A “Grinch” of an OTTB Fuels Adult Amateur Dreams

Photo courtesy of Jacquelin Foohey


I’ve been riding since before I was born. When my parents met, my dad gave my mom horseback riding lessons—and the rest was history. Our family farm, The Pines Farm, in South Glastonbury, Connecticut, offers monthly horse shows both local and A-rated.

Growing up, I always owned, trained, and rode off track thoroughbreds. I remember times when my dad would randomly come home with 7 or 8 OTTBs he handpicked off the track and we would keep the “ones that would do our job,” aka the hunter circuit. 

My childhood horse, Its a Reality (actual JC name that we kept as a show name), carried me around the Children’s Hunter Horse division to many wins-the Hunter Classic at CHJA Medal Finals, CHSA, CHJA, and NEHC year end championships. During college, I took a short break from riding. It was honestly the worst decision I made in my life, until Grinch. 

Just after I finished graduate school to become a high school history teacher, I decided I missed riding too much. My dad, to this day, avidly scans OTTB rehoming sites like Finger Lakes Finest and his personal favorite, Canterusa.org. He stumbled across an ad for a 4 year old dark bay colt, “Broadway Hat.” The short description had an unflattering photo taken from far away at an awkward angle, but the selling line said, “too slow to continue racing.” It was then we decided we would go take a look at him where he was located at Suffolk Downs in Boston, Massachusetts. 

When we arrived at the track, the trainer led us to Broadway Hat’s stall. I tried to pet him on his nose, but he was snappy, sassy and definitely a stallion. I hooked up a lead rope and walked him out of his stall and down the paved road in between the barns. He walked like a lazy dog, with his head dropped down and pleasant as can be. It was hard to imagine this feisty boy had such good manners. We walked, trotted, and knew instantly that he would be coming home with us. 

2 year old photo of Broadway Hat, sold to Todd Pletcher $220,000. Photo © Sandra Madison

However, his owners wanted him to race one more time on turf field to see if he would be any better than he was on dirt. We had to wait a month to hear the news that he was done racing and that he was ours to come pick up. During the wait, I did some research on him and found out that as a 1 year old he sold for $150,000, and as a 2 year old sold for $220,000 to trainer Todd Pletcher. Looking at his 2 year old photo I could see why; he looked like a well built Kentucky Derby prospect. However, his racing career was short-lived. He won two races early on, but then continuously fell at the back of the pack. We would soon find out his heart belonged to being a show horse.

I couldn’t let him keep a ridiculous name like Broadway Hat for the hunter circuit, so we decided on a show name of Park Place—one of the most expensive properties in the game Monopoly. His barn name, Grinch, came along because of his sassy and silly attitude which quickly stole my heart. 

Grinch is by far the laziest horse I have ever owned—especially for a OTTB. He likes to put in just enough effort to get the job done and doesn’t want to do more than he has to. Other horses could outpace him at a walk when we are trotting, he can be that slow. He also has an opinion and he will definitely let you know it. But I am a quiet and relaxed rider, and somehow we just work perfectly together despite his antics. 

Training Grinch to jump came so naturally to him that it was clear this was what he was born to do. He has the most adorable knees in the air. We spent a few years in the 2’6” hunters to regain my strength and confidence, and then moved up to the 3’ Amateur Adult Hunters where we ended up CHJA year end reserve champion twice.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelin Foohey

In 2019, I took Grinch to his first away from home show in the 3’ Adult Hunters and his second away show ever. He marched around the ring (with no warm up!)  like he had been doing it all his life, and I literally cried tears of joy when I got out of the ring. We brought him to one more away show in preparation for the CHJA Medal Finals where we would compete in the Adult Hunter Classic. I had never felt so confident and secure in our partnership and I was so excited for Medal Finals. 

But, my hopes were shattered when just over a month before finals we found out Grinch had somehow popped a splint and needed time off. I was honestly devastated that we would not be able to compete, but was thankful it was not more serious. I told myself that there is always next year, but then Covid-19 happened. During quarantine we were informed of sad news that the 2020 Medal Finals are cancelled. It is a little crushing that what we have worked so hard towards for the past two years we still aren’t able to participate in, but that doesn’t mean we are going to stop now. 

Photo courtesy of Jacquelin Foohey

Our first show back was July 12th at our family farm. There were 8 of us in our division, which proved to include very competitive rounds with some very nice horses and riders. The first outdoor show, especially on the hunt course, can be kind of a gamble with how “excited” an OTTB will behave, but Grinch packed around that ring like he could do it with his eyes closed. I had never felt so in tune with him. I could not have been happier with how he went, especially with all that time off from showing. 

With the horse show world starting to come back, I know things can only get better and I am excited to see my partnership with Grinch get even stronger. Medal Finals 2021 is definitely in our plans. Grinch is part sassy, sweet, silly, and my true heart horse. But he will take a nibble out of you if you aren’t paying attention!

Jacquelin is a high school history teacher who competes in the Amateur Adult Hunters. In addition to competing, she also runs the food truck at her family’s horse shows. OTTB’s are her favorite breed, and she has owned and loved Grinch for the past 5 years.