Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘ex-racehorse’

EARTHDAYBLOG

The definition of “recycle” is to convert waste into reusable material. But when it comes to the idea of “recycling,” few of us think of something we waste on a regular basis around the world: perfectly good horses. Just consider how many thousands of horses every year are born and are NOT the fastest, most beautiful, most athletic, or most colorful. They are just horses, in need of a home and a chance to shine in their own individual ways.

Earth Day 2017 is Saturday, April 22, and there will be a lot of much needed talk and action when it comes to trying to make our world a cleaner, healthier place for humans and animals to inhabit. But as we pile up the returnables and separate the plastics, this is also a time to remember that there are many four-legged creatures in need of a new home and a second chance. There are dogs, cats, and indeed horses, that need to be given an opportunity to be something different for someone new. Adopting one is perhaps the ultimate act of recycling.

One example of this is the off-the-track Thoroughbred. According to the Jockey Club, an estimated 22,500 Thoroughbred foals were born in North America in 2016. A fraction of these will go on to careers on the track or as breeding stock. The rest have an uncertain fate. Luckily, the past decade has seen an uptick in the number of OTTB retraining and rehoming facilities, as well as an increase in public awareness through the efforts of organizations such as the Retired Racehorse Project and its popular Thoroughbred Makeover event. This is good news for ex-racehorses, as many of them now find new roles as trail horses, competitive partners, or even just pasture companions.

In her Brookmeade Young Rider Series, TSB author Linda Snow McLoon tells the story of a young girl that is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to “recycle” a failed racehorse and turn him into an eventing superstar. Here’s an excerpt from the first book in the series, Crown Prince:

Crown Prince_250Sarah stood quietly, watching the horse. There was no movement as he stood facing the far corner, ignoring her. She clucked softly, but there was no response. Her hand dug deep in her pocket in hopes of finding one more carrot, but it was empty. Nothing was left, except perhaps…yes, in her other pocket she felt a peppermint candy, which she withdrew and slowly unwrapped. In response to the crinkling of the cellophane, a slim finely chiseled head turned her way, his ears pricked forward. He wore a halter, but was too far away for her to read the nameplate. She placed her outstretched hand with the peppermint over the stall door and spoke softly. “Prince—come, Prince.”

Slowly the horse turned from the rear wall and cautiously moved toward her. As he got closer, she felt delicate nostrils blow gently on her hand and then the slender muzzle lifted the peppermint away. He studied her as he chewed the candy slowly and deliberately.

He was big. Except for the enormous draft horses she had seen in pulling competitions at the state fair, this horse was larger than any Sarah had ever seen, including Chancellor. The only horse who might possibly match his size was Donegal Lad. But this horse possessed such refinement that his size wasn’t readily evident until he was close. In the dimly lit stall his dark bay coat looked almost black, and his only marking was a small white star in the center of his forehead. The deep straw bedding hid any possible white markings on his legs.

For several moments Sarah and the horse stood looking at each other. Then she lifted the stall door’s latch and let herself inside. As Crown Prince retreated to the corner, she reached back over the door to lower the latch back into position. Slowly she approached the horse, all the while talking softly. “Good boy, good Prince,” she repeated. Once by his side, she reached to touch his long neck and stroked it gently. His coat felt like sleek satin. He turned his head toward her, seeming to know she meant him no harm.

Now she was close enough to make out his halter plate. Sarah read the name in large block letters: CROWN PRINCE. Below it in smaller print his sire and dam were listed: Emperor’s Gold—Northern Princess. Yes! This definitely was the horse with the reputation of an untrainable rogue.

“You beautiful Prince,” she murmured. As Sarah stroked his neck and continued to speak in hushed tones, she felt the horse become more relaxed. His head dropped down to her and gradually his eyes softened, as he clearly enjoyed her touch and gentle voice. He offered no resistance as she gently pulled his head closer and rested her cheek on his muzzle. It was so soft. With his head lowered, she caressed his forehead, tracing the white star, and gently tugged on his ears. She felt as if she had known this horse forever.

Sarah had no idea how long she had been in the stall with Crown Prince when she became aware of a presence outside.

“Sarah, what are you doing? We’ve been looking all over for you.” It was her father’s voice. She turned to see him looking in at her, along with Jack, Sam, and Rudy Dominic. Worry and concern were written all over their faces.

“I’m fine, Dad. Don’t worry. This is Crown Prince. And he’s the horse I want.”

Her father’s jaw tightened as his eyes met Jack’s before he turned back to Sarah and the dark bay horse standing beside her. Crown Prince surveyed them all curiously, the picture of refinement and nobility. Mr. Wagner observed the horse’s beautifully shaped head, which tapered from small ears to large intelligent eyes down to a refined muzzle. His white star contrasted sharply with his deep mahogany coat. Sarah’s father shook his head, acknowledging the horse’s beauty, but anxious for his daughter’s safety.

Rudy Dominic pointed to the horse. “Isn’t he just like I said?”

Jack was too absorbed to answer. He opened the stall door and joined Sarah to get a closer look. He had seen some impressive horseflesh in his life, but this one ranked up there with the best of them. His eyes traveled from the powerful hindquarters to the pleasing topline and nicely sloping shoulder.

“Have you got a shank right there, Rudy?” Jack asked. “I want to get a better look at this fellow outside the stall.”

Rudy nodded to Sam, who left, returning in a few minutes with a lead shank, and let himself into the horse’s stall. “Come on, big horse. Let’s show off for these folks.” As he started to attach the lead to Crown Prince’s halter, the horse playfully grabbed the brass shank with his teeth. “Oh, no you don’t,” Sam said, as he pulled it away. He ran the chain through the halter’s side ring, over the horse’s nose, and attached it to the other side. Turning to Sarah, he said, “If he decided to put his head to the sky, as a short guy I’d be in trouble. But he knows me. He’s not a bad horse around the barn. It’s only when you sit on him he gets rank. I’ll bring him out so you can have a look-see at a real horse.”

Jack opened the stall door, and Sam led the horse to the open area between the barns. The backstretch was quieter now, since most grooms had finished caring for their horses and were having a late breakfast in the track kitchen. Crown Prince walked with a stately dignity and halted when asked, his coat gleaming in the sun’s rays.

Jack moved around him, thinking out loud. “Strong hindquarters, nice length of back, pronounced withers, good bone, and a lovely long neck.” He moved to stand directly in front of the horse before speaking to Rudy. “His conformation is quite correct. No toeing in or out, good width of chest, nice head. They don’t come any better than this. But I’d like to see him move.”

Rudy motioned to Sam. “Walk away and then jog him back, Sam. But be careful. He hasn’t been to the track to gallop in a while, so keep a tight hold on him.” Rudy turned to Sarah and her father. “I’m always surprised at how well behaved he is except when there’s a rider up. Then he becomes a lunatic.”

Jack positioned himself to get a good view before Sam led the horse away from him. Coming back, Prince trotted agreeably beside Sam and stopped when they reached Jack. “He’s a good mover, too—well balanced,” said Jack, “and his ground manners can’t be faulted.”

Sarah’s father was standing back but listening carefully. “He is a beautiful animal. It’s too bad his reputation takes him out of the running for being a horse for Sarah,” he said firmly.

Sarah, who up to now hadn’t taken her eyes off the horse, swung to face her father. “Dad—I don’t believe he can be as bad as Rudy says! He deserves a chance to be a different horse when he gets away from the racetrack and comes to Brookmeade Farm. Maybe he wasn’t meant to be a racehorse, but I think he will be a wonderful horse for me. I just know it!”

Mr. Wagner was quick to respond. “Sarah, this is a large and powerful animal. Above all else, I won’t let you be in harm’s way. From what I’ve heard today, this horse is dangerous. We mustn’t be so taken with his splendid appearance that we lose sight of the big picture. I can’t have you getting hurt by a horse.”

Sarah could see her father was totally serious. He was thinking only of potential disaster. She had to change his mind.

“We can start working with him on a longe line, Dad, until he knows what’s expected of him. I can turn him out in the big pasture where he can run off some energy. He’ll come to trust me. I promise I won’t even think about riding him until Jack gives the okay. You can see he’s well behaved. He’s a special horse, Dad, and he should have another chance.”

“But what about the handsome chestnut horse you like so much?” her father asked, motioning toward the other end of the shed row. “Don’t you think Code of Honor will be the perfect horse for you? And don’t you want a horse you can ride? Who knows how long it will be before you can get on this horse, if ever.”

Sarah looked at her father, her dark eyes pleading. “Dad, I know you want what’s best for me. But this is supposed to be my decision. Please don’t stand in the way. You’ve got to trust me. I want to take Crown Prince back to Brookmeade Farm more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my entire life. I know he’s the right horse for me. He’s the one I’ve been waiting for.”

Jack, who had been quietly studying Crown Prince, turned to them. “’Tis for sure we have a grand animal here. Who knows the heights he and Sarah might reach if we can turn him around? Sometimes Thoroughbreds are completely different when they get away from the racetrack.” Jack walked over and placed a hand on Crown Prince’s shoulder. He stroked the horse, deep in thought.

After a few moments he turned back to Sarah’s father. “I tell you what, Martin. Perhaps we can give this horse a trial run. If we could arrange to take him for a month, I’ll pledge to be deeply involved in his handling, and I mean every part of his care and schooling, to make sure Sarah is safe. I won’t allow her to get on him until I’ve tested those waters myself. I’ll know in thirty days if he will be a suitable mount for her. If by then we’ve made no headway and I decide he’s not the right horse, we’ll notify Hank Bolton and return him to you, Rudy,” Jack added, looking at the trainer. “If this trial scenario is acceptable to you and Hank Bolton, let’s give it a shot.” He paused and looked intently at Sarah’s father. “Martin, I’m willing to make this commitment to ensure your daughter’s safety.”

Sarah stood quietly, her gaze never leaving her father. He was solemn, as he stood deep in thought. She knew he was worried—that above all else, he didn’t want her hurt. Mr. Wagner looked hard at Jack for a few moments before speaking. “Without your encouragement, I would never even consider letting Sarah take a horse with the shady past this one has. But if you can assure me you’ll stay on top of things and manage everything that’s done with him, I’ll go along with your proposal. But remember, this is a trial. At some point in the next month I will look to you, Jack, for an answer. If Sarah is at risk at any time, the horse must go.”

Sarah threw her arms around her father. “Dad, you’re the greatest! I’ll always remember this, that you gave Crown Prince a chance.”

 

CROWN PRINCE and its sequel CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Plus, in honor of Earth Day 2017, you can download a digital copy of ECO-HORSEKEEPING for only $1.99! CLICK HERE to get hundreds of tips for going green affordably, in the barn and in the rest of your horse life!

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday TSB officially released THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN by renowned veterinarian Dr. Allen Schoen—author of Love, Miracles, and Animal Healing and Kindred Spirits—and horse trainer Susan Gordon. Already the book has been heralded as “ahead of its time,” “ground-breaking,” and “paradigm-shifting.” Dr. Schoen and Gordon believe that a community of compassionate equestrians can positively influence society on many levels, and in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN they explore the simple changes any horseperson can make that can ultimately have a vast impact, not only on the state of the horse industry, but on the world as a whole.

Watch this short interview with Dr. Schoen and Susan Gordon to learn more:

This week, we caught up with Susan Gordon and asked her a little about what led her to write THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN with Dr. Schoen.

TSB author Susan Gordon, surrounded by puppies.

TSB author Susan Gordon, surrounded by puppies.

TSB: You grew up an animal lover. When and how did you first discover you had a special bond with animals?

SG: My mom encouraged pets in the home, whereas Dad was a little more reluctant…Mom won out, and from as early an age as I can remember we had an eclectic menagerie of all kinds of animals. Our Border Collie, Duffy, had puppies when I was about three years old, and my favorite photos and memories are with that dog and her pups. I was literally “swarmed” by Border Collie puppies! At the same time, I loved my cat, Smoky, as well.

I also had a pet Bantam rooster when I was six. Dad had won him at a business conference and he became one of my closest companions. He traveled in the car with us and slept by my bedside.

As soon as I discovered pony rides in the city park, I was hooked on horses too. Mom seemed to notice that I had a special bond with animals from the time I was a toddler, and often referred to me as “different”—in a most affectionate way, of course.

TSB: Your passion for animals in general translated into a love of horses. When did you know you wanted to be a professional horse trainer when you “grew up”?

SG: I got my first horse when I was 12 years old. She was used as a packhorse and did some ranch work, so she wasn’t exactly show-ring material. I had friends who rode jumpers and entered competitions but realized my own horse wasn’t going to be anything like theirs. I began reading horse books and magazines, like the Farnam series on training and Horse & Rider magazine.

My first inclination was to be a zoologist, as I loved science and my microscope. Unfortunately, back in the 1970s, girls weren’t encouraged to gravitate toward careers in science, and there wasn’t much guidance in the school system to mete out my desires enough to translate them into a concrete program of study. We also moved a lot due to Dad’s career with an oil company. By the time I reached high school, my grades slipped from straight-As to Bs and Cs, and I realized I wouldn’t have enough credits to attend university. Looking back, it would have only taken one good guidance counselor or tutor to resolve the problem. But I turned my focus to horse training instead of a degree program.

I had my Appaloosa filly at a well-known Quarter Horse show barn and eventually, at the tender age of 17, became president of their on-site riding club. I was hired to ride and show other people’s horses and really connected with the world of professional training and showing at that time. Then Spruce Meadows started coming to our schooling shows, and I was completely mesmerized by the gigantic Hanoverian jumpers that floated around our indoor courses. By Grade 12, I dropped my dreams of becoming a zoologist and dove into a job in advertising to support boarding my horses at the stunning, now-famous show jumping venue. Still riding as a junior at the time, I knew I was far too young to embark on a full-time horse-training career, but that became my primary focus while I worked my way up to professional-quality riding and training.

Susan with her Appaloosa at Spruce Meadows in the 1970s.

Susan with her Appaloosa at Spruce Meadows in the 1970s.

Q: You spent many years transitioning ex-racehorses from life on the track to life as a riding horse. What did you find most challenging about working with OTTBs? Most rewarding?

SG:  I had married the assistant trainer at Spruce Meadows, who was an eventing trainer, and he had a Thoroughbred. The bay gelding was exceptionally well schooled, and I loved the “power-up” feel he gave me over a fence. My sister-in-law trained racehorses and used basic dressage schooling to help them run optimally on the track, so I got a lot of advice from her as well on how to handle them.

My first OTTB project was a very touchy chestnut mare, Rol Eden’s Alee (Ali) that had been used as a working cow horse, somewhat unsuccessfully, and the cowboys had given up on her. She was so hot she would bounce up and down, switching leads every other step, stiff as a board, and in a perpetual state of stress.

My husband also gave up on her after we took her over, as she just couldn’t slow down. She probably went through a grid (series of jumps) faster than any other horse I’ve ever seen! Ali was really the catalyst that finally propelled me into a full-time professional career. We got along great, and I won almost every jumper class I entered on her. Needless to say, very fast jump-offs with tight turns became our forte!

Ali taught me to be 100 percent focused on my horse, which is a skill I brought to every other OTTB and other horses since that time. If I twitched a muscle, or turned my head, or even took in a breath suddenly, she would react.

From that horse onward, I found that every OTTB had his own special quirks and needs, so each one was a learning experience. I love those horses! They really made me into the kind of rider that could mount up, figure out a horse, and get him to soften, go forward, and jump around a schooling arena or show course in a matter of minutes. I also had the good fortune of being around other great riders who rode OTTBs with wonderful style and finesse. That helped a lot.

Susan Gordon and her OTTB

Susan Gordon and her OTTB “Ali.”

TSB: In your new book THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN, co-written with Dr. Allen Schoen, you mention eventually becoming disillusioned with the world of professional training and competing. Can you describe some of the reasons you felt you had to step away from the industry?

SG: That is a relatively long list, but reason Number One was probably because of the many horses that came through our barn that could not pass a pre-purchase veterinary exam. Young, old, OTTB, Warmblood…it didn’t matter. There were so many issues it was becoming ridiculous. I watched client after client try to find a nice horse for themselves, only to find there was something that would “kill” the sale. It was very disheartening.

People would bring horses to the sales barn and not disclose the horse’s full history,or not realize that the horse’s “behavior” problems were actually related to pain. Sometimes the pain was primary, but often secondary issues had cropped up long after initial traumas, or they would be inherent, and therefore progressive.

Then, once we moved further into the age of computers, internet, and cellphones, everybody seemed to be dashing around in a rush, too busy and too distracted to focus on their horses in the way that is most conducive to their well-being. Even living in a tiny town, known for its more New-Agey, spiritual population, the day I noticed teenagers texting each other from one barn to the other only 100 feet away, I knew that life had changed dramatically, and in a very short period of time, for all of us, including the horses. It became very difficult to get riders to spend enough time working on the aspects of horsemanship that would be most conducive to their training progress, and that of their horses.

By 2009, I decided to retire from full-time training and turned my attention to figuring out what I would need to do to try to help bring some balance back into the equine industry, primarily for the sake of equine welfare. Apparently a lot of other “old-timers” were seeing the same issues as there has since been a big push by regulating bodies to improve on welfare policies.

TSB: In THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN, you share the story of Willie, a down-on-his-luck Hanoverian that brought you back to horses after some time away. If you could pass along one message that you learned from Willie to others, what would it be?

SG: In the book we talk about conceiving of a Life Cycle Management Policy for every horse, which I believe could effectively help keep many more horses from ending up in the dire situation in which Willie found himself. It’s a new concept for horse owners, but hopefully after reading THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN and understanding that Willie represents thousands of horses in similar scenarios, and some much worse, we can enact new policies that will allow horses to reach the conclusion of their lives with respect and dignity.

TSB: THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN provides 25 Principles intended to help people become more thoughtful, patient, kind, and compassionate in their dealings not only with horses, but with the riders, trainers, grooms, veterinarians, farriers, and others we come into contact with each day. What do you and Dr. Schoen hope will be the lasting effect of the 25 Principles and the ideas you describe in your book?

SG: I would love it if people could walk into their barns knowing that it is indeed a sanctuary of peace, understanding and cooperation. People want to have a good experience in a place that houses their beloved horses, and they don’t want to be mistreated by other people they encounter at the facility.

Many horse owners work long hours at other jobs or have stressful lives outside of the barns. If everyone could take a few deep breaths and spend some quiet time with themselves before entering the barn, we can hopefully begin the kind of paradigm shift that will encourage people to spend more time with their horses, and also bring up a new generation of horse lovers who are compassionate from the get-go, that will take “compassionate horse-energy” back out into the world for all beings.

There are many factors that go into creating a cooperative facility, and Dr. Schoen and I both decided that compassion would be at the foundation of those directives.

Susan Gordon and Dr. Allen Schoen, coauthors of THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN.

Susan Gordon and Dr. Allen Schoen, coauthors of THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

SG: It was on one of the little Shetlands in Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park, circa 1964. They went round and round on the carousel-like wheel they were attached to. I can still hear the tiny western saddle creaking and recall looking down at a mass of fuzzy blonde mane below my gaze. I didn’t want to get off.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

SG: I was mortified. My barely-broke Appaloosa filly was always a little tricky to mount, but unfortunately, this particular day was the one and only day my Grandma came to watch me ride.

I put a foot in the stirrup, and as I was swinging my leg across the Western saddle, Missy blew up. I landed hard on my back and was too frightened to attempt a remount.

Mom was visibly disturbed, but didn’t have much to say. I do recall Grandma speaking out in her strong Ukrainian accent, however, noting, “Horse no good. You sell-it horse. Put ad ‘na paper.”

I had to swallow my pride and put one of the barn’s trainers on Missy who could ride out a bucking horse. I actually kept her until we had a number of shows under our belt, and she was safe for others to ride.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

SG: Somebody with a genuine sense of humor.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

SG: Interest. My best horses have been more interested in people than in what other horses are doing. They watch you intently with bright eyes and seem to want to be with you. And it’s not just food-related!

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

SG: Vaulting. It is so pretty to watch, although requires gymnastic training, so I’d have to do a pared-down version and maybe just draw on my ballroom dance background. I’m not that flexible!

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

SG: Now that I’m “older” I want a pony! Or, close to a pony. My choice would be a Haflinger or other stocky, but small breed, known for its soundness and good temperament. As for a book, well, I might be biased now, but I can’t help but enjoy reading my own book, THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN. Maybe that’s a good thing?! The stories help bring back many happy memories, and I think if you’re all alone, that’s a pleasant way to stay sane.

TSB: What is your motto?

SG: If you want to accomplish something, do it. See it, be specific, and take action.

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Read Full Post »

TSB author Anna Morgan Ford is featured in the July issue of Practical Horseman, available now.

Anna Morgan Ford, Program Director at New Vocations Racehorse Adoption and author of BEYOND THE TRACK (with equine journalist Amber Heintzberger) is featured in a two-part series in the July and August issues of Practical Horseman magazine. The articles, by Kim F. Miller, are based on the techniques Anna uses to prepare off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) for a new life and a new career at New Vocations. In addition, you can find excerpts from Anna’s bestselling book BEYOND THE TRACK on Equisearch.com.

As Triple-Crown season winds down and racing no longer dominates prime time, many of us forget about the amazing Thoroughbreds who train and race hard during the early years of their life, often to find themselves “retired” from the track—due to injury or poor record—at a young age. These horses are often capable, athletic, and sane, and more than ready to enjoy life with you on the trail or in the competitive arena. Anna Ford’s book BEYOND THE TRACK makes it possible for any compassionate horse person to make an OTTB his or her next riding partner, and to successfully and safely transition the horse to life after the home stretch.

The first part of “From Track to the Arena,” featuring Anna Ford  and covering turnout, nutrition, leading, and ground manners, is in the July issue of Practical Horseman, which is available now wherever magazines are sold.

BEYOND THE TRACK is available from the TSB bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: