Warmblood search ends with ideal t’bred partner

Agave is now a proud member of Obarowski’s entire family. Photo by Jennifer Rebecca Photography

Agave is now a proud member of Obarowski’s entire family. Photo by Jennifer Rebecca Photography

It was a happy accident that brought together Warmblood rider Karen Obarowski and a green ex-racehorse who couldn’t trot a straight line.

All the fancier prospects she’d considered before she met Agave Ride had failed their veterinary exam, and in deep disappointment, she gave up on the search until her friend and trainer Suzanne Markham suggested that she take on a project horse while she searched for her dream horse.

“I didn’t have anything else going on at the time, and was missing horses, so I said OK, fine,” Obarowski says. “We went to the farm where he was to make sure he wasn’t crazy or lame and I agreed to take him for three months.”

Famous last words.

From the first moment she and her trainer clipped the lunge line onto Agave’s halter and asked him to trot a circle, their eyes grew round as saucers as they watched the fluid and stylish movement. They knew they had a pretty special horse in their hands. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Well, he has gaits! He can really move!”

Agave Ridge
Sire: Cactus Ridge
Dam: Bonnieview Miss
Foal date: March 11, 2005
Earnings: $63,877, in 39 starts
“I didn’t have a lot of experience with Thoroughbreds, but he had the biggest heart of any horse I’d ever ridden,” she says. “He tries so desperately to what I’m asking, and if he does something wrong, he gets so anxious, but if I tell him he’s a good boy, his whole body relaxes.”

Since taking their first ride on July 3, 2013, not only as Agave thoroughly ingratiated himself as her dream horse but he’s also picked up dressage moves like a pro.

“He’s already schooling at second level. He’ll say, ‘Oh, you want half pass?’ And the second time out, he’ll do a half pass all the way across the ring!”

And when he’s not in work, and letting his hair down, Agave has shown that beneath a previously aloof exterior lays the heart of a goofball.

“He’s completely in-your-pocket. When I try to put his bridle on, I sometimes have to struggle because he’s licking my arm” making it difficult to get the gear on his head. “I don’t have to put a lead rope on him or cross ties because he just follows me around.”

The blurred lines of Agave in work shows his fluidity under saddle.

The blurred lines of Agave in work shows his fluidity under saddle.

Other riders chuckle when the see Obarowski walk down the barn aisle carrying her tack, with Agave walking right behind. “He goes right into his grooming stall, turns around, and waits for me,” she adds.

Looking toward the future, Obarowski has set her sights on one day competing at FEI Dressage levels on Agave. Once a goal she wanted only for herself, she now dreams of the high-level competition as an appropriate challenge for her off-track Thoroughbred. And she imagines what she’d say about the horse she now owns, should they get to that level:
“Here’s my off-track Thoroughbred who raced for seven years, and now he’s going to beat your fancy Warmbloods!”

—This story was originally published on Jan. 28, 2014.

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Lisa Molloy offers beauty tips for your T-bred

Lisa Molloy and Show Some Lovin together present the perfect picture.

Lisa Molloy and Show Some Lovin together present the perfect picture.

The Chestnuts sparkle brightly in the late-morning sun, and Grays pop from the page, their dappled coats glistening on a cloudy day.

Nearly every scene captured of the fair-haired lady and the hundreds of Thoroughbreds her photos have helped sell, appear to be from Ralph Lauren or Horse and Hound. All carefully crafted with a few tricks of the trade.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Lisa Molloy, a deeply seasoned Thoroughbred trainer who has worked for several re-homing organizations, and currently heads up ReRun, Inc. in Virginia, and also works with Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue, tells us her secrets for bringing out the beauty of T-Breds, making them into “dream horses” for prospective buyers.

Q: Many have asked you what your secret is for turning out Thoroughbreds  like Ralph Lauren models. Care to share?

To start with, I have a clean horse, and clean tack.

There are so many tiny, little things that can be done to enhance the overall picture. For example, lighting is critical for different horses. For grays, it’s better to photograph them on overcast days, because they look better.

Molloy brings the shine out in her sale horses before having their glamor shots done. Photo by Cecillia B Photography

Molloy brings the shine out in her sale horses before having their glamor shots done. Photo by Cecillia B Photography

But, if you’re photographing a chestnut or bay, you want late-morning sun, before 10 or 11. After that, the sun is too high in the sky, and you get long shadows falling off their legs, which isn’t attractive.

In the composition of a good photo, you also have to take into account what’s behind you. If you take a photo of fence behind you, you may get the appearance the horse has been impaled on the fence post.

We want the horses looking as level as possible. Some people like to show them food so they’ll reach forward, but I don’t do that, because I don’t want them to look too far forward.

To get them to pose properly, I can strike a cigarette lighter to get them to look at it, or a mirror, and tilt it and anything that will catch attention.

The big Quarter Horse photographers have tape recordings of mares screaming. When you see the perfectly posed horses, standing forward, they’ve all listening to a recording!

The whole goal is you want them to look interested without them looking mortified.

Q: There are also several beauty secrets you employ to get a horse looking his or her best.

Molloy gets Radiohead ready for his closeup.

Molloy gets Radiohead ready for his closeup.

It starts with the bath. I wash all of mine in Head & Shoulders, so they don’t have any skin problems whatsoever. And, I use baby shampoo for their faces, so if it gets in their eyes, it doesn’t sting.

Then, I use a purple shampoo to remove any orange or yellow tint from gray or white hair, and I’ll washing their white stockings or socks with that until they’re bright white.

If I’ve got a gray with a nasty tail, I might leave the purple shampoo on for 10 minutes, wash it off, and do it again. You can do the same thing with your own hair to take discoloration out!

If I’ve got a sun-bleached horse, I’ll dye their tales back to black. I use an inexpensive, women’s hair dye.
I also use a Show Touchup spray that comes in every horse color there is to do touchups.

I use hoof-black and to paint the hooves black, and spray-paint to enhance the black on their legs as well. It just makes ping more and look sharper.

Another secret is women’s hair spray! I spray over the top of the hooves to make them shiny.

I also pay a lot of attention to the tails. If I have a bay horse with some bleached bits, I spray the entire tail black. If I’ve one with a scraggly tail, I blunt trim the end of the tail. Even cutting it a half an inch— just like with a women’s hair— can make it look thicker.

Lisa and a beautiful chestnut take advantage of the warm, afternoon light to help paint a picture.

Lisa and a beautiful chestnut take advantage of the warm, afternoon light to help paint a picture.

I help them look their best by enhancing their natural beauty, but one thing you cannot do, if you’re marketing a horse for sale or adoption, is to cover up any scars.

Another thing that keeps them looking their best, is keeping blankets on. I use blankets with nylon liners. The blankets keep the hair down, and the nylon keeps their coats fairly shiny.

Q: Where did you learn these techniques?

I worked for 10 years for Bob Perry Quarter Horses in Texas, where the most famous Quarter Horse stallion stood at stud.

My first exposure came one day, when one of the farm managers asked me to go get some horses cleaned up for a photo shoot. I groomed the horse like I always would, and was kind of proud when I brought him over to her. She looked at the horse and said, “Oh my God! I can’t take photos of him looking like this!”
And she wheeled out this cart full of stuff, and I started learning after that.

Q: How did you incorporate these glamour shots into your efforts to help sell ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds?

When I got involved with Thoroughbreds, it seemed that if you looked at charity horse listings, what you saw was the same bay horse. Nothing distinguished them. It was bay horse after bay horse after bay horse.

Although I can look at a horse and use my imagination to see how he could look, I don’t want to leave that up to the buyer’s imagination. There are so many ex-racehorses out there, and its buyer’s market, so I believe in representing each one as best as you can.

Q: How effective have the photos been in advertising OTTBs?

I think it’s very effective because the photographs snag peoples’ attention, and anything that gets people interested is a good thing.
A lot of people have this misperception of retired racehorses. Some think they’re all “rescue” horses, which they’re not, and other expect some raggedy, mistreated thing. They’re shocked when the come see our horses! — This interview was originally published Nov. 7, 2012. 

To donate to ReRun, Inc., please click this hyperlink to nonprofit charity’s donation page. ♦

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One-eyed Suffolk Downs T-bred lands softy in Vt

Rusty lost an eye in a race, but managed to find the perfect home anyway. Photo by Margo Palmer

Rusty lost an eye in a race, but managed to find the perfect home anyway. Photo by Margo Palmer

A racehorse who lost an eye in a freak accident on the track found an owner this month who was willing to look past his damaged face to the heart of a beautiful “old soul.”

“I’ve taken on horses that some people might not want my whole life,” says Tara Girard, owner of Safe Haven Farm of Vermont. “And when I first saw Rusty (Jockey Club: Four Fs and a D), I thought he’s going to be fine. He immediately had his nose in my hair, and was the sweetest thing going, and I thought, this is what I do: we take horses like this.”

The bright chestnut ex-racehorse left Suffolk Downs this month and traveled hundreds of miles with T-bred Mrsmargie, to settle into the picturesque countryside of northern Vermont.

Four Fs and a D
Barn name: Rusty
Sire: Full Mandate, by A.P. Indy
Dam: Black Hawk Beach
Foal date: Jan. 21, 2007
That one fine Thoroughbred was adopted from Suffolk Downs as it closed its doors forever was one thing, but for the chestnut beauty, missing an eye and less adoptable because of it, to find such a happy fate, well, this was the kind of ending that horse advocates like Ellen O’Brien dream about.

O’Brien, the founder of CANTER New England, had privately worried that Rusty would not find a home. “He’s a stunningly beautiful horse,” she says. “He’s a big, 16-hand, old-style Thoroughbred who seems to have an old soul. But when he turns his head, and you see his missing eye, it’s heartbreaking.”

Rusty lost his eye in a race when the shoe of another horse flew off, hit him in the head, and sliced his eye, she says. Half blind now, and with a rugged 47-start race record under his belt, she fretted that the agreeable gelding had slim chances of landing a new home. So when Girard arrived from Vermont to adopt Mrsmargie, O’Brien took a chance, and suggested she go take a peek at Rusty too.

Rusty (JC: Four Fs and a D) and Mrsmargie came off the track at Suffolk Downs and landed at a Vermont farm.

Rusty (JC: Four Fs and a D) and Mrsmargie came off the track at Suffolk Downs and landed at a Vermont farm.

“Tara told me they had another spot and asked if I could recommend another horse. I told her yes, there’s a gorgeous a horse, but he has an eye issue. I told them to go see him, and don’t look at his eye first, but look at the whole thing, and to call me,” O’Brien says. “She called me a few minutes later” from his barn “ and said she adored him, and was pretty blasé about the eye.”

To Girard, Rusty’s eye isn’t gross at all. It is a battle wound from an honorable career, and one that has no connection to his sharp mind and wonderful nature.

“He’s very level headed,” she says. “If something scares him, he does not bolt or take off, and instead he stays contained in his own space.”

Having known successful eventers who are blind in one eye, Girard has every confidence that Rusty has a bright future as a riding horse. She plans to start him under saddle soon, and prepare him to be a lesson horse at her farm. “I’m hoping that Rusty and Mrsmargie can be ambassadors for my farm, and for the breed,” she says. ♥

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