Wind whistled past her small face as the pony tucked his feet up close to his chest. And in a split-second, they lifted off— it felt like flying— and then his feet were down again, placing little Cassidy Stobart neatly on a new path.
As she wheeled around the ring again, and then again some more, the sensation of lifting off the ground, only for a moment, caused such a feeling to ball up inside the 9-year-old that when she spoke her mind later that day, the force of it exploded in one declarative burst:
“Mommy,” she said. “I want to jump!”
Paula Graham Stobart was thrilled that her daughter was so passionate about riding, since as a child, she had also grown up in the saddle, taking daylong trail rides in a neighborhood that looked to be straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
That picture would be just a little different for her daughter however. The western saddle would be exchanged for an English one; and a hunter/jumper barn would be the scene of rides that would be anything but ambling.
But the biggest difference would involve the horse.
After determining that the pony she’d borrowed to ride her first jump did not enjoy the exercise, Stobart embarked on a search that ended on a surprise note.
Race name: Wapato Gold
Barn Name: Wapo
Sire: Stolen Gold
Dam: Drouilly Night
Career earnings: $68,000“My best friend called one day and said she had the perfect hunter/jumper for Cassidy, and that he was a Thoroughbred off the racetrack in New Mexico.”
Skeptical when she heard the word, racehorse, Stobart watched a video of Wapato Gold packing around a child rider, and agreed to let her daughter meet him. And so he was shipped from New Mexico to Washington, the state of his birth.
When he arrived, Wapato was led around with Cassidy on his back. “Then we looked at her and asked, ‘Are you ready?’ The lead rope was unclipped, and off they went.
“There were dogs barking and chasing each other near the riding ring, and in the next paddock horses were snorting and bucking. But he never even looked. This is when I knew we had an amazing horse.”
Cassidy, who was 11 when she first rode Wapato, is now a 14-year-old freshman on the Enumclaw High School Equestrian Team in Washington, which is comprised of members from surrounding schools.
And she and Wapo are tearing up the place.
In his first meet of the year, the racehorse took first in dressage and hunt seat and third over fences. In their second meet, they took third in dressage, second in hunt seat and first over fences.
These recent wins have qualified the pair to go on to the state championships and garnered Cassidy enough points to earn a varsity letter at the high school she attends, Seattle Christian. The pair has also won championships at rated hunter/jumper shows, competes in Pony Club and in 4-H.
Stobart still can’t believe her daughter is doing all this with an ex-racehorse.
“I never would have fathomed we’d have a hunter off the racetrack, and that he’d wind up being the perfect horse for Cassidy,” Stobart says. “Before I met Wapo, I thought they were hot and nutty.
“This horse doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and when I look at him, it breaks my heart to think there are probably thousands of horses just like him, going to slaughter.”
But Wapato Gold is safe and sound, sailing over jumps, and making a schoolgirl’s dreams come true.