Nine Thoroughbreds that had been donated to Remember Me Rescue were sent to nine trainers for 120 days. They performed Sunday afternoon, but on Saturday and Sunday morning they cleaned up against older horses of all breeds in the horse show. I was judging the show as well and kept wanting to cheer on those green Thoroughbreds, but judges aren’t allowed to do that!
I always learn from these kinds of training events. I was particularly impressed by Elliot Holtzman. His horse, Jonesicula, fractured his withers in a pasture accident one month into the challenge and he could only do ground work after that. Rather than pull out he performed in the arena with the horse on a rope, making a compelling pitch for him as a riding horse, and offering a free month of training to any buyer when the vet clears the horse for riding.
Kim Alford rode the war horse of the event, nine year old Devil’s Apprentice. Their flat work and jumping were like an experience horse both with and without a saddle, but the way they ambled along the rail throwing t-shirts into the stands with the little girl on board was kind of amazing.
Lee Johnson was given a horse, Master Tone, just coming three and he normally rides jumpers. I heard him being interviewed at the end, explaining how concerned he was about the horse’s age, and how he decided to never really to ask the horse for much because he was a baby. Instead he just let the horse offer. Well, toward the end of the training the horse offered to jump small fences. His canter was so balanced that he won the cross rail hunter classes by a mile. For his performance he did flying changes and jumps with no bridle. He sold me on the horse completely, but Pat Dale of Maryland was there to volunteer and she also fell for him. She put in the highest bid and will take him home with her.
The horse who won, Miss Zanjero, was a five year old mare. When I judged her in the hunter classes I couldn’t believe that she only had 120 day of training. She had perfect changes, perfect rhythm, perfect balance, and such lovely form over the fences. When she and her trainer, Wendy Thompson, entered the arena for the Battle she was in harness pulling a sulky. I swear this mare never put a foot wrong. She was totally happy, careful, and interested even with that contraption attached to her. Wendy sat so tall and proud behind her that she was almost floating on a cloud. When they unhooked and tacked her up she never moved her feet. Wendy hopped aboard and they stepped right into a canter and headed for their first jump. After jumping their course Wendy disounted and Miss Zanjero bowed. I held back tears, but my co-judge Cathy Jennings did not. Wow.
All the horses were auctioned to approved bidders at the end. Prices for Thoroughbreds in Texas aren’t what they are where I’m from, but the process was fun and every sale was accompanied by hugs, tears, and applause.
I was a spotter for auctioneer Tim Jennings, husband of judge Cathy and owner of Flashpoint Bloodstock, LLC. One little girl in the part of the stands I was watching was trying so hard not to cry but just kept bawling. Her dad was trying to comfort her and I kept wondering what had happened. When bidding started on one of the horses the kid really lost it. Tears were running like a river. That horse sold for $1,000. Then Tim made the surprise announcement that Donna Keen had purchased the horse for that same little girl. Seems that her mother, Cassie Black, was the trainer and this kid had never shown much interest in horses until she met Texas Citizen. Donna had heard the story, checked in with the parents, and donated the money to buy the girl the horse. Now the kid was crying tears of joy and she and her little sister were in the arena jumping all over that Thoroughbred like he was their new puppy. Texas Citizen just lowered his head and soaked up wet hugs.
Remember that winning mare Miss Zanjero and her young trainer Wendy Thompson? Well I was spotting a woman who was bidding on that horse as well, and it got a little north of $6,000 before Tim closed the bidding. I felt terrible for Wendy. How could she part with such a magnificent horse that she obviously was head over heels in love with? To my surprise Wendy burst into tears of joy at the word “Sold!” She hugged that mare so hard around the neck I thought she might choke. That woman I was encouraging to up her bid was buying the horse so Wendy could keep the ride. That’s where I got choked up. That mare and that girl make magic together and the lady who bought that mare deserves a medal.
I came home from Texas with new ideas for marketing Thoroughbreds and a new group of friends. Hopefully we will all meet them in Kentucky for the Makeover.