$750 horse blazes a four-star future at Rolex

Leah Lang-Gluscic and AP Prime enter the ranks of four-star athletes after a weekend performance at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day. Photo by and courtesy of Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos

Leah Lang-Gluscic and AP Prime enter the ranks of four-star athletes after a weekend performance at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day. Photo by and courtesy of Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos

Five years after buying an off-track Thoroughbred for $750, a one-time investment banker and her bargain-basement gelding, AP Prime, went big this past weekend, competing against top international riders and scoring mid-pack at the fabled Rolex Kentucky Three Day.

After successfully completing all three phases of the grueling competition Sunday, Lang-Gluscic hugged her horse and slapped his neck in congratulations as the pair crossed the threshold and became bonafide four-star athletes.

“It was a dream come true,” Lang-Gluscic says. “It doesn’t feel like I went to Rolex on a $750 horse anymore. I feel like I went to Rolex on a world-class animal.”

AP Prime
Sire: Aptitude
Dam: Czarina Kate
Foal date: March 14, 2005
Indeed, she did.

Since the day she met AP Prime on the backside of an Illinois racetrack (thanks to an ad she spotted in CANTER Illinois), paying cash for the animal on the spot, the pair has been steadily moving up the ranks of the Eventing world. And when knocked down, as they were last year when a prior fall at another competition forced them to abort their planned Rolex run, they retooled and came back stronger than ever.

Amid cheering from fans, AP and Lang-Gluscic debuted their dressage in a raucous environment. “When we went into the Dressage ring, the crowd was instructed not to cheer until the very end. But people started cheering in the stands for him, and I had this moment of panic. I thought he’d flip out. But it turned out he liked it. And he really went in there and did the best he could in the environment,” she says, noting that though he was late on his lead changes, and his score suffered from it, on cross-country day, AP was on top of his game.

Asked if he hesitated at any of the gigantic obstacles, she answers a quick “No.”

Pure trust and all go was the spirit with which AP Prime attacked his first four star at Rolex. Photo by and courtesy of Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos

Pure trust and all go was the spirit with which AP Prime attacked his first four star at Rolex. Photo by and courtesy of Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos

“The first few times I walked it the course felt so long and so vast. It felt a little abstract, the way it fit together. But by my third walk it started to feel more connected and flowing,” she says. “Honestly, by the time AP got out there he didn’t really make any mistakes. He was a textbook case of skipping over the jumps.”

And after all the years of cross-country at the lower levels, the trust between them was ingrained. “Kyle Carter,who I walked the course with, put it great when we were on a course walk. He said that when he sits up and takes a half-halt that his horse knows there’s something coming up. So I was able to set up AP” to power over obstacles into water and across an undulating field of Kentucky bluegrass.

When the final phase arrived, AP entered the show-jumping ring with the focus of a warrior and the energy of a horse who felt like he’d been on vacation, she says.

Though he had a rail down, the pair concluded the Event on top of the world.

“He’s made my career, at this point. Though I have a lot of nice, young horses I’ve produced, he’s been the highlight. He took me from being what was maybe a good amateur when I started to a pretty competent professional at this point,” says Lang-Gluscic, of LLG Eventing. “We’ve really come up the ranks together.”

Far Rockaway leaves low claimers in the dust

Far Rockaway was plucked from the low claimers and became a children's riding horse.

Far Rockaway was plucked from the low claimers and became a children’s riding horse.

Far Rockaway may not have set the world on fire at the racetrack, but he sure did light up Facebook last year when  fans and new friends saw the 4-year-old had dropped like a stone in a year’s time, running at the bottom-of-the barrel.

The grandson of Dynaformer, and progeny of millionaire Macho Uno ran for a $75,000 tag in May 2013, but had fallen so far that he was scrambling in a $2,500 claimer at Los Alamitos Race Course.

“Clearly this horse had no interest in running races anymore,” says Jenny Earhart, owner of Royal Star Ranch in California. Earhart has taken in many ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds over the years, and after being implored by donors and friends, she agreed to make room for one more: a pretty chestnut gelding.

Far Rockaway
Sire: Macho Uno
Dam: Rock Goddess
Foal date: March 6, 2010
“After the Los Alamitos race on Jan. 26, I contacted the trainer and he agreed to take $2,400 for him,” Earhart says. With financial backing from racehorse owner Maggi Moss, an outspoken proponent of Thoroughbred welfare, and other donors, Earhart drove to the racetrack the next day with her trailer, paid cash for the animal, and loaded him up.

A perfect gentleman, he loaded easily and quickly settled in on her farm. Already a favorite among her riding students, Rocky as she calls him for short, appears destined to remain at her stable, potentially becoming a lesson horse.

Far Rockaway is already a barn favorite among lesson girls!

Far Rockaway is already a barn favorite among lesson girls!

“I’ve already had several offers from people who want to adopt him, but I think I’ll be keeping him,” she says, noting that the game plan is to give him 30 days to decompress.

She will pay close attention for signs of lameness or other issues during his letdown, and if all goes well, start slowly retraining him.

Ideally, Rocky will be trained for six months under saddle, and if his calm nature continues, she will allow her advanced students to start riding him. “A lot of my students who’ve been with me for several years like to help me retrain Thoroughbreds,” she says. “So training Rocky could be an important next step in their own training process.”

“There was clearly no reason for him to keep running,” she says. “I think he clearly wanted to be doing something other than be a racehorse. And now that we have him, he’s already proven to be a standup guy, and he deserves some time to enjoy his life and just be a horse.”

Chalk up a big win for all involved. — Originally published Feb. 4, 2014.

Mysteries swirl, friends form over kill-pen horse

Jennifer Ferrell jumped into a bit of a mystery when she purchased her OTTB from a meat buyer's lot in January.

Jennifer Ferrell jumped into a bit of a mystery when she purchased her OTTB from a meat buyer’s lot in January.

After reading for years about the joys and rewards of rescuing kill-pen Thoroughbreds, Jennifer Ferrell jumped in with both feet this past January and landed deep in a mystery.

It began with the identity of the horse she rescued.

After spotting a picture of a shell-shocked looking chestnut Thoroughbred, shown in a well-known meat buyer’s Shippensburg, Penn. lot, Ferrell purchased the horse for $675 with the help of volunteer Thoroughbred advocate, Beth Walker.

Walker, a registered nurse and unpaid volunteer for the PA Kill Pen Network, had helped to identify and advertise the horse as 12-year-old mare C.A.T.K. Fly, a racehorse hailing from Washington.

Capwaynesglass
Barn name: Edward
Sire: Thunder Puddles
Dam: Capall Glass, by Ends Well
Foal date: May 5,1997
But soon after the underweight animal shipped to a quarantine barn to recuperate from Strangles and regain some lost weight, a horseman attending to the animal broke the news to Ferrell: this was no 12-year-old mare she’d just rescued.

“I’d been texting with Sarah Dean, the person who has the quarantine farm, and then one day I noticed the pronouns changed. She started referring to her as him. So I asked if we were talking about a gelding or a mare, and she said, ‘You have a gelding. I thought you knew.’ ”

Though the North Carolina equestrian didn’t care whether she had a male or female horse, she Dean began a quest to figure out who was the real “project horse” she had purchased.

Figuring a mismatch had occurred with the reading of the Thoroughbreds lip tattoo, which all Thoroughbred racehorses have been branded with, new photographs were taken, and opinions were sought from the most eagle-eyed lip-tattoo readers, she says.

A cloak of mystery surrounding the kill-pen Thoroughbred's identity until another effort was made to read his tattoo.

A cloak of mystery surrounding the kill-pen Thoroughbred’s identity until another effort was made to read his tattoo.

“Someone finally figured out that the first letter in the tattoo was an H and after that we found his number and description matched a 19-year-old gelding named Capwaynesglass,” she says.

Intrigued and curious as to how her new horse had wound up dangerously close to taking a trip to the slaughterhouse, Ferrell started some online sleuthing and uncovered the last known owner, who had the horse 11 years ago.

Knowing it was a long shot, Ferrell contacted Emily Day of Daybreak Stables, which was the last listed owner of record of the horse’s last race at Fair Hill, in May 2005.

“When I called Emily day, we had a wonderful conversation, but she and her husband were very concerned,” she says. “They vaguely remembered the horse, but they were very upset when I told them where he’d wound up because they take their ownership and aftercare very seriously.”

Day was so dismayed by the news that she posted a long note on Daybreak Stable’s Facebook page detailing her concerns, the sleepless night she spent after hearing the news about the gelding she called Cap, and her personal commitment to try even harder to ensure racehorses have a safety net. (Please see her note here.)

This was one of the photos that Ferrell spotted on Facebook, which inspired her to step forward and buy her first kill-pen horse.

This was one of the photos that Ferrell spotted on Facebook, which inspired her to step forward and buy her first kill-pen horse.

“Cap’s route (to the meat buyer’s yard) is surely known by someone out there. But whether it will be known by us, I can’t say,” she states. “I will find out what I can. I will start keeping records on each horse that leaves here for a new life somewhere else. Even though that gives me little influence over what the new owners decide to do, at lease I will know what we did.”

Day’s farm owned Capwaynesglass for a few months after his last race in 2005, and though she reached out to past jockeys, his history, more than a decade later, had been forgotten.

But this next chapter of his life will be well documented, Ferrell says.

She purchased her OTTB for the explicit purpose of creating a chronicle of his journey, from kill pen to whatever their future holds. And she writes of the surprises and challenges in Project 2016, a blog about their journey.

“At the time I decided to rescue him, I thought that there’s so much suffering in the world, and that I have the funds and the time to devote to helping this horse,” she says. “Somebody else might have been really upset by the mix-up in identity, but I knew I was going to keep the horse no matter who he turned out to be.”

And Walker, who helped to identify the chestnut, says she’s just thrilled the horse is in good hands.

In the end, Edward has found a new life with his rescuer. And Ferrell has formed a friendship with the OTTB's past connections.

In the end, Edward has found a new life with his rescuer. And Ferrell has formed a friendship with the OTTB’s past connections.

The full-time nurse and unpaid volunteer says it was especially busy on the day that photos and descriptions were taken of Ferrell’s OTTB. “We only have a couple minutes with each horse, so we don’t have much time. I’ll be taking notes while someone else is taking pictures” in a last-ditch effort to save the horse from slaughter. Though she was certain she had documented the horse as a gelding, when the tattoo was read later on, it indicated the number of a female horse, she says.

So far, Ferrell says the journey with her new OTTB has provided plenty of material for her new blog. She and the horse’s last owners have become friends, and plan to visit each other. And Edward has emerged, after two bouts of Strangles, to be well worth all the fuss.

“Everything about this horse has been dramatic, from the mistaken gender to getting sick. And then on the truck ride here, the truck broke down,” she says. “But even with all of that, he’s the sweetest horse. I keep telling him he doesn’t have to be so forgiving. He’s been through a lot. But he is truly the sweetest horse.”