It can be tough piecing together the history of an off-track Thoroughbred. Even the most diligent research can leave gaps, like where the horse was raised, who started him under saddle, why is there a span of time in his past performances where he didn't make a start?
Then there are people like Marcy Emery who own off-track Thoroughbreds they also owned as an on-track racehorse.
Marcy grew up in Ontario, Canada, as an avid equestrian in the 1980s. Eventually, life as a professional florist would take her out to British Columbia to work for the United Flower Growers Cooperative Association (which runs the largest Dutch-style flower auction in North America), and by 2009, she began volunteering with New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption. That same year, she joined the organization's board of directors, and by the following year, she was vice president.
“Founding director of New Stride, Meril Agrey, suggested that it would be a good experience for then-president Kim Inglis and me to ‘have a horse at the track,' so she offered to put us on her three-year-old gelding, Quiet Wyatt, who was just starting training for the 2010 race meet,” explained Marcy. “Of course, I had the teeniest sliver of a part of the horse, but I was over the moon about having my very own racehorse, without ever having even seen him!”
Marcy joked that while she built Wyatt up to be an Adonis of a horse in her mind, when she went to visit him at the track, he resembled a big, brown giraffe more than a Greek god.
“I was a frequent visitor on the shed row with mints at the ready for the big, goofy, and gangly guy Quiet Wyatt turned out to be,” said Marcy. “He certainly wasn't pretty then, but he had a nice face and a charming personality.”
Eventually, Wyatt convinced the world that his racing career was not going to take him to great heights, so the decision was made to retire him. His breeder and majority owner, Meril, was getting out of owning and breeding Thoroughbreds and decided to nominate Wyatt for adoption through New Stride, the aftercare organization she founded.
Marcy was still volunteering at New Stride and by that time was President of the organization. She got Wyatt started back under saddle as a riding horse.
“Wyatt was a real gentleman, very kind, attentive, and easy going,” said Marcy. “Within 20 minutes of my first ride on him, I was trotting him around, pumping my fist in the air and literally screaming, ‘I'm riding my race horse! This is so awesome!'”
The rest is history. On April 27, Marcy officially adopted Wyatt from New Stride for $750.
“It was actually quite awful riding him that first year,” said Marcy. “He was so big and klutzy. He stumbled all the time and seemed to have no idea where his body was. It was like riding a cartoon horse whose legs were made out of string and kept getting all tangled up together.”
As time progressed, Marcy and Wyatt worked on learning where his legs were and by his 5-year-old year, they started training with Josephine Brouwer, a classical dressage coach, fellow-supporter of New Stride, and a true lover of off-track Thoroughbreds.
“I've chosen to focus on dressage for his early work,” said Marcy. “It's a very expressive discipline, and I think he has a lot to say. He's always had a natural rhythm and steadiness that's perfect for dressage. I could see it in the paddock and in the post parade!”
Marcy says either she or someone else will start Wyatt over jumps, but for now she's simply trying to put a good foundation on him to support him through the rest of his life's journey and also trying to work him through the “furious fives,” which are comparable to a human child's “terrible twos.”
“His whole 5-year-old year, it was like someone replaced my sweet, easy-going guy with this huge and horrendously opinionated jerk,” said Marcy. “I don't know that I've ever felt so over-faced in my life – personally, professionally, or otherwise. When we worked, he battled me constantly to see if one or both of us could or would retire.”
Thankfully, things got better as Wyatt got older, and Marcy found new ways to feel overmatched, namely competing.
This year, with Josephine's encouragement, Marcy and Wyatt began their foray into the world of dressage shows at the Gateway Dressage Schooling Show & Clinic at the prestigious Thunderbird Show Park, one of North America's premier equestrian competition facilities, located in British Columbia, Canada.
“Of course we didn't win,” said Marcy. “In fact, I'm pretty sure we were dead last on both days, but that's really not important. Wyatt met or exceeded my expectations through the whole weekend and was a credit to his breed and background. We were both scared to death before and during our first test. I managed to hold it all in until after our halt and salute at ‘X.' From there, I did a big Mike Smith victory fist-pump and immediately burst into loud, sobby tears, like we'd won the Kentucky Derby.”
Marcy acknowledges that Thoroughbreds aren't for everyone, but that those who choose and nurture them are rewarded handsomely for their kindness and effort.
“Every horse has a personality, but Thoroughbreds have true character, which is personality plus depth,” explained Marcy. “This depth is their heart, their sensitivity, their intelligence. Even without all the remarkable physicality they possess, they'd be set apart by their character. All these things combine to make them unique and wonderful creatures.”
Name: Quiet Wyatt (a.k.a. “Wyatt”)
Height: 17.0 hands
Dam: Press Run
Sale History: RNA'd at BRCSEP in 2008 for $6,933
Race Record: 10-1-1-3
Race Earnings: $5,077
If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.
Jen Roytz is the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. She also handles the farm's Thoroughbred aftercare efforts. She currently owns two retired Thoroughbreds: Point of Impact (by Point Given; a.k.a. Boomer), who retired from racing in late 2011 and is just starting back under saddle to find his forte as a riding horse, and Shotgun Shine (by Tale of the Cat, a.k.a. Gage), who is in training as a hunter/jumper. Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
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