The Roscoe Saga I

This week, I’m pleased to hand the blog reins over to my friend and fellow rider Holly. Like many equestrians, Holly was a horse-obsessed youngster who delayed her dreams until she was an adult. She’s graciously shared the story of how her life intersected with that of a curmudgeonly ex-police horse named Roscoe. You can find Holly’s own website with links to her scholarly work (plus photos of her Irish setters!) at www.hollykruse.com.  


I grew up as a horse-crazy girl without a horse, whose mother wouldn’t let her ride, so I had to sneak around to very occasionally get to ride a friend’s horse. I always hoped to someday own a horse, but in the meantime I channeled my love of horses into horse racing fandom (eventually causing me to write this book), and I started showing the family Irish setter. I am, at heart, an Irish setter. I was raised as one, and now I have a tiny dynasty of them from the bloodline of my first champion, Tristan, who I got from California when I was in high school in Iowa.

My horse ownership dream never quite went away. As an adult, however, it looked less and less practical. I finally understood how crazy expensive it is to have a horse, and how difficult it is to move with a horse… and I was moving a lot. I lived some places, like the horse havens of Louisville, Kentucky and northern Virginia, where people were paying insane amounts of money for the most rudimentary boarding arrangements. As I moved from place to place, it was hard enough to find a halfway affordable place to rent that let me have three Irish setters. Why would I want the additional burden of a horse?

My pre- and post-doctoral travels eventually landed me in Tulsa, Oklahoma: first, for a job at the University of Tulsa, and then at nearby Rogers State University, which at the time – 2010 – owned a therapeutic riding facility. Finally, I was able to spend time around horses! (Also, I met and befriended a certain blogger who was working at the facility and became one of my closest friends.) The first student with whom I volunteered was a disabled adult, and the horse that the student rode in his lesson was a former Tulsa Mounted Patrol horse named Roscoe.

(Roscoe is on the far left, looking bored with life on the beat. From the Tulsa World.)
(Roscoe is on the far left, looking bored with life on the beat. From the Tulsa World.)

Oh, Roscoe. He had been at the facility for over a year, since the Tulsa Police Department disbanded the mounted unit, and already, he was a terrible therapy horse. He enjoyed stopping and not moving during lessons, so while leading him, I was forced to find techniques to make him move forward. He discovered that throwing his head wildly while children were mounting and dismounting was an effective way to stop being used in lessons with children. Word on the street was that I was the only volunteer for whom Roscoe would do anything. I overheard at least one other volunteer say, “I hate Roscoe.”

Do I need to even say this? I’d fallen in love with Roscoe.

Public opinion about Roscoe hadn’t always been negative. As a police horse, Roscoe got lots of good press (note: this story says that all of the police horses were Quarter Horses. This, as we’ll see, will turn out to be not quite true). Even after he became a therapy horse, he was celebrated in the news media, as in this 2010 propaganda piece on local television news that was filled with lies about what a great therapy horse Roscoe was.

Roscoe pretending to be a good therapy horse for TV. From KOTV.
Roscoe pretending to be a good therapy horse for TV. From KOTV.

Clearly, Roscoe and I were meant to be together…

 

July 10 questions

Things are very normal and very boring here; Johnny and I are completing house projects (like our bathroom remodel) as we prepare to put the house on the market, I’m spending my days at work stuffing the mobile unit full of goodies, and both horses are in regular work with no surprising progress. Thank god for L. Williams at Viva Carlos and her questions. Since Emma at ‘Fraidy Cat Eventing has also answered them, can we just declare them the official blog hop of the month?

1. Do you actually always pick the horse’s feet? Always? Really?
Yes! Even when they’re muddy and gross. Too many years of Pony Club drilled into me, I suppose.

2. What is the biggest obstacle/reason preventing you from becoming a professional or competing full time with ease?
Location, location, location. Oklahoma isn’t brimming with top trainers or many competitions. I’m thrilled that another eventing schooling show has been added to the local calendar; it brings the grand total of schooling events to five (counting combined tests). In the entire state. The USEA recognized count remains at two.

I’m also not made of money.

3. Do you think it will ever not be about the money?
Of course not. Money is necessary to run competitions, and organizations have to pass this on to their competitors. The local dressage GMO held a two day rated show last month, and the venue rental alone was $6200+! If competitors want to ride at safe, nice facilities and have competent judges and show staff, it’s going to cost them.

4. Was there ever a horse that you loved and really wanted to have a connection with, but it just never panned out? Details.
Eh, sort of. I borrowed a horse from a fellow Pony Clubber for Rally one year. Bailey was a leggy 5 year old Quarter Horse gelding that was reliable and sensible. He was for sale, but no amount of pleading could convince my parents to buy him. I heard he ended up in Kentucky at a great home, so at least there’s that. (And I have Moe!)

bailey
5. What is one weakness in your riding that even your trainer doesn’t pick up on, only you?
Sitting too far to the outside while cantering a 20-meter circle. This answer is a bit of a cheat, as I don’t regularly ride with a trainer. I’m sure if I did, they’d notice. But at any rate, I have a tendency to weight my outside seat bone and stirrup way too much when I’m cantering on a circle. No clinicians ever seem to comment on this, so it’s either not as severe as I think it is or there are too many other things they feel they need to help me fix!

6. What is the biggest doubt/insecurity you ask or tell yourself in your head?
That I’m pushing my elderly horses too hard.

Too much?
Too much?

7. There is a barn fire. You are the first person to discover it and see that the roof is collapsing in slowly, and you can tell it’s going to come down any time. Do you call people first or head straight in to save the horses?
Provided I have cell phone service and don’t have to go into a house and remember how to use a landline telephone, I’d call 911 on my way into the barn to do what I could.

8. What is one event in your riding career/horse/anything that you’re still not over, even tho you might tell others you are?
Ugh. I think everyone knows that I’m not over living in the (comparative) eventing abyss. Also not over not taking a working student opportunity in favor of going to college.

9. If you could tell off one person you just don’t like, what would you say?
I’d tell those goddamn kids at the barn who take lessons on my horses to hang my fucking bridles up correctly, clean the tack they use, and never, ever leave another sweat mark on one of my horses again.

Dang kids
Dang kids

10. Have you ever seen questionable riding or training practices, but let it go/ignored it?
I often see horse training processes that I think are silly, but they’re ultimately not harmful, so I always let them go.

Commentary from National Dressage Pony Cub

Oh my god, y’all, if you weren’t watching the National Dressage Pony Cup on USEF Network this weekend, you really missed out. Legendary dressage judge Axel Steiner was offering commentary on the live stream. I’m convinced this man is to dressage what George Morris is to hunter/jumpers.

He had some thoughts on freestyles:

  • “You have to be daring in a freestyle! This is straight out of the First Level test!”
  • “I’d prefer this music for the canter, but this sort of works.” (He clearly did not think it worked.)
  • “Certainly unusual music.” (I agreed; it was a very bizarre electronica mix.)
  • “She went quicker, but not longer. At least she thought about it.”
  • “Well, at least she finished with the music.” (This was very important to Axel Steiner.)
  • “Anybody who’s going to do a freestyle needs to be a dancer. You need to get on the dance floor.”
  • “The Third Level freestyle was the most satisfying to me, but who knows. I’m not sitting at C.”

He was frequently Not. Impressed:

  • “This was somewhat disappointing.”
  • “This was underwhelming.”
  • “Ehh *sigh*
  • “That was good. I’m surprised.”
  • “Why is she going around again? Don’t do that!”
  • “Now, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to get really exciting. We’re going to Intro B.”
  • “Intro Levels are there to get the horse in the ring. There’s no championships involved. THERE IS NOTHING.”
  • “I’m not sure what that was.”

He had opinions on the ponies:

  • “He’s a little over pony size!”
  • “This is a very bay Connemara.”
  • “Oh, he’s going to take a little night-night here in the free walk.”

And my favorite line of all:

“Somebody’s shouting someplace. We have some instructor or mother or somebody on the line. I’m sure we’re all hearing some good advice. I can’t hear it all.”

Don’t get me wrong- he had positive things to say, too! He seemed like a very “call it like it is” sort of guy; I’d love to audit one of his clinics.

Friday Five

fridayfive

Thank goodness for short work weeks. Work has been very hectic: a coworker and I are being shipped off to HIPICO Santa Fe in two weeks for the inaugural Dressage at Santa Fe show, the other mobile unit is heading to Dressage at Lexington next week, and everyone is scrambling to order last-minute necessities, count and re-count inventory, and pack trailers! If I see one more pair of Montar breeches, I think I might scream.

Here’s what’s been on my radar this week!

ONE I Recreated Pusheen Stickers With My Cat

combo

Who doesn’t love Pusheen, Facebook’s adorable feline? Someone with a very cooperative fat gray tabby decided to recreate various Pusheen scenes and the result is cute overload.

TWO ManeStay (via Horse Nation)

This waterproof hook contains contact information and clips into a horse’s mane; this could be such a useful tool for emergency situations. Here in Oklahoma, horses are often found wandering loose or gravely injured after tornadoes- having this type of information would certainly make it easier for vets and rescue workers to contact owners.

THREE Dressage Should Be Rewarding For Both Horse And Rider (via Dressage Today)

I needed to read this! I often get frustrated schooling dressage on Moe; he’s got all the wrong muscles in all the wrong places and years of incorrect habits ingrained into his tiny pea brain. This was a good reminder to be patient, be fair, and set the horse up for success.

FOUR Hunting shadbelly

huntingshad

There’s only 105 days until Opening Hunt! Despite not having a horse to hunt on for the latter half of the season (Moe is too crazy, Gina will be too pregnant), I’m already dreaming of galloping through the hills of Flint Creek. I’ve been entertaining the idea of outfitting myself for Opening Hunt in a shadbelly, because who doesn’t like to get dressed up?

FIVE Hoof Love wrap ring from KJ Creations

hoofring

I received my prize pack from KJ Creations for winning The $900 Facebook Pony’s gender reveal contest this week, and one of the things included in it was this super cute hoof wrap ring! I am obsessed with it. It’s absolutely darling, and it’s adjustable, which means it fits on my fat little sausage fingers. Winning!

What are y’all into this week?

Solid Citizen blog hop

Eventing Saddlebred Style started a blog hop based on SprinklerBandit’s post about the myth of the forever home, and I think it’s a great topic. Moe and Gina do have a forever home with me, barring some extreme worst-case-scenarios. They are accounted for in my will, but for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s say that both horses need to find new homes RIGHT NOW.

Moe

The most obvious factors working against Moe are his age and his relatively high-maintenance diet.  He is not an easy keeper, and his age (21) is likely to freak a lot of people out. Moe is not a placid, great-for-anyone packer, either. He is very energetic and not for the timid or very inexperienced rider.

Moe's "WHEE!!" attitude is not for everyone!
Moe’s “WHEE!!” attitude is not for everyone!

However, he has a lot going for him! He is a solid Novice-level event horse, an okay First Level dressage horse, a brave trail companion, and would probably feel just fine about doing 1 meter or lower jumper classes. Moe is sound, requires no joint maintenance, and is comfortable barefoot. (His farrier claims Moe has the toughest hooves he’s ever seen on a Thoroughbred.) He has good ground manners (well, except for trying to rub his head on people): he ties, crossties, clips, loads, bathes, behaves for the farrier and vet, and is generally personable and pleasant.

I would be very hesitant to sell Moe, simply because he’s older and requires a lot of feeding. I’d hate to see him dumped at the local feedlot auction because someone thought he wasn’t useful any more or got tired of feeding him. However, I think he’d make a great mount for an adrenaline-junkie tween who really wanted to learn the ropes of eventing. (Ask me how I know.)

Gina

Like Moe, Gina’s age (19) is the biggest strike against her. She’s also unpredictably spooky at times, pulls back for reasons beyond my understanding, and has a permanently fat hind leg and creaky joints. She’s forward enough to scare extreme beginners or timid riders. She has a bizarre hangup about ground poles and stadium jumps that years of patient work have done little to rectify.

Superstar hunt horse.
Superstar hunt horse, complete with fat leg

But Gina has many good things working in her favor. She has excellent conformation and is very sound. She doesn’t normally require shoes, unless she’ll be working at speed over rocky terrain. She is generally healthy and easy to feed. Gina is well behaved for the vet and farrier, and has good ground manners (when she isn’t pulling back, and those incidents have decreased significantly since switching to a rope halter). Her movement is above average, and she definitely has some dressage buttons installed. She’s also a fantastic foxhunting and trail horse, who is happy to stay with the group or go out alone, is very obedient, and sails over cross country jumps.

As with Moe, I would be hesitant to sell Gina. I suspect her erratic behavior would get her dumped somewhere unpleasant. She might be a good horse for an adult amateur who wanted to learn dressage or for anyone who wanted to hunt regularly. I certainly wouldn’t sell her as a broodmare, because I can’t imagine she’s got that many foals left.

Overall

The main reason I’d be hesitant to rehome either horse, and the reason I plan on keeping them until they die, is because they’re old. Were they each 10 years younger, I would feel confident they could find appropriate homes. They basically have good training, good health, and good manners. You can bet I’ll provide Gina’s offspring with these skills, too!