Champions of any breed

At this blog, we talk a lot about Thoroughbreds.

There’s a simple reason for this: I’m obsessed with Thoroughbreds, and it’s my blog. Retired Racehorse Blog was originally conceived to be a training diary about one retired racehorse, Final Call, and if you go back far enough in the archives, you’ll see all those old posts, from the day I went to try him out at a training center in Ocala, to the day of his first hunter pace.

(We won that hunter pace, by the way.)

Of course, a retired racehorse doesn’t have to be a Thoroughbred. It could be a Quarter Horse, or an Arabian, or a Paint, or an Appaloosa, or, I guess, a pony if you consider those pony races like the Shetland Pony Grand National. All of those breeds have regulated racing associations. Maybe not ponies. But the others do. (Fun Natalie fact: I was once a groom at a prominent Arabian racehorse farm which had won several breeders’ awards and served owners with familiar names like Darley and Godolphin.)

pony racing, New Zealand

Ponies race in New Zealand. All blogs should be required to post a picture of ponies racing. Flickr: Mollivan Jon

And then, if you really want to broaden the job description of a rah-rah-retired-racehorse spokesperson such as myself, you could argue that we aren’t just touting the Thoroughbred racehorse as a supreme equine being (although we are) but that we’re also suggesting that the diamonds in the rough often shine brightest of all, whether they are Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse or Shetland Pony or Grade-Without-A-Clue.

I do suggest that. I insist it, as a matter of fact. The found horse, the unwanted horse who is suddenly very much wanted, the nag that turned into a best friend, the plug that turned into a champion, that’s at the very heart of all pony dreams, isn’t it?

And in that spirit, I present to you Elizabeth Letts’ new blog, Do You Have The Next Eighty Dollar Champion?

Eighty Dollar Champion bumper sticker

Do you have one of these on your trailer?

You remember Elizabeth Letts. She wrote the lovely biography The Eighty Dollar Champion, which happens to be about a plow horse auction-find who goes out and beats Thoroughbreds. I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about that, obviously, but what can you do? This horse had the heart of a champion, and all he needed was the right person to bring it out and show the world. Not to mention, he was one truck-ride away from slaughter when Harry De Leyer noticed him and insisted on buying him. This is a story that transcends breed snobbery (and I fully admit to being a card-carrying breed snob).

The review of The Eighty Dollar Champion I posted here at Retired Racehorse continues to be not just the most popular book review on the site, but one of the most popular blog posts I’ve ever put up, which just goes to show you that the story of a nag from nowhere beating the big boys continues to be a universally popular subject. And, recognizing that, Letts’ new blog lets readers send in the stories of their own unlikely champions, from a cribbing Thoroughbred nobody wanted who is now rocking the eventing divisions, to a severely neglected Clydesdale  now making a stir at the local dressage shows.

Do you have an eighty dollar champion? I know I’ve had a few. Some cost more than eighty dollars, sure, and some cost nothing at all. The word “champion” would probably have to be used loosely in a competitive sense, but not in an emotional sense. If you’ve ever had a horse touch your heart, or change your life, you know that’s worth more than any dollar amount you could name.

So here’s my challenge to you, readers. Visit Do You Have an Eighty Dollar Champion? and read the stories. Read them with tissues handy. Then, send Letts your story. Because you know you have one. You don’t have to be a great writer, or even a terrible writer… you just need a photo and a paragraph about that one special horse who defied the odds dealt him and the value society assigned him.

And here’s one more thing. Leave a comment, either here, or at the Retired Racehorse Blog Facebook page (the link to this blog post would be great), with the one quality that makes your horse a true champion. It could be “courage.” It could be “forgiving.” It could be “gentle with my child.” It could be anything. There are no limits to what makes a horse great.

Two random commenters will receive a great bumper sticker, courtesy of The Eighty Dollar Champion, that reads “80 $ CHAMP ON BOARD.” It’s going to look great on your trailer!



Filed under Book Reviews, Stereotypes, Success Stories

6 responses to “Champions of any breed

  1. lynn sullivan


  2. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. That’s Calabar in a nutshell. 🙂

  3. I didn’t know you worked at an Arabian racing farm! I love the Breyer model horse peeking out from the bookshelf 😉

  4. Character. And that he’s my first horse, and such a sweet guy, even if he does have the occasional meltdown. I love him to death!