A Suffolk Downs ‘gem’ brings hope, a spark

Tempest and Hillary

Hillary Lak glanced indifferently at the mare.

“She was cute, but she was too small,” Lak says, dismissively.

With that quick summation and a shrug, Lak continued wending her way through the backside of Suffolk Downs last October, looking for a potential it horse to take her galloping across eventing fields yet to come.

She looked and looked, but none caught her eye. And eventually, she felt like giving up.  Her sister, however, along for the search, prodded her back toward the direction she’d come. “Just look at the mare again,” Lak was urged.

Figuring that nobody else was jumping out at her anyway, Lak retraced her steps back toward Unbridled’s Jewel stall. And there she beheld a gem.

The brightest chestnut, with a bold white blaze, walked and trotted for Lak as though she had springs on all four feet, powering forward with balance and grace.

“I looked more closely at her and she had something, like a spark, and I could tell she knew her own Race name: Unbridled’s Jewel
New name: Tempest
Sire: Unbridled’s Image
Dam: Larry’s Bouncer
Foal date: May 9, 2007
mind, but would listen,” Lak says. “She seemed to have spunk, but she wasn’t a nutcase.”

Going completely on faith that the 16-hand mare would be a good match, the 20-year-old equestrian bought the mare on Oct. 15 last year, got her home to her South Hadley, Mass., farm, and was immediately stung with buyer’s remorse.

“She bit me in the arm!” Lak says. “Then I got her in her stall and she started to weave, and, I thought, oh no, what have I done?”

But the next day, she turned the mare out in a small paddock and hoped for the best.

A confident horsewoman, Lak decided to start riding Jewel, who she renamed Tempest, right away. And surprisingly,  the fussy horse she calls “the grumpy princess” was very agreeable under saddle!

“The first time I got on her, she was awesome! There was no bucking and no spooking” and she tried hard to understand what her new owner wanted of her.

© Photo by Barb Lamb

They folded right into jumps training, starting with trot rails that Tempest cleared as though they were fences, and small cross rails, which were also given the same huge jump.

And yet, despite the “greenie” overreaction to the obstacles, Tempest showed her natural aptitude from the get-go.

“We did a combined test, a cross-rail division at the end of April. It was her first time jumping away from her home (arena) and she won first place!” Lak says. “She wasn’t quite sure at the beginning of the test, and the first few jumps were iffy, but she settled in with a really nice finish to her course.”

Tempest gets very excited over jumps, proving there was truth in advertising, when she was billed and listed by CANTER New England, as the type of horse who could “go all day and not get tired,” and promising she would be a great eventing prospect.

Steuart Pittman, creator of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, recently concurred with the CANTER opinion. In New Hampshire last month, Pittman taught Lak and Tempest in a clinic.

And before the jumping portion of the day had ended, Pittman proclaimed the energetic, floating mare to be a “freak—in a good way!”

“She definitely has a lot of energy and a lot of power,” Lak says. “And when she wants to go, she wants to go.”

Photo courtesy Schwarcz Photography

Tempest’s gait always had the floating quality of a show horse, recalls her former owner, Janelle Campbell, a trainer and exercise rider at Suffolk Downs. The mare, who showed no interest in track life, was only lightly raced before Campbell listed her for sale with CANTER.

“I figured she’d be great at so many other careers,” Campbell says. “I thought dressage was a natural fit, and jumping— I bet she could jump the moon!”

At the very least, Lak intends to reach for the stars as she embarks on her riding career.

This year, the recent high school graduated, plans to have Tempest schooled enough to compete in beginner novice and rated shows by August and September.

When she’s out on the fields, or in the arena, Lak intends to reveal the hidden gem for what she is— a diamond-in-the-rough who made her look twice to see the sparkle of a horse once named Unbridled’s Jewel.

5 responses to “A Suffolk Downs ‘gem’ brings hope, a spark”

  1. Molly

    What a fabulous combo! Go Hillary!! 🙂

  2. Kjell


  3. bettylion

    Western Mass represent!! yay!

  4. rachel pizzano


  5. rachel pizzano

    VERY KOOL!!!

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