January 17, 2022

To Geld or Not to Geld or When to Geld

I realize that my turnout post might have been the first time I discussed my thoughts around gelding Disco, so let's get a little deeper into that today, shall we?

Wheee. PC: Austen

The plan is to keep him intact at least until the age of two or potentially forever, as long as he's 1. not a danger to my fellow co-op members, 2. not a danger to the other horses on the property, and 3. able to live a healthy, happy life as a horse.

Why would I keep a stallion? Well, a few reasons.

1. Lisa will use him. I've always wanted to see one of her stallions have a performance as well as a breeding career, but because she mostly only does live cover and for some other reasons I won't get into here, the logistics of that have never worked out. 

We all agreed this is Disco's Tinder profile picture, lol. PC: Austen

2.  He's nice, for a Section D especially, but also just in general. I don't think I realized quite how nice until the Welsh show in October, but when he beat nearly everything else on the showgrounds as a weanling and then the judges asked me his registered name so they could keep an eye on his career, I took note. He has a lot to contribute to the breed, physically and mentally.

Section D folks from around the world have messaged me and Lisa to tell us how nice he is, with some of them calling him the nicest Section D colt they've ever seen. PC: Austen

3. I enjoy riding Cob stallions. I've ridden his uncle Cadence and his grandpa Dundee, and there's just something a little bit "extra" about a stallion. That extra little bit of awareness of their surroundings and an extra bit of biological imperative that geldings don't have. I like it.

Me riding Connor's and Dyma Hi's full brother, Cadence, in May of 2020


4. There's decent evidence that waiting until the age of 2 or later to geld results in a shorter horse with growth plates that close faster. I'm not rushing to ride him or anything, but with that plus the fact that Connor was gelded at 2 and I'm happy with him, it makes me want to wait at least that long. Nature designed them that way for a reason, and I fully understand and support gelding some of them younger for a variety of reasons, but if I have the choice, why not wait?

Two year old Connor, the year he was gelded

5. Disco's baseline personality is easy to deal with, and his super chill stallion half-brother gives me hope that he'll stay that way even after his hormones come in. Obviously I can't count on Disco being exactly the same, but Dyma Hi's 2017 colt Tanner continues to be tractable enough for his owner's Kindergarten-age daughter to ride and handle (with close supervision, of course), even after breeding mares live cover for a couple of years and living out with another fellow Castleberry stallion.

Disco's stallion half brother and his tiny charge

6. I think I can do it safely and still allow him to be a horse. I have a lot of options available to me running a co-op that I wouldn't have at a traditional boarding barn, and as long as I have buy-in from everyone on those options and he continues to be safe to handle, we can do this. It was pre-co-op, but we have successfully kept a stallion on this property in the last few years, which gives me confidence we can do it again.

Such a sweet face and soooooo much hair. PC: Austen

7. This is the least scientific part of this post, but multiple horsewomen and bodyworkers that I respect have talked to me about gelding scars in the last year and how they might cause pain and performance problems later in life. There's no scientific evidence for or against this that I can find, but I have this filed away in the back of my mind as a "huh, that's interesting".

Current status: growth spurt, lol

Of course, none of this matters if he gets difficult to handle or dangerous. He has to be a co-op-safe horse first, and a performance horse second, and if either of those are in question I'll geld him immediately. So, we take it one day at a time!

January 14, 2022

Turnout Tetris

So far, so good on Connor and Disco being turned out together. At least as far as I'm concerned. I'm not sure Connor would agree, lol.

I'd love to be able to leave Disco with his geriatric QH babysitter friend, and I do still turn them out together in the indoor in inclement weather, but Geriatric QH is turned out with mares, and that won't work for Disco for much longer.

Geriatric QH loves playing bitey face. Connor does not engage like this.

So far, Disco has yet to put holes in any of my blankets (knock on wood) and Connor has yet to put any holes in Disco. Although that's not for lack of trying on Disco's part. He's pretty good to Connor out in the field, but I've issued a moratorium on the two of them being turned out together in the indoor when the horses stay in because he's just a flat out unrelenting pest to Connor, to the point that I feel bad for him.

Connor: "I'm trying to get away from you, dammit!"

It's good and bad that Connor doesn't want to play with him. Good, because I don't mind Disco being told to get in line and knock that biting stuff off by a benevolent dictator that won't kick his lights out. But it's also bad, because I know Disco still wants to play and Connor is 0% interested in that.

It wasn't my original plan to put them in the pasture I ended up putting them in - it's our only one without a Nelson, it doesn't have a run-in shed, it's a long walk (maybe 100m?) from the barn, and it's the only one that requires walking outside of the confines of the barnyard/fencing, so if a baby gets particularly fractious to handle, it could be a problem for our co-op members. But so far it's working out great for everyone.

Good baby. PC: Austen

Long-term, I think this pasture may end up staying Disco's pasture permanently. The plan is still to keep him intact as long as he lets us, which means I need a turnout space for him that's electrified and as far away from mares as I can get him.

This pasture is across the driveway from the next closest turnout and is big enough to keep two horses on mostly year round without destroying it. It has also had solar top strand electric in the past, which BO is okay with me re-running, and I think BO and I have struck a deal to go halfsies on a run-in shed for this field too.

Grass isn't awful for late December in Indiana. PC: Austen

With a run-in shed, my options open up dramatically. I can turn him out on an opposite turnout rotation from the mares when they're in heat if necessary. I won't need to worry about my boys during overnight thunderstorms on night turnout. If he gets too hard to handle, the co-op members can just leave him out there. And it even opens up the possibility of me just leaving the two of them out for a night or two if I'm on vacation or if I just can't clean my stalls on a particular day.

Lots to figure out yet, and turnout is always a moving target, but this seems like a great path forward for everyone!

January 12, 2022

Austen's Christmas Present

Austen happened to be back in Indiana over the holidays, and while our plans for an overnight stay were dashed by a very close COVID exposure Nick and I had over Christmas (sigh), we did manage to meet up, masked, at my barn, for some outdoor drinking and for her to take photos of my boys as my Christmas gift.

PC: Austen


She gave me more gifts than just the photos, but honestly the photos are all I needed - especially since she happened to be there for the first moment Connor and Disco were ever turned out together, since Connor had just arrived home from the trainer's the day before.

You got me a WHAT for Christmas? PC: Austen

We took some photos, stood around in the parking lot on a weirdly warm December day for Indiana, and drank, along with our SOs.

Baby's first craft beer! PC: Austen

Had to get Austen in at least one picture!

Thankfully Disco happened to be at a good growth stage - and Austen masterfully got some of the best shots while he was standing on a literal uphill, lol.

Candids out in the field. Connor was like "forget you guys, I'm eating" but Disco couldn't get enough of hanging out with the people. PC: Austen

I love all of these, and will be using them in blog posts for another few weeks yet, but one of my favorites ended up being the least posed one:

You have to zoom in. PC: Austen

Someone finally captured Connor's "take one step closer and I'll run, lady!" face, lol. So many, many times over the years I've stared at that face in frustration as he runs away from me. But this day, I knew I wasn't going to be able to get close to him after chasing him around with a feed bag for photos, so I left well enough alone.

PC: Austen

I treasure these photos, especially since Disco is growing so fast right now, and can't thank Austen enough for taking them.

January 10, 2022

BO's Daughter Rides Connor

Between Christmas and NYE, my barn owner's daughter came up from Florida to visit, and of course I had to put her on Connor!

BO and BO's Daughter fixing a leaking Nelson while Connor "helps" in the background, lol. It's family bonding time for the two of them to work on the barn they built together when she's home.

I've written about her before, but as a reminder, she's the one that designed the barn and grew up riding and showing Western Pleasure. She's been taking Dressage lessons off and on since 2018ish, and has since moved away and hasn't ridden at all in maybe six months or so?

So all that is to say, she knows how to ride, but isn't going Grand Prix or anything. So it was extra cool that Connor is solid enough in his training to go around like this for her:

She actually rode two days in a row. The first day, it was a lot of "getting to know you" as I talked her through how to ride him, and the quality wasn't quite as good. The second day, I hardly taught at all, she came out and got what you're seeing in this media.

For her, like me, the hardest thing is remembering to constantly check in to make sure he's not locked up in his underneck or ribcage, and the second hardest thing is getting and asking for enough impulsion. For a former WP rider especially, she's a lot more comfortable in his contained, "pleasant" gaits, whereas he needs a bit of fire to be a good Dressage horse. And he can easily do that, but won't unless you ask.

Pleasant but not super engaged


But seriously, it was so wonderful to see that he's so confirmed in his training that he can do his best work for someone that isn't me, and it was equally an ego boost to know that I understand what's going on well enough to teach it to someone else. 

Does it make me a trainer, no, but it does mean I'm not just sitting up there piloting my trained horse blindly. I'm learning right along with him. And that's pretty cool!

January 7, 2022

Disco's Blanketing Failure

Overnight last night we got hit with our first taste of Actual Winter (tm) and the coldest night of Disco's life so far. We've had a mild one so far, and still have yet to get a single flake of snow, but nonetheless it got down to 8F last night.

So I figured, he doesn't really NEED a blanket, especially not in the barn, but it wouldn't hurt and it would be a great opportunity for him to learn how to wear the blanket Nicole sent us, that his grandpa Roscoe and cousin Ember also wore. We had practiced wearing it when it first arrived in November and he was fine with it.

Man he has grown, lol

But pretty quickly (like, two minutes) after I got it on him last night, I heard a huge "riiiiiiiiiiip" noise and my barnmates laughing uproariously. Mouthy baby had completely undone the Velcro front closure and had the blanket hanging open around his chest.

I didn't get a video of that, but I closed it back on him, more tightly this time, and filmed his attempts to do that a second time.

While he did keep it on for the half hour our co-op meeting lasted that night, I decided not to leave it on him overnight. I don't want this to become a fun habit that he develops and continues when he's wearing normal non-Velcro blankets later in life.

When he couldn't get it off as easily a second time, he started to get annoyed, just like when Lisa first put the halter on him.

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy is my life like this!

 I took it off once he was standing quietly with it. So while blanketing overnight was not a success, it also wasn't a complete failure either?

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you're staying warm out there.