Bridleless Wyatt is a racetrack wonder

Donna Keen, president of Thoroughbred charity Remember Me Rescue, rides Bridleless Wyatt on the track. Photo by Maggie Kimmitt

Donna Keen, president of Thoroughbred charity Remember Me Rescue, rides Bridleless Wyatt on the track. Photo by Maggie Kimmitt

Author’s note: Bridleless Wyatt is sick this morning. Please keep him your thoughts.This story about Donna Keen’s amazing horse was published earlier this year.

No matter how famous the racehorse or esteemed the racecourse, when the pretty bridleless gelding of unknown origin steps onto the track, he steals the show.

That’s right, Wyatt the white gelding, ridden without bridle by Thoroughbred racehorse owner and rescuer Donna Keen, even stops to pose for pictures, just like the big stars.

And in the universe of the social media world, where fans follow him, he is a star.

Rescued from a kill buyer when he was 2, and taught to go bridleless, even while working alongside frisky racehorses, Wyatt is a wonder wherever he goes.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Keen, the president of Texas-based Thoroughbred charity Remember Me Rescue, explains how she came to be ponying Thoroughbreds and chasing down runaways on a mysterious gray horse who knows his job cold, and can quell even the spookiest racehorse with a curled lip and a look.

And he does it all without being yanked by reins and a bit.

Q: How did Bridleless Wyatt come into your life?

On the job, Wyatt can quell a young upstart with a look and a curled lip.

On the job, Wyatt can quell a young upstart with a look and a curled lip.

I bought him from a killer auction, when he was an unbroken two-year old colt. I was told he was a Paint, and he was such a pretty horse I didn’t want him to go on to slaughter.

I don’t know anything about his background. He has an oval brand on the side of his face, and another brand, a V, on his hip. But we never did figure out how he got to that auction.

Q: You broke him at age 2 and started working with him on the track at age 3. Why did you decide to go bridleless with him?

He’s a really handy horse and learned really easily. I taught him to make basic dressage moves, like the half pass, from my seat. So going bridleless just made sense to me. You can teach a horse to move off your leg in a matter of minutes. It’s not hard to teach a horse what we’ve taught Wyatt. And they like it. Their gait is more natural, because they move more freely, the way they would if they didn’t have a rider.

Q: But what about when you have to spring into action to catch a loose horse or “pony” a recalcitrant racer?

Wyatt is indulged off the track—he'll eat anything!

Wyatt is indulged with a little snack—he’ll eat anything!

We were at Santa Anita two years ago and I was sitting there gabbing with some people, when a horse spooked and started running backwards toward the crowd. I wasn’t paying attention, but Wyatt was. The next thing I knew, Wyatt just jumped toward him, and I had the (spooking) horse in my hands. Wyatt really knows his job.

We’ve also assisted in catching runaways. We’ve done everything. Wyatt is not afraid.

Q: You’ve said he even seems to communicate with other horses better without the bridle.

If a horse is acting up, he looks over at them and squints his eyes, curls his lip and flares his nostrils. I don’t know what he’s saying, but whatever they’re doing, they stop.

Q: Where can people see Wyatt, and what do you hope to show by riding him bridleless?

He works mostly at Lone Star Park right now, but he’s been everywhere, including Santa Anita, Del Mar and Keeneland. He’s well traveled.

What I want people to understand is that horses are not dumb animals. We want to show people how smart they are. And people notice him. Wherever we go, he draws a crowd. And he stops and pricks his ears and poses for the camera.

Author’s note—This was a fan favorite and I felt like re-sharing it today!

25 responses to “Bridleless Wyatt is a racetrack wonder”

  1. fran

    Love this horse, love this story!

  2. cheri vaughan

    Worth reading again, and again and again. GREAT story!

  3. Laureen

    Thank you for giving him a new lease on life! He looks fantastic and is obviously loving his “job”.

  4. Rebecca Fetterman Vensel

    I missed it the first time around. Thank you for re-posting. Now one of my favorites, also!

  5. Alida

    Wonderful to show the reality of our beautiful friends. Thank you

  6. Kathryn Syssoloff

    You are not only kind, but an exceptional horsewoman. Well done.

  7. bowie girl

    There is a pony horse here at laurel/pimlico who can work bridle less but they won’t allow it. So she has to put a “war bridle” on him to ease the management lol

    1. C. Taylor

      What is a “war bridle”? Can this horse simply don said war bridle while the rider leaves off the reins and uses a strap around the neck? Or, if they require the reins, snap them to the dee ring on the saddle so that they do not flap around.

  8. lucy

    Awesome story … unbelievable horse …

    Author need to learn to read what she has written … “They’re gait is more natural …” Yes, I know this story is not about grammar, but if you make a living writing, you really should know how to write correctly.

  9. goahed ann puntmii

    Very cool you ride this horse with a rope around his neck. As a teen, working at an auction mart in the 70’s,one of the oldest “Tricks” in the book was to enter the sale ring on a bridled and saddled horse and a string around its neck. About 1/2 way through the bidding we would reach forward and pull the bridles from the horses and ride them with the string around their necks. Horses that have never gone bridless will go well with the string. I didn’t realize the “Why” much later when I was in Agriculture school working with sheep, also like the horse a prey animal. During the sheep management portion we had to catch full size Suffolk and Hamp sheep, (up to 200 lbs) so we could treat, separate, trim feet etc. If you try to grab a sheep on any part of their bodies, including a leg, you will not stop them from moving. However those long hooks sheperds have are very valuable tools for handling wild or any sheep. You simply reach out and hook the sheep in the throat and the sheep stops dead in its tracks. This is a prey animal reaction to be being grabbed in the throat. Horses are the same, in fact more respectful than something restricting their heads or noses such as halters without knots, or a bridle with bits in their mouths. I’ve ridden with bridles, without bridles with halters (flat) and with Navajo one piece halters that work on the very sensitive facial nerves and with a piece of twine around the neck. I NEVER YANK on the bit/reins.

  10. Billy Johnson

    I really enjoyed stopping to see Donna and Wyatt this winter at Houston and it was a real treat to drive to the barn in my golf cart and hear Wyatt nicker at me because he knew that I had donuts every morning for him. I was in shock when I saw him on the track for the first time without a bridle and to watch him with horses was pretty cool.

  11. Gary F.

    Great story, I had a Horse come along somewhat the same way, A Trainer basically fed is family by poning horses off this Appaloosa, he started to Bow, after work in the morning I’d see all the race track kids 3or 4 on his back at once walking back to the barn, I asked the Owner if he was for sale, I knew he wasn’t gonna be around much longer , Got him pulled the shoes Turned out for a b’t 8 months the bow tightned up ,and I had the best pony horse for the next 10 yrs , gave him away to a little girl (good family) he hada good life.

  12. Cookie - Bowling Green Ky

    It’s always great to hear another testament about God’s gift of the horse to humans as their helper!

  13. SusanA

    I’m really hoping that he will be back at Keeneland sometime! Would love to see and meet him!

  14. Kelly

    This is an amazing story. It just goes to show that if people are willing to listen and to put their trust in their horse, anything is possible!!!! Donna, you and Wyatt have set an example of what all riders should strive to accomplish. You trusted Wyatt and he shows you the trust and respect in return that you have given him the chance to show every day. It’s just too bad that their are not more like you and Wyatt out there!!! Kudoos to you both!!!!

  15. Catherine Revell

    I have a rescued thoroughbred from Santa Anita. Warren’s MissJones. She tripped out of the gate on her 11th race and hurt herself and was retired (sent to slaughter). She learns just by watching me train my other horse. She’s the most amazing horse I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. I love my beautiful, talented mare!

  16. Susan Friedland-Smith

    What timing! I just tweeted to Wyatt today to see if I could get a pic with him since I work down the street in Arcadia.What a great story about a cool horse.

  17. Patty Hamilton

    Wyatt is truly an amazing horse.

  18. Susan Crane-Sundell

    He’s a phenomenal horse and it’s a great thing that Donna was able to understand and develop his capabilities. It’s always fun to watch them work-their partnership is seamless.

  19. NicosMom

    Very handsome boy! Does he have a website?

    1. Susan Salk

      He has a Facebook Page. It’s Bridleless Wyatt. Check it out. Sorry I’m not linking to it here.

  20. edna

    thanks for another great story!
    I’ve been waiting to hear more about Wyatt.

    1. Susan Salk

      Edna, thanks. I couldn’t wait to ask Donna about this horse. What a show-stopper!

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