A partly blind ex-racehorse is Orb’s go-to pony

Well Well stands next to his pal, Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Photo by Brittlan Wall

Well Well stands next to his pal, Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Photo by Brittlan Wall

Nearly blind in one eye, and possessing none of the flash and pizzazz of more beautiful racehorses, the plain bay Thoroughbred spent most of his life shirking the limelight.

Well Well was a weird little horse, recalls his longtime rider Priscilla Godsoe.

Though he had a work ethic a mile long, and was one of the most able-bodied and willing mounts on which she’d ever traversed the Pennsylvania foxhunting territory, Well Well was a bit of a loner.

“He didn’t like other horses and really didn’t have any friends out in the field,” Godsoe says. “And the first day I met him, when I was 14 years old, he stood in the back of his stall, pinned his ears, and was tearing at me like I was some kind of monster.”

So naturally, she was stunned last week to see her little project horse of yesteryear in news photos accompanying none other than Kentucky Derby winner Orb!

But there he was. She’d have known the floppy ears, and nonchalant way of standing anywhere.

“The first picture I saw, I could see his ears sticking out, off to the side, and although I could only see half Well Well
Sire: Opening Verse
Dam: Mari Her
Foal date: April 5, 1996
of his face in the photo, he had this certain way of standing, and I knew it was him,” she says.

A quick text to her friend Jennifer Patterson, Orb’s exercise rider, confirmed it.

“I wrote, ‘Is that who I think it is, standing next to Orb?’ And, after that she started tagging me (with photos) on Facebook, showing me that Well Well has been going everywhere that Orb has been going.”

She adds, “It made me feel so proud. Everyone wants to say that they’re part of it when a horse wins the Derby, but in this case, it hit close to home.”

Long before Well Well wound up with a job ponying Orb for Shug McGaughey, Godsoe had worked with him for Jimmy Paxton of River Hills Fox Hounds when she was just a young teen.

Though he’d been bred and entered in racing by the famous Mrs. Richard C. duPont, Well Well only earned about $18,000 on the track before he wound up with Paxton. And Paxton turned him over to Godsoe.

“This was my first significant horse, and I was so exited when he came into my life,” she says. She rode him often, and tried everything, including 2-foot-6 Hunters, and a ton of foxhunting.

Baying hounds and rocky footing never fazed Well Well. And though he was never an affectionate animal, he was no-nonsense and professional at all times.

“He approached everything like a job. If you put him on the cross ties, he didn’t stand there like it was time to get peppermints.  He stood still, like he was saying, ‘I’m here to be brushed and groomed.’ That horse was all business.”

Priscilla and Well Well, back in their foxhunting days

Priscilla and Well Well, back in their foxhunting days

Godsoe rode him for 12 years, until while descending a tricky hill one afternoon, she noticed something odd about the way he was holding his head; it was as if he couldn’t see properly.

“He started to cock his head to the right, so he could see out of his left eye,” she says. “And one day when we were out hunting, we were coming down a horrible, crazy cliff-hill-thing, and I could just tell he couldn’t see completely out of his ride side, and he started getting really nervous.”

About two years later, in 2008, Well Well was turned over to fellow foxhunter Duncan Patterson, the father of Orb’s exercise rider, to go to work as a pony for Shug McGaughey.

“I remember they wanted a horse who was fast, who could keep up,” she says. “And Well Well was really fast.”

From Saratoga to the tracks down south, Well Well traveled with his crew to perform his new job as a pony. Godsoe would get word of him from time to time and always felt a sense of joy, knowing her old quirky loner was taking care of business.

But when she saw her old friend standing so placidly next to Orb, her jaw dropped.

Well Well had gone first class!

“Every single day that Orb goes to the track Well Well goes with him. And when Orb was flown to New York after the Derby, only one other horse flew with him; it was Well Well,” she says, her voice filling with pride.

“Honestly, to know that somebody loves him and appreciates him makes me so happy. I see him in the pictures, and he looks just as well brushed and shiny as Orb— it’s just a cool feeling to see.”

32 responses to “A partly blind ex-racehorse is Orb’s go-to pony”

  1. Suzanne DeStefano

    I got to know Well Well at the Patterson’s. I love getting reports about how well he is doing at his new job-and his air travel!

  2. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Well Well looks wonderful and is an important part of the Orb team. Very nice story.

  3. Georgia Britt

    I don’t see anything “plain” about him. I think he is beautiful.

    1. Nicole R

      I agree 100% Georgia!

    2. yote54

      I agree with Georgia! People didn’t think Seabiscuit was beautiful but I always thought he was. It’s in the eyes…..

    3. Greybirdk

      I agree he’s a handsome fellow, but “plain” in this context means no flashy markings, white socks and such; not some poor Jane Austen character who will have to settle for an embarassing husband ;-)

  4. Trixie

    Thank you for sharing. Such a sweet story.

  5. Jerry Leeds

    A truly beautiful story. Could be a great motivational book. Thanks for sharing.

  6. RiderWriter

    What a wonderful story! And I agree with Georgia, I think he is lovely. He’s certainly got a prettier head than Orb, that’s for sure! :-)

    I had read something about Orb’s pony horse being an ex-foxhunter and was very intrigued, so thank you for filling in the whole story.

  7. Christy Heffner

    Well Well and Orb both look wonderful. I’d also like to send a shout out to Brittlan Wall, the photographer, who I met at Frankie Lovato’s Jockey Camp two summers ago. Great job, Brittlan!! We’re all proud of you.

    1. Brittlan Wall

      Thank you Christy! I appreciate it. Well Well and Orb are two peas in a pod :) Love seeing OTTB’s doing big things. Great article!

  8. Kim

    I agree with Georgia; I think he’s quite handsome! Nice story, Sue!

  9. Susan Crane-Sundell

    He’s lovely and it’s wonderful to see him have three lives. A nice progression and it’s good for a loner to have found a great friend. Here’s to a great partnership!

  10. LindaVA

    Great story!! Well Well is a handsome boy.

  11. Stacy Anne Hoehle

    This made me really happy. I love my horse, a retired blind hunter, so much. Both my horse and Well Well are horses that could’ve been overlooked because of their vision. Can’t wait to see more of Well Well and Orb!

  12. Melissa Giese

    What a beautiful story and beautiful horse! Thanks Sue.

  13. Jon

    I think he is handsome. Well Well just had to find the right job. Well played horse.

  14. Donna Brothers

    This is a great story, Susan, thanks for sharing!

  15. Erin

    I have tears streaming! What a sweet story about a willing horse taking on a new career. Bless the Thoroughbred! The most versatile horses around.

  16. kim farris

    What a beautiful story! Brought tears to my eyes.

  17. Beasie Patterson

    We had Wellie on our place for almost a year before he joined the McGaughey stable. One of the nicest horses around! He is so well taken care of now and they now call him Sir Wellington!! Just love it!!

  18. Delrene Sims

    Thank you for giving us his history prior to being the companion to Orb. It is always so good to hear about off-track thoroughbreds who enjoy new careers. He sounds like a terrific companion and now he does have “friends in high places”.

  19. Heather Seiden

    Great story and great comments… I am going to look for Well Well this weekend! Orb has a bee eff eff!!

  20. Camilla Osterman

    Love the story and would like to write about Well Well in the swedish racing magazine Galoppmagasinet. Is it OK to use the photo of him and Orb?

    My deadline is tomorrow..

    Could you please let me know as soon as possible? Please, answer to my e-mail, camilla@ostermanunlimited.se

    Cheers,
    Camilla

  21. Jen paxson

    I rode Well Well as a racehorse at Sylmar Farm. After his last race he was given to me and I past him on to my Uncle Jimmy. I find alot of untruth to this story. He was one of the sweetest horses I still have ever been around. He never had a mean bone in his body. He was never one to pin ears or be afraid of people like they were monsters. He loved people attention and I taught him that when I tickled his chin he would stick out his tongue. I just want the truth to be known. This story isn’t completly true! I am proud of where he is today but thats to his own good nature.

  22. Cindy

    Beautiful horse, beautiful story. Thank you.

  23. Elizabeth

    Loved reading this story. I know of another young horse that is also partially blind in one eye. They’re still racing him. I hope he also finds a loving retirement job like this one did. Always worry about the ones that have these types of impairments.

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