A partly blind off-track Thoroughbred, who briefly shared the horseracing limelight with 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, has left the glitz and glamor to enjoy a semi-retired life foxhunting in Maryland.
Well Well, 20, left the barn of famous race trainer Shug McGaughey, and his job ponying Orb at racetracks, to land at the Black Dog Farm in Frederick, Md. last June.
Now living under the care of adoring fan and seasoned equestrian Lisa Novel Hackett, Well Well enjoys the leisurely life of a well-cared-for pet and foxhunting companion.
Hackett was smitten with the wise gelding’s “workmanlike” attitude and steadiness from the moment she rode him out with the Potomac Hunt. “He’s an absolute schoolmaster out there. If there’s a fallen tree across the path, and I think we should go around it, he’s like, oh no, I think we’ve got this,” she says, noting that he is among the most well trained and capable horse she has had the pleasure to ride. “He has earned this retirement. He can live and die here, as far as I’m concerned.”
Sire: Opening Verse
Dam: Mari Her
Foal date: April 5, 1996Describing him as a “class act with a very good soul,” Hackett notes that her plans for his future include light foxhunting, nothing strenuous, some trail riding, and hanging out with his pasture pal Bailey.
As a former gallop girl, Hackett traded her whip and helmet for a desk job in sales. And she is thrilled to offer Well Well an easier career.
“He has had such a great career. When he was working with Orb, he went everywhere that horse did. Now that he’s retired, his versatility underscores that really good horses come off the track,” she says.
Prior to landing his job alongside the Derby winner, Well Well trained under Priscilla Godsoe. Please see earlier story here.
Then, as now, he was a total professional.
“He approached everything like a job,” Godsoe told Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com in 2013. “If you put him on the cross ties, he didn’t stand there like it was time to get peppermints. He stood still, like he was saying, ‘I’m here to be brushed and groomed.’ That horse was all business.”
Godsoe rode him for 12 years until in 2008 a deteriorating vision in his right eye caused her to back away from their athletic rides over rough terrain. She then turned him over to fellow foxhunter Duncan Patterson, the father of Orb’s one-time exercise rider. And that led to Well Well’s exciting career next to Orb.
Though Well Well has returned to the hunts and the hounds, it will be a far slower pace than he knew before, Hackett says. “We’ve been to three hunts together, and I plan to keep him hunting at the back of the pack,” she says, adding, “He’s just such a cool horse. I think it’s best to keep him going because he likes to have a job.”
On a recent ride, photographer Karen Kandra captured a moment that seems to underscore how pleased he is with his new station in life, Hackett says. Ears forward, his expression, she says, was one of pure contentment.