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Discussion Starter #1
Trying a journal format to keep track of an interesting adventure, so bear with me, I am not used to online journals but I like Horse Forum and find it very encouraging to read about the experiences of other horse lovers.

In September this year (not two months ago) I agreed to foster a Thoroughbred from the local horse rescue centre. This was a somewhat hasty and not (as I am sure you will advise me it should have been) a carefully considered decision. The reason is that........well I will have to go back a bit to get to this point. I keep two horses on a 5 acre smallholding, on the Southern coast of Africa, and have lived here with horses, dogs, cats, birds, buck, tortoises, snakes, mongooses, porcupines and various other wildlife for over twenty years. I ride for pleasure, the horses are companions and friends and there is no commercial value to this equine establishment, and I am a professor at the local university so my salary keeps the horses.

You will see on my profile five horses - two of the horses who lived here when I joined the Horse Forum have died, my very old Thoroughbred Keen Edge, :runninghorse2: who died at the age of 29 last year; and Viva, my beloved Saddler cross, who died suddenly a couple of years ago. My friend's thoroughbred Breaker was the third horse, and when Viva died I looked for another horse to see me through to the end of my riding life. I bought a lovely young Arab cross, Warrior Brave, who I bravely brought on until he started coughing badly last year. Eventually I took the difficult decision, on vet's advice, to send him away to a friend's farm in a different environment, to see if he would recover from his lung problem. The crisis came when the friend had to have her old horse put down, and so needed a companion immediately for her young horse. (This is a long and complicated story behind the real story of the foster horse.....) so poor Mr Brave moved to his new (hopefully temporary) home. The problem was....we could't leave poor Breaker alone - a very 'herdy' and sensitive lad. My long-time riding partner came up with the brilliant idea: couldn't I get a foster horse from the horse rescue unit? Now this is a small community, and so I happened to have dinner one evening during this crisis with the horse rescue unit manager, and asked her what to do. Well, come to the unit tomorrow and meet the horses, she said. And so I went there the next day, and met Bezant.

More to follow soon.....
 

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I would love to hear about keeping horses down there. And seeing some pics :) I lived in Joburg for 10 years when I was a kid, long before I got into horses and I really want to go back for a horse-back game ride. Such a beautiful country.

Looking forward to your posts :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Bez goes to the Beach

Leapfrogging over a few months, the arrival of the summer holidays here on the South coast of Africa has seen Bezant going on his first rides to Sardinia Bay. Sardinia Bay (or Sards as we call it) is our local very beautiful, very long, very wild beach which we have the privilege to be allowed to ride on. Bez had been trained and raced in Johannesburg which is inland before being brought down to Port Elizabeth for the last bit of his racing career, but I don't know if the trainer ever took him to the beach for gallops, as some trainers do. To get onto Sards beach we have a lovely hack through the forest and dune bush for about 45 minutes, then have to cross a steep dunefield before coming down onto the beach (see pics if I can manage to post them). Bez was a bit unsure of how to walk on the dunes, and tripped a couple of times, but once down on the beach he walked calmly along. The first couple of times we just walked and trotted, and when we turned for home he became quite excited, jogging all the way back - not desirable. So the third and fourth time I tried a different strategy, riding onto the beach at an earlier point, riding down the beach and off at a further point - so he didn't think it was like going to the start, turning and galloping back which was required. This worked beautifully, and on Tuesday we had our first lovely canter along the beach, Bez relaxed, not pulling, maintaining a supremely comfortable rhythmic canter. So pleased!!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
So here are a few more pics of the beach - coming down the dune, standing calmly on the beach, walking along the beach...
 

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Beautiful! Lovely horse as well.

If I remeber correctly, the ocean is awfully cold down there - what a pity. But good for you, otherwise you wouldn't be able to ride along that beautiful beach.
 

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Just found your journal @Janet Cherry. I will be eager to see more of your photos and hear about your horses. If you have time, maybe you'll finish the rescue story for us?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks. The sea here is not too cold to swim - it's really cold on the West coast (Atlantic ocean) but we are on the South coast (Indian ocean) which gets warmer as it goes further east....we were swimming in the sea last weekend. There are quite strict regulations about riding on the beach during the height of summer, when the main beach is full of people - but fortunately because it is such a long and undeveloped stretch of coastline, we can access on horseback further down the coast where people cannot access by vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Bez comes to his foster home

Egrogan asked for some details about the rescue process, so here goes....

Bezant was one of four thoroughbreds available for adoption at the East Cape Horse Care Unit (you can check out their facebook page if you are interested in the wonderful work they do here in Port Elizabeth). He was not a young off-the-track TB as he was nearly 9 years old, and had raced for four seasons, finished racing in December 2013, been adopted, taken to a plot somewhere and left to starve, then taken back to the ECHCU earlier this year, very thin and full of scrapes from fighting for his food (see pic). Having already been adopted once and returned to the centre, not being so young, and having a reputation as a 'forward going horse not for beginners' he was now struggling to find a new home. But he had a lovely face with a big kind intelligent eye, and was human-friendly in the paddock.....I took some pics and went home to do some research, the next day took my partner to see the horses and he immediately liked Bezant. To be continued...
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Bez faces his bank bogeyman

Progress over the past two months (the height of summer in South Africa) has been getting Bez used to his new life as a lady's hack - which involves riding out with one or two other horses in the coastal reserve, through the dune forest, sometimes down to the sea. We usually ride for around 2 hours, no pressure, walk, trot and short canters. Very pleased with Bez's lovely paces - three clear rhythmic paces, a nice active walk, a lovely powerful trot, and a somewhat excited bouncy canter which he maintains with ease. My problem is that he is enormously powerful, and gets excited behind other horses, especially when they start to canter up the hill......more on that later. While he is happy to follow behind other horses at slower paces, he does prefer to be in front, and is generally bold and forward going. With some rather odd exceptions.....three things on the path cause him to stop dead and take plenty of convincing to go past. One is burnt tree stumps (very scary monsters). The second is large white stones (what could they be, in his mind?). And the third, which is perhaps the strangest of all, is steep banks. So to describe the situation - we will be trotting along and the narrow path will have a steep bank of sand on one side, about a half a metre high - and he will spook at the bank, jump away from it, though as there is not much room he can't jump very far or do a 180 degree spin, so I have managed to stay on so far and pursuade him to go past. On Wednesday, though, we pat had a rather frightening moment. Just walking down a narrow path with a low sand bank on either side, we were meeting my friend on her horse Sammy, who rode down the path towards us. One of us had to turn around, and the path was too narrow and steeply banked to turn. So I tried to get Bez to back down the path until it was flat. However Bez stepped backwards UP the bank with one leg - then he panicked, plunged forwards, and ended up with his front leg on the other bank - leapt around (with me still on his back somehow) and tried to jump up the other bank again.....somehow I pulled him straight back onto the path. Jumped off, calmed him (and me) down, started to breath again, then led him to a place where we could turn around....remounted and we proceeded happily with the ride. Whew! Anyone else had experience of this kind of thing? Why would a bank cause a horse to panic? What would you do in that situation?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Tack issues with OTTBs

Just worked out that in January Bez and I rode for 100 km (that is about 62 miles for you Americans) so he is getting some good experience of his new life as a hack. Don't think he is the perfect horse, though.....this morning, being ridden by Angela, he was leading happily and suddenly he leaped sideways/bucked/farted all at once - Angela just sat there as she does, and laughed. But it made me realise that he is still somewhat unpredictable and I really don't want to get bucked off a big horse at my age.....on the plus side, he is not a puller and does not require strength to hold - so riding behind him today, I saw him maintain a beautiful gentlemanly working canter for a few kms along the sand track, not rushing or pulling at all. Which brings me to the point of this post - the question of tack for OTTBs. I am riding him currently in a french-link eggbut snaffle, but as he seemed to 'yaw' to one side and open his mouth I put on a flash noseband. Not sure if this is a good idea. He doesn't respond very well to sideways rein aids or leg aids (not having been schooled). Have a look at the pictures and see what you think. At trot or canter he will take up a nice contact, put his head down and move steadily. I also use a running martingale but he doesn't throw his head around, so not sure if it is necessary. He hasn't had any formal schooling that I know of, so am going to take him for his first lesson next week.

Regarding saddles, he has a high wither typical of some TBs, and I am riding him in a rather cheap trail saddle which has a very high arch and puts no pressure on his spine - he seems comfortable with it but I find it hard to tell. Angela and Annean (two younger women who ride with me) prefer to ride in our Wintec GP saddles, but I feel more secure in the trail saddle.

Another plus with this horse: he has been with me since September now, and he has not been lame once, his back seems strong, and he has not been sick either. So I think basically he is a sound and well meaning horse. I also just like his personality, he is friendly and affectionate towards people, easy to handle, and generally cooperative. But...but...but....I am still having my doubts about whether I can manage such a strong unschooled horse and whether he will settle down and become a good riding horse for me getting older......what do you think, readers/riders?
 

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I love reading your updates and seeing the lovely photos. I'm very green so I'm not going to try to answer your question about suitability but he looks lovely.

Just a thought about the sand banks problem from the previous post: I've noticed that my mare tries to look over or behind anything that obstructs her view. I somehow got a feeling that she thinks it's a hiding place for predators. Maybe that's why he feels uncomfortable close to them.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Bez goes to school

After four months of gentle hacking in the reserve, I plucked up my courage and took Bez down the road for a lesson/schooling session/assessment with my friend Jackie. Jackie has great experience with OTTBs, rescues, young wild horses, totally green horses etc etc. It was a boiling hot day (over 90 degrees in your measurement) and I felt quite nervous about schooling Bez. Jackie took us first into the lungeing arena, with two other horses and riders, which I think was a good idea as he wasn't anxious and just followed around calmly. I struggled to get him coming down on the bit, though; he is stiff on the left rein, and resistant when I took up a contact at the walk and trot. Jackie then got onto him, and with a bit of her persuasive pressure and experience, after some initial resistance he softened and came down (see photos). We then went to the dressage arena, and did some walk and trot in 20 m circles, trotting over a low pole in the middle of the arena. To my delight he came down beautifully onto the bit - the only problem being that he lost all momentum, and I had to squeeze and kick to keep him trotting! After a few circles I was exhausted....now I know from my hacks that he does have the power to do a wonderful long-striding extended trot, so I think it was all rather strange and he didn't quite know what was required of him. And Jackie said it will take a lot of hard work....but that he is a lovely horse with some 'dressage potential'. So I rode home exhausted, very hot but happy. :runninghorse2:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Adoption update

So....after six months, we finally took the decision to adopt Bezant. He has been on foster care since September, steadily improving in condition and being hacked out regularly. All kinds of dilemmas with his companions as Warrior's health is not improving so it does not seem that he will come back; and Breaker's owner came back from overseas and took him away to another stable. Now left with a problem - whether to take Bez back to the rescue centre, or find another horse at short notice to replace Breaker - I took on another horse on trial - this time a quarterhorse mare, Delilah (she is another story though!). So Delilah came three weeks ago and Breaker left, and Bez and Delilah have made friends (I think). Poor horses....they have no choice in their friends or their places of residence, they just have to accept our decisions. Anyhow after some deliberation we felt that we just could not contemplate taking Bez back to the rescue centre. So on Friday I went to the rescue centre and signed the adoption papers, paid the adoption fee, and got a copy of Bez's passport. I found that he was gelded quite late (at 6) which explains his excitement when he sees mares....so hope he and Delilah will be happy together.
 

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