For 18 years David Wilson worked in a cubicle as a medical-equipment software engineer. It was a pretty good life until he decided the grass was greener on a horse farm.
That realization dawned shortly after he and his daughter Victoria, who was five going on six at the time, took a riding lesson together in 2001. “I had just
finished reading the Little House on the Prairie series to her, and horses were featured pretty heavily in it, so I asked if she wanted to take a riding lesson,” he says.
Before that day, he’d only ridden a handful of times. After that day, it’s a rare occasion that doesn’t find him on or with a horse. The same is true of his daughter, now 15.
“We both caught ‘the bug,’ ” he says.
The passion took hold soon after he scrambled into the saddle in 2001. A natural knack for riding discovered that day grew into a passion, which also captivated his daughter. Together, the pair “swung from barn to barn” taking lessons and immersing themselves in equestrian life.
He bought his first horse as a 40th birthday present to himself, and five years after that initial lesson, Wilson left his desk job to start his own riding and training facility.
“I had been doing contract work at the time, and happened to be in between projects,” he says. “So my wife and I decided (the farm) was a good opportunity for me to try something new.”
Race name: Malibu Eclipse
Sire: Malibu Moon
Dam: Deedee’s Doll Baby
Foal date: April 22, 2003On May 1, 2006, Flying High Stables in Andover, Mass., was officially opened as a competitive show barn where Wilson also retrains off-track Thoroughbreds and works with his favorite ex-racehorse, Malibu.
A descendent of both Secretariat and Seattle Slew, Malibu came into his life about the same time that family friend and horse advocate Ellen O’Brien, executive director of CANTER New England, asked if he could foster a few ex-racehorses. “I told her I could take one,” he laughs. “At one point, we had six CANTER horses here.”
Most have been retrained and moved into new homes.
Not Malibu. He stuck.
The bold chestnut, who is often described as bearing a striking resemblance to Secretariat, entered CANTER New England foster care before arriving at Wilson’s farm in 2008. Despite his reputation for being difficult, people believed in him.
“Ellen O’Brien kept telling me that all he needed was a job,” he says. “The first time I got on him, I lasted for about 10 minutes, with him spinning and running. The second time, this went on for five minutes. After that he never did anything naughty. CANTER was right. He just needed a job.”
Since then, Malibu and Wilson have worked on finding new gears in their gaits, bending right, and keeping a calm disposition on windy days, or around other animals.
Now pointed toward a career in eventing, Malibu recently started show jumping and was rewarded with an 8th place at the Groton House Summer Classic last year.
Together, the pair found happiness in their respective new careers.
Wilson still gets the occasional call from engineering headhunters. “Invariably they ask me what I’m doing,” he laughs, “and I can hear them taking notes and saying, ‘Oh, okay, the equestrian business.”