TB champ sells for Warmblood price, so talented

Holiday Cat and Brayle McEllrath have channeled the red mare's jumping talent into pure gold. Photo courtesy Jorji McEllrath

Holiday Cat and Brayle McEllrath have channeled the red mare’s jumping talent into pure gold. Flying Horse photo courtesy Jorji McEllrath

A red OTTB mare once so wild she needed additional head restraints as she walked alongside a burly handler who muscled control over the kicking mare, has since become a champion show horse so successful on the west coast that she quickly sold in September for the price of a Warmblood!

Holiday Cat, the pedigreed and talented Thoroughbred sport horse, and a force to be reckoned with on the West Coast Zone 9 show circuit, was sold in September by owners Jorji McEllrath and her equestrian daughter Brayle for $22,500, a sum commonly fetched by Warmbloods.

“I see so many times that Thoroughbreds are downgraded on their price, and Holiday Cat is proof that if you put the work into them, they’re really worth so much more than that,” McEllrath says. “This mare has really opened the eyes of a lot of people out there. I now have people in our old barn looking for the same Storm Cat lineage that she has, because she has proven to be such a great horse.”

Holiday Cat
Nickname: Holly
Sire: Pyramid Peak
Dam: One Hot Lady
Foal date: April 1, 2004
The McEllrath’s purchased Holiday Cat five years ago for the sum of $1,000. At the time her daughter took her first test ride, the mare was so hot she was forced to wear a halter, a bridle and a chain over her nose. While a strong handler held her lead shank, then 13-year-old Brayle clutched tight to her mane.

But in record time, the pair went from wild ride to wild success. Chief among the long list of accomplishments are: 2014 USHJA Zone 9 High Children’s Jumper finals Champion; 2014 USHJA Western Regional High Children’s Jumper Team 2nd Place; 2014 USHJA Zone 9 high point Horse of the Year Reserve Champion; 2014 Oregon Hunter/Jumper Assoc. Open System year-end High Children’s Jumper Champion.

Under careful handling and skilled training, the onetime “whirlwind” McEllrath once likened to the Tasmanian devil has become so successful in the show ring and so adored in their family, and in their barn, that it took a Warmblood price to get the family to part with her.

“There were a lot of tears shed over this decision,” McEllrath says. “This is an amazing horse who went to the Las Vegas nationals in November with 850 horses; she did the meter class against 30 others and took second place. And I later found out she did it in a broken saddle!”

The victory gallop at the USHJA Zone 9 High Children's year end jumper finals in August 2014. Photo by Julie Ward and courtesy Jorji McEllrath

The victory gallop at the USHJA Zone 9 High Children’s year end jumper finals in August 2014. Photo by Julie Ward and courtesy Jorji McEllrath

Her daughter, cognizant of the price of a new saddle, hid the condition of her saddle until finally her mother noticed her child’s awkward leg position, and asked about it. “After that, our coach let her ride in a good saddle, and realized that (Holiday Cat) was capable of doing a 1.20 meter!”

Not much surprises them about the red mare’s talent since Brayle McEllrath virtually transformed the “bucking, farting, kicking” mare purchased on March 7, 2010 into a high-scoring competitor in the Zone 9 USHJA High-Children Jumpers.

Last August, the pair finished 1st  in the zone finals, which includes competitors from Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon. With nary a Thoroughbred among them, the pair went on to compete in Sacramento at the USHJA on the children’s jumper team. On the first day, the pair took 4th, and later helped her team score 2nd place. Overall, the pair finished 8th overall against 20 other riders, McEllrath says.

The jump off at last year's Zone 9 high children's jumper finals. Photo by Julie Ward and courtesy Jorji McEllrath

The jump off at last year’s Zone 9 high children’s jumper finals. Photo by Julie Ward and courtesy Jorji McEllrath

At one point during the competition, as she watched her daughter and red mare canter a victory lap, McEllrath sang out, “Best $1,000 I ever spent!” and the heads of at least four people turned round to gape at her, she says. “The decision started out with me asking myself, ‘What did I do?’ But she wound up being the most awesome horse I could have asked for.”

Not only did the mare win big ribbons and championships through the years, but she mellowed into the type of horse who rides to the abilities of the equestrian she carries, McEllrath says.

On their very first ride, Holiday Cat wore a halter, a bridle and a chain, and was led around at the walk.

On their very first ride, Holiday Cat wore a halter, a bridle and a chain, and was led around at the walk.

“To see this horse from where she came from go onto where she is now gives me a great sense of pride and satisfaction,” she adds. “If we hadn’t gotten our hands on this animal, I hate to imagine who would have gotten her. I’m still in contact with her former owner, who always felt she had a high worth, and who really wanted her to be something. I always called him to tell him what bling-bling she came home with, and I called to let him know we sold her at a fair price, and he was thrilled people are now recognizing how great she is.”

Holiday Cat was sold to Tressa Blankenship and moved about five miles up the road from her old barn.

Blankenship says that though she tried other horses in her search, Holiday Cat’s jumping style won her over. “We loved that she had experience in the meter 1.10s and 1.5s,” she says, noting that she got along immediately with the red mare, and that she is very excited to have her as a best friend and partner.

The new partnership is a win-win-win for the McEllrath’s, her new owner, and most especially a fiery red horse whose ticket to success rested on patience, love and good training. “I’ve had so many people come up to me through the years to tell me we have the best horse,” McEllrath recalls, adding that she is thrilled her new owner is offering an important next chapter to the blazingly talented red mare.

5 responses to “TB champ sells for Warmblood price, so talented”

  1. ceritasfgp

    I remember her well, and Brayle persisted in her dream to go on to show jumping rather than hunters.
    Thoroughbreds are the Ferrarei of the horse world. Wonderful animals bred to give their heart and great athletes so often misunderstood and they really want a partnership with their riders.

    They are also quite good on trails straight off the track. I used to cross train mine in the hills and also the river!

    Way to go Brayle and Holly, proud of both of you!

  2. Carol Lang

    What a great story, although it is a shame that money can have such a siren call. My own horse was a wild child that no one could deal with, It takes patience, no small amount of courage at times, devotion and consistency to win them over. Congratulations to this family for giving this mare a chance and to Holiday Cat who risked everything to be part of their lives.

  3. Judy Barrick

    Looks like she went to a super new owner and home–and only down the road from her previous home so the former owners can visit her. Hard to imagine a mare being this high-strung, but that’s some personalities and it is great that they could channel her exuberance into becoming a champion jumper. Horses need so much to have people they can love and trust. Some are very sensitive with the trust issues, like my own Arabian mare–now she comes right up to me and is very loving–something she didn’t really show eight years ago when she had an older mare (now gone as of 2014) in with her. She is a very beautiful pure Polish mare, with the rare bloody shoulder marking. Very lovely at the trot and she has lots of showiness when moving–and was also very spirited when young. She is 23 years old now and we have a colt/stallion from her who is also pure Polish. This mare still looks very lovely at the trot and arches her neck and tail. So fortunate to own her–she was a halter mare from a yearling to about a four year old.

  4. Kitty

    I don’t know how they could have sold her. My horses all have a forever home with us!

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