As a child, Izabela Reis would sometimes buy a scratch ticket at the corner market for a horserace. Then, clutching it in her little hand, she would scurry home, sit wide eyed in front of the TV and watch the outcome of the race and of her little bet.
If her horse took first, she might win a gallon of milk or something, nothing very much.
But what the 38-year-old Washington, D.C. attorney now wonders is whether that fond memory, which she isn’t even sure she’s remembering one-hundredpercent accurately, didn’t instill in her the desire to own her own racehorse someday.
Whatever the reason compelling Reis to systematically conduct a two-year national search for a racehorse, who can say for sure? “I just know I’ve always wanted a horse, like any little girl, but I really wanted a racehorse. Maybe it has something to do with my childhood memory of going to that market and betting on a horse.”
Race name: Dieu Donne
New name: Gigi
Sire: Louis Quatorze
Dam: Passionate Cub
She likes to say now that she “took a gamble” when right before Christmas she purchased her first horse, an ex-racehorse Thoroughbred with the French moniker Dieu Donne. “I don’t speak French, and I had to look up the meaning, and apparently her name means gift from God,” she says.
Fittingly, her mare, now renamed Gigi, arrived just in time for Christmas.
“She really made my Christmas wish come true,” Reis says, “and my mother is just thrilled for me. I think as a parent it must be great to see your daughter get her wish.”
Growing up in the city, Reis took regular riding lessons, but there was never an opportunity to own a horse.
After graduating high school, she went off to college, followed by grad school, and set about establishing herself as securities litigator.
Now established in a stable career, Reis began thinking seriously about owning a horse. “I was a little demented in my quest to get one. I scoured every CANTER website in the country, and also regularly checked many others,” she says.
She also began reading blogs from Thoroughbred owners and horse publications to familiarize herself with issues an ex-racehorse may have, and technical information on how to spot the best physical conformation.
Just before Christmas, she spied the perfect horse: a 17-hand bay mare with large, white blaze and strikingly pretty face. As quickly as she found Gigi on www.mandmequestrian.com, a sales and training site run by equestrian Melissa Michelson, the mare was blanketed, and shipped to her on “Santa’s trailer.”
Rolling up on Dec. 18, Gigi poked her head out of the trailer, surveyed the scene, and hopped off at her new home, Bascule Farm. “She just walked over to a patch of grass, put her head down and started to graze,” she says. “Somebody told me that was a really good sign, because most horses are not that relaxed.”
That cool, calm attitude prevails. Through all kinds of head hugs, face scratches, and even a meeting with Reis’s exuberant poodle Midgie, the horse maintains a bright, and very friendly demeanor.
Around Christmas, Gigi shared a paddock with another Christmas horse, which was given to a little girl. Feeling a bit like a child herself, she and the child pointed to one another’s horses and talked excitedly. The encounter brought back her own childhood, riding imaginary horses around the living room, and collecting miniatures.
“I think when I decided to get back into this I had this idea of getting back to where I was” as a child, loving horses. “As I was cutting up apples for her this morning, I was thinking that I’ve always had these great, second-hand experiences, where I enjoy other peoples’ stories about their own horses.”
Now Izabela Reis has her own stories. And it’s even better than she imagined it as a child.