Trotting briskly through flowering apple orchards, her heavyset, old-world type Thoroughbred looked like he’d walked off the pages of a Blood-Horse Magazine from 50 years ago.
Ears forward, he seemed a little uptight; he was ready for anything.
Now, sitting deep in her saddle, Tamara Sheremata coaxed the spunky grandson of Seattle Slew to follow the pack of trail horses.
Up ahead, the lead rider suddenly announced she was going to do a “little cantering.”
And that’s when ex-racehorse Thoroughbred Breaking the Rules must have heard the bell of the starting gait!
Like a shot, he shifted into overdrive and took the Canadian government worker on the ride of her life.
“Under me, I could feel this sudden shift, and it was if he said to me, ‘Look Mom, I’m at the Kentucky Derby!” Sheremata says. “The other horses are whipping by, as we passed them, and I’m hanging on, trying to look to where I wanted us to go. But, he didn’t want to go where I wanted him to, and I fell off.”
Landing in the dirt, the experienced equestrian who previously fox-hunted and evented other breeds for years, realized her handsome new Thoroughbred, who bears a striking resemblance to Seattle Slew, was a lot of horse.
Dusting herself off, Sheremata gathered her horse, and headed back to the barn determined to figure out how to finesse Race name: Breaking The Rules
Barn name: Wilbur
Sire: Chief Seattle, by Seattle Slew
Dam: Linda’s Pal
Foal date: April 2005their rides.
What she would learn quickly was that Breaking The Rules was not an animal to meekly accept the governance of the rider. He would perform, beautifully, but not by bullying. He needed to be convinced, finagled, even tricked, it turned out.
“The first time I took him out in a field, I tried to take him over a slight indentation in the field —it was too shallow to be called a ditch—and there was no way I could force him to walk over it,” she says.
“My coach kept saying I should kick him to make him do it, but he started walking backwards. And, I’ve no doubt that he’s got such strong opinions that he would have walked backwards all the way to the barn to prove his point.”
And when he is really feeling his oats, as he was last week in the school ring, his canter work can quickly morph into an exhibition that causes her coach and onlookers alike, to hold their breath.
“Twice last week, we were working in a nice frame and then without warning, he took off! Everybody gasped,” she says. “Now, I’ve got a good seat, so I stayed on, but I didn’t like the feeling.”
Despite the occasional heart-stopping moment however, she works tirelessly with her spunky OTTB, who she re-named Wilbur; and with the accomplishment of small goals, she sits a little taller in the saddle each time.
With pride, she recalls the first time she introduced Wilbur to the concept of jumping.
Standing off to the side of a lesson ring recently, Wilbur’s head swiveled as he kept his eyes on horses in the ring, who were jumping obstacles. “He’d turn his head to the right and watch them jump, and then swivel and watch them finish,” Sheremata says. “When it was our turn to try, he really didn’t know what to do, but he’d seen the others do it, so he did it too!”
Since those ungainly first jumps, she has taken him over some significant logs out on the trails, where he has hopped them like a pro.
They’re comfortable enough that they trail ride together, and she now has faith in his composure.
“I don’t muscle him around. I’m even getting him started with dressage to slowly build his muscle tone, and it’s getting better and better,” she says.
Sheremata has been a horsewoman for many years, riding different breeds. She adored her Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred cross, and had him until he died at age 20.
She always noticed the Thoroughbreds though. At foxhunts or trail rides, she could see how smart they were, and admired the way they carried themselves with such energy.
So, this past February, after her beloved older horse Calvin died, she happened to meet Wilbur. And she was dazzled the first time she saw him.
“I’ve always wanted a Thoroughbred. By seeing other people event on them, I’ve been able to tell how smart they are,” she says.
“Wilbur’s intelligence and athleticism and character will carry me a lot further, in the long run, than a Warmblood ever would have.”