The year is 2017 and After the Races, with director Bonnie McRae as the rider, has decided to take a horse to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project in Kentucky. At the start of the year there arrived a horse named Fun to Run arrived. He was the perfect size for what Bonnie wanted to do, standing at 15.1-15.2 as a 3 year old. Along with his size came good looks, a great temperament, and a perfect veterinary evaluation. Bonnie and the rest of the board was thrilled! Little did we know that plans would change.
Without a ring of our own, riding during the dead of winter is pretty much not an option unless weather and footing aligned magically which happened once every 4-6 weeks, so “Forrest,” as we called him, was enjoying a nice vacation when he caught the eye of a very determined adopter in California. We spoke about him at length and I began to realize it just might be the perfect solution for Forrest. The adopter, Barb, flew her trainer out to try Forrest at a local indoor and he was, of course, perfect. She had a full PPE done with tons of x-rays and he was, of course, perfect.
After saying goodbye to Forrest, I spent some time watching new horses as they came in and considering others that we’d had for some time. I had my eye on Delmar, but let him get adopted to a repeat adopter in New Jersey who lost her first ATR horse in a tragic bout with colic. In the back of my mind I’d been thinking about this little horse who’d come in from Penn National not long before Delmar was adopted. He’s again the perfect size, about 15.2 hands, and 5 years old. His brain is much more mature than Forrest’s was and he is perfectly sound, just blind in one eye, though you wouldn’t know it.
When a friend invited me to a little jumping clinic at an indoor down the road, I gave Joker a serious look. He was barely 3 weeks off his last race, I’d never ridden him, and for all I knew he’d never been in an indoor or done anything but go around a track. Looking at his laid-back posture and kind eye though, I found myself thinking, “Why not?” Trial by fire. There was a session in the clinic for total babies so we entered that.
Long story short, Joker was phenomenal. He didn’t stand for the mounting block and no one offered to help me, so while he stood facing the block, I used my old exercise rider skills to leap/swing into the saddle, which he took in stride. After a few laps at the walk and some trot work, he’d started settling in really nicely. I was happy to find out he was neither a giraffe nor spooky. He trotted poles like he’s done it all his life, and when we introduced him to a little grid of cross-rails, he would occasionally get wiggly, but otherwise made an honest try of it, even hammering out a couple straight passes with a cross rail oxer at the end!
I couldn’t be more pleased with him, especially as other horses arriving afterward seemed far less cool minded while having done more work under saddle. I loaded him up, came home, and marked him as unavailable until after the RRP. Done deal.