Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stories from off the Track: Briana and River

 For the next addition of my Stories from off the Track series, I will be featuring Brianna and River, from Equestrian Diaries. If you don't know them, go check out their blog! 

About River:
River (Jockey Club name Choptank) is an almost 9-year-old Thoroughbred who originally came off the Pimlico track in Maryland (I believe). Before that, he raced about 16 times; he only won once, but he was regularly placing in the second-third range. After coming off the track, he spent between a year and two years bouncing around to three different owners before I found him. I've been able to get in touch with two of those owners, but I haven't been able to contact the lady who originally got him off the track, so I don't know what led to his retirement in the first place. One fun thing is that even though he went to so many owners, I still have his registration papers, so I know his "real" birthday and even have documentation of his one and only win! 

How We Met:
Ok, this is going to be a bit long--first horse, you know... ;) I started looking for a horse after quitting a volunteer job riding off-track Arabians because the owner's standards and mine just didn't mesh. I'd already fallen in love with my coach's Thoroughbred mare, so I really wanted a Thoroughbred (though I was looking at other horses), and an off-track one appealed to me because I'd just finished riding the off-track Arabs. I went to look at several horses before I expanded my search distance and found an OTTB filly I liked. I called about her, but the lady who was selling her (A Pinch of Luck, <> ) told me about a gelding she also had for sale, named Chops, that she thought I would like better. She e-mailed me pictures and a video of both horses, and I looked at Chops' (River's!) head shot and promptly fell in love and forgot all about the filly. My coach agreed that he sounded and looked like a better match, and I made the trip down to ride both horses, first just with my dad and then again with my coach. I didn't have any epiphany, but when I got off River, even though he was a slightly neurotic, very inward-focused, head-bobbing and weaving goose, I just felt right. I pretty much decided then that unless the vet check said he'd be unrideable in six months, I'd take him home. Needless to say, he passed and I brought him home! He is my first horse, my "boyfriend," and I adore him. :) 

 Our first challenge was his feet. When I bought him, even in shoes he was dealing with heel bruising and overall tenderness. When I brought him home he promptly pulled both shoes in turnout. He was a bit sore after that, but got really sore after I had someone out to trim him. It took several months (and several different trimmers) before his feet toughened up enough to go barefoot. Now he has fantastic feet though and happily goes barefoot without any problems! 

 Our second challenge, though it might seem odd, is his "try." He tries so hard to do what you ask that gets very nervous, anxious, and "shut down" if you push him too hard or don't make things clear to him. He needs me to "hold his hand" and walk him through everything, but he's also got a strong independent streak that gets rather offended and/or just shuts down if you boss him. (Don't tell, but I really think he's me in horse form!) It's still hard for me to know just how much to push him and when to back off and let him think. Also, his weight and overall muscle/body condition are always a challenge, but that's just him. ;)

What We Plan To Do:
 Rock the world with our awesomeness. ;) Okay, more realistically, jump a little bit, learn dressage, and play on the trails. Right now we're doing a lot of walking and trotting, building condition and teaching him how to carry himself. He wasn't ridden much at all in between coming off the track and when I bought him, so he still has a lot of racehorse habits that need to be un-learned!

Do you have an ex-racehorse and want him/her to be featured? Please email me at

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