The past three months that I’ve leased Frankie have been a huge learning experience. He truly has taught me a lot, but he isn’t what I’m looking for long term. As much as I would love for his sweet face to stay around, he needs to move onto a new person. This year was supposed to be full of recognized competition debuts. With all that happed with Diva, that never happened. I truly love showing, but Frankie won’t be mentally stable enough to show for at least another year.
So, I’ve decided to move on to a new horse. I don’t know what horse that it yet, but hopefully, I’ll know soon. When the dust settles, the outcome may be perfect.
People love Off the Track Thoroughbreds or ‘OTTBs’. They thoroughly enjoy the idea of ‘saving’ a horse from an unknown fate if they’re not fast enough to make it in the racing industry. There are plenty of trainers that buy horses straight off the track, train them, then sell them for a pretty solid amount of money.
As a teenager, I’m riding lots of OTTBs. They’re really fun horses, except when they have someone else’s baggage. I’ve learned this the hard way by leasing two different OTTBs. They were both passed around by three different owners before they found me. Horses like this have so many underlying issues, whether it be an abusive past, ulcers, or incorrect training if they didn’t land in the correct hands.
This is my advice to fellow OTTB lovers out there: Don’t buy an OTTB that’s been passed around by three different people who either abused or trained the horse incorrectly. Fixing someone else’s problems that they’ve unloaded onto a horse is almost to hard to unwind. I rode a Linsey Burns mare for a year, but what the horse could’ve been was mostly ruined by two extremely aggressive owners.
If you’re going to buy an OTTB that isn’t straight off the track, make sure you know and understand every single detail of their past that you can find. I’ve learned (the hard way) that trying to fix messed up horses is like trying to tell an alcoholic what their problem is.
On Saturday night (7/13/2019) Frankie and I had a pretty scary accident. We were walking next to a canal and when I went to turn him around so we could go home, he stopped and backed up straight into the canal. He couldn’t get very far as there was 2 1/2 feet of mud there as well, but we were both pretty shaken. I did an emergency dismount while he was trying to get back out of the canal & we both walked home physically unscathed. Now, two days later, there are a few very minor scrapes on his left front leg. They don’t affect his movement or soundness at all.
We were both very lucky to leave with no major injuries and I’m happy to say that Frankie is still sound. Mentally though, we’re both pretty shook. It was a really scary “walk on the lifeline” for both of us. I had a lesson this morning that went well, but it will be our last scheduled ride for a bit. I think that we (aka I) need to take a step back and reestablish our relationship on the ground. Starting from the ground up, again.
Out of all of the people I’ve interviewed, Jocelyn Moore has been one of the most inspiring. At 15 years old, she has a clear-set-path to the bigger goal in mind: the Olympics. She says, “My biggest motivation is just believing I can make it [to the Olympics]. I’ve wanted to go since I was little and just the idea of competing in the biggest arena at the biggest event is very appealing.”
With the help of her parents and trainers at KRE Show Horses, Jocelyn is well on her way to becoming an Olympian. She owns 16-year-old Arabian Gelding, TR Silver Fortune, and leases Fioniex, a 9-year-old Arabian gelding. She has helped give both horses extensive dressage training, riding and competing regularly. She dedicates her life to these horses and her Olympic dreams, riding four days a week and being at the barn roughly four hours each of those days.
As teenagers, we all had big dreams, some realistic and some only dreams. Jocelyn has big dreams and is making them a reality, an incredibly dedicated young woman if I say so myself.
Now that it’s been over a month that I’ve leased Frankie, I figured I’d type up a bit of a (lengthy) update. The first two weeks of me riding him were rough. I had no idea how to ride a horse like him and it was quite the learning curve. After that, we got into a groove of riding five days a week and some huge accomplishments were made.
The first consistent week was filled with lots of bridleless riding and pole work. We made some progress and came into the next week stronger. That next week held lots of improved canter work, pole work, tackless/bridleless work, and our first bridleless hack. The canter is becoming much more relaxed and Frankie is now willing to stretch over poles. He’s really taken to fat camp and building up his topline, I guess. Our tackless/bridleless work has already come so far as well. We’ve cantered tackless (it was speedy and a relative death wish, but it’s fine) and worked on spins without the bridle.
Week five, consistent week three, isn’t even half over and we’ve already done some cool things. I jumped Frankie for the first time and he was an angel (for the most part) and he went to his first western gaming event! One thing I think is super beneficial with anxious Thoroughbreds like Frankie is cross-training. It keeps their minds working productively but can be as simple as teaching a spin, going on a trail course, or going to an event that features another discipline. Breaking up the arena work with new and challenging things is also fun for the rider!
Frankie came to us by fate, I swear. In early May, my trainer gave me a call and told me that a boarder of hers was looking to lease a horse out. I politely declined her offer as I wasn’t interested at the time. A few short weeks later, I was looking for another horse to lease and came across Frankie. A 12-year-old OTTB whose add said that leasing wasn’t an option. On a limb, I replied to the add and ended up with a response saying that yes, half leasing could be an option.
The next part of the email read, “Are you the Autumn that rides with Cathy?” Surprised, I answered yes and explained my situation. Not even a week later, I had a lesson scheduled on Frankie so I could try him out.
I was only casually looking for another lease and was contemplating taking some time off from riding. The confidence I had in myself (as both a rider and a trainer) was at an all-time low and I wanted to find joy in horses, not hardship and heartbreak. I wanted it to be fun and a community, not a solitary chore. I agreed to try Frankie out anyways, still not knowing he was the horse my trainer very kindly called me about a month before.
Fast forward to today, 06/16/2019, where I had my sixth ride on Frankie. We’ve taken him on a trial lease to see if he’s a good fit for me. I couldn’t say it more happily that this horse is something special. He tries his heart out and takes everything in stride. A nervous wreck at times but a total sweetheart, Frankie seems to have found a place in my heart.
At 5:30 last night I was pulling my breeches on and making one last phone call before hopping in the car to go try out a potential lease option. My phone call was to the lady who owned the horse, well actually the pony, to get her address. She picked up on the last ring and proceeded to tell me that she was too busy tonight to meet. Annoyed, I texted a friend of mine who knows the woman personally asking if this was typical behavior for her. Of course, the answer was yes.
“Plan B….” I thought. What was Plan B though? I decided that Plan B was texting Frankie’s owner to see if she was alright with me coming out and spending some time with him on the ground. Frankie is one of the horses I previously tried out that I liked, so I figured it would be good to get to know him on the ground a little bit more. The owner was cool with it so I continued my trek out the door, sugar cubes in hand.
10 minutes later, I pulled up in front of my dressage Trainers facility and hopped out of the car with my grooming bucket. Frankie, in a stall about halfway down the left side, was standing contently munching on hay. After an hour of grooming, cuddling, and doing a bit of +R with him, I decided to head home. I was feeling very relaxed despite my previous blood pressure spike due to being canceled on last minute. I was also feeling like I had found my new horse.