Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Exciting day at the barn

Yesterday was an exciting day for the horses--they were turned out after two days of no turnout (due to ice on Sunday, and for unclear reasons on Monday). My husband got this video of them playing shortly after going out. Limerick and Joey had a chance to kick up their heels in the outdoor arena on Monday so they were content to watch the shenanigans from the background. Can you spot Lim's blaze?

Yesterday was also "exciting" for the (human) boarders, and not in a fun way. The barn owner emailed us at around 11am to say there had been a crisis the evening before--the fire alarm in the upper barn began going off. To be safe, the boarders that were present in the upper barn evacuated their horses, checked to be sure the apartments above the barn were clear of residents and called the fire department. It turned out to be nothing more than dust in the fire alarm causing a malfunction. Big sigh of relief!

I admit I wasn't happy for a couple reasons, however. The first being the evacuation. The middle barn (which Lim is stalled in) is attached to the upper barn by a wall, and the lower barn is in turn attached to the middle barn. Both the upper barn and middle barn have haylofts above them. If there was indeed a fire brewing, the middle barn would have caught on very quickly--more quickly than the apartments above the upper barn, in fact. To make matters worse, the horses in the middle barn have no runs attached to their stalls, so they have no way to get outside on their own in case of a fire. All the stalls in both the upper and lower barn have runs. So why were the middle barn horses not evacuated?

Every barn has its own politics and cliques, including boarding barns. In my barn's case, the upper barn boarders often have the upper hand on barn-wide decisions. If not, the upper barn sometimes operates independently of the rest (e.g., boarders in the upper barn decide as a whole to keep their horses inside from turnout, and many upper barn boarders use a different vet than the rest of us). I suppose a part of this may come from the cost of the stalls in that barn, which are slightly higher than the rest of the stalls on the property. Either way, it's never been much of a problem besides a little grumbling here and there--in fact, I like all these boarders as individuals. So yes, it's never been much of a problem until now, in my opinion.

If there was actual smoke and fire, would the middle barn horses have been evacuated? Absolutely--I know that without a doubt. There was no actual smoke or fire in this case, but if the situation was worrisome enough for the fire department to be called and the apartments to be checked, this tells me that people weren't confident in their decision of, "It's probably nothing, so we'll leave the middle barn horses in their stalls." After all, if there was indeed a spark in the hayloft, it would have been a matter of moments--not hours--before the upper barn went up and took the middle barn with it. So why take the risk? Why not evacuate the middle barn as well? There are only 9 stalls in there--it would be easy.

The second reason I'm not happy is because of the timing of the email. The night of the crisis, I went out to feed Limerick at 8:20pm and stayed at the barn until 9pm (closing time). Other than what seemed to be excessive tire marks on the grassy shoulder by the barn (which I rationalized away since it had been muddy that day and the barn tractor is often driven over that area), I didn't see anything out of place. This meant, by my estimation, the crisis occurred between 5pm and 7pm. Therefore, 18 to 15 hours passed before the boarders were notified as a whole, which is far too much time in my opinion. The length of time is especially odd when one considers the fact that my barn tends to be fairly on top of notifications and barn news. Naturally, however, I have no doubt that all the upper barn boarders knew about the crisis--whether they were there or not.

I've been at my boarding barn for a little over 5 years. Limerick is happy there and so am I. Things tend to run smoothly, especially now that another sister from the family has been managing the barn for the past 3 years. But the way this crisis was handled regarding the middle and lower barns is worrisome. Barn fires--whether possible or reality--are nothing to play around with.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grooming Joey

I've mentioned Limerick's "boyfriend" Joey before. A blazed chestnut gelding of indeterminable breed and age (although if I had to take a wild guess, I would say he's an appendix--Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse--of around 20 years), Joey has been boarded at Gladstone since I moved Limerick there over 5 years ago.

Limerick joined up with Joey after her first equine boyfriend, Nick Ripley, moved away in late 2009. Unlike Nick--who was pushy if you allowed him to be--when I retrieve Lim from turnout, Joey only regards me quietly. If I bring a treat out for Lim, I always have one for Joey too. At the very least, I stroke his blazed face and tell him that Lim will "be back later" or "see you tomorrow" before I lead her away. Sometimes he follows us but usually he stays behind and watches us go.

Limerick and Joey, spring 2012

Limerick and Joey, winter 2013

Despite my time at the barn, Joey's owners are the only horse owners at Gladstone that I have yet to meet. I've been told that they visit him a couple times a year, and although his toes grow a little long for my taste at times, his feet are always eventually trimmed, so his owners at least ensure his basic needs are met from afar. Between his absent owners, generally quiet demeanor, and long red forelock covering his eyes, Joey is something of a mystery horse.

My husband asked me the other day if we could groom Joey. I didn't have to ask why--his long mane had been choked with mud dreadlocks for weeks and his winter coat was dull from lack of grooming. Treading on the side of caution, I told him that I would love to as long as his owners gave the okay. We eventually got a hold of them and they gave their consent.

I have long wanted to show my husband how to groom a horse. Learning on Limerick is out--she is fickle to groom and requires a precise touch, patience, and a sense of humor. A quiet gelding like Joey was the perfect answer for my husband's Grooming 101 course.

I set Lim up on one set of crossties near Joey's stall. We then led him out and situated him on the crossties across from her so they were facing one another. Lim's eyes grew wide as Joey was led out--Hey, it's Joey! she said. It was quite cute. Using Joey's grooming tools, I showed my husband what to do then left him with Joey while I groomed Lim.

Despite the cold, the grooming session was a lot of fun for horses and humans alike. We plan to do it again so my husband can fine-tune his grooming skills and Joey can continue to reap the benefits of grooming.

My husband and Joey

Joey with a clean forelock

Lim asking if she'll get carrots after the photos!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's too cold to do much more than hibernate

I rode Limerick this past Saturday and for our first ride in a month, it went very well. Initially, she got herself a little worked up but I was able to defuse the bomb before it went off and get her to r-e-l-a-x!

The goal of the ride was twofold. First, I wanted to see how Lim felt under-saddle--was she sore or stiff from the hematoma? Was she ready to progress to longer rides? And second, after an extended time off, I like to hop on Lim for a short-but-sweet ride just to get ourselves reacquainted with the very ritual of riding. Perhaps it's a mare thing, but I find that this works much better, in the long run, than expecting her to do a lot the first time back.

The weather was lovely on Saturday. Then wee had a cold front pass through Sunday, and Monday and Tuesday carried wind chills well below zero. I had originally planned to ride again tonight because the early forecast stated that the temperature would be around 30 for today--downright balmy! But as of now--noon--it's only 19 degrees, with a feels-like temperature of 6 degrees. Looks like I'll have to wait until the weekend to ride again, but that's okay. You can't fight mother nature!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Weekend Recap

It was an exciting weekend for horse racing--well, for me! The annual Eclipse Awards presentation was Saturday night. It wasn't closed captioned (closed captioning is a crapshoot on HRTV) but I didn't mind--I knew who the nominees were and could lip-read all the winners as they were announced, except for Royal Delta (sorry, Laffit).

As I expected, Wise Dan swept Turf Male, Older Male and Horse of the Year. After he won, I mentioned to my husband that a colt hasn't won Horse of the Year since Curlin in 2008. My touching moment of the night award goes to Javier Castellano and John Velazquez for accepting Ramon Dominguez's Outstanding Jockey award in his absence. Dominguez is in intensive care with a displaced skull fracture after a spill at Aqueduct on Friday.

Also, three of "my" horses won over the weekend--two were runaway winners!

Ron the Greek handled the slop like the professional that he is with a 11-length victory in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream. An expected challenge from Mucho Macho Man never manifested and the big bay was pulled up by Mike Smith. It was later found that there was nothing amiss with him--he had simply hated the track. You can watch the race here. A self-labeled "hipster" Ron the Greek fan, I have liked the horse since his early Derby trail days three years ago. He fell into a rut with allowance races over the following year before being turned over to trainer Bill Mott, who worked magic with the horse. Ron the Greek has been a consistent runner since then. "Ron" reminds me of another blue collar-style horse I enjoyed a few years ago--Musket Man. Both horses were dropped by full sisters by Fortunate Prospect, out of Flambeau (by Dixieland Band).

Regalo Mia, a lovely bay filly with chrome (those always win me over) nabbed her first stakes win on Saturday in the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream. It's always a huge thrill to see a horse you've been following get their first stakes win. By one of my favorite stallions, Sligo Bay, she is out of the Red Bullet mare Shake It Up. You can see her win here.

The Derby Trail officially started with Oxbow's 11-length win in the LeComte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Oxbow, a lovely bay roan, caught my eye last August at Saratoga while I was taking photos of 2-year-old colts before a maiden special weight in the paddock. A quick look at the past performance charts for his race revealed his name to be the delightfully simple Oxbow. By Awesome Again out of a  full sister to Tiznow, Oxbow is closely related to the tough Paynter (also by Awesome Again, out of another full sister to Tiznow). Unfortunately Oxbow was pulled up and vanned off that afternoon at Saratoga. He later popped up on the worktab and all seems well--I have no idea why he was vanned off, but it clearly wasn't a serious injury. You can see his win in the LeComte here.

Oxbow in the paddock at Saratoga, August 2012

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The hematoma isn't gone, but Miss Lim sure feels good

It's been a little over a month since Lim developed a hematoma and she is finally ready to be ridden again. I've been free-lunging her periodically to monitor her progress. Last night I took her to the indoor arena for another free-lunge session and she told me she is feeling great!

She started out at an easy walk, then moved into a casual trot upon my request. But after a lap of this, she said, "Screw it--I feel awesome!" She threw her tail into a flag, bucked wildly and began running around and around, punctuating her laps around the arena with snorts and bucks (and likely farts, although I couldn't hear them).

I was very surprised and pleased to see this--at this age, she doesn't cut loose if she isn't up to it physically (smart girl) so I knew she truly felt better. The hematoma remains, but is much smaller and cool to the touch. It will eventually disappear, possibly leaving an indent in its place.

I plan to ride her this Saturday--after a month-plus of no riding, she may have a few silly tricks up her sleeve! But that is alright--all that matters is that Miss Lim feels good.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sagamore to sponsor Native Dancer Stakes, or, Native Dancer comes in threes

"Kevin Plank's Sagamore Racing announced Jan. 16 it will sponsor the $125,000 Native Dancer Stakes on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 at Laurel Park."

I read this article with great interest--after all, I've written twice (now thrice--first post here, second post here) about Native Dancer in recent weeks. It's wonderful enough to see the Sagamore name being put back into racing, but for the farm to honor the very horse that put it on the map is special. Preservation of racing history is vital, and what better way to do it? Kudos to you, Mr. Plank!

Cold morning sun

My husband took this great photo of Limerick this morning.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy new year/happy birthday to all the Thoroughbreds, and cherish every moment with your horse!

Five years ago, I lost my job and had a difficult time finding a new one largely in part because I can't hear the way most people do. The experience ignited frustration and I decided to start a blog as an outlet for my stress. But the first blog was too unfocused and negative for my taste. It had just one post, but one was enough. After a couple days, I deleted the blog.

As a creative type with a degree in writing, however, I enjoyed the process of spilling my thoughts into an internet journal with a potential audience. I had to start anew, and so I did--with this blog. This time, unlike the deleted blog, I decided to focus on my life as a deaf equestrian.

Early posts aimed to be both educational on deafness, as well as a fun tribute to my beloved mare, Limerick. Over the past five years, the blog has evolved. It is still a fun tribute to my beloved girl, but also a venue for me to share my thoughts, experiences and photographs of the world of horse racing. I don't remember the last time I wrote a post about deafness, but that's okay--my hearing hasn't changed one bit, so the principle of the blog still stands!

As I enter my fifth year with this blog, I would like to begin incorporating more posts about the racing world. I plan to give the blog a makeover to represent this desire. And don't worry, I'll still post plenty about Limerick--how can I not, as she is my muse! Besides, as an off-track Thoroughbred (OTTB), she already fits perfectly within the ecosystem of the racing world.

Speaking of years, last night I reflected upon my years with Lim as I hand-walked her in the indoor arena. She is still recovering from the hematoma on her butt (I'd say she is about 75-80% better) and I incorporate some light hand-walking when I can. Unfortunately, she has also been a bit foot-sore because she was trimmed by the farrier on Friday and the ground in turnout has been rock-hard. As a result, our time in the indoor arena has been devoted to half hand-walking, half scratching her itchy spots.

Although I do fret when Lim is recovering from an injury, I also value every moment I spend with her while taking care of her. It is at these times that I get a better look into the window of her personality, quirks and all! In instance, when I stand by her and scratch her withers then stop, she will do a 180 so that her other side is presented for me to scratch. And when I stop scratching that side, she will again do a 180 so I can resume scratching the original side. As I do this, her face stretches out long with bliss, her eyes wide and upper lip wiggling the air. Sometimes her whole body trembles and her head and neck bob up and down when I hit a particularly itchy spot, and sometimes she cranes her head around and rakes my arm or shoulder with her teeth in an effort to return the favor. And so it continues, until my shoulders and arms are burning white-hot and I can no longer scratch her.

Limerick is so many things, and this is just a part of who she is. I love moments like these, and treasure them very much.

At the end of our time in the indoor arena, I clip her lead shank back on. At the gate, I turn off all the lights and walk her outside under a canopy of stars. As we walk back to the barn, I always look up at the stars then at Lim, seemingly oblivious to their timeless existence--or is she?

I realized last night that a few short days after I watched my first Kentucky Derby in 1991, a mare named Amelia Bry foaled a little bay filly. The mare was 22 years old, and this filly was her ninth and final foal. This little filly would not grow to be a success at the track, nor would she grow to be a success in the show ring. But this filly--Amanda Bry, Limerick--did grow to be a huge success in my heart.

 The years are slow when your horse is young, but so fleeting later on...treasure every moment!