Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Today before I brought Ace in for his lunch and nap, I spent our few minutes leading around and behaving. But first, I just threw an arm over his back and leaned on him and patted both sides which I do sometimes getting him used to having a human over him. It's also useful to do some grooming while standing on a stool which makes it easier in the future when you first go to mount them. He stands for this, but he tosses his head and fights with the lead. His body language quite clearly saying "I'm mad and I'm bad and I hate bending to your will." For a moment, my mind fast forwarded to fall 2011. At that time, Ace will be two and a half years old, and most likely ready to have a little saddle training. And I will be *gasp* ...forty. I imagined sitting there on his back while he quivers and fidgets like a jumping bean ready to explode. I remember riding my Grey Horse a few times during his two year old year. This ought to be good for a mid-life crisis.

Not long ago, one of my readers asked me what my expectations and plans are for Ace. I sort of chuckled and replied "My plans don't always work out." But its a fair question. After all, before you breed your mare, you ought to have a plan for the offspring. When we made this match, I was expecting to get a fine harness or three gaited park horse. So did I? Here is a summary of Ace's pedigree in snapshots. Don't forget that if you click the picture, it will open up larger in another screen.

His sire "Clint" was never shown, but is a park or fine harness type with the trot to match. "Clint" is by CF First Night Out who was lightly shown as a three gaited horse, placing second at Louisville as a 2 yr old before being shown as a junior gaited horse and retired to stud. I don't follow the sire ratings very closely, but FNO has been near the top of the ratings for a couple of years, siring winners in all divisions. FNO's sire CH Night Prowler was a World's Grand Champion Fine Harness horse.

Clint's dam was by Georgetown. Georgetown only sired about two dozen foals before being lost in a barn fire at the young age of seven. We happened to breed a mare to Georgetown, and the resulting foal was the first Saddlebred I trained myself. Georgetown was by the great five gaited World's Grand Champion CH Yorktown who had a long and illustrious career at stud.

Ace's dam "Copy" was shown as a five gaited mare. Her sire Santana Time (Rocky) was a local stud owned by a friend of ours. "Rocky" was a gorgeous flaxen chestnut five gaited horse sired by Sultan's Santana (the first Saddlebred stallion to be syndicated for a million dollars.) Santana was a fine harness horse and was also a grandson of Valley View Supreme who was the first stallion to win the World's Grand Championship in the three gaited division. He and his offspring were known for being very fine and beautiful. Rocky's dam was by Flight Time by WGC Wing Commander. That line was more rugged and likely to make five gaited horses.

Copy's dam has some unusual old Ohio breeding. The only other place I can point it out is it is the same dam line as Attache's Born Believer, sire of the beautiful stallion Born Contender. Her dam traces through Society's Crown Jewel to Society Rex and also to Command Decision, one of several full brothers to WGC Wing Commander.

So, as you can see, there is a pretty even mixture of three gaited, fine harness and five gaited breeding in Ace's family tree. There is really only one true theme. His sire traces almost exclusively to the hard trotting Chief family of Saddlebreds (founded by the Standardbred trotter Harrison Chief), and his dam traces mostly to the easy gaited Denmarks. So, what did I get?

First off, let's have an honest evaluation of Ace. He has a very attractive head and neck with a beautiful large eye showing just a hint of white which is very important in a show horse's expression. His neck is not extremely long or hingy at this point, but he is high headed and I expect him to bridle up easily. He has a nice, loose, sloping shoulder with good width of chest and depth of heart girth. So far, his withers are almost non-existent which surprising considering Copy's very prominent withers. He has a nice hard back, good balance and a strong hindquarter.
His legs are straight and clean. He has only one conformation fault. At this point he has a slight tendency to toe out which we are hoping he grows out of. It isn't that his toes turn out as much as the fact that he loves to splay his front legs. This makes it very hard to measure him. Every time I try to stand him square in front he splays his legs and tries to step on my toe. He has a nice way of going with strong hocks. He does not have a big bold trot yet. He prefers to "parade" or "sashay" like a park horse. When he throws his head up, he ambles quite readily. This is the old Denmark genetics coming out with the ability to be taught to rack.
He is very bold and intelligent. He respects me, and seems to understand he has to comply with my wishes no matter how dumb he might think they are. He shows quite a bit of quality in his hair coat and hooves and looks like he will grow a heavy tail. He knows how to make an entrance. Whether it is a gate or a door, he comes through it with a "look at me" attitude.
So, given those qualities, what are my plans for Ace? First he will be broke to drive. This is something that every Saddlebred should learn. Then he will be gaited to see if he has any talents in that area. A gaited horse must have a sense of rhythm and a smooth way of going. To be a top gaited horse, they must also show speed. Speed usually develops after a couple of years, so it is hard to tell before you get some leather on them whether they will develop speed or not.
Many young Saddlebreds start out their lives with aspirations to be gaited horses then as they age and the demands of the more difficult gaits and speed begin to wear on them, many of them end up in another division. If Ace enjoys driving he has the head and neck and conformation to show off a harness very well. It is important that a harness horse not only wear the over check very well, but they should have a good strong back and beautiful conformation since you won't be able to hide many faults in a harness. If he shows a lot of motion and prefers to primp along at a park trot instead of covering a lot of ground at the rack, he could be headed for the park or pleasure divisions, providing he trains well enough to show the manners required in the pleasure classes. Or, with his handsome face, mincing jog, and luxurious tail he might be stunning under western tack. With his tendency to amble, primpy trot and high head, it is not likely he will excel in any of the sport disciplines.
So have I answered the question? Ace is not yet 12 months old. He shows a lot of promise to grow up to be a lovely horse. It's hard to tell how he will change and develop. I guess I am your typical "mother". I want my kid to grow up to be the best he can be... whatever that is.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quick Update

We measured Ace this past Saturday and he is 14.1 hh. That's a little over an inch in the past month.

Also, he got an unsolicited compliment from the farrier on his behavior. Kim said that Ace did very well standing to be worked on. Actually I was pretty proud of him. The farrier is becoming part of his routine. He did hop backwards a couple of times, but that is just his inexperience at not being used to standing around balanced on three legs. It wasn't a naughty moment. We did play "how much leather can I shove in my mouth?" Current record is about 12 inches.

Toy Check: Buddy Bopper is in the hospital. It isn't holding air. I took it home and disassmbled it and it is laying in the basement. No noticeable damage to the inner inflatable part. My husband thinks it is the stem not self sealing but we haven't taken the time to reinflate it yet. Please send good thoughts for Buddy's rapid recovery.

The Uncle Jimmy Ball is dead. Ace yanked it off it's string, so I rethreaded the string and put washers at the bottom. The knots did not hold up to Ace grabbing it and wrestling it down. Mom caught him in the act. I will have to use better knots, or Ace will have to be happy with plain old milk jugs.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


So, it seems my blog postings are getting fewer and farther between. Why is that? Well, because it's winter. We aren't doing any less, it just seems to take longer, and is much less interesting. My camera, to conserve battery life, no longer lives in my car. I have to remember to bring it with me. And when I do, the horses still look like woolly mammoths. Dirty woolly mammoths. In the summer photographs seem to naturally edit out grooming issues. In the winter, they magnify them.

So, what did we do today? at 1pm, I hit my remote car starter and headed to the office locker room. I removed all my warm, clean, tailored office clothes and start from scratch with cold clothes. Cold is relative, but when it is 20 degrees or less out, taking off warm clothes and putting on room temperature clothes isn't something I look forward to. Even my winter barn wardrobe is well thought out and coordinated. Both fashion and functionality are taken into consideration. So, how come when I get dressed I do notfeel like the models in the catalogs, but like this...

I drove to the barn, hauled the bag of sunflower seeds out of the trunk and dumped them into the feed room tub. I also dumped the new bag of beet pulp. Somehow I managed to break a nail. I ran a bucket of water and dropped the heater in it for wash water. I brought Ace out of the indoor arena to the grooming area to check him out. He had the wiggles. So, I put him in his stall and he got his lunch. That boy can't think about anything when he's hungry.

While everyone was eating, I did a toy check. Both plastic milk jugs in Ace's stall were still useable. The Uncle Jimmy ball is holding up well, but Buddy Bopper was flat (for only the second time in his life) I gave him a once over. I don't know what's wrong, but we'll have Stepdad reinflate him and see if he sprung a leak. If he has, he'll have to be disassembled and patched. I pick several dozen pieces of paper feed bag out of the sand in the indoor and raked the hay chaff out from under the hay net and put it in a wheel barrow to be taken to the chicken coop. Dumped the heated bucket from the arena gate and refilled it with clean water.

Next I put the Grey Horse out and checked the time. Half of my lunch hour was already gone. I dumped Grey's icy bucket and left it empty for when he returned to his stall. I mixed a new batch of Listerine and baby oil in the spray bottle and set it to float in the hot water pail so it would be warm. Ace has been rubbing his tail since before Christmas. He got a good dose of wormer when it started, and I've been spraying his tail with my mixture every other day. I haven't gotten him stopped yet, but my mixture has never failed before.

I quickly groomed Copy and Grey. In the winter "grooming" is just a once over. I pick hay out of their tails. Curry the muddy spots to fluff them back up. Knock the ice balls out of their fetlock hair. Pick their hooves and check for thrush and scratches. Clean under their tails, and replace their halters with clean ones if necessary.

My lunch hour is now WAY over, and I still have to stop at the post office on the way back. I unplug the water heater and the heat lamp in the tack room and gather Ace's tail brush and the spray bottle. Mom holds his head while I scratch his itchy tail bone (he loves this) and spray my concoction on it. I flip it up to make sure the underside is clean and see if there is something I'm missing. WHY is he still rubbing? I spray some on a patch of his mane that he rubbed awhile back which is growing back nicely. Ace decides I ought to be bitten. I spray his mouth with the Listerine. Bleh! That was yucky. He makes bad faces, but comes back for more. I head for the stall door, holding him back by his halter while I back out. Before I can make it to the door he strikes at me for the first time ever! Naughty! I was standing close enough that he only manages to knee me. I holler at him, push him against the wall and smack him in the ribs a couple of times.

Mom is still at the door so I have her hand me the whapper stick which hangs there from the halter hook. I try to sucker him into trying it again but he is wiser than that. Twice he raises a front leg in an absentminded reaction to my pushing his head sideways and I whap the back of his knee. Soon he is standing stubbornly against the wall glaring at me with a pouty little boy look becaue he knows I am baiting him. As soon as I back out of the door, he tosses his head and "chases" me. I open the door enough to poke his chest and make him back up again trying to re-establish my authority. It's a draw this time.... and I head to the Post Office. Late again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Refresher Course

Ace had forgotten how to lead. Well, not entirely... he is led back and forth to the indoor arena where he runs in and out everyday. But that is pretty routine, and there isn't much room for error. What he had forgotten how to do was to walk along shoulder to shoulder with me without dancing and prancing and giving me the hairy eyeball while he weighed his choices.
a) put one front hoof on each of my shoulders
b) grab my ear and twist
c) take off and do something more interesting

So, today we had a refresher course. I put a shank over his nose mostly because running it through the side ring is a close to getting it up out of his reach as possible. I put a long whip with a short lash in my other hand trailing it behind me. Then, I tried walking around with him in the arena. At first it was pretty disorganised as he tried to put one front hoof on each of my shoulders, grab my ear and twist, and finally to take off and do something more interesting. Nippy little b-----d. I very patiently continued walking with little reminders "no don't bite the shank" "waaaallllllk" "stop dancing". I kept him along the wall to prevent his fishtailing around and if he lagged behind I would reach back with the whip and tap his bottom. Within about five minutes he had remembered his lessons and was plodding along on a loose lead at my shoulder working his jaw and looking around. Pretty unusual for a weanling who goes everywhere at a dash. From time to time we practiced "whoa" while I scratched on his withers and told him what an excellent little guy he was being.

Then we tried the off side. I haven't tried leading him from the off side since our last battle of wills on the matter. The last thing I want is a horse who will only circle around me to the left. If nothing else, it makes it more difficult to teach them to longe later on. So, I went to his off side, positioned him against the wall again, and tried to get him started up. It took a few minutes to get him started up and walking on a loose lead, but we got it accomplished without so much as an exchange of strong words. Again we "whoa"ed and had a wither scratching. Such a good boy. And having to use his brain and do what he was asked seemed to calm him and give him a sense of satisfaction.

Now, on the the thing that has been bothering me the most. Socialization. Ace is still being turned out alone. He can see other horses all the time, and he gets to socialise with them over gates but that is it. Ideally, we would have at least one other horse his age, or maybe a yearling to turn him out with, but no such luck.. He is an only child. To make matters worse, there are no older horses suitable to turn him out with. Our choices are:
a) Copy ~ obvious problem. We've gotten past weaning. It will be a long time until he is turned out with her again, and he will be gelded for sure.
b) Hairy ~ Hairy is so submissive that Ace was wearing him out. Hairy's stifles have been bothering him since late summer, and he doesn't need to be chased around all day. And Hairy was only reinforcing Ace's belief that he is king of the herd.
c) Face-Off ~ very dominant, grouchy and physically violent. He would hurt Ace and we don't want to cripple him for life before his first birthday.
d) Grey ~ Also very dominant (he and Face-Off were prepared to fight to the death) but not as grouchy and mean. Mostly foolish and poorly socialized.

I've been aching to put Grey and Ace out together for some time. Since both of them were mellow and quiet today (and since it is a weekday, so a vet call would not have weekend charges on it) I thought it would be a good time to try. I put them out together in the 50x50 indoor with the doors closed so they wouldn't be ramming in and out of doorways. They played for a minute or two, then (as expected) Ace decided to mount Grey. Grey bellowed in indignation "you presumptuous little s--t!" and ran backwards kicking. Ace caught by surprise, made tracks in the other direction. That was the first time anyone had objected to THAT! In fact, Mom seemed to like it.

They played a little cat and mouse for a few minutes. When Ace got too pushy, Grey put him into the wall and tried to kick him. It would be better to have a larger area to introduce them where they wouldn't be as likely to have to cross paths, and where the underdog could escape easier. We only left them together for 10 minutes. They did have some friendly moments, and were beginning to relax. The best part was watching Ace stand off to himself and study Grey and begin to process the fact that there was someone bigger and pushier than he is. We'll let them process this for a couple of days, continue to socialize over the gate everyday, and next time I feel it is a good day to, we'll put them to gether again and see if we've made some progress.