Sunday, May 10, 2015

Q & A with Kristin Leason

Kristin Leason is a rock star for OTTBs – she is also a young lady with horse sense well beyond her years. 

As a child Kristin rode ponies, a Morgan, an Appaloosa, and an Arabian. “I learned SOMETHING from each of them,” Kristin said. “But after my first two OTTBs, I vowed to never go back.” Earlier in the year, we shared Kristin’s three-year journey to acquire her dream horse Guinness, aka G-man, real name Jump Start Now. Since teaming up on May 25, 2011, Kristin and Guinness have consistently earned top honors and even a high point year-end award in combined tests, hunter trials, and paces.  

Today, Kristin uses her life-long experience with the breed, and day-to-day adventures with Guinness, to help ex-racers find supportive homes. “I've been a part of the rehoming process for a few years now,” says Kristin. “It’s all incredibly rewarding to watch the horses I've helped succeed in their respective new careers.”

TT: Why did you choose an OTTB?

KL: I have always been drawn to Thoroughbreds. My parents had racehorses when I was younger and a farm in Ridgeway Ontario (I was born in Buffalo, but my father is Canadian). My mother did a lot of rehabilitation and took in boarders for layups, etc. My father handled the string at the track, based at Fort Erie Racetrack. Being around this breed early on really helped me appreciate them even more. I always knew they were special. I still believe a Thoroughbred, particularly one with a past such as racing, has its own very unique and amazing personality. The potential bond they can share with their "people" continues to astound me as I read other success stories.

And of course, the obvious answer being their athletic ability, trainability, and intelligence. In addition to all that, it makes me feel good providing them with a fun "job" after a career in racing, which, we know isn't easy. I enjoy contributing to the reduction of "unwanted" ex-racehorses being "thrown away"... it makes me feel good.

TT: What would you say to potential adopters looking at OTTBs?

KL: I usually just endorse open-mindedness. Unfortunately, it is not always a good idea to believe everything you hear from a prospective seller. There are good and bad people all over the place and that remains true when it comes to who you buy a horse from. As a general rule, I think it’s a good idea to have some experience training horses, ideally TBs. These horses are "broke" but they do need a lot of work, time & patience. And, in my past, I have learned that the quiet, sweet horse you see on the track will naturally change a little bit once he is in a new place, healthy and recovered from the track. It’s good to be ready for a bit of "bad" behavior, and by that I mean they are feeling better, so of course they may become "hot". 

Patience is key. Be willing to spend a lot of time with your new horse and get to know him. Find out as MUCH as you can about his history, too -- you can never know too much. But time spent doing "nothing" with them early on can prove to be very valuable overall - when an OTTB trusts you and is your friend, he will do anything for you.
TT: Your thoughts on owner responsibility?

KL: This INCREDIBLY important to me. My horse is basically my child. He's a part of the family and he is absolutely priceless to me. They should be treated as such. My horse ALWAYS has, and always will come before my personal wants. People should remember that every choice we make affects SOMEONE else, and that that someone could be your horse. They are not to be thrown away. 

It’s important to me to stress that if a horse owners falls upon hard times (or something along those lines), they need to do what is right by the horse. If that means rehoming him, then I say do it. I happen to be very against the "Backyard Breeder" (BYB as I call them), who endlessly breed horses that are worth very little in the current market. These people are contributing to the "waste" in our industry, and it’s absolutely horrible that we, as responsible horse owners have to see things like slaughter in the USA reinstated due to the out of control breeding of horses -- I could go on forever about what I think of all that.

My goal is to encourage people to explore the potential of the already available OTTBs with so much to give just waiting for their person. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

5 Questions | Melissa DeCarlo Recknor | Fly Lite

Melissa adopted Fly Lite in October 2009 through the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center after she had been rescued from a kill pen and subsequently returned by three previous adopters. Fly Lite participated in the World Equestrian Games as a demo horse, and as a feature on Unbridled TV. The pair has forged a bond that is an inspiration to anyone working with an OTTB.

Q: Describe your horse in one word?


Q: If your horse was a celebrity, who would she be, and why?

ALYSON HANNIGAN. Like Alyson, Fly is petite, short and red-headed. They are both opinionated, yet personable and down to earth. They can both be crazy red-heads, interesting to be around, and can entertain a room full of people. Both ladies are full of talent, potential and personality … In the end they are both petite, short, and fiery red heads :)

Q: What was the biggest challenged you faced in retraining your horse?

Fly can be very hot and opinionated under saddle. Her loving and quiet demeanor on the ground was very deceiving. This was incredibly hard for me to learn to trust her, that she wasn't going to buck me off or run away with me but instead to work with in and form a partnership. Already a quiet rider, I had to totally re-learn how to use my aids in a more effective way than just "quiet". It has took us 3 years to form this trusting bond. 

Q: What is your best retraining tip for other OTTB owners?

Give it time. You must give yourself time to adjust to your horse and your horse time to adjust to you. If nothing else makes you humble, your OTTB with find a way to do so but don't let learning opportunities pass you by. Just because he/she may be hot and uneasy one day doesn't mean you can't take that time to teach yourself or your horse something else. It is almost ALWAYS a rider error -- retraining an OTTB is difficult for the horse as well, don't let your frustrations get taken out on him/her, they don't know any better.

Q: In one sentence, what is your favorite thing about your OTTB?

Fly has really made me a better rider and continuously tests me as the chestnut mare that she is and that opinionated personality is what makes her unique and a once in a lifetime horse!
Melissa & Fly Lite at Penny Oaks (2015)