Craigslist OTTB rakes in high-level ribbons

World Cup rider Trapp O'Neal found Au Girl on Craigslist. Now she's in the ribbons for owner/rider Caitlyn Epperson.

World Cup rider Trapp O’Neal found Au Girl on Craigslist. Now she’s in the ribbons for owner/rider Caitlyn Epperson. Alison Harwell Photography

Leading Grand Prix rider and coach Trapp O’Neal was out shopping for a flatbed trailer one lazy afternoon in August when he discovered in the dirt and dust of a modest Texas farm a gem of a Thoroughbred with the makings of an A-rated sport horse.

Though Au Girl lived in circumstances that lacked a standard ring to stretch her legs or pretty jumps to display her form, she went along quite willingly and smartly for O’Neal, who rode her in her jockey’s saddle over jumps made of orange cones and lumber. The bay mare just seemed a natural for the job.

“As a Grand Prix rider and coach, it’s never been typical for me to chose Thoroughbreds to work with. But as a horseman, I’ve learned to keep my eyes open. I don’t think you can be too prejudice as to what shape, size and breeds the talent comes in,” O’Neal says. “And when I tried Au Girl I knew I couldn’t pass up talent.”

O’Neal purchased the ex-race mare in August 2013 and took her home to his Magnolia, Texas facility TKO Sporthorses, where the green mare quickly proved herself as worthy as the fancy show horses in the barn.

Au Girl
Barn name: Lulu
Sire: Formal Gold
Dam: San Miguel Queen
Foal date: April 23, 2009
Whip-smart and scopey, she trained for about a year before Trapp sold her to his longtime student Caitlyn Epperson, 20, who formed an instant connection with the mare. “The minute she sat on her, they just clicked,” says Caitlyn’s mother Kathryn Epperson. She adds, “They are a great team. They’ve already earned numerous grand championships and reserve championships … this mare just has a spirit like she’s in it to win it, and yet, she’s also very sweet.”

The pair has excelled at the TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Division at the lower heights, but has also ribboned at the High Adult Jumper Division as well. Her awards include: Low Adult Jumper Champion (1.0 – 1.05 meter) Dallas Harvest in October 2014; High Adult Jumper Reserve Champion (1.10 – 1.15 meter) Great Southwest Winter Classic IV in February 2015; TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumpers Reserve Champion (1.0 meter) Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in March 2015; TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumpers Champion Show Jumping Classic in May 2015.

Au Girl landed in the proverbial "tub of butter" when she caught the eye of Trapp O'Neal.

Au Girl takes a nap after winning Grand Champion in the Take 2 Jumpers at the Show Jumping Classic in May

Au Girl is ranked 9th in the National TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumper standings and 7th in the USHJA Zone 7 TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumper standings through April 2015.

But more than earning ribbons there is the deep satisfaction that comes from bringing along a green OTTB to compete at the highest levels.

“In this area you don’t see a lot of Thoroughbreds competing at this level. A lot of trainers just want the Warmbloods. Trapp was one of the first trainers in our area to step out and try a Thoroughbred, and now that people see her, other people have started to show an interest in them,” she says. “This horse is just a trooper. I don’t care how tired she is, or if she’s been at a show for three weeks, she’s going to give 110 percent every time.

“And she moves, very, very well. And she was a fraction of the cost of the other horses in her division. She was a true diamond in the rough.”

12 responses to “Craigslist OTTB rakes in high-level ribbons”

  1. farmtoursofocala

    I remember the Non-Thoroughbred Division at the shows! Now it is the other way around.But, the TBs can compete with any breed. At a big show once, I was with a giant big boned TB. I was asked what breed she was. For fun, I said, “Latvian Warmblood” that got lots of ooooos and aaaahs. Hilarious!

  2. Jon

    Inexpensive would be a better term. I have never paid more than $500 for a TB. Most of mine cost me just the fuel to go get them from the track or the racing farm. All have been very good horses.

  3. Kitster

    Well I am not sure how long this trainers been around the A Circuit, but its used to be all Thoroughbreds before the Warmbloods came along. I am glad they are finally discovering them now and more should. I laugh at those who spend big $$$$ on Warmbloods, when my free TB kick’s butt at the rated shows. Actually when all along the TB are much better bred and probably cost more as yearlings then any of the Warmbloods.. They are always the classiest horses in the barn and I never would prefer to them as cheap….

    1. Susan

      Amen! I couldn’t say it any better than Kitster already did.

      1. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

        Like everything, trends change. That was a time when one would not choose to step foot in the ring with anything other than a thoroughbred. They may not be as “easy” as other breeds, but they have the athleticism and talent for most any of the disciplines…and the best part, they teach the rider how to ride.

  4. Jon

    TB Mares, an unstoppable force. My mares try so hard for me.

  5. Jane Withstandley

    Another awesome TB!!!!!

  6. cheri

    Lovely story… yet again!! More!!

  7. Shilo

    Why don’t they use Thoroughbreds? They are athelete’s right from birth. TB’s have the heart to try hard no matter what or how hard it gets. TB’s can do anything BETTER!

  8. Lori Ann

    I have to say (because I am a bit prejudice), leave it to a Throughbred to get the job done…A true sport horse! 😉

  9. Exechorseluver

    Very Nice! I am sure we will be competing against Caitlyn and Au Girl with our half Thoroughbred jumper, Feather. May the best mare win!

  10. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    You never know…Great story. Bravo…

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