Yep, Lucky is in the news again!

Lucky to Cope is dancer’s newest partner.

(With cameo by Nanook, who has been renamed Sylvester because, well, look at him.)

Thank you, Susan! See, buy an OTTB, people will interview you! (And if anyone is interested in one of those ballroom dresses, just ask. One’s on ebay right now. There’s another thing–you can’t put a horse on ebay. And now you’d better believe I’d want more for Lucky than I’m asking for the dress–maybe if someone offered me his weight in gold, I’d think about it.)

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

But I went to the barn anyway. Good thing I left early and was not planning to actually ride.

Nor was I planning to precipitate a stampede. In fact, given all four of the herd were at the very far end of their pasture, I was more worried about running the gauntlet in the lanes–Zoey and Dino were out in the lanes, and Zoey assumes that everyone is coming to see him so he gets more than a little personal. I made it past them, and was headed for the far end of the field when J. must have come out to help. P-nut looked up, and two people coming normally means “time to go in!” Now, P-nut is looking much more spry these days (thanks to getting much better feed than he did at his old place) but I didn’t know he could run like that. And, of course, that meant Vandy, Sky, and Lucky had to come charging, too. I probably looked pretty silly swinging the lead at them, but I was not trampled, so that was good. The best part was, when I made it back to the gate, while P-nut was happy to come over for scritches (as P-nut is a very friendly horse) Lucky realized who it was and started walking away again! Fortunately, I had Wint-o-green Lifesavers in my pocket, and Lifesavers have a crinkly wrapper. Yes, Lucky can be bought with crinkles.

We live in the lake-effect snowbelt, and for those who haven’t been watching the weather, we are getting winds and snow. Less snow than last weekend, but the wind is pushing it around. Also, yesterday was rain, so overnight, it all turned to ice. I’m closer to the lake and a tad farther north, so I tend to get more snow than the barn. Still, I had figured it would just be a ‘beauty parlor’ day, and I was right. While J. worked on the stalls, I gave Lucky a scrub with the curry and a little Bath In a Bottle, including picking out all the shavings and straw in his tail. He also was due for a clipping of the bridle path, as it was starting to look more like a mohawk. Yet again, I resisted the urge to give him a crew cut (I think he’d look cute with a roached mane) though J. had to remind him, don’t move when the barber’s working or you get a bad haircut!

Lucky got his first candy cane of the year. I also put candy canes in everyone’s stockings (yes, everyone gets a stocking on their stall door) and found that his pasturemates (ie, their “mom”, C.) had left a bag of horse cookies in Lucky’s. Lucky appreciates his Christmas gift. We tried putting him in his stall instead of trying to fight our way back to the pasture, but he decided to chew on his feed tub bottom. So, J. got the big door and I turned him out in the front paddock, since he obviously wanted to be outside. Where he promptly went and stood in the shelter, which is much less cozy than his stall. But he does set his own agenda.

Sharp-eyed readers of Susan Salk’s blog may have noticed that next week’s edition will feature a certain internet-celebrity thoroughbred! Lucky gets more press than some Derby winners. All to the good, as hopefully Lucky will inspire folks to call on those Finger Lakes’ Finests! It’s down to the wire (no pun intended) at the track, and weather or no, now is the time to buy!

Pedicure Day

For Lucky, not for me. For once, the farrier (Rich) came on a Monday instead of a Tuesday, meaning I was free to get up early on my day off and go out to the barn. The nice part, besides actually getting to talk to Rich in person, was finally getting to meet Zoey’s owner. Z’s Mom is a nice but busy lady, and I did mention if she wants him handwalked or groomed (he’s working an abscess so no riding) and she can’t get out to the barn to let me know and I can always get him out while I’m at the barn. I hope she does call, and she says she’s put her son on notice that she needs free time, too! (Wish I could say the same thing to the dogs. Or potty-train them.) I wouldn’t mind giving Zoey some TLC. He’s a sweetie, even if he did beat up on Lucky when they were out together. He tried that with Dino. Dino may not be tall, but he is wide, and he was having none of that.

We debated heights. Zoey apparently sticks at 16.1 I can see he is taller than Lucky, but not by much. I really need to get a good measuring stick and get an accurate measurement.

Rich is still quite pleased with Lucky’s feet. He is apparently growing lots of sole, and besides one small crack on the left front that doesn’t want to get trimmed away, his feet no longer have the shelly, flaking look they did when he was growing out nail holes. Rich is, as a rule, not a fan of thoroughbred feet. He mentioned Big Brown specifically, and I did point out that his feet were spectacularly bad, even for a thoroughbred. With which he concurred. Lucky, however, has nice feet now, though there was a little bruising on the left hind. Rich also asked if I’d ever ‘opened him up’, and I admitted I had, or at least as much as Lucky felt like opening up. Rich approved, noting sometimes it’s nice to let them get it out of their system. I agree. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun.

The bad part? It was freezing. I rode yesterday in the wind and while Lucky was fine with it, I was done in about a half-hour. Winter is indeed coming, and the fuzzy faces at the barn are no longer the only indicator.

And I caught this fine lady when I got home and was watching TVG’s Finger Lakes simulcasting while doing housework. Someone please go get her. She plainly does not want to be a racehorse any more.

Lucky’s One-Year Anniversary

No, as observant readers of the blog will note, not of his coming to live with me. That’s next month. This week was the anniveresary of Lucky’s last start as a racehorse. It was race four on November 5, 2009, a five and a half furlong sprint on the dirt for a $4000 claim tag and $8500 purse forthoroughbreds three and up, non-winners of two this year . Lucky, the 2 horse, did not go off as the longest money in the field (that dubious distinction went to Chilling Judge), but he did carry the lightest impost of 112 lbs, the nearest horses spotting him seven pounds while most of the field gave him twelve. Lucky, according to the equibase.com chart, “saved ground and tired”, finishing ahead of precisely one horse, fellow seven-year-old Roscommon Express (who would go on to be a 2010 Finest himself), who reared and threw his rider.

This Monday, carrying . . . uh, more than 112 pounds and we’ll leave it at that . . . Lucky galloped a slow quarter mile on an otherwise-empty half-mile dirt oval in the middle of the hayfields in Michigan. To his credit, he jogged up and when I turned him around, did a fine leaping start. To his detriment, he blithely ignored repeated requests to swap and went around the turn on the wrong lead. But it’s not like there was anyone to worry about interference. We then went for a long walk in the woods. The trails have been raked, a lot more of the leaves are off the trees, and it’s starting to be more like winter than like fall. Personally, I’m ready for snow. We even had some Friday that stuck until Saturday morning. The previous week, we did a little jumping, though I’m slowing down on that in preparation for winter, when the footing will mean nothing too exciting. He did manage on Sunday to jump an X three times in a row without knocking anything down. Barrels continue to pique his interest, being one surefire way to get a canter out of him (at least on the last barrel–for those familiar, he goes right-left-left, and he very much enjoys digging in on that lasts barrel and at least kind of extending for home.) We also did a long, slow meander around the property one day, including a brief walk on the road itself.

Now, it being the end of the season at Finger Lakes, as it was last year, like Lucky quite a few horses listed are coming down in price or are being added as it’s clear that racing is just not for them. So for those who might like to jump, race barrels, take slow walks through the words, or play jockey on your very own Finest, here are some for consideration–see if you can beat the deal I got ($600, marked down from $1500):

Blue Ridge Guy: I find it hard to believe this handsome gray guy is not only still on the listings, but now with an asking price of $550. Contact (585) 455-8823

I’m Electric: I had an interesting experience riding Dino this weekend. The B.O. was holding him, and I decided to see if I could swing up from the ground (that just doesn’t happen with Lucky.) What a nice feeling, and if you take home I’m Electric for the negotiable price of $500, you can experience it, too. Shorter is sometimes sweeter! Plus, I never dismiss Tri Jet and his sire Olympia in a pedigree, as I’ve had two and they’ve never been a mistake yet. Trainer contact: (585) 313 – 1998

Dewanna Brushon Me: For those who like a pedigree predicting soundness, here is the piece de resistance. The clue is in the name as this is a grandson of the great handicap horse Broad Brush, making him three generations removed from the great Ack Ack, horse of the year and champion older horse (who also carries the highly-desirable sport lines of damsire Turn-To), himself grandson of the iron horse Armageddon. You want a pedigree that says longevity and soundness, a race record that says “I try harder” (73 starts, 7-3-5, $51,000) and a face that says “Take me home and love me”? Look no further. (No, please, don’t, I have no room for another horse. Buy now, save me from myself.) $500. Please call 787-310-3954.

If You’re Not Almost Falling, You’re Not Almost Learning

Well, Frank Carroll didn’t say the part about “almost.” I owe msj from Chronicle Forums an apology–Lucky did in fact jump me out of the tack, at least enough for my knees to come much higher up his sides than I strictly find comfortable. Ironically he wasn’t actually jumping anything especially high, having knocked one rail down of the X oxer and being very reluctant to go over my strategically-placed buckets (serves me right for giving him something ‘interesting’ to jump.) The next time through, he picked up the canter with substantially less arguing and jumped it without quite so much drama. And, as I pointed out to the B.O., back when I was taking lessons and riding the old OTTB a jump like that and I’d have been eating dirt, so I must be doing something right.

He also seemed somewhat enthusiastic about barrels, actually wanting to run for the finish line (though as long as he takes to get rolling, it’s probably not going to be beating any Quarter Horse gaming types any time soon.) Saturday, and to finish up today, we took it outside. Saturday was just pure play–a little riding on the track, and some wandering through the woods, semi-enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. All the fall colors, and the falling acorns, and the suicide squirrel squadrons racaing across the trails. Lucky did have a leery moment when we came up behind one of the houses next door and they were burning brush in the yard, but he relaxed when the man waved and the woman said hello and he could tell they were people and not horse-eating tree monsters. We pretty much did nothing but tool around, and he got what’s probably his last bath of the season courtesy of the warm weather. He was more than happy to stand there dozing off while I did it. The new puffball kitten, meanwhile, likes to sit and stare at whatever you are doing, even if she has to sneak up very quietly behind you to do it. I actually plopped her on his back in self-defense, as it seemed the place where she was least likely to get stepped on! Lucky didn’t care, the puffball just thought it was interesting to have a better view of the saddle going on.

After riding Lucky on Sunday, I took the B.O. up on the offer to get Takota out. As there are only so many hours in a day and Dino needs all the work he can get, Takota’s had a few weeks off. It showed. Probably the most interesting thing about riding someone else (besides going “WOW, he’s short!” while I was grooming and could actually see across his back) was how used I’ve become to Lucky’s relative unflappability. Takota wasn’t really spooky, he was more fresh and experimenting to see what he could get away with as far as the new monkey on his back went. Answer? Probably not what he wanted to hear. I wouldn’t call any of it a genuine “come to Jesus” meeting but the experiments with bucking at the canter ended right quick. Probably surprised the heck out of him, too. He also was determined to scare himself looking at the woods (something he’s perfectly familiar with and should know better than to spook at) so I had to spend mmost of the time convincing him that it was far less work to come quietly than it was to be a goofball. It was an interesting change from tooling along on Lucky, who naturally tends to prefer the path of least resistance.

In a public service announcement: It’s October, and that means the end of racing at Finger Lakes is coming up sooner than you think. Some horses are already looking for new homes and careers, and since I really haven’t got the place to put another one, please save me from myself and consider horses like Dewanna Brushon Me. Quite the handsome devil, and look at those gentle eyes. For my fellow pedigree fanatics, why yes, that Brush in there stands for Broad Brush, his grandsire, which makes him the great-grandson of the great Ack Ack. And please note one two, not three, but FOUR crosses on Turn-to, so if you’re looking for a sport-horse prospect, won’t you please think of him? All for the low, low price of only $500.

Better Enjoy It, Lucky….

This is probably the only time you will EVER be mentioned in the same sentence as the late, great Black Tie Affair.

Once again, Teresa Genaro of Brooklyn Backstretch has mentioned Lucky, this time in a brief article for the Thoroughbred Times on-line about post-race careers and the recent health and safety summit. While plans for her to visit on her trip out west (hey, I lived in Boston, everything west of Albany might as well be Dodge City) fell through, we WILL get her out to meet Lucky in person, hopefully sooner rather than later! At least some time when it’s summer, and he’s not in all his yak-coated scruffy glory.

It’s still racing season at Finger Lakes, Lucky’s last professional stomping ground (okay, he mostly was getting stomped, not doing the stomping, but still.) That means new horses for the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program Trainer Listings.

This lovely young lady is actually in my Virtual Stable, and it’s true, she’s really just not very talented at being a racehorse. Also, I can vouch that her trainer is, in my experience, up front and easy to deal with. Were I looking to buy right now, I wouldn’t hesitate to consider another horse from him.

And if you want something more like Lucky’s age and price range, and a gelding with some of the kindest eyes you’ll ever see, please consider this fellow, Tri Crusading. He’s in need of a home sooner rather than later, and if I had a stall and time for a second horse, he would be coming home with me, as had Lucky been sold when I called he was next on my list last fall. But I have neither a stall, nor time to work two horses, nor in fact the up-front cash I’d need to ship him out here. So someone needs to capitalize on my lack of unlimited resources and scoop him up for a song.

OT Day: A Rant From a Rerider

Yes, this is a rant post. Nothing to do with Lucky, who is still fine. I’m tempted to rant about the cat (whichever one it was) that peed in the living room. However, that happens.

No, instead, this is triggered by a rash of posts lately on Chronicle Forums of people “outing” owners whose horses end up in kill pens, demanding registration papers from a breeder on a yearling filly purchased as a grade quarter horse who turned out to be a freeze-branded Standardbred given away unpapered by her breeders, and general attempts to form lynch mobs based on horses bought from brokers as ‘rescues.’ Strictly speaking, they are saved, as the brokers can ship to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. And obviously, the brokers didn’t pluck these horses out of thin air.

But I’m not tying up the noose. I’m not ready to string up old owners or create blacklists of trainers or march on the breeding farm demanding papers.

Brokers: I don’t hold their jobs against them. I’m not prepared to keep every horse forever, pay for euthanasia and safe disposal of a barbiturate-contaminated body for every horse that doesn’t have a home. And I certainly don’t blame brokers for marking up their horses when they’re selling them to would-be rescuers. They didn’t put the horses in an auction where anyone can bid on them, and most do not get into massive bidding wars–if someone else wants a horse and is willing to pay, they bid on something else.

Owners and breeders: As far as selling at a low-end auction–no, it’s not something I’m likely to do. Certainly not Lucky-he’s the kind of horse a private buyer would buy. And I would hope that if I did have a horse that no one wanted and I couldn’t keep, or who was genuinely dangerous, I would have the cojones to put him down myself or find someone with a humane killer. But I don’t own every horse in the world (thank God; I don’t have that kind of money.) I don’t want people coming into my barn and telling me what I can and cannot do with my own horse, and therefore I’m not going into other people’s barns doing likewise. I wouldn’t chemically euthanize if at all avoidable, either–I’d rather have a body that can be safely buried, composted, or fed out. Some people think that’s horrible. Some people probably think it’s horrible I don’t use boots or polos to ride, I don’t have six blankets for every possible weather condition, and that I’ll use a bit stronger than a Dee ring if I think it’ll get me better results. When they’re paying me to ride their horse, their opinions will matter. Likewise, if I’m buying their horse, their means of selling it is my business, but if I’m not putting my money where my mouth is, my mouth stays shut. And who am I to DEMAND that a breeder register every last horse that hits the ground? Because the horse ‘deserves its identity?’

Bull. Shit.

(It’s my blog and I’ll swear if I want to.)

The situation, for those who don’t want to prowl the forums: a person purchased a horse from a broker lot long-distance. The horse was auctioned, advertised, and purchased as a suspected Quarter Horse with no papers. When she arrived, she was freeze branded, and turned out to have come from a Standardbred farm. The new owner informed the breeders (I assume politely) that they’d bought the horse from a ‘kill buyer’ and traced her via her brand, and would the breeder provide the registration papers. The breeder (also politely, I would assume) replied that they have given the filly away to someone who had apparently sent her to auction, and no, they would not turn over the papers. The new owner’s friend posted on the forums seeking a way to circumvent the breeders, saying that the purchaser is entitled to the papers so that the filly might be trained to race or bred. When it was pointed out that first, the USTA will provide ‘pleasure papers’ to horses in precisely the filly’s situation (something I don’t think any other registry does) allowing the horse to be sold or shown as a registered Standardbred, but not raced or bred, and second, the filly probably did not end up being given away because she was a promising broodmare or race prospect, the story became that the horse was entitled to its identity, and that having papers would “protect” it in the future.

Two things about this hacked me off. First, there is often a call for breeders to be responsible for their horses. People who have never been commercial or race breeders insist that there are too many Thoroughbreds or Standardbreds rescued, that the breeders must be responsible for and prepared to “take back” any horse they ever bred that falls on hard times, no matter where or when. They breed too many, those horses gets raced and broken down, they should be responsible. Well, this breeder apparently tried to be responsible by culling a filly that for whatever reason they not only didn’t think should be raced, but was not a good candidate to be kept as a broodmare. Or maybe they simply couldn’t afford to keep a yearling, pay her upkeep, until she was old enough. In any case, they opted to give her away without papers (and so far there isn’t any indication the papers exist any more). Now, could they have done a better job “rehoming” her? Apparently. But I don’t see people lining up at breeders’ doors for horses that aren’t quite right for the track. I do see breeders getting rid of excess stock being told they just breed too much. Since I’ve never met a horse who lived free, what exactly were they supposed to do if no buyers came calling? The old practice of taking the culls out behind the barn with a shotgun slug isn’t exactly a fan favorite, either. Was the “moral” option to try and sell a horse that they didn’t believe in as a racehorse to the racing market anyway, likely setting her on the road to a low-level career and being sold off after she’s broken down? Yeah, she was given away to someone who turned out not to have her best interests at heart. But shy of running a background check on every person interested in one of their horses, what should a breeder do when no one turns up with cash? Or there’s nowhere to advertise, or no one is biting where they do? How many cheap craigslist horses get passed over until they are in broker lot, marked up from their craigslist price with a week to go until they ship to Canada, when suddenly they’re a cause? What’s a breeder with culled stock supposed to do if there’s only interest once the horse is on the proverbial Death Row, and someone else is pocketing the money?

Second thing that hacked me off was the idea that the filly herself “deserves” her papers, and that somehow having papers in hand will protect her. The more I think on it, the more problems I have with this argument. The smallest and easiest to address is that in this case, this horse DOES have an identity. It’s branded on her neck for life. It’s obviously easy to trace as they found her breeders. Second, almost as easy to address–just because you have papers in a auction office that supposedly go with that horse, how do you know? If it’s not a TB or an STB who’s been tattooed or branded, how do you know this “Bay Quarter Horse Mare” is the one the broker is selling you? There are stories of brokers tossing papers in trash cans, keeping a set they use over and over for trips across the border where the named horses are long gone, and at least one case turned up on Another Chance For Horses where AC4H was fairly certain the papers that had come with the mare weren’t hers. Third, if you are not planning to breed or race, what exactly do you need those papers for? The Jockey Club requires they be handed on without charge to owners, but sometimes papers are lost, left in a track office, sitting in the wrong file. If you aren’t breeding, and if you are buying horses out of auction pens chances are you aren’t or shouldn’t be for a variety of reasons, and you aren’t going to race them (and horses who make profitable race horses and are likely to KEEP making money generally don’t get sold per pound–they are being dumped because they are no longer cost-effective for whatever reason) what does that paper do?

Fourth, and the more I think the more horrible this argument is, is the idea that simply having papers ‘protects’ the horse. I can’t even begin to describe how many things are wrong with this argument. The most glaring is: that horse you pulled out of a kill pen who had papers? WAS IN A KILL PEN, MORON. Having papers didn’t keep him from ending up there in the first place. Second, it assumes that horses ONLY have value if they are a purebred with papers to prove it. Performance and utility mean nothing without that little slip saying they can trace their parentage to some foundation sire or other. I grew up riding grade horses who were by and large not purebred anything and whose parents weren’t even known, they were so far removed from their breeding. That didn’t make them worthless–my friends and neighbors had them to ride, to have in the backyard to keep the grass down, to cross on a donkey to get a nice-looking mule. They had value because of what they DID, not who their sire and dam were. Not as much as, say, a warmblood bred from imported semen and a branded, inspected mare, but the people who owned them weren’t going to buy a $20,000 horse in the first place. And it’s not just backyards–my brother currently lessons at a very nice barn in New York, where one of the horses he routinely rides is a good old-fashioned American Mutt, as far as they know. He doesn’t look like a warmblood, he doesn’t seem to be a thoroughbred, he might be a quarter horse cross of some kind, but as he was seized by the SPCA, he didn’t come with papers and a life history. What he did come with was a love of jumping fast! Does he have value? Well, he’d probably be for sale for the right price, but it’s not a price I could ever afford! Is he unprotected because he has no papers? No, because he is a trained horse who is valuable because of what he does.

Conversely, by the standards of those who think even setting foot on a track (because horses only break down from racing, donchaknow, and race owners don’t care about their welfare at all) is putting the horse in danger, and hey, claiming ranks, anyone can take him home, is Lucky safe because I have his papers? Because with those papers, I can race him if I want to (until he’s old enough the stewards won’t allow me to restart him, at any rate.) If he were intact or a mare, I could breed him as many times as I wanted for sale–he probably wouldn’t produce much of note, but there’s a market for low-end racers, at least until they need to be moved on and no one wants them until they’re a rescue. If I didn’t have his papers, it wouldn’t matter if he was able to breed–they’d be unregisterable. I couldn’t race him.

And also–isn’t the assumption that the person who is buying that horse out of a kill pen does not want that horse to end up back in the lot and on the truck. So, exactly what sort of protection does the horse need? If they are indeed a cheap grade horse, is this new owner going to sell him to anyone who shows up with cash? Do they care less about the horse because it doesn’t have papers in hand? If I bought a horse, it is MY RESPONSIBILITY. Whether it has papers or not, if I care about that horse not ending up someplace less than pleasant, be it a kill pen, a barbed-wire pen, or turned loose to starve to death in a state park somewhere, I have to be responsible. If I am the “forever home” and I will never sell, I need to plan for that, including what to do if I am no longer able to care for him. If I sell him, I need to know who is buying him. I need a bill of sale showing how much they paid and where they came from. I need to check on where they’re going to keep him, see for myself that references are real. And then I need to acknowledge that once I do sell, I no longer have control, and I have to accept that. Maybe, if the horse doesn’t have papers or isn’t even a purebred anything, I don’t get quite as much money. But if I wanted to sell horses for huge profits in specific breeds, I would be going out looking for proven animals or well-bred ones. If I am reselling a horse I “upgraded”, from craigslist or a kill pen, I am presumably doing it mostly to give that horse a chance at a better life. A horse without papers is not less deserving of that courtesy.

I got a snotty reply that don’t I have papers for Lucky? Yes, yes I do. They’re in the same muddy envelope Jared put them in when he sold Lucky to a buyer seven hundred miles away on the basis of a few phone calls and an overnighted check, who’d only known the horse existed because FLTAP provides a means for trainers to shop these horses to buyers not in the Farmington area. They were handy for checking his tattoo against his papers (mixups do happen, and one bay 16hh TB can look a lot like another!) and I haven’t had any call to need them since. Did I want his papers? Sure.

Here’s the difference: I was purchasing Lucky To Cope, a 2002 bay gelding by Lucky Lionel out of Copenqueen by Copelan, foaled in Florida, last owner and trainer of record Jared Schoeneman, last start on November 5, 2009, at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, Farmington, New York. That was the horse advertised by name, examined by a vet for me, whose personality and behavior I inquired about. Did I want the easiest method of making sure the horse my hauler brought off the trailer was in fact the horse I paid for? Of course, and checking his tattoo against his papers is easier than checking it against the tattoo search.

I was NOT purchasing a bay gelding, presumably a thoroughbred, tattoo says a 2002 model, number might match a horse named Lucky To Cope, but those ARE hard to read, out of an auction back lot where the broker has no idea who the last owners were or why he’s there. If I call up Camelot or Enumclaw or the intermediaries at AC4H and buy hip #101, I just bought a bay thoroughbred. He might have papers. They might be sitting in a track office. They might have gone in the auction garbage can. If I can identify him and if some previous owner is found and IF they have the papers and hand them over, that’s nice. If the tattoo’s unreadable, if the last owner is dead or moved to Argentina or just never returns my calls…I still own that horse. I’m still responsible for that horse. The only one who is going to guarantee he never ends up in a Canadian feedlot is, guess who, ME. Not his breeders, not his old owners, certainly not the broker who’s just making a living off horses no one else wanted to buy when anyone could buy them, but me, the one who plunked down the cash for an unknown quantity. Just the same as if he was sired by shipped semen from an Olympic gold-medal-winning stallion with an embryo transfer from a Rolex-winning mare with papers for three registries, I am responsible for protecting him, even if he’s a Cremello Arapintapalaloosa Spotted Walking Pony with donkey ears who has no value except as an object lesson in why you shouldn’t breed it just because its genitals are functional. I bought it, I am responsible for its welfare.

The best way to be responsible for that horse? Make it the best citizen it can be. It might have all the papers in the world but if it kicks the crap out of you for coming in its stall or trying to saddle it, if it can’t be ridden except by the lab-created offspring of George Morris, Alois Podhajski and Julie Krone and then only if that uberrider is having a REALLY good day, if it is just a bad-mannered, poorly-trained horse, you might as well shred those papers yourself because the horse can’t be used, and no one in their right mind or who cared about a breed would want it to reproduce itself. Conversely, it might only be a plain bay backyard-bred quarter/paint/whatever grade horse, but if it can jump a 2’6″ course neatly, pack the little lesson kids around, or handle an all-day trail ride with phlegmatic aplomb and will even forgive the new guy in the barn brushing his hair backwards and mixing up the fly spray with the Show Sheen, that horse has value. Lucky is never going to make little racehorses, he’s never going win money at the track (unless we move to a state where on-line gaming is legal and he learns to hack my TVG account), but you can put a little kid on him. You can float his teeth without a tranquilizer. You can gallop him in a field and then ask him for an even trot in an arena. I’m not selling him, but if I wanted to, he has value, not because of what his papers say, but what he does.

You want to save horses? Give breeders, owners, and trainers ways to market the horses that don’t suit their purposes BEFORE it’s the last day of the season, they have nowhere to go, and nowhere to winter the horses. Do not tell them what horrible people they are and tell them you’re “saving” their horse from them. Go to an auction and outbid the kill buyer. And when you have that horse, teach him to be useful. And don’t sell him if you aren’t comfortable with where he’s going. The papers aren’t going to save the horse from future disaster. You are.

A Few Thoughts on Off-Track Thoroughbreds, Take Two

In which I learn a valuable lesson about not saving drafts when using QuickPress.

There has been a sea-change in how people purchase off-track thoroughbreds. Back when we bought my first horse, we did everything wrong. I had read all the right books (Marguerite Henry’s Black Gold, Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion, the entire Saddle Club series to date.  On a side note, as I won’t be out to the barn again until after Christmas, maybe my next blog will be about some of the more obscure horse-crazy titles I’ve scrounged over the years.) I had learned to ride at an Arabian farm, and settled on hunt seat almost by default. Hunt seat was what the riders at the Olympics did (dressage was flat work and boring), and thoroughbreds were the horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby. And the way to buy one of those horses was through a hunter-jumper trainer with ‘connections.’

The trainer had an in on the backside of the old Ladbrooke DRC. She would pick up horses through her connection who were injured, slow, or otherwise unsuited to life even at the claiming levels (a concept unknown to us at the time) and turn them around quickly. Most of her students were children and first-time owners, and her objective was to get them onto the low-level rated circuit as quickly as possible. Doing this required a quick gelding for the males requiring it, and judicious application of the lunge whip, standing martingale, pelham absent a curb rein, and for the real incorrigibles, draw reins and side reins. We had never seen a racehorse off the track. That they would be hot, go inverted, and be jumping after six weeks over a 2’6″ course was normal, if the trainer said so. That putting a twelve-year-old whose prior experience was limited to backyard ponies and Arab school horses on one was responsible and the best way to learn also seemed like a good idea. Besides, how else was one supposed to come by an inexpensive example of the ultimate athlete breed?

With the advent of the internet, access to horses off the racetrack has changed dramatically in the twenty-odd since my last purchase.  Groups like CANTER (Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses) and the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program.  FLTAP in particular has an interesting story, as their adoption program was created with the cooperation of Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack in Farmington, New York and was the first track-based adoption program.  FLTAP and CANTER have also revolutionized the resale process for OTTBs by offering not just adoption horses but by creating their Trainer Listings programs.   Instead of needing to find someone (a trainer, a broker) with a connection on the “inside”, trainers’ phone numbers and descriptions of the horses they’d like to sell to non-racing homes can be found by anyone with an internet connection.  The Finger Lakes Trainer Listings were where I found Lucky To Cope.

Lucky is what’s known as an ‘old campaigner.’  At seven, he’s had sixty-four starts, almost all in Florida at Calder, Tampa Bay, and Gulfstream Park (where he won an allowance on turf.)  Like most of the track world’s older-statesmen, he worked his way down the levels.  Reasonably competitive on turf, he nevertheless started to run out of conditions.  On dirt, he earned his keep but again kept sliding down into the lower claiming ranks until he was claimed by a local trainer at Finger Lakes.   His trainer couldn’t afford to winter him over to make a track pony out of him, and when the FLTAP listings volunteers came by, he put him up for sale, where I eventually came across his ad.

Why Lucky?  His picture and his description put him on my short list.  I was looking for a horse who could potentially become a field (fox) hunter, and a horse who liked to run on turf, gallop long, and had the brains to be a track pony was a good candidate.  The trainer liked him, and was selling him because of the cost of overwintering, not for unsoundness.  FLTAP volunteers who worked at the track liked him and praised his ‘gentleman’s’ manners.  His price was down to $600.  It was still a tough call between him and my second choice, a five-year-old gelding with nine starts and a temperament described as being for those who liked a little less excitement.

The other ‘internet revolution’ in thoroughbred resales decided me in Lucky’s favor.  That is access to sites like equineline, equibase, brisnet, and even the user-generated pedigreequery. I could, with a little searching and willingness to learn, read on his past performances, and look up his ancestry, mostly for free.

This is the bloodline for Lucky To Cope.  Most notably to me, he has, via the mare Crafty Nan, a War Admiral grandson named Crafty Admiral on his sire’s side.  And on his dam’s side, in the fourth generation, there is a relatively obscure stallion, bred in Kentucky, stood in Florida, named Greek Game.

Compare that pedigree to this, my first horse: Bold McKinnon

So we’ll see how it goes the second time around.

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