Well its official – I’m an Equine Polygamist!
After years of saying one horse is enough, I seem to have found myself with another.
West Grey Bay, or Westie, is an Off The Track Standardbred. 10 years old, a respectable racehorse in his day, 15.1hh and if I do say so myself… nice bone and shoulder. Sturdy fellow!
He came to our farm in April as a foster horse with the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society with the intention of me doing the breaking, training, and using him to practice RUS as he had been recommended by Julie to me for this purpose.
He arrived the day I ran my first marathon, so I didn’t get out until later that week to meet him. I think in that one week period I maybe leaned on his back? Then it was byebye Westie and off to France (which I apologize, I still have to write a substantial amount for. Someday. Sommmeeeeeddaaaayyyy….). He did get a ride or two by another one of my coach’s students while I was gone, but essentially he was unbroke.
When I returned, I hopped on his back and rode a little more. He was a natural. Summer Solstice ride came and went, with a Mongol Derby trainee riding and me on the sidelines crewing. In the evenings I went to ride Westie and feeling a little cocky from the weekends ride, I would take him out on the trails. Damn, if he wasnt a star! I thought to myself “this horse should have done summer solstice too!” Even though it was maybe his 4th ride ever (lets say a week broke at that point). So the plan was formulated, he would go to the next ride and do the entry level distance – 15 miles.
Let me interject here and mention, by this point, Westie was already generating a lot of buzz online. Between Instagram and Facebook DMs to me, and requests to OSAS, there were a lot of people keen to try him out. We hadn’t even posted him as ready for adoption, because I am a bit of a perfectionist and 4 rides is hardly enough to call a horse broke/ready for adoption. I want to put out a GOOD well broke horse when my name is attached. We put these aside, he’s not ready for the public just yet!
So we entered the ride, trailered him over, tossed on the saddle and went about the set speed ride. Not 1 mile in, we hear shouts from the other side of the treeline then 3 riderless horses gallop through the break and right at us. That would be enough for any seasoned horse to lose their mind, but Westie kept his cool and I managed to wrangle the spun horses and wait for help. Westie had sealed it then and there… he was too cool to send off. He now has a home. The rest of the ride went by as usual. The horses paced well, he was a little nervous about the vet checks, but he has a good work ethic and managed the distance and anything I asked of him just fine.
So now the plan develops – I could really use a 100 mile horse. Let me just keep him around so I can see what he has in him. I submit my adoption papers. If for any reason I can’t keep him (hey, maybe he doesn’t want to do 100 miles in a day!) he goes back out for adoption, but for now I train him to be my 100 miler.
Fast forward to late September. I hadn’t had as much time to put the work into him that I had hoped (thats another whole saga… or maybe like 4 that I should someday write about). I wanted to jump right into a 50 miler for Oktoberfest, but with only being able to ride 1-2 times a week and mostly skills training (dressage and jumping and just a little bit of goofing off), I downgraded to the 25 Limited Distance with more confidence that it would be a successful experience for him.
This ride was more of a test than anything else… I gave him the reins, let him pick his own speed, and just waited to see what would happen. See what he has in him. Its the complete opposite approach I took from Bentley – who I micromanaged from the start and only recently “saw” what he had in him. Westie has proven himself to be pretty sensible so I just went with it. He practically napped on the start line but once we started, his ears pricked “Oh its a RACE! I know exactly what to do” and off we went, ahead of everyone else – flying down the trail just like we do in training.
After a blistering loop 1 (I think we finished 13 miles in an hour and ten or so, which is even faster than Bentley will do) where he just ate up the terrain – I called him The Plow because no hill nor deep footing would slow him, he pulsed through pretty well and went about business eating. No drama. Nice! Until…. OMG HIS CHEERING SQUAD ARRIVED! Sunny and Spike, his pasture mates arrived a few minutes into our hold and from thereon in, Westie had to be glued to them. 5 feet away was not even acceptable. So most of our hold was spent back at the vetting where Sunny and Spike were doing their pre-ride check.
We went out in loop 2 and he screamed for a good 5 miles or so. It was annoying as hell but at least he kept pace and was still paying attention to my instructions as to handle the tougher sections of trail. Good enough. I blasted some music and discovered that he really seems to like Daft Punk. That surprised me a little! He never struck me as a particularly modern or funky personality lol. He drank really well this loop (he had snubbed most of the troughs on loop 1) which I was happy to see, but he did still hit a wall at about mile 20 (total). He slowed down a little and eventually the rider behind us caught up. We rode together for the rest of the race and he perked up once again.
However, at the end of the ride, he realized we were back in camp, and that’s where he last saw his buddies. He came into camp calling and calling and spun around me looking for them. Needless to say, his heartrate didn’t drop for 12 minutes. Good enough to pass, but by LD rules it set us back to second place (and I just really like having nice tight recoveries! 5 mins is my comfort zone). I can’t blame him at all though, for his second outing ever, it was overall a fantastic job! When it did finally drop, it went from parameters (60bpm) to 44bpm in under a minute and his CRI remained the same. Nice! Once he has some more experience and confidence away from his herd, we are in for some really nice performances I think!
Earlier this week his papers dropped on my desk. He’s officially mine.
Westie is a seriously cool athlete. I am very excited to bring him along for next year and see what more he has in him! Look for us out there… you can’t miss us, just look for a 20mph+ trot or brown red and orange blur!