A Kentucky economics professor and the 17-hand Thoroughbred ex-racehorse she purchased four years ago as a green, fresh-off-the-track prospect, will compete tomorrow by wildcard invitation at the US Dressage Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Jill Stowe and her T-bred Dundee, who she adopted from New Vocations Racehorse Adoption, came in 8th out of 41 in the USDF Region 2 Championships in August, and their 66.7 score qualified them for the finals; quite a feat for a re-rider who hadn’t sat on a horse for two decades. Then she went out and purchased a Thoroughbred who was mere weeks off the track, and only 3-years-old at the time.
After selecting Dundee based upon a short criteria —good mind, sound, and big to accommodate her 6-foot-2 frame—Stowe admits her limited goal was to reacquaint herself with the joys of riding, something she did as a kid, but gave up once she entered college and started a busy life. “We took our time. I had a lot of getting in shape to do, and his muscles needed to be taught as well,” she says. “I have two great friends with very solid horses, and we went trail riding and taught him how to walk through water. I don’t think I took my first dressage lesson for 16 months.”
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro
Dam: Krakowviak, by Tale of the Cat
Foal date: March 8, 2007When she finally did initiate regular riding lessons with her trainer Reese Koffler-Stanfield of Maplecrest Farm, her coach turned the tables on the professor with a question.
“She asked me what my goals were with him,” Stowe says. “I said, ‘To stay on.’ I was semi-serious. Your body changes over time, your reactions change, but she got me thinking, and I realized it was good to set goals with my riding.”
Having earned her bronze medal with the USDF when she was 15, she decided to make earning a silver medal a goal for her future.
As a full-time professor of agricultural economics, a wife and mother, her training has had “fits and starts” as other obligations have had to be balanced, she says.
But this year, she and Dundee really buckled down at the beginning of the year, and after qualifying for the regionals in a show in April, the accomplishments in the dressage ring and her relationship with her 17-hand gelding have been building.
A shy horse to start, Dundee has come out of his shell. When he’s at work, he rises to each challenge, seeming to like it when the job gets harder, she says. And when he’s relaxing around the barn, he’s a “big toddler” who’s into everything. And when the unexpected occurs, as it did one day out on a hack, he takes what’s thrown at him in stride.
“He’s such a cool horse. One time we were out in this field with cattle, and they started to follow us. I thought at the time that it might get very interesting. So I turned him around so he could look at them, and then we started walking again. And they started to follow us again. So I turned him again and we drove them off!” she says.
Dundee’s equanimity and natural flair are just two of his many fine traits, which Lowe and New Vocations are equally proud of. So well is the pair doing that New Vocations is sponsoring them in the dressage finals, and the pair is participating in the nonprofit charity’s Ambassador Program, which actively promotes the worth of ex-racehorses.
The 2007 gelding by multiple graded stakes winner Medaglia d’Oro had only four starts before he was donated to New Vocations. And a month later, he was on his way with Lowe.
With the Finals tomorrow, Lowe admits she expects to be a “bit like a deer in the headlights,” being in a whole new world. But the butterflies will be worth it when she enters the ring to show off, with pride, the off-track Thoroughbred she couldn’t pass up. ♥