The Blueberry Bulletin presented by Equine Equipment: for OTTB youth the only constant is change – Horse Racing News


Blueberry fills up in early April when he finishes his full-time attendance to go to “college” in a busy training barn.

This is the second installment in our monthly column from Editor-in-Chief Natalie Voss following her journey with her 2021 Underscore thoroughbred makeover hopeful, affectionately known as Blueberry. Read the first in this series here, and learn the origin story of Blueberry and the author’s long-standing connection to this gelding and his family here. You can find Blueberry’s Facebook page here.

I spent a lot of time this winter watching my new OTTB graze on the field with a puckered forehead, trying to decide how I felt about its appearance. (Fortunately, Blueberry is the type of horse who easily shuns distractions and has gotten used to me squinting at him with my head tilted to the side.) I can never decide if he’s just a hair older. clear that i want it or if the the only real problem is i’m too used to watching my draft cross mare.

It was easier to keep the weight off than I might have guessed when I got it in late November, and he kept his coat smooth and topline through January. In February we had several rounds of ice, snow and freezing temperatures and the muscles he had on the track evaporated as he was outside 24/7 and not yet under. saddle. He was never really thin; just like I kept saying to my husband, “seedy”. He grew a thin, skinny winter coat which also added to his somewhat scruffy aura. We had pulled his shoes up in an effort to harden his soles, and every time he took a small step down the aisle after a haircut, I winced even as he walked, trotted and galloped around his enclosure.

Still, he was quite happy, with bright eyes, ate and drank a lot, and walked along our walks in the rolling paddock alleys. I knew, logically, that he was in good health and doing well for a horse that had gone from track to race at the start of a Kentucky winter. What I discovered during this time was that I was uncomfortable with the “ugly duckling” phase.

Blueberry encounters a cross on her first day at the new farm in early April

I am fortunate to have an OTTB expert in our trainer, Stephanie Calendrillo. She trains and sells horses off-track and will be heading for her third thoroughbred makeover this year with the all-around star Dispatcher. Most of her clients’ horses are OTTBs as well, so she’s used to managing the transition from track to arena. Don’t worry about it, she told me. It is normal for a horse’s body to change when moving from one track to another, but that will change again when he starts working under the saddle, and it will happen so quickly that it will surprise you.

Much of my writing on the Paulick Report can be found in our Horse Care section, where we try to educate readers on veterinary and management topics. Often times, time is a key factor in healing an injury, managing chronic disease, or improving a horse’s fitness. The unspoken aspect of this is of course that a horse will not be perfect every day of its life. As long as you are progressing towards your goal and using good expert advice, you are doing the right thing, but an ugly duck phase is inevitable. Until I got Blueberry, I hadn’t thought about it before. My draft mare was quite a challenge in her early days, but her problems were more behavioral than ever before as she has hickory feet, is impervious to silly outside influences like pathogens, and is getting fat. ‘air. I spend more time trying to get her to lose weight than on it, and although she has always been plump, no one has ever cared if she was well. All I could think of, looking at Blueberry’s somewhat hollowed out neck in March, was, ‘If I saw this horse, I would kinda wonder what was going on there. ”

After moving him to Stephanie’s main facility in April and starting more intensive work on the ground and under the saddle, we were surprised at how quickly he got stronger, how quickly he developed. his physical form at the trot and later at the gallop. We added protein and rice bran oil to his diet to help him keep up with his new workload and improve his coat and skin. When he didn’t shed his winter coat (even in late April), I finally hung him about two weeks into his new training plan and voila, there was a slight topline. We added shoes to the front, and when he still had the odd tender day, we added pads and his feet grew hard and fast.

Blueberry in late May, saddled during a school session at Kentucky Horse Park

Then the spring rains came, and with them, a little rain rotted. I have tried a bit of this and that, mostly over the counter lotions and soaps. Then there were the hives, tiny little ones that didn’t seem to itch or hurt, but covered her neck and shoulders, then her back, then her rump and legs. We tried corticosteroids and antihistamines and the hives gave way to little crusty bumps like hell rain rot. I tried new over-the-counter lotions, and it didn’t seem to give way. He looked messy, but at least a reasonably athletic mess. Finally, we found the solution – baby oil to soften the scabs, which are now almost gone, and a diluted alcohol solution on the scarred areas where bath and thunderstorm water will flow, encouraging bacteria. to become infected (along the legs, lower rump and sides). A smooth summer coat grows, a shiny, shiny reddish brown – a tribute to his mother.

Even though he’s improving now, I know it’s a step on the way. Stephanie tells me that OTTBs often spend a full year sometimes adjusting to new diets, routines, pasture arrangements, the weather, working different muscles than they were doing on the track. It is not that they are not healthy or functional during this time, but that they will change. He’s starting to become the horse I hoped to have someday, but I know these trips aren’t always linear. He may encounter a new need or difficulty at some point, and now I feel like I can treat it as a learning process – and remember to be patient with both of us.

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