Tell me, when you think of the Thoroughbred, what do you see in your mind? Rose blankets & Triple Crown trophies? Colorfully-clad Jockey’s and flying dirt? How about Jumpers and Dressage kings & queens? Well, to me, I think of my very best friend. I practically grew up riding double behind my Mom on a big (BIG) bay OTTB (Off The Track Thoroughbred) Stallion, and later went on to show a beautiful grey OTTB Mare that we rescued from the kill pens. Did I know this was only the beginning to my life-calling? No, not at all. I mostly rode Arabians through High School, and though I had always appreciated the versatility & brilliance of the Thoroughbred, I had never given them any extra thought. But as life goes, things change. I still, and will always, love the Arabian (I have 3 impeccably bred Mares that I adore in their ways), but I’d like to share my passion for the OTTB…I want to share training tips, the stories, the experiences, and love for the 3 (And surely more coming) OTTB Geldings in my barn. Though I love bragging about my priceless herd, more importantly, I’m here to promote the breed. I want people to see these horses for who they are and what they are capable of.
Even if I only change one mind, I have changed one life, and that is something I can live with.
First, and more importantly, meet “Flying Cayman”. A 2002 Gelding by Fly So Free, a 1990 Breeders Cup Juvenile Winner & 1990 Eclipse Award Champion 2 Yr. Old Colt, and 1991 Kentucky Derby contender with earnings over $2.3 Mil. Cayman had 23 race starts, with earnings over $49K, and came into my life in November 2009, when I was perusing Thoroughbreds for adoption (Most were free) in the barn of the ILHBPA (Illinois Horseman Benevolent & Protective Assoc.). I came to look at another Gelding (Whom I adopted, then later sold to a student.), when I came across this Gelding. Growing up searching the auctions for “The greats” among many, I was always very picky, but there was something about this horse that just stood out to me. I can’t explain it, but when searching a barn full to pick just one, this guy caught my eye. I didn’t even think about it, he was just it. I could write a year-long story about this horse, but I’ll try to rein it in here. In 4 and a half years, this horse has rocked my world. He came to me in a time of turmoil, where the only thing that could help me is a horse. Initially, I built my entire business, Silver Shadow Training, around him, as he was my first lesson horse. In the first 2 years of showing CGA (Cal. Gymkhana Assoc.) I took him from a “Future Champion” to consistently winning several events in the AAA division. His first year in the Hunter ring, he won the SLOCQHA Open Jumper Buckle Series, and more recently he’s been earning checks in the Open Jackpot Barrel Races. Aside from his show pen accomplishments, he’s an incredibly reliable trail horse, and always a favorite for the lessons students. And beyond all of that, he’s my best friend, and I know we’re still at the very beginning of our career together!
Second came “Symphonic Cat”. When I was selected as one of the 26 trainers for the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s Makeover & National Symposium, I knew I’d need a pretty special horse to achieve this retraining goal in just 100 or so days. So along came “Cat”, a 2009 Gelding bred & raced by Golden Eagle Farm. I was skeptical taking on a 4 year old, wondering how well he’d do just diving into hard training in such a short period of time. But in typical Thoroughbred style, be took everything in stride! His 2nd week off the track he participated in the CA Midstate Fair Cattle Drive, and in his 2nd month he was showing some of my students the ropes at local Hunter shows. These days he’s my first pick out of the pasture to take Team Sorting (He LOVES cattle work. Yes, a very cowy OTTB. Believe it!)…When he’s not lending a hand with lessons that is!
On our way home from Baltimore, while visiting with friends in Illinois, I came across a Grey OTTB Gelding that was being shared here & there among my Facebook friends. Turns out he was only 30 minutes from where we were staying, and it took very little convincing from my friends that I need to take this guy back to CA with me. His name is “O’Connell’s”, a 2001 Brazilian-bred beauty with 61 starts and over $289K in U.S. earnings (Not to mention what he earned in Brazil, we’re still working on finding that out). We have re-named him “Castiel”, which is Latin for “Angel of Thursday” or “New Changes and Travel”. All which is beyond fitting as I bought him on a Thursday, and he had a lot of big changes & traveling coming from IL to CA! Castiel, or “Cass”, retired on a chipped knee at 9 years old, and we’ve spend a good portion of the winter re-habbing, supplementing, and getting him fit. Words cannot describe how excited am I about this horses future. He’s wicked fast, remarkably athletic & catty (particularly for his size, as he’s standing about 16.1hh.), and above all, has the heart. He’s merely trotting patterns right now with unbridled enthusiasm!
Well, if you’ve made it this far, surely by now you can see that I’m absolutely smitten with my OTTBs. And with that said, you can likely see why I hate to hear all the negative stereotypes and unfounded comments that so often come about at the mention of an ex-racehorse. And so I set out to educate those who have never worked with or around a TB, to help those who own one and find themselves struggling to bridge the gap in the delicate (and often foreign) communication, and to just share the joy they’ve brought to so many lives.
In my future chronicles, I’d like to cover a variety of OTTB topics. Inspiring success stories, training questions, myth-busting, and more. Do you have a story you want to share, or questions to be answered? Feel free to comment below, or email me directly at SilverShadowTraining@yahoo.com.