The bell clanged insistently, the metal starting gate snapped open, and all at once out rushed a field of hard-driving Thoroughbreds accompanied by one persnickety “creampuff” of a horse.
As the pack made its way along the Monmouth Park race course, a pretty bay named Mommie’s Luke, the creampuff in question, moved in beautiful balance; and though he had no shot at hitting the board that day, at least one onlooker beheld his future.
“There’s a children’s hunter for you!” exclaimed a friend of the racehorse’s owners.
Linda McBurney, owner of the beautiful creature who used to stamp, paw, and grind his teeth in the saddling area, recalls what a fine specimen he was when he left the starting gate.
“He came out looking lovely,” she says, chuckling. “He just didn’t have the mentality for racing. He was a little bit of a creampuff and a good racehorse needs to be more like a prizefighter.”
Her husband Pat, a race trainer at Monmouth Park who early on embraced the idea that an unhappy racehorse should be retrained for a second career, cajoled his wife into helping him out with the petite bay gelding. He had purchased Mommie’s Luke in a dispersal sale, and when it was clear the gelding disliked racing, he turned to his wife for help.
“At first I wasn’t sure. I said I was getting old to take on a young racehorse as a project,” she says. “But, I really liked (Mommie’s Luke’s) trainer, and Race name: Mommie’s Luke
Show name: Less is More
Barn name: Lester
Sire: Ameri Valay
Dam: Celestial Wings
Foal date: Feb. 7, 2001thought it would be a good excuse to hang out, and get lunch.”
Expecting little more than some good female bonding time, McBurney began driving out to her friend’s farm in Morristown, N.J., where the recalcitrant racehorse was being stabled, and gamely began lessons.
“It was November 2005 when we got started together,” she says. “I started by teaching him how to flat correctly, and he showed me he takes his work very seriously.”
But instead of misbehaving like he once did in the saddling paddock at the track—he was transformed from the teeth-gnashing steed into a virtuoso who floated over jumps.
“Contrary to the way he used to melt down at the paddock, as soon as he trotted into the ring, he breathed a huge sigh of relief,” McBurney says. “He absolutely embraced being in a ring with a bunch of jumps.”
In six months time, he was prepared to enter his first show, where he proved to be scopey and balanced. Unlike other new jumpers, who gallop straight up to the jump and pop over it, this horse, who is now named Less Is More, departs and lands well clear of the jump. His stride is so enormous that McBurney and her friend once stopped to study the hoof prints on either side of the jump, amazed that he had jumped from so far back.
And when an object looks a little spooky, he puffs himself up with courage and gets really brave, she says.
“As competitors, we always have a secret card to play. Even a slow racehorse can always go faster, and we’ve won that way,” she says. “If I give him a little cluck and give him his head, that’s when he knows we’re going to roll. That’s when he makes his stride really big—he’s tough to beat in a jump-off because of that stride.”
This is how a losing horse at the track, once tweaked and trained for something he enjoys, put the McBurneys in the money, after all.
Last year in Wellington, Fla., he was champion in the Master’s Jumper Division at WEF 8, and won the $10,000 Master’s Classic, Reserve Champion at WEF 9. He also won the $10,000 Child/Adult Jumper Classic at the HITS IV show last summer.
“I don’t know if there are that many Thoroughbreds in the divisions we’ve won in,” McBurney says. “But he embraces jumping, and he’s smart enough to use his pace to his advantage: he’s not afraid to gallop up to a big fence, and that’s his advantage over the Warmbloods.”
Not only is Less Is More winning the big classes, he is also serving as an ambassador in the big leagues.
“Even a Thoroughbred who was slow on the track will have a quicker turn of foot than the Warmblood, and this is their advantage,” she says. “And to people who say they’re spooky, I disagree: What they are is really careful.
“This horse was built for jumping. He has a strong engine in the back, and he’s quick, careful and very agile,” she adds, noting that the pair is heading back to Wellington very soon to compete against more Warmbloods in the master’s division.
20 responses to “A TB ‘creampuff’ turns Warmbloods to jelly”
I have a half sibling! He did ok racing, but even better as a hunter/Jumper. JC: Purple Wings .. 2002 dam is Celestial Wings and sire is Purple Passion.
Hey! We won the Masters Classic today at WEF and were champion for the week!
Thoroughbreds ROCK!! You can’t catch my thoroughbred with a Warmblood!!…..HA!!!
Congratulations!!!!! I need to do a quick followup. A picture. A comment. An autograph?
Love and ride OTTB’s and TB’s. Anything less is a horse bred to pull rock carts.
Linda — much luck to you and your gorgeous mount in the upcoming season. We’ll be dipping our toes in small, local shows, and thinking of you and Less is More.
Thank you, Susan for all the great stories. I literally cannot wait for the publication each week. As OTTB owners, we all enjoy and share in the triumph when another thoroughbred begins his new life with a caring owner, and the two bond and form a great relationship.
Nuala and Captain Jack Sparrow
I met Linda for years ago working at the track. I am so glad to meet with her again showing OTTB’s. Lester is awesome, and I can’t wait to see them kick Warmblood butt in Welii World next month. WE love our OTTB’s! Awesome story
Love these success stories. Not all of us humans find the right job on the first try, we always get more chances to try other jobs. Same chance should be given to working animals, as proven right here.
Thanks so much for all the support and good wishes for Less Is More’s continued success! Let’s Go Thoroughbreds!!
so cool! Bravo to all that appreciate and respect the refinement and athleticism of the Thoroughbred! You will be rewarded!
I love your blog! OTTBs are wonderful creatures and it’s heartwarming to see that they are, perhaps, making a well-deserved comeback. We cannot do enough to promote this ultimate athlete! I have pulled a few off the track and out of auctions myself, and have had great luck rehabilitating them. They are as tough as they are athletic. I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle and participating in some of the many wonderful Thoroughbred shows that are, happily, cropping up everywhere now.
Great story. I own a half sister to this horse that acts so similar, unlimited power in the hind end for jumping! Good luck in 2013.
I would love to hear more about Lester’s half sister! There is also a full brother to him, who is a year older (2000), that I would love to find!
I will get on that story! 🙂
What a big jump in that boy! Another awesome story about another unsuccessful racehorse who found his calling elsewhere–three cheers for Less Is More.
I love your story. Honestly, it’s very close to the story of my OTTB, who came off the track in October 2010, went right to work in her new job and went to her first show that January, coming home Champion. She LOVES her job in the jumpers and was also a terrible race horse (no wins, one placing in the top 3 for her entire career). She is focused, scopey and has a sneaky huge stride. Love your story, congrats, and good luck in WEF!
A wonderful re-training success story. He is a beauty….. Thank you for this great commentary
Thanks for your comments on this blustery and snowy day. I hope Lester has a banner year in sunny Florida, making everyone ask, “Who’s that beautiful horse? Is he a Warmblood?” 🙂
Beautiful horse, beautiful rider, beautiful blog entry! The Trifecta!!
Love a success story like yours & Les’!