After retraining 300 ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds in three years for the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program in Kentucky, steeplechase-trained equestrian Lisa Molloy will, in two weeks, ride off into the sunset.
Molloy, the fair-haired Englishwoman who is often pictured schooling racehorse prospects for New Vocations, has decided to relocate to Virginia.
However, Molloy will not let dust collect on her riding boots for too long!
She plans to start work immediately, training private horses at East Coast Equestrian Training Center in Virginia, and helping re-train Thoroughbreds for a locally based Thoroughbred nonprofit.
Her decision to leave Lexington, Ky., was not easy, she says. But, when her husband relocated to Virginia after working seven years abroad, it became necessary for her and her young son, Jack.
“My husband has been in Afghanistan for seven years, and last year he got a job in Virginia,” Molloy says. “I’ve been out there many times, and he recently said, ‘At some point you need to come out here permanently.’ ”
There was never a question she would move, but to pull up stakes after so many successful years with New Vocations is about as tough as riding an ornery horse.
“It’s been a really good run with New Vocations,” Molloy says. “They approached me, originally, to see if I could get three horses trained and adopted, and it just snowballed.”
Since the first time she climbed into saddle for a New Vocations horse in 2009, Molloy’s training career has taken off. After her initial successes, she became an “instrumental” part of the Lexington operation, according to a press release on the New Vocations website.
Her riding style is not pretty she insists.
“I’m workmanlike when it comes to style,” she says, laughing. “I would never win any equitation classes.”
But what she does do, which is a thing of beauty unto itself, is transform ex-racehorses, even a few previously unruly ones, into capable riding mounts.
Approaching each horse with the advice she received as a 16-year-old steeplechase whip rider in England, Molloy always remembers to treat all horses with respect.
“There was a guy I worked for, who trained horses for nearly every major hurdle in Europe, and I would say to him, ‘I can’t ride that! I can’t hold that!’
And he would say that of course I couldn’t hold a 1,200-pound animal, but ‘If you treat them well, and treat them with respect, you’ll be fine. If you don’t, they’ll kill you.’ ”
So, when she approached the incorrigible ex-racehorse Pentagon, a mount with the reputation for dumping his riders at the track, she first worked to help him relax, and build his trust.
She turned him out in a paddock with other horses, and found the refreshing change of pace so beneficial to his mental health was like “hitting the reset button on his brain.”
And when she saddled up for their first ride, he never tried anything dirty. On a loose rein, he worked cooperatively on trails at first, and later, in the arena.
She never pushed, or raced to get him to collect himself into a frame. And she never cranked his head into an unnatural pose.
And naturally, within about 45 days, Pentagon came into a frame on his own, using his newly developed top-line muscles to help him achieve show-horse balance.
“A lot of people try to hustle their horses, and force them into gaits too quickly,” Molloy says. “But, I’ve found they’ll achieve the frame you’re seeking if you let them come to it on their own.”
She loved the bad-boy racehorse so much, she kept him for herself.
And, when she heads east to start fresh, Pentagon will be among the horses she takes with her.
As hard as it is to leave New Vocations, Molloy is excited to start this next chapter.
Guessing that approximately 70 percent of the horses she has trained and adopted out have wound up in Virginia, Molloy is hoping to attract a robust client base.
And, she is eager to start work with a re-homing Thoroughbred organization in the Virginia area.
“I’m very excited to work with the new facility. We’re hoping to look into hosting Jockey Club Incentive shows, and I may try to organize an open house to introduce myself to the community,” Molloy says, noting she expects to be up and running in Virginia by mid-July.
“New Vocations has been great, and I’ve had the opportunity to ride some really fantastic horses for them,” Molloy adds.
And now her deep knowledge and experience will be applied as she begins to train the many lucky Virginia-area off-track Thoroughbreds for their next careers.