Sandsablaze book: A little TB with a huge heart

Sandsablaze at the 1972 Ox Ridge Junior Jumpers.

Sandsablaze at the 1972 Ox Ridge Junior Jumpers.

Equine author and equestrian Kimberly Gatto has written the Seabiscuit story of the show jumping world!

In her new book Sandsablaze: Grand Prix Greatness from Harrisburg to the Olympics, Gatto follows the journey of a little Thoroughbred with tremendous heart, one who took his rider Buddy Brown to unimaginable heights, up and over a 7’ 1” wall in a 1975 puissance (high jumping) class in Toronto.

In this tour de force for Gatto, the author of well-known grief reference Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, which offers stories coping with the loss of a horse, Gatto shifts into high gear to keep up with the rollicking feats accomplished by this riding team.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, the author, equestrian, and horse owner discusses her new and exciting work, which features a Forward written by preeminent riding guru George Morris.

Q: Sandsablaze was making his mark as a Thoroughbred sport horse before many of today’s Thoroughbred fans were born. Why is his name and story to be remembered?

The cover of Kimberly Gatto's latest book, which is published by The History Press.

The cover of Kimberly Gatto’s latest book, which is published by The History Press.

Sandsablaze made history by winning the AHSA Medal Finals and moving into the grand prix jumper ranks in less than a year, with the same rider. “Pappy” and Buddy Brown went on to win many prestigious events together, including the Grand Prix of Ireland, the President’s Cup at the Washington International Horse Show, and the Cleveland Grand Prix, among others. In addition, they represented the US on several winning Nations Cup teams, helped secure gold medals for the US in two different Pan Am Games, and competed for our nation in the Olympics. Sandsablaze was perhaps one of the most versatile Thoroughbreds in the history of the sport. His accomplishments have yet to be duplicated, and likely never will.

Q: You set out to write a book about Thoroughbred show horses to help raise awareness about the “plight” of some Thoroughbreds. But that book idea soon turned its entire focus on Sandsablaze.

I had loved Sandsablaze since I first saw his photo in George Morris’ book, Hunter Seat Equitation, when I was a child. Once I spoke with Buddy, I realized that the horse’s story was worthy of a full-length book. It is an incredible story of courage, determination and heart. It also proves that a Thoroughbred really can “do it all.” Prior to the advent of the Warmblood as a show horse, the greatest hunters and jumpers were in fact Thoroughbreds – and Pappy was one of them.

Q: What is it about Sandsablaze’s story, or the stories of the people in his life, that caused you instead to pen Sandsablaze: Grand Prix Greatness from Harrisburg to the Olympics?

At the Pan Am Games 1975. Photo courtesy of USET Foundation

At the Pan Am Games 1975. Photo courtesy of USET Foundation

In addition to his accomplishments, Sandsablaze’s story illustrates the powerful bond that is possible between horse and human. Many believe that a large part of Sandsablaze’s success was due to his partnership with Buddy Brown. They trusted each other and gave each other courage. Additionally, Buddy never had a groom until he became a member of the USET. He took care of Pappy on a daily basis, which helped foster the deep bond.

Q: Sandsablaze is described as a “Little Thoroughbred with a huge heart.” The heart of the Thoroughbred is something you’re well familiar with as an owner of Thoroughbreds, past and present.

It has been my experience that Thoroughbreds try very hard to please and do not give up easily. Sandsablaze was the epitome of that “Thoroughbred heart.” As an example, in 1975 at Toronto, Pappy and Buddy were entered in the puissance (high jumping) class in an effort to earn points for the team. It was never expected that they would clear the largest fence – a 7’1” wall – but they did. Pappy’s great heart propelled him more than anything over that jump. There were many such instances of this heart throughout his career. Many horses were more athletic and talented than he was, but whatever he lacked in scope, he made up for in sheer heart. That, to me, is a great Thoroughbred.

Sandsablaze: Grand Prix Greatness from Harrisburg to the Olympics is available for purchase at♥

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3 responses to “Sandsablaze book: A little TB with a huge heart”

  1. Kim

    Actually, contrary to popular belief, Sandsablaze (“Pappy”) never raced. He was purchased at Keeneland as a youngster to develop into a show hunter like his half-brother, San Man. Both of his parents raced, however, and his grandsire was the immortal Count Fleet. 🙂

  2. Colmel

    When I was a child, “ladies are not jockeys or anywhere NEAR the racetrack.” Therefore, I turned my love of all things equine into a love for show jumping. My heros were thoroughbreds. To this day, even though I was involved in the racing industry for a few years, I love watching thoroughbreds in the ring and on cross-country courses. A few of my all-time favorites – Sandsablaze (naturally), Idle Dice and Touch of Class. All of these were – at one time – on the track. Thank heavens for us all that they found their way into the ring. I chuckle that two of the country’s all-time top show-jumping icons are now racing trainers: Michael Matz and Rodney Jenkins. (What a crush I had on Rodney Jenkins when I was a teen!)


    Kimberly is a fabulous author. Prolific. Accurate. Passionate. And she unravels the most fascinating equine historical stories time after time. Shhhhh…dare I say it – she’s becoming a treasure for our horse world and beyond. Best of luck with this newest one. And she helps horse orgs using her talents whenever/where ever she can. Congratulations.

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