A Day In The Life: From OTTBs to One Lucky STDB, by Julia Jesu June 26 2013, 1 Comment
I am a professional trainer on the eastern shore of MD, specializing in retraining OTTBs for new careers in eventing and the hunter rings. I was recently approached by a "first time horse buyer who fell in love with a standardbred mare." I try to keep a very open mind about all breeds and their abilities, but when she told me they had never owned horses and had just purchased a Standardbred mare, who by the way was still at the track barn, for their 8 year old daughter who had been taking lessons for about a year, I was beyond slightly hesitant. She explained to me that they would like the mare to do local showing and essentially just be their family horse. They had wanted to take on a horse that would otherwise perhaps ended up in a bad situation ad when they met her they just "fell in love". While i don't think that anything off any track is appropriate for an 8 year old child, after speaking with the mother it was clear they were going to purchase the mare either way and even if she didn't work for them, they would provide her with a forever home. I decided to accept the challenge.
We picked up the mare, Natasha, from her training barn the on the afternoon of June 13th, in-between crazy storms. She walked quietly out of her stall, and just stood there starring inquisitively at me. I was shocked - she was lovely! And as I started to look around at all the other heads sticking out from the stalls I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were all lovely. As I said earlier, I try not to be breed biased, but we all know the stereotypical picture if someone says "standardbred".......plain bay with a "jug head"......yet none of these horses fit that description. There were of course many bays, a few chestnuts, and even a big grey - almost all of which had beautiful heads. (I even tried to take a 3 year old home with me, however the trainer said she was doing too well to retire and had to run again Monday night.) I found myself saying out loud over and over again "wow, they're so pretty!" I had to wonder if the trainer was getting offended by my repeating of the comment, but I just couldn't help myself. They were all fat, shiny, dappled, happy, refined headed Standardbreds - what a pleasant surprise!
Natasha, who is 4 years old and had a lack luster racing career, walked quietly down the aisle way, took one last look around, and hopped into the trailer to head to my farm. When we got there, she walked off the trailer as quietly as she had walked on, marched into the barn, and happily went into her new stall and started munching hay like she'd been there forever. She had a small scrape on her ankle that the trainer said was a couple weeks old, so I wanted to clean it up. Keep in mind I'm used to taking TBs off the track, chain over the nose, nervous, unsettled, pacing their stalls. Well, not Natasha the Standardbred! She marched into the wash stall on a loose lead, let me scrub her wound and clip it. She then quietly stood while I clipped her fetlocks, muzzle, and ears......UNHEARD OF! After that I put her away for the night.
Today (June 14th) will be her first day of training to be a riding horse. She is a trotter, not a pacer, so that in itself is helpful. She seems so good natured and quiet that I think she will be one of the easiest horses I've ever worked with. I would love to do weekly updates on her progress while she is here, I'm already very much impressed with her - who would have guessed it!
Close Up Show Stables
Natasha in her stall.
The lovely, dappled miss Natasha!
All tacked up and getting ready to ride.
Thank you, Julia, for sharing Natasha's story. We'd love to get updates from you for people to follow Natasha and her family as you guide them through the retraining process and work with her to make her a happy family horse. I (CJ here) am also an OTTB person myself, and in the past year got more involved in STDBs as they are prominent where I live in northern NJ/Goshen NY area. In addition to working with them off the track, I've also had the pleasure of riding them on the track - yes you read that right! Currently I'm working towards my Racing Under Saddle (also known as Monte Racing) license through the USTA and hope to be able to actually compete in some under saddle races with active STDBs this summer and fall. I have to say that after starting TBs for the track for years, riding STDBs is an entirely new - and fun - experience. They are level headed, and riding out on the racetrack is an amazing feeling!
We look forward to hearing more from Julia about Natasha and her progress, and I'll be sure to share some of my STDB stories as well, including a white trotter I may get to race on!
CJ & The ISellTack.com Team