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.