OTTB aims for bronze in dressage

OTTB Mo, who is often mistaken for a different breed, is climbing the ranks in classical dressage.

OTTB Mo, who is often mistaken for a different breed, is climbing the ranks in classical dressage.

Emily Goldstein’s fancy OTTB might possess all the right stuff. It’s been only three years since Siouxperlucky went into training for a second career, but showed so much natural talent that he’s now on track to compete for the bronze medal in classical dressage.

“I never even thought about us doing classical dressage until one of my trainers, Carol Herron, a Prix St. George rider, was looking at him one day. She was always remarking on how well he moved, and she said she thought he had the potential to go into upper level dressage,” Goldstein says. “I had always thought of him as a jumping horse, and never even thought of pursuing dressage outside of what we were doing at three day Events.”

Siouxperlucky
Barn: Mo
Sire: Siouxperheart
Dam: His Laura, by His Majesty
Foal date: March 12, 2006
But the suggestion to switch gears was a light-bulb moment for her. By coincidence, the jumps on cross-country were starting to look just a little bit scarier to her, and yet in the dressage ring, her $2,500 OTTB with the workmanlike nickname Mo, was mastering the fancy footwork as though he’d been born to it.

“He’s definitely built for it. He’s very uphill and has really nice gaits,” she says. “I took a clinic with (accomplished International Grand Prix competitor) George Williams once, and he didn’t think Mo was a Thoroughbred at all. This happens a lot. People always think Mo’s another breed, I love telling them that he’s my off-trackie.”

An off-trackie she’s had for only three years, is kicking a little butt.

Mo is built uphill and appears to be a natural for dressage.

Mo is built uphill and appears to be a natural for dressage.

Since deciding to double down on the classical dressage, Mo has gone into full training with USDF gold medalist Barbara Strawson and has began racking up the scores necessary for a bronze medal. In the past year, Goldstein and Mo captured their first bronze medal scores at recognized show, Dressage by Chance, held at By Chance Farm in Union Bridge, Md.

“Competing at that recognized show was a real highlight for us. I knew a lot of the people I was competing against. They had very fancy Warmbloods and trained with my trainer. But we were able to place first in one class and second in another class, and we were competing against some really nice horses,” she says. “That day I also got the TIP (Thoroughbred Incentive Program) Award as well.”

The victories put them on the path to make the leap to Second Level, a “really big step,” she says. “In Second Level, you ask for more balance, more power and a whole different level collection-wise,” she says. “This is where we’ll start doing much more technical and difficult things.”

She adds, “The lengthenings, for example, take a lot of push. He’s still learning, and he’s an athletic and squirmy horse to ride. He’s so wiggly that it’s really hard for me to put him together.”

USDF gold medalist Barbara Strawson, right, has been a great mentor for Emily and Mo.

USDF gold medalist Barbara Strawson, right, has been a great mentor for Emily and Mo.

But when he does come together in that perfect frame, the result looks effortless in a way that completely belies the grit and fortitude it takes to train a horse for the beautiful dance in the dressage ring.

Likening her full-on training to “boot camp” for dressage, Goldstein is riding six days a week with Strawson. Some mornings she watches Strawson ride, but mostly she is showing up every day, getting her “butt kicked,” and being grateful for the opportunity.

Working a weekly administrative job, and riding other people’s horses for pay, Goldstein is bootstrapping her effort all the way. “Barbara also worked out a very generous plan with me, which allows me to work off some of the costs at her barn,” she says, noting, “I’m doing everything I can to make this happen. I normally don’t make enough money to have my horse in full training.”

Drawing inspiration from both Strawson and her coach Carol Herron, the Prix St. George rider who was the one to first to encourage the pair to aim for classical dressage, Goldstein says she is amazed how far she and her green OTTB have come in so short a time. “When I first started riding Mo, he was so green he didn’t even have steering,” she says. “Now we’re working at our Second Level and will hopefully go for the Bronze Medal. I’m thrilled and excited to be doing all of this with my amazing off-trackie!”

Blood, sweat and tears shaped their destiny

Suffolk Downs racing analyst and handicapper Jessica Paquette hit the restart button with her bad-boy OTTB What a Trippi.

Suffolk Downs racing analyst and handicapper Jessica Paquette hit the restart button with her bad-boy OTTB What a Trippi.

In the six years since Jessica Paquette threw in her lot with a horse so cranky he once had to be cordoned off with orange cones, the pair has literally faced blood, sweat and tears on a journey filled with many challenges.

After she purchased New England champion What a Trippi in 2010 knowing full well the adorable bay gelding had a bad-boy disposition and a “bag of tricks,” the pair toughed out a rough ride before finding their happy place.

“Last year we had the perfect storm of unfortunate incidents,” says Paquette, race analyst and handicapper for Suffolk Downs. “He had a couple of substantial injuries, he was kicked in the shoulder and required stitches and staples, and after that we had a downward spiral.”

What a Trippi
Sire: Trippi
Dam: Avert Your Eyes, by North Pole
Foal date: March 18, 2004
Earnings: $111,228 in 42 starts
In addition to testing all of Paquette’s adult amateur riding skills, Trippi pulled out a few maneuvers, pushing Paquette to her limits. “When I decided to buy him, I underestimated how hard he would be. He’s just so opinionated and athletic, and sometimes he uses his powers for evil,” she says, chuckling. “Early on he learned how to push my buttons, and which moves made me nervous.”

When he really wanted to get her goat, Trippi would shift his balance to his hind end, and lift up both front feet and stomping them down like a toddler in a fit at a toy store, she says.

“He doesn’t exactly rear up. But he manages to stomp his legs like he’s having a temper tantrum.”

Though her moody OTTB had her questioning her confidence and commitment more than once, it was after his paddock accident last year that caused Paquette to hit the reset button.

After powering through some pretty rough challenges, Jessica and What a Trippi are now finding new confidence and enjoyment.

After powering through some pretty rough challenges, Jessica and What a Trippi are now finding new confidence and enjoyment. Photo by Wayne Henshaw

After recovering from a horse kick to his shoulder, Trippi got worse when he should have been better. He grew intimidated by fences, started to buck, and duck out of jumps. At their lowest ebb, the pair fueled each other’s insecurities, she says.

At which point, Paquette hopped off her horse and went back to the blackboard. Calling in her veterinarian Dr. Richard Sheehan, she spared no expense to figure out what was wrong with her grumpy horse. “By this point, he couldn’t pick up the canter in either direction without bucking the entire time. He’s not a bucker. And I knew that I had a sound horse beneath all the shenanigans,” she says. “I never wanted to give up on him.”

Soon after, blood tests confirmed that Trippi was suffering from a severe bout of Lyme disease. Her vet personally came to the barn for 21 straight days to administer antibiotics intravenously.

And as she waited for her adorable bay gelding to feel better, Paquette decided to return to her riding roots.

In October, she shipped Trippi to Volo Farm in Westford, Mass., the hunter/jumper facility where she took weekly lessons as a child, and where she was first bitten by the horse bug. Situated closer to her home, the familiar property felt only too welcoming after a long journey.

Jessica chose Trippi years ago, when he raced at Suffolk Downs. In the shedrow orange cones were placed outside his stall to warn people away from the bad boy.

Jessica chose Trippi years ago, when he raced at Suffolk Downs. In the shedrow orange cones were placed outside his stall to warn people away from the bad boy. Photo by Kate Taylor, Polar Square Designs

“I decided that a change of scenery would be a good idea,” Paquette says. And from the moment Trippi stepped off the van, and she led the horse around the new facility, pointing out where she trotted for the first time as a child, Paquette says a new sense of confidence returned to them both.

“My trainer Hannah Lavin took us back to square one and set us up to succeed. All winter we did flatwork so I could learn to be much more effective with my aids. When we returned to jumping, we were given jumps that were low enough that we could approach them quietly, without having to worry in between jumps,” she says. “We’ve also been getting Trippi out into the world so he can play and have fun. We have logs and planks outside that we jump and we recently went trail riding!

Trippi will begin showing this week in Halifax, Mass., and after years of setbacks, illness and worry, he has turned a corner.

“It’s been literally blood, sweat and tears to get us to this place,” she says. “He is not an easy horse. But, I had to stay the course, and believe in my horse and our partnership. After all we’ve been through, I feel lucky to have him. And I’ve never been more excited to go to the barn and ride.”

Auction horse shows at Washington Int’l

Mike Keech and Brightly Shining enjoy a quiet moment. Photo by Joanne Beusch

Mike Keech and Brightly Shining enjoy a quiet moment. Photo by Joanne Beusch

Terrified and desperate, the red mare flailed in the confined auction-house stall like someone being buried alive.

Unable to lay eyes on another horse for reassurance, the 4-year-old OTTB Brightly Shining became so frenzied at the Thurmont Auction in Maryland that she scared off every buyer who could have saved her from the slaughter pipeline. Except for one.

Mike Keech had seen plenty of “crazy horses” in his 75 years, and wasn’t about to be deterred from at least taking a peek at the animal raising such a ruckus.

Brightly Shining
Sire: Posse
Dam: Bright Shining
Foal date: Feb. 14, 2009
“She was tearing her stall down, ” says Keech, a longtime trainer of Thoroughbreds. “Everybody was afraid of her. So I walked up, opened her stall door, and she came right over to me and dropped her head to my chest.”

And in that instant, Keech knew he would save her.

Putting his hand reassuringly on the scared animal, he whispered, “Don’t worry. I’m going to buy you and take you home.”

That was November of 2013.

Fast-forward to last week, and Brightly Shining has now emerged from out of the dusty catchall for unwanted horses and into the show world with a vengeance.

After earning ribbons, trophies and silver plates with competitive rider Alexa Riddle, and most recently, Briana Kenerson, Brightly Shining earned enough points to compete last week at the Washington International Horse Show.

Brightly Shining and Briana Kenerson make a perfect picture together. Photo by Morgan Workman

Brightly Shining and Briana Kenerson make a perfect picture together. Photo by Morgan Workman

“When we first started together we used to be laughed at a little bit,” Kenerson says. “We weren’t thought of as much of a threat before. But now we’re getting there, and she’s not someone to scoff at anymore.”

Indeed, nobody is snickering now.

The once-terrified ex-racehorse has stormed the horseshow world and come out the victor, earning almost too many distinctions to count. Among them, the 2015 MHSA (Maryland Horse Show Association) Adult Medal Finals champion; the 2015 Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series Green Horse Champion; the CPJHSA (Central Pennsylvania Junior Horse Show Association) Adult Amateur Hunter, 3rd place and 5th place in the adult medal finals; and, the TIP (Thoroughbred Incentive Program) OTTB of the Year in 2014.

Lifelong equestrian Kenerson, 23, teamed up with Keech’s auction-house mare last July after learning through a friend that the relatively green mare needed a rider for the Thoroughbred Alliance horse show at Pimlico. And she was game to try her.

Mike Keech couldn’t leave the auction without the frantic red Thoroughbred. She turned out to be his best horse.

Mike Keech couldn’t leave the auction without the frantic red Thoroughbred. She turned out to be his best horse.

“After I rode her for the first time, I came back to Mike and he said, ‘Briana, we have a problem. You ride my horses better than all my other people.’ We just clicked right away,” she says.

Taking over the reins from the previous rider, who went off to college, Kenerson says it was Keech’s idea to tackle rated shows after the pair did so nicely at the Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series. “The first time we tried 3-foot classes, it was kind of crazy. She’d only jumped 2-foot before and we rode right through them,” she says. “But the second time we tried, she packed me around like a pro.”“After I rode her for the first time, I came back to Mike and he said, ‘Briana, we have a problem. You ride my horses better than all my other people.’ We just clicked right away,” she says.

Though they did not place at the Washington International Horse Show because the mare swapped her leads in the back, the experience was worth its weight in ribbons and trophies.

“She didn’t place because she got super nervous and kept swapping her leads, but she jumped her heart out and did everything I asked,” Kenerson says. “She went into that arena and went against the best horses in the country, and was probably the only Thoroughbred in her class.”

As Thoroughbreds go, she’s in a class all by herself, Keech says.

“I’ve trained a lot of Thoroughbreds in my life, but this one happened to be the best one,” Keech says. “I don’t know why. I opened that stall door and we just fell in love with each other.” — Originally published on October 26, 2015.