Elevator Gail is a funny kind of horse.
The hard-trying race mare earned her $115,740 in lifetime winnings the hard way, mostly in claimers, before moving on to become a broodmare with a big surprise under her belt.
In 2006, after giving birth to her last foal, she was gamely learning a new hunter/jumper career when her new owners noticed something unusual.
“She started to mysteriously gain weight,” says her current owner Jessica Bower of California, who has spent many hours blogging about her quirky mare. “Her owners at the time had gotten her after her last breeding didn’t take. They started training her, but she got so big that they called the vet out. He told them she was going to drop a foal in just two weeks!”
Barn name: Gigi
Sire: Native Prospector
Dam: Ms. Ukulele
Foal date: 1995
Earnings: 115,740, 46 startsAlthough it sounds strange, the mare Bower calls Gigi never gave any indication she was in foal, says Bower, who notes that the bay mare gave birth to SheWonTheWest (Swiss Yodeler x Elevator Gail) soon after the veterinarian’s visit. The foal, her last of three, moved into an Eventing career, and eventually the mare wound up in Bower’s hands after she answered an advertisement for a $1,500 horse.
“I bought her when she was 16 years old and she came with these interesting backstories. For instance, she got her name after a trainer promised a woman who worked the media elevator at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park that she would have a horse named after her one day.
Elevator Gail was named for Gail McNeal, the elevator operator,” and the story was featured by the Los Angeles Daily News in 2010. “I saw an ad for her on the online classifieds. It was between her and another horse, and the other horse tried to buck me off. The irony was that Gigi made me feel safe.”
It’s ironic because the mistress of mystery was the perfect angel under saddle for her tryout, but as soon as the papers were signed, all bets were off.
“She has her quirks. I tried to take her trail riding and she’ll have none of it,” she says. “She doesn’t buck, but her go-to reaction is go really fast. People in my barn say she’s the fastest horse in the barn, and she’s pushing 20.”
Super sensitive and opinionated, Gigi was fitted with several bits, including a loose-ring snaffle and a French link before she finally agreed to a Pelham. And there are times when she needs to be led into a show ring the way a racehorse is guided into a starting box. “We’ve done some Rusty Stirrup divisions at local shows, and sometimes she gets so stubborn about entering the ring that she has to be led in,” she says.
And yet, the old mare still knows how to turn on the charm. Last year, the pair did a hunter/jumper series in the 2-foot division at the Anaheim Equestrian Association Hunter Show and came out with the championship.
But the mare’s true calling at this late age is the Gymkhana competitions. Ask her to race around a cloverleaf barrel pattern, or between poles, and there’s no quit in her, no pushing her.
After trying a show just for fun in October 2013, the pair got serious with a show in June, and in August, they competed in an open division show by the Fullerton Gymkhana Recreation Riders and took reserve champion! Going against 10 other skilled, specially trained horses, Bower and her older race mare placed two seconds behind the champion that day.
“She’s a funny horse. She’s super sensitive and gets worked up at speed events. She’s stubborn, too. But she does everything I’ve asked her to do,” she says. “She’s the first horse I’ve ever owned and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.”