Ask Questions

keep-calm-and-ask-questions-5Originally posted at:

Recently, tragedy struck twice at an event. Two horses died at The Fork, an upper-level event in South Carolina. Conair following an accident on the cross-country course; Powderhound following his show-jumping round.

Immediately after each horses’ death was announced, social media (generally Facebook, although I’m sure Twitter got involved) was abuzz. Mass messages of sympathy were intermingled with questions about how these deaths could have happened. And admittedly, neither was straightforward: Conair reportedly got up and galloped around after his fall; he collapsed and died after a preliminary vet exam. Powderhound collapsed and died after his show-jumping round, narrowly avoiding injuring his rider.

It looked weird. It looked scary. And people had questions.



An urge to twitch back the blinds and make sure their own horses were safe.

As things will do, of course, sympathy and fear divided into factions. Familiar ones, in Eventing: the Long Format vs the Short Format.

Simply put, Short Format Eventing is the current version of the Three Day Event, which does away with the massive endurance requirement once required. It places a greater emphasis on dressage and a more technical cross-country course.

Long Format proponents don’t need much to start talking about Long Format, anyway, so it was only to be expected that this would renew the debate. Questions like: Are the horses still fit enough to compete at high speeds? Are the courses asking the horses questions with solid fences that should only be asked with movable jump poles?

Short Format replies tended to be more succinct: now is not the time to bring this up.

I understand that the Eventing community is close-knit, and that when one horse dies, many horsemen grieve. That’s the way it should be. That’s how communities work.

But here’s what I want to say: it’s okay to ask questions, and it’s going to be done in public, on social media, because that is where people ask questions these days. There isn’t going to be an official period of discreet social media silence. And there shouldn’t be, because in this short-term-memory society, if an incident isn’t discussed within a fairly immediate time period, it won’t be discussed at all. It will be buried by the next story, for better or for worse.

It’s not okay to lay blame, or make assertions without proof, or tout oneself as an expert when one is not, or lay claim to a death as a symbolic martyr of a cause.

But it is okay to ask questions.

Questions, well-worded ones anyway, can lead to conversation amongst people who care about the problem. Conversation amongst people who care about the problem can lead to the answers… sometimes, the answers to questions far removed from the original one.

We should always be asking questions, and exploring the issues that concern us, or hell, scare us. A horse drops dead under a rider — that’s scary. Could it happen to you? Could it happen to me? We need to talk about this. Let’s discuss conditioning techniques. Discuss feeding practices. Share ideas. Share best practices. This, a time of worry and crisis and personal doubt, is when we are most likely to come together and share, instead of hiding away our fears (from shame) and our secrets (with jealousy).

Here’s how I see it: analyzing our own practices is good.

Coming together and sharing ideas is good.

Sometimes it takes a tragic event to start conversations about our own lives.

This argument has absolutely zero to do with making assumptions about the deaths of Conair and Powderhound. It has nothing to do with changing Short Format to Long Format. It’s not a statement about whether the comments section of an article announcing a tragedy is the right place to question the cause. It’s simply about the power crisis holds, that it can inspire us to examine our own practices and to talk more frankly with one another about our thoughts and fears.

And to not be afraid to ask questions.

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Filed under eventing, horsepeople, Media Coverage, Sport Horses

Here is a jockey sorting cattle on a retired racehorse

Here’s something not even the capricious Horse Racing Gods could have predicted: Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron sorting cattle, mounted on an OTTB, at Pimlico Racecourse.

Life is strange and full of wonders.

Now for the record, I don’t know how to sort cattle, so I can’t comment too heavily on McCarron’s method, although at a guess I would say he also doesn’t know how to sort cattle. I think he’s a little taut on the reins for this horses’ liking – I think the horses do most of the work in this game and he’s saying “yo dude, let go of my face and I will totally round up this cow for you.” (The horse is from southern California in this particular dream dialogue I am cooking up.)

But I could be wrong. Cattle sorting enthusiasts, set me straight! What’s happening here?

UPDATE: Wonderful commenters gave us the inside scoop, and their details turn this great story into a truly extraordinary one. This horse, named Automobile, is literally fresh off the racetrack, and has less than a half dozen rides under his girth before he found himself sorting cattle. He was a replacement horse when the originally scheduled horse developed a cough. (So feel better, poor guy with a cough!)

So I encourage you to watch this video with fresh eyes, not just an OTTB doing his job, but an OTTB being asked to do something entirely new! And accomplishing it with relative aplomb!

When I think about how many horses I’ve been on who have taken one look at a cow in the far distance and decided it was halfway past time to head for the hills….

This guy is an inspiration!

And so without further ado, straight from the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium to you, Chris McCarron sorting cattle, on an OTTB, at Pimlico Racecourse.


Filed under Media Coverage, Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge, Thoroughbred Horse Shows, Western Thoroughbreds

This weekend: Your Retired Racehorse questions answered at Pimlico

When the Retired Racehorse Training Project announced their Thoroughbred Makeover and Symposium a few months ago, October seemed forever and ever away. Heck, I even thought I might make it to the event. I’d make plans… eventually. Closer to October. Or so I thought.

Photo: Retired Racehorse Training Project

Photo: Retired Racehorse Training Project

Well, now it’s October and I’m getting ready for another business/family trip in the week after the symposium, so I won’t be able to catch a train to Maryland after all. But if you’re in the Mid-Atlantic and you are curious about Retired Racehorses, this is your opportunity to see them in action, hear from experts, and start putting together a cohesive answer to that lurking question: “Is a Retired Racehorse right for me?”

The Makeover is slated to be the star event, when more than twenty riders from across the country and from a variety of disciplines will show off what they’ve accomplished in the past three months with their project horses, all off-track Thoroughbreds with no further training than the races.

And in-between demonstrations there are some pretty unique exhibitions on offer: Chris McCarron’s “Ride Like a Jockey” (something I think all of us should learn how to do), presentations on hunting, show hunters, polo, show jumping, Pony Club, eventing, and dressage; and perhaps the most intriguing/bizarre: Who Let The Cows Out? This event, which ties in with the western presentation, will feature jockeys trying to pen cattle, because of course.

But the symposium forums look especially interesting. I wouldn’t miss these: a session on the business side of Thoroughbred retirement, a trainer’s forum featuring a panel of Thoroughbred experts: Rodney Jenkins, Cathy Wieschoff, and Hillary Simpson, and an open forum on the future of racehorse retirement and the racing industry’s involvement.

There are also sessions on soundness, sales, and healthcare which will doubtless be very informative, especially to the newbies who are looking for their first OTTB.

Here’s the full schedule of events.

It’s going to be a very educational weekend at Pimlico, and I’m definitely jealous of everyone who will be attending! I encourage anyone who wants to share photos or trip reports to email me (natalie @ nataliekreinert dot com) and I’ll post them here at Retired Racehorse with your byline!

Here’s the very compelling promo video:

What are you looking forward to most at the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium?

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Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge

Taking Chances: Equestrian Writers Who Collaborate Instead of Competing

The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.

The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.

I’m a huge proponent of indie publishing, not least because it has allowed horse books to enter a whole new level. Gone are the days when I could choose between a $5.99 paperback from the Thoroughbred series or a $35.95 hardcover tome on dressage principles if I wanted to have a little horsey reading time.

(And on a side-note, whoever decided that horse training books should be published on expensive glossy paperstock and with beautiful slipcovers was probably some accountant reading a report about the 35-55 married female with disposable income demo that represents the majority of Dressage Today’s subscribers, not a horse-person who knows a training book is best perused in the rather dirty and disheveled confines of the tack room immediately before or after a training session.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… Indie publishing lets horse-people publish horse-books that I actually want to read.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve reviewed Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana books quite often at Retired Racehorse. That’s because they’re not just excellent writers, they’re horsewomen, and they write horse books that make sense. No one is going straight to the Olympics after they went to a summer riding camp, taught an unbroken Mustang to jump logs in the woods by moonlight, and subsequently won the Grand Prix at the National Horse Show. (Any old Grand Prix will do.)

Instead, Maggie writes about tweens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up and working really, really hard to improve their riding because they know nothing else really matters in life.

Bittersweet Farm's 1st novel, Mounted

As did the first Bittersweet Farm novel, Mounted.

Meanwhile, Barbara writes about teens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up (in a much more edgy manner, because teens) and working really, really hard to improve their riding even though they’re not entirely convinced that it’s the best way to spend their time (because teens).

The books lend to one another beautifully: As Barbara said, “Maggie’s books are a gateway to mine.”

And, I’d like to think, Barbara’s books lead to mine, which are written about adults in the horse business.

No more skipping from Thoroughbred to Mary Wanless in one not-so-easy step. Horse books have a progression now.

And indie publishing isn’t just wonderful because it allows us to read books we might never get to enjoy otherwise. Indie publishing also provides for a spirit of collaboration and friendship between authors who realize that by working together, they can provide the best possible reading experience for fans. Recently, they sent me this wonderful article:

How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team

How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team: YA & Tween horse book authors Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana

The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread

The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread

In the world of traditional book publishing, Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana would be rival authors, both vying for the same limited space on bookstore shelves devoted to children’s and YA fiction. Very likely they’d be monitoring one another’s sales ranks and rejoicing if the other author dropped a few points.

“Hooray! Let’s break out the whips and spurs!”

But when it comes to indie publishing, all that has gone out the window. Independent authors are totally open about sharing resources and information and helping one another. Some have edited and/or proofed another’s books for free; other indies have provided their fellow authors with professionally designed covers, formatting, and typesetting (again, for free) because they believed in someone else’s book and wanted to help.

Six months ago, Barbara and Maggie only knew each other from their Amazon listings, but thanks to a chance encounter on a well-respected indie publishing industry blog, they connected in real time.

And they are loving it.

After getting to know one another via phone and email, they swapped information: Maggie has taught Barbara how to format her books for ePub and Kindle, and Barbara (whose multiple talents include writing for daytime television) has helped Maggie broaden her writing horizons. They’ve also swapped characters.

The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana

The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana

Lockie Malone, Barbara’s enigmatic horse trainer who stars in her Bittersweet Farm series, makes a guest appearance in Taking Chances, the seventh book in Maggie’s Timber Ridge Riders series for mid-grade/tween readers.

At some point, one of Maggie’s Timber Ridge characters will show up in Barbara’s Bittersweet Farm YA books.

And who knows where this will lead? All bets are off as these two writers set aside any hint of competition and work together to make their genres the best they can be… and they’re having a boatload of fun while doing it.

About these two horse-crazy authors …

Maggie Dana, tween horse book author, shows us how it's done.

Maggie and Smoky show us how it’s done. Photo: Maggie Dana

Maggie Dana

Maggie Dana’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.

Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.

Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family’s horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series. She also writes women’s fiction and her latest novel, Painting Naked, was published in 2012 by Macmillan/Momentum.


Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle. Morgenroth writes edgy YA fiction for horse-lovers.

Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle

Barbara Morgenroth

Barbara was born in New York City and but now lives somewhere else. She got her first horse when she was eleven and rode nearly every day for many years, eventually teaching equitation, then getting involved in eventing.

Starting her career by writing tween and YA books, she wound up in daytime television for some years. Barbara then wrote a couple of cookbooks and a nonfiction book on knitting. She returned to fiction and wrote romantic comedies.

When digital publishing became a possibility, Barbara leaped at the opportunity and has never looked back. In addition to the fifteen traditionally published books she wrote, in digital format Barbara has something to appeal to almost every reader—from mature YAs like the Bad Apple series and the Flash series, to contemporary romances like Love in the Air published by Amazon/Montlake, along with Unspeakably Desirable, Nothing Serious, and Almost Breathing.

Visit: Widgets


Filed under Book Reviews, horsepeople, writing

Finding Curragh Mon

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa) is one of my favorite Thoroughbred rehoming and rehabbing groups. Working directly with Tampa Bay Downs, they have helped many, many Thoroughbreds find new homes, whether it’s a life-time of pasture or a new showing career.

They’ve even been there for Bon Appeal’s half-brother, Mambo Appeal, who shares her squiggle of a stripe and sleek build.

When a couple of my friends from TROT reached out to me about Curragh Mon, it really touched my heart. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to write about OTTBs these days; I am spending most of my time in my cave of an office, writing fiction, and the racetrack in New York is a very expensive train ride away. I’m busy, and it’s hard to keep up. But when someone needs help, I hope I can say I’ve been there for them. Or him. Curragh Mon.

Curragh Mon’s story is living proof that it can happen to anyone (I’m starting to think it does happen to everyone at some point in their fifteen to forty years on the planet — horses just don’t have good luck in our society). It can even happen to tall, well-bred dapple grays: the ones that people are supposed to swoon for, the ones that are supposed to be the most desirable. We all of us, at one point in our horse-crazy lives, have day-dreamed about a tall dapple gray. You have, and I have, and that’s just how it is. There’s something about them.

But that something, and all those daydreams, aren’t enough when the horse is in the wrong hands and falling off the radar. And it’s so, so easy for a horse to fall off the radar. There’s no vetting process for horse owners, or even for horse trainers. Should there be? I’m really starting to think so.

This is Curragh Mon’s story. He was lost, and he’s been found. It took hard work and it took dedication and it took love and compassion. Thanks to TROT for telling me about it and linking me to this impressive press release. Take a read, and take a think, and hug your horse, and if you can share this story, or throw a few bucks Curragh Mon’s way, do so. And maybe, down the road, let’s talk about how we’re going to stop horses from falling off the radar.

The following is a press release from Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa (TROT):

Curragh Mon is rescued and brought back to TROT



Arriving with just a halter fit for a pony, this 17 hand Thoroughbred was on his way to a better life. The only memory of his racing days is the one front shoe that remains on his overgrown hooves.  The transport driver said, “He just wants someone to love him”, and he was right.  On Curragh Mon’s first leg of his long, bumpy road to retirement, this gray gelding seems to know his life was worth saving.

Now, Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc. (also known as TROT) is appealing to horse lovers and racing fans to assist in funding Curragh Mon’s transition to life away from the track.

Curragh Mon’s racing career began full of promise, when he rallied to finish second in a Tampa Bay Downs maiden special weight race for 3-year-olds in his January 2009 debut. He broke his maiden eleven months later at Tampa Bay Downs and went on to win three more times. The striking gray/roan son of Maria’s Mon — sire of Kentucky Derby winners Monarchos and Super Saver — appeared to have an extremely bright future.

However, the trips to the winner’s circle were few and far between and he changed owners seven times over four years of racing. His last three starts were in March and April of this year at Fonner Park in Grand Island Nebraska. After that, he fell off the radar.

Fortunately for Curragh Mon, organizations such as TROT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the safe retirement from racing, retraining and rehoming of Tampa’s racing Thoroughbreds, have taken the lead in an effort to ensure that Thoroughbreds have a chance to lead happy and productive lives after their racing careers are over.

After locating Curragh Mon through painstaking diligence, TROT is bringing him back to the Tampa Bay area to begin his well-deserved retirement.

The horse’s former owners contacted TROT board member Vanessa Nye as they were concerned about what happened to the horse. Nye, a Tampa attorney who owns and operates Voodoomon Stable, is a strong advocate of safe retirement and aftercare for Thoroughbreds.

“I believe, and always have, that retiring these horses properly, transitioning them into other careers and supporting the aftercare of these great animals is paramount for the racing industry’s future.”

Nye made scores of telephone calls in her quest, enlisting the aid of numerous horsemen. On May 9, she found out that his last racing owner had given Curragh Mon away. It took another five weeks to finally locate the horse, which had changed hands and for possible use in unregulated match racing.

Finally, they were able to contact the individual possessing Curragh Mon, who agreed to sell him for $2,500, an amount Nye agreed to pay along with shipping costs. Nye said Steve Breen helped with coordinating his return home and the horse’s former owners are chipping in to cover the expenses.

No one can say for certain what Curragh Mon’s fate would have been had not Nye and her contacts put in the hours and diligence to launch the process of tracking him down. “It took me eight weeks and about 400 phone calls, but I was very determined,” she added.

Curragh Mon is scheduled to return by van to TROT’s foster facility in Myakka City in the next few weeks. “Really, TROT is full to capacity, but we don’t want to turn away a horse that has raced at Tampa Bay Downs. We (racing owners) all have to become more conscientious and investigate who we give these horses away to,” Nye said.

TROT estimates it will take at least a month for Curragh Mon to wind down from racing before starting retraining and being available for adoption. TROT is seeking donations to support him and the other fourteen horses currently in the program and available for new careers or as loving companions.

Please consider making a donation to Curragh Mon’s rehabilitation, or to help the other fourteen horses in the program. Use this link to access the PayPal donation link -

Check out TROT on Facebook at  or visit their website at


Filed under Media Coverage, OTTB Stories, Retirement Options

Sunday Book Review: Keeping the Peace

Keeping The Peace cover imageOh friends! This week Sunday Book Review is back and I have a very fun romance for you! 

Keeping The Peace is the first of a series built around a National Hunt racing stable. I’m utterly in love with the main character. I’m just going to say it: this book could be called Bridget Jones Goes to the Races and it wouldn’t be far off the mark. Luckily, I love both Bridget Jones and racing, so this was a match made in heaven for me.

Sweet, lovely, and impressively creative with bad language when she’s pissed off, Pippa Taylor is going through the motions. She’s got a job, she’s got a flat, she’s got a sort-of actor boyfriend who is just bound to get discovered one of these days. She has the requisite bad-girl best friend, she has the requisite lost dream of being an artist — she has everything you need to be a another cog in the machine.

But nothing throws a machine out of whack like a horse. They’re pre-Industrial Age, they defy all logic, and we love them without reason. And while Pippa is no horsey girl, when she inherits a pair of Thoroughbreds from her uncle, she’s struck by not just the inherent promise in a horse, but by the dream that her uncle had for one of them.

That’s Peace Offering, and like every horse, he comes with baggage. His racing history is rubbish, for one thing. His trainer is a bad-tempered Horse Racing Ken Doll, for another. Peace Offering immediately starts changing Pippa’s life in all sorts of crazy fashions, as horses do.

Hooton’s evocative imagery and crisp writing sets this story apart from the competition. Here’s Pippa meeting a yard of racehorses for the first time:

She stopped at the first stable and peeked inside. Suddenly, half a ton of horseflesh came hurtling towards the door, teeth bared, ears pinned back. Pippa gave a startled yelp and jumped out of harm’s way. She yelped again as she collided with a neat cutlery set of pitchforks and spades leaning against the wall.

I loved the National Hunt racing setting. Like most Americans, I know about Cheltenham and the Gold Cup and the King George V in a sort of abstract fashion: they’re steeplechases in England. I know that… that… um… well, they happen. I’ve sat up at odd hours watching the jumps racing and I absolutely love it… riding a steeplechasing course is definitely on my bucket list. (Some might say it ought to be the last item on my bucket list.) I know about Kauto Star. If pressed I would say Haydock is a horse and not a place but I’d have to Google it.

Despite holding an exercise riders’ license, when it comes to jumps racing, I’m kind of a Pippa:

“Who’s Virtuoso?”

Jack shook his head helplessly.

“We won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with him earlier this year. Won eight Grade Ones on the bounce. He’s a bit of a celebrity.”

“I know Cheltenham!” Pippa cried, excited that she knew something to do with horseracing.

The new-to-me setting gave this book a particular charm, especially the very thrilling racing scenes. Thrilling, terrifying, you know — just think how stressful you find it watching your favorite horse (to say nothing of your own) running a six furlong race. Now imagine a three mile race. I wonder if Americans as a society would even survive if we were suddenly forced to watch NH instead of flat racing. Our poor over-taxed hearts would just give out after 2 minutes.

Imagine poor Pippa urging on her horse, only to see a horse fall on the other side of the fence, right in their landing path, that Finn, the jockey can’t possibly know about.

Peace Offering stretched higher and wider to clear the yawning ditch and wall of spruce. Pippa could almost see the surprise register in Finn’s body language when he caught sight of the fallen horse on the landing side.

“Please God, help them.”

They touched down a stride away from Corazon. Peace Offering took half a stride and took off again, hurdling the half-risen faller.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Pippa babbled. She wondered how many other repented sins God would allow her. Another fifteen fences’ worth?

Fifteen fences. At this point I’m sweating and I’m just reading the book.

But that’s one of the many pleasures of Keeping the Peace. With exciting racing scenes, a slow-burning romance, and the delightfully creative swearing (yes, two mentions in one review) that the British have truly mastered, Keeping the Peace is one of my favorite reads this year.

Get it at Amazon!

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Racehorse Training: Everything Old is New Again

This week the racing world prepares for the Preakness Stakes. As all the racing journals focus on the stories behind the trainers who are prepping their three-year-olds for the second leg of the Triple Crown, so the sporthorse writers are featuring the human (horse) interest stories in that mysterious racehorse world.

In doing so, an interesting angle has arisen: the old training models of a man lauded as a True Horseman, Shug McGaughey, and the new training methods of a group of dedicated horsepeople who are providing “before-care” for their racehorses.

Circuitous gallops on training track for Mosaic Racing Stable

Mosaic Racing’s Circuitous mid-October 2011. Photo: Fiona Farrell

In The Chronicle of the Horse, there is an article on Mosaic Racing Stable, a small, New York-based operation whose horses aren’t just galloped around a track. They also learn skills that will come in handy in their second career: a laudably lucid forethought in a business where it’s nearly a given that a horse will need a second job by the time he’s just reaching maturity.

If Mosaic Racing Stable is a familiar name, that might be because contributor Fiona Farrell wrote about their unique training style here at Retired Racehorse Blog last March.

In addition to setting aside 15% of a horse’s earnings towards its retirement, the horses from Mosaic are given basic lessons they’ll use later in life — lesson that also make them happier, healthier horses in the meantime. Founding partner Monica Driver explains their practice of sending the horses to Aiken, S.C., for the winter, where they get some turn-out and hop over fences:

“Horses need downtime from any endeavor, I think. They need time off to graze, hang out and be horses, especially when they’re asked to live in a city and do something as physically and mentally demanding and stressful as training and racing,” she adds. “We don’t believe much in 2-year-old racing, and we don’t believe in year-round racing for our horses.”

Horses learn to bend, go over cavelletti, and walk on a loose rein. It’s not such a go-go-go life for them, and they reward Mosaic with performance: their first racehorse, Vicarious, won more than $100,000 at the racetrack.

What seems insanely forward-thinking in a sport like horse racing really might not be lifted straight out of history. The Mosaic method gets nods from trainers like Michael Matz and Rodney Jenkins. Well that makes sense, right? They’re both former show jumpers. But what about veteran Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens? Jimmy Jerkens, Allen’s son, says:

“Years ago at Belmont, my dad used to use a corral where they’d set up jumps [for steeplechase training],” he recalls. “It was a little course inside of a quarter-mile training track. I remember he had a couple of fillies that were kind of sour from doing the same old thing, and they got a kick out of it, and it seemed to turn them around. When you have a horse that’s very sour, you’ve got to try to do things to turn their heads around. Sometimes things like that are a godsend.”

And that brings us to the other story of the week, the connections of Orb, the handsome Kentucky Derby winner who will try to bring home the Woodlawn Vase, the silver trophy awarded to the winner of the Preakness Stakes each year.

There are many articles out there about Shug McGaughey, Odgen Mills Phipps, and Stuart S. Janney III, and I can’t add much to them, only quote them here. I do know what when Orb (not the horse I had money on) came in first in the Derby, I agreed with my husband when he said “Good for Shug!” This is a man you think of as a horseman in the best possible way, not just in the way that there is a horseman’s entrance at the track. A true horseman. 

Why, when there are a lot of fellas in the horse-racing game who have been training for a very long time? Well in McGaughey’s case, just for starters, you have the pristine record. One drug violation in 34 years, and that one, he says, was a veterinarian error that he felt very badly about. “I try to do what’s best for the horse,” McGaughey tells Sports Illustrated.

In this recent Sports Illustrated article, writer Tim Layden explains the good feeling about a “throwback” trainer and horse:

Orb, meanwhile, is a majestic bay colt, 16 hands tall and — McGaughey guesses — something between 1,000 and 1,100 pounds. He is muscular, yet not thick, and lean, yet not slender. “He’s an old-time looking horse,” says McGaughey. “He’s not like those speedier, blockier-type horses that are very popular today. He’s a homebred, with a homebred pedigree on the female side, and I think he’s a throwback to all that.”

Orb was bred by owners Ogden Mills (Dinny) Phipps and Stuart S. Janney III, longtime horsemen with deep roots in the history of the game. Like earlier generations, they breed horses with the primary goal of racing them, hence their emphasis is on steady development, rather than sudden growth for a stunning appearance in the sales ring or while working a fast eighth of a mile at a two-year-old sale.

Good horses, bred to run. Good trainers, training instead of medicating. Good people, teaching horses the skills they’ll need in the future, beyond the racetrack. It’s been an interesting run-up to the Preakness. I’m looking forward to seeing what all of these good folk bring to the table next.

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Filed under Media Coverage, Outside Sites, Racing