Gemma the Riding Horse

Gemma’s now got 4, count em FOUR, post-track rides under her girth, so I guess you could say things are getting pret-ty serious.

Looking legit

Just kidding, we’re still walking and trotting and learning about circles.

She is, however, a very good girl. Truth be told, she’s a lot different than I expected. I thought she would be a bit hot and quick and tense… which, ya know, is fairly standard for most horses off the track, especially sensitive mares. But she is not hot, nor is she quick, and not nearly as tense as I expected. If anything, she’s got a tendency to be slightly nappy and her preferred gait is walk. But she’s also definitely sensitive too. It’s an interesting mix.

Her first real ride (real meaning doing more than 3 mins of walking) was last Thursday, and we walked and trotted for about 15 minutes. I set up my Pivo so I could get an idea of what she looked like under saddle.

CUTE. The answer is CUTE.

We started out at the walk again, doing some walk/halt transitions, moving left and right off my leg, making some circles and figure 8’s of varying sizes. Then I asked her to trot, and… crickets. Asked again and she trotted a few steps then walked again the second I took my leg off. Interesting. Not what I expected. We trotted again, with me immediately asking her to be a bit more bright and forward, and then we were cooking. I didn’t do a whole lot, just asked her to trot forward and straight. It was a little bit like riding around with the parking brake on… if I so much as thought whoa, she stopped. Which, I appreciate that she isn’t a lunatic that tries desperately to avoid leg and has a default “run away” mode, but also… riding around with the parking brake on isn’t the right answer either. So from this first ride I got a pretty good idea of what we would need to work on first.

Booty pats. She is a very good girl but it is not at all surprising that she wasn’t a good racehorse.

A couple days later I got back on her again, doing pretty much the same thing but asking her to be quicker and more responsive to my leg. She was a little better but it’s interesting because she doesn’t want you to ride around with your leg touching her, but she also isn’t really inclined to go forward if your leg isn’t touching her. Honestly she would prefer to just stand there and get cookies and be told she’s pretty. Fair enough. She started Regumate last week and is still on ulcer meds, so some of this may be due to her heat cycles or whatever lingering tummy issues might still be there, but I also think (from all the other work I’ve done with her and knowing her pretty well by now) that she’s a little lazy in general. I rewarded her every time she immediately moved off my leg, although she’s definitely less responsive off the left leg than the right. Another interesting tidbit gleaned.

considering she’s not very big, she takes up my leg way more than I thought she would

For this ride I also put her in Henry’s eggbutt Neue Schule. Her mouth is a little small so she seems to prefer a slightly thinner bit, and she was steadier in the eggbutt than she was in a loose ring. Gemma is not averse to contact or seeking the hand, which is great… I think she’ll get that part of things pretty quickly. The way she’s built helps a lot, she naturally carries herself in a good place. I’ve been keeping her noseband very loose as she figures things out, and she’s gotten quieter in the mouth every time too. She strikes me as the kind that would very much resent having her mouth strapped shut, so we’re… not gonna do that. Force is never the way, but it especially won’t be with this horse.

2 rides in? I’ll take it.

After that ride I took her out in the pasture to walk around for a bit – her first little hack out! She seemed really happy out here… she’s curious and likes to explore and see new things, so she was very content to walk around on the buckle, watch the turtles in the pond, etc. She still had a little bit of a gravitational pull back towards the barn, but didn’t require much convincing to march forward and away.

Yesterday I enlisted the assistance of a dressage whip, thinking it might help make my point a little bit more clearly. We also started working more on moving her body laterally around my leg, bending slightly to the inside and outside, etc. Suppleness – she needs it. I’ve been riding her with my leg on but not active, and she’s getting less annoyed about it. Makes sense, she’s never felt this much leg before, being a racehorse. If I ask her to go forward or move off my leg and get no response, I touch her lightly on the butt with the whip and that seems to get my point across. I love that she’s not frantic and tense and trying to move her legs 1000 miles an hour, but she still has to be forward and responsive to my leg. There’s a middle ground, and I’m confident that she’ll find it. She’s smart and does want to be a good girl ultimately, so I think as long as I make the expectations very clear and consistent, she’ll get it pretty quickly. This is all very different from anything she’s done before, after all.

the listening ear

I also took her for another little hack in the front field yesterday after our ride. Even with the guy weedeating across the street she never so much as flinched. At this point I’m still keeping our rides very short, under 20 minutes, and so far it’s just been walk/trot. We’re in no hurry so I want to wait until she understands things a bit better before we add in any canter, and there’s no point in putting longer rides on her right now… just enough for her to understand what I’m asking and give me some good efforts. I think if I started pushing too hard and too fast it would just make her sour or want to fight, so – slow and steady it is. I want to make it fun for her and make sure she understands. Not to mention she was just off work for 3 months and is transitioning between two very different careers. I want to give her body the time it needs to build up correctly.

Today I think we’ll venture out to the way back to the hacking path and see what Gemma thinks about that!

The Stalker Becomes the Stalkee

I’ve not been so great lately about the weekend recaps and I feel like I’m skipping over all the little fun things that maybe no one cares much about except for me, but… I am entertained by those things. Gonna try to remedy that today by cramming a bunch of little shit in one post, yay everyone’s favorite randomness (please read that with heavy sarcasm).

First and foremost, I need everyone to see what I snagged last week at Dollar General.

Ok that’s not a picture of the actual item, it’s a picture of the result. I found a unicorn cake pan for $4 so did I buy it? Of course. Am I an actual child? Also yes. Has my giant unicorn brownie brought me extreme joy over the past several days? Also yes. I ate his face first and he smiled at me the whole time. 10/10 would do again, I have zero regrets about this purchase.

Anyway, moving on. I spent much of Friday and Saturday glued to the Carolina live stream. There were lots of horses I wanted to watch spread around the various divisions, so naturally I had my spreadsheets up and my notes out. I also got to see my most favorite Mason for the first time since Maryland last fall… he looked delighted (if not perhaps a bit wild a few times) to be out and about again. I love watching that horse though, I swear you could put a camera just on his face for the entirety of cross country and it would be riveting coverage. I’m excited to continue stalking him as he aims for Badminton this spring.

he was ZOOMING to his double clear

While I was stalking Mason on the live stream, a particular redhead was stalking me here at home. Gemma has figured out that I live in the little gray house, and has spotted me through the window a few times. Now every once in a while I look out and she’s straight up staring into my window, using her laser beam eyeballs to try to will me into bringing her treats (I assume).


It’s very amusing to me because either the other horses haven’t figured out I’m in here or they just could not possibly care less. When Presto was here there were a couple times I caught him looking in here, but not quite as intensely as Gemma does. She keeps showing me all the ways she’s smart (and also that she is extremely rotten and probably gets waaaaaaaay too many cookies). I have not dared to actually go outside when I catch her staring in, because I think the second I do that she’ll plant herself by my window and never leave. It would be flattering if I didn’t know it was 99% about food with her.

Presto eating the pregnant mare’s hay…

Aside from watching Mason and being watched by Gemma, I’ve also been checking in on Inca on her foaling cameras. She’s looked imminent for DAYS now, and her milk test has been in the “within 24 hours” range for almost 3 days. Poor Michelle is a walking zombie by this point, having hardly slept, and even Presto (who seemed excited about his midwife duties) has started to give up and lose interest. These maidens always keep you guessing, so Michelle is watching her like a hawk, but I think we’re all ready for her to just spit that baby out already. I don’t know what she’s waiting for.

Aside from all this watching, there has also been plenty of doing. Hillary is still in Ocala and won’t be home for another week, so I’m still riding Henry. He still seems to be not particularly pleased by this, but I did make him happy this weekend and do some jompies. His favorite. It’s been getting hot here in the afternoons so I’m starting to have to shift my days around again to try to get done with the horses a bit sooner.

still the king

I’ve also been riding Gemma, but we’ll talk more about her tomorrow… too much to cover on that front to cram it all in this post too!

One more worthwhile mention… last week I nabbed a pair of black Espoir breeches that I’m freaking IN LOVE with… the black glitter piping is *chef’s kiss* and these are the first breeches I’ve ever had that managed to do a very subtle and actually nice looking cell phone pocket. I’ll have to do a deeper review of these after I’ve washed and worn them more, but these might be vying for my new favorites. These are the same brand as the black coat with glitter piping that I bought at Maryland last fall… clearly I like their styling (and their glitter).

I also got an Epplejeck box yesterday… a couple weeks ago I ordered some stuff to use up a gift card I had, and then promptly forgot about the order. When the box showed up yesterday I couldn’t even remember what I had gotten, so opening it was a fun surprise. I mean, there were some interesting things in there that I have no idea what I was thinking when I ordered them, but it was entertaining nonetheless. I need to get pics of all that stuff so we can all have a good laugh.

We’ve now entered crunch time mode as far as getting things organized for the move and I’m pretty sure I’m going to require a round of Ulcergard for myself by the time all is said and done. Uprooting your entire life to move everything 1000 miles away, especially with horses, is stressful as hell. Fingers crossed all this stuff comes together though, I feel like I’ve got about a thousand things up in the air right now and the anxiety is real.

Hope everyone else had a good weekend!

Breed.Ride… Compete?

Ya know how sometimes you just get on a roll and one idea spins off into another idea and then another idea? That’s kind of what’s happening here. This blog spawned more interest in the breeding stuff, which spawned some other opportunities, which spawned the Patreon, which then spawned my latest idea – Breed.Ride.Compete.

If y’all are here reading this blog at all, you know all about my nerdiness when it comes to the breeding stuff. You probably already know my history with breeding, you know the work that I do for breeders and for EN (my last EN piece, in case you missed it), you know about my plethora of spreadsheets, and the data that I’ve provided for live streams. I won’t go over that all again.

It will also probably not come as a surprise to any of you that I get asked breeding related questions A LOT. Like a lot a lot. It made me think that there might be a need for some kind of (very reasonably priced) service to help provide some information and guidance to people who are interested in breeding and/or pedigrees, but have not dedicated their entire adult life to researching it and don’t really know where to look or who to ask. I get several messages every week about it just from people who know me personally (almost exclusively amateur riders or first time breeders) so I do think there’s a lot more interest in the topic than we might think. I was already going to create all the branding for a business to put all of my live stream information under (see above logo) so that it has a more professional appearance and I got to thinking – maybe there are other services this little “business” could offer as well?

A few things immediately sprang to mind, given all the questions I get from friends as well as pain points I see with breeders.

1) As mentioned above – continuing to offer pedigree data services for live streams (I give a lot of information, like the breeder name, country bred, what the sire and the dam did, any successful related horses, the blood %, etc… assuming it’s possible to find it within any of my 14ish sources). At this point I give this data away, because just getting people to take it and use it is still an uphill battle. Someday it would be nice to be able to charge for it because it’s hours and hours and hours of work, but… ya know. I’m not that delusional.

2) “Research Packages” – a few page pdf document full of information about your horse and it’s family – pics and videos of ancestors, information about what they did and produced, what they were known for, other related horses from those lines and where they are now, etc. I have subscriptions to several databases already that I can use to research and pull data from that the average person doesn’t have access to or knowledge of, plus my spreadsheets, plus I know the vast majority of lines pretty well by now in my own head, given my general decades-long obsession. I’d only be able to offer this for TB’s and Warmbloods, since they’re my knowledge base. But basically like… you send me the pedigree, I send you a book report about it. There would be a fee for this, but nothing crazy.

3) Offering phone or email consultations for first time/hobby breeders, to talk about things they should consider, what bases they should cover, how to prepare, discuss their mare and how to analyze her strengths/weaknesses, talk about things to look at when choosing a stallion, etc. I don’t want to make the decisions for you, I want to arm you with the knowledge you need in order to feel good about making a decision for yourself. This service only occurred to me because I did this as a Zoom call last week with someone who “knows” me from Instagram. Thinking back on who I was when I took my first foray into breeding, I would have felt a lot better if I’d had someone experienced to talk to, bounce ideas off of, etc. Particularly someone who was NOT a stallion owner, NOT trying to influence me to buy semen or a foal from them, etc. There would also be a fee for this, but again nothing crazy.

4) Data entry services, like entering people’s mares and foals (fully and accurately, for crying out loud, which is RARE given how much fixing and entering I have to currently do of even the top level horses) into all of the main pedigree databases. Not only would horses get entered correctly, people wouldn’t have to create accounts or buy subscriptions or learn how to use these sites (some of which are buggy when it comes to data entry, to say the least). Having all of that data easily accessible in these big databases helps us all in the long run, since we can’t learn about what we don’t know. This would be a cheap service geared more towards pro breeders that either don’t have the time/energy to enter all this stuff, or are not computer savvy enough to do so.

actual footage of me trying to make datasheets for big events and NONE OF THE BREEDING DATA IS COMPLETE

So my question is – do you think any of these things would interest the “average” horse owner? Are there other things relating to breeding that you think would be helpful to offer? To be very clear – I’m definitely not doing this to try to make money (HAHAHA that would be hilarious) I’m doing it because I think breeding is important, and I think that breeding knowledge especially is a very big gap in our overall horsemanship knowledge in the US. This is a hill I am prepared and willing to die on. We don’t know our horses the way Europeans do, and a lot of it is because it’s just not as engrained in our culture, not talked about as much, and the data isn’t as easy to find or track. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to Europe but this is one piece of it I don’t think we look at hard enough. They know their horses and where they come from so much better than we do.

I know that anything I do to try to change our overall mindset about breeding is really just a drop in the bucket, but I’m passionate about the cause and if I can help influence even just a handful of people… it’s worth the effort to me. As long as, of course, I’m not just giving my time away for free to the point where it’s detrimental to everything else I’m trying to do.

At this point I’m months away from any of this coming to fruition. I want a website in place first and I have a lot happening in the next few months that won’t grant me much time to work on this project or get a website up and running. But I do want to keep thinking on it though and letting it stew in my head, and part of that is throwing the idea out there and seeing what the response is like… would appreciate any feedback y’all have!

I’m not saying she’s a genius, but…

jk I’m totally saying that. Gemma is a little red genius of a TB mare and I absolutely love her. It helps that she’s much sweeter/more open to affection than Henry is so she doesn’t pin her ears every time I smooch her face. AND she’s figured out that the tack room is the cookie room so if you go in there she neighs at you the second you come out. Manipulating me for a cookie? I am absolutely into it. Neigh at me like we’re in a Disney movie please, my inner 12yo is freakin delighted.

How could you NOT give this face a cookie?

Every time I work with her she’s better and better. Gemma learns fast and retains things well, and she genuinely wants to have a job and do it well. Work ethic is one of my most valued qualities in a horse so I’m very pleased to see that she has it. Although granted yesterday when I was lunging her she did stop dead in the corner to grab a weed and then trot away again. It was a very “20yo quarter horse lesson horse” maneuver and I had to give her points for creativity and dedication. Calm down, baby OTTB.

Over the past week we’ve mostly just continued with the stuff we started out on… desensitizing, voice commands, mounting block training, etc. I switched her from the loose regular side reins to the vienna reins, which seemed to make more sense to her.

I’ve also played around a little with bits, loose ring vs eggbutt, different diameters, and french link vs lozenge. I have about 9000 snaffles so I think we’ve now settled on one that she seems to like most. We’ll see. I’m not short of options.

Since she started getting the voice commands down a bit better, we were doing more transitions on the lunge line, both between gaits and within the gait. She’s seemed to figure out now that she doesn’t have to trot at warp speed, she can also trot smaller and slower and that’s okay too. Plus her whoa is pretty darn good now. Sometimes she takes a second or two to process, but it’s there.

I wasn’t planning on getting on her for another week or so yet, but… she’s gotten things a lot quicker than I expected, and she’s a pretty chill horse in general. Yesterday I still had my helmet on when I was working her so while we were doing her mounting block lesson I was like “ya know what… screw it.” and swung a leg all the way over. She was like “Oh good finally, I was getting bored of going in circles”, and that was that.

I just spent about 5 minutes walking, halting, making the walk bigger and smaller, and moving her left and right off my leg. She seems very smart about it all, and she’s responsive but isn’t squirrely about it. After that we walked back over to the mounting block corner, I got off, and that was that. She was extremely nonplussed about the whole thing and I think she’s ready to go to work for real. We’ll keep taking it super slow since that approach seems to be working well for her (she’s confident and relaxed, which is what I want!) but I think we can go ahead and crack on a bit.

She also started Regumate this week, we’re going to try that for a couple months and see if that helps with her perpetual raging heat cycles. Regumate is kind of a pain in the ass, but if it helps her then I’m ok with dealing with it. Latex gloves abound. And yesterday the last of her ulcer meds arrived. It’s been an expensive month for her between the meds and the shoes/xrays, but I wanted to make sure we start her off in the best place possible, so we’ve dotted every i and crossed every t in advance, as much as we possibly can. She also got her own browband, because she’d been wearing Presto’s and we just can’t have her thinking she isn’t worthy of her own, now can we?

the navy spikes suit her

Otherwise I think she’s out here living her best life. She seems happy, and she’s stuffing her face with all the spring grass. Her very dramatic grazing stance has gotten better too – I think as her back loosens up and she’s less stiff over her topline in general. It’ll be interesting to see if the Regumate has any further impact on that. Her grazing stance was contributing to some of the big differences between her front feet, so getting her more even would be nice.

She seems to be feeling pretty good though! Yesterday Gemma and Henry were out there reliving their racing glory (ok, neither of them ever found so much as a smidgen of glory on the track, but don’t tell them that) running laps around the pasture. Gemma is fun to watch, she just has this general air of happiness about her in all the things she does… she’s definitely way more positive about life than my bay gelding. Nobody tell the chestnut mare haters.

I can’t wait til Hillary gets home so we can start hacking Gemma and Henry together. Gemma is ready for more adventures!

Yet more stuff for sale

We’re now about 6 weeks away from the big move (it’s fine. this is fine. no one panic. i’m not panicking.) so I’m already in crunch time mode as far as getting all my shit organized in preparation to start packing. That means its time for another purge of horse stuff, because I’m sure not hauling it all halfway across the country with me. The cheaper items or bigger bulkier items are just gonna go to consignment or be sold locally because I cannot be bothered to deal with it, but I do have some nicer stuff/easier to ship stuff that’s still up for grabs! If you’re interested you can message me on one of my socials or send me an email via the contact form.


Dark green Alessandro Albanese Motionlite mesh show coat, size small, new with tags. I’ve steered away from green so there’s no good reason to keep this, even though it’s pretty. $200

Navy blue with yellow piping Winston Equestrian washable lightweight wool show coat. This was semi-custom from back in the Henry prime era but it doesn’t fit me anymore and I’m not going to keep the yellow in my colors. The size is french 40T which is technically “tall” but I’m not very tall (5’6″) and it fit me great. 40 is equivalent to US size 8, bust measures 37″. The fabric is a lightweight blend that is machine washable. Super flattering, good for those who prefer a bit more structure to their coats. $150

Hy Equestrian Roka Rose show coat size Large, new with tags. I bought this from overseas but it was considerably larger than what the size chart said. Bust measures 40″. Really pretty mid-navy color with rose gold and navy rhinestones on the collar and pockets. Stretchy tech fabric, with a zipper under the buttons. SOLD

RJ Classics navy classic wool hunt coat, size 10R. I only wore this a few times, for foxhunting. $40


hope nobody cares about some wrinkles

Clockwise from top left:

tan Tredstep knee patch breeches, worn a few times for hunting, in good condition. Size 30R. SOLD

chocolate brown Horze Grand Prix knee patch breeches, worn but no holes or stains. Size 30R. $30

Baleaf black full seat breeches, worn less than 10 times, too big for me now. Size S (fits like 28). $25

Pomme Nellie breeches, black with silver accents, knee patch. Great condition, I only wore these a few times, I just have a lot of black breeches and… probably don’t need all of them. Size M (fits like 28). $90

green Equiline breeches, knee patch. In good condition, no stains or tears. Size I-42 (fits like 26). $100

Other Stuff:

Navy horse size fly bonnet with yellow and white trim. – $18

brown stirrup leathers

left – HDR leathers, darker brown, only used a handful of times. Stamped 54″. $35

right – medium brown, used but in good shape. Look a few inches shorter than the HDR. $15

Boy o Boy custom belt, tone on tone blue/navy, size 36. I hardly even got to wear this one very much which is sad because it’s gorgeous, but it doesn’t fit anymore. Probably best for sizes 30-32. SOLD

If you’re local (aka can pick stuff up or arrange someone else to pick up for you) and want the full list (there is… a lot more stuff) shoot me a message!

What’s the Opposite of Warm Fuzzies

If you’re looking for a creature to give you an ego boost about yourself in general, let me tell you who not to go to.

“I can’t work today because I hate you” – Henry, probably

Hillary has been in Ocala for over a week now (god it’s ONLY been that long??) which means that Henry is once again my full-time ride. One of us has been pretty pleased about this. Hint: it’s not him.

See, Hillary has bought his love. Like many times over. She comes armed with what seems like thousands of German Horse Muffins, doesn’t spend a lot of time fussing with him, rides him, doesn’t demand as much of his performance as I do, and then she leaves. It’s his ideal relationship.

And then there’s me.

I think he’s been a bit lazy lately about carrying himself, being uphill in his canter, and keeping a good shape, so those are my priorities for the time Hillary is gone. I come swooping in there with a bit (he’s really sure he doesn’t wear a bit anymore at all, after almost 3 years of very rarely wearing one) and ask him to be round and uphill and push some of the more intense flatwork buttons that she does not. This is not to say that I ride him better or anything like that at all, just that I’ve been riding him for 8 years so if I didn’t know how to ask for more and push all the buttons by now, it would be pretty sad indeed.

Henry though… he’d much rather give about 50%, and pretend like it’s the best he can do. I know him better than that, so I insist on his 100%. Now that he’s been living his best life with Hillary for a few months, he thinks I am a walking case of Bullshittery, and he’s not totally convinced that he’s required to participate at that level, considering that he’s now seen an alternative. This horse would really love to be a low level schoolmaster and ignore your opinion most of the time, I swear.

lots of pats when he gives me the effort…. I’m not a tyrant despite what he says

The day after these pics, I went out to go get him for a hack and he took my cookie, slapped on his devil horns, and hightailed it to the back of the pasture before I had a chance to put the halter on. Rude. The ultimate in rude. He hasn’t done it since then (I guess he thinks he made his point), but I also haven’t dressaged him since, so… ya know. He remembers, and he is very opinionated. People who don’t know him don’t always believe me but man. If you anger or annoy him in some way, you WILL know about it and you WILL pay for it. It’s Henry’s world and we’re all just living in it.

I’ve also been trying to get him shed out, including the 9000lbs of shetland pony-esque hair on his legs, which requires extra general fussing-with-him, which he hates. Cookies, jompies, fuck-offies. That’s what he’s interested in. If you’re looking for a horse to make you feel loved, he is not it. Even though I know that deep down he does love me in his own Henry way.

Gemma did a great job of remodeling my jump course when I let them in there to graze. She also refused to leave while I was jumping, so we just schooled around her. She didn’t flinch.

We’ve done a lot of pole work and hacking and a couple jump schools, which have all improved his mood. He’s noticeably happier and more agreeable when you go to get him on the days after he jumps. Anyone who wants to say that horses aren’t smart or emotionally developed, I beg to differ.

He’s still got another week to put up with me before his lady in shiny armor comes back to save him from this ridiculousness. I don’t know what he’s gonna do when we move and Hillary isn’t there to baby him at all. He might just go on strike completely.

All the Firsts

Week one of Gemma’s new sporthorse career is going well! I’m really enjoying having a green horse again… maybe I’m some kind of glutton for punishment or something but I do really enjoy these beginning stages.

also she’s really cute

I think it’s because everything is so much simpler when they’re at this stage. Expectations are low, tasks are simple, and every little thing is an achievement. They also make very quick progress with all these simpler things, so it’s easy to see the changes from day to day. It’s a “tougher” stage I suppose because they don’t know as much, but I think it’s super rewarding. Like when’s the last time I was mega proud of Henry for standing like a rock in the crossties while I spent a few minutes digging around for something in the tack room? Or being very polite for the farrier? Or actually stopping when I said whoa? He’s far enough into life that those things are just expected of him, but for Gemma they’re new and worth celebrating.

the first time she actually STOPPED on the lunge line immediately when I said whoa. All the praise!

She got her feet done on Monday, which she was really good for. Better than the first time for sure (where she wasn’t totally certain that she had to hold up any of her own feet, and may or may not have attempted to lay on the farrier) although I still chose to hold her rather than put her in the crossties. I think next time we can shoe her in the crossties with me just standing nearby. Since she got her fancy new Nikes I’ve put her on an every other day work schedule. The first time was Tuesday, where I tacked her up, did a little work on the line with voice commands and moving her shoulders/haunches, and some basic desensitization. She’s very sensitive, and if things come at her quickly or unexpectedly she can be a little reactive… not in a panicky way usually but definitely a little bit worried. When she first got here she was particularly jumpy if you came at her face quickly and/or without warning. She’s already gotten better about that, but I do think she could be a little less reactive to things in general. I don’t want to make her dull, but I do want to take that sharpness away that’s caused by nervousness. Thus: desensitizing.

I started with the lunge line, tossing it over her back, neck, haunches, and around her hind legs. She didn’t care much about that. So I decided instead to use the lunge whip, which she was much more leery of. Luckily she isn’t the type to panic and bolt for the hills, she just gets wide eyed and shuffles away. When I first started moving the whip back and forth in front of her she mostly tried to slowly tiptoe backwards, hiding behind me. Cute, but… not quite what we were after. I just kept going and waited for her to stop and relax, then I stopped moving the whip and praised her.

getting it!

Then I did the same thing on either side of her, which was fairly uneventful. After that I moved on to actually touching her with the lash of the whip… rubbing her neck and haunches, dangling it over to the other side, dragging it across her and lightly tossing it around her legs. At first she couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted, but every time she stood still I patted her and stopped moving the whip for a few seconds before starting again. It didn’t take her long to figure out that the game was to just stand still.

After that I progressed to tossing it back and forth over the top of her head. I figured that would be the thing she was most worried about so I’d saved it for last on purpose, and by this point she didn’t care much. She kept one ear on the whip, just in case, so not as totally relaxed about it as we will eventually aim for, but she didn’t move her feet.

I let her be done with that, and spent a few minutes standing at the mounting block putting my foot in and out of the stirrup, leaning over her, flapping the stirrups around, etc. They don’t use mounting blocks at the track so for that stuff I basically just treat her like an unbroke horse.

Yesterday we did pretty much the same thing again, but with more trotting in the lunge work and the introduction of some very loose side reins, so we can start talking about contact. She remembered the voice command work from the session before, and her “walk”, “whoa”, and “trot” are getting better. Whoa is probably the best at this point… the rest is more hit or miss. Still better from the first time though, so she’s definitely getting it.

We followed that with a little more of the same desensitization work with the whip, and then more lessons at the mounting block. Nothing was perfect of course, but everything was an improvement over the first session, and that’s all I’m after at this point.

I do think that she’s starting to become a bit bonded to me. She’s the type that’s a little more distrustful of strangers, especially men (judging from farrier and vet appointments anyway) but she seems to have figured out that I’m a safe space. She will leave the other horses to come up to the gate if she sees me, and when they come in for dinner every night she stands and waits for me to block Henry so he can’t try to bite her when she goes past. She’s really starting to look to me first for guidance when she gets concerned about something, which I love.

You can’t beat a good mare (or in Henry’s case, a mare wannabe)

For now I think this is exactly the kind of stuff she needs, and we’ll keep doing groundwork and laying down the base for a little while longer. So far I’m really pleased with her – she’s smart, she learns well, she wants to please, and she’s people-oriented. She’s brave about her surroundings and confident enough in herself not be herdbound or worried about where the other horses are. Those are all traits I can work with, and all the reasons why I love thoroughbreds so much. It’s been a while since I had a young green OTTB… I’d almost forgotten how much I love them.

She does make me wish that I could breed her and embark on her sport career at the same time though, a little Gemmette would be adorable. Too bad embryo transfer is so expensive! Eventually…. just not yet.

How to Have a Presto Party

Yesterday was Presto’s 5th birthday, can you guys even believe it? I’m convinced that the first 3 years of a horse’s life take a decade to pass, and then after that every year is like 3 months long. Maths and time don’t make sense. Five. FIVE! He’s a real boy now. Well… ok… as real as Presto could possibly ever be.

I couldn’t be with him on his birthday, since he’s way up in Midland “resting” (ha), but I could make sure that he still had a banging birthday party, so I got on Amazon and ordered a few things to send to Michelle. What was the theme of this party, you ask? What other possible theme could there be?

Giraffe party for the giraffe boy

He got an outfit, an inflatable bop-it, a banner, and a pinata, along with a bag of treats to put in said pinata. If there’s one thing we know about Presto, it’s that he loves murdering things with his mouth and feet, thus I figured that stuff was right up his alley.

So, step 1 for throwing a Presto party: you gotta decorate. It helps set the tone, ya know?

Yes I’m aware that I’m insane. It’s entertaining, just go with it.

Step 2: get dressed. Gotta have just the right outfit. And if you don’t have thumbs you may require some outside assistance.

Ok getting him dressed is not the easiest step

Step 3: Revel in the majesty of yourself and how you look in all of your chic birthday glory.

I mean, tell me it wasn’t an appropriate theme

Step 4: Invite some friends over for your party.

If she keeps bringing pinatas and magnawave I’m concerned that Mk might become his new favorite person
Scooter was delighted to attend
My favorite thing about this pic of Michelle is Sadie in the background like “what the actual f…”

Step 5: As birthday boy, your next priority should always be your presents. Presto’s attention went to the bop-it first, since it was bigger, but he was honestly pretty unimpressed with that. It occurs to me that perhaps I have set the bar a little too high with what is now required to actually captivate Presto’s attention.


It took him a minute to figure out that the real treasure lay inside the piñata. And when I say “took him a minute” I mean that quite literally… from the moment he first saw the piñata to the moment he managed to bust it open and get the treats out was 1 minute 16 seconds. Honestly that’s about 30 seconds longer than I anticipated. He kept trying to roll it like his old treat ball, expecting it to spit out a cookie with each shove. Took him a beat to figure out that further violence was required for this particular item, which he was then quite pleased to dole out.

There goes that choos foot
actual question: are there rules about using your teeth to bust open a piñata?

Once he got to the good stuff his attention was solidly focused on eating on the giraffe guts. Er, horse treats. Honestly a bit of a boring party for him, given his history. I expected a little more fanfare… a little more giraffe murder. Maybe he’s actually growing up a little bit?

I expected this thing to yield more excitement. Perhaps some flinging.

In all seriousness though, yes I do go a bit overboard with the silliness on his birthdays, but it’s because we came so precariously close to never getting to celebrate any at all. Every year I still vividly remember that sad little sick foal that almost died more times than I can count, and every year I’m grateful all over again that he made it through. Even when he’s a dumb giraffe that can’t keep his chaos feet to himself and manages to bruise his P2 and spend all my money on MRIs. Indeed, even then.

How boring would life be without a Presto in it?

A little “R&R”

Presto is good at a lot of things. Rest and recuperation or rest and relaxation… those maybe aren’t on the list. I think his version of R&R more likely stands for rumpus and raucous.

Exhibit A

He’s doing pretty well at Michelle’s though, aside from causing his usual level of chaos and mayhem, which in turn causes enough stress in his humans to remove a few years off their life. Ya know… standard Presto behavior. Knock on wood though, he’s remained looking sound and has refrained from any particularly damaging trouble to this point.

Although yesterday Obi somehow did sneak over into Uncle Presto’s paddock (no ones sure if he went over the fence or under it) and Presto was delighted to have a temporary friend.


He plays a bit too rough to keep a yearling as a friend (although points to Obi, he can dish it out pretty well for a little dude) so Obi had to go back over to his own paddock, but they did get to have an hour or so’s worth of fun before it got broken up. Presto probably had more fun than Obi, who now may or may not be brain damaged from being hit in the head repeatedly with Presto’s feeder, but… ya know. Those are the risks when you enter Presto airspace. The real question is – will he sneak back over there again, or did he learn his lesson the first time? We’ll find out I guess.

Aside from just being a general pest (aka himself) Presto’s gotten some nice little therapy sessions. Last week you saw his laser and chiropractic session, and he’s also getting some regular Magnawave from his friend Mk, who looks comically tiny next to him.

I legit snorted

He seems very responsive to the Magnawave, offering some big dramatic releases. He’s probably the kind of horse that would really benefit from having a BEMER to use on a regular basis (I’ll just tuck that information away in the back of my brain for whenever I have money to burn LOLOLOL). He’s always responded really well to bodywork stuff in general… probably because he does play so rough all the time he’s constantly doing some level of something to himself. He’s looking really good though, even if he’s not so sure about all of this stuff sometimes.

zap the brain. zap it a lot.

It’s very nice that Michelle has friends local to her with all this good equipment that are willing to help him out. And also nice that these friends have a good sense of humor and can deal with his antics… he often gets called “busy”. Um… yeah sure, that’s the nice word for it. We’ll go with that.

zappies on the chaos foot

He’ll keep getting regular MagnaWave while he’s there, and Michelle is going to start booking his swimming sessions too. We all think that he would like that a lot, even if just to have something to go and do. He’s bored bored bored…. never has been one that handled downtime very well (ahem HOW HE GOT INTO THIS SITUATION IN THE FIRST PLACE), he needs a job and an outlet for all that “busy-ness” of his. Those hamsters in his brain start running amok after a while.

Presto’s birthday is tomorrow (can y’all believe he’s FIVE????) and I may or may not have sent Michelle a whole bunch of themed birthday party stuff for him. Gotta keep up that tradition. Plus hopefully it’ll result in some good entertainment for all of us. His friend Mk will be there doing his MagnaWave anyway so he invited her to his party.

she’s trying to choke me out
oh wait thats niccceeeeee

There’s never a dull moment with this one, that’s for sure.

The one and only 2022 foal is due in the next couple weeks, so hopefully we’ll be back to Foal Friday content soon! The chaos is a lot cuter when it comes in a little fuzzy foal-sized package rather than a 17.1h giraffe suit.

Cleared for Takeoff

I don’t know if any horse in the world had a better weekend than Gemma.

On Friday she had her re-check appointment to see how that little suspensory strain was doing. This was also her first time being seen by one of our vets, so we figured we’d get a little baseline idea of how she looked in general. A bit of a post purchase exam if you will. We called in the big guns for this appointment, our favorite sporthorse vet (his wife is an eventer, poor man) from his base a few hours away. He has all the equipment, good assistants, and he knows thoroughbreds and sporthorses really well, so it was worth the extra expense.

very tall vet makes her look like a pony

Overall, Gemma looked great. Her suspensory is fantastic, a “non factor” at this point he thought, which is always great to hear. Her flexions were pretty good, nothing particularly stood out. The only thing he could detect was some soreness near the coffin/pastern on one foot, and we know just by looking at her feet that they need work in the shoeing department, so that wasn’t much of a surprise. We went ahead and took films of all 4 feet so that 1) we could make sure there was nothing “bad” actually happening in there, 2) we could get a baseline of all her angles and make a plan with the vet and farrier for how best to start correcting those feet.

Her angles are… definitely not great. Like probably worse than they look from the outside. The left front is more negative than the right front, and both hinds are pretty negative as well. Definitely not a surprise – pretty typical of most horses coming off the track, and the vet and I both said “we’ve definitely seen way worse”, but we still need to get it corrected ASAP. So we talked options for her next shoeing cycle (good timing on all this, my farrier was already scheduled for tomorrow anyway) and made a plan. Basically we’ve got to start pulling that breakover back as much as possible to start correcting the angles and get her up off her heels, and maybe put a bar shoe on the fronts for a while and extend the heels a bit behind.

The good news is that there’s no real damage in there though. We also went ahead and did films of the ankles just since they have a little “jewelry”, and to make sure the angles of the feet haven’t caused any issues there. As is typical of racehorses, there’s some slight remodeling to the sesamoid, but nothing problematic or significant – no chips, no arthritis, no evidence of old fractures, etc.

We also discussed gut health – between omeprazole and sucralfate she’s basically been on some kind of ulcer meds all year, so we talked about remaining symptoms, what to do next, and tapering. We also talked about the fact that her heat cycles seem very strong and very… constant. We’ll try a month of Regumate and see if that makes a difference.

The vet liked her and didn’t see anything that would potentially prohibit a sport career, so that’s great news. He said to go ahead and start riding her – she’s good to go. My first question was “when can we put her in regular turnout”. Because as I said last week, while she had been impeccably behaved in her small paddock, I could tell she was dying to get to go out in the big field. The vet said to go for it, as long as she wouldn’t get overly excited and damage herself. Since she still had a little bit of sleepy juice in her system from all her xrays I looked at Hillary and was like “why not now?”. So we indeed marched her directly to the field.

She immediately dove nose-first into the grass like she hadn’t eaten in days. Which… she isn’t a big hay eater, so it was a constant source of frustration for me that she wasn’t getting as much roughage as I would have liked when she was restricted to the paddock. Seeing her out there in the pasture stuffing her face probably made me just as happy as it made her. To her immense credit she never once did anything stupid all day (despite it being COLD AND WINDY AF) – trotted a couple laps, did one impressive bucking festival, but otherwise she barely lifted her head from the grass the entire rest of the day. Since she’s already gotten to know Henry and Quinnie so well in the barn and sharing a fenceline with them, turning her out with them was a non-event. Gemma is bottom of the totem pole and quick to get out of the way, but not enough of a pushover for Henry to take advantage.

I figured the next morning might be the real test, with no lingering sleepy juice in her system. I fed everyone, led them out from the barn, let them go, and… again, her head went straight to the grass. After a few minutes she again trotted a slow lap, during which she spotted the neighbor’s cows on the other side of the back fence. And omg. Where some horses see those cows for the first time and absolutely lose their marbles (ahem Henry ahem Grace), Gemma stopped, looked them over, and then made a beeline straight for them.


There was one pretty brave cow that came up close to the fence a few times, but I think Gemma’s, um, enthusiasm concerned him a bit. When Gemma wasn’t close he would slowly meander up to the fence (close to where Henry was grazing) then Gemma would see him, trot over post haste, and he’d run away. Over and over, much to her chagrin. She wanted so badly to nose boop that cow and he just wouldn’t let her. Her curiosity gene was in full effect, that’s for sure. I’m starting to think she’s kind of a combo of Henry and Presto… Henry’s sensitivity, but Presto’s boldness. Although I think she’s smarter than both of them, of course, since she’s a mare.


On Sunday I decided it was time to officially start her sporthorse training. Hillary’s gone for a couple weeks to Ocala so it seems like the perfect opportunity to start doing some ground work and getting Gemma ready so that by the time Hillary gets back I can start hacking with her and Henry. Ever since Gemma got here I’ve been bringing her in to the barn during the day a few times a week to start figuring out the crossties/grooming routine/behavior expectations. She’s a very quick study and picked all that up pretty quickly, so I figured I’d go ahead and tack her up, then take her out to the ring to lunge her.

she looks SO GOOD under tack!

The great thing about OTTB’s is that they come knowing all kinds of things, having seen and done so much on the racetrack. But I also never like to just assume that any horse knows how to do anything, or will automatically understand things the way I ask them. So, I wanted to use this time to get an idea of what she already knows, what she doesn’t, and go over all the basics just to make sure we’re on the same page. I also needed to get some tack fitted to her.

I groomed her, picked her feet, put her boots on, and then decided to start with Henry’s regular tack. My jump saddle is a bit wide for her at the moment, but otherwise not terrible. I thought for sure that his girth would be huge on her, but surprisingly it wasn’t. Bigger than it fits on him of course, but not too big. I think she’s deeper in the barrel than she seems, despite her smaller stature. I also grabbed his breastplate, which fit her just fine too. She’s smaller and thinner than he is, but her shoulder is bigger and longer. If anything I needed the straps to be a little longer between her shoulder and the girth. For her bridle I rummaged through my collection of spare parts (I have an embarrassing number of plain cast-off browbands) and grabbed Presto’s cob size bridle from when he showed in-hand as a 2yo, a pair of never used horse size cheekpieces (I have no idea what they’re even from), and took the spiked browband off of Presto’s brown bridle since he’s not using it at the moment. I pretty much always start the babies in a Nathe bit as a baseline, so that went on the bridle as well.

It’s a frankenbridle, but it works for now. Honestly I thought she’d be solidly cob size but she’s kind of in between. The length of her head and width of her crown is more horse size, but her little nose is cob size and a cob size browband would be better I think. I also think she needs her own tiara… I like the spikes on her, but maybe blue ones? Or maybe some small navy crystals? I’m still undecided. Her rich chestnut color does look REALLY good in blue though.

Once we got in the ring I did a quick little desensitization with the lunge line all over her body, then asked her to walk out on a circle around me. She definitely doesn’t know voice commands aside from clucking, but she’s got a good work ethic and paid attention well, trying to figure out what I wanted. Naturally she lunges better to the left than the right… not a surprise. After she walked and trotted both ways I ran the stirrups down, snapping and flapping them a bit until I got no reaction, then I lunged her with the stirrups down. She was super good about it, so after she w/t both ways I let her be done with that. This was a fact-finding mission more than a real working session and I had already gleaned a lot. On our way out of the arena I introduced her to the mounting block, with me standing on it above her, stomping on it with my feet, leaning over and flapping the stirrup on the opposite side, etc. If she wanted to move off I let her circle around, then come back and stand next to it again. Rinse and repeat, and she got better each time. She was confused by it but not worried about it, so that’s a good first step. She’ll get it pretty quickly I think.

We’ll play a little more in-depth with the ground work this week, do more desensitizing, work on those voice commands, and get more mounting block education. And of course get those shoeing changes started. Here’s to the beginning of what will hopefully be a great adventure!