A filly named for grandpa saved from meat buyer

Rattle Awhile had to be tranquilized to get on the van taking her from New Holland. But, she followed Jane Allen Blayman onto this van without medication.

Rattle Awhile had to be tranquilized to get on the van taking her from New Holland. But, she followed Jane Allen Blayman onto this van without medication.

“Gramps, don’t tell anyone,” said Jane Allen Blayman to Bert Allen on a late December day in 2009. “But, I’m on my way to Hagerstown to get this horse. People are worried.”

As she raced to rescue a weanling, sight unseen, the fourth-generation horseman and her grandfather “rattled awhile” —an expression he used to describe their lengthy phone conversations—about a horse who would subsequently be saved and named in tribute to the dear old man and the good horsemanship he espoused.

The weanling grew to neither big nor gorgeous by racehorse standards, Blayman says. But she was special.

She was the last racehorse she discussed with her grandfather before he died. Blayman named the filly Rattle Awhile after the family colloquialism, in tribute to him.

Rattle Awhile
Sire: Freefourinternet
Dam: Miss Amazona
Foal date: May 6, 2009
“I had her for 30 days before my grandfather died. So when I decided to register her and name her” I chose the name in remembrance of him, she says. And when she was ready for training, she prevailed upon her father, a race-trainer in his own right, to get her prepped and ready for the track.

Rattle Awhile ran at Pimlico and Colonial Downs from 2012 to 2013 until Blayman made the difficult decision to sell her.

“At the time, I was pregnant, and someone wanted to buy her. So I sold her with the right of first refusal, but regretted the decision after that,” she says.

She kept tabs on the filly after placing her in her virtual stable, and privately rejoiced when the filly turned in a first-place finish in January this year. After five more races with somewhat lackluster results, Rattle Awhile dropped off Blayman’s radar, and the horseman immediately tried to get answers.

Jane Allen Blayman and Rattle Awhile are reunited after the Thoroughbred mare was purchased from a meat buyer.

Jane Allen Blayman and Rattle Awhile are reunited after the Thoroughbred mare was purchased from a meat buyer.

“I learned in July that the horse had been sold,” she says. “I was in the process of trying to find out which riding facility had my horse” when two months later, she learned the worst.

The unremarkable looking racehorse turned up in posts on the OTTB Connect Facebook page over the Labor Day weekend: she was at New Holland and needed to be bailed out.

“I was pissed, I couldn’t believe she wound up at New Holland,” she says.

Picking up the phone, she contacted Nancy Carson Hynes who had paid $600 to buy the Thoroughbred from the meat buyer and quickly made arrangements to get her back. Agreeing to refund the entire purchase price to Hynes, she set out on Sept. 4 to East Lancaster Maryland to pick up her old friend.

“The whole time I was driving out there, I was reminiscing about the conversation I had with my grandfather,” she says. And when she arrived to collect the bay Thoroughbred, all bathed, and waiting, the pair didn’t miss a beat as she led the animal to the van, and drove her back home. “What Rattle Awhile went through is something that never should have happened,” she says. “She’s a viable, young horse who’s in good shape. This is a business where you’re not supposed to form sentimental attachments, so I guess I’ve broken that rule with her.”

—Blayman notes that the work to rescue Rattle Awhile would not have been possible without the help of Daun Imeratore, Nancy Diaz, Kelly Conner, Diana Levy and Lowcountry Lens and Nancy Carson Hynes. ♥

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Mystery T-bred gets Devon handy hunter prize

Tattooed T-bred Nottingham Bay and Kaitlyn Brennan win Devon Handy Hunter Stakes in June. Photo courtesy Kaitlyn Brennan

Tattooed T-bred Nottingham Bay and Kaitlyn Brennan win Devon Handy Hunter Stakes in June. Photo by James Parker.

Atop her tattooed Thoroughbred of mysterious pedigree, 15-year-old Kaitlyn Brennan clinched the Handy Hunter Stake at Devon this June, besting 28 other horse/rider teams for the honor.

Riding her T-bred Knoddingham Bay in 95-degree heat, the pair was 15th to take a go at the course, and soon after exiting the ring, with 13 teams remaining, Brennan realized the stars were aligning in her favor.

“When they announced the standby list over the loudspeaker, and our names were at the top of it, I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I’m very superstitious and I didn’t want to keep looking at the (leaderboard)” to see how the competition was doing, and whether they threatened the number one position. “Other riders started to make mistakes. Horses started missing their lead changes, and I was freaking out. Then the last girl went and she had a rail, and I said, ‘Oh my God Mom, we won!’ My mother started to cry.”

Standing beside her mount, all shiny and beautifully turned out, she watched as the judges pinned the blue ribbon to Knoddingham Bay’s bridle, and she marveled how far the Thoroughbred of mysterious identity had taken her in such a short time.

Kooper gets pinned with the coveted blue ribbon in June. A J Bellantine photo

Kooper gets pinned with the coveted blue ribbon in June. Photo by J Bellantine

Kaitlin and her mother Maryann purchased the gelding on Jan. 6, 2011 after taking a test ride that culminated in the horse saving the rider!

“The first time I rode him he took a little bit of a long shot to a jump and I fell all over his neck,” Brennan says. “Instead of letting me fall, he stopped, put his head up and waited until I climbed back on the saddle. My mom saw that and said, ‘OK, he’s sold!’ ”

They purchased the gelding, nicknamed Kooper, from broker Pete Jordan, after Brennan’s trainer Rachel Tennyson Gallagher noticed him and suggested Brennan give him a try.

Since those early days, the pair has trained hard to get to Devon. They have also done well at Hunter derbies, and plan to shoot for the national hunter derby circuit.

And though it was frustrating at first that his tattoo was unreadable—multiple vets and dentists have tried and failed to read the blurred smudge under his lip— a Thoroughbred by any name is always champion with heart. ♥

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T-bred leaps fire with gun-shooting rider, wins

No More Rings was racing at Mountaineer about 100 days before he was doing this at the Ultimate X Trainer Challenge.

No More Rings was racing at Mountaineer about 100 days before he was doing this at the Ultimate X Trainer Challenge. A Sam Mike photo

After 100 days of training, a spirited ex-racehorse said to possess a “fighting spirit” went from the backside of Mountaineer Race Track to “diving around” barrels and leaping a flaming jump.

No More Rings and his rider and trainer Nicole Valeri, 20, of Pinnacle Stables in Pennsylvania, decided to do something with a “wow factor” when they competed Sept. 5 at the annual Ultimate X Showdown, a trainer competition for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses.

Valeri and Rings burst through mock saloon doors at a gallop, swooping into a boisterous arena where country music blared, and as Valeri fired off her gun, Annie Oakley style, she urged Rings to leap over a small jump, which had already been set on fire.

No More Rings
Sire: Where’s the Ring
Dam: Equideed
Foal date: April 22, 2009
Earnings: $41,862, 28 starts
“I really wanted to do something with a wow-factor,” Valeri says. “In the five-minute freestyle we had certain maneuvers that were required, including cantering left and right on the correct lead, side passing over ground poles, leg yielding left and right, stopping and standing and backing up straight. But I got extra points for creativity: I had big saloon doors built that we burst through; I shot a gun and we jumped over fire!” (Please see the You Tube video below).

The event, which was held at the Simmons Equestrian Center in Negley, Ohio, challenged trainers like Valeri, who competed for a slot in the competition, to take an untrained racehorse right off the track and teach him to barrel race. Organized by longtime barrel racer Jackie Harris of charity nonprofit Dreaming of Three, the competition highlights the versatility of Thoroughbreds in a sport that traditionally favors other horse breeds.

But No More Rings took to barrel racing with an uncanny aptitude, Valeri says.

At the beginning of training, Nicole and Rings were completely unsure of each other.

At the beginning of training, Nicole and Rings were completely unsure of each other.

“We started off a little rocky. I was a little intimidated by him because he was super strong, and if he got cranky, he wouldn’t mind taking off with me,” she says. “But once I got over my intimidation, we started to click, and by the time we started training with the barrels, I realized he really loved it. He wanted to hunt those barrels; he showed he really wants to be a barrel horse!”

Valeri had no inside tip when she chose Rings for the job.

She went shopping at Mountaineer Race track shortly after learning she’d been selected from 50 applicants to participate in the trainer challenge. And she chose Rings for his short, stockier build and “good fighting spirit.”

At the beginning that fighting spirit translated into a difficult personality. He took off with her when frustrated, and quivered and tried to bite when she tried to brush him.

Rings and Nicole Valeri make a grand entrance to the Ultimate X Showdown. Sam Mike photo

Rings and Nicole Valeri make a grand entrance to the Ultimate X Showdown. A Sam Mike photo

But the pair soon eased into a nice arrangement as she worked him from the ground up, teaching him first to respect her space, before working on lateral flexion and getting him soft and supple in her hands; not bracing, as many racehorses can be.

“I rode him six days a week. We weren’t drilling barrels all that time. I also took him out on trail rides, and by the end of our time together, we were riding as one entity,” she says. “The night before the challenge, I was riding him bareback in a ring with other horses, and I slipped his bridle off and rode with just a string.”

Since training the plain bay in her sport, Valeri has had a lesson herself. “I never really thought about using Thoroughbreds for this sport. But since working with Rings, I’ve bought two more off-track Thoroughbreds. It was an eye-opening experience, and I’ve fallen in love with the breed!” ♥

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