It was a cold March evening, and the snow was swirling all around. Gently moving through deep drifts and icy footing, the horse carried Farrar where she wanted to go, answering her requests with immediate obedience. He didn’t spook, and seemed only to want to please her.
“I fell in love with his mind right there,” Farrar says.
She saw beyond the fact that, at the time, Bragsforwardmotion wasn’t much to look at.
Suffering from a combination of rain rot and a fungal infection of his skin, the skinny Thoroughbred looked like he’d been through a battle when she arrived to check out the well-recommended prospect.
But she figured there had to be a good reason her riding coach suggested the ex-racehorse, and with this in mind she gamely grabbed a western saddle, tacked up, and set out on their first ride.
“He wasn’t pretty,” Farrar admits.“I figured if a horse wasn’t bothered, in the condition he was in, riding through two feet of snow, with a snowplow going up and down the drive way, then he was a horse I had to take.”
New name: Braggley
Dam: Ms. Forte
Foal date: April 18, 2005She made the decision fairly quickly, and on March 3, 2010, packed him up and took him to her Ohio barn.
For three months, Farrar tended to her horse, who she renamed Braggley.
Speculating that he had grown thin due to a combination of a cribbing habit and his passivity amid more aggressive herd members, who may have been eating his food, Farrar started him on a supplement called Fat Cat and later on switched him to Grand Complete, which also addressed issues of the skin, feet and joints.
At the same time, she purchased a Miracle Collar device to dissuade his cribbing habit.
He gained weight beautifully.
But, curing his skin required a gentle hand and a lot of patience.
“The skin was crusty and he bounced away from the touch because he was so uncomfortable,” she says. “First, we gently picked off as much of his rain rot as we could, but it wasn’t much because he would flinch from the brush.”
He was also bathed with several bottles of a medical shampoo, MTG, and given an iodine bath once a week.
“Eventually our treatments were complete and instead of a fungus-covered horse, I had a bald horse!”
Throughout all the medical care, including dental work, Braggley’s good nature remained in tact. Fellow riders at the barn would marvel at how after a few weeks together, the horse followed Farrar like a dog.
“People were so surprised to see a horse who had been off the track for less than a year, placidly follow me through cones, without a lead rope or a halter,” she says. “I had him following me everywhere, just by snapping my fingers at him and saying, ‘c’mon, Goober.’ ”
But they weren’t through all the obstacles yet.
Although Braggley re-grew a new coat, and regained fitness from routine lunging exercises, other problems emerged. A veterinarian discovered arthritis in his knee was contributing to persistent lameness.
But fortunately, the recommended treatment was Farrar to hop on and ride him as much as possible. Up to this point, Farrar rode him lightly to give him time to heal.
“I was thrilled! We cantered under saddle for the first time in August, five months after I got him,” she says. And he took to it as brilliantly as he did everything else, she adds.
“While one of the other riders at my barn was struggling to address a bolting problem with her 10-year-old Quarter Horse, my five-year-old racehorse was quietly learning to leg yield at the walk and give through the neck!”
Braggley has turned out to be so affectionate that he frequently tries to snuggle the small barn animals, and gives several children pony rides.
“I know it sounds a little weird to say, ‘Yeah, I put children on my racehorse.’ But, he has the most even temper of any horse I’ve ever met.”
A case in point: “One day while being led out of the barn, he took a wrong step and got caught up in a wheelbarrow. Instead of exploding or freaking out he stopped and slowly extricated himself,” she says.
During months of obstacles and treatments, Braggley has remained the steady, reliable horse she first met that snowy night.
And last month, when temperatures finally warmed, he emerged every inch the fat, shiny redhead Farrar hoped for. His skin is thoroughly healed; his coat is sleek and shiny; and his round form has erased all evidence of a rough winter.
His renewal and positive attitude toward lessons has underscored Farrar’s long-held belief in Thoroughbreds.
“One of the number one lessons I learned with Thoroughbreds is that in order for them to believe, I have to believe,” she says. Together, the pair has put the rough winter behind them and is heading toward a future filled with trail rides and lessons over beginner jumps and Training 1 Dressage.