Five years

Five years ago today, I signed the check that started a new era. I can’t put into words the many ways in which owning this horse has changed my life. We’ve made and lost friends, switched disciplines, been at 5 different barns, learned how to drive a trailer, gotten the hookup with a great vet…it hasn’t been easy and was objectively a poor decision financially, but my life is so much more worth living.


First ride as officially mine


Thinking about doing something naughty, probably

No celebration is complete without $6 sparkling alcoholic beverage

No celebration is complete without $6 sparkling alcoholic beverage


Enjoying the first of many buckets o' noms

Enjoying the first of many buckets o’ noms

We haven’t really been up to much lately. We’ll have some great rides, and then weather/work/whatever will interfere, and we’ll be back to the drawing board of “no please you need to slow down.”

It’s kind of a bummer. Neither of us are getting younger, and every fall I go through the motions of “maybe if we work really hard over the winter, we can show in the spring…” But how realistic is that? I haven’t taken a lesson on her in months, I can’t afford to move her to an indoor this winter, she’s not really sound… so we just hack around and dream of better days.

Whatever we’re doing seems to agree with her, though. As soon as she went out on grass this spring she bloomed. At age 18, she actually has some semblance of a topline for the first time in her life.

Top is 2013, bottom is last month

Top is 2013, bottom is last month

Fittingly, today I submitted the last of my materials for applying to vet school. I’ve been saying “I want to go to vet school” for the last, oh, twenty years, but it’s time to actually get on with my life and Do The Thing. Of course, everyone and their mom (mostly the moms) has a “oh yeah, my friend’s nephew’s girlfriend took 652453784 tries to get into vet school” story, so I’m bracing myself for disappointment. But the process was so tied up in emotion and drama for various reasons, that no matter what happens I’ll just have to be proud of myself for taking this step. Everyone just keep your fingers crossed I get in somewhere, anywhere, and then you won’t have to hear me bellyaching about it for another year 🙂

Happy half-a-decade, mare. I’m just trying to make you proud.

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Some track thoughts

Sometimes, I get comments from people* that make me feel like I should get my Horse Person Card revoked for not being anti racing.

*people = largely on the internet

Let me be clear– there are things I don’t like about the racing industry. I wish they weren’t started as babies…. which happens because there is so much emphasis on races for 2 and 3 year olds. On the flip side, I wish there was more of a trend to keep the good ones racing longer, so they can prove they can stay sound past 3 before they go on to make more of themselves. I wish they had turnout. I wish the unsuccessful ones didn’t have to keep on racing because their trainers don’t know what else to do with them, and if you’re interested in donating to/volunteering for/attending an event that caters to that issue, click here.

But there are many, many good people involved with racing, and I enjoy going to the track and connecting with them, and looking at the horses and imagining their stories.

Back in 2o14, I reached out to the trainers of a horse closely related to a horse I adored. I told them I was interested in him if he wasn’t successful on the track. They invited me to watch him run at Arlington and come meet him after the race.

Class act

Class act

I’ve since learned the hard way that I can’t afford a second horse anytime soon. The horse in question has since been claimed again and again, and actually remains fairly successful now in his 6-year-old year. But I’ve stayed in touch with his old owner and trainer through the wonders of facebook, and when his owner told me they had a horse running in the 7th at Arlington yesterday, I was like hell yeah I’m coming to watch.

I saw his trainer in the paddock and she ran up to me and gave me a hug, and said “did you see your buddy is still running? I wish he could just have a good home with you.” Their horse ran fourth, failing to hit the board and earn me anything back on my $2 bet 😛 But he was lovely in person, and I was pleased to see when I looked him up that he’s Irish bred, because who doesn’t love a dapple grey Irish TB?

Mmmm dapples

Mmmm dapples

His face reminds me of a friend's eventer

His face reminds me of a friend’s eventer


Close but no cigar

Since I was there, I stuck around to watch a couple races. I didn’t bet, but my time tested strategy of “go for the chunky dark bay with chrome” meant I picked the winner in two of three races.



Not fancy and uphill, but he had presence.

I was completely awestruck by a horse (apparently he’s a horse-horse, as in an ungelded 3-year-old) in the last race of the day. I will freely admit that I am blinded by dark bay with chrome (see above betting strategy). But he walked into the paddock and just owned it.


Calmly was saddled and walked to the post.


Showed off his fluid and supple trot in the warmup (seriously, I wish I had taken a video of him)


Came from behind and won by 3/4 of a length

IMG_5834 IMG_5835

Cantered home quietly (again, wish I had taken a video)


Stood to be unsaddled, with just enough sass and “yeah, did you see me do that?” to keep things interesting



Stood in the winner’s circle


And pranced his way home.


And then the coolest thing happened. I posted a picture of him to my instagram, as I often do because I need validation from strangers on the internet and also I am so broke and maybe I will magically get hired as a photographer somewhere. And then I saw I had a comment, from his groom? exercise rider?, who I guess we were mutual followers but never really talked. She told me it was a good picture, and he is a lovely horse to handle even being a 3-year-old colt. And I told her he was one classy horse and congratulated her on the win, and then checked out her profile cuz I am a creep like that, and saw that her most recent posts were full of pictures of him, selfies with him, his journey to Arlington, him hand grazing during our cold snap. And I realized– each of these horses has a team behind them. They have real live people who know them and love them and know their quirks and take pictures of them so they can carry them around on their cell phones and look at anytime. They think about how they’re doing now, and when they start winding down, they probably think about what comes next.

And that’s why us sporthorse people need to not be so quick to judge racing folk. There are many different facets of the horse industry, and trust me I’m a vet tech, there are ugly aspects of all of them. But the important part is that we’re all in it for the horses, and we need to keep making these connections so these horses are ensured careers after the track.

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Wrap Up

Pearl returns back to Not So Broken Pony Land this Friday, so I guess it’s time for an update/wrap-up on how our winter of Real Work went.


Spoiler alert: we’re not magically ready to hit the show ring at Second Level. But I didn’t expect us to be. My goal was basically to have her regularly walk, trot, canter, and maybe start looking a little more civilized, and we more than accomplished that.


I probably drove Christy crazy by not having any specific lesson goals other than “I dunno, ride better.” But we played around with little pieces of first level and some basic patterns. Leg yields: kinda functional, still have a hard time keeping her straight and not popping her shoulder out.


Shoulder in: fairly decent at the walk, work in progress at the trot. Haunches in: pretty ugly, but sort of getting a response. Counter canter: “omg you dumb human that’s the wrong lead,” but willing to figure out what I want. Halts: Pearl’s least favorite gait… definitely taking advantage of her anticipatory brain and letting her figure out that centerline = stop for a second.


Canter: will occasionally slow down to a three-beat gait that involves being aware we have back legs.


We (gasp) found a bit she will go in! It’s a pelham, so not show legal, but since we’re not hitting the show ring anytime soon I don’t really care. I mostly stay off the curb rein, but am having a killer time finding a baucher version. If anyone can find a happy mouth (knockoff) mullen mouth baucher IN A SIZE SIX holla at your girl.

The quality and consistency of her gaits and contact have definitely improved. She still moves like a creaky old lady. She still will alternate between giraffing and ducking under the bit. But she is willing to maintain an honest contact and bend and flex both ways, which is an improvement over where we started from.

Pearl turned 18 on the 19th of this month. I caved and let her do her favorite thing, JUMPING. I’ll always be disappointed that we were never able to return to serious work over fences, but even in the few little lines we jumped I can tell the improvement the dressage work has made to her pace control and willingness to wait instead of just going fast and flat.

It has been a challenge for me going from “do whatever I want in somebody’s backyard” to a traditional boarding barn where I have to (omg the horror) share space and follow rules. Sharing the indoor was a challenge at times, but better than no indoor at all. We had a really rough time when the horses were inside for a couple weeks straight while the grass grew in, and then in on Sundays because of a barn staff change. We had a lot of rides that were more like human lunge line/just don’t fall off than actual productive training, but again better than not riding at all.


Why turnout is non negotiable

If I decide to snowbird again next winter, I will definitely be looking at barns with more workable all weather turnout arrangements.

Of course, not everything can be sunshine and gravy. While she has been serviceably sound most of the winter, she was a little lame on Friday but worked out of it, OK Sunday, pretty sore again Monday. She managed to unweld and jam the bar of her shoe up under the branch, and she was a couple weeks overdue, so I’m hoping that’s the main contributor and also probably because I jumped her but I think she has #noregrets


She didn’t look too terrible running around for her pre-farrier workout this morning though, so I’m knocking on wood that it’s just a minor and temporary setback.

In conclusion: it wasn’t magical and perfect and the solution to all my problems. But we got shit done and I’d do it again.

Oh, and Lacy is still the fanciest thing ever and I will never be over her, but I’m glad she has a new home that can do her justice.

lacy jump

It’s OK, we mutually lift one another’s photos off facebook

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Believe it or not, I do things besides rides horses. Sometimes I…. take pictures of horses. My awesome trainer Christy is branching into web design, so she offered to make me a website for my photography stuffs. If you know anyone looking for pictures of their horses or pets in the Chicago area, give me a shout!









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support CANTER Chicago!

Blinkers Off

As many of you know from things I have posted here or on Twitter, I have been volunteering for CANTER since October.  It has been amazing.

I have met so many horsepeople, volunteers, and horses in the last five months.  And, I have been able to find a way to get personally involved in racehorse retirement despite being an apartment-dwelling, car-less city person with neither space nor money for my own horse.  I have been out at Hawthorne just about every Saturday morning over the last few months with other local CANTER volunteers to talk to trainers and help take listings.  I have also put my online chatter tendencies to good use; over the last few months, I have had the reins for our chapter’s Twitter account.

Illinois-bred racehorse (and certified snugglebug) Getwutupreyfor: four days before his final racing start, and seven days before beginning his life as an OTTB! Illinois-bred gelding (and certified snugglebug) Getwutupreyfor: four days before his final racing start, and seven days before beginning his next life…

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The perfect dressage saddle for Thoroughbreds

If anyone in IL is in the market for a new saddle, check this one out!

Collecting Thoroughbreds

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 9.46.30 AM This used 18″ Bates Isabell is in excellent condition and is for sale at Saddler’s Row in Palatine IL.

It took me a while to find the perfect saddle for my OTTBs, and here it is – my beloved Bates Isabell.  It does not fit Fred, who is a draft cross and requires an extremely wide tree. However, if you’re looking for a saddle that accommodates a wither for a horse with a more normal width, take a look at the Bates Isabell. Specifically, my Bates Isabelle, which is now consigned at Saddler’s Row in Palatine, IL.

I really can’t overstate how much I’ve enjoyed this saddle, and how sorry I am that it just didn’t work for my new extra-wide horse.  In addition to being the most soft, grippy and comfortable saddle I’ve ever sat it, I also really appreciated the fact that it’s super adjustable, featuring both the…

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Shameless Plug

In my spare time (haha I have so much of that), I moonlight as a volunteer for CANTER. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, the acronym stands for Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex Racehorses. CANTER Chicago has recently become our own affiliate. We list horses at Hawthorne and Arlington racetracks. We have a new Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram and we’re working on growing our social media presence. Please like and share so we can spread the OTTB love!

Because what is a post without pictures, some of the horses we’ve rehomed this year

Casa’s Spirit, now enjoying some letdown time before beginning her hunter career

Monkey King, now a trail horse

Champagneforpeace, now an eventer

So Fast Im Fuzzy (spoiler alert: he was not), now a hunter

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