Archive of ‘Equestrian’ category
A (non-horsey) friend of mine often says that horses are born trying to die. Most of the time I don’t agree, but every once in a while they (the horses) attempt to change my mind. It has rained quite a lot lately so I’ve kept the horses in their stalls for the past couple nights. To my mind this would be a completely safe environment for the horses to spend the duration of the storms. I was wrong. Coco has a very fat and scraped up hind leg.
I suspect that she rolled in her stall run yesterday and stuck her leg through the fence. There is a pretty good scrape and a few minor scrapes on both hind legs. She isn’t lame, thank goodness. For the next few days we will hearken back to last summer for twice daily ice wraps and poultices. Thankfully she is a very well behaved patient so should improve quickly with treatment.
Initially I just wrapped it with an Ice Horse wrap to get some cold on it. The longer it is hot and swollen the worse it is for the leg long term.
When she was in her stall I poulticed her leg. This is a clay gunk that you slather on, wrap in newspaper, then wrap with a standing wrap. The poultice dries and pulls the heat out of the leg. It is best to do this when they are confined so as to not tear the wrap off. I was impressed with how cooperative she was for her first hind leg wrap. They always act funny the first time their hind legs are wrapped. I presume something wrapped around their legs in the “wild” is most likely a snake or something bad.
After the poultice has been on for a few hours you remove the wrap and rinse off the leg. This is what the dried up newspaper-wrapped poultice looks like:
Her leg was markedly less swollen after a couple ice wraps and the poultice. Yay! You can also see her ugly scrapes. Dear Coco, please don’t put your leg through any more fences.
It has been about 15 years since I broke a horse to ride myself. I never had a “job” during high school, instead I would break the 2 year olds my parents were raising to ride in preparation to be sold later on. Breaking a warmblood is a bit different from breaking Quarter Horses, but the fundamentals are the same. The. Hardest. Part. is knowing when to push them and when to just let them be a mess. I’ve got about 20 rides on Coco and she is very much at that precipice of needing to be pushed, but also not needing to be fried. She has a reasonable amount of steering and a decent “whoa”, but she often forgets where her feet are and gets pretty dang determined to go where SHE wants to go (which is always towards Jaguar).
I took her to my horsey bestie’s to ride off the farm for the first time last weekend and she was a dream. I was skeptical when we first arrived because she was a bit of a fire-breathing dragon, but once she was under tack and I was in the irons she was really really good. My horsey bestie rode her OTTB around while we mostly just walked and trotted. I couldn’t have been prouder of Miss Coco Chanel!
Last night she bucked for the first time. Not hard, but she was MAD! I like that she doesn’t want to run around the property like a hooligan, but she’s rather lazy about cantering and that was our disagreement. I kicked to canter and she said “heck no!” I didn’t come off and she didn’t buck very hard. In retrospect it was mostly funny, but I did get kind of mad at her attitude. Mares! I’m hoping to take her to a couple trail rides while the weather is still pretty warm. I find the horrible heat of Texas can be great for riding young, fresh horses. It takes off a bit of the edge so more progress is made and when the weather gets cooler she will have well over 45 rides.
Pats after a good ride, even if it did include her first buck!
One of my most favourite places to shop for horsey items is Beval. I’ve not ever been to the actual stores on the East Coast, but I’ve gotten lots of stuff off their website and in January had a saddle fitter come out and I bought the Beval Artisan saddle for fox hunting because I didn’t want to use my brand new Antares saddle for hunting. I’ve found Beval products to be of great quality and most of their leather goods are made in England.
Right now they are having a fantastic summer sale until July 31 so this post is my Beval wish list.
First on my list is the Heritage Wide Caveson Hunter Bridle. My horsey bestie has a few Beval bridles and they are beautiful. As Coco heads into her hunter career I’d love to get her a brand new spiffy bridle. I’ve been on the fence about the wide caveson bridles and now I think Coco would look quite lovely in one.
Bevel Heritage Wide Caveson Hunter Bridle. Photo from Beval website.
I’ve longed for a Witney cooler to use after cold fox hunts or at winter horse shows. Alas they are included in the summer sale! You could also use one in your house as a throw blanket or as an accent to bedding. These are made in England. They remind me of the races at Newmarket and old paintings by Stubbs and Munnings.
Witney square cooler
I recently bought new Grand Prix paddock boots (Made in the USA!) so would love to get some nice new half chaps to go with them. The leather used to make these looks like it would feel just like butter.
Beval Puissance Half Chaps
In all honesty I think GPA helmets are rather ugly, however the Speed Air Evolution is on super duper sale so would be worth trying out!
GPA Speed Air Evolution helmet
I need a tack trunk, a vinyl sided one that matches my trainer’s colors, but I’d also like a plain wood one for at home and to take to fox hunts. This one would fit the bill perfectly. The classic dark wood and basic style are timeless. Add a brass nameplate and it would be absolutely perfect.
Medium Delux Trunk (they spelled deluxe wrong, not me!)
So there you have it, my current favourites at Beval. If you are on the market for some horsey goodies from saddles and bridles to riding apparel to horse apparel definitely check out this Beval sale. I’m in no way shape or form being compensated for this post, I just really like their stuff and their customer service. Happy shopping!
Here is a little secret.
Beautiful hunters lined up waiting to be pinned. Photo from Pinterest.
Most of those beautiful tails are not real. All horse events at horse shows that I have ever shown in from AQHA to reining to hunter shows have all had a very longstanding trend of long and thick tails. When I was a kid showing Quarter Horses I would spend hours upon hours grooming my horse’s tail so that by show season it would be long and thick. Quite frankly I got to be quite the horse stylist! Until I started showing Jaguar, that is. His tail tended more towards the thin and wispy style. This was also at a time when fake tails were becoming more common than not. People were figuring out that rather than leaving tails braided and protected by tail bags or socks (yes, we used tube socks to protect our horse’s tails. My Dad thought it was beyond ridiculous) year round they could just braid or tie in a fake tail and call it a day. Jaguar’s tail was so pathetic that I succumbed to the trend and made my own fake tail to tie into his real tail at shows giving it some volume and a little bit of length.
Alas that trend continues today in the hunter world and I’m reverting back to my kid self with fierce determination that my horses are going to grow their own damn tails. This may be due partially to my desire to prove that I can do it and partially to the fact that I have a grey horse and their fake tails cost twice as much as one for a bay or chestnut because the colors have to match just right. Regardless, I’ve challenged myself to help Coco grow a respectable tail in time for her first horse show. I anticipate we have about a year for this endeavour. This post will be photographic evidence of what we started with.
Coco’s tail. Not terrible, but also not show quality. Plus it appears she pulled out a large chunk of hair at the top.
Based on interwebs research I’m going to use Shapley’s M-T-G to help Coco’s tail grow. I also subscribe to the philosophy of brushing the hair with a brush as little as possible, however I also need it to remain tangle free so if it gets caught on a tree branch or fence the hair won’t get pulled out because of a tangle. So I will pick it out with my fingers most of the time, but will brush it every once in a while. Plus she LOVES having her tail brushed.
The tools of the trade. A tail brush and some Shapley’s M-T-G
When I brush hair; mine or a horse’s; I always start at the very bottom and move slowly closer to the roots. This allows the tangles to get picked out without pulling out giant wads of hair.
Start brushing at the very bottom of the tail
Once the tail is fully brushed out I start applying the M-T-G at the very top of the tail by parting it horizontally like so:
Then squirting some M-T-G as close to the hairline as possible. M-T-G works at the root of the hair, not as a conditioner. It encourages hair growth.
I’ll do about three of these spots slowly working down the tailbone. After each application of M-T-G I work it into the roots of the hair to get it spread throughout. Once I get about 1/3 to 1/2 way down the tailbone I’ll part the hair vertically:
I’ll part it all the way to the end of the tail bone then apply a very liberal amount of M-T-G and work it into the roots of the hair. The goal here is to get as much on the tail as possible and as little on the floor as possible.
Once I’ve gotten the tailbone hair as saturated as possible without dripping I’ll put some on the length of the tail just to protect that hair. Plus it acts as a detangler.
One thing about M-T-G is that it smells absolutely horrible. Like a cross between animal lard and barbecue. It is terribly odd scent, but it is supposed to work really well. The bottle says to apply it once per week to encourage hair growth for manes and tails. We don’t really care about the mane, so we’ll only be applying it to Coco’s tail. The directions also state to not put it on a horse’s tail and then turn them out in the sunshine. M-T-G causes photo sensitivity. Good thing that during the summer months my horses get turned out at night! I’ll report back in a few months to see how Coco’s tail growth progress is going. I’ve been sporadically putting M-T-G in Sterling’s tail for about 6 months and his looks pretty good. I’ll add him to the weekly application program and maybe they will both have to die for tails by next summer!
After Sterling’s abominable behaviour on the recent trail ride attempt, I had to make it up to him and brag on him a bit. Just a few short days after the trail riding debacle we made our way to Waco, Texas for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival I. I was a bit concerned that I had fried his brain by attempting to go on a trail ride, but Sterling proved pretty quickly that horse show horse he truly wants to be and is where he has the most success.
I’m not going to dissect each trip, mostly because it has been a few weeks since the show and they have all run together in my head, but I did want to mention the highlights. I don’t have a photo of Sterling with his ribbon, but I’m absolutely delighted to share that we won our first ever blue ribbon over fences at a rated USEF show! We won the Modified Child/Adult over fences trip on Thursday with a very respectable 16 entries! We also got third in our Limit over fences class and third in the Limit under saddle class, both with about 16 or 17 entries. I’m finally learning to stay out of Sterling’s face going up to jumps and not getting ahead of his momentum with my body by leaning forward. By riding more correctly we are getting much better spots to the fences so his form is more elegant and true to the hunter type. We (I) still have a lot of progress to make in keeping a consistent canter rhythm, but progress is pretty exciting, especially when rewarded with blue ribbons!
Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco
The second day my rounds in the Limit division over fences trips left a bit to be desired. A consistently inconsistent canter stride separated the men from the boys in the placings. I got a seventh in one group and no placing in the other. We made up for it, though, in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic. The course is a tiny bit longer in a Classic than in a regular round over fences and there are potentially two trips. Everyone goes around once and the top 12 scores are invited back for another round and the combined overall high score wins. Our first trip was arguably the absolute best trip we have ever had over fences and was rewarded with a very respectable score of 78 out of a possible 100. We were in the lead until the very last rider went and scored an 81, but we still had the second round to go. Our second round had a few bobbles and I never did hear our score, but we ended up 4th overall out of 20 or so entries! And we won money! I’m SO proud of Sterling and I can’t brag on him enough. The ring at Waco is known to be rather spooky and he went around nearly like he was at home.
Fourth place in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic!
The icing on the cake for this horse show was that we had a pretty significant cheering section, which we have never had before! Many of Boot City’s family live in or near Waco and some even drove up from Austin to watch. It was extra fun to have them at the show and for us to do well with an audience.
Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.
The fox hunt I’m a member of has members from many different walks of equestrian life. The diversity of horsey backgrounds makes for a very fun group of equestrians with very different perspectives on riding. One of the few equestrian disciplines I have never tried before joining the hunt was polo. Having grown up in Montana there weren’t a lot of opportunities to learn most kinds of riding in English tack. My parents often attended a polo event in Sheridan, Wyoming during Don King Days in September, but that was as close as we ever got to polo. Well it just so happens that my hunt has a strong contingent of polo players who also happen to be some of the most inviting folks I’ve ever met.
I made it out to the polo field one time last summer, but I took Sterling with me and he was very poorly behaved on the tie line so I didn’t get much time on the field. This summer I was (thankfully) invited back and opted to not take my horse show prima donna along with me. Plus it was a work night so there was no way I’d have time to go home from work, get the horse and make it to the polo field by “kickoff” at 6p. After work I snuck into the bathroom in my office building to change into my breeches and boots and got out of the building as covertly as possible to not be seen (and made fun of) by my coworkers. The polo field where I played is an easy 40 minute drive from my office so I got to enjoy another episode of Serial Season 2 on my drive out.
Once at the field I had the great fortune to ride Prince. A seasoned Thoroughbred polo pony of 16 or 17 years old. The horses ridden by polo players are always called polo ponies, even though few of them are true ponies, which would require them to be under 14.2 hands tall. Polo ponies are also not exceptionally tall. Very rarely do they exceed 15.3 hands. They need to be the right height for the rider to not have to lean over too terribly far to hit the ball and small enough to be agile and speedy up and down the field. Most of the polo players I know ride Thoroughbreds or Thoroughbreds crossed with Quarter Horses.
One advantage I have in learning polo is that I can already ride pretty well. In my opinion riding is the easy part of polo. Knowing all the rules and actually hitting the ball with the mallet are the difficult parts! The polo match on the weeknight evenings during the summer at Oak Grove Polo are pretty informal. It is an opportunity for the seasoned players to get new and young horses on the field and for not-so-seasoned players to learn in a more forgiving environment than at a more competitive match.
Lesson #1: how to hold the mallet. I would argue this is much easier said than done!
Polo matches are divided into chukkers. Each chukker is 7 minutes long. We were going to be playing 4 chukkers. During the first chukker of the evening Prince and I parked at one end of the field and spent the full 7 minutes practicing hitting the ball. It is much easier to hit the ball at the trot in terms of physical effort, but having enough hand/eye coordination to actually hit the ball at a faster speed takes some time to acquire! After the first chukker I was invited in to play. The general point in the chukker is to get the ball down the field and into your team’s goal to score a point. It really isn’t tremendously different from soccer, except that there are only 4 people on each team, and those people are riding horses and they are hitting the ball with a mallet instead of their feet and head. But otherwise the same.
At first I generally was only able to hit the ball when the horse was standing still. By the end of the evening I was able to hit it while the horse was trotting. HUGE progress!
The seasoned players were fantastic coaches and would verbally guide me up and down the field and sometimes even pass the ball to me for my turn to hit it a couple times. There is a lot to the roles of defending the other players when it is their ball that I still don’t fully understand and the ball changing hands to the other team confuses me (Where do I go? Should I try to hit the ball? Do I need to get out of the way?), but it was pretty fun.
My right arm was sore for a few days after my first polo match, but I’m pretty darn proud to say that I never hit my horse with the mallet! Jaguar would have been a fantastic polo pony so I’m bummed I waited so long to try playing. Sterling would be an absolutely horrible polo pony so he’s not in any danger of being asked to try. Coco has quite a long ways to go in her lessons as a riding horse to even be considered. I plan to go back and play some more times this summer as long as the invitation is open and there is a pony to borrow!
The polo ladies! I’m in the middle on Prince, the saintly polo pony who puts up with polo novices and never even tried to unseat me.
Something I often read on various forms of media from Chronicle of the Horse Forums to Facebook posts to equestrian blogs are complaints about the expense of Tailored Sportsman breeches. Many of my readers know that I used to work for Justin Brands. Some of the footwear sold by Justin is manufactured in the United States. Tailored Sportsman breeches are manufactured in the United States. I’m not professing to be an expert on domestic manufacturing by any shake of the stick, but I do know that it generally costs more to make things domestically than it does to make them in Asia. It can be expensive to have small quantities of manufactured items shipped from Asia (I’ll talk about the cost/benefit of this later), but they don’t have nearly the same labor protection laws as the United States (minimum wage, mandatory breaks, affordable medical insurance, and others) so the labor costs are significantly lower. I’ve never been able to find out exactly where TS manufactures their breeches, but their website lists a New York address. If their manufacturing is in New York, then it is in one of the highest cost of living cities in the United States.
When you buy a pair of Tailored Sportsman breeches you are paying for an American worker’s wages. That American worker uses those wages to pay for a place to live, food to eat, etc. They contribute to the American economy. When you buy a pair of Tredstep or Ariat breeches, you are paying for an Asian worker’s wages to support an Asian person’s cost of living. It isn’t a bad thing to buy products made in Asian countries, I just don’t believe it is comparing apples to apples in terms of the cost of manufacturing which often translates to a slightly higher retail cost. Another advantage to manufacturing domestically is the ease of changing a product run more quickly. A domestic manufacturer can halt the production immediately of a product that isn’t selling, needs a design update, or has some flaw that needs fixing. Once the contract is made for a product to be made abroad the company contracting for the product is going to get it just like it is. This can sometimes benefit the consumer in terms of a company discontinuing a design line and thus selling what is left at drastically reduced prices, but that can be frustrating for the consumer who buys something because it is on super sale, falling in love with THAT one, and never being able to get it again because it is no longer manufactured.
Another example of domestically manufactured apparel for riding that I read complaints about the cost are the EIS Sun Shirts. I am ALWAYS telling people how fantastic these shirts are. They truly changed my life. No, really. I haven’t had a farmer tan in the two years I’ve been wearing them which also means I’m not generating skin cancer causing conditions (i.e. hellacious sunburns). These shirts are not cheap, they cost around $100. They are made with a fabric that is called IceFil. IceFil is produced by a Korean company called Ventex, but the fabric is imported once, made into a shirt and sold in the U.S. There are other companies making riding shirts out of IceFil fabric, including Tailored Sportsman, but they are usually made in Asia and shipped to the U.S. retailers. So the fabric goes from Korea, to India or China, then to the U.S. for retail sale.
Shirt is EIS (made in USA), breeches are Tailored Sportsman (made in USA), boots are Justin Eq (made in China, no longer available), saddle is Antares (made in France), saddle pad is Mattes (made in Poland), bridle is Dover Crown (I think made in India, but def not England or USA), stirrup leathers are Prestige (made in Italy), irons are from Beval (no idea where they are made), helmet is Ovation (probably made in Asia, but not sure where)
Owning, riding and showing horses is expensive. I totally get why people want/need to save money and opt for less expensive options. I just hate hearing people say that Tailored Sportsman breeches are only for hunter princess snobs because they are SO expensive. Or that a bridle made by an Asian manufacturer is just as good as an Edgewood bridle. I’m not even discussing the quality differences between most imported versus domestic manufacturing or the reduction in the global footprint of not having to ship something across the world. I just think it is meaningful to consider where your dollars are going when you purchase an item that was manufactured domestically. I opt to have fewer pairs of schooling breeches and schooling shirts in favour of buying as many things that are made in the U.S.A. as possible. Below is a list with links of riding items that are made domestically. This is clearly not an exhaustive list and I’d point out that Grand Prix show jackets are manufactured in Canada, not the U.S., but I think that is close enough to call it domestic!
Grand Prix Show Coat
Grand Prix Paddock Boots
Nunn Finer Stirrup Leathers
Toklat Saddle Pads
Kerrits Riding Tights
EquiFit D-Teq Horse Boots
JoJo Bambootz Tall Socks
Original Baker horse sheets and blankets
On my first ride on Coco I failed to secure resources for photographic evidence of the event. I did not have this failure on the second event! I’ve spent the past month and a half gradually working her up to the big event of her first ride. Jaguar was the first ever horse I broke to ride all by myself. The method I used with him was based on a series of videos done by Roy Yates, an old cowboy. He did copious amounts of ground work with his young horses so by the time he rode them it was no big deal. I believe his methods to be sound, humane and effective and continue to weave them into my own.
I start by teaching the young horse to lunge, then add a surcingle which teaches them to accept the girth, then a bridle, then side reins, then a saddle with the bridle, and finally I ride them. You can tell a lot about a youngster by how they respond to the first time you tighten the surcingle. A highly sensitive horse will have a much stronger reaction than a more laid back animal. Sterling was very sensitive. Jaguar was kind of in the middle. Coco was VERY laid back. She has jumped up a little bit with the surcingle on and the saddle, but she’s never full on bucked. I hope this is a good thing!
Happy girl under saddle
The first time getting on a horse is always the scariest part for me. You have NO idea if they are going to jump out from under you, run away, start bucking, or just stand there. Never before had I done the first ride with an English saddle, either. Both of the western saddles I have are huge and it just didn’t feel right to ride her western. She was a perfect princess. She didn’t bat an eye lash when I put weight in the left stirrup and swung my right leg over. I had to sit for a minute and take deep breaths because I was so nervous. She, on the other hand, just stood chewing the bit.
When I work with the youngsters on the lunge line I teach them verbal commands to walk, trot, canter and stop. This helps them to make sense of what I want them to do on the first few rides when they have no idea what my legs are telling them. I clucked Coco forward on our second ride and just just walked on. I use my legs, too to teach them that pressure from my legs means go forward or faster. By the first few rides she will have figured out that leg pressure means go forward. A few more after that and she will trot from my leg instead of clucking. Cantering usually takes a bit longer, but it depends on the horse.
Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie
During our second ride we trotted in addition to walking. She was a bit confused and the pen I rode her in has a lot of trees so the lack of steering was kind of an issue! I have to be mindful to reward her every time she gives to the pressure of the bit to turn or stop, but not getting knocked off by a tree limb was important also!
All in all I’m absolutely tickled with how well our first two rides have gone. One can’t get overly complacent that the young horse is going to be easy peasy during every ride. I’m sure the first time we canter will be interesting, but I’m so grateful it is going as well as it is so far. It is exciting to have something to look forward to with Coco after the bad news about Jaguar. She won’t be ready to fox hunt for at least a year, but I hope to take her on some trail rides before the summer is over.
Awkward baby horse steering
Last Sunday was an eventful day for me, one with a LOT of happiness. I rode Coco for the first time and she was a dream! I also rode Sterling that morning, after a failed attempt at a trail ride the day before, and I rode Jaguar that evening. Since Sterling was now 100% a failed trail rider I would need to get Jaguar legged up for the remaining trail rides with my hunt friends for the summer. Riding an old horse cold turkey on long trail rides is not nice. They need many more rides to be fit enough to work on an ongoing basis. When I rode Jaguar something was off. He wasn’t lame, but there was a hitch in his gitalong that didn’t feel right. We only walked and trotted and I took him over a few low cavallettis, but I could feel something weird with his hind end movement. The right side had a bigger jerk to the movement and the left side was much softer. Had I been a betting person I would have guessed he was off on his right leg.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Sterling needed a shot so I thought I would have my vet look over Jaguar while he was there. I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from a work trip. My thought was that Jaguar was going to start needing some kind of joint injections, a pain management regimen for arthritis, or something similar to one of those options. He’s no spring chicken being 23 years young. He definitely is showing his age more than he had a year or two ago, but he had a fantastic hunt season and I love riding him on trail rides because he’ll do most anything I ask of him. My vet called early in the afternoon that he was already near my house so I told him to just go ahead and stop over even though I wouldn’t be home. He’d call me when he was finishing up.
This phone call has affected me far more than I would have dreamed it would. There isn’t really a name for what is wrong with Jaguar’s left hind leg, but there is something decidedly wrong with it. My vet thought for sure I would be able to tell him of a very specific event in which Jaguar had injured his left hind gaskin a few years ago and it was just now showing the full symptoms of what age and injuries combined will do to an animal’s mobility. The thing is, Jaguar has never ever been lame. Ever. Never had a hoof abcess. Never a pulled shoe that caused an issue. And never an acute injury requiring him to come out of work at all. Until now. My vet has diagnosed Jaguar with an injury to his left hind gaskin where it meets his hamstring and his stifle that will most likely not respond to any type of treatment and will require him to be in full retirement. No more riding Jaguar.
Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining
We are going to try a bute regimen for a few days to see if that might cut the pain a little bit. It will be promising if it does, but my vet sounded pretty skeptical of it working. The reality of it is that I will probably never be able to ride Jaguar again. He will now get his 100% deserved retirement.
Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998
I always thought that I’d know when I had my last ride on Jaguar. There would be some episode. Some illness. Some tangible reason when I would know that this was it. Not some vague nondescript injury that really isn’t that bad, but bad enough that it can’t be fixed and he can’t be ridden. I’m grateful that he’s otherwise healthy and I still have him, but I’m absolutely heartbroken that our partnership under saddle is done. No more fox hunts. No more trail rides. No more torturing him while I post without irons. As much of a mess as I am about this news I can’t even imagine how bad I’ll be when he dies. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second we have together. He’s going to embark on his retirement with a weight loss program and focus on being the best damn pasture ornament there ever was.
Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).
Let’s start this off by clarifying that I’m no film critic! I avoid movies where animals die or get hurt like most people avoid accountability. I despise sad endings and I don’t really want to learn anything from a movie. They are my respite from real life. I enjoy couples falling in love while singing Benny and the Jets on a bar counter. Girls who move from Kentucky to L.A. and make it as burlesque singers are more my tune. When a good friend suggested we go see Dark Horse, I was skeptical. In Black Beauty (this is a spoiler) Ginger dies. Old Yeller, well I don’t even need to remind you. I can’t bring myself to even think of watching Marley & Me. However, I lucked into some free tickets to Magnolia at the Modern and when I looked at the upcoming films, Dark Horse was the first on the list! I read the synopsis and it didn’t say anything about any horses dying.
I should also add that I’m not a huge fan of horse racing. I’ve seen some horrifying incidents on the track that have gotten me nearly to the point of being unable to watch any horse racing. I get excited for the big races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont), but avoid watching them live lest they end in another Ruffian. This film was an absolutely delightful surprise! Another spoiler, the horse does get hurt, but it isn’t horrifying and he lives.
The story of Dream Alliance is a fairytale. A lower middle class woman from Wales gets a super crazy idea to breed her very own race horse. We all know from recent posts that my experience with breeding has been a rough road so the fact that she got a healthy foal with four legs on the ground is a huge step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned!
Dream Alliance as a foal
Dream Alliance was raised him on a “slag heap” as quoted in a U.K. press article. He wasn’t born in the posh stables of the Irish National Stud or some other fancy racing stable and he definitely didn’t have any blue blood! His dam was purchased for a mere 300 pounds and the stud fee was only 3,000 pounds. Most racing stallion stud fees are well into the five figures. Dream grew up amongst those who would become his biggest fans as though he was one of them.
Dream Alliance growing up in a sleepy mining town in Wales
Dream Alliance’s breeder knew that the cost of training and racing him would exceed her resources so they offered up syndicate ownership to the townspeople for a cost of 10 pounds per month to each owner. The group they ended up with was a far cry from the typical racehorse ownership crowd, but they were committed and exuberant! When he was ready, Dream Alliance was sent to training with Phillip Hobbs of Minehead Stables. All involved with his training were pretty skeptical of his potential, but Dream exceeded everyone’s expectations!
Dream Alliance in a steeplechase race
Dream won many races and placed very well in those he didn’t win, but he did get hurt just before one of the biggest races of his career requiring 18 months off from work to treat his tendon injury, heal, and (miraculously) go back into training. It was AFTER this nearly career-ending injury that Dream won the biggest race of his career, the Welsh Grand National. He continued to race after the Welsh, but after pulling up at quite a few races or finishing poorly it was determined that he had a career ending lung condition. By this time he was 9 years old, a much longer career than most racehorses in the U.S.
Dream Alliance in a win picture with a few of his syndicate owners, jockey, and trainers
The film is beautifully done with quite a bit of actual racing footage and candid conversations with syndicate members. I plan to buy it as soon as I can add it to my iTunes library to watch over and over again and cheer for the working class chestnut with four white socks who beat all the blue bloods at their own race!
Here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure: Dark Horse Official Trailer