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JR Ride 7; Wizard Ride 50: The Dirty Birdie and the Golden Boy

February 25, 2009

JR's Memory Line

Monday, 2/23/09

Top Six Reasons I Like Working with Two Horses:
6) Making ride plans is fun.
5) One horse is bound to be considered “the good one” each day.
4) I get to sound all important and say, “I have to get on two tonight”.
3) Two eager faces greet me when I arrive at the barn.
2) By the time I ride the last horse, I’m feeling pretty mellow.
1) Double the work = double the exercise!.

Now I understand that real, serious riders get on way more than two horses a day, but please remember that I owned one horse for almost 20 years. Occasionally, I’d ride somebody else’s horse, but it was typically one horse per barn visit. Working with JR and Wizard is also fun because they are very physically and mentally different:

Quarter Horse
Could lose a few pounds
7 years old
15 hands
Strong in my hands
Easy to groom
Reactive to unusual things
A little fidgety
Stays relatively clean

Could use a few pounds
13 years old
15.3+ hands
Sensitive in my hands
Sensitive to groom
Not as reactive to unusual things
Happy to stand all day long
Gets as dirty as possible during turnout

The luckiest part of the differences between JR and Wizard is that JR is a relatively neat horse. His stall is neat and he does not turn into a complete mudball every time he’s outside for more than ten minutes. On Monday night, I gave him a major grooming. By the time I was done, there was a layer of golden fluff on the barn floor. Some new lights were installed in the barn and for the first time, I could really get a good look at the pearly color that JR is when he’s very clean. When he sheds out and puts on a little more muscle, the Golden Boy going to look amazing.

Wizard is a dirty birdie. He is a slob in his stall and he is covered from head to toe in dirt every time I see him. If Wizard was a palomino instead of being bay, I’d never keep him looking tidy without blanketing and frequent baths. Of course, rolling is good for horses’ circulation, muscles, and coats. I remind myself of this every time I groom Wizard’s sensitive hide. All this dirt is a good thing, all this dirt is a good thing. Thankfully, the farm is relatively dry and the sand and dirt is “clean”; it falls off the horses pretty nicely. Though I’ve made serious progress with Wizard’s grooming routine, he’s still very upset when I curry him. I try my best not to dig too hard into his Thoroughbred skin, but I also must get him clean enough to comfortably put a saddle on him. My mind keeps returning to the prospect of Wizard having a problem with ulcers. Today, I bit the bullet and purchased a 14-day supply of Ulcergard. I’m also looking into any mineral deficiencies that may cause sensitive skin. Or he might just be the stereotypical sensitive Thoroughbred.

I rode JR first. It was a cold, windy night so we worked indoors. First, I hand-walked JR very briskly for about half a mile. I like hand walking as a warmup, and I think that teaching a horse to walk briskly instead of jigging is a very important thing. I also like the workout for both of us. Reminded me of Casino Drive in the mornings at Belmont last summer :^)

After walking, I longed JR for about 180 minutes. He is responding really well to driving aids and I can migrate around the arena while keeping him forward on a circle. And he’s a sharp little fellow; if I take my body posture out of the driving position, he’ll toss his head and spin 10 degrees and be going in the opposite direction before I can bat an eye. I keep the work to a walk and trot for the most part but I do let him canter once or twice around to teach the gait and see how he’s moving. He’s so athletic- if he gets off the bend of the circle, he swaps his leads and plays on the straightaway. Down the road, under-saddle lead changes will not be difficult for this guy. I longed JR in my quarter sheet and he did not seem to mind the flapping fleece, even at the trot.

I then mounted up and rode at the walk. I kept the ride at a walk because 1) my next lesson is Wednesday night 2) it was reallllly windy and the arena doors were rattling. There’s plenty for us to do at the walk, believe me! We walked the length of the entire arena and did work along the wall as well as in the middle. Our last exercise was to stand quietly at the far end of the ring for 30 seconds, facing away from the gate. JR was a little wiggly but once I got the behavior I wanted, I immediately dismounted. Good boy!

Wizard was next. We did the exact same routine: hand walking briskly, then longeing, then riding at the walk. Wizard’s walk is so nice. I look forward to the day when we can ride on trails because he’s going to be so comfy! Wizard is not as forward, silly, and bouncy as JR on the longe line, but he’s had probably 30 more sessions on the longe than his little yellow friend. It looks like Wizard’s new shoes are proving to be a good thing. He seems like he’s more comfortable at the trot. He longed really nicely, but I’ve almost grown to expect this out of him. I asked him for just a bit of canter on the longe, mostly to practice gait changes and begin the long road to getting him balanced. His canter was noticeably smoother with the new shoes. Hooray!

Under saddle, Wizard felt very nice, much more responsive than the last ride. We rode along the walls and in the center of the ring, walking a few patterns. The one bad thing I noticed was that Wizard did not stand like a stone when I got in the saddle. I’ll need to do a little work with him to make sure he keeps his good manners. He stood nicely at the end of the ride for 30 seconds at the far end of the ring. His head raised and his ears fluttered when the wind whipped but he stood his ground.

Product Rave: Thermatex Rugs! In the words of Ferris Bueller: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” They are quite pricey, but keep an eye out for bargains, especially this time of year. I got mine on Tack of the Day. They run large, so order one size down for a form-fitting rug or order your horse’s usual blanket size for a roomy-fitting rug. The wool-acrylic blend keeps the material feeling luxurious and it’s supposedly washable. The 78″ size fit both stocky, short JR and lanky, leggy Wizard really well for a loose but good fit. It quickly wicked all moisture away from their coats and left the hair soft, not crusty. I bought the black rug and it looks very dapper on both horses. The rug conforms to the shape of the horse and is very well-made at the withers so there is no pulling or pinching whatsoever on either a round horse or a horse with high withers. And it does not weigh a ton- it’s a nice weight.

PS- I was contacted by a reader who is selling a Thermatex cooler (size 81″) for about half the retail price. Blue with red piping. Please let me know if you’re interested and I can pass the info along :^)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    February 26, 2009 11:10 am

    Hey Sarah,

    You may have mentioned it before, but so far have you noticed any temperament/athletic ability differences (or similarities) between Wizard (as a TB) or JR (as a QH). I’m hoping to buy my own horse within the next couple of years. I would like to get an OTTB but I’m not sure if I will have the time and knowledge to make an OTTB into what I’m looking for. So I’d be interested into getting any insight into other breeds.


  2. February 26, 2009 12:05 pm

    Thank you for the inquiry, Kate! Wizard and JR generally fall into the typical breed stereotypes for the most part:

    JR is laid-back and a very easy keeper. He requires more leg and is far less fussy about his mouth. He is versatile and I could see him being competitive at a variety of disciplines at a lower level. He is easy to groom and handle. He has a very good appetite. He does not spook, but he’s alert and will look at new things, mostly because of his greenness.

    Wizard is quiet for a Thoroughbred, but he still has his nervous moments. If he is anxious under saddle, he chews on the bit. He requires very subtle riding- I do far less to get what I want. He would be more limited in his disciplines, in my opinion. He is sensitive but very sweet on the ground. His appetite is not as hearty as JR but he is a pretty good eater. He is not spooky at all.

    Riding JR is more physical and riding Wizard is more mental. I really need to get inside Wizard’s head to get him relaxed and comfortable. I love Thoroughbreds and I would consider a TB for my next horse some day. But they are not for everyone and there are many different types.

    If you are interested in an OTTB, I think it would be a great idea to do a lot of reading and studying. There’s a great book called Beyond the Track by Anna Morgan Ford, which covers a lot of the retraining process. Also, see if you can go to your local racetrack during the morning and afternoon for racing so you can see what they are used to when they are on the track.

    Go to local horse events, like dressage shows, eventing, and hunter/jumper shows. Look for the horses you like best. Are they Thoroughbreds? Do you like they way they act in the arena and under saddle? Do you like how they act on the ground?

    If you follow horse racing, you’ll learn what pedigrees you like best in a horse, as well as what body type you like. Some TBs are long and lanky and some are sturdy and practically look like Quarter Horses. And an Appendix QH is always an option: best of both worlds! My horse Alibar was an Appendix of sorts (QH, TB, and Appaloosa) and he had the speed and sensitivity of a TB with the mind of a QH and the attitude of an Appaloosa ;^)

    Best of luck!

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