Things that Squeeze Your Heart

As previously mentioned, I volunteer for Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds, Inc. which is a non-profit group that lists horses on the racetrack and helps advertise and network to find their next home and career. Most of the trainers of the horses will really go the extra mile to take care of their horses, but several do not for a variety of reasons. The end of the “meet” (when the track closes for the winter) is often a high stress time for our group. I mostly update the website and post the new horses so I don’t meet many in person and am often grateful for that layer of insulation that most of the other volunteers do not have. By the end of the meet many of the horses are in a bit of a critical period. They are not racing competitively anymore and many of the trainers are transient and need to head to the southern tracks for the winter. So the end of the meet is really crunch time.

Our volunteers took photographs of twenty new horses to add to our listings today (in the snow, wind, and cold). I was uploading photographs that had been emailed to me with my son snuggled next to me on the coach, blissfully watching a Disney movie when he asked me what happened to the horses that did not find homes. (Danger, danger Will Robinson! In addition to trying to not tear up!). Not wanting to lie or scar the six year old for life, I was a bit torn on how to proceed. Considering that last month we had to put our old Lab down (Bailey has slept with Liam most every night for the last year or two), I really didn’t want to venture too far into that territory. I went with a mix of honesty and omission. I told him that most of the trainers will keep their horses until they find them a home, but many we don’t actually know what becomes of them and its probably not always good. Fortunately, my son did not ask questions beyond that and we talked about horses like Fred, Reis, Cos, Rosie, Sky 2, and Chunk who go on to be show horses and pets. I do not really believe that the conversation is over, but after its digested a bit there will be more questions and those I will be thinking about. The end of the meet is always tricky, but tonight just put a bit of an additional weight on my chest.

Helllooo Winter (as in Hello Newman)

So the white stuff arrived today. In typical fashion for this part of the country it was almost 70F on Tuesday and 30’s by Thursday. The weather forecast was for snow everywhere but along the lake, and of course the only place with measurable snow fall today was along the lake. However, the harvest is over and now I have more time and energy for the barn (of course). Winter brings along a number of traditions.

One is bringing all of the jump equipment out of the outdoor arena and stuffing it into the indoor. I’m not really complaining as I am very grateful to have an indoor arena. And actually this year it was more the change over to daylight savings (or is that what we have over the summer??? I can never remember) that forced me to move jump equipment. I never did get the jump poles repainted this summer so that will go to next summer’s “to-do” list, unless I can usurp my husband’s heated garage to paint fences.

We had a barn “play date” last Sunday and decided to do some work over raised cavaletti poles which turned into a comedy of errors. The group was one of stereotypes – we had Whitman – the egotistical warmblood of the dressage sandbox variety; Flynn – the archetypical “red” mare: TasĀ  – the overachiever Morgan; Cosmo – the been there, done that, coming-back-from-a-layup OTTB; and, briefly, Webster – the chip-on-my-shoulder-is-almost-bigger-than-my-belly “but I am still fabulous” Morgan. We pretty much warmed up like a merry-go-round. A 60’x120′ indoor is gobbled up pretty quickly by five horses. Webster made it all of about seven minutes. Flynn had kicked him on a recent trail ride and every time she went by him, Webster tried to hide in a corner. At one point Flynn hit the breaks and started to back up (as previously stated she is a very red mare) and Webster decided to also put the binders on and try and turn around. That action put him directly into the path of Whitman who had no problem just slamming into Webster. My mother wisely decided that she did not want to play equine bumper cars and skedaddled back to the barn with her horse that was having a PTSD flashback.

After warming up, we did (or tried to do) three slightly raised cavaletti in a straight line, 4.5 feet apart. Whitman can barely walk over three poles and I never felt brave enough to trot. I wasn’t keen on seeing if Whitman could imitate a pretzel, let alone with me on his back. Tas, ever the overachiever and very excitable jumper, tried to launch over all of the poles. His rider (and now owner – congratulations!) naturally has big eyes and they turned into the proverbial dinner plate with that trick. Grantham’s owner who was just viewing the entertainment pulled the center pole out, but Tas then decided to treat it like a bounce and still kept launching. With the greater distance between the two, I was willing to try trotting Whitman through but it was a case of monkey see, monkey do and whatever trick Tas invented to get over the poles, Whitman imitated. All I could think of are the motocross trick riders who do some trick when they get a lot of air. We then attempted to do raised cavalletti on a 20m circle. Considering the previous challenged, I just put one pole on each quarter of the circle (12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock). Hilarity then ensued. Tas leapt each trot pole as if it was a two foot vertical, Cosmo just seemed to stand there in total shock and embarrassment with the barnmates he is stuck with, Flynn actually was the best of the group and then there was Whitman.

Whitman is not very talented in matters involving navigating obstacles. We had trouble just getting over each pole but also the exercise evidently wasn’t holding his attention or maybe he felt the other horses were getting too much attention. (will finish later)