A Very Smart Boy

Oso exemplifies the intelligence and extraordinary work ethic of the thoroughbred. He remembers what we have worked on the day before and (for the most part!) goes to work with focus and relaxation. He seems to enjoy training, and tries hard to please. Because he is now able to hold a consistent rhythm in his trot, and I have started to ask for more impulsion, balance and suppleness in our work. We are now doing 20 meter circles, shoulder fore, transitions within the trot, and changes of bend. He is beginning to be able to engage more from behind and becoming more confident in the contact. Though I have led him over poles and around jumps, this weekend we did our first rides in the ring with poles and cavalettis set up. I have found in the past that young horses occasionally find these spooky and was prepared to introduce him to riding around them slowly. However, Oso was a perfect gentleman, and did not even seem to notice the poles! In the next few weeks, I am hoping to continue to develop his strength in preparation for beginning canter work!

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Volunteers Attend Equine Symposium at UC Davis

Sophia-Katelyn UC DavisWe are extremely excited that two of our volunteers, Katelyn R. and Sophia C. were recently able to represent us at the Equine Symposium put on by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. They spent a long, but extremely informative day, attending lectures on Disaster Preparedness, Equine Disease Prevention, Colic Prevention and Treatment, and an excellent presentation on Lameness – Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment. They will be sharing the materials received with the rest of the Bear Creek Stables team in Los Gatos, CA..

They were also fortunate enough to attend the afternoon lab session on Lower Limb Dissection working with a deceased horse with Wobblers
Sophia-Katelyn UC Davis3Syndrome. This was a very profound moment for these two young ladies, who plan to study animal science and equine medicine at college. Even with all the many detailed anatomy textbooks that are available trying to understand the dynamics of horse musculoskeletal systems, nothing can compare to spending an hour in a lab environment with an equine surgeon. They commented on the high caliber of teaching staff and senior level DVM students leading the presentations.
The day also included a tour of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and barns, spending time with the new born
foals that are part of the UC Davis breeding program, and meeting with VMTH Director, David Sophia-Katelyn UC Davis2Wilson.

We are happy we were able to provide these young ladies with this opportunity as it is a great learning experience for them working hands-on with the horses in our program.

Learning to Long Line

I have started long lining Oso in the last few days as a way to improve his straightness, ability to bend, and acceptance of the bit. Long lining is a great tool for young horses, as it allows them to work the correct muscles without the weight or stress of the rider. The rider can straighten the horse’s body as the lines run from the bit to tail. Additionally, with the lines supporting the horse from nose to tail, he or she learns that bending happens through the rib cage, and not solely through the neck.

Oso, like many former race horses, is more comfortable going to the left, and has a tendency to get crooked going to the right. He accepts the leg as a bending aid nicely going to the left, we have not quite mastered this concept going to the right! Our long lining sessions have made a difference in the way he is traveling under saddle going to the right.

Our first session, I started by getting Oso used to the lines going over his rump, under his tail, and touching his hind legs. As I got him used to me walking behind him ‘driving’ him forward, I also had a helper walk next to his head for a few minutes to reassure Oso (and to make sure I had brakes!). Once Oso was comfortable with the concept of long lining, we worked mainly in the walk, lots if big circles and changes of direction. we worked on softening and bending to the right, traveling straight with Oso’s shoulders in front of his haunches. Besides a few minor mishaps, (once when Oso decided to turn around and I couldn’t dissuade him from coming to say hello to me!) he was great! I am hoping our long lining work will prove to be an important ‘building block’ in our flat work!

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Volunteers are the Heart of Neigh Savers Horse Rescue

BCS HS Vol2 GroupIt’s 8:30am on a Wednesday morning, typically a pretty quiet time of the day at Bear Creek Stables. But on this midweek morning, the silence is broken by a myriad of questions “How do I put the halter on?” “Can you show us different breeds of horses?” Where are the brushes kept?”

Students from Los Gatos High School are with us, learning basic horsemanship skills, and helping out with the daily care of the rescue horses in the Neigh Savers program at Bear Creek Stables. Most of these Freshman have never been this close to any horse, never mind a 1300 pound, retired racehorse, her back so tall, few in the group can see over it.

But Carabella helps out. She lowers her head so Ben can fasten the halter, and stands patiently while another student cleans her hooves. Nicknamed “Marilyn Monroe” Carabella loves the attention, and gladly poses for photos with the group. Then we work on some ground manners in a small arena. The students lead Carabella, taking turns, learning that the further the horse is away from you, the more control you have. Carabella’s ears swivel back and forth – she is listening closely, and does not take her eyes off her new handlers. Program Manager, Jenny Whitman, demonstrates natural horsemanship “games” with the young Thoroughbred. Working without a bridle or lead line, Carabella moves away quietly, trots perfect circles around Jenny, then comes back to “join up” or connect with her, with subtle cues.

BCS HS Vol1 - GrahamThree hours pass quickly. The students practiced a safe framework for volunteering with horses, and learned about horse nutrition, grooming and daily care. Through one-on-one interaction with the horses, they learn that it is not about size, but leadership that results in a well-behaved and compliant horse.

Which is time well spent, because next week we are practicing manure management!

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Oso Smart’s Breakthrough Video!

Oso is proving to be a very smart boy! The last couple of rides have been nothing short of fantastic. He seems to be starting to understand that his new job is different than racing, and is staying relaxed and quiet the whole ride.

Before our last two rides, our trot work has consisted of short, choppy steps. Oso did not yet understand that I would like him to stretch down into the contact, lengthen his neck, and relax and use his back. Yesterday, after our 15-20 minute walk warmup, we picked up the trot and did our trot half the arena, walk half the arena exercise. I like to do this exercise to make it clear to Oso that once his workout starts, it does not get progressively faster. Every ride, I try to show Oso the way I would like him to carry himself by keeping my hands lowered a bit on either side of his neck, and providing a steady, but soft contact.

By our last trot yesterday, Oso took a deep breath, relaxed and accepted the contact! As soon as he lowered his neck and softened his back, I rewarded him by giving forward with my hands. I trotted another half lap, cooled him out and gave him lots of pats! Today we picked up right where we left off. In our first lap of trot around the arena, he was looking to soften and accept the contact. We were able to get some nice moments going both directions today. What a good boy!

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Slow & Steady Training Begins

The theme of Oso’s training this week was slow, steady and methodical progress. I am excited to say it culminated in our best ride yet today!

With the nice weather, we were able to work consistently in the bigger dressage court all week. I find that some young thoroughbreds really appreciate an older, calm ‘buddy’ to demonstrate that ‘being a riding horse’ is easy and low stress. With this in mind, on our first few rides of the week, we were joined in the arena by a well trained, quiet companion horse that I knew would be calm under any circumstances. Being in the arena with other horses is also good practice for the show arena. Oso was very calm for our 15 minute walk warm up, after which we did a few trot long sides of the arena. At this point, I think he must have been thinking that he was warmed up and it was time to go to work (go for a nice breeze or gallop!). The next few laps contained some prancing and general excited behavior! I reassured Oso with my voice and a few pats, and asked his to accept my inside leg to return to the rail of the arena, and come back to the walk. He is such a smart boy, with each ride this week, the length of time where he was strong and excited after our trot work shortened.

Each ride, after he relaxed and continued to walk, I would go for another lap or two and hop off and call it a day. Today, we rode all alone in the dressage court, did circles, diagonals and changes of bend in the walk, and trotted both directions. Oso stayed quiet and relaxed the whole time! We are going to be tackling long lining in the next few days–a great way to teach a young horse to accept the contact and learn to the top line. Stayed tuned for our next update!

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Feeding the Off the Track Thoroughbred

image1Browsing classified ads for horses coming off the track, it is hard not to be dazzled by the sheer beauty of the horses in the photos. In each picture, the horses have gleaming coats, rippling muscles, and the focused look of an athlete. However, it is important to note that as a horse adjusts to life away from the track, their metabolism, energy level, appetite and musculature will change as well. Some horses may need a high fat diet to gain weight coming off the track. For others, the priority will be a high forage diet with minimal grain as their metabolism adjusts. Bluntly put, that beautiful horse you saw in the classified ad may end up with a dull coat and little muscle tone as they adjust!

Since Oso has already been through the ‘let down’ period, and developed good weight and muscle tone at the wonderful Eclipse Equine Sports Therapy Center, my main concern has been maintaining his weight and preparing him to be able to handle a heavier work load (as we start to ramp up our training). Currently, Oso has plenty of high quality hay (a blend of alfalfa and grass) twice a day, and a graining of a pound to a pound and a half of organic timothy pellets with his new supplements Electro Balance by Enviro Equine and Wild Gold Camelina Oil. Electro Balance provides the nutrients necessary to support Oso’s training, and Wild Gold is an excellent source of fat and anti-inflammatory Omega 3s. Though Oso has a primarily calm and collected personality (with a few exciting moments thrown in this week when a horse started bucking outside the round pen while we were riding!), I generally try to go easy on the high sugar grain with any young thoroughbred.

On the training front, Oso got front shoes Monday! He was a total gentleman for the shoer, quiet and well behaved. We have continued to put more short, easy, and successful rides under our belt. I find starting with slow and easy rides with a young horse builds their confidence. Oso is learning to accept my leg in the walk, and understand a soft rein contact. I am looking forward to ramping up our training this week!

Oso says, it’s dinner time!

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Getting to know Oso

Oso's learning to be a grown-up horse

Oso’s learning to be a grown-up horse

So, you have a young, beautiful thoroughbred right off the track, what next? Do they know how to tie, lead, stand to be groomed and tacked, and behave respectfully in a stall? Do you try to ride the first day at the barn? Do they know how to enjoy turnout without injuring themselves? As with any question about horse training, the answer depends on the individual horse!

Often, young horses off the track have had only the education necessary to get them from their stall to the track to train or race. They must learn many of the skills we take for granted in trained horses–leading quietly, standing at the mounting block, and tolerating that stiff brush! I spend the first few days, weeks, or months (depending on the horse) with a new OTTB getting a sense of their temperament, what they know already, and figuring out the best way to start their training.

Oso and I have spent the last week or so getting to know each other. We have explored the ranch together, with him in a halter and me on foot. I have groomed him in his stall, and in the crossties. We have practiced being attentive and respectful on the lead and walking under saddle. I have started introducing the idea of the training process–‘pressure’ (a request) and a ‘reward’ (release of pressure or a cookie or a pat) when he gives a correct response. He really likes this idea!

Hopefully I am not getting ahead of myself, as I have concluded that we are off to a great start! Oso is kind, intelligent and tries very hard to figure out what is happening next. He loves attention, and stands patiently in his stall to be groomed. He is a gentleman to lead, stops, backs up and yields his haunches easily. Currently, our rides are consisting of lots of walking and changing direction to build fitness and suppleness (and quite a few pats and cookies at the end!). I am looking forward to our next steps together!

Sometimes, the horse chooses you…

Sig-Oso

Oso Smart and Sigourney’s second day under saddle

Sometimes, the horse chooses you…

Just yesterday, I was asked to point out why I thought one young OTTB would be a better competition prospect than another. Confirmation, bloodlines, race history, and temperament can all play a role in choosing a horse off the track with the ability to be successful in a second career. In a completely objective world, only these things would matter. But, sometimes it’s the look in the horse’s eye as you meet them, that special feeling you get when they give you that first nuzzle or whiskery kiss that makes the decision for you…

I met Oso for the first time in a shaded barn aisle at Eclipse Equine Sports Therapy Center in Paso Robles. I walked down the aisle, searching for his name on the stall door, excited to see him for the first time. I found his stall, and he looked at me and came to say hello. Now, I can try to say it was the rhythm and fluidity in his walk down the barn aisle, or the suspension in his trot as he jogged down the driveway that made me conclude he would be an excellent prospect for eventing or dressage. But in truth, it was the friendliness in his gaze, and the gentle way he reached his nose out to nuzzle my hand that told me Oso was a special horse.

Time will tell if he will be a future dressage or eventing star (I think he has all the tools to be!). For now, I’m going to savor our first few rides, and enjoy seeing his lovely face over the stall door every morning.

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Neigh Savers’ Horse to compete in Retired Racehorse Project’s 100K makeover

Oso SmartOso Smart begins his journey to Kentucky

We are pleased to announce that our professional trainer, Sigourney Jellins of SLJ Eventing applied for and was selected to participate in the Retired Racehorse Project’s 100K makeover competition to be held in Lexington, Kentucky October 2016.

As her horse Sigourney chose Oso Smart, a beautiful 2011 dark bay gelding by the great sire and two time Horse of the Year Curlin.  Oso was just coming off a lengthy rehab with us for a bow tendon injury.  He last raced in February 2015. Oso came to Neigh Saver’s through the CARMA (California Retirement Management Account) Placement Program. The program helps transition horses, typically ones with injuries from racing to retraining or retirement programs.

We are very excited for Sigourney and equally excited for Oso who is being offered a tremendous training opportunity.  Sigourney was chosen for both dressage and eventing so we will see what discipline Oso will eventually compete in.

Oso has no sponsors and we would appreciate donations towards his professional training costs, board, farrier, medical, shavings and supplements.  We also need to raise money to send him to Kentucky and then back to California.  After his competition he will be offered for adoption through our program.  Any sponsors to Oso’s training and other supportive costs will have first right of refusal if interested in adopting.  Oso is a beautifully built very athletic horse with lots of Irish sports horse in his pedigree.  He is a kind and willing partner as well.  In other words, even without the exceptional training is now getting, he is a real find.

We are thrilled that Neigh Savers will be participating in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and wish both Sigourney and Oso great success. Oso Smart will be available for adoption after he participates in the Retired Racehorse Project’s 100K makeover competition to be held in Lexington, Kentucky October 2016.

The Jockey Club: Microchips Mandated with Foal Registration

The Jockey Club announced today that as of 2017 they are mandating that foals be microchipped when they are registered:

Microchips are being introduced as part of the registration process for Thoroughbreds. Microchipping is voluntary and free for foals of 2016 and later. An implanted microchip will be required for the registration of foals in 2017.

For foals of 2016, microchips may be requested on the Live Foal Report and will be mailed with the Registration Application and DNA kit. The microchips that will be distributed are the “Slim Microchip T-SL” model manufactured by DATAMARS.

Microchips should be implanted by an equine veterinarian or under the supervision of a veterinarian before or at the same time the DNA hair sample is collected, markings are recorded, and photos are taken. The horse identifier should scan the microchip and record the number along with the markings when identifying the horse.

Oftentimes, it is very difficult or nearly impossible to identify an untattooed Thoroughbred. As of 2017, all foals will be microchipped. This will simplify the identification process.

At Neigh Savers, we are thrilled with this recent change.

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8 Horses Saved!

November 2015 Auction Horses

Meet the 8 lives YOU HELPED SAVE!!!!

Because of you and your ongoing support of our program, 8 horses were saved from November Mike’s Auction. The first week after auction is busy. Intake, evaluations, quarantine, veterinary care, farrier care, and updating the website. The horses are our first priority, but then we want to keep you, our supporters updated on the status of each of the horses. It really does take a bit of time to evaluate everyone.

So, here it is! Introducing November 2015 Auction Horses:

Royal Rhythm (Queenie): Hip 136, Very sweet. She is tired, worn out. It is clear that she sustained a slab fracture at some point in her career as her RF knee is permanently altered. Her feet are long and misshapen. She has a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 3+.

Bobby, formerly known as Hip # 136, was rescued from November 2015 Mike’s Auction. This sweet and petite boy was ridden through the auction ring. He appeared quite broke. He has a BCS of 5, teeth had sharp points. Shod on all four and appears sound upon exam.

Jake, formerly known as Hip # 113, was rescued from November 2015 Mike’s Auction. This sweet, sweet boy was ridden through the ring and rode well. He is clearly very broke. His rider was quite rough on him, despite this, after showing off Jake’s moves, he dropped the reins and Jake walked away quietly and calmly. Jake presented with a BCS of 4. He has a very enlarged LF knee and upon radiograph was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the radial carpal joint. The knee has minimal flexion. There is significant amount of bone spurs. Circles and adult weight on his back are big no-no’s for him.

Carrot, formerly known as Hip #120 at November 2015 Mike’s Auction. Sommer reports that Carrot was a little pushy coming off the trailer. She ran towards her stall. She settled in quickly. Carrot is an Arab X and is ~18 yo. She is off on the LH. She presented with a BCS of 3.25 and had sharp points on her teeth. She had significant ulcerations in her mouth.

Lady Chatterly formerly known as Hip #121 from November 2015 Mike’s Auction. She is very friendly wants to be groomed on. Lady Chatterly’s feet need farrier care and she needs food. She is minimally eating the soaked feed that is being provided to her and is unable to eat hay. Upon exam, it was noted that she was minimally weight bearing on the LH and that she had foundered with significant rotation on the RF. BCS of 2.

Bella was formerly identified as Hip #119 from the November 2015 Mike’s Auction. She is an older lady who is a bit thin. She has a horrible front end. Dr. Heaton has diagnosed her with DSLD and she is compensating by being so over at knee. Despite this, she is a very kind mare who is very smart. BCS of 3.

Bijou was formerly identified as Hip #122 at the November 2015 Mike’s Auction. She is a dun mare who appears vision damaged in the left eye with significant corneal scarring. She came to auction with deep cuts over her eye, on left side barrel, and stifle. She is carrying decent weight. Bijou seems friendly but is a bit head shy. She is not comfortable with being touched on her left side likely due to the recent trauma she has endured. She has a BCS of 5. She is quite nervous with very bad teeth and significant ulcerations in her mouth.

Ella was one of two horses rejected from Mike’s Auction in November 2015. She was turned away because she had a gaping wound that had been left untreated for some time as it had developed a foul odor. It looked as if she had been skewered in the shoulder by a T-Post. Mike’s Auction insisted that this mare be surrendered to Forgotten Horses Rescue, Inc.. In turn, FHR asked Neigh Savers to take over her care. There she was, injured, starving and surrendered in a parking lot at Mike’s Auction. She has a BCS of 2.5 and is in need of feet and teeth being done.

If one of these lucky horses speaks to you, please let us know. We are always looking for incredible adopters to give a horse a wonderful home.

Sponsor a horse, donate to save a life, honor a loved one with a gift in their name. This is truly a gift of life. The November 2015 Auction horses thank you!

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