Kind-eyed broodmare wins over the whole family

Minstrel Blue with Bobby Gardner and son seems to smile too

Minstrel Blue with Bobby Gardner and son seems to smile too

Such a gentle mare was Minstrel Blues. Her large, kind eyes being what Susan and Bobby Gardner first noticed when they met the former Thoroughbred broodmare from Florida on a November day in 2011. But before that the mere mention of the breed, threw their coach into a state of worry and apprehension.

“Don’t get a Thoroughbred!” was what they were told, as they drove from Jacksonville to Ocala, Fla. with Susan Gardner’s riding instructor. She was adamant that a racehorse was the very last type of horse the first-time buyers should consider, Susan Gardner says.

“At one point my trainer turned to us in the car and said, ‘Susan, Bobby, you know I love you guys. But pick another breed!’ She kept telling us not to get a Thoroughbred, but to pick anything else, because they can have a high-strung temperament.”

But after the trio arrived at the farm to take a look at the fire-breathing racehorse, the concerned trainer heaved a sigh of relief. “As soon as my trainer saw Blue, she grabbed me and whispered, ‘I’ve never seen more gentle eyes on a horse in my life!’ ”

And her looks did not deceive.

Though it had been 11 years since Blue had carried a rider—she had been serving as a broodmare delivering very fine foals in those years—she accepted the tack as if no time had passed, giving Gardner an “easy breezy” ride.

Minstrel Blues
Barn name: Blue
Sire: Cure the Blues
Dam: Glorious Minstrel
Foal date: May 10, 1996
“I rode her for a half hour and I had a smile, from ear to ear, the whole time,” she says. “I had wanted my own horse since I was a little girl, and I was always asking for horses to go with my Barbies. The day we went to see Blue, my eyes popped open at 5 in the morning. I was overwhelmingly excited.”

And since that first meeting, when Gardner says she felt an “instant warmth” from the mature mare, she somehow felt everything would be all right.

“With Blue it was a mutual love at first sight,” she says. “Not because of her majesty, power and gentle spirit but more so from the loving expressions I felt directly from her.”
Gardner and her husband had never owned a horse of their own, but had been bitten by the bug about a year earlier, after the pair started volunteering at a Florida retirement farm for working horses. Their Saturday grooming sessions soon inspired them to take riding lessons, and Susan Gardner, who had ridden throughout her life, began to feel a stronger pull toward ownership.

Their search brought Blue into their lives at a time when she needed the warm broodmare to hug, most of all.

Shortly after they purchased the horse, Gardner miscarried her early pregnancy, and the horse assuaged her sadness.

Blue and Susan Gardner enjoy a light snack while taking an amble about the farm

Blue and Susan Gardner stop so the mare can eat the flowers

“Blue took my grief and pain away, it was as though she was able to drain my pain right from me,” she says.

At the same time, Blue bonded with Gardner’s husband and son so easily that in a family picture, with her son sitting on Blue’s bare back and hugging her withers, and her husband holding Blue’s halter, the mare seems almost to be smiling too.

“This horse is amazing, and she makes a beeline for children,” she says, noting that Blue loves to tousle her son’s hair.

Now a permanent member of the family, Blue traveled with the Gardners last year when they relocated to northern Maine, where, like a dream come true, they have settled onto farmland overlooking the ocean.

From the windows of her house, Gardner can see the Atlantic, Canada, and most importantly, Blue. “I’ve always imagined what it would be like to look out my windows and see my own horse outside,” she says.

And to honor the animal who has helped make her childhood dream a reality, Blue’s name will be given as a middle name to her expected daughter, due in about four months. A pair of infant riding britches and tiny pink Polo shirt is waiting too.

In the meantime, Gardner has made it a point to provide Blue a life of wildflowers and trail rides. She’ll never train her for show, she says, because she has done enough, between winning races on the track and providing foals, to warrant a life of leisure, richly deserved.

“She has spa days now,” she says. “I have her on beet pulp and electrolytes and Flax. She runs in the meadows and I won’t let my husband mow the wildflowers because they’re for her. One day one of neighbors mentioned something to us about our backyard and the flowers, and said we should get after them, and I think I surprised him when I said no, they’re for Blue.”

20 responses to “Kind-eyed broodmare wins over the whole family”

  1. liz

    When my son was a boy, his 17h OTTB Canyon Ruler was the best teacher and babysitter a mom could hope for. That big horse was so careful and protective of hkm that it was amazing. They truly loved each other, and he died in my then adult sons arms just shy of his 28th birthday. He was worth his weight in gold, and will never be forgotten

  2. jon

    My first ride was on an OTTB ex broodmare. The same mare taught me to walk, trot, canter and gallop. She took me over my first jumps and along the way to my first blue ribbon. At 15 she was still spirited, but not dangerous. She was a very good horse. The older of the two mares I have now had 9 foals and is a graded stakes winner. She also is a wonderful horse to ride.

    Maybe some of these trainers that do not like Thoroughbreds should learn how to have an open mind about horses and learn to ride the horse under them. There are bad horses in every breed and most of them were created by traimers and riders.

    1. Viktoria KS

      Wish there was a “thumbs up” icon for posts. Jon’s comment would get two thumbs up from me–especially the last paragraph!!

  3. Barbara Griffith

    I think brood mares make good saddle horses for the reason they have raised babies and are of a very forgiving nature. I hope more folks will seek out ex-brood mares as companion pets or show prospects. That will also help keep a lot of them off of the last ride on the “truck”.

  4. Kristi

    You’re never too old to fulfill dreams from your youth. Great story!

  5. Viktoria KS

    Wanted to also make a respectful suggestion…the mare’s halter looks a little tight. It can actually cause problems if the halter is always that tight. Best wishes for a wonderful future for this mare and family!

    1. Susan Gardner

      Blue never wears a halter for any length of time at appears snug in the photo bc it was being held close to kiss and fuss over her….not bc it’s tight, but thank you for the suggestion.
      We utilize Nylon halters for baths and her Leather nameplate halters to remind her of the star she is from her race days… however, Blue is in the buff 99% of the time.
      Thank you all for your kind sentiments regarding Blue. I will be sure to pass them on to her.
      Susan Gardner

      1. Viktoria KS

        LOL! Perfect! Horses LOVE “buff” best of all! 🙂

  6. cheri vaughan

    What a lovely story! Keep them coming!

  7. Kathryn Dube

    Wonderful story! And a view of the Atlantic Ocean and Canada every day. What a sweet ending!

  8. Shannon

    Blue looks so much like my OTTB gelding. Same huge kind eye, same coloring. What a doll! So glad you gave her a chance!

  9. Elvira

    What a wonderful story of love and loyalty! Wish the family continued happiness and good health.

  10. Linda Brown

    As first time horse owners, we got a baby TB filly and an OTTB gelding. Crazy!! My husband now rides our mare in shows and the gelding is a gentle giant – a love bug.

    Sure, there are some hot TBs out there, but there are PLENTY of sweet, easygoing ones too.

  11. julia

    wonderful story.. so lucky they found each other

  12. Lisa Suphan

    What a great story!! So glad the Gardners held their ground and refused to listen to their instructor. None of us are right about everything “horse” 100% of the time and even instrustors/trainers/coaches need to continue to expand their knowledge base. And I agree, nothing is worse than breed prejudice. Luckily for Blue, she now has the life she deserves and appears more than happy to go from broodmare to babysitter!
    Best of luck to them all!

  13. edna

    Another thoroughbred gets a wonderful home, complete with spa days. These horses always know when they’ve found the right person and family for themselves. You can tell by their behavior and body language.

  14. Marion N. Seidel

    I loved this story, but it also caused me to get a little upset… People need to understand and get better educated – it hurts me each time I hear the ‘public perception’ of a thoroughbred being to the horse breeds what the pit bull is to the dog breeds. So very glad to hear that the Gardner family didn’t listen to their “trainer” and gave this wonderful mare a chance!!!
    Each horse, dog or even human is different and there are hundreds of different personalities displayed. The biggest difference is that horses and dogs, unlike humans, live in the moment and are capable of reflecting what is given to them. If you treat them right, they will just love and please and this has nothing whatsoever to do with any breed! Agreed, that it may need some time in cases of previous abuse, but with right handling and training it can be changed…

    1. Viktoria KS

      Excellent post Marion. You know of what you speak! Wish humans were as intuitive and as giving as horses!

  15. Cindy Crank

    A happy horse who has found the right owners and a forever home! And, a house on the ocean..what could be nice!

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