Wednesday, October 1, 2014

For those of you that follow the blog - we lost Kris on Monday.

I'll do my best to keep Essa in good hands


Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Essa-versary! (Yeah, that's dumb)

So it's been 6 months with Essa.  I started going back through the blog, and I'm happy to have a record of our progress - some days are awesome, some are terrible, most are just regular days.  I've tried to "train" her every day, even if it's just the repetition of grooming, turn-out and turn-in routines.  I'm fortunate to have a horse (Cody) with the manners that I aspire to for her.  She is much less of a hazard to herself and others!

It's been slow going, mostly because of that pesky day-job that allows me to indulge in all of this.  But that's OK.  I've found some great resource books that have really helped, along with all the Google searches for this, that and the other thing.

We had a great lunging session last night, even after a few weeks off.  More of the same, just walk/trot both directions with side reins - not a bit of drama.  (I've gotten better at lunging too!)  She's really starting to act like a horse that I'd consider ACTUALLY RIDING.

The flax seems to be working - she was insanely sun-bleached over the summer but her winter coat is coming in dark and shiny!

So here's the before-and-after shots:

I hope I NEVER see a horse looking like this ever again

Hard to believe, right?  She's still pretty nippy and cranky when it comes to tacking up - even trying on blankets.  But I think we can work with that.  Here's to the next six months!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back to school

Full disclosure:  I drafted this post a couple of weeks ago and forgot to polish it up.  So here's a bit of time-travel back to late August.  It's been 6 months since Essa moved in, and I promise a real-time update and pictures tomorrow!

I finally decided I'd had it with Essa's issues being in her stall by herself, and with a few end-of-summer days off in a row, it was time to do something about it.  Back to "Essa goes in, Essa goes out".  The game goes like this:  I take her from her paddock, do a little groundwork in another paddock to make sure she's listening to me, then take her to her stall.  After a few minutes I put her in cross ties for a teeny bit of grooming, then back out to the paddock for a few more exercises, and finally back to the others.  The idea is to teach her that-

1. I'm a perfectly good leader and she doesn't need to panic away from the others.  Apparently, asking her to back up/trot/whoa etc demonstrates my leadership skillz,

2.  I won't abandon her in her stall, and there's a pattern to coming in for some work, and

3. Hollering away doesn't get her on the express lane back to the herd.

It's not nearly as fun as actual riding, but it's gotta be done.  After a few days I can say that she's definitely improved.  She no longer leans on her stall guard until it gives way, the hollering is diminished and less deafening, and she doesn't start a tornado in her stall that I can barely escape!

I didn't expect much from the worming - it's just one of those horse maintenance things I take for granted.  But I really think it's made a big difference in her progress.  She's not nearly as fussy in cross ties for grooming and the cow-kicks have disappeared.  And I swear her stall is less destroyed overnight...

I had her out with side reins for the first time in a few weeks and she was a total peach.  She responded to walk/trot/whoa and went just fine in both directions.  I changed her to Cody's bit and I think that's what I'll keep her in.  I don't have a vast bit box (yet) so I started with a loose ring French link (too wibbly wobbly), then a single joint full cheek then this one - just right, I hope!

It's the first time I've seen her in a state that I'd consider getting on her.

Sad to say that "winter is coming" and her summer coat is shedding out.  She's now on 1/2 cup of whole flax daily, which I hope will be rewarded with a soft fluffy winter coat.

Farrier is out tomorrow!

Friday, August 8, 2014

All together now!

After yet another incident of Honey pushing through the gate into Essa's paddock, I put them all together on Monday. They went into the lushest paddock we have, with a couple of hay feeders for good measure.  Food makes everything better!

They have been fine together since.  I caught Honey and Essa squealing and running around a little today, which has probably been going on all week without incident.  Cody doesn't seem to have much to do with any hilarity, but I think he likes having his harem together.

They seem very happy together, and make for a lovely view!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A (bio) hazard to herself and others

I'm a bad blogger.  I have no new pictures or video to share, but I thought it was time for an update anyway.  There was video a couple of weeks ago, but getting the camera out seems to be the kiss of death for Essa's behaviour.  It was her introduction to the surcingle.  She got away from me and went careening around the ring, lunge line streaming behind her.  Really not YouTube material.  It's a miracle she didn't step on it and hurt herself.  All digitally immortalized.  I could have just deleted it but I tell myself I'll treasure these moments in our journey together.  We've been lunging inside since then...

She's doing better with the surcingle, although she gets a bit girthy and fussy about it.  I've also brought side reins to the party.  She goes about the same in either direction, and I'm working on solidly installing walk/trot/whoa commands.   She does pick things up quite quickly.

So about that bio-hazard...I'm being all responsible about worming and sent off samples for the three of them.  My vet makes it easy by picking up the samples when she's in the area, and charging only $15 each (which is what I'd spend on wormer anyway).  Cody and Honey are low - yay!  But Essa is "loaded" with strongyles.

She'd had some treatment back in March, but she was so underweight I was reluctant to risk overdoing it.  She will get the full 5-day Powerpac this time, and hopefully be on track after that.  She's still in her own paddock but Honey REALLY wants to be her friend now and pushed through the gate the other night.  Thankfully injuries were limited to Honey's boo-boo's and the new gate (replacing the one that Honey kicked out when she wanted to kill Essa) is still intact.  But I think we'll try putting all three together when Essa's treatment is done.  That will be another experiment...

Speaking of experiments - the alfalfa!  It's still going for Cody and Essa, although Cody's had to go on full-scale ulcer treatment.  Just a coincidence, I think.

I trimmed her unicorn mane to a more Thoroughbred-like length, but now it reminds me of Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber.

So it's always something.  Despite the lunge-line hilarity I've been really pleased with how Essa is doing.  I'm taking things very slowly and hoping that my patience will be rewarded.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Going Slow is Not for Sissies

My progress is slow to the point of being taken advantage of by the horse, but I really like the spirit of this article.

Going Slow is Not for Sissies | Eventing Nation - Three-Day Eventing News, Results, Videos, and Commentary

Just an update

My, it has been a while!  Nothing really new in the routine - it's been too hot and humid for much activity.

The"alfalfa experiment"  has had mixed success.  Essa and Cody are happily eating up 1/2 pound of soaked alfalfa cubes at supper, and Cody is eating more hay.  Unfortunately his cribbing has gotten worse, so I've started a course of ranitidine for ulcers.  I have to dose him two or three times a day, and Essa is most interested in the extra snacks Cody is getting.  I'd like to treat her too eventually but 40 pills a day for 4 weeks adds up, even for the "economical" ranitidine.

I tried a "labyrinth" pole exercise, which Essa handled like a pro.

Essa was treated to her first massage on Sunday.  I wasn't sure how she'd handle it, being so sensitive to grooming, but my friend the massage therapist was quite pleased with her.  She said Essa has a lot of tension all over, just accumulated from racing and stress.  Essa clearly didn't know what was going on, but she had moments of relaxation and will likely "get into it" more readily next time.

We discovered that Essa likes huffing lavender.  Kara rubbed a few drops of lavender oil between her palms and let Essa sniff it to help her relax.  Essa started by trying to eat the bottle - she REALLY likes this stuff!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The alfalfa experiment

Not her most photogenic pose, but I'm lovin' that shine!
I found a great article from New Vocations on "What your newly adopted Thoroughbred wants you to know".  There's a lot of how-to-train-your-ex-racehorse articles out there, but this one is humorous, to-the-point, and has some tips that I haven't seen elsewhere.

Like grooming (#12-"Beauticians Take Note").  When I started grooming Essa she would just about jump out of her skin - hypersensitive, cow-kicking, dancing around in cross-ties.  I don't use hard brushes since Cody is kind of sensitive, but he mostly just gives you the Mr. Crabby-pants look.  Honey, on the other hand, you can have at with just about any implement you want and she's happy for the attention.

Essa's reaction to grooming, especially on her flanks, has made me think of ulcers.  Since Cody is ulcer-prone I think everything is ulcers, but it has been on my to-do list for Essa.  Then I came across some reasonable-looking research on alfalfa improving ulcers.  

The suggested pound of alfalfa cubes with their feeds seems do-able.  And CHEAP!  At $13 for a 50-lb bag, that's my kind of ulcer treatment!  I'm perfectly happy to try an alternative to the insanely expensive omeprazole.  Plus, alfalfa was recommended for Essa to gain weight but at the time I just worked with what I had.  So it would be like a two-fer for her.

The cubes have to be soaked, so I do that in the morning to let them break up.  It turns into a big grassy mess that looks even worse when I add the beet pulp etc.  No matter, they are gobbling it up.  I'm hoping that improvement will look like less cribbing from Cody and more weight on Essa.  Results will not be very scientific, and likely qualified by "I could swear..." or "I'm positive/pretty sure..."
The test subjects
And lunging (#14-"Translation required").  I backed WAAAAY off after I did the video, and I'm following this process instead.  It's going great!  We are just doing walk and whoa on a lead line, and really working on installing voice cues.  The other day I tried her to the right, without the nose chain.  No drama at all!  So I will continue that for a while before I reintroduce the actual lunge line.  Forgetting the lunge whip in the barn has also made a BIG difference.  She's much calmer and it's easier for me not juggling the line and the whip in one hand!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

First video!

Well, her behaviour is a bit rough and my lunging is a bit klutzy, but I hope we will both improve.  This is her fourth time lunging, and the second time outside.  Every little thing distracts her - like a tree being trimmed.  I really don't think she's had much consistent training off the track.  I'll try to give her a solid base but I'm no trainer so it'll be slow.

I'm still trying to figure out what's wrong with her that she got bounced around so much.  There's definitely some assembly required, and she is a hazard to herself and others if she's put in the barn by herself.

Still, I think she looks pretty good!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Can't get used to losing you

It seems we have some separation/herd-bound issues.

While I was out giving Cody a good lunge the other day, Honey was doing her best to break through the fence to her new best friend Essa.  Even though they make nasty faces at each other over the fence all the time.  Fixed those boards, resolved to move Essa to the paddock diagonal to Honey when Cody's not there.  Good plan!

Since Essa had lunged decently in the arena, I thought it was a lovely day to work her outside and enjoy the bigger space.  So I happily led her in, all's well.  Until she got in her stall.  I barely got the door closed when she went tornado, spinning and calling - and she is LOUD.  I managed to get her lead off and get out of the stall, thought I'd wait it out.  She did not stop.

Cody gets a little nutty in his stall when I bring him in alone to work, but he gets the plan once he's being groomed.  Essa doesn't have that plan installed yet, and she doesn't much care for grooming.  So I decided to cut my losses, put her back out, and figure out separation issues.

From what I understand, I have to convince them that I'm just as good a leader as any of their pasture mates.  So I'll keep at the groundwork and giving her a job when I take her away.  The next day I played a little "into the barn, out of the barn" with Essa, which felt silly but, well, might help...We've also been mixing up the order coming in for supper.

So I keep having to downsize my grand plans but I guess that's all part of the process.  Working her after supper when they're all in is fine.  I did get her lunging outside last night, and I hope to have presentable video up very soon!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Finding out what apps are installed

I started flipping through my copy of Beyond the Track today, and remembered what a great reference it is.  Leading has been an issue coming in at night - Essa is last because that's how the paddocks go, and gets very upset and rude.  I also found out the other night that bathing is not an installed app.

They were all extra-nutty this evening, having a rolling splashing mud-licious good time.  The book recommends a shank over the nose, so I read up to make sure I was doing it right and tried it on Essa and Cody.  Voila!  They both gave me the "yes, ma'am" treatment.  Very nice.  I'm positive that's a result of their track experience, and it's definitely a tool that I won't be afraid to use again if need be.

Honey isn't keen on the hose for bathing either - hoses are for drinkin'!  So I resolved to back things up and read up on bathing.  I found a nice soft setting on the hose nozzle, started with feet and a plan to see how far up I could go.  I got about half-way up Honey's legs; Essa barely tolerated her feet.  But now I have a plan, so we don't have to power through and hope nobody gets hurt - which is what I did the first time.  I don't think Essa has had much steady training, so treating her as if she's fresh off the track may be the way to go.

On the good side, I did a little lunging with Essa.  She was lovely and well behaved, even a little lazy.  So that's a positive end to today - with a long weekend to look forward to, I hope to have more updates soon!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Adventures in bathing

Wow, that was more than I bargained for!  It was a beautiful evening to get Essa all lathered up and clean up that rain rot.  Everyone was turned in and finished their grain.  The other two were close by in the barn, not far far away in the paddocks.  They would all go back out to graze with enough daylight left for Essa to dry off.

She would have none of my lovely plan.  She danced and pawed and kicked, and kept her right side to the fence.  I felt like a losing boxer, dodging and moving her over, and trying to get the shampoo on and rinsed off.  I got most  of the job done, then finished rinsing her right side in cross ties in the barn.  I turned her out to graze and she ran around like a wet dog until her pals were out.

I really expected Essa to be cool with bathing after all of her racetrack time.  She is pretty attached to her new crew, and gets very upset being the last one in in the evening.  I've been so spoiled by Cody.  I grumble about his work ethic, but his ground manners are the standard I aspire to for Honey and Essa.  He never fusses coming in or going out and tolerates endless mane-trimming, braiding, clippers, even sheath cleaning without a tranq!

But after all that, I have to say, wow!

After all that bath nonsense
(Farm equipment seems to be getting her attention).  She is a handful with lots of work to be done, but I'm delighted to share a picture like this.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Introducing rain rot!

There's a (bacterium that acts like a) fungus among us.

She's been shedding A LOT, but it's been slowing down.  Except for some areas that were kind of gray and extra-cruddy.  Then the hair started coming out in tufts.  That ain't right...

I've never had to deal with rain rot before, so yet another learning experience.  It's along her back, rump, and inside hind legs.  So it's no coincidence that she's been very sensitive, even intolerant (cow-kicking!), to grooming along her back and flanks.  She's been that way since the start, but I just chalked it up to her having no "padding" over her bones and tried to be gentle.

Parts of her coat are starting to look good, but I don't think we'll be seeing those dapples this year.

"Race-fit" in 2011

I suppose it's been hiding out under her winter coat.  She probably had a wet winter without much blanket changing.  So between rough turnout conditions, being underweight and probably not having a great immune system...there you go.

The treatment suggestions are endless - things you'd expect like Betadine, and less obvious choices like Listerine, diaper cream, Head N Shoulders, and garlic (!).  So I'm grooming out what I can, spraying her with Banixx, and I'll give her a Head N Shoulders bath this weekend.  Mmmm, green apple!

Here's her latest progress picture.  I'm still having no luck getting her attention and getting her head up for a picture.  She's not easily distracted and won't. Stop. Grazing.  Which isn't really a bad thing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How Did OTTBs Fare at Rolex?

Essa is doing fine, just enjoying spring and whatever grass she can get.  She may have lost a few pounds from all that shedding.  I'm pretty sure Rolex isn't on the horizon for Essa (or me), but it was great to see this feature.

How Did OTTBs Fare at Rolex? | Eventing Nation

Congratulations to Rachel McDonough of Canada and Irish Rhythm, who placed 25th in their first Rolex.  Irish Rhythm also came from Fort Erie Race Track!

Irish Rhythm Has Brought Rachel McDonough From The Beginning to Rolex Kentucky - Chronicle of the Horse

I can barely manage crossrails, but I can dream...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Introducing the rest of the crew...

Essa continues to do well and is filling out nicely.  Her mud wallow has mostly dried up, which makes for more flattering pictures.

She has discovered grass!  They've all been easing onto it as it comes up, and the paddock is big enough that she won't eat the grass faster than it grows.  So she's getting lots of stretching and strolling around as she grazes.  A couple of people have suggested starting to lunge her before she gets too fat and sassy, so I hope to do that in the next week or so.  I'm really curious about what, if any "apps" she has installed.

And who are "they"?  Time to introduce the rest of the herd!

Cody is a 17-year-old OTTB (off-the-track Thoroughbred) gelding, and my first horse.  I've had him for 4 years.  Unlike Essa, Cody was pretty much a failure as a racehorse.  That's OK because I don't have a burning need for speed.  He is pretty lazy - if I tried to get closer to take his picture he would wander off to avoid being caught.  The story that came with Cody was that he was a Hurricane Katrina rescue, and his previous career was doing Civil War reenactments.  No idea if any of that is true but it's a fun story.  He's described in dressage tests as "handsome" and "sluggish".  My handsome slug.

Honey is a 3-year-old Clydesdale mare that we've had for two years.  She is sweet and obliging, but has no idea what you're talking about.  Her training for the last year has mostly been about manners and handling.  She was in her own paddock until we got tired of repairing the boards she would push through to be on Cody's side.  Now they're together, with no issues at all.    She is something to behold when she's excited and running around.  

There's a couple of dogs too...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Today's fun trivia

Essa sold for $3700 as a yearling in 2005, and earned almost $86,000 racing over 58 starts!

In comparison my other Thoroughbred Cody sold for $4200 in 1998, had 5 starts, and tended to finish 11th.

It's amazing what you can find on the interwebz.  It's also a testament to the fact that I should be doing something more productive.

She's officially ours!

Two weeks in - looking better already

The previous owner even had her Jockey Club registration.  OK, it was a corrected duplicate issued in 2006, but I'm kind of surprised that it's stuck with her for this long.

The farrier was out on Wednesday for a much needed trim.  Her feet weren't in bad shape considering they were last done in December.  She looks better and I'm sure she feels better for it too.  Yesterday was an inside day, so she got some extra grooming.  It's a rare picture without her head in the feeder!  Aside from the "zombie eye" I'm amazed at how much better she looks.  She's getting a little grain and beet pulp now, which is a huge hit.  I'll increase it after the weekend.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mud puppy

Essa might be a rescue project but she's not a complete angel.  I would have loved to see the roll that created this vision of loveliness- very thorough!  The other side is just as impressive.

I trust this brought some joy to her day.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Body scoring - there's an app for that!

Finally, a decent day for pictures and no blankets!  (That is a blanket rub on her shoulder.)  I wasn't sure if Essa would look any better after 10 days but I think she does.  Her ribs are less visible than in the first picture, her hindquarters are starting to fill in a bit, and the vertebrae at her tailhead are disappearing.

She pretty much gets hay whenever she runs out now, just 3 or 4 flakes at a time so I can keep track.  I'm not really worried about the refeeding syndrome anymore.

I found this Android app for Henneke body scoring.  It lets you rate each area on a sliding scale and calculates the final score.  It includes descriptions and diagrams for each number.  Very handy!

Horse Body Condition Scoring

There's also one for "weighing" based on body measurements - it has to be better than the weight tape...

Estimate Horse Weight

On Thursday I'll start her on grain and beet pulp, which I'm sure will be a big hit.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A little more history

So it's been a week with Essa.    

She has a moderate-to-high fecal egg count and the vet recommended fenbendazole (Safeguard).  The management guidelines I've been following have quite a protocol for worming, so I will start with those directions for the Safeguard.  It's a mild dewormer which shouldn't create too much havoc in her gut, especially if I give two half-doses 3 days apart to start.  

I contacted Alexis at Second Start Thoroughbreds and received this hearfelt response:

Essa was in the program in 2011.  She was sold in the fall as a resale project to a girl in the fall of 2011.  She was sold relatively quickly by that girl. I know she has gone through many hands since and has been poorly treated by most of those people.

Essa retired sound from the track.  She had 58 starts and was a very good racehorse.  She had the potential to be a low level eventer, easily, if she had found better people than she did.  Essa had a great work ethic and loved to train.  She was not a hard keeper at the track, which makes you wonder what is wrong with everyone who has owned her since.

She deserves far better than she has received.  This was a mare who had incredible potential who sadly ended up in a cycle of horrific owners.  If you don’t mind, I would love to hear how she is doing/recovering this time.  God willing, this is the last time she will be starved.
Thank you.

She also sent a nice little video from her time there:

It's really encouraging to see her looking healthy, and gives me something to aim for.  She looks like quite a solid classy girl!

 I had a nice long chat with Alexis at Second Start today.  She knows that Essa has moved around by the emails like mine that she's received in the past, and knows of at least three homes since the fall of 2011. She probably hasn't had much retraining since she left the track.

I haven't gotten very consistent or accurate results with the weight tape, but I'm positive her back end looks a little better.  Hopefully the weather over the next few days will lend itself to some new pictures.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vet check

I had the vet out today to check Essa out, and she did quite well.

Based on the history I've been able to put together - thanks, Google! - Essa got the usual core vaccines and shouldn't need a West Nile Virus booster.

She didn't care for having her teeth checked at all.  I had to push her back into her stall, and I could feel her heart going like a rabbit!  But with a light tranq the vet was able to do a manual float, which should help her get more out of her hay.

The vet also noted that she'd had a Caslick procedure and that this was good, otherwise she would need it done.  Suffice to say it involves her "lady parts" and that I'm glad that it's an operation she doesn't need.

Results from the fecal sample will determine whether she is up-to-date and can be wormed with the other two, or whether she will need her own routine.

Her legs are pretty clean and consistent with her race history.  We didn't look at her movement at all - that can wait until she's in better weight.  The verdict today was that aside from weight, no dire issues are apparent that would keep her from doing the kind of low-level work I'd like to do with her.

She's been getting 6 lb of hay 4 times a day since Monday.  The vet said she should be fine with free choice anytime now but I think I'll stick to the guidelines I've been following.  That will give her 9 lb 3 times a day for the next week starting tomorrow.  Then I can start adding grain and beet pulp.  I'm sure Essa will be very happy about that.  She knows what dinner time is when Cody and Honey get grain, and she knows that she isn't getting any.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Introducing Essa!

It started off as helping a friend in a pinch and grew from there. My husband saw this 10-year-old Thorougbred mare, just surfing ads for no particular reason. We're perfectly comfy with the two we have at home and our daughter's horse, who is boarded for training. Turns out he knows the owner.  She was losing her chores-for-board arrangement and had to sell. The ad pictures didn't look too bad, so we offered to bring Essa home for a couple of weeks to clean her up and help with selling her. 

The horse we picked up on Thursday wasn't quite the one in the pictures, and we were told she'd had a hard winter. She has no neck, and after initial reluctance she loaded on the trailer for a fistful of hay. She settled in one of our empty stalls and attacked the hay like it was her last meal. Well, we've had a Welsh X pony so that's not so strange...

Friday morning I took off her blankets to put on a rainsheet. I just about cried.

Clearly this was not a two-week fix. I told the owner she just wasn't saleable as-is, and we'd like to keep her through April and see how she does.

I body-scored her at 2, thankfully closer to a 3 than a 1. With a little research I learned about refeeding syndrome. OK, even more of a project. So I took away her hay - that was tough to do - and set her on small frequent feeds through the weekend, following this article-

I even took hay out at 3:00am to keep her on track.

She already seemed brighter on Sunday!

We discussed all of this with the owner - it'll be much longer than April to get Essa back on track. I will have the vet out in a week or two - our other horses are due for shots/floating/etc. anyway - and if there's nothing critical wrong with her, we've offered to buy her. Not at all what I had in mind 4 days ago, but if Essa is sane and sound I think it's her best chance.

The current owner bought Essa when she was underweight, hoping to help her out. She made some progress but it was lost over the winter.  She had some bad advice/enabling when she got her, realizes it was too much to take on, and is very grateful for our help.

Essa raced through 2010, and I think that being fit though most of her life must be helping, even in this sorry state. I'm hoping that she will keep her sweet nature once she's in better shape.

Her pedigree:

I really hope to keep this blog current. I just want to keep track of everything! I was lucky enough to find a couple of "prime" pictures of her. 

At Fort Erie Racetrack in July 2010.

Her "grad picture" from Second Start Thoroughbreds - Fall 2011

March 21, 2014