I’m painfully jealous of Lisa Slade, writer for The Chronicle of the Horse, because she got to cover the first segment of the Retired Racehorse Training Challenge at the Maryland Horse Expo, and her write-up is absolutely fantastic. I would have given eye-teeth to have been at the Expo for his. I mean, I have plenty of other teeth, right?
Anyway, the trainers came together to choose their horses for the 30-day training challenge, and ultimately get on their horses for the first time. They had to answer OTTB trivia questions (which are next to impossible, and yes that is a challenge) in order to decide the order of choosing.
I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that I would have chosen Four X The Trouble, the four-year-old who is fresh off the track and looks like a big powerful panther of a horse. Therefore I’m rather delighted that he was chosen by Kerry Blackmer, who worked at the first eventing barn I rode at in Maryland. If she ever reads this she will remember a smudge-faced smart-ass of a sixteen-year-old, but to be fair, I was one of about a dozen and we were all the same.
Kerry rode a hot-tempered little horse who was nicknamed “Dr. Pain,” (I’m not sure what his show name was!) and I’m sure she’s more than capable of taking on the dark horse’s wiggle-worm episodes.
After they selected the horses, they were told:
…Riders were allowed to spend time with the horses on the ground, but they weren’t allowed to sit on them.
“I told them they could sleep in the stalls with the horses if they wanted to, to bond with them, but they couldn’t get on them. Tiffany asked, ‘Can we just get on them once out there just to make sure it’s OK?’ And I said, ‘No, I want this to be as real as possible,’ ” said Pittman.
The next day they fitted out the horses in their own tack for their first ride. I approve of the following statement from Pittman:
“Tiffany has a yoke on her horse, which is what they use at the track. It’s like a martingale, but it’s really an ‘Oh my God’ strap.”
I love yokes. How many of you use them? They’re so magical.
Here is another fun observation from Pittman:
“Notice how they all went on their right lead the first time. It’s partly because these riders know what they’re doing and are really well balanced, but you hear all the time how racehorses don’t know how to go on their right leads, and they all just proved that wrong.”
Saying a racehorse doesn’t know how to go on its right lead puts a person in the same camp as people who drive up your farm lane, bang on your door frantically, and tell you in a panicky scream “Your horses are lying down! They must be sick! They must be dead!”
A racehorse might not know how to bend to the right on its right lead, but neither does Pik Werther Anhalt Z when he’s just started under saddle, no matter where his FEI passport says he was born.
Show me a win photo and I’ll show you a racehorse on its right lead. Unless he’s a clever, crafty racehorse and he swapped back to his left lead in the stretch because he knew his right lead was getting tired.
All in all, everyone was quite happy with their horses and they now have thirty days until everyone convenes again at the Pennsylvania Horse Expo on February 25th.