Less is More

I love to follow along with y’all’s blogs.  I see you out there, schooling 6th Level dressage, galloping across cross country courses and jumping things taller than my truck…  But prepare to seethe with jealousy because MY horse?

He’s turning an ear towards me.

I’ve been doing horse ownership the minimalist way — I go in the morning and turn them out, put hay in the pasture and do barn chores.  Then I leave for the whole day until I come back at night and bring them in, get them tucked into their stalls with more hay and a little grain/supplements, and then I’m gone.

Simon copes fairly well with this (though he would prefer to be in his stall 23.75 hours of the day).  Charlie though?  Is loving it.  It struck me that Charlie was acting like a soured, burned-out horse.  Even after digging into his past, I don’t really know what kind of life he had.  Did he go directly to the Amish after flunking out as a race horse?  Worst case scenario, they drove him for those 8 years and then let him starve half to death when he couldn’t hold up to the workload any more.  Then he got taken to auction and bounced around before landing in a soft place with me.

We completed a couple roundpen sessions before I became an absentee horse owner.  It was tough on him!  I asserted myself in a way he didn’t like by controlling his movement.  I did the Equine Body Language equivalent of bootcamp: relentlessly picking on him and then offering, “Hey, if you’ll trust me as your leader, we can take it easy from here on out.” He took me up on it, of course.  Anything to be rid of the pestering!

And then I let him chill out for a week or two.

I’ve been taking him out and occasionally lunging him — lightly.  The difference in him is astounding.  He keeps an ear turned on me at all times, despite the sound of Simon crying in the barn.  He’s so tuned in to my body language — I can get him to lengthen his stride by simply bringing my energy up, or shorten it by facing his shoulder instead of his hip.  He licks and chews.  Slight pressure on the lunge line now has a huge effect, like sending a wiggle to push him out into a wider circle.

I’m tremendously impressed, and I had to take a moment to check myself.  I had been sloppy with my body language, like “Why bother dialing it in if he’s not paying attention anyway?”  It’s like when you babysit your nieces/nephews and they get to the age where they repeat everything you say… you gotta clean up your act, STAT. haha

One hard and fast rule I keep for my training clients is that a workout/training session needs to give more than it takes.  People love to use exercise to punish themselves, and to feel totally annihilated afterwards.  It’s soooo detrimental in the long run!  A lot of times, less really is more.  Quality over quantity, etcetera etcetera.

I’m planning to guide Charlie’s training in the same way, but for now I’m just glad we’re speaking each other’s language a little better!

Friday Five: Prying into the Past

AKA “Internet Stalking My Own Horse”

I’ve been putting on my detective hat to cobble together pieces of Charlie’s past.  I did the same thing to Simon, though that was much, much easier — at the time, I had a subscription to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitor’s Association’s database, iPeds, that showed his pedigree, breeder, and a limited show history.  I also had a subscription to The Walking Horse Report, which had an extensive show record.  I could see where he’d shown, in what class, and what place he got.  Then I could even look up the show photographer’s websites and hunt down pictures of him.

Charlie is significantly more challenging, since he crossed industries, from a race horse to an Amish horse.  The Amish don’t exactly have a big online presence…

Wild Wasabi Standardbred
“Fix ya face, Chuck!”

Standardbred racehorses are freezebranded, which helps tremendously with identifying who they are.  You can look up brands for free online at the US Trotting Association website, and get general information like pedigree, birth date, markings, etc, along with the current owner’s name.  I also had a bit of info from when the Standardbred Retirement Foundation posted him in need of adoption.

I’ve been able to use some of this info to find some nuggets of info!

1. Charlie’s Race Record

I knew from the SRF’s post that Charlie earned $12,427 in his racing career.  This is a pretty paltry amount, considering that Standardbreds often race into their teens.  Other horses needing adoption in the same group as Charlie had earned over $100,000 and some even over $200,000!  This gave me the hunch that he probably had a pretty short racing career.

I got an account on the US Trotting Association website and was able to pay for reports (at the grand total of $0.75 a pop #BigSpender), including Charlie’s racing record:

  • 2006 (2 year old) — 5 starts: 0 1st, 0 2nd, 0 3rd ($1,395 won)
  • 2007 (3 year old) — 17 starts: 2 1st, 1 2nd, 1 3rd ($10,047 won)
  • 2008 (4 year old) — 1 start: 0 1st, 0 2nd, 0 3rd ($669 won)
  • 2009 (5 year old) — 5 starts: 0 1st, 0 2nd, 0 3rd ($316)

So Charlie had a flash of success in his 3 year old year and didn’t place a single time other than that, though he was able to collect some prize money along the way!

His 4 year old year has me curious — why did he only start once?

2. He Won Something!

I was able to find mention of Charlie in a 2006 article that was entirely about another horse.

He won!  He won!  A qualifier, but that’s something!

Obviously, the author chose the wrong horse to highlight!  Actually, Lemon Drop, the REAL subject of the article, went on to win $148,505… so maybe they were right not to focus on Charles…

3. Last Recorded Owner

On the USTA’s free tattoo search, you can find the name of the last recorded owner.  Charlie was owned by someone named William Moore from Ontario, and the transfer was effective as of 2009.

A quick search for didn’t produce much for the name, except that he probably went by Bert Moore.  A search for that name brought up an article from 2016 about his son, titled “Moore Makes Lemonade out of Lemons.”  It contains a particularly interesting line:

Just about everybody in the business has dad’s number on their Rolodex.  When you don’t want your horse anymore, and can’t sell it, you call Bert Moore.

Hmmm… makes me wonder if I’ve got a lemonade-resistant lemon in my barn!

4. The Canadian Connection

Charlie did all of his racing in Canada, despite being born in Kentucky.  I found a 2006 stallion directory for the Ontario Sires Stakes, which is an incentive program to encourage people to breed, buy, and race in Ontario.

Charlie’s sire, Angus Hall, was not only a nominated sire, he seemed to be one of the big names in the trotters!

Ranking sires by their babies’ earnings, he was 2nd place Leading Sire in both the 2 year old colt and filly trot, and 1st place Leading Sire in both 3 year old colt and filly trot.

It looks like his stud fee for 2006 was $15,000!

Also included in the summary were sales results of 2005 yearlings.  A certain young Wild Wasabi was listed as selling for $9,000 in the Forest City sale.  This is fairly low for an Angus Hall yearling, according to these results.  Some sold upwards of $90,000, with one selling for $100,000!  There were many in the $30,000-70,000 range, and probably about a third of them sold for under $10,000.

5. He’s a True Middle Child

Charlie’s dam, China Lady, had 8 foals; one every year from 1998 to 2006.  Born in 2004, Charlie was near the middle/end of the pack.  Interestingly, only the 2003, 2004, and 2005 babies have race records, and they’re all sired by different sires.

  • 2003: Last Samurai (by Self Possessed) earned $2,064 and had a race record of 2.06.3 (I think this is their time for a mile).
  • 2004: Wild Wasabi (by Angus Hall) earned $12,427 and had a race record of 2:03.4.
  • 2005: Kimonover Here (by Striking Sahbra) earned $69,834 and had a race record of 2.00.3.

So of the 3 racing siblings, Charlie is right smack-dab in the middle in terms of speed and earnings.

Charlie last raced in Canada in 2009, and found himself at auction in Pennsylvania in 2017, where SRF (and I) were able to get to him.  I’m not sure how long it took him to get to the Amish after his racing career, but I’m guessing he’s been there for quite some time!

Let me know if you’ve ever gone all Internet Stalker and found any good info on your own horse!

Still Kickin’

I spent all of last week — literally, the ENTIRETY of the week — down and out with a sinus infection.  It’s been years since I had a legit, multi-day sickness (not since the terrible Christmas Flu of 2014)… so I was pretty unhappy.

“You can rub my belly and then we can take a nap together and then you can pet me and then you can give me some treats while you hold me like a baby!”

Monty was thrilled with what he interpreted as my recent decision to become a Stay-At-Home Dog Mom.

For better or worse, I was still doing barn chores while sneezy and snotty and gross.  The horses’ lives were semi-feral.  I threw them out in the pasture with some hay in the morning, and brought them in with more hay in the evening.  If it wasn’t for the leather halters and heavy stable blankets, you might mistake them for mustangs!

Simon’s Status

My favorite red horse has had a pretty easy time of it lately.  I haven’t been working him much besides going on a walk with him through the fields.

Before that halter got absolutely annihilated by mud.

I experimented with cutting his Previcox.  The chiropractor asked me how he did without it, and I didn’t know — he’d never gone without it since moving to my parents’ farm.  Previously, he’d been mostly stalled with limited turn-out and would immediately get sore and achy.  But he’s more fit now, and has much more turn-out time to keep his joints warmed up.

I stopped giving it to him for about a week.  He stayed moving well, but I noticed he seemed to be a little more quick to stand hipshot when he was resting.  Then on Saturday, I came in to the barn to see him standing with his butt on the partial wall at the front of his stall — definitely trying to relieve some soreness by sitting on something!  So I started him back on it, and he’s already much improved.

Sorry for making you an experiment, Simon, but at least now I know!

Charlie Check-In

My main focus with Charlie is still to get over the buddy sour bug that seems to have firmly bitten him.  We didn’t work on it a whole lot while I was ill, but we progressed a little bit.

He stood cross-tied in the barn aisle while Simon was still out in the pasture.  This has previously been dramatic because I let him chill out there on his own, without paying attention to him.  This is neglectful and cruel, in Charlie’s book.  He will scream, poop, pee, and generally fuss and carry on while I clean stalls.

I am very, VERY strict when it comes to my horse’s ground manners.  In my book, any time I’m working with them translates to them being on the clock — they get a lot of down time in their lives, but if I’m handling them, they better be damn near angelic!  That means their focus needs to be on me, with ZERO screaming for their buddy and ZERO stepping into my space.

Charlie has made good progress in this regard!  When I was interacting with him while he was cross-tied (mostly currying off the 3 inches of mud he’d painstakingly applied to his ENTIRE BODY), he stayed calm and focused.  There was no screaming, no dancing, and no craning his neck to see where Simon was and stepping into my space in the process.

He’s to the point where he needs less reprimanding for messing up, which means he gets more praise for doing the right thing.  This makes the whole interaction much more pleasant for everyone and a happy little cycle of good behavior and praise is produced.

Charlie got his first taste of roundpen work at the end of last week.  I’m sure he’s never had much natural horsemanship-type stuff done with him.  I don’t practice much of it, myself, but I do insist that my horses read my body language and tune in to me as their leader, which is essentially what roundpen work is all about.  The tricky part is that I don’t actually HAVE a roundpen… but I do have a ring-shaped paddock.  So that’s what we used, and it worked just fine.

Charlie took a long time to wear down!  Not physically — that part was pretty quick. haha  But mentally, he wanted to check out and not pay attention to me, or to take control of our movement.  I just stayed calm and kept driving him whatever direction I wanted him to go.  He had to be pushed to the point of a little hissy fit, when he was basically like, “FINE you can be the boss if it means you’ll stop harassing me!!”  Yes, Charlie, that’s exactly what it means.  He’s been much more tuned-in to me since then, and I’m hoping it’s a building block of getting him to accept me as the leader and thus be less insecure.

When he’s anxious, he bites his tongue. Such a picturesque steed…

So that’s the situation around here!  I hope you all are staying healthy and well!