Week Two

The snow was gone by Tuesday. And then the rain came. Of course, the paddocks were waterlogged and, as I feared, they got ravaged by cavorting hooves. After eight winters at the MMSC, I should know that divots and demolition the first week back are like the law of gravity: immutable. Yet hope springs eternal. I always think we will transition gently into spring with the grass sprouting and greening up gradually, the precious turf setting down hearty roots for a season of lush pasture. But no! These days, temperatures rocket up then plunge by 40 degrees or more within a day, sending Nature into a tizzy—to bloom or not to bloom? Heap the fields heavily with snow that turns to slush. Inundate them with driving rains. Have the sun shine for an afternoon coaxing shoots to rise. Then turn out your band of Thoroughbreds. The result? Ravaged earth festooned with mud. Oh well, at least it’s a sign that the horses are back and the season has begun!

Because we were already behind schedule, we had to cram as much as we could into this week: Spa treatments, vet work, bombproofing, horsenality assessments, riding, and potential adopters coming in from such far flung places as Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri, and Eastern Kentucky. We also had three new horses arrive: Loukas, a six-year-old bay Irish-bred gelding with ten starts that shipped in from California, and two chestnut mares (yes, I did say chestnut mares!), Send Me An Angel 09, and Zippy Shannon 12, both unraced from a farm nearby.
Send Me An Angel 09 (left) and Zippy Shannon 12

We always start our spa treatment with a thorough examination of the teeth and mouth. As herbivores, horses have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lifetime. This means that dental planes are ever changing depending on chewing patterns, feeds, forage, joint alignment, heredity, and bit use. If you have ever watched a horse move, particularly when it travels at speed, you will see that its jaw, too, is in motion. That’s a good thing. Why? Because more nerves run through the narrow cavity of the temporomandibular joint than anywhere else in the body. If the jaw is stuck by uneven teeth wear, then the joint will not articulate fully and it is going to show up somewhere, somehow, and sometime as a sensitivity, a weakness, a lameness, or an injury.  

Now there are some people who think you can just run a rasp in a horse’s mouth and get the job done. That’s probably true, to some extent, but I know it won’t be done to my satisfaction. (I suppose it’s sort of like a sponge bath compared to a deep soak.  Which one gets the job done best? Maybe that depends on how dirty you are.) The horse’s jaw is long, dark, narrow, and potentially dangerous (that’s where sedation comes in handy!). Therefore it is easy to miss important information that might hinder the horse's movement and consequently its training. Wolf teeth and caps are pretty easy to see, but go back further and things get more beclouded: hooks and points, wave mouth, broken teeth, ulcerations. Because I haven’t worked with these horses before, because I don't know how they have been taken care of in the past, and because I have such a short amount of time (ideally!) with each one of them, I want to get out of the gate on the right foot (or tooth), so to speak. I call in our equine dentist and ask him to shine a bright light down every MMSC candidate’s mouth and to right every possible dental wrong that he encounters.

Equine dentist Victor Torres working on Rondo, being held by MMSC intern Nicole

After the teeth are done, I call in a farrier and make sure the feet are balanced. These two things accomplished, and ONLY WHEN THEY ARE, I call in the chiropractors. Adjusting a horse that has an unbalanced mouth or feet is, to use the bath analogy again, like filling up a tub that has a leak. You’ll never get the water to stay. Similarly if the teeth are occluded or the feet are uneven, the chiropractic adjustment won’t hold. It’s bad enough that contracted muscles or a lack of muscling tend to pull the newly adjusted horse back into misalignment. If you do a chiropractic adjustment without making sure teeth and feet are balanced, you are just throwing money down into the great financial black hole of horses. So this week after Victor Torres, our dentist, and our farriers, Bryan and Amanda Osborne came, our veterinary chiropractors, Dr. Lark Caroll and Dr. R.E. Wharton arrived at the MMSC. Each of these women has different ways of adjusting a horse. Each has knowledge, experience, and perspectives that enlighten me. I divvy up the band of horses between them depending on the individual animal’s need.

MMSC Rider Molly bombproofing Beachview Two
Given the fact that we have no covered arena and that the terrain was, as I mentioned, saturated, we bombproofed on Monday and Tuesday as we could in the barn. We opened and closed umbrellas. We brandished plastic bags about heads and flanks. We sacked out and tacked up in stalls. We also set out our Theraplate, and brought out our Revitavet system. Our riders, Molly and Carolyn, braved the rains and walked and trotted what horses they could.

Dare Me aka "Darren"
On Wednesday, the first adopter of the year came. Others came on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Did any of our horses get adopted? That will depend on prepurchase examinations and the generosity of the adopters with their proposed donations. I hope so. But, as I always say, Let go and let God. I believe that if I represent the horses as truthfully as I can, if I watch the prospective adopters closely both around the horse and when riding it, and that if I listen to my gut and speak out about whether a fit between horse and rider seems good to me, all will work out well.

One thing that worked out really well this week was brilliant little Meteor Shot went to his first show with beloved Melissa DeCarlo Recknor. Melissa worked for me for three years (2009-2012), adopted a horse from the MMSC, Fly Lite, and has been a friend of the MMSC ever since. She has fostered Shooter over the winter and under her care he has thrived! She asked me if she could show him at the Horse Park in a Snowbird Dressage show before bringing him back to the MMSC. I told her by all means, and that we would pay her entry fees as it was such good experience for Shooter. She and Shooter were snowed out for the February show, but they made it this Saturday. And how did my shining little meteorite-former racehorse-turned-circus-horse perform? LIKE A ROCK STAR! Cool, calm, and YES! collected, this little champ was third in his very first dressage show ever with a 62%,  second in his second test with a score of 63.75% and SECOND in his last test with a 66.50%!


What a stellar way to end our second week!

Cheery bye,

PS. Catherine worked Souza in the round pen to see what his horsenality was like. Hes everything that I thought he would be: A precocious brilliant rascal!!! More to come...

Why is stellar highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.