In the game of life, Annie wins again

Annie and Barbour at the Mounted Games in Maryland

Annie and Barbour at the Mounted Games in Maryland

Annie was too small and slow to be a racehorse, to be sure.

She lost big in the only race she ever completed.

But plunk her down in the middle of a Mounted Games competition, and the failed racehorse suddenly swells with size and speed.

Only 15 hands in stature, she is almost too tall for a sport that is dominated by petite 13- and 14-hand ponies. But the delicate lady is so fast she can trounce the smaller competition as they run patterns in competitive trials that test the nerves and maneuverability of the horse, and the dexterity of the riders.

For an ex-racehorse who has been dealt some pretty lousy cards in the game of life, including nearly starving as a yearling among an ill-fated herd of neglected and dying Thoroughbreds, Annie has come into her own this year as one of the few Thoroughbreds competing in a sport created by England’s Prince Phillip.

Race name: Notinrwildestdremz
Barn name: Annie
Sire: Griffinte
Dam: Shelley’s Wind
Foal date: April 8, 2008

Fresh from the MGAA Individual Championship games in Frederick, Md., Sept. 13, Annie and her rider Laura Barbour successfully twisted around poles, ran relays, all the while keeping cool heads throughout the Mounted Games for greener horses.

And this coming weekend, Annie, who raced once under the Jockey Club name Notinrwildestdremz, will attempt to climb up the ranks as she competes at the intermediate level in another competition in Pennsylvania.

Barbour, who rides Annie for owners Sean and Angelika Hala-Kerr, says that if the bay mare keeps on chugging at the rate she’s going now, she could soon make a very fine competition horse.

“There’s not a lot of Thoroughbreds in this sport,” Barbour says, explaining just how special Annie is. “This sport can be a little overwhelming to a horse, if you do it too fast, or if they get too hot, it doesn’t really work out. But, Annie is really good about keeping herself level-headed and steady, and still easy to control.”

Annie and Barbour perform the Tool Kit event

Annie and Barbour perform the Tool Kit event

The pair tested their mettle most recently in Maryland, where several events challenged them. In one, they were required to canter a pattern around four poles, while Barbour leaned from the saddle to pick up and set down cups along the way. The Mug Shuffle Challenge, as it is known, requires a maneuverable horse in order to slow down, speed up, and lean in to grab and move the cups.

Annie also performed in another challenge called Tool Box. This involves galloping up to a tack box, which is the target, as the rider leaps off the horse to fill the box with tools, and then acrobatically vaults back into the saddle.

“While you’re doing all this, you’re being timed,” she notes.

But no challenge that the Mounted Games can throw at her will equal the trials the young horse faced as a yearling in 2009. At that time, the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA rescued that year, along with droves of starving horses, from a farm in New York.

Annie was malnourished and fighting to survive on Ernie Paragallo’s farm when she was scooped up with more than 170 other malnourished horses. Paragallo was convicted on 33 counts of animal cruelty and served jail time, according to the New York Times, and Annie, who was among the last horses to be adopted, was eventually taken in by the Kerr family.

Sean Kerr, left, joins Annie and Barbour at the Mounted Games

Sean Kerr, left, joins Annie and Barbour at the Mounted Games

Against the odds, Annie was the only horse of that crop of rescue horses to ever make it to the racetrack. She trained with legendary trainer Billy Turner of Seattle Slew fame, but when it came time to run, she struggled again. In the only race she completed, she finished far off the pace, in last place, against a field of bigger, strapping racehorses.

But throughout her recovery from malnourishment, and her formal race training, the petite racehorse faced her challenges with a cool head. Nothing fazed her, the Kerr’s said in an earlier interview with

Now leased to Barbour for $1 a year to ride in Mounted Games, it seems little Annie has been dealt a new hand, and found a new calling.

“There’s not a whole lot of Thoroughbreds who are doing what Annie does,” Barbour says admiringly. “The Games are a lot bigger in Europe, especially in France, and most people ride a Welch Cross, which are very expensive horses.”

But if all goes well this weekend, and Annie conquers the intermediate level, Barbour is hopeful that the little ex-racehorse will do big things in the Mounted Games world, and pioneer new ground for off-track Thoroughbreds.

12 responses to “In the game of life, Annie wins again”

  1. Linda McGill

    I am happy for Annie! Some animals thrive on “work” and apparently she is one of them! I can relate to this need to be busy! (I have a Border Collie.) I wish Annie much success in her hew “profession”.

  2. Sean Kerr

    Hi Lauren – My wife Angelika and me really appreciate your concern and can appreciate where you are coming from. I would like to clarify a few things about Annie and her well-being. The $1 ‘lease agreement’ was created to ensure that we are and will always be the legal owners of Annie and that no one can sell her or otherwise affect her well-being. So on that point we are not making any money from her being engaged in any equine activities. Annie’s current team are actually friends of ours, we trust them and they are close friends with a large circle of people we are involved with. Laura and her family are some of the finest, responsible and caring horsemen we have ever met. Laura’s mother Michele is also a veterinarian, and a very ethical one. The ‘Mounted Games’ is an amateur event. So there is no profit motive and no monetary, financial or material benefit comes to the riders or owners. The competition is simply for fun. It takes a special horse to be engaged in this activity: Annie thrives on it. When she lived on the farm as a young filly, she competed aggressively with older tougher mares. She has no fear – but she loves to work, she loves to play and she loves life. The ‘lease agreement’ described above was arranged so that we could ensure that Annie will always fall back to us whenever she competes in other amateur sports. She will live out her life with us. Annie raced under the colors of 5R Racehorse Stable. When we adopted her – and I can guarantee you that had we not, that she would have met a very sad end – we announced publicly that she would have a home with us for life. So why would we ‘lease’ her out? We only did it because we know Laura and Michele, they are nearby, and we know the quality of care she would receive. We would never let a stranger work or board Annie. My wife and I were thrilled when Laura and her family wanted to work with Annie – we knew that she would love it. She is an extremely happy horse. She has a very real personality. She is smart: and she loves people. You can rest assured that should Annie tell us that she doesn’t like or is ill-suited to any equine activity, that she will never be ‘thrown away’. Again – we can appreciate your concerns. Believe me when I say that Annie does not have to ‘earn her keep’. She deserves our keep. She deserves a happy life. By the way, we have spent no small amount of money and time helping rescue horses over the last several years. I am sad to say that we have even had to go and rescue horses from people who claim to be ‘rescuers’. At times this has been a financial strain. We have written letters to judges, courts and congressional leaders on both the state and federal level to bring about meaningful changes and to make our concerns heard. We hoped and continue to hope that with Annie’s new life, she can help educate the public both about how negligent the horse racing and breeding industry can be, but also make the public aware that racehorses can go on to a happy life. We hope that we are providing a model and an example that will encourage others to place the care and welfare of the horse as a matter of principle and priority. Thank you, Sean.

  3. Lauren Jones

    A forever home is what she needs, and it shouldn’t be based on her earning it by what she can do…I have 6 and not a one earn their keep, but they are happy, healthy and free…and in turn so am I. Is it not enough what she has gone through, to make her earn a life..just sounds like if she had failed at the Mounted Games, her life would be in question again. If this isn’t true, I stand corrected..I just don’t believe a horse should have to earn their right to a good life, good feed, good treatment. They are smart loving , caring animals with as much right to be here as we are. Shame they have to depend on the likes of us to care for them. Wonder if the roles were reversed, if you would find hundreds of humans standing in a pasture starving to death…doubtful…

  4. Lauren Jones

    I noted that Annie is only on lease for a $1.00 a year, is this a forever home or not?

  5. Monica Horn

    What a great update!! So heartwarming. Thank you!
    When news spread among concerned racing fans/animal lovers about the conditions at Ernie Paragallo’s farm, hundreds sent emails to local law enforcement and animal welfare groups in the area of the farm, pleading with them to do something!! I’m proud to say I was one of them!

  6. Karen Tsakos

    Wait, Notinrwildest dreams–you’re this wonderful Annie?!?! My goodness, I’ve been imagining you kicked back in your stall with a bowl of carrots and apples by your side, watching your friends on TV, and all along you’ve had this secret life? I always thought you were awesome, but this tops everything! I hope that now that the cat’s out of the bag, you’ll keep us informed about your competitions! Hey, maybe you’ll wind up going to Paris!

  7. Jon

    Go little brown mare go!

  8. Alexandra Uth

    Please don’t call her a “failed racehorse.” The fact that she survived and made it to the track at all makes her a success in my book. She tried; it didn’t work out, but she didn’t fail. Thank goodness Annie has found people who love her no matter what and gave her the chance to find her true calling.

    1. Jon

      Annie’s talent had yet to be recogised.

  9. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Annie has found her calling and has a great family at last! It is enjoyable to watch her use her incredible intelligence and work in the Mounted Games. She is doing her part to help popularize a sport that will really take off in the U.S.

    Congratulations Annie—you’re a very graceful mare with a heart five times your size!

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