Photo of the Week: Have a seat

A Suffolk Downs alumn takes a load off on a spring day.

A Suffolk Downs alumn takes a load off on a spring day.

Since retiring from Suffolk Downs in September 2014, Pats Love has embraced all the good things in her new life.

Especially sunbathing while sitting up!

Owner Shannon O’Neill says her mare will chill out in paddock in her best adaptation of a couch potato nearly everyday, particularly on a warm day.

“She’s my silly girl,” says O’Neill, who notes that she fell instantly in love with the mare after a jockey friend told her about the OTTB.

“I’ve ridden Thoroughbreds for years, and have been fortunate enough to exercise many of them on a private farm in Massachusetts. It was always exciting to me to be a part of their training and to see my “babies” run in the races.”

And now that she has Pats Love on a new track, she plans to introduce her to schooling shows this summer, and work on fashioning her into a hunter/pleasure horse. “I don’t like to rush horses, and she took a little time to settle in,” O’Neill says. “As you can see … she now think’s she’s a dog!”

Head-tossing solution was under their nose

Appalachian Trail performs bravely at the Hagyard Mid-South Horse Trials in his special bridle.

Appalachian Trail performs bravely at the Hagyard Mid-South Horse Trials in his special bridle.

Sometimes less really is more.

So, what got the beautiful gray gelding to stop tossing his head and balking at the bit and bridle was not a new gadget, but in fact the removal of the very one he’d been wearing for years.

Specifically: the noseband.

After 10 months spent trying in vain to figure out just what was making Stakes Placed OTTB Appalachian Trail toss his head, and after ruling out pain, ulcers, and dental problems, owner Sarah Choate of Columbus, Ohio was at the end of her rope. That’s when her trainer suggested removing the noseband of Appy’s bridle.

Appalachian Trail
Barn: Appy
Sire: Monashee Mountain
Dam: Crafty Gal, by Crafty Prospector
Foal date: April 16, 2006
Earnings: $94,000 in 14 starts; stakes placed
“It worked!” Choate says. “Before this, we’d tried different nosebands, a hackamore, and he wasn’t responding to anything.”

Choate purchased Appalachian Trail in August 2013 due to a partiality to grays, and an instant attraction to his fluid way of going and keen jumping abilities.

Despite the head tossing and bit champing, and over her mother’s concern that the horse was “all over the place” when Choate tried to work him on the ground, something just clicked with the pair. And though stymied by the noseband issue for 10 months, after the adjustment was made, a new horse emerged.

The pair gets a few double-takes in the ring. But the proof is in the ribbons.

The pair gets a few double-takes in the ring. But the proof is in the ribbons.

Appalachian Trail soon learned to frame up like a show horse, and began to have much more success in his ground lessons, Choate says. “After we figured out the noseband, the next biggest challenge was keeping him focused on me in the ring. Once I do that, he’s really quite lovely,” she says. “He’s really a nice mover and we’ve been able to improve so much. His canter transitions used to be horrendous when we first started—he used to have his head up in the air and go running into the canter. Now we’re picking it up right away, and he’s on the bit!”

And on Cross Country, the beautiful gray is in his element. “The first time I took him out, I was super nervous, but he just locked onto those fences and said to me, ‘All right Mom. I see the distance. We’re good! We’re going!’ And, I never felt him hesitate once. He’s always bold and forward.”

The horse in the western bridle, minus the noseband, is making up for lost time in his Eventing career. With three successful Novice events under his belt, the pair has been competitive at local Training events, including Richland Park Horse Trial in Michigan, where they placed 9th in Open Training and the placed 10th at the Jump Start Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park last September.

“The plan now for him is to see how the first few shows go and we’d like to try for a long format, if all goes well, and possibly move up to Preliminary by the end of the season,” Choate says. “The biggest positive about him is that he’s a real, genuine horse. I can always tell what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling—he never tries to hide anything from me.” Including, of course, his dislike of the annoying noseband!

After 109 starts, a forgotten OTTB gets his due

Native Tribe ran 109 times and earned over $500,000 before retiring at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Native Tribe ran 109 times and earned over $500,000 before retiring at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Native Tribe raced up and down the claiming ranks from 1994 until 2003, never staying long with any owner, but always trying for the win, even after he once fell hard in the dirt at Belmont Park.

When it was all said and done, the big chestnut gelding raced 109 times for a succession of more than 10 owners and earned skyward of half-a-million dollars before his final race at Philadelphia Park in March 2003. He earned 20 firsts, 20 seconds and 20 thirds as a hardscrabble fighter who raced 18 more times after clipping heels at Belmont Park in June 2001, falling hard, and being vanned off. He bounced back after an 11-month break, and raced until the day he retired sound in 2003.

Though he never attained the household name recognition enjoyed by the greats in his family tree—Hall of Famer Native Dancer appears in both the sire and dam side of his lineage—even his own past owners may have a hard time conjuring up his memory. Native Tribe today, at age 23, is a star in Olivia’s Herd, a program that provides extra care to special-needs retirees at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF).

Native Tribe
Sire: Our Native
Dam: Rogatian, by Storm Bird
Foal date: April 6, 1992
Earnings: $539,000; 109 starts
“For a horse who runs this many times, and goes through that many owners—this is exactly the kind of horse we’re looking for in Olivia’s Herd,” says Paul Saylor, founder and underwriter of Olivia’s Herd. “It’s for horses who have not been abused, but have probably spent longer than they should on the racetrack.”

Saylor, a race owner best known for his affiliation with Eclipse Award winners Fleet Indian and Ashado, donates $60,000 annually to Olivia’s Herd of 25 special-needs horses, which includes Native Tribe; donations are made in tribute to his 21-year-old daughter Olivia, who died in a fire in 2011, and would have wished to help horses like Native Tribe, he says.

And Native Tribe is very special indeed, says Diana Pikulski, vice president of the TRF.

One of 20 trips taken by Native Tribe to the Winner's Circle.

One of 20 trips taken by Native Tribe to the Winner’s Circle.

“Here’s a horse with 109 starts just getting passed along the claiming ranks. To me, he’s the quintessential workhorse,” Pikulski says. “Horses like him are what makes this entire machine (of racing) work. Now here he is at the end of his career, and he’s a big horse and a hard keeper, and all the people who owned him are gone from his life. And he needs a little extra care.

“I think it’s so important that horses like Native Tribe, a horse who gave back over and over and over again, be given back all he gave to the sport.”

Retired to Dara and Steve Lowder’s Farm in Lynchburg, S.C., a satellite farm within the TRF, Native Tribe enjoys 24/7 turnout in a 20-acre pasture with trees and six other herd mates.

A hard keeper who is said to spend time worrying about his girlfriends and friends, Native Tribe receives an extra ration of grain, but is otherwise fit and doing great, Dara Lowder says.

“When he first got here, I thought he was a loner because he hung back by himself. But once he made friends, he was fine,” she says. “He just needed to find his place.”

That a horse said to be “all business” on the track has found a happy retirement is music to the ears of Rick Schosberg, one of the gelding’s former owners. As the chair of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association’s aftercare program, Schosberg is well acquainted with the challenge of finding a good retirement home for a deserving veteran like Native Tribe.

A very hard keeper, Native Tribe now enjoys double rations of grain.

A very hard keeper, Native Tribe now enjoys double rations of grain.

“Before we had retirement programs up and running it was hard to find a place for an ex-racehorse. It’s not as easy as you might think to ‘just find a good home’ for a horse,” he says. “So when facilities like the TRF started, this was the beginning of it all.”

Early on in his post-racing career, Native Tribe was adopted to a riding home, says Sara Davenport, TRF herd manager. He was owned for four years and returned to the TRF in 2008 with a note that stated, “He needs a very experienced rider.”

After that, he joined the herd at the Wateree River Correctional Institution, as part of the Second Chances program teaching inmates real-life horsemanship skills. And last year, pushing 23-years-old, Native Tribe was loaded up in a van and driven 20 miles to a farm where not one thing is ever asked of him.

On his birthday April 6, he galloped around his pasture, tail over his back, looking like a far younger horse, Davenport says.

“He’s just beautiful,” Davenport says. “He does this floating trot out there, and when he does, you’d swear he’s a 4-year old.”

Those wishing to see other horses in Olivia’s Herd may do so by clicking this link: http://www.oliviasherd.org/