A silver lining emerges after failed Rolex bid

AP Prime has been cleared to start back working toward another run at Rolex. His owner/rider Leah Lang-Gluscic purchased him off the track for $750.

AP Prime has been cleared to start back working toward another run at Rolex. His owner/rider Leah Lang-Gluscic purchased him off the track for $750.

Five months after her big dream to ride Rolex was yanked out from under her, Leah Lang-Gluscic is slowly making a comeback, and working the magic once again to take a giant leap on her crazily talented $750 Thoroughbred.

The one-time investment banker who ditched her day job in 2010 after discovering, quite by chance, the fiercely talented AP Prime on the backside of Fairmount Park, Illinois, gave up a shot at the cross-country run of her dreams, when just before the start, a medical concern arose.

AP Prime
Sire: A.P. Indy
Dam: Czarina Kate
Foal date: March 14, 2005
After rocketing up the Eventing levels to get to the world-class Rolex Three Day in record time, Lang-Gluscic decided at the 11th hour, on the eve of the grueling cross-country phase, to pull out of competition when an ultrasound on AP’s left, front leg, showed a worrisome result.

Injured just weeks before Rolex, in a fall at a jump at CIC three-star event The Fork, Lang-Gluscic decided on the spot to put her professional hopes and dreams aside for the sake of her horse’s wellbeing. And she packed him up in the trailer and made the trip back to Illinois to start over, recalibrating her Rolex goals.

AP relaxes with a friend.

AP relaxes with a friend.

“This was the first time our competition plans were held back,” she says of the OTTB she purchased in 2010 for $750. “We gave him an ultrasound the night before cross-country and my vet told me that if he was a 17-year-old horse at the Olympics, she’d say to go ahead and run him. But, in my case, since he’s only 10, she said she didn’t know how many four stars might be in his future” and the decision was made to preserve him.

In the long weeks and months that followed, Lang-Gluscic spent some time sitting on her couch feeling a bit sorry for herself before eventually picking herself up, and forging ahead on a different path to fulfill her dreams.

Whereas earlier, she and AP blazed toward Rolex with the swiftness of a hare, this time they were turtles, walking and trotting under close scrutiny of her veterinarian, who performed monthly ultrasounds on AP’s leg.

“In July we got the go ahead to start back to work at the walk. Although my vet never classified this as an injury, because he was never lame, he definitely has his racing ‘jewelry’ and we wanted to make sure,” she says. “Three weeks after that, we got the OK to start trotting, and we started with straight lines, only in the indoor.

“Then on Sept. 10, we got the go ahead to canter. We started trotting circles and canter straight lines and soft curves, and by October we will hopefully go ahead back into full work.”

Of Course Carter, pictured her as a 4-year-old, was waiting in the wings for Lang-Gluscic.

Of Course Carter, pictured her as a 4-year-old, was waiting in the wings for Lang-Gluscic.

Lang-Gluscic is planning to compete AP in January, after they travel from their Illinois facility to their farm in Ocala, Fla., she says. She plans on building his foundation in dressage before going Preliminary in Florida, and then tackling Pine Top in Georgia, a difficult three-star course.

Looking back on the disappointment of Rolex in April, Lang-Gluscic is philosophical about the bump in the road, and her decision to start over.

“Rolex was the first time in our competition plans that we were held back … but the silver lining in all this is that I got to do a dress rehearsal for Rolex. I walked it. And I practiced the mental preparation. That’s the big thing. We had exposure to that level of competition, and there’s value in that,” she says. “During this time, I’m very glad to have built my business to have young ones coming up behind AP, like Of Course Carter, and to have given him the time” he needs to be 100 percent again.
And while he rested and waited, a silver lining emerged.

A 7-year-old cousin to AP named Of Course Carter presented Lang-Gluscic with the opportunity to work with her next generation Eventer. The saucy chestnut, who is the polar opposite to AP and his quick-learning style, was the perfect outlet for Lang-Gluscic. Giving him all the time he needed, she worked with the talented OTTB, had some great rides, and will compete him at the Preliminary level his year.

“AP took 10 months to go up the ranks, and Carter has spent a year at every level. They’re opposites, but both so talented,” she says. “I was able to take Carter to Richland this year, one of the toughest prelims, and he was fabulous. It was a great run in the middle of August” which set up to move up the ranks this year.

So after a rocky start to the summer, Lang-Gluscic finds she now has two great Thoroughbred Eventers on her hands, both descending from the famous sire A.P. Indy. Her star AP Prime will set his sights on Rolex, and Of Course Carter will make his mark at the lower levels until it is his turn, one day.

“I’ve always been warned that a horse at the top level of eventing will need some extended R&R from time to time. Not having AP to compete this fall has certainly been tough, but I’m just grateful to have such a promising athlete in Carter to keep me focused on a goal, excited, and on my game,” she says. “It will be pretty fabulous to have two upper level A.P. Indy grandbabies to campaign this coming year!”

Photo of the week: Fiery OTTB converts another

Inside Draw has gone from pinned ears and fiery attitude to perfect riding horse.

Inside Draw has gone from pinned ears and fiery attitude to perfect riding horse.

With ears pinned as if ready to fight, Inside Draw arrived at Allyson May’s tranquil barn in Maine last winter like some awful news or a despised guest.

Sending everyone scampering to get out of his way, the beautiful dark bay scared everyone who approached him, recalls May, whose heart sank the instant she met the 17-hand gelding.

“We didn’t like each other at first sight,” May says. “He was rather aggressive, defensive of his stall and untrusting. If I went into his stall, he’d pin his ears and pick his feet up at me. He didn’t actually try to kick me” but the message was pretty clear.

Inside Draw
Sire: Forestry
Dam: Elusive Song, by Elusive Quality
Foal date: Jan. 16, 2010
And May fretted that her spontaneous decision to purchase the animal sight unseen and have him shipped all the way from Kentucky had been a very bad idea. A somewhat nervous rider, May swallowed her fears, put her foot in the stirrup and discovered that beneath the fire and brimstone lurked the easiest, most quiet horse she’d ever had the good fortune to ride.

“He was very honest from the start, and I found that by just going and spending time with him, he started to soften up,” she says. “I taught him that being brushed was OK and that people weren’t going to hurt him. He still has trust issues … but all he needed was some consistency.”

Working steadily throughout the summer, May and Inside Draw developed such a strong rapport that in August at the Downeast Maine Medal Finals, to her surprise and delight, the pair earned a third-place ribbon.

“It was incredible that we even qualified for the finals because he wasn’t even cantering a full course the month before,” May says, noting that her early success with her OTTB has rocked her world.

“I’d always assumed they were all hot and racy. But he’s just not. And I’ve always heard that they have more heart than any other horse, and I can tell you it’s true. He’s gives 110 percent,” she says. “My mother came to watch us ride recently and she was amazed at my confidence on him. He’s totally changed my opinion of Thoroughbreds.”

One-eyed T’bred helps vets with PTSD

Mr. Bad Deal in his moment of join-up before becoming a therapy horse.

Mr. Bad Deal in his moment of join-up before becoming a therapy horse.

Mr. Bad Deal turned a disfigured head to study the situation.

Looking for all the word like an old vet whose battle scars had faded with the passage of time, he focused his only good eye on the woman who spoke softly to him. His right eye socket, where his other eye should have been, was a crater in a facial moonscape, gaping empty and dark.

But as he heard the sound of a kind voice, his ears pricked forward, and quickly, Mr. Bad Deal showed he understood: he was among a friend, no enemy loomed.

Mr. Bad Deal
Sire: Prospect North
Dam: Unstoppable, by Stop the Music
Foal date: April 3, 2000
Turning himself fully around, he shuffled on his large, painful left knee to join up with Julie Baker of Healing Arenas, Inc., of Escalon, Calif., in a moment of trust among sentient beings that would eventually include a circle of war veterans still suffering from their own external and internal wounds.

Five months ago, before he was to take an integral position in a pilot program aimed at helping war veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Baker and Mr. Bad Deal came to a meeting of the minds. In those intimate moments, with the protection of the herd horses stripped away from him, and Baker herself vulnerable to the whims and nature of a flight animal, the two formed a trust alliance.

Mr. Bad Deal places his head in the lap of a military veteran.

Mr. Bad Deal places his head in the lap of a military veteran.

“I was on his right side, where he has no eye, and had been really encouraging him to join up with me. He kept trying to stop and look at me, and I could see he was trying to figure out what I wanted him to do,” Baker recalls. “I was trying to encourage him with my voice and finally he stopped. And when he turned to look around at me, I knew he understood. He knew he didn’t have to be insecure because I was taking a leadership role, and I was telling him everything was going to be OK now.”

This transaction of trust took place in April, a mere four months after Baker wandered into a herd of 35 retired racehorses in a pasture at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Kansas facility. And after searching for the perfect horse to interact with veterans, led Mr. Bad Deal out of a field where he had learned to hold his ground among other equines; other strong and perfectly sighted horses.

Not only did he tolerate the hands of veterans, he loved it.

Not only did he tolerate the hands of veterans, he loved it.

A horse who can overcome disabilities in vision, is capable of sending a powerful message of reassurance to veterans still fighting their own wars, Baker says. “When they look at a horse like Mr. Bad Deal and see he is fine, it helps them to understand on some level that they’re going to be fine too,” she says.

So, on Sept. 18, Mr. Bad Deal, with little time in training for this new position in life, found himself surrounded by veterans who had endured and suffered so much, both during and after battle.

They joined the OTTB in a sand arena at the farm as part of an inaugural program called Stable Survivors.

Six traumatized veterans who had served in wars ranging from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, were referred to the program by the Veteran’s Administration to work with several horses, including Mr. Bad Deal. They were given strict instructions to not approach the one-eyed horse first, but let him come to them, if he chose.

Without hesitation Mr. Bad Deal made a beeline for the group, Baker says, noting, “At one point there was a female veteran sitting on the ground. He walked right over to her and stuck his head onto her lap. It was a great moment.”

At another point in the hour-long therapeutic session, veterans surrounded the gelding, some even standing on his bad side. And not only did he tolerate their attention, he loved it, she says.

In the weeks to come, Mr. Bad Deal will continue to work with the inaugural group of veterans, and when the course concludes, a purple ribbon, which he wears to indicate his beginner status, will be ceremoniously removed, ushering him in to the ranks of therapy horses working at Healing Arenas, Inc.

“Even though he was retired out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of horses, he is now a horse with a purpose,” says Baker. A horse with a purpose, if not a calling.