Month: June 2015

Starting To Make Progress

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May 17: I’m very pleased about how well TJ’s shoulder is healing. He was cantering around the pasture with his friends & bucking like a fool yesterday. I went to catch him & he took off bucking. I’ve never seen this before. Even after his performance in the pasture he walked out without a limp and did a nice working trot with very little limp. He’s able to turn smaller circles too. Greg past us twice & he tried taking off both times to make it a horse race. Normally he doesn’t care.The better he feels & the more comfortable he gets with me, the more his goofball personality comes out. He stole my saddle pad, the my half pad, tried to steal my saddle, fly spray, Greg’s saddle blanket. All while I was brushing & trying to tack up. I think I’m going to have my hands full with this one.

May 29: TJ is doing great! Any set backs are minor and because I wasn’t able to ride enough days or he had to be stalled due to weather/bugs.

He’s getting silly … stealing things from my brush box, my saddle pads, playing with Greg’s keys. Anything he can get his teeth on. Looking forward to a summer filled with trail rides and other adventures.

June 7: Gymkhana day at the barn and I didn’t get moving in time to avoid all of the chaos. The gymkhana atmosphere in April proved to be too much for TJ to handle and he had a melt down. Two months did wonders for his trust and confidence in me.We went in the warm up ring with all of the insanity with no problems. Walk, trot & canter (his idea) like a trooper. We hung out, did little rides up the road. TJ was fabulous. With everything going on he got a bit fired up & jigged, but it was no big deal. He got bored, so I was a toy … well, my hat was. 

I decided he needed to enter 1 class. We were going to do barrels, at whatever speed he picked. He was nervous & jigged to the ring, into the ring & trotted the pattern like a champ. Another great day with my horse.

I still haven’t found out any more about what happened to him between his original sale and ending up at a kill sale, but I’m still not giving up. Someone has to know him and what happened.

Journal for April 2015

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April 1, 2015: Now that the weather is finally getting tolerable and I’m spending more time with TJ he’s starting to reveal some of his past. Unfortunately I’m afraid part of his training included abuse. He’s always a little nervous when I ride in the ring but Sunday he was awful. He tried every invasive trick known to a horse (& a few I’ve never seen) to get out of being ridden. When nothing would deter me he threw a hind foot out to the side to scare me away. 30 – 45 mins later he gave up because I refused to. We had a nice relaxing ride. It’s going to be a project to get him over his fears and to trust me, but he’ll be worth it.

April 8, 2015: We had a great evening on Monday at the barn. After I got mr mud ball cleaned I didn’t feel like riding so we worked on some things to build a bond & trust. We went into the (scary) ring for some in-hand work. Ground poles, the bridge. I put his bridle on so I could see how my western bit fit & walked around the parking lot. He got to see the other barn, horses across the street. My Tahoe was alarming, especially when I opened the door. Once he found out there were treats in there, he just about climbed in. He learned how to trust me a little bit more.

April 11, 2015: What an awesome day at the barn! No issues tacking, no nervousness when I took him in the ring. TJ was an angel, despite the wind. I’m still learning what button to push, but we’re getting there. It’s going to be a long process of trial & error. He’s even fine now when I ask for something he doesn’t understand. I got walk, trot & a beautiful long strides, free flowing canter (until I accidentally touched his sides & he put the breaks on).

We had a great ride in the ring then ventured out. There was quite a bit going on at the farm today since they’re getting ready for the 1st gymkhana tomorrow – farm equipment everywhere, noise, people, vehicles. Nothing phased him. 

He still has more of a limp in the ring than out. Greg & I were talking about it. We agree it’s partially faking since he was terrified of the ring & part real. I think he has an old injury to his right shoulder that’s causing the limp. This would explain the ending of his show career. He doesn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort. I’m paying close attention to his ears & attitude when I ride. He’s more than willing to do anything I want, ears are never pinned like something hurts, no tail wringing. It certainly doesn’t bother him when he’s hauling ass around the pasture. I am going to have the vet take a look at it just to make sure.

What a wonderful horse. I think he’s finally found his forever home.

April 22, 2015: The vet came out last night & did a thorough exam on his shoulders & front legs. He agreed with me that it’s a muscle issue. I’m going to do light work to build his muscles up and see if the compression in his right shoulder goes away.

April 26, 2015: Great progress yesterday! He’s walking normally. Stretching out with his right just as far as his left. He’s starting to stretch at the trot, but there’s still a bit of a limp (not as bad as it was). He was’t comfortable with the little bit of canter so I stopped. I was able to get a nice working canter instead of that crippled WP lope he was taught.

A Rough Start

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The next few months were a bit rough. He wasn’t really settling in and getting into the barn routine. He didn’t want to be outside and broke the snap on the fence gate numerous times so he could get back to his stall. He continued to be untrusting and a bit skittish. It was another cold, snowy winter so riding was hit or miss (mostly miss … once a month for the next 3 months). It was mostly brushing and getting to know each other. This time proved to be invaluable. I started to gain his trust on the ground long before I started to ride.

In early February I finally connected with his previous owner.  I didn’t realize he was rescued from a kill sale. I learned about her history with TJ, as well as what his vet and farrier had done. He was the June 2013 featured horse on the Horses and Hope calendar, as well as the subject of a blog post on the Thoroughbred Daily News. Links to both can be found on TJ’s Facebook page. I was also told his breeder fell on some hard times and sold him to what was supposed to be a good home. After 1 1/2 years of vet and farrier care, he still had a severe limp that nobody could fix and she was going to have him put down. A trainer in her area really wanted him & said he’d use TJ as his roping horse. Within a week TJ had an awful shoe job with poured pads and was at his partner’s barn in PA for sale. It was at this barn that I met TJ.

The information I was given was invaluable and shocking. I gained some insight on his behavior and it made me more curious as to how this well bred, well trained Western Pleasure horse ended up taking the path he took. His breeder hasn’t responded to me and I have no contact information for his old owner in MN.

How It All Began

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I first met TJ right after Christmas last year. An area trainer had 5 horses for sale that I had an appointment to see. I looked at an older ranch gelding first and decided he wasn’t for me. TJ was next. He was advertised as a 16h pleasure gelding. The trainer said he had sore front feet from being trimmed too short by his previous owner & he should be fine once they grow out. We tacked him Western & led him to the indoor.  I scrambled up the mounting block and I took my first ride. He was gimpy at all three gaits, unhappy and uncomfortable. He had the standard slow jog & that awful, cripple lope that seems to be standard with Western Pleasure horses. I realized I didn’t know how to work him. I’d never ridden a Western Pleasure trained horse before. I tacked him English. He moved out much freer, he was happier, but still gimpy.

I knew better than to buy a horse that had issues and being 5’2″ I really didn’t want a 16h horse, but there was something about this big guy. I didn’t look at the rest of the horses.

TJ was delivered on New Year’s Day. I showed him around his new home, his stall & finally introduced him to my husband’s mare. the other 4 horses were all the way down the pasture so we turned TJ & Koko out. He immediately claimed her as his mare and best buddy. He even cut her away form the herd when they came up to check him out and kept himself between them & her.

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Within 2 days I had his (horrible) shoes and poured pads pulled and he was on the path to a good barefoot trim and recovery.