The First Week

Monday began with staff meeting. None of us were focused: Lori, our office manager, Catherine our former barn manager, now our program coordinator, and Lilly, our interim barn manager until May when Erin graduates from college and comes to work. We were mentally if not physically squirming in our chairs, our heads bopping up from our notes and laptops whenever we heard a vehicle pull in that might be a horse van.

There were false alarms: The trash pick up, colleagues of The Brooke USA which has an office in our building, stray visitors to the Horse Park who slowly drove around the statue of Secretariat and then left.

Finally, Catherine shot up from her seat when a horse trailer whizzed past the window.  

“The horses are here!” 

Well, one horse, actually. Colonel Harlan, a four-year-old gelding by Visionaire out of Jacaranda Jane, had started six times and was in the money twice earning a total of $24,938. He had spent the last two months in foster care at the Blackburn Correctional facility where the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation runs a life changing program for inmates called  Second Chances.

Colonel Harlan aka "Harlan"
Harlan came to us last fall with a reputation as a rogue. He did, in fact, have impressive outbursts of unacceptable behavior. Lightening quick and agile in the hind end, Harlan could buck—bronco style—like a pro. He lacked social graces and interacted with people and other horses in a heavy handed (or hoofed!), inept way. Catherine said he reminded her of “Sheldon” in the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. I’ve never seen that show, so I can’t say. All I knew was that Harlan was a very smart, scared, and needy horse. He was also young. Just three, and immature physically as well as mentally. By the time December rolled around, he had just settled into the swing of his new life, was mannerly on the ground, moving with confidence under saddle and learning to jump which he was good at and loved. The bucking was the thing of the past.

Time off was exactly what he needed. He stepped off the trailer, taller, more filled out, then stopped, inhaled and listened. Confident and quiet, he knew where he was and he was fine with that.

The next to arrive was Street Art or “Artie” as we had already nicknamed him, a 16.3hh four-year-old gelding by Noble Causeway out of Wakita. I was beyond excited to see him. A big chestnut with good bone and a teddy bear personality, he was built uphill and naturally balanced. He moved so rhythmically and with such suspension that it didn’t surprise me that in the two races he ran he finished 40 lengths behind the winner. Artie was built for comfort not for speed. He also has a very narrow mandibular. I couldn’t even fit my fist between his jaws. Maybe he couldn’t take the massive gulps of air necessary to run at top speeds?  Artie, I saw,  could dance and would be dazzling in the dressage ring. If he could jump, he’d make a lovely hunter prospect too. And, he had Noble Causeway’s slightly roman nose. I am a sucker for horses with roman noses. They always seem to be talented and winsome, sort of like the actor Owen Wilson.


Bordeaux Bandit, Jazz Fest, and Souza came next, delivered by Brook Ledge. Bordeaux, age 10, was a racetrack veteran that came to us in May of 2014, just two weeks after he hung up his silks. He arrived physically stiff and racetrack brainwashed. By December, he was more balanced and flexible, and a lot quieter, but still his mind and body needed a bit more time. The Bordeaux that stepped off the trailer was a different horse: Rolly-polly, fuzzy and best of all, bright eyed. He had come to us last year with a brusque “where d’ya wanna go?” New York cab driver look in his eye. Now his gaze was poised, relaxed and happy, which coupled with his elegant build takes your breath away. What a classic and classy Thoroughbred!
Bordeaux Bandit aka "Bordeaux"

Jazz Fest aka "Jay Z"

Jazz Fest is my Hummer. Stocky. Built. Think varsity wrestler. A meat and potatoes kind of guy. Uncomplicated. Hearty. Satisfying. To me he’s a field or a show hunter.  He’s tall, dark, and handsome too. Those are added benefits.

Souza
Souza screamed E V E N T E R to me when I saw him at the track last year. He’s got the build, the type, and the brain for it. He is going to be a handful though. Why? Because he has a mischievous twinkle in his eye. This horse wants action. A lot of it. And it has to be interesting. I’ll bet he is a bit of daredevil. It will take a savvy rider to stay ahead of Souza.

Michael Evans from Sheltowee Farm brought two of the four horses I was expecting. Dare Me, Shakleford’s half brother, had speed and quality but his owner’s stopped on him because he had a breathing problem. “Darren” is another eventer type. Great hind end. Uphill. Level headed. Beachview Two accompanied Darren. Beachview had been at the MMSC briefly last year, but I wasn’t quite happy with the look of his ankles and subsequent x-rays revealed chips that needed to come out. His amazing owners paid for the surgery and laid him up the rest of the year until he proved to be sound. Now that’s responsible ownership! The Beachview that came back to us had transitioned from boy to man. No longer spindly and narrow but tall and well sprung. But he still has that inquisitive look that had endeared me to him in the first place. He reminds me of an otter, keen and quick. I used to joke when he came last year that we could teach him do tricks, maybe even play poker. This horse is smart and very, very personable.
Dare Me aka "Darren"


Beachview Two aka "Beachview"
On Tuesday “Rondo”, donated to us by Lilly our barn manager, arrived. Rondo has been reschooled and was used for a bit as a lesson horse which really wasn’t to his liking. Multiple riders make him edgy. He is the monogamous type and will excel when he finds his person. Three things of note about Rondo. 1. He is a LOVELY mover. 2. He has two small “horns” protruding on either side of his star on his forehead.  3. He has the worst registered name known to man: PAIN GIVER. 
Pain Giver aka "Rondo"


Wednesday brought cold rains and sleet as well a snow forecast of 10 to 15 inches falling in the wee hours of the night. We postponed the arrival of the remaining horses. We canceled all the “spa” treatments scheduled for the rest of the week. Potential adopters were called and asked to rebook their flights or postpone their trips. The horses stood by the gate most of the day, sopping wet, looking miserable, relieved when we brought them in early, only to become annoyed when they had to spend the next 36 hours up in their stalls.

Roads were treacherous with snow on top of ice on Thursday morning, so the gracious Kentucky Horse Park police and KHP equine staff went up to the barn to water and hay the horses. Intrepid Lilly made it out to the MMSC in the afternoon and pronounced all the horses to be well, but very bored. (Souza had amused himself by flipping water buckets, tormenting his jolly ball, and wriggling out his blanket!)

Friday the snow was still with us, but the roads were slowly passable. Horses were finally turned out and as many stalls as possible were cleaned until the manure spreader could hold no more.

Saturday “Archangel Dave”, our stalwart volunteer of many years came and plowed a route to the spreader, hitched it to the tractor and dumped the manure. Office and barn interns came. The sun shone. The snow began to melt.

By Tuesday when we return, the temperatures will be in the fifties. The snow will be gone, and the paddocks, although water-logged, will host the full complement of horses in the spring class. We will pick up where we left off: beauty and spa treatments, “horsenality” assessments, initial bombproofing, and showing horses to potential adopters. Normal first week kind of stuff.

So what will the second week bring? A broken water pipe in the fields somewhere when the great thaw sets in? (Hope not!) What will we learn about these horses when we start them in the Horse Centered Reschooling Program ℠? (No telling) Will any of them get adopted next week? If so, which one?  (Let me know by posting your comments on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/makersmarksecretariatcenter under the blog post entry.)

Cheery bye,
Susanna
When I turned Rondo out, he showered me with a front, face, and mouthful
 of mud. Clearly I am not destined to be his forever person!

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