The most shocking part about riding a Thoroughbred in Quarter Horse country is how easy it’s been.
So says longtime barrel racer Melanie Lyell of Tennessee.
There were no explosive moments. No funny business with orange barrels. And the only thing that has been “run away with” is the heart of the equestrian who says her jaw drops nearly every day she places a western saddle on the back of her seasoned ex-racehorse Runbridled and goes for a slow, steady ride.
“Before I adopted Runbridled, I’d heard so many stories in the Quarter Horse world,” says Lyell, a Tennessee equestrian. “Everyone said Thoroughbreds would never make a barrel horse: They’re too big. They’re explosive. Sitting on one is like sitting on a ticking time bomb.”
So Runbridled was quite the surprise.
Barn name: Grace
Sire: My Unbridled
Dam: Lightly Decorated, by Brightly Decorated
Foal date: April 28, 2010Shortly after Lyell adopted the bay mare with 25 racing starts, everything she’d ever heard about Thoroughbreds just fell away as they took turns around the arena.
“I noticed she was really really, broke, and I didn’t expect that. I thought she’d feel pushy on the bit, stiff through her body, and want to run left,” she says. “I was absolutely blown away. Not only wasn’t she hot, she’s kind of lazy. And the biggest challenge she has is picking up her left lead, which is crazy. She’ll pick up her right all day long.”
Her experience has taught her to go with her gut instincts, and let the naysaying nabobs worry about themselves.
Though she was hesitant at first to jump onto the Thoroughbred bandwagon, she was quickly swayed when she met her beautiful mare at Thoroughbred adoption agency Second Stride of Kentucky. “My friend Brittany Wright, who grew up in the hunter/jumper world, had told me good stories about Thoroughbreds. Then one day she turned up with this OTTB named Seton Hall, who raced until he was 7 or 8. I thought Brittany had lost it. But, lo and behold, he turned out to be a great horse.
Fast forward to October 2015 and an invitation to tag along with her friend on a road trip back to Second Stride.
“We drove up together and I’d picked out a mare I liked. Not Runbridled, but a different one. But, as we walked out of the barn I saw this bay mare standing in a round pen, and she was just so pretty and well put together. She’d only been on the premises for two days, and was still racing fit. But, she just had the look to me. She looked like a barrel horse should look.”
A couple weeks later, on Oct. 30, 2015, Lyell welcomed Runbridled into her life. And had her heart stolen.
“I never expected her to be so calm, so patient, and so smart,” she says. “She’s such a hard worker, and a perfectionist. With each task I ask of her, she gives me her all. And with every ounce of love I show her, she gives it back tenfold.”
—Lyell will show Runbridled at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover in Kentucky Oct. 28