Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What Your Newly Adopted Racehorse Wants You to Know!

Bay Thoroughbred Racehorse Racehorse Adoption Article
What Your Newly Adopted Racehorse Wants You to Know! (As Told By Your Retired Racehorse)
By Lisa Molloy of the ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption Program (originally published in 2012)

I have been shod and pampered my entire life. I've walked on manicured pastures and lawns, imported euro footing that costs more than my trainers house and rubber brick aisles. Pulling my shoes off can leave me looking like I've had a run in with Tonya Harding and her cohorts - crippled! The only rocks I've ever seen before are the ones that were on my donor's wife's hand. If you wish to pull my shoes off, please think ahead - ask the farrier not to trim me so short the first few times and leave plenty of toe, try to plan on doing it when the ground is soft and most importantly, for the first few weeks please treat my feet to a twice daily brushing of Venice turpentine. It's cheap, it's easy and it will leave me with soles like titanium - well almost!

2. Losing weight and condition are not a part of the letting down process regardless of what you've been told. You can still pack on the pounds leaving me with a robust, svelte like figure without making me as fizzy as an Alka Seltzer. Talk to your local feed store and select a high fiber, high fat, low sugar, low starch feed - if you stuff me with sugar and starch, I'm going to behave like a 5 year old that just ate a box of Twinkies. Fiber is as good for my tummy as it is yours. Fed correctly, I'll have the hair coat to match the shine of a Pantene hair commercial and curves in all the right places - nobody finds skinny attractive right?

3. I've been around, I've seen a lot, some of us are even world travelers however just like you, I operate and function best in my comfort zone. My trainer never feels comfortable without her boots and I feel the same about my saddle. You might have visions of being Lady Godiva riding the beautiful Thoroughbred naked but me, I'm a little more conservative and like to go out tacked up. I like to feel accesorized. Attempting to ride one of us bareback immediately upon welcoming us into your home may result in a rocky ride which neither of us will enjoy.

4. So some of the boys have had the "op" and you might not think they are really boys anymore but keep that to youself because as far as they are concerned, they are all male! Recently gelded horses should not be near mares or turned out with mares and even some of the older boys haven't forgot those heady days of youth when they had all their functioning parts. An older gelding that is out with mares and becomes herd bound and aggressive needs to be separated from his harem immediately. He may think he's the sultan but he needs to go back to being the eunuch. Separating mares and geldings can prevent many behavioral issues both in and out of the saddle.

5. Let's talk about playtime - I like to go out, socialize, chat with friends but it's not for everyone. Some are homebodies that like to just venture out for an hour or two, some like to go out with one special friend, others like to mingle in large groups and some of my wild friends stay out all night just coming in for breakfast - they use this barn like a hotel! Finding the right social situation is vital for both our physical and mental well being. What works for one might not work for another. Take the time to watch and see how we are adjusting and interacting with our friends. I've lived in a stall 23 hours of the day and may be a little socially awkward. Tossing me out in a field 24/7 is like leaving the Ritz to sleeping on the streets - scary, bewildering and very overwhelming. Ask my facility manager for more details on my current social schedule.

6. You find me irresistible, who wouldn't? Look at me, I'm stunning! You find it hard to keep your hands off me but when I'm eating, this Thoroughbred says hands off and if you persist, this policy will result in me strictly enforcing it in a way you won't like! Just as you don't like to sit down to eat with children tugging at your sleeves and rubbing your face, neither do I. As I have underdeveloped vocal skills, my only way to let you know that I find your behavior unacceptable is to react in what is frequently construed as an aggressive manner. I'm trying to give you a hint, I want to savoir my yummy dinner in peace and quiet - it's hard enough to eat with the Oldenburg that only gets a handful of grain glaring and drooling at me through the bars without someone wanting hugs and kisses. It's not that I don't want to be your friend or don't appreciate your attention, I just want to eat in peace and quiet - period!

7. Grooming and spa day - seems like the perfect time for a bit of R & R, something I will surely appreciate and love. Mmmm no, not quite! At the track, I have been roughed up vigorously with a stiff brush especially on my big glut muscles that hopefully will power me to a winning finish. I've been strapped and brushed hard to enhance muscle tone and blood circulation. With my thin hair coat it's akin to sitting on top of a vehicle and letting the brushes and rollers run over you in a car wash naked - it can hurt! It's what I've known all my life and the anticipation of being brushed is like you waiting to have a Band Aid ripped off, this is not going to be fun. Please be gentle while I learn to adjust to the soothing rhythm of the brush strokes and a softer more finessed touch. Hush me if I wave a back leg once in a while. I am not trying to kick you, I'm just suffering from post traumatic stress related to hard grooming.

8. Tying - now there's a conundrum! I have been tied all my life, only not in cross ties but to a wall. The wall and I are familiar friends, I know every knot and nook on that wall. I have spent many an afternoon tied to the wall being groomed - the wall and I are very well acquainted. But what's this - cross ties??? I feel trapped, my head cannot move but my body can. The walls are closing in on me, I feel claustrophobic, my heart is racing, I'm panicked, I am a animal with a flight response and my instinct is to flee, break out of these things you call cross ties. We are not familiar with cross ties - you need to be aware of this and take your time to teach us to stand there and overcome our desire to have a nervous breakdown.

9. Oh it's the moving box on wheels - are we going somewhere? I've been hauled coast to coast, I might have even traveled more than you across this fair country but what's this - it's a small metal box, it has a ramp/no ramp, there doesn't seem to be much room for my head. Putting me in there is like trying to squeeze a sumo wrestler into a sardine can - it ain't going to work - or at least it won't if you don't convince me otherwise. We all load but we have traveled in different ways. Some of the posher guys have only traveled in air ride 18 wheeler rigs, some of us only traveled previously in box stalls - the 2 horse trailer is an alien concept as is the open sided stock trailer which rattles when I try to get on. Spare a moment and consider my new mode of transport. I'm not asking for a limo but a nice ride with at least 7 foot of head room, rubber matting or shavings in a stock trailer to muffle the rattle and some good hay is all it usually takes to convince me to board and I promise I'll make it much easier for you the next time around!

10. The girth, oh the girth - I wasn't going to go there but perhaps we should for both our sake! I've spent most of my life having them rather rudely and somewhat abruptly jerked up as tight as they will go. It's like trying to put an elephant in a corset, sticking your knee in it's back and yanking the strings hard enough to puncture a lung - beware adverse reaction will quickly follow. Saddle me by all means and if you are not on me and going to spend another 10 minutes gossiping with the barn manager and searching for your gloves, does the girth really need to be this tight from the outset? Leave it loose, walk me in a circle, let me catch a breathe and then go up another few holes. It's like following the instructions on a shampoo bottle - rinse and repeat only in my case. tighten slowly, walk a few steps and repeat. Some of my friends can blow themselves out like a puffer fish and be just as lethal if the girth is hauled up to their ears. These guys need to be walked around, maybe let them do a few circles on the lunge line and then tighten the girth a little more before mounting. Taking a few extra minutes can save you and I departing company in a rather spectacular, rapid fashion.

11. Oh the mounting block, the bane of my life. Can you people really not jump on a moving target? Firstly, our pilots have always been hoisted up there on our backs - oh the tales I could tell about leg ups that have gone seriously awry! However I digress - they are legged up while we are moving, there has never been some strange box from which they launch themselves onto us while we stand stock still. Never before have we had the sensation of the weight in the stirrup while we are expected to stand motionless like a statue in the Lovre with someone that was a few minutes substantially shorter now towering above. Practice walking me by the mounting block or tack trunk, stand on the block or trunk, pull the stirrup iron down, using your hand press weight down on the iron to simulate the weight of your leg, bang about on the saddle with your hand. Have someone to assist and for the first few times, as soon as your leg is going over the saddle, have your assistant walk me immediately forward to help with that trapped tense feeling. Practice makes perfect and if you have gradually tightened the girth as explained previously, I'm already in a more relaxed frame of mind and more on a level to accept these new random ideas you keep throwing at me.

12. Ulcers, ulcers, ulcers - not all of us have ulcers and many by the time you have adopted us will all ready have had them treated. However for those of you unfamiliar with ulcers, let's go over a few of the symptoms. Just like you they make our stomachs hurt, they dull our appetite, they can cause us to grind out teeth and become rather surly when handled or messed with. Some horses become extremely "cinchy" and I know one or two chaps that have even tried to bite their riders legs when pressure is applied. It hurts, it makes us miserable and in turn we make you miserable. Some horses just act dull and depressed. While everyone else is banging their walls and feeder eager with anticipation, I stand solemnly at the back of my stall. I might venture to look at what you've given me but it hurts to eat. A few may even exhibit colic like symptoms repeatedly during feed times or shortly after. Talk to my doctor - your vet! Ulcers can be treated quickly and effectively and have me eating like a horse (pardon the pun) in just a few days. Just three tubes of Gastrogard spread over a 7 day period is all it takes in most cases. Horses like most animals will gorge themselves rather like Augustus Gloop at the Wonka Factory - they should not be dismissed as "poor eaters". Lacking appetite is normal within the first 24 hours of arriving at a new home however if it persists, please take the required steps to get us back on track!

13. So you wanted a racehorse but are now a bit worried that the racehorse may have raced a little too much? Every time you mount, the lyrics to Life In The Fast Lane run through your mind? I've retired after 79 races and just like most people, retirement is usually warmly received after so many starts. My trainer has visions of retiring one day and kicking around the barn playing My Pretty Pony with her own horses interspersed with vacations in Mexico and just like her, our joints are feeling it a little more and our mindset isn't quite what it used to be (her eyesight is fading too but we shall not mention that!). Just as drag racing the main street no longer holds the same thrill it did for you at 18, hauling our butts as fast as we can peddle our little legs no longer holds the same appeal for us. Learn to relax, no need for the grip of death on the reins and sink your weight deep into the saddle and most importantly - breathe. Heavily raced x good handling and schooling = well rounded, well exposed confident horse with an appreciation for the slower things in life. That's an equation we can all get our heads around!

14. Ally McBeal I am not but take a moment to refer to your contract. I know, I know - load of legal jargon and you just want to get me home and have fun and test ride your new horse, show me off to your friends, show the new gelding who wears the pants in this barn by making him wear a pink polka dot sheet but wait a moment! What does it say there - please wait ONE week before riding me? Really wait a week before riding me? You are by now foaming at the mouth like a 5 year old on Christmas morning, you just want to get me tacked up, lunge me, ride me, jump me, haul me to a friends arena and ride me again in yet another strange place. At this point, one needs to place a chill pill under their tongue and let it dissolve slowly. Now - if you had just sat in the moving box for 12 hours, been displaced from your friends, given strange food to eat, made to sleep in an unfamiliar place and in many cases are subjected to massive changes in climate - how do you think you'd react? Tired perhaps, maybe a little anxious? Unsettled, nervous, upset, overwhelmed - the list of adjectives can go on and on and most have negative overtones. I don't think the people wrote this into the contract just to be party poopers or to see how long you can suffer through the waiting period before you explode under pressure. It's there as a reminder to let us get moved in, settle down, get into the schedule, adjust to the new menu of delights you offer, meet and greet new buddies, become familiar with our new surrounding, new smells, the cows that lurk behind the fence and most importantly let us relax. You'll make the whole transitioning period a lot easier, safer and more enjoyable for both of us by containing that urge to jump straight on. Patience is a virtue and when adopting or buying a new horse and allowing us some breathing room and time to catch our breathe, it can pay big dividends.

15. We know our jobs, we know what is acceptable and what is not. Try looking at it from our perspective - it's like being dropped in a foreign land and trying to understand that a sausage biscuit is not a sausage link stuck between two chocolate chip cookies - yuck! It may make perfect sense to you but when you've been raised a different way, some things need to be explained in a clear and concise manner. Time and patience will yield the greatest results and you will reap what you sow. One day we hope that you'll be able to look back and say "wow, thank you for giving me the ride of my life!" and we can reply "it's been a pleasure!"

Thank you Lisa for sharing these great tips on caring for your retired racehorse!

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