Jasper turns 4 today, and I've had him for 2 months now. I thought I should give his birthday a mention since I posted birthday blogs about my other two horses.
I had been looking for an eventing prospect for a while, and hadn't been able to find anything I really liked, or really liked and could afford. They were either too old, too young, too expensive... and no, not to be rude, but I'm not interested in your not broke 8-year-old 15h Appaloosa Saddlebred cross. I wanted something between 4-6 years old, w/t/c basics if it was 5 or 6, mid to upper level eventing potential, between 16-16.3h. And, I found out later when people sent me pictures of their perfectly good chestnut colored horses, I really wanted a dark bay. Superficial, I know.
I finally decided to start seriously looking at OTTBs. They were in my price range, and found a gal down at Portland Meadows racetrack (Katie of Hidden Fox Farms) who's husband was a trainer there. She said she had a list of horses for sale- the last day of the season was the following Tuesday, so there were quite a few to look at. Coincidentally enough, I was headed to Portland that weekend to watch the training clinic for USEA instructor hopefulls.
I scoured the internet for conformation advice realizing I had no idea what to look for. A pretty neck and I'm sold. I studied shoulder angles, hip angles, neck angles... it was a lot to take in and was hard see in a picture, much less in a live horse.
We walked around the shedrows in the rain, Katie had a list of what stalls the sale horses were in. I remember the first time I saw Jasper. He was memorable because he was the only horse that wasn't standing with his head over the stall door. He looked at us as we approached, and slowly took a few steps towards us. He was dark, and the stall was dark. It was hard to really see him. He had kind eyes. After we were finished with the tour, I think we looked at about 11 horses, he was the only one I was interested in pulling out of the stall. He didn't need a chain over his nose to be led. He trotted out sound. He was tall and thin and gangly and awkward and in racing shape, although his back feet were in horrible condition. He was in racing training but had never been in a race.
Everything I had tried to learn about conformation flew out the window. I did notice he had long pasterns. It wasn't love at first sight, exactly... but I found myself saying "I'll take him".
The next day I went to the clinic which lasted 3 days. Then I drove the 6 hours home to Spokane. The next day my Dad and I drove back down to Portland with truck and trailer. We stayed at the Motel 6 by the racetrack and at 6:30 the next morning began the final trip home. I don't think Jasper moved an inch in the trailer. He was frozen in fear. Never pawed, never kicked, didn't touch a bite of grain or hay. When we got to the ranch I found out he didn't know how to back out of trailers. 3 people had to literally push him out.
I thought it was going to be months before he (as a crazy off-the-track-thoroughbred, right?) would get his brain back and be ready to start being worked with. Not so. He was calm and willing, and I saddled him up the first week he was home.
Yes, his tongue is almost certainly over the bit in this pic. We're workin' on it.
He just seemed to take most everything in stride. Maybe he was still in shock from being moved, I don't know, but not much seemed to really phase him. I started riding on a loose rein and just w/t/cantering around, and we went on a few little trail rides. He started getting buckets of calories to help put weight on, which he quickly burned (burns) off by galloping around the pasture at extremely high speeds. Every day.
The rest I've pretty much blogged about already. He broke my finger a week ago by flying backwards when I stepped on a tarp. Somehow my finger got caught in the reins. There is a tarp under one of his feeders now. There are also poles all around his water trough as he decided he was extremely frightened of poles on the ground. He wears a soft rope halter so he doesn't break it when he pulls back. I ordered a bit port to try to keep his tongue under the bit. He ran away from me today when the farrier came. Grrr. But all of these things seem fairly unsubstantial when you look at how far he's come in 2 short months. He's already been to his first show ever and scored a 64% with a test that was fun to ride.
I can take him out alone or with other horses on trail rides. He's starting to get some confidence and a bit more attitude which is good. He's getting used to the clippers. He's getting used to baths. He's getting used to hopping over little crossrails- or leaping when he decides he's afraid of them. Poles on the ground grab horse hooves and suck them under, you know.
I got my ride time for the Deep Creek Derby today, dressage at 9:31 and jumping to follow. The Rockhopper division is a course of 12" jumps, but you have to go through the water twice- zoiks! I requested a lead rider. There are something like 15 people in my division. I just need to remember to relax and remember he's just a baby and that I didn't even think I'd be riding by now when I got him.
So Jasper, Baby J, Jasperito, Happy Birthday! Here's to many more!