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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gogo, A History (Part I, 2006)

I want to start off this new blog with a brief (or not so brief) history of the past two and a half years I've had with Gogo. There's plenty to tell, that's for sure. She's had a little bit of a rough trip, but that makes all of our successes that much more special to me.

When I had to euthanize my last gelding in January of 2006, it was for a lot of reasons - epilepsy, ringbone, and a chronic suspensory issue that was getting worse and worse, just to name a few. He had been barefoot when I had bought him less than two years before, and that quickly progressed to front shoes, then to all four shoes for eventing, then to four shoes with front pads when he went lame, to two regular hinds and two bar shoes in front with special pads and silicone, all of which made him go lamer, and lamer, and lamer. At some point I came across the natural barefoot movement, and wrote it off as something that sounded nice but obviously couldn't work for me - show horses need shoes, horses can be born with crappy foot genes, etc, right? Plus, that Strasser lady was just plain insane (and I still think she is!). Well, the day I put Metro to sleep I pulled his shoes, just to keep them as a memento, and was horrified to see his once beautiful, fat frogs completely atrophied and a quarter of the size they once were, his heels totally contracted and mushy, really mushy. Granted, part of that certainly came from being on stall rest for 8 months, but the rest was in the shoeing. What drove it home for me was that I let my stall-bound critter who had been locked in jail for 8 months loose in the ring for one last taste of freedom before we put him to sleep, and he trotted off SOUND once those shoes were off. The necropsy showed that there was horrible hemorrhaging in and around the suspensory and obviously I had done the right thing, but I just got to thinking, how would this be different today had I opted to try this barefoot hoodoo whatsajigger? Would he be alive still, would he be sound? I vowed that I would never let my next horse suffer like this, and started researching more into the barefoot idea. As it turns out, it was exactly what I had been looking for.

The other thing I had been looking for did not come to me for another six months. I wanted a younger, greenbroke horse who was a prelim candidate, and boy did I have a lot of horses to go through. I e-mailed at LEAST 60 people (I lost count after that) and had no less than 25 DVDs and VHS tapes sent to me. I flew to Connecticut and Nebraska to look at horses. I tried horses near and far. Where was the horse I had been searching for all that time? Not two miles from the farm I was interning at during the summer of 2006! I just happened to find her online, thought "hey, she's close" and went to take her for a spin. She was five, she was grossly obese, she was not a pleasure to ride at that point, but was a far better mover than any of the horses I had seen thus far in my price range, and looked to be very scopey from what I could see over fences. Trouble was, she had NOT been started well - she had been under saddle for about two or so months, but only two or maybe three times a week, so I figured I could reverse the damage before it was too late. The trainer who was working her literally said, "Well it's too easy for her to put her head up, so we're making her put her head down." And here's a link to what I mean by that:

Holy poopsicles! Any of you who know a smidge about dressage know that this is a HORRIBLE way to start a youngster, or ride any horse at all, period! She's an Advanced level event rider too, shame on her. Anyhoo, after a second test ride they suggested I go cool her out by taking her for a hack..... alone. In the corn fields. And she'd never been out of an arena before... EVER. And I was a stranger on her back. I pretty much crossed myself and hoped for the best. And that's what sold me on her - I hacked out there on this 5 year-old who hadn't ever been alone or out of an arena on a windy day with 4-wheelers driving all over the place around us, and she just calmly walked out, sighing and stretching down, even when we almost got run over by a stray ATV. She had the movement to score well in dressage, she was built to have a good gallop, she showed great promise over fences and she had BRAINS and BRAVERY. I was sold. She passed the pre-purchase with flying colors, and then, at the end of July, she was all mine.

There was a lot to work on. First, we had this... ahem, weight issue. Gogo the day I bought her:

She was probably at least 150 to 200 lbs overweight. Several months of dieting and exercise led to this:

Much more reasonable. We moved back to college together for my junior year in September, and I thankfully got to take over her feeding, handling and stall cleaning myself again. Gogo also was shod in front with pads when I bought her, and had huge toe cracks on both front feet. The old owner told me, "Her feet had gotten out of balance," which I think meant "I didn't have her trimmed for 6 months and it was bad." Gogo promptly threw both shoes within two weeks of me owning her, and within two days of each other, and that was the end of that. I got in contact with a trimmer in Ohio named Sherry Eucker, and the rest is history. She did an AWESOME job with her, and I loved how her feet changed. I also took her from a weeny tiny handful of a Nutrena pellet to Buckeye Gro N' Win. For those of you who don't know, it's a ration balancer that essentially is a super nutrient-packed top dress (not an actual grain) that you can feed to easy keepers in order to stuff all their vitamins and minerals into them without overloading them on calories, starches and excessive carbs and sugars. It was magic stuff, and I saw the improvement in her haircoat and feet fairly quickly.
And then, there was the training stuff. She progressed fairly well, and found her balance and steering (and brakes, which we sometimes did not have). I found out that she had a VERY stubborn streak, and was all alpha mare. This is poor Joker also finding out that Gogo is the alpha mare:

We even managed to get our steering and brakes together enough to try our hand at a little unrecognized event at the Elementary level that September. For those of you who don't know, Elementary consists of an Intro walk-trot test, a course of tiny tiny tiny crossrails, and an x-country course of six-inch logs. My roommate Nicole, who was videotaping it, actually thought outloud on the tape that I was going to miss the first jump - it was so tiny she couldn't even see it! We finished in 3rd place on our score of 39.0, which was pretty good considering she lost some steering at the end of our dressage test and almost freaked out when we were attacked by killer bees (not really, but there were an awful lot of bees). We also had one of THESE moments...

Whoo! Special when you get those on camera.
Anyway, she graduated from our Green Beans jumping lesson to cantering small fences and coursework, even doing some lines and scarier fences, skinnies, and some x-country fences. Her dressage slowly but steadily improved, and her transitions became more fluid. Her contact morphed from up and down, rooting and sucking back, to trying to reach out for the bit, although not totally consistently. Wintertime approached, and I was feeling pretty good about where we were heading. We were really making some progress, as punky and spunky as she could be sometimes.

And yet, something was looming over my head and worrying me nonstop. I was headed on February 1st of 2007 to Palmerston North, New Zealand, where I would spend a semester studying abroad and traveling the country. I was REALLY REALLY excited, but I was worried about what would happen to Gogo. I didn't want to just leave her to hang out in a field, she was a spunky 5 year-old who needed work. I had a few options as to trainers to leave her with, and I finally chose one in Michigan that had several off the track TBs and eventing/dressage experience. She was quiet, worked well with the hot horses I watched her ride, and put a lot of emphasis on the care of the critters. I wish I had peeked in on some of the other horses at the time.... the ones I saw were in healthy weights, so keep that in mind for later. The barn wasn't much to look at, but I was promised whatever grain I wanted, however much hay I wanted, and 10 to 12 hours of turnout, as well as 5 days of work a week. Sounded great, although I was still nervous. Whenever I had left my previous horses with someone else for any length of time (never more than a week while I was away), they always did stupid things, like break out of their stalls and gorge themselves on whatever they could find, resulting in things like spending a week in the hospital - it did happen and it's WAY more dramatic than this little blurb states, but you'll have to ask if you want to know more! The only time I had ever left Gogo in someone else's care, it was for less than a week, and she went out in the roundpen one afternoon and managed to get three of her four legs tangled in the panels - EEK. So I was panicked, to say the least, that something would happen to her.

Don't worry, I told myself. She'll be fine.

Readers, I'll leave you with that, as the year 2006 closes. I'll start up again when I got back from New Zealand in June of 2007....

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