breed: 1997 dark bay Thoroughbred gelding
registered name: Ruach
type of rescue: owner surrender
intake date: 10/17/2017
adoption date: 7/19/2018
length of time with SAFE: 9 months
ADOPTED by Sierra R
Ru and his friend Valencia were a pair of horses who belonged to an elderly man facing severe medical problems and was no longer able to care for them.
Ru turned out to be 20 year old TB who raced briefly as a 3 year old at Portland Meadows. His registered name, Ruach, is the Hebrew word for “spirit” or “wind.” Ru was ridden at SAFE by several volunteers who found him to be a lovely old fellow, easy going and relatively uncomplicated. He learned to get along with other geldings, which was sometimes tough for him because he was definitely a low ranking member of the herd, but he made good friends with several of the kinder geldings and did well. Ru was adopted in the summer of 2018 to a family who met him and thought he was the handsomest horse they’d ever seen. He is happy and loved in his new home.
Ruach was able to participate in this month’s Joel Conner clinic, thanks to volunteer Scott B, who worked with him all three days in both groundwork and riding. Here are Scott’s reflections on the clinic:
The clinic with Joel was really an amazing experience for me. I loved it, loved being a part of it and loved how much I was able to learn and apply during the three days. As I said to Joel at the end of the clinic, this horsemanship is a dream come true for me. I always wanted something like this but never knew where to get it. The whole experience is fantastic for me and I am grateful to SAFE and Joel Conner for allowing me to participate!
At this clinic, I participated in groundwork and riding for three days.
Focus areas for Ru
1) Front quarter yield without rearing up
2) Respecting my personal space
3) Stopping when I stop; on a lead and under saddle
4) Backing up on a lead
1) We worked on getting a soft feel in the trot and when slowing to a walk
2) Worked on the half circle yield exercise
3) “Squeeze” yield exercise between the arena wall and me
Joel quickly helped me get Ru to yield his front quarters from either direction without rearing. Ru reared during the clinic and Joel kept at it until Ru got comfortable. When the lead was returned to me I had learned when and where to apply pressure to get Ru to move over and help him through it. By the end of the three days the rearing was gone and that continues after four more sessions since the clinic.
For the week leading up to the clinic and during the clinic, I was getting to know Ru. It became clear he did not respect my personal space because he “tests” me with gentle nipping or turning into me too closely when leading him or yielding his hind quarters. With some bumps and firming up on Ru a bit, I saw a huge improvement in this area. But I also notice it is a work in progress. He is better, but not perfect and needs to be reminded every time I work with him.
On Sunday 7/1, I arrived to the barn around 4:30 to work with Ru and found him galloping around the turnout with the other horses. He was pretty excited so I waited a few moments before approaching him to put on his halter. From about 10 feet away, he saw me coming and reared straight up. I was not in danger, but it was quite a sight! He calmed down enough to be haltered and taken straight to the round pen where we did liberty work and hooking on exercises before proceeding with GW and riding. That helped a ton and he began respecting my personal space better, but I also sensed that he had regressed a bit. So I’ll keep at it. The tips Joel gave me during the clinic were helpful.
I definitely feel like I got a change related to stopping and starting with me on a feel. Not perfect, but better and getting better. We just need to do it 1,000 times together.
Backing up got better during the clinic but only from a distance. I am not yet backing him up yet with my hand under his chin. Instead I am in front of him by about 10′ and he is learning what it means when I raise my hand while holding the lead. I plan to work on backing him up more over the next two weeks.
Soft feel: He’s definitely a former race horse and very “forward.” From a walk he immediately goes into a very fast walk. We then work on coming down to a soft feel at the trot and down to the walk. Lots of work needed there. His speeds are fast and faster and I am working on getting him to go slowly. We made progress but have a long ways to go.
Half circle yield exercise was terrible because of me. I just don’t have it down yet but will continue to practice it. He had a hard time with the exercise but got better with Joel leading him. But it is hard for Ru to yield his front quarters so we will continue to work at it.
Ru gets “stuck” when he is asked to pass between me and the arena wall. He does not like the pressure. We got some improvement during the clinic and Joel worked with me a bit on it. I need to work on my timing which should help Ru. I tend to be “late” after Ru passes me before I ask him to turn and come back through again. We are both trying to get better there.
One of the improvements under saddle with Ru and me is the hind quarter/front quarter yield exercise. It’s a bit hard for both of us to do the front quarter yield but we both definitely improved during the clinic. And even since the clinic we have been practicing. He gets better each time. But Ru is so forward that he has a hard time staying back on his hind end when yielding his front. 1,000 more times!!
Photos by Jessica Farren
I got to work with Ru for the groundwork and riding portions of last weekend’s Joel Conner clinic. The changes I saw in him over the two days that we participated had me smiling from ear to ear! I was so proud of this sweet boy’s “try.” The first morning was a little rough, as he was distracted by his old pasture mate Valencia whinnying in her paddock. It was a good opportunity for the two of us, though, as his tendency toward herdbound behavior is something that we needed to learn how to work through. Joel gave me pointers on effectively bringing Ru’s attention back to me, and he was very responsive to it. On the second day Valencia was in the arena, and he barely gave her the time of day.
Ru started the weekend being a little stuck in his hind end. Since he hasn’t been worked much his hind end is on the weak side, and as a result he’s a little uncoordinated. It took him a bit to really get smooth at disengaging his hindquarters, but by the end of day 2 he was light and responsive when I asked for it. Backing a circle was our biggest struggle. He’s a little on the dull side since he’s an older gentleman who hasn’t had much groundwork. It took me some time to get the hang of how much I had to firm up to get him to respond to my asking for it. With a little help from Joel, he was backing softly by the end of the second day. I was happy to see that this lesson carried over when I worked with him last week, and it’s something that I will continue to work on with him so that he stays soft and doesn’t revert back to his old ways.
Under saddle Ru did great. Just as he did in the groundwork portion, he started the riding portion of the first day a little distracted by Valencia. We focused on bringing his attention back to me, and It didn’t take him long at all to figure out that when his attention drifted to her then he would have to work harder. Ru is a fun horse to ride. He’s smart and seems to enjoy learning. He also has the loftiest trot I think I’ve ever ridden. I noticed right away how responsive he is to seat aids, and he transitions from a nice, relaxed jog to an extended trot then back down again very well. He’s definitely out of shape, though, so we called it a day a little earlier than the rest of the group.
I’ll be working on carefully building up Ru’s strength and stamina. We have also decided to try him on Equioxx for minor arthritis, and have put glue-on shoes on his front feet to help build up his thin soles. I think after he builds a little muscle he’ll make a lovely light riding horse. Even as a senior, he has a lot of potential!
But if that is true, then Ruach has many moms (and dads) at SAFE because we love him a lot! He does have an interestingly shaped skull though… We hope that he was born that way, because it would break our hearts to image that someone could have hurt a horse like this.
If we’re being completely honest, then we must admit that we are liking Mr Ru a whole lot better lately since his turnout assignment was changed. Ru spent the first several months with his friend Valencia as his constant companion. It was fine for a while, but as Ru’s health began to improve, his behavior started taking a turn for the worse. At the end of the day, when we’d start bringing horses back to the barn, Ru would become quite agitated in his paddock, running and calling. And when he was being led in, he started behaving like a big bully, pushing his handler and getting pretty fractious, even with Valencia right there with him. So we decided a change of attitude was in order.
Here at SAFE, if a gelding needs to learn manners, he joins the boys in the gelding field…and Ben and Owen go to work on him. The first day or two was pretty unpleasant for Ru…he spent most of the first day running up and down the hill, screaming for Valencia, and being chased by all the boys in the gelding field. After he realized that his life had changed, he started hanging at the periphery of the paddock, hoping that no one would notice him. Now Owen and Ben are the leaders out there, and they take their job pretty seriously. But their direction to the other horses is crystal clear: you move away from me when I approach you. If you’re eating and I walk up, you go eat somewhere else. If you’re standing there minding your own business and I walk over…you go mind your own business somewhere else. Once Ru grasped these simple rules, he started to relax, and even made a tentative friendship with Anderson. But we also noticed that he started walking back to the barn like a gentleman! Especially if he was being led in with Owen. It was a nice change, and truthfully quite a relief.
Ru is being ridden regularly by Melinda, who made a conscious effect to get to know this horse and find the good in him. The two make a nice pair, although we have to laugh when she rides him at the same time that Owen is being ridden, because he definitely wants to give the Curly Horse a wide berth!!!
Thank you to Jessica Farren for the photographs! Visit Jessica’s website at https://www.jessicafarren.com/
Ruach is quite the character! He has had a number of years off and came to SAFE in October 2017 when his aging owner was no longer able to care for him. SAFE has recently restarted him and is conditioning him for light riding. He has a big lofty trot and canter. He is bit pushy on the ground and we are working on personal space. He is VERY kind hearted and is simply a very large playful OTTB who doesn’t realize he is turning 20 this year! He will require someone with Thoroughbred experience and interested in light riding with this senior boy.
At the end of January, Dr. Fleck came out to sedate Ru and perform a dental procedure to take down excess tooth on his lower incisors. He has a mild underbite and, likely due to lack of dental care in his past, they had grown in a way in which they ended up being pushed out of their normal position. If the teeth were left as is, he would end up having trouble eating due to the abnormal occlusion that it would create in his mouth.
Unfortunately, Ru was not amenable to the procedure. Even under standing sedation he objected strongly to the drill touching his teeth. Dr. Fleck said at that point the only way we were going to be able to finish it would be to come back another day and do the procedure under general anesthesia on the ground.
Dr. Fleck, Dr. Lewis, and their licensed veterinary technician, Cheyeanne, came out a few days later to finish the job. The procedure went flawlessly and Ru is now a happy camper with normal teeth! With continued proper dental care, he shouldn’t have a problem like this again.
Terry and her volunteer riders have been working with Ru and Valencia regularly since the last Joel Conner clinic in November. She has this to report on their progress:
The more time I spend with Ruach and Valencia the more I fall in love with them. Both are probably two of the sweetest horses to be around. When in the round pen grooming and getting them ready to ride they are kind, gentle and very “in your pocket” type horse.
Ru is always the first to come up to greet you and wants attention. He is a big sweet goofball! He is gelding through and through and wants to see if you might like to play little nibble games with him. While it make me laugh because he is just so adorable about it, I have to tell him no and set boundaries so things don’t get out of hand. The play comes from a genuine big heart that just needs to learn how to interact with people. I don’t think this boy has a mean bone in his body! We have been working on his crowding people’s space and he is starting to tune into his handlers much more. He still requires someone to set boundaries but now that he knows what those are it is easy to interact with him. He is full of life at 19 and due to some of his misguided energies at this time he will need someone with at least a good basic set of handling skills. Once he respects you, he is like a big over grown black lab… a heart of gold with a ton of playful energy!
Between the two horses, Ru has had the most difficulties with his herd bound issues. If Valencia is taken away Ru gets very upset and agitated. We started off very slow transitioning from 24/7 pasture mates to keeping them in stalls across from each other and in turnout during the days together. Surprisingly as long as they could see each other Ru was OK. I have been able to take Valencia into the arena way from Ru while he is eating dinner and while he will call to her, he has settled down more and more with each session. The best work has been when I have another handler able to help work each horse at the same time. Through the groundwork and exercises to connect with the horses and keep their attention, we have been able to successfully work them farther and farther away from one another.
Valencia is a VERY special mare. She has the dreamiest soft eyes that just long for peace and long walks with her person. We are so pleased that her front shoes have made her comfortable and allowed us to start riding her. She is easy to handle, has no bad habits when grooming and it over all suitable for a beginner type handler. She does crib if fencing is not topped with hotwire but if the stall and turnout areas are set up she will not do it. She handles separation from Ru better but if he is calling out for her she will return the calls and get energetic. With the groundwork she can reconnect to her handler and the time between disconnecting is getting longer.
Through no fault of their own, we only able to ride them 8–9 times since Joel’s clinic in November. But recently time and help has allowed them to get into the riding program and we are seeing some great progress in just a short amount of time. We still start out after saddling with work free in the round pen. This is mostly for Ru’s enjoyment and helps kick up his OTTB heels and get it out of his system before its time for work. Under saddle they both have been very well behaved. Valencia is more relaxed in her energy, she knows her job and goes out to the edge of the round pen to walk, trot and canter and then turns in to stop and looks at you like “can I come cuddle now”? She is willing and honest in her work and always tries.
Valencia and Ru both have been sitting around without work for a long time, so there is a lot of conditioning and muscle building that needs to happen. We are adding in walk and trot poles to their workouts and when we can, we will be getting them on some hills to build their hind muscles up. They are working well under saddle at a distance from each other in the arena and yesterday we were able to take them on a little walk around the outdoor arena without any trouble. Valencia was eager to get out of the arena and Ru was very well behaved even though you could hear and see a bit of excitement in his eyes and breathing. We will work on getting them on a few trail rides as weather and time allows as well. I think with more constancy in the work both of them will be ready to show to adopters in the next few weeks.
We are getting to know this tall dark and handsome fellow named Ruach. He has been ridden previously but it has been a number of years since dusting off the saddle for a ride. Dr. Fleck came out to do a dental float and vaccinate him. We have slowly added a mash of senior feed and Haystack, which is a combination of hay pellets, beet pulp and rice bran. He is gaining weight and looking healthier every day.
Ru has pretty flat soles, but we hope that with proper farrier care we can avoid putting shoes on him. But like many Thoroughbreds, there is a chance he will be more comfortable with at least front shoes on. We were able to saddle him up without any trouble and Joel Conner helped us put our first rides on him. Unfortunately he is showing some lameness in his left hind but with a few days of rest and bute he looked better. We had a brief exam by Dr. Fleck who instructed us to continue to work him and have him come back if the lameness increases. It is most likely in his hocks so we will do x-rays and consider treatment options. He is a gentle riding horse with a lot of years left in him so a little TLC can go a long way to making him comfortable and suitable for pleasure rides.
He is currently on hold as we determine his abilities as a riding horse and continue to get him up to weight. He is a very good boy and we are excited to have him at SAFE and learning more about him.
We welcomed two new horses to SAFE this week. Ru and Valencia are a pair of Thoroughbreds who belonged to an elderly man who was facing severe medical problems and was no longer able to care for them.
Ru is a 20 year old TB who raced briefly as a 3 year old at Portland Meadows. He is a tall, nearly black gelding who is very gentle and friendly. His registered name is Ruach, which is the Hebrew word for “spirit” or “wind.” He appears to be sound, and has a lovely floating trot.
Valencia is a 14 year old mare who is also believed to be a Thoroughbred but never raced. She is a very pretty mare, tall and nicely built. Valencia is currently lame on her front end, but will be seen by our vet and farrier, and hopefully we can get her right again. She is reportedly well started under saddle although we don’t know how long it’s been since she’s been ridden.
As with all new horses, Ru and Valencia are being held in quarantine until we are sure they are healthy. They are quite bonded to one another, so they are sharing a paddock with a Noble shelter and seem quite happy.