Thursday, January 3, 2013

Enjoying My Horses

Back on December 22nd I started riding my horses again. Well I ride one, Shelby, who I work with, has been riding Melody which is a great help to me and it's been fun for the both of us to ride together.

Melody has been going beautifully. When I got her I was a dumb fifteen year old and she was a wild four year old off the track. Don't get me wrong though it worked out in the end and I would not change anything. She was insane when I got her, when we tried her out she was dead quiet, thinking back I wonder if they didn't give her something. She wouldn't walk, she only jigged. She did not know how to trot and when she did she flailed around the ring with her head straight up in the air going as fast as she could in a basic immitation of a trot. Her best gait was the canter but even that wasn't pretty. Needless to say she was a wreck and one with an attitude problem. Trying to teach her anything was at most times a battle and she was explosive, I can't remember the number of times she flat out bolted with me and we went bucking across the ring.

Why did I keep her you ask? Well I admit it, I'm a sucker for a pretty face.

She did have a few more redeeming qualities though, she could JUMP. Sadly by the time we started getting through to her and making progress and getting to the bigger fences she went lame. This horse was a blast to jump though we did have issues, once again with her attitude. She would see a fence and takeover, any direction from me was usually ignored or if I got really annoying she'd give me the middle finger and slam on the brakes and crash through the fence. But I get away from myself, I was expounding on her good qualities! She is, as goofy as she is, a solid citizen. From day one you could go out for a hack anywhere and she would not spook at anything, she loved going out on trail rides or for hacks down the road. Honestly as tough as she was she taught me a hell of a lot more than any schoolmaster I could have gotten, it was and still is an adventure with this horse!
Last winter I took lessons with a dressage trainer who starts horses from the ground up, for months all she did was in hand work with Melody teaching her to carry herself and use her body in ways she didn't know she could. The result, she can walk! And she can trot! Like a normal horse! And her canter is coming along! Who knew?
(Melody Before)
(Melody Now)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

F Sixteen - The Racing Days

Pilot I got fresh off the racetrack, up to the day he shipped out of Belmont to the farm he was in active race training though he hadn't raced for about 2 months by the time I got him.

Unlike Melody, Pilot was quite successful on the track. In 12 starts he finished first 3 times and second 3 times with earnings totaling $118,786.

Like Melody his racing name, F Sixteen, was most likely inspired from his pedigree, he is a bay gelding sired by Unbridled Jet out of Boldly Appealing by Valid Appeal.

His dam Boldly Appealing while unraced has produced some nice foals. She is the dam of 9 foals and 7 foals to race. All but two of her foals of racing age have broken their maiden's, of those 4 are multiple winners. Pilot is her second highest earning foal behind Bythebeautifulsea who has earned upwards of $300,000 and is multiple stakes placed. Only one of her foals is currently running, Outburst, a 3yo filly by Flashy Bull who has yet to break her maiden in 10 starts but has earned $37,123 on the way, that is the kind of maiden you want! Boldly Appealing also has a yearling (will be a 2yo in two days) colt by Colonel John who I am excited to follow and is reported to be in foal to Desert Party for 2013.

Pilot first debuted June 22nd, 2005 as a three year old. He had very nice works going into the race and was bet down as the heavy favorite in a New Jersey bred maiden special weight at Monmouth Park going six furlongs. He broke slow and settled in the back of the pack in the early stages he made a move from 10th to 5th at the half mile pole, was third by 4 lengths coming into the stretch and finished strongly down the lane to finish 2nd of 11 beaten only 1 1/4 lengths. About a month later he started again for the same condition and thanks to his performance in his debut was once again the heavy favorite. The chart reads 'F Sixteen was slow into stride, never factored and bled'. This was a chronic problem for him and if I remember correctly was why he debuted so late. Luckily for him his connections decided to give him time and let him heal. When there is a bleeder comment in the racing chart you know the horse must have bled badly for it to have been visibly noticed. Pilot shipped to our farm to rest after he bled and he wouldn't race again for another year.

His next start would be the race which I saw, they entered him longer this time, a mile versus 6 furlongs, where he finished a solid fourth in June of 2006. Early in August he ran a similar race to once again finish 4th of 10. Later that month he showed improvement, finishing 2nd of 7 behind a runaway Gorgie G who went on to win by 9 3/4 lengths. September 8th he came even closer, this time beaten a head after stumbling at the start and battling on the rail which is a tough spot for horses to prevail because they tend to get intimidated with the rail on one side and a horse on the other.

September 24th he was once again the heavy favorite and it was finally his turn. He broke well and settled closer to the pace than was his custom. He advanced to contention on the final turn and drew clear at the quarter pole and ran off to win by 8 3/4 lengths under a handride by Eddie Castro. After breaking his maiden he made his next start at the Meadowlands in a state bred first level allowance. In almost the exact same fashion as his maiden breaking win he made a sweeping move around the turn and was clear coming out of the turn. This time though he was challenged down the stretch by two different horses but once again prevailed by three quarters of a length. Unfortunately after this race the New Jersey meet ended so they experimented with a race up in New York at Aqueduct, a 2 mile Allowance which is practically unheard of in the states. Despite this it attracted an 8 horse field though you could tell by the running of the race that most of the horses and the riders were not used to running this type of distance, the fractions set were a bit to fast early and all the front runners but one were eased down the stretch, Pilot was one of those front runners.

Pilot was sent back to the farm again for the winter and then was brought back for what would be his final season on the racetrack. In his 5yo debut, a 2 other than allowance on the dirt, he showed great heart when he had to angle out 5 wide coming into the stretch and then was knocked into multiple times by Four Shore who kept knocking his hind end out from under him. His rider then checked him pulled him outside the horse who was bothering him and then closed steadily to just get up for the win. They tried him next out at Belmont where he was outrun from the start. His final start ended up being a Jerseybred stake where he finished 5th of 9 in the Lincroft Handicap. On paper it did not look like that terrible of a run, he came from out of it to finish 5th but his connections saw something they did not like and decided to let him try out a different career.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Meet Pilot

Pretty much all of 2007 Melody was just not quite right. She would go on and off lame every once in a while which mostly we attributed to her feet, they are terrible! Finally in August she started going off after jumping so we decided to get x-rays to find out what exactly was going on. What we found was she was getting arthritic in both front fetlocks along with an old sesamoid injury that had recently been exacerbated and re-injured. Our vet who is one of the best lameness vets in the country suggested injecting her joints with hyaluronic acid which is a much better option than hydrocortisone in my opinion which is known to be a great help for a time for inflammation but with use causes cartilage damage which gets you right back where you started! He also suggested stall rest for 6 weeks followed by handwalking and then gradually getting back to turnout. We did as prescribed, she ended up without a rider for about a year. He said best case scenario she would get better but looking at the damage he cautioned she might not be anything more than a trail horse.

Needless to say I was heart broken, as difficult as this horse had been she was FINALLY getting it together. We were schooling upwards of 3' at home and she was going beautifully! So like the stupid kid I was back then I decided I needed a new horse!

Enter Pilot, jockey club registered F Sixteen. Get it?! Clever nickname right? ;)

I first met Pilot when he was a three year old in November of 2005. He and a few other horses shipped into the farm for lay-up over the winter. He was a holy terror, he was a gelding, than goodness, and had (and still does) a MASSIVE oral fixation. He always had to try to bite you or chew on something, it wasn't malicious, he thought he was being funny. At times we called him alligator when he was being particularly obnoxious. He left in March the following year to get back to the races.

In June his owners invited the bosses and myself to one of his races at Monmouth Park. Ironically this ended up being my first live racing experience, I'd seen hundreds of races on the television but had never been to a live race. He ended up finished a good 4th of 7 beaten 8 1/4 lengths. Minutes before the race the skies opened up and what had been a fast track turned into a sloppy mess. He broke awkwardly and trailed the field but made a nice move and came in fourth. While disappointed his owners were pleased with the performance considering the start and he hadn't run in almost a year.

We met again in November that year when he was sent back to the farm for a rest. In his time at the farm while he was in race training I only ever rode him once, the day before he left in March of 2007. I remember him as being a beautiful mover albeit a bit lazy. Everyone at the farm really liked him, he was beautifully put together and had such a great way of moving, he was also very supple and flexible which impressed everyone because quite a few racehorses are stiff, as a baby someone started him right.

Late in 2007 as I was contemplating the idea of another horse his owner's contacted my bosses telling them that they were going to retire F Sixteen as he'd had two poor performances and their trainer believed he would need to be dropped in the claiming ranks. His owner's did not run any of their horses run for tags, if they wouldn't be competitive in allowances they would retire and rehome them. His owner's are very prominent on the OTTB front and they've had great success rehoming their horses because each horse they purchase is of very high quality. As we got more of their horses in for lay-up we noticed they were commonly of the same conformation and build. Honestly each of their horses are drop-dead gorgeous.

My boss mentioned that F Sixteen was looking for a home and I jumped on the oppurtunity. If I'm being completely honest this was a dumb move, as hot as Melody was Pilot is a VERY quirky horse and while now after 5 years of owning him I'm enjoying him, for years he was pure hell to ride. Violently spooky, spins, massive bucks, leaps, bolting, propping, you could NOT trail ride him, he would rather lay down than cross a stream, the sound of the grass blowing, birds flying by, squirrel of death equaled instant horror, falling down while spooking because he wasn't paying attention to where his feet were, anything you can think of he did minus one, he has never reared which I am thankful for, I hate rearers! Many, many times I have seriously considered contacting his owners to get him rehomed (they give their horse's away but you have to sign a contract stating that if you no longer want/can care for the horse you will notify them so they can either approve a new home or take him back). Every time I was entertaining these thoughts he would do something that would change my mind, this horse is so athletic he has so much ability, we just had to dig through 5 years of horrible and now we are tapping into the potential.

So, with all that said, meet Pilot!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mintano - The Racing Days

When I got Melody, she was off the track for almost 8 months, her last race being January 3rd, 2003.

Her racing career was nothing to write home about, in 13 starts she never broke her maiden. The best result she managed was 3rd.

Her racing name was Mintano, a grey/roan filly by Rubiano out of Mintullah by the Minstrel. She had a pretty pedigree, the starts just didn't align for her.

Her dam, Mintullah was a two time winner who placed in the Foxy J. G. Stakes at Philadelphia Park in 1987. She was retired to be a broodmare in 1988. She had a total of 13 foals. I'm not sure if she is still alive, as of this year she would be 27 years old. There is no death report filed on her but that isn't always an exact science though. Of her 13 foals she had one superstar in Nature Healer who would be a million dollar earner over in Japan. An interesting fact also is that her first foal Plymouth Gentleman was turned over to steeplechasing after a flat race career that included three wins.

Melody debuted April 13th, 2002 in a $12,500 Maiden Claimer at Philadelphia Park. She finished 7th of 9 with the comment of 'outrun and failed to threaten. In her next start, this time for $7,500 she finished 4th/7 with the comment of 'failed to menace'. In this start she was claimed by JON Stable who seriously bumped her up in class putting her in a Maiden Special next out. She was once again 'no threat' and the trend continued. They tried her on the turf to no avail. She did manage a few fourth place finishes and was once third. After trying her once as a four-year-old she was retired to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and you know the result of that.

Melody and I after about a week together.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Meet Melody

Every year of my life that I could remember I wanted my own horse. My first ride on one occured when I was six but even before that all I'd ever thought was about horses. My earliest memories are of my breyer horse Clyde. Clyde was the first of many well loved fake equines in my young life.

By the age of 12 I was taking regular lessons. I had found a lesson barn that soon became my home away from home. I worked my little butt off to pay for lessons and extra rides on a pony named Toby. The laziest pony in the world, to this day I believe he is the reason why I love forward horses. Years later I ended up working with the ultimate in forward horses, racehorses!

Toby and I showed together for two years and though he was lazy, Toby was awesome. I have a whole wall in my room slung with ribbons from those days. I loved that little pony and the naughty things he did to me, namely dumping me in a creek in November when we went for a bareback trail ride. Thinking of Toby also brings to mind the day we were at a horse show for 6 hours before it was time to warm up and he REFUSED to go over the green monster otherwise known as the 2' tall roll-top.

After Toby was an even naughtier pony named Hope, or as I affectionately called her, Hopey Opey. Hope was an arab cross, she was just under horse size at 14.3hh. Unlike Toby she was a very forward mover. She was a little brat, she never bucked, she never reared or spooked, she was a stopper. For a year I showed her and we did very well but it was a struggle with her. I did hunter classes with Toby, Hope had no hope (ha, pun!) of ever being a hunter so we ended up doing equitation together. The problem with equitation being that most times show fences could not be schooled before showing. This was a problem with Hope seeing as she insisted on pretty much refusing every fence once before going over. I don't know how we did as well as we did with that being her mode of operation! Hope and I tore down many fences together...there was the white lattice fence that my butt broke, and the black fence that she tore down when she had second thoughts midway over the fence. One thing was for certain though I learned not to anticipate fences!

After a year of showing Hope, I was fifteen years old and at that point I was desperate for a horse. A couple of my friends had gotten their own horses by this time and I was having serious horse envy! So, in January of 2003 my parents finally relented and told me if I raised $1,000 they would buy me a horse. I can still remember how I was incadescent with joy the day they finally gave in to my disease. I told my trainer the news and she was ready to go whenever I had raised the money and was ready to look.

By about May I had the money saved up and my trainer and I started the search for my horse. I remember pouring over the internet and reading the Horse n Tack classifieds along with the Equine Marketeer. We were searching for something young, green (I know, green you say? What were we thinking?!) and cheap.

By the end of August we had five horses line up that we wanted to look at. One was at a nearby farm that my trainer and some of her clients had purchased from before. Three other horses were in South Jersey. All three were ex-racehorses with 60 days of retraining and were ready to go on to new careers. The last horse was in western Pennsylvania.

In the end, we wound up looking at just two of the horses, one was a no and the other was my heart horse. We were supposed to go look at the mare located at the nearby farm but the owners had a very sick horse that they were dealing with and had no time for showing us their sale horse.

Our first trip was out to western Pennsylvania where we met Portia, an ex-driving horse who had competed successfully at Devon that was now being turned into a riding horse. She was a very nice mare, honest and quiet, though she was a bit to quiet for my tastes. Still we were considering her until we found out that the horse was 18 years old. Hindsight is 20/20, make sure you know horses age BEFORE driving 2 hours to see them.

Our next and final trip was down to south Jersey, about 10 minutes from Six Flags to be exact. By the time we were able to get down there, all but one of the horses had been adopted which left Melody, an obsenely pretty four year old grey filly. I promised myself I would be sucked in by a pretty face but seriously who could resist this face?

She was very friendly and snuffled me when I went up to say "hi". Her owner tacked her up and led her out of the barn and we saw that one of her shoes was very loose. We ended up taking her back to the barn and pulled both of her shoes off. Back outside we went and her owner got on to show us what she looked like with a rider. She was very cute and quiet and I climbed aboard to see for myself what she was like. It was instant love, she was quiet but forward and very brave. We did a little bit of walk, trot, canter and went over a few cross-rails. Melody did everything right, she was obviously green but seemed a solid and steady citizen for a girl's first horse. I got off with stars in my eyes and my trainer didn't even need to ask if I liked her.

While I cooled Melody out my trainer called my parents and got permision to write a deposit check. We handed over the check and filled out an adoption application for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation who had ownership of her.

A week later I got t0 the barn via the schoolbus. As I walked into the barn everyone was looking at me expectantly and as we went down the aisle I saw banners on one of the empty stalls and whose head was hanging out?

It was official! I had my own horse, and Melody had a home.