Owner from his past searches, saves old racer

Victorious Recall and his one-time owner Jay Romig, who continues to look out for his good buddy.

Victorious Recall and his one-time owner Jay Romig, who continues to look out for his good buddy.

Eight years had passed since Jay Romig stepped into the same race barn as his white Thoroughbred who had once run his heart out for him at Penn National.

But time disappeared when Victorious Recall, now a 17-year-old careworn gelding, and Romig, 65, saw each other again a few months back, meeting as old friends after years apart.

“I never thought I’d see him again,” Romig says. “I thought he must be dead.”

But as soon as Romig entered the temporary barn, where Victorious Recall had been taken in by some kindhearted women, renewed vigor seemed to pump up the tired old warrior, who pricked his ears in Romig’s direction, and nickered.

“People in the barn couldn’t believe it. Everyone said they could tell he still knew me.”

Victorious Recall had been Romig’s racehorse for 13 months beginning in 2004, when he and other racehorse owners purchased him. “He never ran worse than fourth”, Romig says with pride.

During those years, Romig got to know the animal’s quirks. A veritable overachiever on the track, he ran with a stride so huge that he would kick and bruise himself with his own hooves if he wasn’t very carefully shoed, Romig recalls.

Victorious Recall
Sire: Lordeyhexecutioner
Dam: Lamartic
Foal date: May 3, 1997
Earnings: $248,167 in 111 starts
“You had to shoe him perfectly so he wouldn’t hit himself,” he says. “We used to wrap him and put pads on him to make sure he didn’t do too much damage.”

And he had the heart of a champion, Romig says, noting that when this horse strode onto the track, he could almost feel him thinking: “You guys aren’t going to beat me!”

After 13 fabulous months with Victorious, the hard-trying horse was eventually claimed away in 2005, and from that point on, Romig never stopped worrying.

“I always kept an eye on him. I didn’t always go to Penn National when he ran, but I tried to keep tabs on him, and we did try to claim him back once,” he says. But several other owners successfully claimed the animal.

Fortune turned again however, when in December 2007, says Romig, “I was approached and asked if I wanted to take him back. I didn’t have the room on my property in Halifax, Pa., I had two with me, and boarded two, but I said I’ll take him and board him somewhere.”

Romig did his best to find Victorious a home. For a number of years he was comfortably ensconced with neighbors just a half-mile from Romig’s home, so visits were frequent. “It was great. They took excellent care of him,” he says.

But when his neighbors decided they couldn’t keep Victorious anymore, they found another home for him nearly 50 miles away. And for several months he tried calling the new owner, but got no response, not realizing she had become ill.

Victorious Recall now lives at the Exceller Fund’s Missouri facility, and his long-ago owner Jay Romig is paying his bills.

Victorious Recall now lives at the Exceller Fund’s Missouri facility, and his long-ago owner Jay Romig is paying his bills.

Out of desperation he drove to the neighborhood where he thought he might find the pretty white gelding, but the search seemed in vain. He even gave out his phone number in the community and asked people to contact him if they heard anything.

More time passed without a word, but then a phone call came.

“A lady said, ‘Were you looking for Recall?’ And I said, ‘Victorious Recall, yeah, I’m looking for him. Is he dead? And she said, ‘No, we have him!’ ”

The ex-racehorse who had successfully waged 111 starts and earned $248,167, had been taken in by a farm after his last owner died, and while Romig had no idea how he could help, he dashed off to the barn to see his old friend.

But he could help and he did. With the assistance of Thoroughbred welfare organization R.A.C.E. Fund, Romig got his old horse placed with The Exceller Fund, and agreed to pay a portion of Victorious Recall’s upkeep through his retirement years.

Recall arrived at the Exceller Fund’s Missouri property on Nov. 15, and now Romig breathes easily knowing his old friend is in good hands.

“I’m going to pay every month for the rest of his life to take care of him,” he says. “I wish more people would pay for their horse’s retirements. You won’t make as much money, but you can still make it work.” — Author’s note: This story was originally published on Jan. 2, 2014. ♥

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Warmblood search ends with ideal t’bred partner

Agave is now a proud member of Obarowski’s entire family. Photo by Jennifer Rebecca Photography

Agave is now a proud member of Obarowski’s entire family. Photo by Jennifer Rebecca Photography

It was a happy accident that brought together Warmblood rider Karen Obarowski and a green ex-racehorse who couldn’t trot a straight line.

All the fancier prospects she’d considered before she met Agave Ride had failed their veterinary exam, and in deep disappointment, she gave up on the search until her friend and trainer Suzanne Markham suggested that she take on a project horse while she searched for her dream horse.

“I didn’t have anything else going on at the time, and was missing horses, so I said OK, fine,” Obarowski says. “We went to the farm where he was to make sure he wasn’t crazy or lame and I agreed to take him for three months.”

Famous last words.

From the first moment she and her trainer clipped the lunge line onto Agave’s halter and asked him to trot a circle, their eyes grew round as saucers as they watched the fluid and stylish movement. They knew they had a pretty special horse in their hands. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Well, he has gaits! He can really move!”

Agave Ridge
Sire: Cactus Ridge
Dam: Bonnieview Miss
Foal date: March 11, 2005
Earnings: $63,877, in 39 starts
“I didn’t have a lot of experience with Thoroughbreds, but he had the biggest heart of any horse I’d ever ridden,” she says. “He tries so desperately to what I’m asking, and if he does something wrong, he gets so anxious, but if I tell him he’s a good boy, his whole body relaxes.”

Since taking their first ride on July 3, 2013, not only as Agave thoroughly ingratiated himself as her dream horse but he’s also picked up dressage moves like a pro.

“He’s already schooling at second level. He’ll say, ‘Oh, you want half pass?’ And the second time out, he’ll do a half pass all the way across the ring!”

And when he’s not in work, and letting his hair down, Agave has shown that beneath a previously aloof exterior lays the heart of a goofball.

“He’s completely in-your-pocket. When I try to put his bridle on, I sometimes have to struggle because he’s licking my arm” making it difficult to get the gear on his head. “I don’t have to put a lead rope on him or cross ties because he just follows me around.”

The blurred lines of Agave in work shows his fluidity under saddle.

The blurred lines of Agave in work shows his fluidity under saddle.

Other riders chuckle when the see Obarowski walk down the barn aisle carrying her tack, with Agave walking right behind. “He goes right into his grooming stall, turns around, and waits for me,” she adds.

Looking toward the future, Obarowski has set her sights on one day competing at FEI Dressage levels on Agave. Once a goal she wanted only for herself, she now dreams of the high-level competition as an appropriate challenge for her off-track Thoroughbred. And she imagines what she’d say about the horse she now owns, should they get to that level:
“Here’s my off-track Thoroughbred who raced for seven years, and now he’s going to beat your fancy Warmbloods!”

—This story was originally published on Jan. 28, 2014.

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Lisa Molloy offers beauty tips for your T-bred

Lisa Molloy and Show Some Lovin together present the perfect picture.

Lisa Molloy and Show Some Lovin together present the perfect picture.

The Chestnuts sparkle brightly in the late-morning sun, and Grays pop from the page, their dappled coats glistening on a cloudy day.

Nearly every scene captured of the fair-haired lady and the hundreds of Thoroughbreds her photos have helped sell, appear to be from Ralph Lauren or Horse and Hound. All carefully crafted with a few tricks of the trade.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Lisa Molloy, a deeply seasoned Thoroughbred trainer who has worked for several re-homing organizations, and currently heads up ReRun, Inc. in Virginia, and also works with Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue, tells us her secrets for bringing out the beauty of T-Breds, making them into “dream horses” for prospective buyers.

Q: Many have asked you what your secret is for turning out Thoroughbreds  like Ralph Lauren models. Care to share?

To start with, I have a clean horse, and clean tack.

There are so many tiny, little things that can be done to enhance the overall picture. For example, lighting is critical for different horses. For grays, it’s better to photograph them on overcast days, because they look better.

Molloy brings the shine out in her sale horses before having their glamor shots done. Photo by Cecillia B Photography

Molloy brings the shine out in her sale horses before having their glamor shots done. Photo by Cecillia B Photography

But, if you’re photographing a chestnut or bay, you want late-morning sun, before 10 or 11. After that, the sun is too high in the sky, and you get long shadows falling off their legs, which isn’t attractive.

In the composition of a good photo, you also have to take into account what’s behind you. If you take a photo of fence behind you, you may get the appearance the horse has been impaled on the fence post.

We want the horses looking as level as possible. Some people like to show them food so they’ll reach forward, but I don’t do that, because I don’t want them to look too far forward.

To get them to pose properly, I can strike a cigarette lighter to get them to look at it, or a mirror, and tilt it and anything that will catch attention.

The big Quarter Horse photographers have tape recordings of mares screaming. When you see the perfectly posed horses, standing forward, they’ve all listening to a recording!

The whole goal is you want them to look interested without them looking mortified.

Q: There are also several beauty secrets you employ to get a horse looking his or her best.

Molloy gets Radiohead ready for his closeup.

Molloy gets Radiohead ready for his closeup.

It starts with the bath. I wash all of mine in Head & Shoulders, so they don’t have any skin problems whatsoever. And, I use baby shampoo for their faces, so if it gets in their eyes, it doesn’t sting.

Then, I use a purple shampoo to remove any orange or yellow tint from gray or white hair, and I’ll washing their white stockings or socks with that until they’re bright white.

If I’ve got a gray with a nasty tail, I might leave the purple shampoo on for 10 minutes, wash it off, and do it again. You can do the same thing with your own hair to take discoloration out!

If I’ve got a sun-bleached horse, I’ll dye their tales back to black. I use an inexpensive, women’s hair dye.
I also use a Show Touchup spray that comes in every horse color there is to do touchups.

I use hoof-black and to paint the hooves black, and spray-paint to enhance the black on their legs as well. It just makes ping more and look sharper.

Another secret is women’s hair spray! I spray over the top of the hooves to make them shiny.

I also pay a lot of attention to the tails. If I have a bay horse with some bleached bits, I spray the entire tail black. If I’ve one with a scraggly tail, I blunt trim the end of the tail. Even cutting it a half an inch— just like with a women’s hair— can make it look thicker.

Lisa and a beautiful chestnut take advantage of the warm, afternoon light to help paint a picture.

Lisa and a beautiful chestnut take advantage of the warm, afternoon light to help paint a picture.

I help them look their best by enhancing their natural beauty, but one thing you cannot do, if you’re marketing a horse for sale or adoption, is to cover up any scars.

Another thing that keeps them looking their best, is keeping blankets on. I use blankets with nylon liners. The blankets keep the hair down, and the nylon keeps their coats fairly shiny.

Q: Where did you learn these techniques?

I worked for 10 years for Bob Perry Quarter Horses in Texas, where the most famous Quarter Horse stallion stood at stud.

My first exposure came one day, when one of the farm managers asked me to go get some horses cleaned up for a photo shoot. I groomed the horse like I always would, and was kind of proud when I brought him over to her. She looked at the horse and said, “Oh my God! I can’t take photos of him looking like this!”
And she wheeled out this cart full of stuff, and I started learning after that.

Q: How did you incorporate these glamour shots into your efforts to help sell ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds?

When I got involved with Thoroughbreds, it seemed that if you looked at charity horse listings, what you saw was the same bay horse. Nothing distinguished them. It was bay horse after bay horse after bay horse.

Although I can look at a horse and use my imagination to see how he could look, I don’t want to leave that up to the buyer’s imagination. There are so many ex-racehorses out there, and its buyer’s market, so I believe in representing each one as best as you can.

Q: How effective have the photos been in advertising OTTBs?

I think it’s very effective because the photographs snag peoples’ attention, and anything that gets people interested is a good thing.
A lot of people have this misperception of retired racehorses. Some think they’re all “rescue” horses, which they’re not, and other expect some raggedy, mistreated thing. They’re shocked when the come see our horses! — This interview was originally published Nov. 7, 2012. 

To donate to ReRun, Inc., please click this hyperlink to nonprofit charity’s donation page. ♦

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