“Not all of them can be superstars,” said Erin Finley, communications director for West Point Thoroughbreds.
At the time when she first laid eyes on Seminary Ridge, or “Sem,” as he's now known, she was a college student at the University of Kentucky, and Sem was a racehorse for her father's highly successful partnership, West Point Thoroughbreds. Sem, unfortunately, had more “potential” than talent.
“Sem came to Fairlawn Farm in Kentucky after being retired,” Erin said. “West Point Thoroughbreds is committed to finding our runners good homes after their careers are over. When Sem was retired, I had a mare that I was competing…and I was a busy college student. It sounds corny, but we just clicked. When I saw him, it was love at first sight. I ended up selling my mare back to her original owner and keeping Sem.”
Erin's first ride on Sem was just days after his last race, but contrary to what some might expect, their first ride lacked drama, according to Erin, who has competed at the Preliminary level in eventing. While she's accomplished enough to deal with the “bucks and giggles” that a fit racehorse can throw at a rider, Sem was a perfect gentleman.
“…Sem was very, very easy to retrain,” said Erin. “He never bucked or did anything naughty. I've had several OTTBs and he's been by far the easiest. I tried not to pressure him and rode him in the fields and on the trails for the first few weeks I had him.”
In fact, only a week after Sem began his off-track life, Erin popped him over a small bush on the farm where she was boarding him.
“He loved it, and I just went from there,” said Erin.
While Erin's roots are in eventing, she knows that Sem is not an upper-level horse, but that's okay. She just wants Sem to be Sem, and nothing more.
“Sem is a lower level event horse, and I don't have aspirations to go to Rolex or anything like that, said Erin. “He's just good at what he does. I won the Morven Park Horse Trials on him in March of 2011. He's a good jumper and steady on the flat.”
For some riders, a “steady-Eddie” type of horse would mean solid resale money, and in the past it has for Erin, but there's something about Sem that sets him apart from the rest.
“I had give horses before Sem. I was sad when I sold them, but I got over it,” said Erin. “I will never, ever sell Sem. I couldn't ask for a better horse.
“I travel quite a bit for my job, so there are times when I can't ride for several weeks. When I come home, he's still a quiet gentleman. Whenever I go to visit him, he runs to the gate and greets me. He's very well behaved, loves treats. We really love each other.”
Sem even loves Erin enough to pack around the occasional novice, including her fiancé, Daniel.
“My fiancé is learning to ride on him. I've put several beginners on him and he's been great!”
As both the communications director and “OTTB ambassador” for West Point Thoroughbreds, Erin sees her fair share of racehorses transitioning to second careers, and she's developed a passion and a skill for placing them with the right owner and in the right discipline.
“I love how trainable Thoroughbreds are,” said Erin. “They're smart, athletic, and most of them are very willing to try a new career after they're done racing.”
Name: Seminary Ridge (a.k.a “Sem”)
Born: April 1, 2005
Height: 15.3 hands
Color: Dark Bay/Brown
Sire: Dixie Union
Dam: Under Fire
Race Record: 6-0-0-1
Race Earnings: $2,370
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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