My OTTB Adventure

By Brooke Schafer

I’m one of those crazy horse girls…the kind that drew them on every scrap of note paper in class, planned her weekends around horse shows, and made her Christmas list by circling 400 items in the Dover Saddlery catalog. Non-horse people don’t understand horse people. They can only love us and support us…even when it means shopping for an off-the-track-Thoroughbred (OTTB) on our phone at 3 a.m. in bed. #Guilty.

One of the multiple selfies Brooke has taken with her horses.
(There are no less than 500 horse/selfie combos saved on my phone)

It was on one such occasion a few weeks ago that I stumbled across THE ONE. I had applied to be a trainer in the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover, a fantastic program that one must acquire and train a recently retired racehorse for the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, a competition and exhibition of sorts that is scheduled for October 27-30 at the Kentucky Horse Park. The most impressive of the pairs will be awarded the prize, and it has gotten to be quite competitive.

Anyway, I was casually (okay, obsessively) searching for my project horse. I had scoured every OTTB Facebook page as well as adoption groups such as Canter, New Vocations, etc., but so far hadn’t found anything that really jumped out at me. I was looking for a horse with nice confirmation and an overall presence that stood out in a crowd. Also, my project horse needed to be bred in Kentucky so I could stay KY Proud! It was a long search, but then I found a page titled Gulf Coast Thoroughbred Network on Facebook and decided to check it out. BAM! There he was. The dream horse.

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Photo by Gulf Coast TB Network

After asking a lot of questions, doing some internet research, speaking to the current trainer, and having my references checked, it was a done deal. CALL ME WONDERFUL was coming to Kentucky! Bred and raised locally at Spendthrift Farm, he met all the criteria on my checklist. This new gorgeous animal would join our small herd and further fuel my obsession while also allowing me a chance to jump back into my other favorite discipline of eventing (at least I hoped!) Oh, did I mention I also train and show American Saddlebreds and Arabians?) See, I said I was horse crazy.
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Photos courtesy of Bill Cunningham

image8Photo courtesy Bill Hamlin

Call Me Wonderful arrived, and after a long trip on the van and a recent gelding (10 days post) I decided to hop on him after he had settled in to help loosen him up. His trainer had told me he was laid back and easy going, even saying he felt like he could be a ‘kid’s horse.’

He was right! Mr. Wonderful stood patiently as I groomed and tacked; even stood perfectly still as I mounted from the block (my 5’4″ height is no match for his 16.3 hh). He was a perfect gentleman throughout. I sat behind a long muscled neck and two beautifully sculpted ears. He walked, trotted, and cantered on cue with a mouth so lovely I couldn’t believe he was fresh from the track. We spent some time bending and stopping, and he willingly performed each task asked of him. He even stood quiet and still for his first photo shoot (first of many, sorry buddy). When we were finished I found my way awkwardly to the ground – it’s been a long time since I dropped that far!

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First selfie!
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First ride complete!

I’m looking forward to many more rides. I decided to take this time (around 2 weeks) to get to know him before I turn him out to get fat and enjoy R&R after a successful racing career. He will also enjoy 30-45 days of pure turnout to just ‘be a horse’ after we get to know one another.

We will get busy in the spring with our eye focused on the fall. Looking forward to this new adventure with my OTTB partner.