Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘retired Thoroughbreds

Should Be

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This is as it should be. The horses are peacefully enjoying the fresh green pasture. Simply idyllic.

I am very happy to report that the horses have been very calm about moving through the gate to the pasture when I open it. They have also been self-policing their minutes on the field. When my timer has gone off reminding me to usher them back to the confines of the paddocks the last two days, I have found they had already returned on their own.

Yesterday they were all willing participants in receiving their spring dose of dewormer medication. By all indications, they have become well adjusted and are at peace with the accommodations we are providing. It is interesting to think back to how they presented in the early days after their arrival a little over one year ago.

It’s been rewarding to witness the slow changes as they began to grow more comfortable with us and their surroundings with the passing of each month. They are beginning to take on a look that says they agree that this is exactly where they should be at this point in their lives.

They must be happy that the close calls with severe weather recently have all turned out well for us. There was nothing visible yesterday morning to indicate a big windy thunderstorm rolled over us the night before. At least, in terms of trees and branches that is. There were plenty of hints we had experienced a flash flood.

The diagonal line through the field in the image above is where the runoff flattened the grass on the way to the drainage ditch along our southern property border. We really need to find our rain gauges and get those set up again. I prefer knowing how much rain falls from big storms.

Cyndie recalls storing one of them last fall in a very smart place where we would be able to find it again in spring. So far, no luck.

Her new milestone of knee replacement recovery for yesterday (just over 3 weeks out) was, taking her first walk on a trail through our woods. She did it without a cane or any supporting devices. She’s not pain free yet, but she is definitely making good progress on using that leg more and more. The machine providing compression and icing is a godsend that really helps the rest periods between all the exercise she is getting.

I think I would like one of those fancy machines with a sleeve that fits over my whole body. I suppose I could always take an ice bath.

Okay, that just changed my mind. I don’t want to take an ice bath.

Although, yesterday’s heat and humidity was rather oppressive…



Fresh Grass

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The horses have had a few days of brief visits to the back pasture now and it just makes them yearn for more. On the first day, they only got 15 minutes to munch. We increase it by 15 minutes each day for about two weeks, after which we can leave the gate open and they can come and go as they please.

Judging by their poop, none of them appear to be having any digestion issues upon the change in their diet, but it’s early yet. Hopefully, they will adjust without a problem, but it’s something that deserves our attention and we’d rather be over-cautious than have them suffer any ill effects.

When I opened the gate that first day, Mia was again the first to notice. She cautiously eased her way through the opening and quietly grazed just a short distance inside the back pasture.

Curious about whether they would stampede their way out into the field, I started recording a video when Light and the other two finally showed awareness that Mia was out there without them.

Their entry was actually rather tame but it is still fun to watch them make their way through the gate for the first time this spring. The audio is marred a bit by the sound of the breeze but after the view changes direction, you can hear all four of them snorting, which is kind of endearing.

When I went out to move them back into the paddock on Saturday after an hour, Mix and Swings had already come back on their own. I always like to see the horses making good choices that free me from needing to force them into the desired behavior.

A horse that limits its own time on green grass is a real convenience.



Written by johnwhays

May 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Midday Sprint

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I did recently swear off mowing grass in November but this is different. This isn’t lawn grass I was mowing yesterday with the garden tractor. On an uncharacteristically warm November day, I brought out the big diesel and pulled the brush cutter across the back pasture to cut down a problematic invasion of Canadian thistle.

We were aware of the toxicity risks for horses, yet it was Cyndie’s recent Master Gardener classes that pointed out how the thistle will spread and degrade the quality of grazing pastures if left unchecked.

But, honestly, it still felt a little too much like mowing grass.

My presence on the big machine riled the horses into a bit of sprinting that Cyndie captured on video.



I had closed gates to isolate the pasture I was going to mow and that was the first step in raising the curiosity of the horses. When I showed up on the big tractor and started cutting, it was unclear if they were upset to see their grazing options disappearing before their eyes or just worked up over the strange-looking noisy contraption rolling along.

They started racing in and out of the paddocks from the front hayfield.

It is beautiful to watch them sprint in the manner they were bred and raised to do, knowing it is their choice to run and they are free to stop whenever they wish.

Soon after their little spurt of racing, they wandered out into the hayfield and stood for a little nap while the tractor droned on. When I finished in the back pasture, Cyndie opened the gate to the hayfield and I rolled out there to mow the strip along the paddock fences where we had planted acorns. The horses didn’t move a muscle at that point.

They quickly get over the initial alarm about me showing up on machines with engines.

Using the knowledge Cyndie is gaining from her Master Gardener classes, we have a new plan to transplant some yearling oaks next spring and protect them from animals and crowding from surrounding growth for the first few years. Yesterday, she scouted and marked the candidates we hope to use when the winter snow disappears from the ground.

I mowed the grass short and Cyndie dug holes in advance to mark the spots. That alleyway will end up getting a more permanent barrier to keep horses away while future paddock shade is being developed.

Beware the work deemed necessary when you start learning the wealth of valuable details included in Master Gardener lessons.

It will be much more marathon than occasional sprints.



Teeth Filed

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Any time you think dental checkups are a big deal, just think what it is like for horses. The vets grab the tongue and reach their arm into the horse’s mouth. The horse gets to wear a speculum that forces the jaw to stay open and the rasp is attached to a power drill that looks like the one in a construction worker’s toolbox.

It was actually the first time we have moved the rescued Thoroughbred mares into the barn stalls since they arrived in April. They walked in without hesitation, but since we only brought in Swings and Mix at first, the other two that were left outside became very vocal and upset about the separation.

We haven’t reached a level where the four horses we are fostering have shown complete comfort with us yet, so we didn’t know for sure what condition their teeth were in. Our suspicions were raised because the mares all show some difficulty eating the feed pellets we serve in pans.

Since the upper and lower jaws of a horse don’t align precisely, the outer edges of the upper teeth and the inside edges of the lower teeth can develop high spots, some of which can become sharply pointed. The rest of the tooth gets ground down by regular grinding contact that happens naturally from chewing.

Occasionally the vet needs to file or “float” the high spots to give the horse a fuller flat surface for chewing.

Our horses were mildly sedated to minimize stress during the procedure and allows the veterinary team to focus more on the inside of the mouth and less on the thousand pounds of unpredictable equine energy attached to it.

We were happy to learn that none of the horses’ teeth were in terrible shape. There were some other sore spots and understandable aging evidence, but nothing requiring additional treatment.

When the work is done and the speculum comes off, the horses are kept in the stalls for a couple of hours to nap until the sedative has worn off.

I was happy for the sedation because Light became very agitated when we got her into a stall, even though she was now inside with all the others. Luckily, she didn’t balk about stepping in there, but once inside, she became very unsettled. I wondered if it might be a Post Traumatic Stress memory of the life circumstances from which she was rescued.

The horses had a very interesting day because I brought out the big tractor with the brush cutter earlier to mow the high grass around the perimeter of the paddocks and along the edges of the pastures. They showed a healthy curiosity about the big machine and my activities, as well as an attraction to the areas freshly cut.

It is our hope that their newly floated teeth will make both their grazing in the fields and chomping the feed pellets easier and more comfortable for them. I also hope the sedation will have left them with little memory of the indignities to which they were subjected.



Racing Memories

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On their second day with us, the horses showed another side of themselves. After they had their morning feed, Cyndie sat with them as they took some naps and generally lounged around the paddock.

There weren’t many signs they were having any trouble with the amount of green grass available in the paddock, and areas that hadn’t been munched yet were dwindling fast. They had already communicated interest in getting onto the back pasture by demonstrably posing at the gate, staring into the field longingly, so we decided to open the gate.

We anticipated the possibility they might frolic into the field with enthusiasm, since our previous herd of Arabians often did, but we had no idea how much of a transformation back into racehorses we would witness.


They raced hard around the perimeter and then raced back into the paddock so they could race out again and take another lap. They raced so much they worked up a sweat that they then tried to wipe off by rolling on the ground. Then they raced some more. The video above was the third blast of about five, broken up with pauses to roll or go get a drink.

It was thrilling to witness how they came to life and appeared to revel in the freedom to go full speed again for a little while and to stop whenever they wanted. It was also a little bit scary to stand somewhat exposed to the thundering herd when neither we nor they knew for sure where they were going to go next.

By the time my sister, Judy, and husband, Scott, stopped by to visit, the horses had calmed considerably. When we opened the gate a second time to let them see some of the excitement, the entrance was entirely subdued in comparison. I suspect the mares may be feeling their age. I worry about the body stiffness they might be feeling this morning.

Taking extra caution while we are getting to know each other, Cyndie responded to Mix’s invitation for a little post-workout brushing by reaching from our side of the gate.









She turned around so Cyndie could get her neck, too. None of the other three have shown more than the briefest of interest in being touched by us yet.

They have shown total acceptance of the chickens, who are slowly closing the distance of proximity with the new tenants.

Since the mares seem to remember how to race, we are confident they remember how good it feels to be groomed, too. It gives us plenty to work with as we slowly, but surely, warm up to each other evermore.



Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2021 at 6:00 am