A T’bred injured on a plane lives turbulent life

First Service, a German-bred OTTB, survived many trials and tribulations before winding up in his forever home.

First Service, a German-bred OTTB, survived many trials and tribulations before finding his forever home.

A gifted Thoroughbred warhorse hobbled by luck so bad he once tore off part of his hoof during a flight from Germany to California — a terrifying accident that ended his Breeders’ Cup aspirations and foreshadowed many close calls to come — eventually ended up rescued from an auction at age 16, and headed to, of all places, the dressage ring.

First Service, a German-bred bay gelding with speed and promise, was traveling to California in 1999 when he spooked in the aircraft he was riding in. Rearing up, the horse known by his nickname Prince, threw a fit, and caught a foot in between two panels of his stall, says Jennie Lovell, an Oregon dressage rider who adopted him in 2012.

“Prince didn’t end up running the Breeders’ Cup, but he did end up racing until he was 11,” Lovell says, noting that the big bay suffered so many trials and tribulations in his life that he received the Race Track Survivor award for 2014 from the Thoroughbred Exhibitors Association.

First Service (GER)
Barn name: Prince
Sire: Mtoto
Dam: First Love
Foal date: April 21, 1994
Earnings: $100,000 in US
The award is given to a horse with success both on the track and in a new career. “When I was asked to nominate Prince for the award, I wrote a blurb about him, which includes his history in Germany … over the course of three years, he ran 15 times at 13 different tracks … his most prestigious result was a second-place finish in the listed race Grosser Herbst-Preis der Dreijährigen in 1997.”

And First Service didn’t stop running after that.

After his torn hoof was sufficiently repaired, he went on to race 35 times on nine different tracks in the US. He won $101,365 before retiring to a farm in Idaho, and eventually landing at the Hermiston Auction in Eastern, Oregon, Lovell says. First Service was 16 when he was sent perilously to the auction frequented by meat buyers, and ridden through the auction ring, where fortunately for him, he put a foot right.

Jennie Lovell, an Oregon dressage rider, felt a responsibility to help an OTTB nobody else wanted.

Jennie Lovell, an Oregon dressage rider, felt a responsibility to help an OTTB nobody else wanted.

Catching the eye of horse rescuer Kari Lehman of Auction Horses.net, the bay was purchased for $500 and went to live in Washington until Lovell’s search for a riding horse brought her face to face with a Thoroughbred who had given so much in his life, but now found himself older, slower and of little use to anyone.

“In part, I took him for philosophical reasons,” she says. “Someone has to be the end-of-the-line for these animals. And nobody else was interested in him. I do strongly believe that somebody just has to accept the responsibility and say, OK, things haven’t turned out the way I planned for this horse, but I’m going to make this work.”

With that, Lovell adopted First Service in 2012 and has since ridden the highs and lows with an accident and illness-prone animal who’s managed to catch his hind leg in his hay net, resulting in bumps and bruises from a panicked thrashing, and who has suffered bouts of colic, laminitis, a chipped splint bone, and even a torn eyelid. And yet, has made her love him despite it all.

The warhorse gives pony rides to Lovell's family.

The warhorse gives pony rides to Lovell’s family.

“I just adore him,” she says. “There’s no way I would be at the level I’m at now with my own horsemanship if I hadn’t gotten him. He has taught me to be calm and confident. And he has given me so much.”

And seemingly against all reason, Lovell has shaped the 21-year-old hard-knocking racehorse, who didn’t know much beyond running in a circle, how to maintain his gait in a dressage ring!

A racehorse who once had no brakes has successfully navigated eight beginner walk/trot dressage shows. It’s not beautiful dressage, she admits, but First Service is consistent at sticking to the gaits.

“Last year we won our Intro B class at the Summerfield Equestrian Show,” she says, noting that for a horse who has seen extreme highs and lows in his life, the fact that he can tootle around an Oregon dressage ring with such consistency is quite an achievement.

“I knew he was the horse for me the first day we met. I had gotten him all tacked up to take a test ride when I realized I’d left my helmet in the back of my minivan. So I walked him over to the back of my van, opened up the back, and a plastic bag flew out on a huge gust of wind. And he just stood there, unfazed,” she says. “And I looked at him and I knew that there would be many things in life that happen like that, and he was the perfect horse for me.”

Photo of the Week: Analyze this

Analysis, a Thoroughbred racehorse in the Mosaic Racing Stables, hacks out on a clay road filled with distractions. Photo courtesy Barry Bornstein

Analysis, a Thoroughbred racehorse in the Mosaic Racing Stables, hacks out on a clay road filled with distractions. Photo courtesy Barry Bornstein

Analysis, a racehorse with Mosaic Racing Stables, is a very well adapted guy. Cross-trained as a hunter/jumper when he isn’t on the Belmont track winning races, he takes just about everything in his stride.

Here he is in Aiken on his way to the sand lot (jumping field) with a hunter/jumper rider Rylee Zimmerman to work on trot poles, circles and bending exercises. On the way to his lesson, Analysis hacked down a clay road filled with people and commotion. Analysis ventures out once a week to train for a future career, even as he puts in wins as a racehorse. Last year, he won at Belmont and Saratoga and had two seconds, according to Monica Driver, and earned $119,000.

His grounded personality is in part due to race training that incorporates prepping for a future career (hunter/jumpers in his case) as well as plenty of vacation time. “This is our way of making sure he knows more than just going fast in a big circle,” says Driver, managing partner of Mosaic Racing Stables.

Gallagher’s Stud sends 3 loads of hay to TRF

Mallory Mort, left, of Gallagher's  Stud, has helped kick off the 2015 Thoroughbred Retirement  Foundation hay drive in a big way!

Mallory Mort, left, of Gallagher’s Stud, has helped kick off the 2015 Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation hay drive in a big way!

When the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation launched its annual hay drive to feed its herd of 900 retired racehorses, the country’s largest Thoroughbred charity was able to launch with a tremendous boost from a New York stud farm.

Gallagher’s Stud, a New York horse farm, and home to three-time stakes winner Inimitable Romanee, has donated a total of three tractor-trailers piled high with good-quality hay.

The donated hay was shipped to the The Second Chances program at the Wallkill Correctional Facility, where retired racehorses in the TRF herd are cared for by inmates in a partnership that provides valuable horsemanship training to inmates, who will one day return to society with the new skills the horses have taught them.

The program has long been admired by Gallagher’s Stud farm manager Mallory Mort. So, when the TRF’s hay drive coincided with an abundant crop, he and Gallagher’s Stud cofounder Marlene Brody quickly decided to donate the excess hay.

Sir Prize Birthday is one of the many TRF Thoroughbreds helping inmates at the Wallkill Correctional Facility.

Sir Prize Birthday is one of the many TRF Thoroughbreds helping inmates at the Wallkill Correctional Facility.

“I’d been reading about what they’ve been doing at Wallkill with the inmates, and it sounded like a really great program,” Mort says. “We had extra hay, so I went to Mrs. Brody, who has always been very supportive of the TRF, and suggested we donate.”

The 550-acre farm, which was founded in 1979 and which makes its own hay, has enjoyed bumper crops in recent years. And twice, the farm has shared its bounty with the TRF.

The donation from Gallagher’s Stud, combined with a $50,000 pledge from the Geoffrey Hughes Estate, has been tremendously helpful in the launch of the TRF’s seventh annual hay drive, which was kicked off earlier this month, says Diana Pikulski, the TRF’s vice president of external affairs.

“We’re starting off with a nice boost,” she says, noting that the goal of the drive is to raise enough funds to meet the 2015 hay cost, which is expected to exceed $220,000.

Herd Manager Sara Davenport notes that a Thoroughbred consumes approximately 22 pounds of hay everyday. “It’s one of our greatest annual expenses,” Davenport says. “And we’re so grateful for donations of any size during the hay drive.”

To learn more about the TRF’s annual Hay Drive or to contribute a “virtual” bale of hay, please call: (518) 226-0028, or visit: http://www.trfinc.org/trf-launches-seventh-annual-hay-drive-with-50000-pledge/.