On a white racehorse, she rode to the top

Photo by Allie Conrad

With quiet confidence, Lauren Lambert approached the silvery-white puff of a horse.

The skilled equestrian had learned at the foot of her mother, Martha, a master rider whose own career had taken her all the way to the Rolex competition fields. So, Lambert figured that hopping on the new, white ex-racehorse would be a walk in the park on a lazy afternoon.

She figured wrong.

As she pulled Baba Creek out of his stall to saddle him up, a chill enlivened the Kentucky air, reminding Lambert, and her friends who’d come to join her on a trail ride, that winter wasn’t far off.

Expecting to take full advantage of what would probably be one of the last good days for trail riding before the season ended, Lambert led the ex-racehorse Thoroughbred to the mounting block. But as she put her foot in the stirrup, he exploded without warning; bucking and galloping as she barely scrambled up and into the saddle.

“It was a little humbling,” Lambert says. “All these people were watching!”

And to this day, people haven’t stopped watching. But for much different, and more admirable reasons.

The now blazingly fast pair has been hard to beat in the competition fields. Among some of their biggest victories, they won the coveted Amanda Warrington Award, for the highest placed first-timer at the 2009 Fair Hill International Three Star. Also, in 2009, the pair took home the Area VIII Advanced Young Rider of the Year, and were placed fifth on the United States Eventing Association Advanced Young Rider of the Year.

In 2010, their winning ways continued. The pair placed sixth in the North American Young Rider Championships, and in 2011, had the fastest cross-country time at the Bromont Three Day in Canada.

Race name: Baba Creek
Barn name: Miles
Sire: Tricky Creek
Dam: Hail Baba
Foal date: March 5, 1997
But, it never was a walk in the park. Getting there took hard work and more hard work after that.

“When we got Baba, we were in no position to purchase a $50,000 fancy Irish horse,” Lambert says. “After my Mom spent some time with Baba and got him going up to Preliminary, she said he’d be really good for me.”

That was when she was only 14, and her first riding lesson ended in a tearful, defeated walk back to the barn.

“I was so excited when I tacked him up to do a little jump lesson,” recalls Lambert, now 23. “I trotted up to a cross rail and we couldn’t even get over that. He was just cantering and quick” and nothing went right.

The winners!

“I distinctly remember my mother coming by in her car, and I was so frustrated I was in tears.”

But she liked the horse. So she persevered, learning how to sit quietly in the tack, not making big movements, and approaching each ride with confidence.

Baba taught her patience, and Lambert finessed her skill.

And, on the cross-country field, he became a trustworthy partner who made sure they stayed safe.

“He’s always taken care of me on cross country. He’s just the safest horse, and he’s always had the most heart.”

She adds, “He’s never exhausted. The Warmbloods run out of gas on cross-country, but he never does.”

As Baba enters his 15th year, and is taking a little break to recover from tendonitis that flared up last fall, Lambert sums up their career and time together as an unparalleled experience.

Admittedly not “an emotional person,” recalling their ups and downs together causes her voice to hitch and a little embarrassment as tears may threaten.  “That horse has taught me everything about what I know today about horses,” she says. “He has taught me to be very brave, very patient, and very quiet.”

But, Baba has tested every ounce of her mettle. “He was not an easy horse,” she says. “Some horses, like Baba, are meant for professional riders only.”

Thrilled as she is to see more and more people consider an ex-racehorse Thoroughbred for their next mount, she offers a word of caution.

“I’m not sure everybody understands that the Thoroughbred is not a big, Warmblood to flop around on,” Lambert says. “I’ve seen it before: A kid becomes an amazing rider on their Warmblood and they think it’s a good idea to get an ex-racehorse as a project horse.

True partners

“The next thing you hear, they’re saying the horse is crazy, that he’s bouncing off the walls. But it’s because the rider is bouncing around on them.”

It took many years for her to refine her skill such that it was worthy of her smart, athletic partner. She had to humble herself to learn the lessons, and there were no shortcuts.

As one who has had an ex-racehorse virtually make her career, her advice to anyone considering a horse off the track is to learn about their background, work with a skilled Thoroughbred trainer, and remember that the Thoroughbred is a far different creature than a Warmblood.

“Going from a Warmblood to a Thoroughbred is like going from a Cadillac to a Ferrari,” she says. “But, they’re also the best for upper-level eventing.”

8 responses to “On a white racehorse, she rode to the top”

  1. Jennifer Sainlar

    Great article on Lauren and Baba. I was a student of Martha’s when she got Baba and I remember how sensitive he was to the leg. I am so proud to have been a student of Martha Lambert
    and very proud of Lauren and her accomplishments. Great horse, great rider!!

  2. sybil

    as always, LOVE this series! i have to say that OTTBs come with lots of different personalities, not all of them are type-a. mine isn’t, though he can have the occasional “moment”. i do agree that you need to work with people who LOVE working with tbs, they are different from other breeds. a trainer that expects a warmblood or QH personality will not be a good fit for any tb. but those that “get” them, love them!

  3. Jessica Boyd

    Great profile, Susan–and what a wonderful success story.

    I do, maybe a little, respectfully disagree that you necessarily need to be an upper level rider to ride a Thoroughbred. I am certainly not (NOT) an upper level rider and Calabar is definitely an upper level horse. And yet.. despite some physical and emotional bruises, we’ve done okay.

    He too has taught me patience and perseverance–though we are not showing–and I would not trade him for any other “bomb-proof” horse in the world. Not ever.

    Good for Lauren and Baba–those sensitive horses give us so much!

  4. Ann Banks

    Great article on Lauren! Lauren Lambert is not a “one horse wonder”, she has had many OTTB’s from my racing inventory over the years and has done exceptionally well with all of them including two more white ones, Dancing Dennis and Opera Ghost! GO TEAM! Rock those OTTB’s!

  5. Holly

    great story and I know exactly how you feel about going from warmbloods to thoroughbreds. I never looked back. I have own TBs since.

    Best of luck to you and Baba!

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