Wednesday, January 31, 2024

After the Races Needs Your Help!

Attention thoroughbred lovers! After the Races, a nonprofit thoroughbred rehabilitation and adoption agency very near and dear to my heart, is in urgent need of your help!

The farm ATR has called home for over 6 years recently went up for sale, and ATR is raising funds for the down payment. As any of my local readers know -- the market for equestrian properties around Maryland is limited and competitive, making the idea of simply relocating a lot more complicated than it might immediately seem. 

Meanwhile, ATR has established an incredible footprint in the regional equestrian community, including their network of dedicated volunteers, veterinarians and farriers who all want to see this special organization stay local.  

adopting Charlie from ATR changed my life <3
OTTB on Tap interviewed ATR's program director, Bonnie McRae in a recent podcast to learn more about the organization, their impact on the thoroughbred aftercare industry, and why this funding initiative is so important right now.

This podcast is available on Spotify, Apple podcasts and everywhere you find your podcasts. Please check out the interview to hear Bonnie's story in her own voice, and please consider sharing among your own networks to expand the reach of this important fundraising effort.

The 77 acre horse property is listed for $1.4 million, and ATR has already raised more than $200,000 toward their down payment goal of between $600,000 and $800,000. 

But time is running out fast

Yesterday, ATR announced an exciting matching gift challenge by The Carver Foundation, founded in 2021 by animal welfare supporters, Guy and Bridget Carver. This gift challenge means they will match the next $10,000 in donations -- making your gift of any size go twice as far!

Support from the thoroughbred community of volunteers, adopters, racehorse owners, and trainers has been immense so far:
  • Over $200,000 raised, in less than a month!
  • $113,000 of those donations came in the form of major contributions ($1k up to $50k!)
  • $95,000 in donations have come from small dollar grassroots donations
  • These grassroots donations range from $5-$500 and DO ADD UP!

Please consider making a gift of any size TODAY -- especially given the advantage of The Carver Foundation's generous matching contribution!

Mondeuse joined us by way of ATR this past August!
Ways to Give:
  • Monetary donations can be mailed directly to: After the Races, 3168 Telegraph Rd, Elkton, MD 21921.
  • You can also contribute via the websiteVenmo or PayPal. Please mention the purpose of your donation through Venmo and PayPal.
  • Please contact ATR directly if you are considering making a major contribution, or if you are interested in committing to a matching donations challenge.
  • PLEASE SHARE OTTB on Tap's interview with Bonnie, news of this fundraising campaign, or any of these infographics with your network too! 

I know this isn't your typical 'Fraidy Cat Eventing blog content, but hopefully you'll appreciate the urgent need and importance of organizations like After the Races. My entire horsey life would be different if it weren't for Bonnie and this special adoption agency, all recognized as honest brokers who offer accessible adoption terms. These folks are known for their advocacy and commitment to giving good horses a great shot at second chances, and it shows. 

No amount of support is too small, and every little bit can have a big impact. Please feel free to contact me directly if you are interested in learning more or getting connected ---  fraidycat.eventing {at} gmail. 

Thanks all!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

grids with Sally

Happy Tuesday! Brace yourself for a whole bunch of nearly identical pictures lol, bc Doozy and I went to another lesson with Sally this weekend! And the lesson's focus? GRIDS!

first time tying to the trailer was nbd
Now... In the grand scheme of things, did we really need to drive an hour each way and pay lesson and ring fees to take a few trips down a grid? Esp when we can easily set up the first 3 of 4 total elements in our indoor at home? Maybe not lol...

taking a pause from dragging me around ring familiarization to sniff the various jump fill stacked on the wall
But realistically, a lot of the benefit from these off-farm lessons isn't derived so much from what we do under saddle, but rather from the whole "off-farm" bit. 

seriously, the entire arena was lined with adorable and creative fillers!
Going to a new place, existing at the trailer, familiarizing with the new riding space (while half a dozen other horses jump and canter and finish up their lesson) all while not disrupting said lesson or murdering me, and being manageable enough to proceed with our own ride. --> THAT'S the stuff that'll hopefully pay off big time when we do eventually start showing.

sally kept our jumps quite simple and unadorned tho
None of this comes as easily to Doozy as it did Charlie. But ya know, she's better every time. She's still very triggered by other horses coming and going and doing things near doors or in the middle distance or outside windows... But her reactions are getting smaller and more self contained. Progress! 

it's grid day, mare!!
Tho, ahem, I *did* almost fall immediately off while getting on haha... Whoops. Doozy has made immense progress at the mounting block, but some days are always just going to be harder than others. C'est la vie. 

exercises were built progressively, one stick at a time
Our warm up was uneventful, tho, and we did our little trotting and cantering around while barn mate Katie and Rosette had their private lesson. Katie then stayed in the ring with us for our turn -- and we shared the lesson with another boarder too.

not exactly sure of these distances, but probably closer to 18' than 24' for a short one stride
Sally had a long grid set up for the higher classes -- a 30'-10'-30' set of verticals to go two-bounce-two, set on shorter indoor distances. So she decided to reconfigure this set up slightly to create a progressive "baby's first grid" set of exercises for us!!

i worked really hard on keeping softer hands and rein contact, which proved useful when doozy kept wanting to look down at the poles lol 
Each pass through the grid progressed very similarly to how Hadden introduced Doozy to jumping, which worked really perfectly. Tho for some reason, Doozy did seem a little distracted by some of the clutter --- like she wanted to stretch down in her neck and look at the stuff as it passed beneath her.

it was hard to know when to just be soft and allowing and let her do her thing, vs when to add more support -- esp deeper into the grid
For my purposes, I tried really hard to be more aware and intentional in my rein contact and release. I talked a little bit about it with Sally too -- like, "It's been so long since I've had lessons that I know I'm doing all sorts of weird things --- if you see something, say something!"

final element was 30' for a short two stride
Which, obvi she was happy to do so. But she was also super practical with me: With a horse this green, sometimes you just need to focus on getting in the reps and doing what needs done. The refinement will certainly come, but I shouldn't get too bogged down in the details just yet. 

got pretty clever about trotting into the grid after all the repetition!
She also reminded me that.... quite obviously, Doozy does not have the experience yet to totally 100% "let the grid train her." She doesn't know enough yet about using her eye, adjusting her stride, when to push, when to wait, or even how to push or wait

did experiment with exit strategies once
So, yes, I need to give her the freedom and allow her to kinda work her way through the exercise, but I also need to use MY experience and judgement to add support when needed. 

throwback to charles circa 2017 --- bc, turns out, most normal horses will, eventualy, experiment with exiting lol
Like, I didn't want to goose her or chase her through the exercise when she felt a little uncertain about going on the stride... But by the end we had a good feeling for how much leg to add to help keep her positive and support her instincts, which are already pretty forward thinking. That was maybe the best takeaway from the lesson --- feeling that moment when just the littlest support went the longest way.

nbd, tho, just go right on back around and do it again
Doozy did try to run out once through the line -- which imho is pretty much inevitable with this particular exercise. It's hard work, it's repetitive, and it can be tiring. Horses are like water -- they like to follow the paths of least resistance. So it's normal for them to see if, 'hey, would it be easier if I just like, didn't?'

a little open right rein + sally passively sorta standing there was plenty to keep doozy on the straight and narrow
And ya know, the answer is, "nope, not easier, try again." And again, most normal horses with the right support and general interest in the activity will say, "Ok, was worth a shot!" and will proceed as they were lol. Doozy was no exception.

circling back for our final trip of the day!
It was at this point, tho, when I had to let entirely go of the neck strap to better use all my tools for keeping Doozy straight and following Sally's instruction for a more open right rein. 

I was a bit worried that my hands would go crazy lol, but, ya know, practice is a helluva drug and my position stayed more or less where I wanted it even without holding the strap. Yay!

added jussssst a touch of more calf support through the last line and it was perfect
The amount of added leg was so so minimal, it was kinda crazy haha. Just like, the gentlest steady hug from the top of my calves --- just letting Doozy know I was there for her, plus a little extra verbal reassurance (and a cluck earlier in the grid) and she just nailed it

good girl, dooz!
Our final trip had such a pleasant balance, such an easy cadence, and we both felt very "together." Was definitely the right place to stop, even tho --- had I been alone, I would have called it on the trip before. Bc that one had been "good enough."

I actually asked Sally if we should call it there, and she was like, "No I think you need to do it once more." Which was obvi fine -- I was happy to do it again. But that's just something I'm trying to work on -- knowing when to be satisfied and when to ask for more. My tendency is to call it slightly too soon --- I'm afraid of getting greedy, or maybe of "running out of luck" or something. 

this gorgeous stout lil barn kitty visited us at the trailer afterward
But this last trip was the perfect reminder to me that "good enough" is good and all, but there's usually one more trip in there that might be a bit more on the mark, maybe even great

left a little present in the trailer too haha, thanks buddy
So a lot of valuable takeaways from all sorts of different angles lol. Sally's suggestion for homework was basically to 'continue as we are.' Keep doing what we're doing, and the pieces will keep coming together. 

I really don't have any sense of timeline or anything with Doozy at this point. Like it would be nice to think about spring shows and stuff.... But there's just so much more preparation that has to happen (like, uh, riding out in an open field at speeds faster than walk and without the support of having a friend right next to us..... details details!). And it feels reasonable to expect that some of that preparation will be different than it was with Charlie. 

Charlie could go out, do a thing, experience something, and basically be like, "Ok yep I know what this is." Doozy.... may take more acclimatization lol. 

It's all good, tho, bc so far I'm really enjoying the process! And who knows, maybe Charlie will be back to fighting form by springtime if the allure of horse shows becomes irresistible?? lol...

Sunday, January 28, 2024


Ugh. This mare, guys. This fucking mare. 

I'm gonna sell her to the Amish for a dollar, I swear to god. 

She just, ugh, she's just so busy with her pitiful little wisp of a tail.... Her worst toxic trait is constantly swishing into everything and literally ripping out gigantic chunks. UGH!

I about snapped yesterday when I walked into her stall and saw.... this

Oh my god, Doozy. OH MY GOD.

looks like maybe pulled out of the left side?? also, yea, that's a quarter-sized BALD SPOT on the top right from some other incident oof
Like. I am at my wits' end here, not even exaggerating lol.... True story:: I may or may not have bought Charlie bc he's down with face hugs and HAS GOOD HAIR. 

Doozy?? Not so much, ugh. Like, the color is nice, and it looks like she could theoretically eventually develop some thickness.... 


just be beautiful pls :(
I mean. I guessss she has other redeeming qualities or whatever. Like being super cute and cuddly, and also kinda fancy and fun to jump... 

But c'mon mare! Ugh.... Tragic.

So I dunno. I guess lmk what products you swear by for tails, esp anything for conditioning, growth, or possibly to keep the skin happy (/not itchy)....  Sigh.

Friday, January 26, 2024

friday foto finish: pics or it didn't happen!

In other words --- sometimes it DOES snow in Maryland, and sometimes it even sticks around for a while too!! Sure sure, it's all gone now.... But I have pictures!! Lol...

mares in the morning!
For real, tho, we had two back to back snowstorms with a sustained period of below freezing temperatures around these parts. Not really terribly miserable or anything, or even that unusual.... 

geldings in the morning!
But honestly, with the way things have been going recently (ie: great), it felt like a nice time to just slow down and ease through the weather. No powering through, no big pushes or ambitions. Just bundled up ponies and people haha, and not a whole lot else.

two boys, one cup stall
Charlie had a few more days of being stall-bound due to conditions relating to his wound progress... But eventually we kinda just threw in the towel. It was legit too cold out for the duck tape or elastikon adhesives to even stick in order to wrap the hoof... And homeboy was DONE with staying in. 

chairlift lad's gorgeous halter is holding strong!
So we released him to the snow, and the wound has done us the favor of basically continuing on as it was. 

charlie, royal and punky --- the band's back together, guys <3 <3 <3
Meanwhile, the path down to the gelding's big pasture got too iced over to safely lead horses in and out, so Charlie's whole group was split into paddocks around the barn yard. 

Which naturally created the perfect opportunity to start reintroducing Royal to his former friends --- recall Royal has been rehabbing a soft tissue injury for over a year now. 

The plan was for Charlie to buddy up again with his longtime friend as the heel bulb wound recovered, and then they'd rejoin the group as a duo vs Royal kinda getting flung back out into the wild with no preparation. 

snoozin with the sun on his back
So it actually all worked out perfectly --- Royal got to get reacquainted with Charlie first (lol), then with more friends in paddocks, and now that the snow is gone, they're all back out in the big field again!! WHEW!

so so so slow with this thing, tho
Charlie's wound isn't finished healing yet, and could still go backwards I guess. It's just so wet out, and will probably be wet for a long time to come. Plus now that they're on a round bale, the mud will start getting deep fast. But we'll see. 

At some point we'll try to do his hocks again (it's been almost 2yrs now holy shit), so if the wound starts looking squicky we'll just time it for that --- so he can dry out in his stall as needed.

back out in the cold again haha, still snoozy tho
Doozy had some herd rearrangements too. The elegant old bay matriarch of her group passed suddenly but peacefully overnight in her stall recently. Just came in from the field, ate her dinner, laid down, and left us. Very sad, but honestly a gift in how peacefully she went. 

back to dooz nooz -- poor thing got kicked :'(
Since then, some mares who were on dry lots during the grassy season joined the herd -- Rosette and lil hunter princess pony Truly. There was a little kerfuffle during introductions, and Doozy ended up on the receiving end of a stern "lecture" lol.... But all has been well since, as far as I can tell.

also got a new Bartville halter bc she instantly broke the "new" consignment halter i got her for christmas.....
And actually, Doozy went more than a full week without getting ridden! Her first significant break since the cellulitis situation!!

ooooh back to work!
I actually hadn't sat on her since our clinic lesson with Sally... Then finally pulled her out again about mid week this week. And guys. Wow. I just don't know what to say other than... It's amazing how much traveling and going places and doing things can grow a horse up

pics or it didn't happen
Taking a couple turns around the indoor with friends now is so easy, so routine, so "normal," that my reactive sassy little red rockette just went about it, went thru her paces (admittedly volunteering to canter before I quite asked, but politely enough that who really cares anyway?) and was a sensible pleasant riding horse! Good girl!

snow walks
And has been ever since!! Our work isn't exactly like, "good" or "polished" lol... But, eh, does it need to be right now? Nahhhh lol... We just need to enjoy it, imho. We're overdue for an MP lesson, but actually might be doing something different (but kinda the same?) this weekend first. We'll see. Stay tuned.

omgggg and charles <3 <3
And ya know. Now that Charlie has returned to his big field and is not quite as, er, feisty, as he was while in limited turn out.... Well --- it's back to the salt mines with him too <3 

Jk jk lol.... I only just sat on Charlie long enough to say "we did it!" and take a picture lol. He's not gonna do anything serious until his hocks get done, whenever that is. But we can dink around a little in the meantime. 

So. Happy Friday, y'all -- you're officially caught up in everything that has (or hasn't lol) happened in the last couple weeks. Gotta say, I'm really loving this winter's relaxed vibes so far --- hope you're feeling similarly!! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

storm warning

Not gonna lie, I'm super grateful that our last two weekends of pony adventures are behind us. Both clinic days were super cold and super windy, but somehow the weather has turned even worse since then...

first round bale of the season -- out in january
We've had inches and inches of rain, and this whole week will be a bit of an arctic blast. Super cold --- but somehow, still not quite cold enough to fully freeze the full depth of mud yet either. 

one of my favorite things about this horse --- she never misses a meal!
So Doozy is getting a few days to just sorta rest on her laurels before we inevitably return to the indoor for more boring flat rides lol. 

and then there's sad charles... unclear who is walking whom here
Charlie, meanwhile, is having a tough go of it. We kept him stalled during the heavy rain days to try to protect his heel wound.... but the ground is just beyond saturated now and his whole paddock was literally under water. 

ring inspector inspecting the ring
The bandages don't stand a chance in those conditions, and spending 8hrs a day with a wet bandage was starting to stall out the wound's recovery. It started to seem a little tender and like it was getting rubbed raw. 

hand grazing in wintry weather
So unfortunately he's back in his stall again, much to his extreme dismay. At least we're able to leave him unwrapped for now. So the wound is developing a bit of a scab, which could be maybe the last phase in recovery? I dunno.

omg the shetlands were going nuts hahahaha
My hope is that after another 24 or 36hrs of below-freezing temperatures, his paddock will be fully frozen through the full depth of the mud, and he can maybe go back out. 

srsly look at these silly fluffy critters!
Bc having him in the stall is pretty far from ideal, not gonna lie. He's miserable and literally no amount of hand walking can satisfy him. Yesterday I turned him out in the indoor for an hour and ran around and played with him.... Then hand grazed him in the snow storm for another hour....

recovery stalled after too many days in wet muddy paddock
Which is legitimately the height of boring for me. But barely a drop in the bucket for him. There's just no good place to turn him out right now that isn't either a) way too muddy; or b) not neighboring other horses he's likely to get in trouble with.

current state: unwrapped but stalled. new stage of healing i guess
We'll see, I guess. He's so close to being fully healed up. And I'm so eager for him to return to his herd. They moved to a new field for the winter that actually still has a little grass, and a lot less mud. It'll be such a relief for EVERYBODY when he's out again haha.

artsy fartsy bc y'all know i can't help myself
i was testing out apps to turn photos into stylized graphics to make a memorial gift for a friend who just said goodbye to her senior mare. any recommendations?
In the meantime, we'll be in a bit of a holding pattern around here. Gross weather, other things going on outside my horsey life, and not much in the way of upcoming plans or activities. Not a bad time for a lull, LOL. 

Hope you aren't getting blasted with too much winter this week!