Archive for April, 2008

Mea Culpa

I have no ‘new’ pictures of woody, and I feel the need to lead with pictures (they’re like the crack of the horse world).  So here, for your viewing pleasure, is a series of pictures of me, in New Orleans, on a mechanical bull.


I first must apologize for my slackerness as of late.  I will blame the bird flu, and the weather, and going to Rolex.  But I am back and typing away.

So, I don’t really have any new pictures to share, but I do have updates.  Although our weather has been SHITE the past few weeks (Seriously, like 50 and rainy almost every other day) I have been spending some quality time with Sir Woods.  In this quality time We (And that is the royal We, meaning Allie and I) have come to the conclusion that Woody is in dire need of getting his teeth done.  Luckily, my vet (who is a super star) is also an AMAZING Chiropractor.  She did all of Ozzy’s work, and she never ceases to amaze me.

Anyway, Woody’s temper tantrums escalated to a point last week that pretty much solidified my impression that they were a reaction to something and not the means to an end.  While we don’t have video, Sue was there to witness said escalation and said we were both pretty impressive.  That was good to hear on my end, because it had been QUITE some time since I had to remember what to do when a horse rears up twice in a row and lands like a rubber ball.  That was never Ozzy’s bag… he was more the “I’m going to turn around and put your boot in your mouth and show you that I COULD bite your toes off… so how about you don’t jab me with that spur again, OK?” type.

So, as I said, it actually came back to me quite nicely: lean forward, don’t pull, and kick ’em forward.  All of which I did, and all of which Woody responded to appropriately.  He moved forward, I rode him through it, and we ended on a good note. 

I noticed he only started the head tossing and turning and teeth gnashing when he had the bridle on.  Otherwise, he pretty much just stands there with his cute on, still as a pea (where that comparison came from I’ve no idea.  I mean I guess as vegetables go, peas COULD be pretty active.  I mean they’re round, so they could roll.  And frozen ones thrown on the floor could really cause some damage.  Like little green delicious ball bearings.  I wonder if ninjas use frozen peas?)

I digress…  All which lends itself to the theory that it’s something physical (teeth).  Like I said, he’s a sweet good boy who doesn’t seem to have an oppositional bone in his body, but who will let you know if something ain’t quite right.

The next day I took these videos.  Note the OTTB running amok!  He’s CRAAAAAZZEEEEEEE.

*Disclaimer* as my dear friend Lisa Bell pointed out to me today when she called me an left me a voice mail message saying “Lisa, you’re such a idiot, maybe he’s flipping his head because you’re cutting it in half with a snaffle” I realized I posted the videos taken before I lowered the bit… cause I’m good like that.  I did lower the bit and once it WASN’T giving him a transorbital lobotomy the results were pretty much the same 🙂

So my vet is coming out tomorrow to take care of his teeth and give him a once over.  Then I’ll have a place to start.  I rode him yesterday, and he was OK, there were no displays while I was riding him, but I longed him first (windy+45 degrees+not being ridden for a week = longe.  I’m learning to get over my hate for the longe) and there were some fireworks.  Some behavioral, and some that seemed sticky.  I only rode him for about 5 minutes.  We trotted and bent and called it quits before he had a chance to make a mistake. 

I want to keep working him, but I don’t want to fight with him until I find out if he’s physically OK.  It just doesn’t make any sense to ask him a questions when the only answer he can provide is “I Hurt.”  That’s not a good answer for anyone.  Horses that don’t feel good aren’t being jerks, or recalcitrant, or stubborn, they’re communicating the only way they have, and to punish them for “talking” to us is a pretty crappy way to start a relationship if you ask me.  There is a functionality to behavior/symptoms, it’s our jobs to figure out what purpose they serve.

Now, once Christy comes out, gives me the low down, fixes his teeth and gives me the go ahead that he’s physically OK to ride?  Those feet come up off the ground one more time and Woody’s going find out everything my last OTTB had to teach me 😉  Specifically, I’m a lover, but I’ll not waste a second in teaching what is and is not an acceptable response to being asked to do something that falls lower than “hang out with my bitches” on his hierarchy of needs pyramid. 

I’ll try to post on Friday, but it’s a busy weekend!  On a Non-horsey note I graduate this weekend.  After my daddy died 4 years ago, I went back to school and have just finished the 3rd and final year of my graduate program.  From Media Director in the advertising industry to School Psychologist in four short years… OK, they seem to have been the longest 4 years of my life.  I lost daddy, I lost Ozzy, but I’m here and doing my best to kick some ass.  So on Saturday, have a drink and hope I don’t take a digger walking across the stage.


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Word to Betsy…

Obligatory cute picture to start off the post:

And a preface.  While this blog is mostly about Woody, I will occasionally talk about Ozzy and that grieving process.  It’s kind of part and parcel for me.  I hope y’all will oblige.

So today, despite me being patient zero for the first bird to human transmission of the avian flu, I went out to the barn.  Matt was in town so I had someone to video… how could I not. 

First, let me say that I don’t know if retraining an OTTB is an emotional roller coaster for everyone ( I would imagine it’s not) or if it’s just particularly taxing for me because Ozzy was the antithesis of an OTTB in many ways, and I still miss him at a level that takes my breath away. 

Even as a 2 year old, there was NEVER anything to take into consideration but the task at hand.  Teaching him to bend, all you had to focus on was, well… teaching him to bend.  You didn’t need to worry about herd anxiety, the elements, intrinsic insecurity; all you had to do was tell him what you wanted him to do.  It was like you were in a vacuum.  Nothing else mattered.

This is NOT how Woody rolls, and I would imagine it’s not how the majority of horses roll, much less JUST turned 4 OTTBs.  That is not to say that that level of sensitivity is a bad thing, I dare say for an event horse a certain amount of it is a fantastic thing.  I always joked that Ozzy lacked a certain sense of urgency (please excuse the outfit, it was the first Rec event after 6 years off, and I hadn’t found the time to correct my youthful enthusiasm…)that at times would have been useful.  I’m just saying it’s different, and I’m still pretty tweaked over losing Ozzy so I am hyper-vigilant to these differences. The differences are good though, anything else and It’d be too easy to compare a new horse to Oz, and that wouldn’t be fair to anyone.

So anyway, today Matt headed out with my hunched over groaning self to pluck Sir Woods out of the field.  His girlfriend Bunny was vexed, but Woody came willingly per usual.  After a VIGOROUS grooming session we tacked up and headed up to the Ring of Solitude.

We started with a Longe… of course.

Guess who he’s hollering to here… really, take a guess

Why am I making this face… I’m going to guess because my stomach felt like an alien was going to pounce out of it at any second.  Woody looks like he’s having sympathy pains.

And of course the video

Then, I climbed aboard (from the ground, should that deserve a mention).  I will admit, that I was not 100% today, and I had some reservation about that.  But as I said, I had someone to document our ride so a girl’s got to do what girl’s got to do for the sake of a blog.

He looks perfectly innocent here, and for the most part he is.  Again, I look like I just sucked on a lemon… cause I’m hot like that.

Not only do we get someone to video the ride, but the commentary is free. 

Apparently when I do stuff on purpose I get it wrong the first time 😉  And yes, when I get stuff wrong I like to LOOK DOWN to confirm just how wrong I am… because I’m 12.

Now, here is Woody showing his ass.  But really, he’s only showing a teeny piece of his ass, cause this is nowhere NEAR the fit he is capable of pitching. 

OTTBs, some are trained.  Some?  Not so much.  Woody likes to switch between his multiple personalities.

And the other side of Sybil?  Mr. I like to stretch way down into contact and move like a rock star.

So that was today.  He had one pretty significant meltdown (which we didn’t get on tape), but after that I had him walking (relatively) quietly on a loose(ish) rein and we ended on a good note. 

I also had a good lesson today.  As I said, I’m not going to lie, I missed Ozzy like hell today.  I missed my solid citizen that I could give Matt lessons on and spoon when I needed it.  However, once I looked through the grief I was able to see all of the fantastic things that Woody will be able to teach me.  It takes a release on my part; requires me to let go of what was, and while that’s hard, it’s also healthy.  It makes me focus on the good things about Ozzy and not just on what I’ve lost.  I just hope that I’m able to do as well by Woody as Ozzy did by me. 

P.S. Despite what the videos show, we did travel to the right today… I promise.




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After Woody’s display during our last ride I decided he would be a bit more teachable if I longed him the next few times we worked. As I said earlier, he wasn’t nasty or even REALLY dangerous, but he did get a little spastic.  I like to assign tv/movie characters to the animals in my life.  For example, my cat Kiwi is Stewie from The family Guy.  We’re still trying to figure out who EXACTLY Woody is, but Allie made the fantastic suggestion that he his Farmer Ted from Sixteen Candles… right down to the red hair (But MUCH better looking).

I was out of town this past weekend, and as I type this I am laying in bed with the flu, so Woody has been worked once since Thursday, but he was a good boy.  I longed him on Monday, and minus one explosion (to which I was completely incapable of assigning a cause), he was lovely.  I didn’t get any video from that day but I did get some from our first longing session.

I was really looking forward to getting on him today, but since I have what appears to be The Bird Flu that won’t be happening.  I think I should probably have all of my faculties about me when I throw a leg over him next time.  Seeing as I almost passed out when I put my dogs outside a minute ago, that is obviously not the case.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be better.

Oh, and Woody was SO filthy on Monday I had to actually give him a quick bath before I worked him.  His ability to acquire mud over every square inch of his body is the stuff of legend.

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And Woodford thinks it can be, at times, a little overwhelming.

So yesterday I decided it was time to take Woods out of his little paddock while I was riding him.  We warmed up in the paddock first, and he was a super star.  I actually saw an outside corner of an inside eye, and at one point after about 10 minutes of bending and changing direction (mostly at the walk) Woody was actually trotting around with his nose on the ground and stretching into the bit.  He was relaxed and forward and willing.

Then I went on our little journey.  As you can see in the picture above there’s a lot to see up there on the hill where the ring is, and Woody wasn’t ready to take it all in, or at least that was my theory yesterday.  My friend Patricia has an OTTB who has a little bit of a anxiety attack when he is taken somewhere new if there’s too much scenery to absorb.  So they try to park their trailer at the bottom of a hill or some place without a view.  My hypothesis was based on n=1, but it was a good a place to start as any.

So the trip up to the ring was short lived, if I had stayed up there very longer my other hypothesis tells me I would have been flung over hill and dale and landed over yonder where Woody is staring in the above picture. 

So through some head flipping and prancing and hopping and jigging we headed back towards the paddock and spent the next 30 minutes walking in ever expanding circles getting farther from the paddock and closer to the ring.  Woods was good, alternating between very relaxed and then (seemingly) suddenly switching to “gottagogottagogottago.”  But we ended on a good note and after we had untacked went on a little walk up to the ring. 

Woody checked out the old XC fence…

So today I decided we were going to start off in the paddock (where he was fantastic) and instead of heading straight up to the ring we’d do our slightly larger circle/wandering with a purpose up in the general direction.  He was a little tense at first (as displayed by the jigging and cantering in place) but eventually calmed down… only to randomly go Wheeeeeeeeeee! again.  Depending on the display I’d either send him forward (pre-explosion wheee) or sit a little deeper and ask him to bend a little and get his brain working (tiny jig).

This worked until we got up into the ring.  Once we got up in the ring I learned something about Woody.  He can pitch a fit like I haven’t seen in quite some time.  He would walk along la la la, and then realize he’d been away from his girlfriends for too long and would express his loneliness with a rather impressive and continuous cycle of crow hops, leaps forwards and head flips.  There was nothing mean or nefarious about the fits, they were just Woody telling me how he felt about what was going on, and that he’d rather be somewhere else… but nefarious or not, Woody needs to learn that certain channels of communications are not OK.

So I calmed him down from his first tango, made him walk and take a deep breath and then I got off him and hand walked him around the ring.  It was then I realized Woody was not overwhelmed, he would just rather be close to his ladies.  So, since he was trying to eat grass and resting his head on my chest, I climbed back aboard – from the ground; he didn’t move an inch and was nice and quiet… for about 2 minutes. 

I was TWO seconds from calling it a day and was even walking around on the buckle, bending and all chillaxing and then WHEEEEE!  Another manifestation. 

He’s not rude in that he does give me warning so there’s that, which is nice. 

This one was even MORE impressive than the first and for a minute I thought “I’m significantly older that the last time I took a digger off a TB.”  But I got him settled down again, and we once again were at least moving forward in something that is generally considered one of the traditional gaits (mostly walk)

So then, I got off again and longed his ass for a good 20 minutes.  Granted I wasn’t prepared to longe, so my circle was only as long as my reins (I unattached the rein from the outside bit), but I wanted him to work and I wanted to be the one making him do so.

Now, chances are Woody wouldn’t have escalated to a point where I would have gotten hurt, but that wasn’t really even the point by this time.  He was throwing a fit, and it was obvious that he was not as willing to do so when I was on the ground, and therefore more teachable.  Meanwhile, it’s pretty important that I do let him know, that despite my goofy and laid back demeanor, I am indeed the boss of him.

So my plan is to teach Woody just that, AND to teach him that the ring, although out of eyesight from the Heathers, is a place to work and to listen and that’s that.  I’m going to start doing this by longing him for our next couple of workouts.  That way he gets up in the ring, starts to acclimate, I get to boss him around, all the while not having to don safety goggles and bubble wrap to do so.

So today was a good day, we were both challenged and we both learned something… next time we’ll go from there. 

We ended on a good note with him trotting on a nice circle around me with his nose on the ground.  After this I took him back to the barn and gave him a good curry, his dinner, and turned him back out.

Have I mentioned that Woodford is a filthy filthy horse?  I groom that horse for at least 20-30 minutes everyday before I ride because he rolls with such enthusiasm.

Here’s Woody after our ride and another 10 minute grooming before I turned him out.


As you can see in this video, he wasted no time

Hopefully we’ll have good weather again tomorrow (goes out like a lamb, my ass) and I”ll get some video of me longing Sir Woods.

This is a nice thing to see at the end of ANY day

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