TPR: Temperature, Pulse, Respiration

A couple years ago I was at my in laws house for Thanksgiving.  My baby was about 6 months old, and I was nursing her when I noticed my phone was blowing up.  Seemed like one of my clients was having a veterinary crisis with her horse.  I excused myself and called her back.  She told me that her horse was behaving oddly, and doing something funny with her leg.  She was getting ready to call the vet.

I really like my vets, I consider them friends and I don’t want them to have to leave their families on a holiday for no reason.  I also really like my clients, many of them are friends too.  I don’t want them to have to needlessly pay a huge emergency call fee.

So I asked some questions to determine if the horse needed to see the vet right away.  Is she breathing normally? Does she have a fever?  What’s her pulse?  The answer to all of these questions was “I don’t know.” I was able to walk her through the procedures on how to collect this information.  With the assistance of a more knowledgeable boarder who happened upon the scene, I was able to determine that there was no real emergency taking place. 

This incident got me thinking, how was this client supposed to learn to do these tests to determine if her horse is ok?  If she were in pony club, or horse masters, it probably would have come up in preparation for a testing.  Even the D1, the most basic test that the walk/trot kids take, includes a portion where the kids had to know their mounts’ temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR). Many riding lesson students don’t want to pay for lessons in horsemanship, they want lessons in how to jump higher and dressage better.

So I started requiring everyone who leased a horse from me to take a lesson to learn how to take the following measurements:


Have a digital thermometer on hand as well as some lube.  If no lube, use spit.  Many years ago I was in a class at UC Davis where we examined a mare’s cervix.  The instructor told us the motto at the horse barn was “when you think you have enough lube, put some more on.” Pretty good life advice, if you ask me.

To take your horses temperature, stand to the side of his haunches, lift his tail, and slide your well-lubed digital thermometer into the rectum until only the screen is visible.   A horse’s normal body temperature can range from 99-101·F. Elevated temperatures can be signs of infection or illness. 

Last month Mark learned to pick his horses’ hooves, this month he learns to take a temperature.  This should be a basic skill for every horse owner.


Watch your horse’s sides, not his nose, to determine breaths per minute. 8-15 breaths per minute is considered normal for a horse at rest.  Some horses breathe faster than that so it’s important to know what is normal for your horse.

Ann watches Blue’s flanks and counts his breaths per minute.


The”P” in TPR is the most difficult for most horse owners to assess.  Practice finding a pulse by pushing a vein under the horses jaw into the inside of his cheek.  For shy pulses, it’s often easier to find a vein around the eye to push gently on.  

The average adult horse’s pulse is 30-40 beats per minute when at rest.  Higher than that is an indicator for pain or other physical distress.

Ann finds Corny’s pulse near his eye.

The brothers both had very difficult pulses to find.  If the horse was in pain, it would probably be easier to find if it was throbbing.  The difficulty finding a pulse might be a sign of well being!


It’s important to know your horse’s baseline metrics for two reasons.  The first is so you will know what is normal for them.  The second is so you will have experience finding TPR when you are freaked out about your horse’s health.

I keep track of all the horses in my program with an ap on my iPhone.  The one I use is called Equi Sketch Records.  Blue’s record looks like this 

Compare his medical normals with Poni’s:

You can see the difference in what is normal for each equine. Poni’s resting  respiration is way out of what is considered normal.  If Blue was breathing 42 times per minute at rest, I would be very concerned.  For Poni, it’s just how she is.

If you don’t know your horse’s healthy TPR, please make a point of checking it the next time you visit him.  Write them down, and keep it in your tack box just in case.

A little bit about bits

I love talking  about bits.  Last year I did an unmounted lesson for our pony club and the leaders had to shut me down after I had been going on for an hour and a half about bits.  While I don’t intend to be a hoarder, I think everyone should be allowed to have a collection of one thing.  My one thing is bits.

I started both geldings off in my go-to bit for green horses.

A three piece D ting snaffle bit

I choose this bit for green horses because it works on their lips and tongue.  It may also work on the bars of their mouth, depending on the position of the rider’s hands.  Because it had three pieces, it does not have a center joint that pokes the horse in the roof of the mouth.  The dee ring shape encourages green horses to learn to take a cue  for turning by pushing on the opposite side of their face from the activated rein (e.g. when pulling on there left rein, the right side of the bit will be pushed against the right side horses jaw).

Did you follow all that?  No?  Here are some diagrams that may help you out.

Anatomy of the horse’s lower jawParts of the snaffle  bit

Did that clear some things up for you?

Well, niether brother liked my choice of bit for them, so it was time to go to my bit box.

Blue’s bit

Blue accepted the bit easily.  He seemed to fuss quite a bit with the mouth piece though, so I decided to put him in a slightly more rigid single joined snaffle. His new bit had a thinner mouthpiece and was a few sizes smaller than the original bit.  In subsequent work outs he seemed very happy with the way his new bit fit and carried the bit quietly with a relaxed mouth.

Corny’s bridle on the left, Blue’s bridle on the right.


Yesterday’s blog entry talked about Corny’s tongue acrobatics when wearing a bit.  He would twist his tongue, flip it over, draw it up, or loll it out his mouth when wearing a bit.  After one of his early workouts I noticed that his tongue was purple on the bottom.  I don’t typically study the underside of horse’s tongues, are all horse tongues purple on the bottom?  I checked out the other horses that were currently on my tie racks. Neither Dom, Poni, nor Blue had purple  bottomed tongues.  While my sample size was very small, I felt confident that the purple  tongue was not normal.

My theories for why Corny’s tongue is purple were:

  1. Bruising from getting his tongue over the bit
  2. Some kind of dental problem
  3. Lack of circulation to the tongue
  4. Metal allergy or sensitivity

I decided to change Corny’s bit to one that offered plenty of tongue relief, without encouraging fidgeting.  I choose a Mullen mouthpiece (no joint) with a port (an upwards swoop in the center).  To address the metal sensitivity post of my theory, I selected a plastic covered mouthpiece.

It worked!  While the tongue issues have not gone away, they have drastically reduced.  Corny showed improvement the next workout with the new bit.  After he got dental work, he improved even more.  

Bridle set up

You may have noticed that there are no nosebands on the brothers’ bridles.  I could probably cover up some of Corny’s mouth issues if I slapped a noseband on him.  However, it would only be a cover-up and not resolve any of the issues that cause the mouth issues.  I’d rather address the issues and solve them in the early stages of training , rather than fight against them for the rest of his riding career.  Niether horse actually needs a noseband until they begin jumping or competing.

Since they don’t have nosebands, there is a danger of pulling the bit all the way through the horse’s mouth.  To mitigate that risk, I’ve attached a chin strap connecting the rings of the bit.  I simply use a spur strap, but purpose built chin straps do exist.

I’ve been working the horses with their halters under the bridle so I can hook my lines to the halter, or to the bit.  That way the horses can learn to move with the bit in, without also being responsible for responding to it.

Management Strategies, part 2

We got some much needed rain in the brothers’third week of training.  California horse people have a love/hate relationship with the rain.  We love rain because our state is in a constant drought that requires mindful water rationing at all times.  We hate it because when it comes, it dumps too much water on our riding surfaces.  HC Equestrian is located at Indian Hills Ranch; we are lucky to have a nice indoor arena there.  However, it is very difficult to get good photos or video marking the brothers’ progress in there.

During week 3, I took off one of my long lines and worked again on longing with one line.  The thoroughbreds are really getting the idea, especially Corny.  However, as we continued to work, there consistently became signs that the brothers had discomfort in their bodies.


It had been a year since the horses had their teeth floated, so I scheduled them to get done. 

 Corny has some issues with the bit and does acrobatics with his tongue when wearing a bridle. I’ve noticed that sticks his tongue out the right side of his mouth. Before I try to pick up reins, he needs to learn to accept the bit and hold it steady in his mouth. I want to rule out, or address, any physical issues that could be causing this behavior.
Corny’s tongue. Notice that I have the lines on the halter, not the bit.

I got them scheduled for dental work as soon as I could. Both horses were reported to have needed lots of work done. 

Amy Scripps floated both horses

It worked!  In two workouts since their dentistry,Corny has gotten much quieter with his tongue.


In his first month of work, Blue had a hard time holding a canter lead, especially with his hind legs. Corny always started off extremely stiff. Both horses acted as inverse Zoolanders and had a hard time turning right.

Derek Zoolander can’t turn left

Fortunately, I can get Wally Palmer, DVM, to come to my barn. Some of you local folks may know him as the guy who took over Mike Gleason’s chiropractic practice. Anyway, Wally is great. He gave me a good assessment on both horses, adjusted them, and sedated them for Amy to do dental work.

In the next two workouts Blue has been holding his canter lead better, and Corny is more capable of bending.
The brothers are up to date on vaccinations and shoeing, so we don’t have to worry about that right now, though there are definitely some improvements that can be made in their shoeing.

The Double Longe and Interpretive  Dance

Blue and Corny are the thoroughbreds I hope to take to Kentucky in October for the thoroughbred makeover competition.  Niether of these full brothers longed very well, so my last entry was about how I taught them direction and speed cues while they were loose.  Now it’s time to put the lines back on and try longing again.

Both horses might have had a little bit of Parelli training at their previous farm. My guess is that this is why they turn in to face me as soon as they feel the slightest pressure on the longe line.  Usually when a horse does this, I hurry to get behind them to send them forward again in the same direction.  I tried that first with these two, but that seemed to confuse them more and make them a bit frantic.  That certainly isn’t going to help me.  Being frantic is not a mindset that fosters learning, so I’ve got to figure out how to explain things more clearly to the brothers.

Enter the double longe!  Sometimes called long lining, it’s a way to have influence on both sides of the horse independently.  I am fairly it experienced with double longing, but it’s best to learn on horses that already longe pretty well.

My set up is:

  1. A surcingle 
  2. A folded saddle pad 
  3. A halter
  4. A slip (a snaffle bridle without a noseband or reins)
  5. Long lines

Corny ready to learn double longing

In an ideal world my surcingle would have turrets, but I get by without.
 Unlike longe lines, long lines are rolled, for the first few meters.  The first couple years that I did double longing, I preferred to use two different colored longe lines.

I have already gotten the horses used to ropes moving around all their legs and tail.  I also introduced their boots previous to this session.

Week 2, day 1

I worked both horses in the roundoen wearing all the equipment, but not hooked up to the long lines.  I noticed that Corny has a real problem with holding the bit in his mouth and keeping his tongue steady.  I’m not going to attach lines or reins to his bit until he learns to hold the bit calmly and quietly.  

After a quick review of speed and direction cues, I attached the long lines.  The line closer to me clipped directly onto the side of the halter, or inside bit ring.  The line on the opposite side ran over the horses back, through the top surcingle ring, and then to the bit.  Now I could  influence the horse to turn to the outside, while they could still see the inner line run from their face to my leading hand.

Here’s some footage of Corny’s first session on the long lines.

Week 2, days 2-3

Long lining went well in the round pen  yesterday, now it’s time to try in the arena.  I was able to keep the horses moving forward by using my outside rein to keep them from turning in or cutting in.  I could also use my outside rein to keep them from drifting out to some extent.

However, both brothers are pretty convinced that the”circle” I want them to do looks like this:

Corny and Blue’s idea of a longing circle

They are super consistent about making this god awful shape! It’s the same in both arenas, and flips over when we change direction.

Seriously, what is that?  Are they football fans? 

Or maybe it looks like 


Oh, I get it!  They are trying to tell me they want to go to

To see Corny’s interpretation of the circle, check out his first day on the double longe:

This clip shows the 3/4 circle where he turns to face me when he hits the inside rein.  This happened pretty  much every time before we started the double longe.  It also shows me using my body language to shoo him away.  This is the dance of the giant demented bird. the

Now he’s getting the hang  of it
In any case, that’s not a circle. However it’s great progress and I will take it!

The before picture, part 2

Blue and Corny are doing great with their ground manners.  They are able to be handled by their inexperienced owners, and are relaxed around the ranch.

I like to make sure that there horses in training with me understand several concepts of human partnership before I climb aboard.  The first day I worked with the brothers, I had a pretty unsuccessful time longing them.  I knew I was going to have to start from scratch with this concept.

On week one, day two I put the horses in the round pen.  At first I only cared about the direction they were going on the circle.  Corny tried to change direction once on his own, but was otherwise content to do as I ask.  Blue challenged my leadership about the direction of travel several times, but eventually settled into the routine. 

 Next, I worked on establishing a cue to go to the next faster gait when I lift the finger on my driving hand.  When working on the ground, I refer to the driving hand as the one closest to the horse’s tail (maybe holding a whip).  I refer to the leading hand as the one closest to the horse’s head (maybe holding a line).

To get a horse sensitive to my gesture to change gait, I go through the following process. Each step takes about two of the horse’s strides.  I stop the process when the horse moves to the next faster gait.

  1. Lift my index finger on my driving arm
  2. Lift my driving arm
  3. Lift the butt of the whip
  4. Point the whip at the horse’s haunches
  5. Tag the horse with the whip

This process teaches the horses how to go forward from a light cue before being ridden. Its consistent escalating sequence gives the horse a chance to think about the initial cue without waiting so long that they forget about it.  Done with repetition, most horses pick up on this quickly.  The brothers were no exception and understand the concept after this first session.

The last thing I worked on was changing direction. I made sure the horses would stop and turn towards me when I stepped in front of their shoulder.  They did this well, though Blue did try to run past me a couple times.  

I was looking for signs of relaxation in the horses.  I didn’t see many once we went faster than the walk.  I want this to improve before I consider mounting.

The next day (week one,day 3) I reviewed these concepts in the big arena instead of the round pen.  I asked for direction changes, changes in gait, and drawing the horses towards me.  Sort of like a turnout/roundoen hybrid session.

It’s taken long enough, but behold the before video of the horses moving free on the arena!

Here is Blue, see if you can spot his subtle signs of disrespect.

Blue cocking his hip at me.  I’m just out of frame but you can see my shadow

And here is Corny

The before picture,part 1

Every makeover show worth its salt has a “before” reel.  Since Blue and Corny are aiming for the Thoroughbred Makeover in October, I figured they should have one too.

Initially we weren’t thinking about the makeover, and I’m kicking myself for not getting footage of their first day in training with me.  Instead I’m going to have to paint you a word picture.

To give some perspective on timing, I work with the brothers three times a week.  November 2 was our first day together.  Initial assessment of their training is as follows.

Cross ties: it is unknown if the brothers had every been straight tied or cross tied before.  Owners Ann and Mark have never seen them tied up in any way.  Both horses showed separation anxiety to one another.  Blue weaved in the cross ties, Corny gaped his mouth, flipped his head and even pulled back once.  The pulling back wasn’t a big deal, we have breakaway cross ties and the brothers wear leather halters. 

Grooming: Blue was hesitant to pick up his feet, and very sensitive to brushing.  Corny kicked out a bit when I was working with his hind feet.  He’s also ear shy

Leading: They both have pretty good manners.  Blue likes to get in front of his handler and Corny nearly mowed me down when Blue went out of site.

Longing: so long as I could conform to their ideas of what longing is, it was kind of ok.  Both horses tend to turn and face me when they feel the slightest pressure on the halter.  Sometimes horses with a Parelli background do that.  I don’t want my horses to do that.  I had to walk along with them, and niether horse wanted to canter.

I planned to address each one of these topics.  My next couple sessions were done in the round pen.  I really got a feel of the brothers’attitudes, and boy are they different from each other!

Blue was the successful racehorse of the two.  He ran for the years and won several times.  He still has that warrior mentality.  Since there’s is no one to compete against in our sessions, he’s trying out competing against me.  He hasn’t done anything major, but I see him cocking his hip at me, snaking his head, and trying to choose our direction of travel.  I get after him for each of these little infractions so he doesn’t escalate these behaviors.

If Blue was a person

In contrast to his warrior of a brother, Corny raced only a little bit.  With him it’s more like they gave a kid a sword and sent him into battle.  He doesn’t seem to have any agenda towards competition.  He wants to figure out what I want and keep tabs on his brother.

If Corny was a person

So my work needs to help the horses become more confident in themselves and learn to understand what I am asking for.

To address Corny’s ear sensitivity I did some flagging with him.  After he accepted the soft flag over his ears while he was standing still and in motion it was much easier for me to rub him slowly and he was able to keep his head low for bridling after about a week of this.  
To address Corny’s issue with kicking out, we practiced lifting his feet with a rope.  This kept me out of harm’s way, encouraged his feet to yield to pressure, got him comfortable with ropes tangled around his legs, and started to develop his sense of trust in me. 

Corny quietly yielding to the foot rope.  

I did all this stuff with Blue too.  I also sacked them out with a saddle pad to help them not be so flinchy about putting on the saddle.  While Corny seemed to have bigger issues that were resolved with these exercises, Blue also benefited from them.  It became easier to handle Blue’s feet, he became less ticklish to grooming, and began to engage with me in a more positive way.

The brothers got rapidly better in the cross ties over the first two weeks with this sort of work.  In my next entry I will talk about learning to longe.

What I was hired to do

While the focus of this blog is my goal for thoroughbred makeover competition in October, that is not the reason Mark and Ann hired me to train the horses.  In my first session with Mark and Ann I asked them for their individual goals.  They both expressed that they want to get more comfortable working with the horses.  Mark wants to ride someday, but Ann doesn’t think her back will tolerate it. 
I asked about the goals for their horses.  They stated that they want their horses to be happy.  That means that I need to train the horses to do a job.  Mark and Ann aren’t picky about what job that is, they want me to explore their horses’aptitudes.

This all sounds like a lot of fun!  These ex-racehorses have to be among the luckiest ones in the country to have owners that are willing to do this for them.  Seriously, Blue and Corny have won the lottery.

My job is to make sure they remain in good graces with their owners.  That means impeccable ground manners on the horses, and good unmounted instruction for the humans.  Luckily the brothers are pretty well behaved already, and the humans are good students.

4 year old Corny waiting with 7 year old Talia for his dental appointment… These horses have exceptional temperaments.

After they took the first week to settle, learn to cross tie, and wear boots, we got to work.  After the first month in training Ann and Mark can now do the following things with their own horses:

  1. Halter 
  2. Lead
  3. Crosstie
  4. Groom/clean feet
  5. Turnout/bring in
  6. Apply/remove boots
  7. Blanket/unblanket

Blue out for a walk around the property with his owner, Mark

Ann and Mark have made great strides in their unmounted techniques this month. In my next entry I will start talking more about the training  I have been doing with the horses.

Management Strategies, part 1

Blue and Corny are the two geldings I’m hoping to take to the 2017 thoroughbred makeover in Kentucky.  This blog is documenting our journey together.

These full brothers are owned by a lovely couple that is fairly new to horses. Up to now, they were not involved in any horse management decisions. It’s a big change from racehorse life to bring a sport horse prospect.  Some changes have to be made, or at least assessed.  The brothers came in to training with me on November 2.   Here’s what we’ve done in the first month to support their transition from ex-racehorse, to sport horse prospect.


The brothers shared a paddock at the farm where they were let down after race training.  Their owner, Ann, said that they were bonded and wanted them to stay close to each other.  She selected adjacent stalls at Indian Hills so they could maintain their relationship as bffs.

The first day I worked with the horses it became clear that they were too attached to one another.  They would be fidgety and anxious without their brother near by.  They would call for each other.  In general, they were not pleasant to be around.

Anxious over his brother leaving him, Blue began to weave in the cross ties

While I prefer for horses to live in pasture 24/7, these horses have good reasons to be in stalls.  Their owners are beginners and want to learn how to handle and care for them.  I’m not about to send a beginner in his/her 60s with a bad back out to catch their young ex racehorse in a muddy cliff-side pasture. Maybe later, but not today.

So I decided to keep the brothers in stalls, but move one of them three stalls down.  Ann was concerned that Corny would work himself up too much being separated from Blue.  I assured her that I would watch him for several hours to make sure he calmed down.  Mark encouraged Ann to trust the trainer and to do what I say.  Hooray for Mark!  

Corny had settled by the end of dinner time, and their separation anxiety drastically deminished over the next week.


The brothers were currently eating only alfalfa hay and some type of stable mix pellet.  Holy smokes!  I want to live through training these horses, and I want them to live as well.

100% alfalfa hay is not a recommended diet.  Nutritionists know it doesn’t provide enough fiber top meet a horse’s daily requirements.  It also has an inverse calcium to phosphorus ratio, which is linked to developmental bone  disorders.  Furthermore, alfalfa hay has been linked to the formation of enteroliths in thoroughbreds.  No thank you!

Enteroliths in the GI system of a horse.  If these cause discomfort to the horse, they must be removed surgically.

People like to feed alfalfa because it is a high energy feed, and helps put a nice top line on a horse.  For a racehorse, I get it, they need lots of energy.  Right now, the benefits of alfalfa don’t out weigh the risks for Blue and Corny.

So I made a plan to switch them to all the grass hay they will eat over the course of two weeks.  After about three weeks we are now adding in triple crown complete to balance their diets.


I can only work with the horses three times per week.  That’s not enough time out of the stall for any horse. I signed the horses up for daily turnouts.  

While they are on dry lots, they don’t get the benefits of grazing, but they have reportedly been moving around and playing quite a bit.  Turnout is crucial to every horse’s mental health.


I’m generally in favor of horses going naked if they can.  However, the chestnut thoroughbred is not known for its lush winter hair coat. I don’t intend to clip the brothers this year, but I still wanted them to have blankets.  Why?

  1. Horses generate body heat via movement.  This is hard to do in a stall.
  2. They live in the coldest stalls on the property.  Indian Hills Ranch is situated in the hills just above the southern tip of the San Francisco bay.  We can count on a cold breeze coming up from the bay every evening.  It’s great in the summertime, but can make for some chilly winter nights.
  3. Horses generate heat via digestion.  Grazing horses always have good in their bellies to digest and generate heat.  The brothers are getting hay twice a day, and typically finish dinner before the sun sets.


*Getting up on my soap box* The American Association of Equine Practitioners no longer recommends rotational deworming.  Instead, they recommend bi-annual fecal egg counts to determine what sort of parasites a horse is carrying and performing targeted deworming.  You can read about their recommendations here.  I’m not going to argue with a bunch of vets, so that’s what I do. *Down from my soap box*

I was able to send fecal samples out for Corny and Blue in their first week, both came back negative.

More poop

I also did a fecal float to determine if the horses were carrying sand in their gut.  Blue had a mild colic there week before, so it seemed prudent to check it out.  

The way I do a fecal float is to put on a rectal sleeve, pick up a big handful of fecal balls, then invert the sleeve.  Then I fill the sleeve with enough water to float the fecal balls above the fingers of the glove.  I hang it on a railing for about half an hour.  If I can feel sand in the fingertips of the glove after that time, I do a course of psyllium. 

Monster Hands!  Just kidding, these are fecal floats in progress.

Blue didn’t have any sand in his glove.  Corny had a little bit, so we are going to do psyllium for him.

We can still optimize their health a bit more, but this is what we did on week one.  Look for “Management Strategies, part 2” in a week or so.


After publishing this post on Facebook, it received this comment from my friend Dr. Clair Thunes.  Clair is an independent equine nutritionist and an industry expert in her field.  

From Dr. Thunes:. Love the fact that you mentioned that horse sin stalls can be colder than out. Something a lot of people just don’t realize. They assume because they are inside they must be warmer! I’m not sure that meal feeding hay really makes a huge difference in heat generation vs constant grazing because hay stays in the hindgut where it is fermented for over 24 hours so it is being fermented constantly and thus constantly generating heat. It is a good argument though for feeding more hay and less grain in winter. I often hear people say that they feed alfalfa in the winter when it is cold because of the higher fiber but this isn’t true. While alfalfa has plenty of fiber just as much as grass hay, it is higher calorie pound for pound over grass hay so you are feeding more calories when you feed alfalfa vs grass hay and this helps them maintain more weight in cold weather. From the perspective of causing more fermentation there is no reason to feed alfalfa over grass hay. It is interesting that these boys were on 100% alfalfa because most race horses are fed 0% alfalfa only timothy. I suspect this was done for their let down and most likely to reduce risk of ulcers and possibly as a way to get more calories in to them while not feeding much grain.

What’s in a name?

In yesterday’s post, I introduced the two geldings I am hoping to take to the 2017 thoroughbred makeover in Kentucky. 

As any of my clients can tell you, I love calling horses by diminutive names.  Usually it’s some bastardization of their barn name, but my long time clients know that I really just call them whatever pops into my head.  Previous examples of the horses that have fallen victim to my scheme include:

  1. Donnie=Donna
  2. Susi=Snoozer
  3. Sparty=Smarty Pants 
  4. Pacifico=Paco the Taco
  5. Bandita=Band Aid
  6. Giorgio= Old Fig

You get the picture.  Often their nicknames are also a reflection of their personality or behavior.  

Olympic Blue and Olympic Maize have names that harken to their parents, Olympio and Blue Corn.

Olympic Blue’s barn name is “Blue” and that’s great!  I like the name Blue for a red horse.  Someone told me once that Australian cattlemen love to name their blue dogs “Red” and their red dogs “Bluey.” I love  Australians, so I was pretty happy with that.  

In working with Blue, I’ve been trying very hard not to call him “Blue balls” because that is inappropriate and disrespectful.  Instead I end up calling him is “Bluebell.” That name suits him because he’s very sensitive, like a delicate flower.  I can also say, “oh no, I didn’t call him Blueball, I would never!  I called him Bluebell!”

Blue’s brother on the other hand, never really settled on his barn name.  He’s registered as Olympic Maize.  Ann, his owner, said “Maize”doesn’t quite suit him.  They call him “Baby Blue,” but who wants to go around their whole life with the identity of their big brother defining them?  Personally I would hate it if I had to introduce myself like that, “Hello, I’m Baby Byron.” Yuck!

Luckily, Olympic Maize made his personality known right away.  He loves twisting his head, making funny faces, and playing with his lips.  Now we call him “Corny.” It suits him perfectly and sets me up for plenty of further diminutives.

Corn cob

Corn hole

Corny Collins

Corn Maze


Meet the thoroughbreds

My big goal for 2017 is to take two horses to the 2017 thoroughbred makeover competition in Kentucky.  I’m going to be blogging about the process as a fun way to document the kinds of things I like doing with the horses I have in training.

So who are these two horses I want to take to Kentucky?  Meet full brothers Olympic Blue (b. 2010) and Olympic Maize (b. 2012). 

Aren’t they adorable?  They belong to Mark and Ann Janlois.  The couple purchased Blue as their first horse and raced him for three years.  They liked him so much that they purchased his full brother in hopes that he would be just as fast.

Olympic Blue had a solid career on the track, and while I don’t know much about racing yet, his owners have been educating me.  Some stats I’ve heard are that he won 9 times in 38 starts, making about $200,000.  He was a grade two stakes horse ranked 22nd in the nation out of 28,000 horses.  I might have said some of that wrong, but you get the idea.  Olympic Blue was a serious racehorse.

Little brother, Olympic Maize, wasn’t  so fast.  He raced once or twice, but would give up after four furlongs.  He didn’t win anything.

When their racing careers ended, the brothers headed back to the farm where they were born.  Mark and Ann had decided to keep them as pets.  Some of the gals at the farm played with them a little bit while they were there, maybe doing some Parelli training.  They didn’t get ridden much at all, which is good for me.  In order to be eligible for the thoroughbred makeover, candidate horses need to have 15 or fewer post tack rides before January 1, 2017.

Mark and Ann enjoyed visiting their pets, but they were struggling with the 70 miles commute to see them.  They started looking for a place to board the brothers closer to their home.  One of the gals who had been playing with the brothers at the farm had met the Parelli trainer at the barn I work out of, and sent them this way.  Mark and Ann loved Indian Hills, but found that my program was more what they were looking for.

Mark and Ann want their retired racers to be happy.  They understand that for horses, that means having a job.  They were attracted  to my varied program as an opportunity for the brothers to pick their own discipline.  As Santa Clara University alumni, they were excited that their horses might get to be part of the dressage team I coach one day.

So that’s how the brothers got from the track to my barn.