Elevator Gail, a 21-year-old former broodmare who gave birth to her last foal in dramatic fashion, has proven to have many more surprises up her sleeve in the competitive sport of gymkhana, a sport of speed racing, and timed games.
And while her work may be timed, at age 21, she is far from being out of time. The elastic bay mare won the year-end Division 4 Championship of the Fullerton Recreational Riders Association in California this summer, beating 11 other horse/rider pairs.
The 15.2 hand Thoroughbred —the only Thoroughbred in the competition—was like lightning as soon as she got into the competition arena, blowing the others away and earning the most cumulative points in five events held in May, June and July, says owner/rider Jessica Bower.
Barn name: Gigi
Sire: Native Prospector
Dam: Ms. Ukulele
Foal date: March 21, 1995
Earnings: 115,740, 46 starts“I think the highlight of the season was that I was riding a Thoroughbred, and I’m pretty sure she was the only one,” Bower says, noting that as much as winning her speed round, she loved answering questions about her OTTB. “There were a lot of Quarter Horses, Paints and mixed breeds. It was really great when people asked me what breed she was, and to see their reaction of surprise.”
Surprise has pretty much been Elevator Gail’s middle name since 2006, when the mare had to cut short her hunter/jumper training to give birth to a foal nobody knew she was carrying, Bower says in an earlier article in Off Track Thoroughbreds. (Please see that article here: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2014/11/04/at-20-a-tbred-full-of-surprises-tackles-gymkhana/)
“She started to mysteriously gain weight,” says Bower, who didn’t own her back then, but has heard the funny story. “Her owners 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!”
Shortly thereafter, she gave birth to SheWonTheWest, and five years ago, Bower purchased her for $1,500.
Though the fiery mare soon earned the reputation as being the fastest horse in her California barn, and yet she somehow instilled a sense of wellbeing and trust in Bower, who had to try out a few bucking broncos before she responded to an advertisement for the ex-racehorse.
Her sensitive and responsive mare was working toward becoming a hunter/jumper when, in 2013, Bower was invited by friends to try the Gymkhana. After an initial foray in the sport, Bower realized her mare had found her calling. So she traded her hunter/jumper tack for embroidered competition shirts and big western saddles, and just went for it.
Her garb will get a wardrobe boost in December, when a belt buckle and jacket will be awarded her for the championship win.
“I’ve always ridden English, so I’m pretty excited to get our championship buckle!” she says, noting that though she never could have predicted the twists and turns she has taken with her mare, she wouldn’t trade a minute with her bay Thoroughbred who has become a true standout on the California gymkhana circuit.
“She’s a funny horse. She’s super sensitive and gets worked up at speed events. She’s stubborn, too. But she’s done 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.”