent his first year and a half living on the ranch in Montana where he was born, pretty much untouched and outside in all weathers.

Here he is on a cattle drive last year, I believe in Montana - that's Pie on the right:

The latest plan is for Pie to arrive here on Friday afternoon - I can't wait!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Easy as Pie

Before I get started on the main subject of this post, a brief note on horse #10, River.  I went to see her - nice, sturdy mare with a sweet personality, but with too small feet and a too-long back for my taste and one major problem - her right hind leg, either due to injury or how she was born, was both sickle-hocked and bow-legged.  The cannon bone itself seemed to be malformed or misshapen from injury. She was sound at the walk, although with a twist as she put the foot down.  At the trot, she was slightly short-strided and off with that leg.  I don't think her owner ever noticed, and I didn't point it out, but thanked her for her time.  Nice sweet mare, though.

I went to see horse #12, henceforth and ever after to be known as Pie.  The owner opened the conversation saying that he'd decided to keep him, and send him out to Montana permanently for his ranch working horse out there, if I didn't buy him. He was exactly what I'd expected to see, and even more so, since the photos I had of him didn't allow me to see his confirmation.  He was out in the pasture, as I had requested, and we went out to get him and I caught him and led him in.  We groomed and tacked him - he was slightly resistant to picking up his front feet but I wasn't using the same signal as his owner, who's been the only one to handle and ride him.  I immediately liked his confirmation - nice big feet - no shoes and has never worn them - solid bone in the legs and good overall proportions - slightly long in the back but I think that makes for a smoother ride.  Good angulation in the joints, nice front pasterns - just the right amount of slope.  Slightly straighter in the hind pasterns, but not excessively so.  The tiniest bit cow-hocked behind, but hardly noticeable.  A bit narrow through the body, as his owner had described, but not in a displeasing or out of proportion way.  One blemish - a lump on the outside of his left front leg between the knee and pastern - which seemed to be old and cold, was probably due to an old injury and which the owner said he's had since he got him as a yearling.

His head isn't his prettiest feature - he's got a bit of a Roman nose - his owner says he wouldn't win any prizes for pretty - but I like it just fine.  His personality shows through and there's nothing wrong with what's between his ears.

The owner rode and I rode, in the round pen in the arena - the place available to us.  He was responsive in all respects, but very easy to slow or stop.  Nice back, nice sidepass.  When you give an aid, he responds to the slightest touch but doesn't overreact or rush.  Glad to stand still for as long as you wish.  Stands still for mounting and dismounting.  The whole time we were riding, huge construction trucks - dump trucks, asphalt trucks, etc., were crashing, roaring and banging their way back and forth in front of the open arena doors - the barn, arena and pastures are in the front yard of a busy sand, gravel and asphalt company.  No problem with road noises!  Comfortable gaits, and a nice natural head carriage.  Due to his size and shape, he fits me very well and I feel very comfortable on him.  I rode him around briefly in the parking area and along the driveway to the street while the trucks thundered by - he called a few times but did what I asked.  The only hole in his training so far that may need filling is that he hasn't spent much time riding out by himself - he's done it a few times when working cattle.

I couldn't have been more delighted.  I was able to arrange a vet check the same day - he was very good for all the tedious flexion and other tests and x-rays, and the extra shots (rabies, intranasal strangles and flu/rhino) I had him get to supplement what he's already had.  We did some trotting outside on the pavement/gravel and he was completely sound even over stones. He passed the vet check with flying colors and got numerous compliments on his feet, bone, overall confirmation, good manners and patience.  The vet will e-mail me her report and the x-rays for my records.

His owner gave me some nice photos of him, including some baby pictures - I'll get these uploaded and put them up when I get home.  He is the first horse I've ever had where I've got baby pictures.  He was born in April of 2006 on a ranch in Montana, and the the owner got him as an almost unhandled yearling since he already had his full brother who is two years older (I saw him too).  The owner was the one who started him and has been almost the only one to work with him since.  I must say he's done an excellent job - the horse is calm, responsive and a delight to work with and be around.  No problems trained in here - I've got a good example to live up to.

Here are the few photos that I managed to take that were worth saving.  Here is his body - I'm delighted with his overall balance, structure, bone and feet:

Here he is, making his "I'm four years old and I'm bored and this lady (the vet) keeps poking me and doing other things and I wish she would stop" - I think this is going to be known as the "Pie face":

And here's what he looks like when he's not making the Pie face:

I'm hoping by the weekend my Pie will be home.  He's exactly what I wanted - between 4 and 10 years of age, between 15 and 15.3 hands, excellent feet, bone and overall confirmation, with a short chain of custody - I know the man who trained him from a yearling, a calm, willing personality with plenty of go when asked, and with lots of very good training already in place.  I knew if I just kept at it and stuck to what my requirements were, that a horse just like this would be out there.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Horse #20 - Peppy

I went to see horse #20, Peppy, today.  You can't tell all that much from her pictures in her ad, but I saw about what I expected - a small, compact mare - she's 15 hands, with nice proportions, a short back and good solid legs and feet.  Although she was a little plump and out of shape, I would characterize her as somewhat petite and very feminine, with a refined head.  She has no white markings and has a white stripe in her tail.  She's fairly narrow through the shoulders, but her width is in proportion to her size.  She's slightly cow-hocked behind but not overly so.  She looks just like what she is - a performance-bred mare (she's double Mr. San Peppy).  She's quite well-trained - very responsive and quick.  She would excel, I think, at any of the cutting-related jobs - she's smart, alert and agile.

When I got there, she and the other 8 horses at the place were in their pens along the side of the small indoor arena.  All the horses looked in good weight and well-cared for, and the small indoor was very nice. She wasn't too interactive at first and could be characterized as a bit aloof - but then she's a mare and mares can be that way when you first meet them.  She led and tied well and her owner groomed and tacked her without any problem - the only small thing was that she was a bit snatchy with her hinds and the owner allowed as she rarely handled her horses' feet.

The owner walked, trotted and loped her around.  The arena had recently had sand added and the footing was very deep, which made the mare have to work very hard and didn't give the best idea of her gaits.  I rode her as well - she was very responsive, with a good stop and a lot of go.  The owner saddled up another horse and we went on a trail ride for about a half hour, up a steep hill behind the barn, through some woods, down another quite steep hill, across a stream and back to the barn.  The mare was in heat and there was some calling at first, and a bit of jigging while calling, but she gave that up right away.  She handled the terrain well and didn't hesitate to leap/scramble across the somewhat boggy stream.  There was no sign of spookiness, although she was extremely alert.

The only thing negative thing I have to say about her is just what her owner told me on the phone when we talked - she's very forward and likes to go fast - in fact at any gait her preferred gait is fast, even a bit rushed, although she will stand on a loose rein when asked.  Her name - Peppy - is quite appropriate. She also seemed a bit wary and worried, although I doubt it's anything this owner has done.  She reminded me a lot of horse #3 at the Mark Rashid clinic I audited this summer - one of those horses who's really ready, perhaps over-ready, to respond to the slightest aid.  Some of this may be training or past experiences, and some may be her basic temperament.

I'm not reaching any definitive conclusions yet, until I've visited horse #12 (Pie) and horse #10 (River) tomorrow, but I'm trending negative on Peppy.  Although this mare is very nice, I think her basic disposition and build aren't quite right for me.  I'd like a little more size (not necessarily height) and substance in build, and a horse that's a little less reactive and rushy.  A horse with go is very nice, as long as go isn't all there is.  Compared to Drifter (horse #3), she's much better trained but also basically much more on her toes - he lacked training and consistent handling but was basically a calm sort of fellow. But she's a very nice, well-bred and trained mare - if you're looking for a cow-bred performance horse she might be just the thing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Dawn and I have been doing some nice walking rides - she's brimming with energy and I think delighted to be working again.  She's getting a day off after the farrier this morning, and we may get one more ride in on Saturday if it's not raining, and then she'll get a few days of rest while I'm off on what I'm calling the great horse search road trip adventure.  When I get back, we can start adding trot work back in so long as she stays sound with increasing work.

Yesterday I slipped on Dawn bareback, as I didn't have much time to ride, and we did a few moments in the arena.  Then Misty and her owner came out for a bit of lungeing - I think that Misty's owner hasn't ridden her in over a year and has barely done anything with her - she's not that secure or confident a rider and I think is a little worried about riding - she's come off Misty a few times on the trail.  It was good to see them out, and Misty was very well-behaved, just walking and trotting around as nice as can be.  Dawn and I had left the arena in the event galloping or explosions were coming, and we saw Sugar and her owner starting down the trail.  Dawn very clearly asked "can we go too?", and even turned her head to one side and then the other to look directly at me - she often does this when she's asking a question or is looking for reassurance.  So we went a bit down the trail with Sugar - we would have gone farther if I'd had a saddle (for security in the case of sideways teleportation, spins or bolts), but it was very chilly and windy and not the best day for a bigger trail attempt while riding bareback.  We rode next to Sugar - Dawn is fine leading but will kick any horse that gets in her (very large) bubble from behind, and if we follow Sugar tends to balk.  Side by side works, although at anything more than a walk Dawn will often kick at the horse next to her.  (She's one of those horses who needs a red tail ribbon in the warm-up or show ring.)  I was sorry we didn't have a saddle as it would have been fun to push the limits a bit as I think Dawn's trust in me is growing.

* * * * * *
So, my trip for the great horse road trip adventure is set - I'll be seeing Peppy (horse #20) on Sunday afternoon, and then Pie (horse #12) on Monday morning and River (horse #10) on Monday afternoon.  Then I'll know what I've got, or not.  I'm looking forward to the trip (although not the driving down the interstate) - I've enjoyed talking to these three sellers on the phone and will certainly enjoy meeting them and their horses in person.

I know what I'm trying to recapture with my new horse - that special feeling of "this horse and I can do anything" that I had when I was young.  I've been thinking a lot about a very special horse I had from the time I was 14 or so until I was 17, when we moved and my parents wouldn't let me take the horse with me.  The horse was a cremello mare that I called Snow.  I don't have any pictures of her here, although there is at least one at my parent's house that I should snag sometime.  She looked like this - this is a photo of another cremello (although, looking at the jaw, this may be a stallion):

She was absolutely bright white all over, with the pink skin and blue eyes that go with the color.  I have no idea of her age or if she was registered or not, but she was clearly a QH.  We got her at a run-down stable out in the country, and as soon as she came to the (also very run-down) barn where we kept her, she promptly developed strangles.  She recovered, and she was my special companion for several years.  I rode her bareback, I rode her Western, I rode her English.  She would go in a hackamore, a snaffle or a curb - she didn't care and was always responsive. We did little horse shows where she cleaned up in the pleasure classes as well as the gaming classes.  We went on lots of trail rides - she'd go anywhere at any speed I asked.  Her only odd trait was that she'd paw and try to roll if you took her into water.  She clearly had had some reining training - she could do some amazing sliding stops and roll backs.  I taught her to jump - she was happy to do that too and could easily clear 3'6".  She was laid back but energetic when asked - the perfect mix.

Part of this was Snow and part of it was my complete confidence that she would do anything I asked. These past several days, as I've been thinking about riding other horses, I've even been remembering how it felt to ride her and what the view was through her white ears - these memories are very vivid even though they're from 40 years ago.  Noble, my old QH who died this summer, was often the same - he was always willing and always available, and a complete delight to ride, although a somewhat more nervous horse than Snow.  But no matter how nervous he was, he would always do what I asked - I took him on trail rides and we even did a bit of jumping although he was too old at 17 to do much of that.  He loved to run, was extremely fast and would eagerly race other horses if given the chance, but would slow and stop when requested.  Here's my favorite picture of him, from two years ago:

It's been a bit of a hard year in my horse world - with Noble's death at age 30 in July and Maisie's permanent retirement this fall.  But I'm feeling encouraged - I think, either now or next spring there's a new horse waiting for me who will give me the opportunity to recapture some of those youthful feelings.  In the meantime, and after I get the new horse, I need to continue to ride Dawn as if she were the horse I want and expect her to be - calm, confident and my partner (although always my younger daughter's horse first).  The more I do this, the more Dawn becomes that horse as the strength of our partnership grows.  I'm hoping to take both Dawn and the new horse, whoever he or she turns out to be, to the Mark Rashid clinic in Wisconsin next May - I've got two slots in the clinic reserved already - it's a whole winter and months away, but I'm already pretty excited about that!

Lower Leg X-Rays

I was asked by several people to put up Dawn's very good x-rays so they could see what a good set looks like, as people tend to put up x-rays where the horse has a problem.  So, here they are.  We elected not to remove her shoes, and the x-rays still came out very well.

The first two shots are lateral shots - taken from the side.  These show the arrangement of the bones and any gross abnormalities may show up here.  From the bottom up, that's the coffin, pedal or P3 bone, with the navicular bone nestled in behind; then the small pastern or P2 bone; then the large pastern or P1 bone, and at the very top the bottom of the cannon bone with the sesamoid nestled behind.  We were mostly interested in the P1/P2 and P2/P3 joints, as well as the navicular area, since that was where she had shown some soreness on the right front in the flexion tests.  We did both front feet to be sure we had a good idea of what her "normal" was and to be able to compare the two front feet.  These shots, and the medial shots that follow, were taken with her standing with her front feet up on small wooden blocks - this is very awkward but she was very cooperative.  (She's due for a trim, so her toes are a little bit long and the shoe is shifted a bit to front as well.)

Right front lateral:

Left front lateral:

The next set of shots are from the back, showing the bony column of the foot and lower leg.  The things that look like round holes in the P3 bone at the bottom are blood vessels.  The metal pin is in the picture to help with orientation. You will notice in these shots that Dawn doesn't stand with her lower bones straight under her cannon bone - there's a bit of a deviation, which is more pronounced in the right leg.  She clearly also tends to weight the outside edges of her feet a bit more than the inside, as there's a bit more hoof growth there.  This is the reason she paddles - she tends to swing her feet a bit to the outside, more with the right, particularly at the trot.  But all of these things are completely normal for her - they're how she's built.  Every horse is different and has its own normal - the question is can they compensate for any deviations and do the deviations cause them any problems.

I've enlarged the two major joints so you can see them more clearly.  What the vet is looking for her is good joint spaces and also whether there is any sign of osteoarthritis, which often tends to show up at the lateral edges of the joints first.  Dawn has just the slightest bit of joint remodeling - the tiniest bit of "lipping" - on the outside edge of her P1/P2 joint in the right front, but it's so slight as to be very hard to see in these shots.

Right front medial (from the rear):

Right front medial - close-up of P1/P2 (large pastern/small pastern) joint:

Here's an extreme close-up of the right (outside) edge of the P1/P2 joint - the little tiny point to the outside of the top right edge of the lower P2 bone is the small amount of bone remodeling I was talking about - it's hard to see:

Right front medial - close-up of P2/P3 (small pastern/coffin) joint:

Left front medial:

Left front medial - close-up of P1/P2 joint:

Left front medial - close-up of P2/P3 joint:

Now for some shots from the bottom - these were taken with the foot being shot standing on a flat box that holds the film or digital receiver.  The solar shots are taken with her foot directly under her.  The dark V that starts towards the toe and extends on either side as far back as the P2/P3 joint (just behind the heels of the shoe) is the shadow of the frog - the shading at the bottom of the P2 bone isn't a problem, just a shadow.

Right front solar:

Left front solar:

Now, on the the navicular shots.  These are hard to take - the horse has to stand on the flat wooden box with the foot stretched under the body - this gets the pastern bones more out of the way so with luck the navicular bone can be seen.  My vet says these shots are unusually clear - even with shoes off the navicular bones can be hard to image.  The navicular bone is the one with the flat edge with the little bump-out that runs across the middle of the foot.  The light edge is the bone, and the darker center is the interior of the bone, with its blood supply. What the vet is looking for here is a clean sharp dark to light edge and a consistent quality in the interior - basically no signs of deterioration or rough edges that could indicate poor blood supply or edges that could irritate or tear tendons and ligaments.  Dawn's shots were very good.

Right front navicular skyline:

Left front navicular skyline:

So there you go - I'm no vet and hope I got the explanations straight!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Several More Off the List and Horse #21

I finally connected with the owner of horse #11 today.  She hadn't called me back because she said she was ambivalent.  He's a really nice horse, but has one big issue that she's been struggling with.  Along with all his other good characteristics, he's great on the trail by himself and with small groups of horses.  When there's a large group of horses and one or more horses leave the group, even if they're horses he doesn't know or he's still got other horses with him, he loses his mind.  He starts by jigging and things quickly escalate from there.  I've dealt with this sort of thing before and it can be pretty scary. We talked about him for a while - she's about my age - late 50s - and says she's not that experienced.  He's a very dominant horse with other horses and it sounds like the trouble she's having with him is related more to his dominance and his reluctance to turn over leadership to her - a trust issue - rather than simple herd-boundness, which in my somewhat limited experience is more often an issue of more submissive horses.  Neither she nor her trainer has made much headway yet with the issue.  We discussed it for a while - she's thinking of keeping him and working through this, although she acknowledges that it may take a very long time of slow incremental work approach and retreat work,  where he gradually learns by very slowly stretching his boundaries that he can get relief from his anxiety and trust being with her.  She also has to really step up and provide him with the leadership he needs so he doesn't have to take charge. The behavior pattern is so well established that it's hard to deal with.  I wished her luck and said I didn't think that's something I was up for right now.  She said she would let me know if she hears of any good horses for sale up in her part of the country.

I've really been impressed by the honesty and forthrightness of many of the sellers I've been talking to.  These people are by and large really fine horsepeople and a pleasure to talk to.

I've also decided to take horse #2 off my list - just too delicate for my taste (sorry, horse #2 fans), as well as horse #16 - double Impressive (one of my biases) and horse #17 (phone number doesn't work and the seller hasn't responded to multiple e-mails).  That leaves horses #10, #12, #18 and #20 - I'm definitely seeing #12 and #20 on this trip and hope to see #12 as well if I can connect again with her seller.  For the record, and now that I'm planning to see them, the name of horse #10, the bay mare, is River, horse #12, the sorrel gelding, is Pie (after Jimmy Stewart's movie horse) and horse #20, the sorrel mare, is Peppy. (See the sidebar for their pictures and descriptions.)

Here's another horse, horse #21 and her ad, that I may try to fit in to my trip if circumstances permit:

Once I'm done looking at these horses, if I still haven't found the right one, it'll almost be November and I'll suspend my horse search until the spring.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Drug Testing, Update on Horse #18 and Road Trip in the Works!

My vet e-mailed me the following information concerning pre-purchase drug testing - always something to think about, particularly if a horse is being purchased from a sale barn/dealer or is a performance horse:
Here is the information regarding toxicology screening.  The company that we use is called Center for Tox Services, website:  They have a "pre-purchase drug screen" panel that we use.  The test screens for the presence or absence of certain drugs, not the levels.  (They can give you levels but that requires additional testing and costs.)  The company is based in Tempe, AZ, and does testing on Tues, Wed, Thurs, and Fri.  FYI, samples must be shipped overnight so if you're considering doing this test, I would recommend having your pre-purchase exam done on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
The drugs included in this panel are: albuterol, acepromazine, betamethasone, butorphanol, clenbuterol, detomidine, dexamethasone, flumethasone, flunixin, fluphenazine, isoxuprine, lidocaine, mepivacaine, methyl predinisolone, pentazocine, promazine, reserpine, romifidine, acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), benzocaine, ephedrine, furosemide, ibuprofen, ketorolac, ketoprofen, meclofenamic acid, methyl phenidate, methocarbamol, naproxen, oxyphenbutazone, phenylbutazone, penylpropanolamine, procaine, xylazine.  
If you notice, firocoxib is not in this list.  Firocoxib is found in equioxx and previcox, and is a type of NSAID (pain reliever, antiinflammatory).  If you are concerned, you can request additional testing but I do not have that information here for you.
Lots of things people can give horses to treat or mask pain or inflammation or modify behavior, aren't there?  Just something to keep in mind if you're ever doing a pre-purchase exam and aren't completely sure of what the seller might have done to make the horse more saleable.  I don't mean to be a cynic, but you have to wonder sometimes about people in some parts of the horse world.  And, if you ever have such a tox screen run, remember that some herbal supplements can also mask pain or soreness, or calm a horse, or can cause false positives on drug tests - it's a good idea to ask a seller what medicines/supplements a horse is on, as some uses are certainly legitimate.

* * * * * *
I had a chance to talk to the seller of horse #18 - the blue roan gelding. (If you can't keep track of which horse is which, check the sidebars.) The seller runs two trail and pleasure showing barns, one in Wisconsin and one about an hour from me in Illinois.  She got the horse fairly recently - she's essentially a dealer - from some friends of her parents, who had been using the horse for occasional trail riding.  She says it's not clear how much training the horse really had - he was under saddle and would go down the trail even when pulled out of the pasture after a long interval.  She's been working with him, and says he's a quick learner and has a good walk, trot and lope - the video shows this well - he's got pretty nice gaits.  She says she would like his lope to be slower - she's a pleasure trainer after all as she says - and they've been working on that.  She says he's sound and has always been barefoot.  She's done quite a bit of trail riding with him and he does well - there's no spook, just looking.  He's never bucked, reared or bolted.  He's been turned out with mares and geldings, and is a mid-pack sort of horse.

The one thing she would change about him is the speed of his lope, and also his head-shyness - he's particularly ear shy, and especially about one ear.  She's been working with him on haltering and bridling - the first time she tried to bridle him when she started to put the headstall over his ears he shot backwards.  This indicates to me that he's been handled roughly at some point in the past - probably ear-twitched - I know what I'd like to do to people who ear-twitch horses and it's not printable.  My Noble came to me extremely head-shy - in addition to not wanting to have his ears touched, he would show fear if you raised a hand towards his head - I think he'd been hit in the face.  It took us a while to work through this and he was never completely comfortable having his ears handled.  This sort of issue is one I can work through and don't worry about too much, but I'd be on the watch when I see him for other signs that he might have been mishandled in other ways in his past. His pedigree apparently includes Blue Valentine on the top, although I'm still waiting for more details. He's pretty close to me and will be worth a look, if none of my road trip horses work out.

* * * * * *
Ah, the road trip - the l . . o . . n . . g road trip!  I thought about this long and hard - the farthest horse I'm planning to see is more than 8 hours drive away.  Sigh . . . but they're such nice horses. . .  So, I sucked it up and I'm going to do it - my plans are to leave Sunday morning after barn chores and drive about 4 hours to see horse #20, then drive another 2 hours and stay overnight in Eau Claire.  Then on Monday, I'll drive up to north of Minneapolis - about 2 more hours - and see horses #10 and #12 - yes, #12 is still available!  This isn't all arranged yet - I'm still trying to set up appointments with horses #20 and #10 - but I think it'll come together.  I'm also still trying to get in touch with the owner of horse #11 - I left a message several days ago and haven't heard back - this horse is fairly close to horses #10 and #12, and would be worth a visit too if the phone call goes well.  Depending on what happens - if I find a horse I really like - I'll try to schedule a vet exam and any necessary brand and veterinary health inspections while I'm there.  My older daughter would then drive up and pick the horse up on a day off.

Keep your fingers crossed!  If none of these horses pan out, then I'll probably suspend the horse search until spring.

Coyote Story and Maisie Picture

Jill at Buckskin and Bay has a nice story about the horses at our barn and a coyote in this post, and here's a picture of my sweet Maisie waiting for her breakfast at her new digs down in Tennessee - thanks for the picture, Melissa!

Today, I'm going to be trying to set up a visit to Minnesota to see horses #10, #12 and #20.  The ad for horse #12 is no longer up, and I'm not sure what that means, but perhaps will know more today.  The earliest I can leave, due to other commitments, is Sunday, which means I'd be seeing horses on Monday and Tuesday if the sellers can accommodate me on those dates.

More later on drug testing in horses and also an update on horse #18.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Good News About Dawn

The vet came out this morning to do x-rays on Dawn's front feet and lower legs to see if we could determine what was causing her lameness, or to rule certain things out.  Dawn patiently stood for the full series of x-rays, including having to stand on the little wooden blocks for the shots from the sides and back, and standing with one foot at a time on the flat x-ray holder for the navicular shots.  She was a trooper, standing like a rock despite the other mares still being out in the pasture.

The good news is that nothing of concern showed up on any of the x-rays.  She's got the slightest bit of remodeling at the lateral edge of the pastern joints, but that's not unexpected in a horse of her age and conformation - her front legs aren't perfectly straight from the knee through the pastern and foot - there's a little bit of a twist in there that puts some lateral pressure on her joints and feet.  This structure is why she has a bit of a paddle in her trot.  The minor changes shouldn't be enough to cause her trouble, although they may worsen a bit with age.  Her tendency to really slap her feet down also puts extra wear on her joints.  Other than that minor flaw, all the x-rays looked really good - she's got good clean joint spaces throughout her feet and lower legs, and the navicular bones were smooth and just fine - no roughness that could cause soft tissue problems.

The vet will be sending me the x-rays on disc so I can keep them for reference, and will also send me her list of things to screen for in a drug test on a pre-purchase where I'm concerned drugs might be an issue.  I'll probably have all horses tested for Ace, Banamine and Bute, but will do a more rigorous drug screen if I've got any doubts about the seller.

The vet also repeated the trot-out followed by flexion of the lower right leg joints.  Before flexion, there was only a whisper of unsoundness ever 3 or 4 steps at the trot, and even after flexion the unsoundness was pretty minor.  This is all really good news, and probably means that she just pulled or tweaked a soft tissue structure inside her foot - a tendon or ligament.  Those soft tissues of course don't show up on x-rays, although they do on an MRI, but there's no need for that since she seems to be be recovering well.  The vet said I could ease her back into work.  I'll keep walking her through Saturday, and then she'll get a few days off if I make my horse search trip to Minneapolis.  If she's doing well when I get back, we can try a bit of trot work and see how she does.

Considering that the report from this morning's turnout - the mares went into a new pasture, and there was a large coyote to herd, and there was much galloping, bucking and general cavorting on Dawn's part, none of which made her worse - I'm pretty encouraged!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Update on Horses #10, 12, 19 and 20

I've been making a lot of phone calls - these horses are mostly very far away, as far as 7 hours, and if I'm going to see a horse I want there to be a decent chance that it's a real prospect, without the sort of issues that can be ruled out in a phone call.  So far I've connected with the sellers of horses #10, 12, 19 and 20.  Three out of four of these horses were put under saddle by their current owners, which means the information I have about them is better than average.

Horse #19 is now off my list.  I had a good conversation with his owner, who also bred him - she owns his sire and owned his dam.  She mostly raises reining and cutting horses, and has over 20, including 3 studs.  He's a nice horse in many ways, and has been extensively ridden on the trails and seems to really enjoy trail-riding.  She's had problems with him in the arena - he really doesn't like arena work and is sour there.  She can't get him to lope properly under saddle in the arena, although he will lope on the trail.  When she lopes him in the arena, he goes too fast and then drops his shoulder and ducks, to the point of sometimes dumping people.  She's stopped trying to do arena work with him and now just trail rides him, and is concentrating on doing reining training with one of her studs.  She said he wasn't a candidate for a sale where you'd have to show him loping in an arena.  He'll lope in a straight line but the problem seems to be with the turns required in the arena.  This could mean it's a physical issue, or it could just be a training problem. He might be just fine for trail riding only, but I want a horse that's more flexible and able to do a variety of things.  This may be a fixable problem, but I'm not interested in fixing it. He's also a tad small for me, so he's off my list.

I'm learning that "horse is great for trail riding" can mean a variety of things - from "horse is a great all-round horse that can also go on the trail" to "horse isn't very well-trained or hasn't been consistently ridden but is basically calm and will go down the trail" to "horse isn't sound enough for too much except light trail riding".

Horse #10 is a live prospect - here's her picture as a reminder:

She's 10 years old and was bought by the seller at age 6 as a broodmare, not yet started under saddle.  She has done a lot of trail riding and also cattle work.  She has never had soundness issues and has always been barefoot.  She is a mid-pack mare - not alpha and not omega.  She is willing and cheerful, and has never bucked, bolted or reared.  When she spooks, she does a startle spook - no spins.  The only issue the seller has ever had with her is that when she hasn't been ridden for a while, she will balk a bit leaving the other horses in her herd - but no balk/buck or balk/rear, and she doesn't escalate - if you firmly ask her to move along she'll accept your direction. The only thing the seller would change about her is that she's not terribly forward when working cattle - more slow than go - but they've made progress on that in the past year and the mare did very well in chasing and holding a break-away group of cattle on their last outing. I don't see anything bad here and like the look, breeding and experience of this mare - she's worth a visit and I'll be scheduling one. (She also shares the Coy's Bonanza bloodline of my old Noble horse, whose registered name was Walla Bars Bonanza.)  The question will be her responsiveness - is there enough to go with the calm?

Horse #12 is a live prospect as well - here's his picture:

I spoke at length to his owner, a gentlemen who is in his 60s and who got the horse as a weanling from the breeder, from whom he's purchased other young horses in the past.  He is being sold because the man has three riding horses, and his children and grandchildren who live in the area no longer ride much, and because he's been keeping this young horse in consistent work his other riding horses are being neglected, and he no longer wants or needs three.  He started the horse himself, and says the worst thing the horse has ever done is to crow hop a few steps once early on in his under-saddle training.  Since then, no bucking, no rearing, no bolting, no spinning, no bad stuff, and he does a startle-spook when he does spook.  They have done extensive trail riding - almost every weekend this summer - and the horse has worked cattle on numerous occasions.  For a young horse, he's had a lot of experience.  This horse is also completely sound according to the seller, although he was at pains to tell me that the horse currently had scratches, which he is treating - we spent some time talking about that as I've had a lot of experience with scratches myself.  The seller said the horse was well-built and sturdy with very good feet - the only ding on him is that he's a tad narrower in the body than some like.  He said that being a young horse, he would need consistent handling and work, and that his young age seemed to put off some possible buyers.  I'm not that worried - I think he's got an excellent foundation, and from talking to the seller I'm thinking he'll be a good using horse for whatever I decide to do with him.  A visit will be in the works, probably early next week - the horse is going on the trail over the weekend and I probably can't get up there before then anyway.

Horse #20 is a live prospect as well - here's her picture as a reminder:

The owner, who has 10 horses, has had the mare for about 3 years.  The mare had been started, and the owner had the opportunity to speak to the breeder and original trainer of the horse, and purchased the horse through an intermediary who had the horse for only a short time. The mare is double Mr. San Peppy bred. The mare is now 6, and has done a lot of trail riding, some work with cattle and also some local rodeo events including team sorting.  The owner has an indoor arena (lucky her!) and has also done arena work with the mare. The mare has always been sound and has good solid feet and is barefoot.  She is an affectionate horse with a kind, sweet, willing personality.  She has never bucked, bolted or reared and does not spook - she just looks.  She walks out well on the trail, but will also follow and will ride alone or with a large group.  She is willing to be quite forward when asked, but will stop easily.  The woman is selling her because they have too many horses and she is one of the more trained ones.  The woman seems to have real affection for the horse.  She said some buyers were put off by how responsive and forward the horse is, and she said when asked that the only thing she would change about the horse is how much go it has - I believe this can be a characteristic of horses with these bloodlines.  This isn't necessarily a problem for me as long as the horse has good speed regulation and steering - I like a horse with go provided it is responsive and sensible.  Seeing this horse, which I can do either on my way to or from seeing horses #10 and #12, will answer all questions - the issue will be is there too much go and not enough whoa.

I finally feel like I'm making some progress on the horse search, and perhaps one or more of these three contenders will work out, and I've got some others in the works.

. . . and a Few More . . .

I've also got calls out on these two, both of which look like good, solid horses -

Horse # 19 and his ad:

And horse #20 and her ad:

It looks like the "sell horse before winter" ads are popping up, which is a good thing - if I'm to "buy horse before winter" it'll happen soon, otherwise I'll be waiting until spring.

Perhaps a Little More Like It

I think these three horses are about the style and build I'm looking for, and appear to have relevant experience.  If I like what I hear on the phone, I may pay a visit to horses #17 and #18, as well as horse #2, who is nearby to them (for all you horse #2 fans!) - I can do these in an easy day trip.  Horse #16 is a long way away, so we'll have to see.  I believe #16 is double Impressive on the top side, so that's a question mark for me, and I don't have pedigrees yet for #17 and #18, although I'll bet #18 may have some Impressive in there, looking at the build.  Horses #10, 11 and 12 are still in contention, although they're much farther away and would require a multi-day trip.

Horse #16 and his ad:

Horse #17 and his ad:

Horse #18 and his ad and video (nice video, not so great pictures):

More news later!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

Here's horse #15 and her ad - I thought her description and photo warranted a phone call - I like her sturdy build.  She is double Impressive on the bottom side, but her look is balanced and what I can see of the feet looks pretty good.

I had a nice conversation with the owner.  She sounds like a really nice horse - good experience, including a lot of trail work, very calm and well-trained.  The owner is looking to get a paint and start to show paints.  The only behavior issues she has are clipping her ears is difficult - she came to the owner terrified of clippers and they've made a lot of progress - and she bucked once when in heat and crowded in an arena by other horses.  Neither of those bothers me much.  But the owner volunteered that she has a stifle problem - always has - on one side and tends to drag the toe although she warms up out of it.   This has make collecting her lope difficult.  Sigh . . .

So onwards.  I know a number of you think I shouldn't reject horse #2 just based on photos.  But I'm vacillating about whether to go see her.  I just don't like her look - she seems too delicate to me and not that well put together, although she's very pretty.  I'm wary of pretty - look where it got me last time.  It's time for some calls on horse #10, 11 and 12.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Photos of Horse #2

So I've now got some cell-phone photos of horse #2, and while they're not perfect, they do give us a little more information.  Here's the two side-on photos - I've cropped and enlarged so the sharpness isn't perfect, and have also straightened the photos:

Here's what I see so far while trying to look through the paint camo - not too bad: top line's pretty good; she's a bit long in the back but not horribly so; a little straight behind but again not terrible; shoulder, head and neck not too bad either; and good overall balance although she's fairly lightly built.

Here are the hind legs from the back:

A little cow-hocked, but again that's not a huge defect - but I'm not liking how she's weighting the outside edge of the left hind.  And here are the front legs:

Now leaving aside the trim, which looks a little weird to my eye, and the fact that they've managed to put her left front in the floor drain, which affects how she's standing, the left front looks a little odd to me.  And remember that the trainer said that she paddles in front - this usually means either that there's a problem with how the horse is put together in the front, or else the horse is traveling oddly to avoid weighting a foot in a particular way that may be uncomfortable.  A horse that toes in in front will often paddle.

So now that I've got a question, I had to go back and look more closely at the other photos.

I may be imagining things, but I think there's something funky about that left front, and I don't think it's just the floor drain.  The angle of the pastern is straighter than the right front and from the outside (last photo) the shape of the heel on the outside seems a bit odd.  And those horizontal dark areas about 2/3 of the way down her front feet could just possibly be event lines - or it could just be dirt.

I'd be interested in what you think about this - am I just imagining things?