A mere 16 days before the Pennsylvania Horse Expo, Beverly Strauss pulled a previously lame Thoroughbred out of her field, and decided to attempt something absurd.
In an outdoor arena made ugly by winter, she tacked up ex-racehorse Blitzburgh with one thing in mind—to try to spook him!
They walked over a tarp; they dragged a wooden board; they moved around the ring while a horse in an adjacent barn whinnied noisily. And then the well-esteemed Thoroughbred advocate nearly fell off her horse—laughing.
Sire: Afleet Alex
Dam: Capitol View
Foal date: April 7, 2008
Earnings: $43,465 in 4 startsShe laughed because Blitzburgh proved on that day, and throughout the super-fast preparation for an expo event that would try the nerves of many a well-trained mount that he was about the coolest horse she had ever trained.
“I had signed up for the expo and then kind of forgot about it” until it was nearly too late to prepare for it. “With the winter we’ve been having, we had no time to train—we only have an outdoor ring— so I literally pulled Blitzburgh out of a field on Feb. 12, hopped on, and he was super.”
So impressed was she with Blitzburgh’s blithe acceptance of the obstacles and tasks thrown at him, a horse who hadn’t felt the weight of a rider for six months prior to all this, that Strauss took to the keyboard and blogged about her experience. In chronicles of Blitz and the Trainer Challenge, Strauss writes about, and displays videos of that first day with a tarp, a wooden plank, and peels of laughter.
She notes that the hardest part of that maiden ride was getting her stiff titanium hip loose enough to allow her to mount him from a hay bale.
All totaled, Blitzburgh had seven days of training, which included ring work, and walks on the driveway, before appearing at the expo Jan. 27 through March 2. “I’d never done anything like” the trail challenge “so in a way, it was sort of like the blind leading the blind,” she notes.
And when they entered the demonstration ring at the expo shortly after “cramming” for the event, Strauss says it felt a little bit like being back at school and studying for the wrong test.
There were things in the arena that would even spook humans!
A creepy statue of a man wearing a Santa hat and riding a fake horse did not unsettle Blitzburgh though. “When we got to that pony I had no idea what would happen, so I decided to approach it from behind,” she says. “Well, Blitzburgh was so cute. He stepped right up next to this big, fake pony and put his chin over its withers— he’s used to being ponied on the track, so apparently this was his happy place.”
Horses were asked to cope with an arena chock full of everything from water boxes with singing fish to rattling bags of cans, which they had to drag, and serpentine poles forcing them to step unnaturally.
Blitzburgh did not ace every test. Few did. But for a racehorse grabbed from a field just a few weeks before, he didn’t do too badly, she says.
“It really shows just how cool these horses are. He was so smart and trusting. We saw many horses rear and spin that day,” she says, but not Blitz.
And now the payoff— he has had several inquires from prospective adopters, and Strauss predicts he will go to a good home soon. — Originally published on March 13, 2014.