As a young girl growing up in Moscow, where male athletes were favored far more than the females, Maria Bogdanova-Peifer had to fight and claw her way into the saddle.
Told no more times than she could count, the persistent 12-year-old finally found a coach who softened when she pleaded: “All I want is a chance.”
Though the class of male riders all laughed when she was palmed off on an old, stiff Thoroughbred nobody wanted to ride, she was thrilled at the chance. And though there were times she could barely hold on as she bounced “all over the place” the lessons she learned in Moscow —perseverance, and a talent for sticking with her goals and to the saddle, set her up nicely for the OTTB in her life today.
Kangaroo Kid, a Kentucky bred OTTB, was appropriately named. Not only can he jump anything, but also he has rolled out his acrobatic maneuvers more than once in his early days of training with Maria. Which is where her Moscow training kicked into high gear.
“There were times I was like a fish on the other end of a fishing line” when she lunged him while he performed his aerials.
Today, after nearly three years together, the pair has worked out the kinks so well that he is well on his way to being a “superstar,” she says. Picking up champion and reserve champion at The Ridge Farm in New Jersey recently, and has been showing readiness to move to 1.10-1.15 meters.
“He’s still a pickle sometimes, but he stole the heart of more than a few people who were at the show,” she says. “And on the way home at a gas station, a family was filling up and they asked if their son could pat the horse. It turned out that the little boy was autistic, and Roo was such a sweetheart, giving the kid kisses! He has so much personality and keep surprising me every time!”