The alliteration in the title is really the only funny part of this post, but I couldn’t help myself!
Last winter, Simon and I had an incident while visiting another hunt. I came off and landed on my head and Simon got wrapped in hot wire and (understandably) kind of lost his shit. We both had some time off after the incident and both seemed to get back to normalcy pretty quickly. Not long after this I was having a lesson on Coco with my jumping trainer and, while chatting, the trainer mentioned something about Simon being kind of wonky in his hind end.
All of this information sat in my head marinating for a couple months. Simon didn’t feel off and he wasn’t exhibiting any significant behaviour that would indicate he was in pain. No head bobbing. No bucking. He wasn’t girthy. However, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. There were more subtle signs like being clumsier than normal. Just a feeling that he wasn’t moving out like he used to. He’s also been grumpier, not the easygoing horse I bought in 2017.
After my trip to Montana in May I scheduled a visit from a body worker for both Coco and Simon. Coco was totally fine and just enjoyed her massage (no one is surprised!). Simon, however, proved to be a bit of a hot mess! He was VERY sensitive to work on his back, more on the left than the right. His butt was sore. HIs poll was sore or at least sensitive. And his neck was sore. We made a plan to have him worked on regularly and also to have his saddle fit evaluated as soon as possible.
Trail riding in Eastern Montana on the Moore Ranch. STUNNING views!
So we did that for a few weeks and got his saddle adjusted (she assured me the saddle fits well and adjusting the flocking was all he needed) and he definitely improved, but he was still quite sore in his back and not showing enough improvement to believe that we were fixing the issue. In July he had a full lameness exam. I REALLY like my veterinarian and appreciate that she doesn’t start by throwing her entire medical bag at a problem. She did a bunch of flexions and it was pretty obvious that his hocks were sore so she recommended injections. There was no talk of doing any kinds of radiographs or scans. It was a very easy “yes” to do injections. It turned out that his hock joints were quite dry, so had likely been sore for a while. As with all joint injections he got a few days off and went back to work and definitely seemed more comfortable.
We gave it a couple weeks before he saw the body worker again. He was definitely better, but still sore in places we thought he wouldn’t be with successful injections. Ugh. We opted to put some more fitness in his plan and keep up with body work. Improvement was good, but there was still room for more.
A few weeks ago I videoed a ride to see what he looks like and noticed that his right hind wasn’t stepping up under himself like his left hind was stepping. I sent the video to my veterinarian and she agreed, so we scheduled another appointment for a second lameness exam. The appointment was a couple weeks out due to both of our travel and work schedules and in that time quite a lot of white hair was coming in on both sides of his withers indicating a possible issue with saddle fit. I sent photos to my saddle fitter (whom I love!) and she was very concerned so made an appointment to come out within a couple of days.
The angry white hairs that tattle on poor saddle fit. Photobomb by Jaguar!
The good news was that the first thing the fitter noticed was that his back had much better and stronger muscling than it had a few weeks prior. The bad news was that muscling was why the saddle was bridging and and not sitting balanced on his back. Thankfully Simon’s saddle is wool flocked so she was able to adjust the flocking for him. The gold standard of when a horse is comfortable is when he/she licks and chews. I’ll never tire of watching my saddle fitter work with my horses and after she adjusts the saddle and sets it on their back they lick and chew, when only minutes previously they were tossing their head and showing tension in their jaw. Simon licked and chewed and we were ready to roll with a well fitting saddle (while also knowing it may need to be adjusted again as his back continues to change).
In mid October Simon had his second 2021 lameness exam. My veterinarian again did flexion tests on both hind legs. I try to stay out of her way and not ask a million questions during her evaluation. She often has a veterinary student intern accompanying her so I just eavesdrop on their conversation and learn quite a lot. His symptoms indicated an issue with the hock and/or stifle joint(s) and (THANKFULLY….I think) a soft tissue injury was not suspected. Unsurprisingly she recommended doing radiographs this time around. She took images of his right hock and stifle only because there were no noticeable issues with his left hind. She found a bone spur in his hock and a less than ideally conformed stifle. Since his hocks had been injected fairly recently we opted to leave them alone for now, but she did inject his right stifle.
Taking it easy before a foxhunt. He’s the most photogenic horse I’ve ever owned. Such a handsome boy.
While we were at it, my veterinarian suggested getting radiographs of Simon’s back. This was a funny conversation. My veterinarian also rides and she told me that she did radiographs of her horse’s back, just because she can, and found a few spinous processes touching. Now she’s always worried his back hurts even though he is completely asymptomatic for kissing spines. She confessed that sometimes she regrets having taken the radiographs when they weren’t warranted. So when she asked me if I wanted to get radios of Simon’s back I told her I didn’t unless she thought it necessary. We laughed and she said she thought we should just to be sure if any of his back soreness was related to that and not his hind end hurting (fun fact; a LOT of horse back pain is a result of hind end lameness).
So, she would take a radiograph of Simon’s back and we’d all run to the computer to see what it showed. The first one, of his withers, was perfectly clear. YAY. The second one, of his mid back, showed only 2 vertebrae close enough to each other with an ever so slight indication of rubbing. Not enough to diagnose kissing spines, though. YAY. The last one, of the last 1/3 of his back towards his hip showed no impingement whatsoever. The veterinary takeaway is that the 2 vertebrae with the narrow joint space may be slightly uncomfortable since they sit directly under where the saddle sits, but most likely that will resolve with alleviating pain in his right hind and getting him super fit.
The overall takeaway from the exams are these:
Simon will always require maintenance in his hocks and stifles
He shouldn’t do a lot of jumping and small circles
Foxhunting is really kind of the perfect job for him with these issues
He should be kept as fit as possible and equibands were recommended
His maintenance probably won’t be linear
Thankfully this is a good job for Simon! He’s such a good boy in the hunt field!
I went into this second lameness exam with my eyes wide open to the fact that he may come out of it requiring extensive time off, full retirement, some kind of surgery, or some other really extensive issue. I’m moderately relieved to find what we found and know that it’s manageable and he can keep his same job. I’m a little bummed that he probably won’t be able to do the Take2 Hunters because he is SUCH a lovely mover and jumper, but we haven’t completely written that off. As chill as he is, he may be able to school over fences very little and be calm enough to show.
We are a full week into August; AKA my least favourite month in Texas. This is always the month when I question my sanity in moving here. Which is a bit ironic considering the only times I visited prior to moving to Fort Worth were in August. I shouldn’t complain too much since June and July were actually fairly nice as far as weather goes. I (always) wish we had gotten more rain, but the temperatures were not awful.
I’m fairly certain I’ve gone on more trail rides since March than I have gone on in one year ever in my life previously and I’m not mad about it! It’s been really good for my horses to get out and about. Simon even finally let me open and close a gate while mounted! He’s nearly perfect most days, but for some reason has remained apprehensive and even a bit fearful about opening and closing gates. I went trail riding on a family’s place outside of Waco a couple weeks ago and we finally conquered the task!
Here we are after completing our mission. Simon is still a bit unsure about the gate possibly attacking him. I’m proud as can be and Quila is in a constant state of supervision. Photo credit to our trail riding buddy and Chincoteague Pony co-owner.
Today’s post is very cat and Simon centric. Sunday Silence showed up at the barn this past weekend with a fat cheek! He had a fat cheek a few weeks previously. I presume he’s getting in fights with his cat friends. We had a cat with a somewhat similar fat cheek a few years ago and it was some disgusting larvae parasite thing, so I was REAL glad when the swelling had gone down the next day. Yes, my cats are named after racehorses.
Sunday with his fat cheek. He’s a sweet kitty who was rescued by a friend from the Weatherford Shelter this past spring.
And here we have MORE SIMON! Last weekend we went trail riding with a bunch of our OTTB friends. I dearly love trail riding with this group. Our horses all get along. They keep a similar pace. We can change spots in order 10 times and none of the horses get upset. We got a tiny bit lost and ended up off the trail for a bit, but we found our way and had a delightful ride.
Simon nearly ALWAYS has his ears forward during trail rides. He’s so cute.
And, last but not least, is my Work From Home Administrative Assistant. She doesn’t work very hard and she sheds quite a bit, but she’s sure cute! I may have to write her up for spending so much time napping in sunny places, though.
Pardon my dusty trim and nose prints on the window. She slept like that for at least 6 hours!
I foresee more trail riding this weekend. It’s going to be stupid hot, though, so we won’t be out too long. Hopefully we will have some updates on Gene this weekend. He’s eating well and becoming friendly so that is good news! Happy weekend, y’all!
I’m still riding the high of Justify’s Triple Crown win this weekend so wanted to a post about his uncle!
Photo credit to Barbara Livingston. This is by far my favorite race photo from Justify’s bid for the Triple Crown. This one is from the Preakness.
Justify is by Scat Daddy out of a mare named Stage Magic who is by Ghostzapper. As you may recall from my previous post, Simon is by Ghostzapper. Which means that Simon is Justify’s uncle! This relation has strongly contributed to my obsession with Justify. I’ve also been closely following McCraken’s racing career, but it has not proved to be quite as illustrious as Justify’s (McCraken is a son of Ghostzapper and contested the Kentucky Derby last year, coming in 8th).
I’ve owned Simon for a little over a year now. I purchased him in January of 2017 and after his vet check and communication with his last race trainer I opted to give him a very easy 12 months. His race trainer indicated he had some issues with one of his knees and he came to me with some injuries from a run-in with some mares in the pasture he had been living. I’ve had off the track Quarter Horses, but never a thoroughbred and everything I read about OTTBs (off the track thoroughbred) indicated that time off would cure most ailments horses have from their track life. Plus I had two other horses to ride and show so it worked out better for my schedule.
I rode Simon maybe a dozen times in all of 2017 and he was always a lazy plug. ALWAYS. I took him on a couple trail rides and you’d have never known he had been a six figure yearling race prospect and was only three years old. He crossed bridges, didn’t spook at wildlife and seemed to really not care if he was in front, in the middle or at the back of the group of horses we were with. Basically he was a dream trail horse, albeit a very tall one (most trail riding horses are closer to 15hh and he is nearly 16.2hh).
One thing you cannot deny about Simon is that he is very handsome. I love that he has the big blaze on his face, but nary a white hair on the rest of his body.
I opted to not use him for foxhunting last season (his intended job when I purchased him) to let him grow up some more plus I rode another member’s horse for the season to give that horse some much needed miles. It was a win-win for us all.
Well, now it is time for Simon to have a job. I’ve committed to getting at least 3 rides on him every week and building his skills to make him a pleasant hunt horse. He needs to stand quietly for mounting, move off leg quickly, stand still when necessary, sidepass to open and close gates and (most importantly) tolerate hounds around his legs. As I write this post he stands great for mounting and has started moving off leg nicely. He will sidepass in the open, but he thinks I’m nuts when I ask him to sidepass towards solid obstacles like trees, fences and gates. He hasn’t been around hounds yet, but he does fine with my dogs around him.
I am also trying to get him out on trail rides as much as possible. This serves many purposes. He gets practice loading and riding in the trailer, going out on uneven terrain, riding with other horses, crossing water, seeing wildlife, and afterwards he has to stand tied at the trailer while we have a snack or lunch. We have been out twice this summer and Simon has been perfect in every way. I am astonished at how well he’s taking to his life of leisure, still at only 4 years old!
Our most recent trail ride. That is the Brazos River behind us. Photo cred to Bart Robbins!
Suffice it to say that all is going very well with My Man Zapper these days. We hope to get many more trail rides and some play days on our calendar this summer. By November he should be a seasoned trail horse so all he will have to adapt to will be the hounds and riding out alone. I am so lucky to have this special horse!
Do you have an OTTB? I love to hear stories from other OTTB owners, especially those who got their horse right off the track. They are special horses and so often overlooked.
I couldn’t for the life of me find a live feed Saturday night, but I can tell you that McCraken won his first race back since the Kentucky Derby!
The very official proof of McCraken’s win. A screenshot from my iCellular of the Churchill Downs website.
The Paulick Report did a nice write-up about the race. You can click on the link to read all about it, but in a nutshell McCraken started somewhat poorly, held steady then zoomed up to win!
The jockey was Brian Hernandez,Jr. who also rode him the Kentucky Derby.
Since he started at the back of the field, he got pretty dirty!
McCraken is by the same sire as Simon; Ghostzapper. I did a pedigree post a while back about Simon.You can read more here.
I think they look alike in the eye. I haven’t studied McCraken’s conformation so can’t really comment on their similarities there, but he is definitely MUCH faster than Simon!
Handsome, and very LAZY, Simon.
The same day McCraken won the Matt Winn, I had to ride Simon with a dressage whip just to get him to trot! Just because they are bred to run, doesn’t necessarily mean they want to run! But we sure are enjoying cheering for Simon’s brother, literally from another mother!
I have quite a few young horses so it has been on my mind lately to get some good conformation photos of them. I’d like to have a pictorial reference for how the horses change as they get older. Especially since I have horses of significantly different bloodlines and breeds. In that vein, I got Boot City to snap some photos of Coco and Simon on Monday.
Here is Coco. She is a BAY 5yo RPSI registered mare by Coconut Grove out of a mare called I-Mai Tai. Mai Tai is by Mezcalero and out of a daughter of Amaretto.
The angle is off so I probably won’t use this photo for an actual conformation analysis, but for this post the point of this photo is that Coco is BAY. Her coat is decidedly red and her points (legs, mane and tail) are decidedly black. She is the textbook definition of the color BAY.
Here is Simon. He is a 3yo Thoroughbred gelding of undecided color by Ghostzapper out of a mare called Precious BROWNIE. Precious Brownie is by Golden Missile and out of a daughter of Explodent (TERRIBLE name!).
Simon’s papers describe his color as “dkb/br” (if you aren’t horsey, that means dark bay/brown). It has been on my mind lately that most every horse this color is described as “bay”. Well, to me, this horse looks brown. No one calls their horse “brown”. Why is this? It seems to be true of most all breeds that there is a bias against calling horses “brown”. I googled it a bit yesterday and the most specific description of brown versus bay that I could find stated that a brown horse tends to have tan around it’s muzzle, flank and at the top of it’s legs.
Here is a photo of Simon with his full winter fuzz. I think the tan spots are more prevalent here than with his summer coat.
So, people on the interwebs, what color is Simon and why?
When I was first considering buying Simon I posted on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums in the Sport Horse Breeding section requesting information about Simon’s lineage and it’s propensity for sport horse performance. It was an enlightening exchange from some very knowledgeable people with regards to Thoroughbred bloodlines and racing. Simon’s sire is Ghostzapper. Ghostzapper currently stands for a $75,000 stud fee at Aden SpringsSimon’s in Paris, Kentucky. He won the Breeder’s Cup in 2004, the same year he was awarded the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. He was retired in June of 2005 and at that point had won just under $3.5 million. I did a search on the United States Equestrian Federation’s website for offspring of Ghostzapper and only found a couple. One had shown in the hunters and one in jumpers, but neither horse had much of a show history. His first foal crop was born in 2007 and according to one of the COTH posters, they have done quite well on the track so not many have likely made their way to the USEF sports. They are known to have very kind personalities, which fits Simon to a “T”!
Ghostzapper is sired by Awesome Again. AA doesn’t have a lot of babies registered with USEF, but most all of them have a show record! Many competed in the jumper ring and a couple were competitive as hunters and dressage. Only a couple did eventing. Ghostzapper looks quite a lot like his sire.
Simon’s dam is Precious Brownie who is by Golden Missile. I was unable to find any photos of Precious Brownie so am going with her sire line. GM is noted to pass along nice movement to his offspring.Similar to Ghostzapper most of his USEF registered offspring competed in hunter/jumper events, but quite a few also have dressage records. Interestingly very few competed in Eventing, which tends to be more dominated by thoroughbreds than is dressage or hunter/jumper disciplines.
Precious Brownie also goes back to a little known stallion who went by the name Secretariat. You may have heard of him before. Mostly it is just fun to say that he goes back to Secretariat, because even people who don’t ride are familiar with Secretariat.
Secretariat in his older man days
Another fun way to look up your thoroughbred’s pedigree is to use the photo feature on http://www.pedigreequery.com. Simon’s shows quite a list of photos of impressive thoroughbreds from many years past.
I love studying horse bloodlines. I can lose five hours on the internet before I know it has happened just researching and looking up photos! Do you follow bloodlines? Do you care about your horse’s bloodlines?
My farrier and I were at a Christmas party hosted by a mutual friend and he asked me if I knew of anyone looking for a horse to use for fox hunting. He had a really nice off the track thoroughbred that was just too tall for polo. His sport of choice being polo, he wasn’t interested in keeping a 16.1hh gelding. I was, of course, not interested but would accept some pictures so I could share the information with my fox hunting buddies. Unfortunately I was nearly immediately smitten. Zapper was every girl’s dream: tall, dark and very handsome!
After Jaguar’s disappointing diagnosis last summer and his being unrideable, I borrowed a horse from my Mom for this hunt season. I have known all season the regardless of how much I loved Casey, he would have to go back to Montana at the conclusion of hunt season for Mom to show him. I had it in my head that I might hunt Coco next year, but she’s got the most value in the show ring so I don’t think it would be in her best interest to join the hunt field until she is older and a bit more seasoned. Without thinking about it too much I went ahead and scheduled to go see “Zapper” with my horsey bestie.
Zapper’s last race was November 26 and we went to ride him on January 2. Keep in mind that means he had been off the track for barely 45 days! Here is a link to a video of when we tried Zapper.
He had some leg injuries from some pasture shenanigans and was probably a bit sore from the track, but he is a lovely mover. We were extremely impressed by his disposition. It took a LOT of leg to get him to go forward. He didn’t look at anything. He tolerated us jumping on him from the ground. My farrier rode him first in a big western saddle with smooth rowelled spurs and Zapper showed no care. The hunt I whip for is not a fast and forward hunt, so requires a horse that can go forward over rough terrain just as well as it can stand still and await direction. Zapper showed strong propensity for the standing still part.
I scheduled my vet to do a pre-purchase exam a couple days later and after positive feedback, took him home within the week. Just what I needed, another horse! The first couple weeks required some care and medications for his pasture injuries and there will be a few more vet visits for the broken tooth, but I have a good feeling about him.
Simon snug in his blanket and and all wrapped up in his Back on Track wraps.
He is extremely easy to have around. I wrap his legs and give him meds without even putting on his halter! He is calmer than the other four at home by far. I’ll give him the month of January completely off and start hacking him a bit in February. I hope to ride him at at least one or two hunts in March, just to see how he does out and about and hoping he remains as calm and quiet as his disposition indicates.
Like I said, just what I needed was another horse. I changed his name to Simon. Zapper reminds me of a bug zapper so he is named for the ghost in Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost. If he ever requires a show name it will be The Canterville Ghost.
Simon the pasture puff. Still sporting his off-the-track bod. The next few months will be full of grass hay, Ultium and whatever it takes to pack on some lbs.