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Friday, October 26, 2012

Poor Unfortunate Soul

I spent some time today (of course when I should have been doing something else) surfing my favorite "horsey p*rn" site, as my friend Wendy over at Racehorse to Showhorse calls them (I'm not spelling that word out but I think you can guess). Here's where I was hanging out:

You know I love Thoroughbreds above all other horse breeds, and you probably know it's my dream to have an OTTB of my own someday. CANTER always has a great selection of soon-to-be-OTTBS, so when I want to torture myself, this is my favorite place to go. I even have photos I've printed out of some horses over the years to remind me of the "ones that got away."

Well, here's one that I won't be hanging up. God bless 'im, but this has to be the sorriest-looking TB I have ever laid eyes on. I gasped out loud. In fact, at first I thought that someone had made a huge mistake and accidentally posted a picture of a creature that resulted from the accidental breeding of a scrub Mustang and a goat (sorry, Mustang-lovers, I know there are pretty ones of those, too!).

You think I'm kidding/exaggerating?
I mean, What. Is. That.???

Okay, his front legs are not bad other than being short, but the rest looks like a textbook illustration for a  "Poor Conformation" photo. I realize that his main defect is a roached back, but upon careful consideration, I don't think things would be mightily improved if that suddenly went away. You would still have the posty hinds, the endless withers (saddle-fitting would be a breeze), the straight shoulder, that NECK (can he even reach the ground to graze???), the piggie eye in a cinder-block head, etc. etc. He even has a crappy-looking tail. And oh, let's not overlook the hay belly, quite a thing to achieve on a TB! (Hope it's not worms but it might well be)

You can call me mean if you want but I simply am aghast at this poor animal. He might be the sweetest horse on earth, but I think he is going to have a very hard time finding an owner (at least one who wants to ride him). Especially given that.... are you ready for this... they are asking the sum of  *drumroll please*

for this horse.

Here's his complete description:

I don't understand how they think he "might be a QB/TB mix" (which, by the way, I could easily believe), if  he has a tattoo. Do they tattoo Quarter Horses? The "raced in June" part, too, is a bit baffling since if that's true it sure didn't take him long to lose *koff, koff* condition. The video is very short and basically shows him being dragged at a walk at the end of a lead rope. Apparently he didn't feel like trotting.

I have to say, this photo makes me feel even sorrier for this poor beast:
You'd think they might have taken the time to remove the burdocks from his forelock before taking his picture. He looks pretty disgusted, and I don't blame him.

Now, don't get me wrong - I am a huge, huge fan of CANTER, don't know what our TBs would do without them, and greatly appreciate that someone cares enough to house and feed (!) Mr. Horse here off the racetrack. They also took the time to take the pictures and get them posted on the CANTER website. This boy could have (and Lord knows with his looks, it can't have been far from people's minds) been shipped straight to the auction. I'm truly glad these people who have him care that much. I just wish they would price him more realistically ($500 comes to mind) and maybe do something - ANYTHING - to make him look a wee bit better. Deworming and neck exercises, maybe?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Equestrian Life, On Display

I have observed that most people with decorator shelves in their homes fill them with a variety of plants (real or fake), or the occasional objet d'art. We have a couple in our house. The one over the front door does hold a plant, but it also has a number of old-to-extremely-old family items: an antique drum, a violin, a ukelele that belonged to my grandfather, a battered bugle, a trunk plastered with travel stickers, a couple of suitcases and my dad's camera that he got in 1958. So, lots of cool stuff with great memories attached.

For the one in my bedroom, I immediately envisioned an area where I could display things pertaining to my life with horses (fortunately Hubby was okay with this plan). I started with my old saddle, which you saw in the last post, and have added many other items that are significant to me. Most people who have seen this collection don't "get" it; I imagine it just looks like a bunch of junk. I am hoping that you, dear readers, will appreciate these things a tiny bit more.

So, without further ado, here is the north end:
On the far left you will notice some little Palomino horse models. This mare and foal pair are china, and at one time were really beautiful. Unfortunately, they were played with a lot when I was little and suffered the consequences. The poor foal is standing precariously on three and 3/4 legs; after mending all four of his legs multiple times, I think Dad just gave up on one of them. So he's missing a fore from knee down. But it's okay, he can still stand up leaning against his momma and he's still adorable.

Then there's that weird-looking grey thing. That is a mask that I made out of papier mache when I was about 9 years old and was Grey the Horse for Halloween. My mom made a hood with a mane, and an excellent suit complete with tail to go with it. The outfit was a bit hit, although other kids liked to knock on the mask and ask if anyone was in there. My son wound up wearing this whole outfit one Halloween (and won a costume contest), so it's been through two generations now.

The rocking horse actually made an appearance on this blog some time ago, along with the Buck Breyer model, so I won't go into huge detail here. Here's a close-up again:
As far as the formerly-blue ribbon - well, that's a really special one, and has a great story attached. I promise I WILL get to that but it needs its own post!

Going back to the shelf, you've also already seen the boots on top of the Secretariat Breyer, and the lunchbox. The little trophy to the right of the lunchbox I won by making it to the State finals in 4-H Horse Bowl with my team. I loved being in 4-H and learned an awful lot through the program (you will hear more about it in the near future). Horse Bowl in particular was a lot of fun but very nerve-wracking. It didn't help that I was told I had to be the "nutrition expert," which meant memorizing a lot of facts and figures about Ca:Ph ratios, protein percentages, and the like. Math is not my strong suit. I would have been a lot happier in charge of anatomy or diseases but nope, the team needed help in nutrition so that's what I got. All's well that ended well - we didn't win State but got darn close!

The tall trophy peeking out from behind the lunchbox is actually not horse-related (I won the Grand Prize in a Science Fair) but it's the only place it fit. You know about my old Prix de Nations saddle already, but how about those ribbons? Well, I'm sorry to say the Champion is the one and only Championship ribbon I've ever won in a horse show, and the other is my first Reserve Championship, seen in this photo when I was 7 years old:
Aboard Little John, the best darn pony EVER.
Both of these were earned at Tricorne Farm horse shows. No other Reserves or Champions have been forthcoming YET (yes, it's been quite a drought given my current age), so these are proudly on display.

Someone might recognize that tall and furry horse model on the south end of the shelf. She's Penny, an American Girl horse owned by the Colonial girl in the series. Darn thing cost a bleeding fortune and while my daughter liked her a lot, she did not inherit the horse-obsessed gene from me so Penny is pretty well-preserved. Yours truly had a good time tacking her up when Daughter had friends coming over to play. :-)

Last but not least is the very odd-looking spotted item on the far right. You would never guess what it is in a million years - other than that it hopefully looks a bit like a horse - so I'll just tell you: it went on a totem pole. Huh? Well, one summer I volunteered as a leader for Daughter's Girl Scout summer day camp. The kids were small, so we adults pretty much had free rein on what we did and what our own little groups would be called. The overall theme of the camp was "Native American." So what is more Indian than Paint horses??? Hence, I named our group the Painted Ponies.

I had a lot of fun with this theme, none more so than when it was time to make a totem part for the camp pole. Each group was issued a plastic one-gallon ice cream bucket with holes cut in it as the base, and I built the head and neck out of foam rubber. The kids helped apply papier mache and paint the horse head when it dried. The totem parts were dropped on a broom handle and when they were lined up, I have to say the overall effect was pretty neat. Incidentally, ours won the prize for Best-Looking. :-)

So there you have it, one of my main horsey areas in the house. Oh yes, there are more! What can I say... my family are good sports about putting up with Mom's taste in decor.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Saddle Fitting - What's That?

Here's what I knew about saddle fit for both horse and rider when I bought my current one in 2000: next to nothing. For the horse, I knew it had to have wither and gullet clearance. For the rider, I knew my knee shouldn't hang over the edge of the flap, and I should be able to fit four fingers behind my butt. That's about it! As a life-long lesson student I'm afraid I never really had to think about it. When I went saddle shopping, I focused on the following, in this order:

- Price (< $1,000)
- Quality
- Fit for me
- Appearance

When I was little and riding at Tricorne Farm, I used the saddle that went with the horse or pony I was assigned to that day. I cringe when I see photos of my small self floating around in a ginormous hunk of leather on the back of some patient 16hh plodder. Bet it made my legs stronger, though!

This photo isn't quite as dramatic, as I was more like eight years old than five (my age when I started at Tricorne), but I guarantee you those leathers were wrapped at least once. I can remember them having to be wrapped two or even three times.
This is "Budweiser," a Belgian X schoolie who had to have been even taller than 16hh. I'm modeling the rubber tall boots I wore for a few years. Hot in the summer, FREEZING in the winter - it's a wonder I still have all my toes - and loose enough to go around my chicken legs twice. Have to say they really didn't look that bad, though.
When I was a teenager, I used the "in" brand borrowed from my trainer's daughter for shows. It was a Crosby Prix de Nations, of course - the must-have saddle of the 70s. I don't remember what I rode in for lessons; something that must have fit me and the two lessons horses okay. I always desperately wanted my own saddle as a kid but my parents didn't see the need. I remember watching the price of a PDN go up... and up... over the years in the Millers catalog and lamenting the fact that it was getting further out of reach by the minute (I think it hit a whole $500!). Why we didn't look for a used one, I don't know...  When I finally accumulated some of my own money I wasn't riding anymore (Sr. year of HS - story for another day) and spent it on a trip to Europe.

Now, thanks to the Internet, I am vastly more educated. I don't have my own horse, so I've still never tried to fit a horse exactly, but at least I know more about my own choice. Luckily, it wasn't half-bad: it's a 17" Dover Circuit Elite.
Not mine, but looks just like it.
The Dover catalog states this is their best-selling saddle, and they also have some quotes from trainers saying it fits a wide variety of horses. Neither of the trainers I've ridden with since acquiring the Circuit Elite have complained about it not fitting a lesson mount, thank goodness. I was glad that at my most recent barn all the horses went in a wither-relief pad (either wool or faux sheepskin) and a regular pad, so that helped, too.

I have been very happy with this saddle and it's garnered quite a few compliments. I see that Dover has upgraded the leather since my purchase; a good thing, since it took a lot of elbow grease and Lexol to break in the flaps on this one (and remove a bunch of superfluous dye). Still, I have to tell you it was made a lot better than a low-end model from Beval that I also looked at. I was not impressed with the unmatching leather on that one at all - and they were the exact same price.

When I finally do get my own horse I will be sure to have a saddle fitter out. I would have no problem replacing the Dover if that's best, as I've learned I could use something better for myself anyway (narrower, more forward flap, for starters).

If you noticed, I was talking about my "current" saddle. My first one was none other than a Crosby PDN, purchased well-used in 1988. I still remember how beyond thrilled I was when I saw it for sale on a flyer hanging up after the 4-H show at the Ohio State Fair. I couldn't believe it - my dream saddle, in my size, for $75! The ironic part was I wasn't even riding then, but I didn't care (and I also didn't really have the $75, being right out of college and living on my own). I drove two hours away to pick it up and was so excited that I actually pulled over at a rest stop to hang the thing on a guard rail and sit in it. Lord knows what passing motorists thought I was doing.

Another 11 years went by before I had the opportunity to ride in this saddle. It was now 1999, and you know where this is going... much to my dismay, flat saddles were largely gone from the H/J world. Everyone had padded knee rolls again. My rock-hard, needed-reflocking, slippery PDN was not only not in fashion, it revealed itself to be mighty uncomfortable. I had never noticed when I was a kid but I sure did as an adult! It had to go... hence the search that resulted in the Circuit Elite. I looked for a used saddle to no avail, as I would have liked something already broken in.

The longed-for Crosby is now adorning a display shelf in my bedroom. I know some people still love them, and I'm sure I could sell it to one of them or a person just starting out in English riding, but for now it's merely a decoration:
I have published glimpses of this display shelf before. Coming soon: a post where I explain everything up there! And, I told you the panels need restuffing... ugh.
Of course nowadays the most popular models are nothing less than pillowy mock-couches - I'd love to see some of these Junior riders get around a 3'6" course in that old PDN, wouldn't you? ;-)

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Desert Prince

If you are reading this blog, I strongly suspect you have read this book:
Just a look at the cover brings a lump to my throat. I remember that I didn't quite get the story when I was small, not understanding why people couldn't see the worth of the little stallion; I don't think I even realized that he was, in fact, an Arabian. I was also confused by the part when Sham is banished to the moor after "beating up" Hobgoblin. I knew that was bad of him, but I didn't grasp what had really happened, i.e. that he had bred a mare when he wasn't supposed to (a precocious reader, I hadn't been told the "facts of life" yet when I first picked up this book).

What I did understand and felt deeply was the unbreakable bond between Agba, the mute "horse boy," and Sham. How I longed to be entrusted with the care of my own horse who I would also adore to the end of its life!

"... and the little brown horse boy who loved him."

This memorized final line from "King of the Wind" says it all to me, right there. That one, and the last line of "Black Gold," just Tear. Me. Up. Yes, still, at my advanced age. Want to see me cry? Make me read a horse or a dog story, even one that I've already read a dozen times.

This afternoon I stumbled across an article on the Sports Illustrated website that just blew me away. I don't even remember what I was Googling - something horse-related, obviously - and along came this absolute gem from 1961. Apparently there are many versions of the "true story" behind "King of the Wind," but this one has to be the most beautiful. For your reading pleasure, here is the magnificent tale, as related by a truly gifted writer:
A portrait of "Scham"
A little more Googling turned up this also-fascinating post:

I am especially touched to see the Godolphin Arabian's final resting place:
I prefer Maurice Druon's version, though. As SI says, leave it to a Frenchman to tell the story with the "special accent of romantic love!"