After three years of persistence, a 15-year-old Honolulu equestrian and her spirited Illinois-bred Thoroughbred have proved the skeptics wrong.
People who used to wonder if Jenna Neher wasn’t a bit “over horsed” by her off-track Thoroughbred African Wildfire, are now commenting on how “good” the plain bay is for his young rider as the two compete at the USDF’s second level and jump three-foot courses.
“At first he was a hot Thoroughbred, and a lot of people thought he was a lot of horse for me,” Neher says. “But we’ve come such a long way since I got him in 2012 … it’s to the point that every clinician or show judge who pulls me aside has told me that they really like him, and they can see how much he wants to please me.”
Barn name: Izzy
Sire: Tiger Tiger
Dam: Western Wildfire
Foal date: May 18,2000This is high praise for the tremendous accomplishments the pair has had training and showing, not to mention the transition African Wildfire has made going from the chilly Illinois climate to the warm, balmy islands where wild pigs and truly free-range chickens wander.
“I think he was a little bit in shock when he first got here because I think he was waiting for the seasons to change, and they never did. It stayed summer. And the wild pigs and chickens especially got to him,” she says. “But now he loves it! And he especially loves it when it rains; he loves to slide in the mud.”
African Wildfire was shipped to Hawaii on Oct. 17, 2012 following an exhaustive search in the New Jersey area. Neher and her mother Lynne Wooddell tried many prospects, and several breeds, before learning about Wildfire by word of mouth. On a second trip from Hawaii to the mainland, Neher tried the 16.3-hand plain bay and found him so “perfect” that they flew him by FedEx back to Hawaii. (Please see an earlier story on African Wildfire).
Once Wildfire landed however, the real work began. Neher enlisted the aid of cowboy dressage trainer Harrison Chong to teach her effective methods to correct behavior, and encourage Wildfire to settle into his work. Neher’s goals this year include getting her dressage score into the 60s, and earning a C3 rating at Pony Club.
And when they’re not practicing their skills in the ring, or across the Hawaiian countryside, Wildfire is sinking into the cool, inviting waters of a nearby lake.
“At the Dillingham Ranch where we practice, there’s a huge open field with a lake in the middle,” she says. “We’ll gallop around the field, going over huge fly jumps, and over obstacles on a hill, and when we’re done, I take off the tack, hop back on him bareback, and we go for a swim.”
In the land of lush, tropical abundance, Wildfire has found his second career on an island where it’s summer all the time, and where a sparkling clean lake soothes both horse and rider alike.
Author’s note: Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com launched e-commerce site Off-TrackProducts this month. In it, we offer two saddle pad styles and a show cooler with a sporty logo. The logo features an oval, symbolic of a Thoroughbred’s race career, and the horse running free. Please check it out if you wish. And thank you for enjoying the blog!