SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

September 10, 2011

Thoroughbred Heritage

Warning:  longest blog post in history commences.

One of the exciting things about bringing home a gen-yew-wine (that's how we say it in NC) racehorse is that he comes with a paper trail.  His every move has been watched and logged since he set foot on a track and his family tree has been carefully charted.  So, as you can imagine given my irrepressible curiosity, I set out on a google quest and discovered that I had stumbled upon a pot of gold.

Watch Encore (running as "Joyous Jester") break his maiden with a bang at Pimlico in 2008. Well, now I know he can gallop.

Encore was bred for speed, stamina, and heart; his pedigree reads like a review of the TB leading sires list.  Great names that have almost been forgotten in modern racing spring off the page, as well as a few horses who were founders of the modern jumping sporthorse.  Settle in for a tour of the kings of racing and of the unstoppable heart of the Thoroughbred horse.

AP Indy
As I mentioned in my previous post, Encore is an AP Indy grandson.  AP Indy was purchased as a yearling in 1990 for a whopping $2.9 million, which turned out to not be such a bad investment.  In racing alone, he won almost $3 million and was crowned Horse of the Year in 1992.  He went on to even greater heights in the breeding shed, where he stood for $150,000 per cover until 2011, when he became infertile.  In 2003 and 2006, he was the leading TB sire in the country.  He sired many fantastic horses, one of which was Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness winner who was the first stallion chosen to breed the champion racemare, Zenyatta.

Encore's damsire is Allen's Prospect, a Kentucky-bred stallion, purchased at Keeneland's famous yearling sale for $560,000 (that was a heck of a lot of money in 1983).  A son of Mr. Prospector, he ended up siring a greater percentage of winners than the famed Storm Cat (who has a $500,000 stud fee) and topped both Seattle Slew and Unbridled in national stallion rankings.  He is also known for siring a number of VERY good jumpers and eventers, particularly through his broodmare line.   

It only gets better from here.  His papers include, from the USA:

Secretariat:  Does he even need an introduction?  Just in case you live under a rock, I wrote about him here.

Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew:  The only undefeated Triple Crown winner (1977),  the renowned tough guy Slew won the Eclipse Award in 1976 AND 1978, was awarded Horse of the Year in 1978, was the Leading Sire of 1984, and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1995 and 1996.  Before he died, Slew sired an amazing 7 North American champions and 1 European champion.  Encore inherits his toughness and speed from both his sire and dam's lines.

Mr. Prospector:  Descended from the Darley Arabian through Eclipse, Mr. P earned the affection of many.  He had the misfortune of racing in the same year as Secretariat AND Forego and it is a testament to his courage and speed that he came second to both.  A Leading Sire 6 times, Mr. P sired a winner of each Triple Crown race, as did his grandson, Unbridled.  He is buried at Clairborne Farms between his old rival, Secretariat and the Canadian legend, Nijinsky.

Swaps:  This 1955 KY Derby winner broke records left and right.  Named Horse of the Year in 1956, reporters wrote that Swaps would "go to the front of the race and say goodbye."  Also in '56, he fractured his leg in three places and most parties agreed he would have to be destroyed.  Swaps would have none of it -- he hung in a custom-built sling in his stall for four weeks and trotted out at the end of it to live a long life.

Nashua:  In 1955, he beat Swaps in a match race when the latter had an infected foot.  The two were hearty rivals and Nashua won out as Horse of the Year in 1955, when he won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.  He won over $1 million and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.  He stood at Claiborne with his sire, the Irish champion Nasrullah.

Citation:  In 1948, Citation won the Triple Crown and went on racing until he was 6 to become the first horse in history to win over $1 million.  Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959, he held the American record on a dirt track for 30 years until Spectacular Bid blew it wide open.  Citation is listed as #3 on the list of Greatest Horses of the 20th Century (he trails only Man O' War and Secretariat) but he won far more races than either legend.

War Admiral:  Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, this son of Man O' War was only 15.3 but he won both the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year in 1937.  He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and was a Leading Sire in 1945.

Bold Ruler
Bold Ruler:  As a colt, Bold Ruler was so accident-prone that Bull Hancock (owner of Claiborne Farm) would hide him behind the barn in his own paddock so visitors wouldn't see him.  He was forever cutting his legs to pieces and once nearly bit off half of his own tongue.  Nevertheless, he grew to win the Preakness in 1957, even though there was a 2 inch splinter from his fetlock imbedded in his leg tendons for some time.  As a result he won the Eclipse Award and Horse of the Year in 1957 and was inducted posthumously into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1973.  He sired Secretariat and was the grandsire of Foolish Pleasure, Bold Forbes, Ruffian, and Spectacular Bid.

Round Table:  Foaled on the same night at Claiborne Farm as Bold Ruler, this stallion was the greatest turf horse in US history.  He dominated the world of racing in 1958, winning every award there was, including Horse of the Year.  In 43 of 66 starts, he won $1.7 million and set or equaled 14 records, including 2 US records and 1 world record.  He was the Leading Sire of 1972 and when Queen Elizabeth visited KY in 1984, she requested her own audience with the great horse when he was 30 years old.  He is noted for contributing jumping talent and good temperaments through his genes.

Buckpasser:  Often called "the most perfectly conformed Thoroughbred ever seen," this stallion was an international record-winning two-year-old.  A quarter crack kept him out of the Triple Crown, but he still was Horse of the Year in 1966 and was the first horse to win over $1 million before the age of four.  He was syndicated for $4.8 million and was the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1983, 1984, and 1989 and is noted for passing on soundness.  His sons include Spend A Buck, Lil E Tee, and Silver Charm.

John P Grier.  I had to note this guy; he was the only horse who would race Man O' War in the 1920 Dwyer Handicap.  Although he did not win, he remains the only horse who ever ran neck and neck with Man O' War for a mile.  That, my friends, is guts.

There is a lot of very impressive international blood there too:

JJ Babu
My Babu:  I admit, I squealed when I found this one.  This French Thoroughbred is one of the most influential jumper and eventer sires of all time.  He set a stakes record in England in 1948 and in 1955 was imported to America for $600,000, the highest price ever paid to import a Thoroughbred to the US.  Syndicated for $1.2 million along with Nashua, he stood at Spendthrift Farm, where he was the Leading Juvenile Sire in 1960 and sired 47 stakes winners.  Even more notably to me, his blood produced Bruce Davidson's 1984 gold-medal-winning mount, JJ Babu, Anky van Greunsven's Bonfire, and the Grand Prix jumper, Sympatico, who set the world record for puissance (high jump) in 1973.

Princequillo:  Bred in France, his dam was shipped to Ireland, where he was foaled, to protect her from World War II.  His sire was less lucky and was killed by German artillery fire in France.  Princequillo and his dam were then sent to the US as the war escalated.  He nearly died on the boat ride over and was sold due to his poor condition.  His owner no doubt regretted the decision, as Princequillo went on to become the greatest distance runner in US history besides Kelso.  He was retired at 4 to the breeding shed of Claiborne where he was the Leading Sire of 1957-58 and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1966-70, 1972 and 1973.  He is the grandsire of rivals Secretariat and Sham and known for passing on soundness, good temperament, and large hearts.

Northern Dancer
Northern Dancer:  The most successful sire of the 20th century, he won 14 of 18 races and never finished lower than 3rd place.  He set the KY Derby record until Secretariat broke it (who still holds it) and in 1964 he was Canadian Horse of the Year, North American Champion Three-Year-Old, and an Eclipse Award winner.  In 1965, he was also the first horse inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (he now shares it with Big Ben) and in 1999 he got his own Canadian postage stamp.  With a $1 million stud fee, Northern Dancer sired a mind-blowing 147 stakes winners.

Nearco:  This Italian Thoroughbred was named one of the most important sires of all time.  He had his own bomb shelter in World War II.  He produced Nasrullah and Nearctic and was the grandsire of Northern Dancer.  Over 100 of his sons have stood at stud around the world, which is a world record apart from St. Simon.

Carbine:  This incredible horse from New Zealand won 33 of 43 starts and was 1 of 5 inaugural members of both the New Zealand and Australia Racing Hall of Fame.  He won the 2 mile Sydney Cup in record-setting time as a 3-year-old and won the 1890 Melbourne Cup while carrying 53 more pounds than the 2nd place horse.  He failed to place only once because of a cracked hoof.  Imported to England in 1895, Carbine's descendents include 8 of the 9 horses to ever win more than $10 million.  From 1914-1978, half of the Melbourne Cup winners descended from Carbine and in the US, both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra can trace back to him.

The Tetrarch
The Tetrarch:  An undefeated, white-spotted grey called "The Spotted Wonder," was named Britain's top 2-year-old of the 20th century.  An injury ended his racing career at 2, but he was Britain's Leading Sire in 1919.  His most important progeny was a mare named Mumtaz Mahal, called "The Flying Filly," who became one of the top broodmares of the 20th century. 

Gainsborough:  He won the English Triple Crown in 1918, he was the Leading Sire in Great Britain and Ireland from 1932-1933.  He left a legacy of conformation and stamina behind.

Cor de la Bryere
Dark Ronald:  Yes, that is his real name.  His sire was Bay Ronald; the owners were apparently not very inspired.  This stud stands at the roots of the modern show jumper.  He was purchased in Great Britain by the German National Stud in 1913 and his blood has produced horses such as Landgraf I, Cor de la Bryere, Furioso II, and Ladykiller xx.

Teddy:  Another founder of today's showjumpers and one of the most influential sires of the 20th century, Teddy was a French horse that raced in Spain and France in the mid-teens of the 20th century.  He won 6 of 8 races and was the Leading Sire of 1923.  Imported the US in 1931, he sired 65 stakes winners.

September 9, 2011

A Stork Came To My Barn This Morning

He was delivering red thoroughbreds.  SURPRISE!!!

Yes, the best picture I have so far is a crappy one I took with the farmhouse growing out of his back.  He minored in architecture...

Ok, jokes aside, THIS IS MY NEW PONY!!!

What?? How??? Ehhhh??? You ask -- rightfully so.  My amazing, wonderful mum stepped forward during my abysmal grief over Solo's lingering injury & offered to help find a Solo-understudy.  Yes, I do know how awesome she is.

I started poking around, rifled through my backfiles of all the fantasy shopping I had done over at CANTER's website & snuck down to Southern Pines last weekend to meet this guy.

Crucial Stats:
6 year old Thoroughbred gelding by an AP Indy stallion named Crowd Pleaser, out of an Allen's Prospect mare.   He's about 16.1ish feeling to me right now, might gain another inch with groceries & fitness.

At present he is barefoot & very athletic, despite his pinfire scars from the track.  He ran about 26 races, breaking his maiden at Pimlico as a 3 year old & finished his career at Delaware Park, retiring sound after winning his owners about $80,000. 

His Jockey Club name is Joyous Jester, however, that just doesn't do anything for me, so he is now wearing his new moniker:  Away Again.  In the barn, we'll call him Encore, a tip of the hat to his sire (who has a race at Delaware Park named after him!), as well as to his role in following in the giant hoofprints of the one & only Solo.

Crucial-To-Me Stats:
He is quiet, impeccably mannered, kind, honest, & brave.  Hacks out on a loose rein with a lovely, marching walk & hops over Novice sized logs without batting an eye.  He has jumped all of 3 times so far & is very green but has a heart of gold.  AND HE HAS A FORELOCK.  Don't tell Solo, he might get jealous.

He was picked up from Delaware Park in December of 2010 by Jessica Morthole up at CANTER's Delaware Branch.  He was tired & ready to be done with the racing game & his trainers were kind enough to donate him into a retraining pipeline before he was run into the ground.  He quickly found his way down to NC, where Allie Conrad & Suzanne Konefal did a FANTASTIC job turning his mind & body towards a new career.  He is gaining weight after a hard post-track crash & he is muscling up in all the right places. 

I have to sign off for the moment -- I am now going to run laps of my living room yelling "PONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONY!!!!!!!"

September 8, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Girths

Everyone needs a little something to hold the saddle on. But with 1,001 choices out there, how to decide which will suit your needs best?

My priorities: AFFORDABLE -- I don't need a dang $300 strap that no one can see that will just get covered in hair, sweat, and mud. Comfortable for the horse -- no chafing, slipping, etc. Easy to care for -- I have enough stuff to clean and keep track of, please make my life easier.  Must have roller buckles -- I think this is standard on all but the cheapest girths now, but billet protection is necessary!

Over the past few years, I have discovered the magic of the synthetic girth -- breathable and after your ride, give it a quick hose and it's dry in 15 minutes. LOVE!

My favourite: SmartPak Breathable Hunter/Jumper Girth. At $40, it won't break your bank. It does not tell you the colour in the product description (I took my chances when I ordered) but it's a nice havana brown and the waffle material feels good. The elastic on mine is actually all brown, so it looks quite nice and so far, after over a year of hard work, it still looks new.  When I pulled it out of the box, I really was surprised at the heft and quality feel and look of it, leather snobs need not feel cheated.

I have a similar one for my dressage saddle. I believe it's the Ovation girth, similar waffle weave fabric to the SmartPak one. It's not quite as nice as SmartPak's, but it's certainly not bad and is still durable and comfortable for Solo. Another great bargain at $31.  The stiching pulled out on the middle of the billet loops at the top, but they are not really essential, so I don't worry about it.  The rest of the girth is completely intact, I've had it for probably three years and it has climbed mountains, bogged down in mud, and sweated with the best of us.

I do generally use a leather one for stadium jumping, just because it's pretty (hey, we're all shallow on occasion). I save it for shows mostly as I try to minimize leather cleaning and I got it on a crazy clearance sale and want it to last a long time! It's Dover's overlay girth (no way did I pay even close to $100 for it though!). I think my elastic is green (why are elastic colours so subject to change?).  In all honesty though, I think my synthetic one is lighter and more comfortable for Solo and use it for all jump schooling and XC.

September 5, 2011

Tying Up Loose Ends

Just a few updates and teasers!

(1) Ecogold is still completely awesome. I decided my magical pad really was too big for my saddles and for Solo, so I contacted the company and asked what the dimensions were on the standard size (I had ordered the XL). John Da Silva wrote me back and said, "Well, why don't we just make you one that's exactly the size you want?" I was flabbergasted, to say the least! I sent my dimensions, they spun up the machines, and voila! Now I have perfectly fitting custom sized magical pad! Very very cool.

(2) On a less exciting note, Solo's back is not feeling much better. His muscles feel smooth and knot-free, but he is very sore in his lumbar area, so I have reduced riding dramatically. I have a call in to Dr. Bob to discuss several things, but we will probably just have to let time take its course.

(3) On a more exciting note, I will have an introduction to a new character coming up soon. I will not give any hints, you will just have to wait and see. I can say, thank goodness, it's not another cat.

(4) I also have several product reviews filed in my brain for soon-publishing. Need to replace that girth with saggy elastic? Looking for durable, customizable, inexpensive bell boots? Well, stay tuned!

Thank you again for all your kind support for Solo and I -- while it's sad to watch his hind end muscles fade (So. Much. Work.), he seems shiny and happy wandering about the grass, so I'll take that for now.

August 31, 2011

Remembering To Be Lucky

It is hard not to let the heartbreak take over.  Solo does not feel good, despite my plea with him to make the hock injections magically fix everything, despite what logic says. 

I almost cried riding him tonight; I have finally gotten him where I want him. He is trained. As long as I stay in a long frame, he can do a lovely, round 20 m circle with consistent bend on a steady, round contact. Down the long side, he steps easily into shoulder-in which we can then shift immediately into a strong leg yield. Back to a cadenced sitting trot on the short side, then springing out into a bright extended trot, flipping his front feet out (extended gaits are his favourite).

His canter is balanced & he can stretch down & still hold a metronome of a rhythm. I can create & change strides to a jump or pole, jump at angles, & make balanced, focused turns.

And the second I try to shorten his neck & really engage his back, I can feel him go, "Sorry, mom, but that part is very sore." No more A game.

But I am still lucky.

I am lucky that I can walk into the barn & wrap my arms around his muscular orange neck, inhaling that beautiful scent that is his alone.

I am lucky that I can lean against his shoulder while he rests his nose on my thigh & I can feel the energy, the bond between us in that quiet moment.

I am lucky that I can still ride him, albeit lightly, but we can still explore some trails & we can still canter through the last, most beautiful day of August.

I am lucky that we can still hop over a few jumps; they are small, but they still make Solo's ears prick & lock on as he gets taller and brighter with happiness.

I am lucky that I have a great circle of supportive people in my little horse world, especially a fantastic mom who is always a million percent supportive whenever we need help, no matter what.

I am lucky that I ever met Solo & all his untapped energy & heart which were just waiting for someone to open the door.

I am lucky that we will get a tomorrow, even though it may not be the one I expected or planned or wanted. It will still be another day to cherish the inexplicable, indescribable relationship which has changed my life & has come to define what my center really is.

That, my friends, is lucky indeed.