When I was crewing at the ride this past weekend, I happened to look up towards the gate and noticed a beautiful glossy black horse going out on trail. It took me a moment to recognize her. It was my little darling Foxy.
Back when I worked as a Standardbred groom, one of my charges was Foxy Baronessa. She was a pacing filly by Rambaran. Black, dainty, and rather timid. She didn’t have a lot of talent, and as the least experienced groom in the barn, I got the “worst” horses. Always the fillies with no talent. They were sensitive and sort of withdrawn when I got them. So I babied them. And Foxy ADORED being babied. She gave me kisses when I arrived in the morning, and nipped me in a jealous snit if I groomed another horse in front of her stall. She turned into quite a little princess with me, though was always shy of strangers.
Like many Standardbreds, Foxy was remarkably steady-minded. One time, I had her on the cross-ties (rickety ties held together with bits of wire and binder twine) at the barn door. So she was standing with her head and neck outside, and body inside while I hooked up the jog cart. It was winter and there was a lot of snow on the roof. There was a whoosh, and Foxy suddenly reared up about a foot – just a little baby rear – and I looked up to see her head and neck covered in crusty wet snow. The entire roofload of snow had landed on her. She looked pretty concerned. But stood while I brushed the remainder off her. She settled right away, and I jumped on the cart and we headed out for our usual half hour jog. I was totally impressed that a three year old fit racehorse would stand so well in a situation like that.
In harness, she looked completely misplaced. She was only 14.3hh, with an Arab-type head. Pacers are generally fairly unbending, since the pace itself requires that they stiffen/hollow their back muscles, raise their heads and rock from side to side. Foxy definitely paced (and racked… and slow-gaited… and trotted and cantered for that matter), but she also tucked her nose, arched her neck, and flexed around corners. The trainer used to call her “that damned rubber-necked filly”. It got in the way of her racing career, since she would turn her head and neck during a race, but would drift outward anyway. Frustrated her drivers no end.
Anyhow, Foxy washed out as a racehorse and I got the okay to try to market her as a riding horse. I’d had the perfect person in mind for Foxy for months before that. A longtime rider who had been in a serious accident that shattered her ankle. She was told never to ride again, and had to give up riding her lovely but spooky Arab mare. She was still determined to ride though. This is someone who is very soft and gentle with her horses. Possibly even too gentle for some horses. Perfect for Foxy though. If there was ever a horse who needed to be adored, it was Foxy.
First though, I figured I’d better back the filly. So I brought my tack from home and worked with her. She was a bit alarmed when I stood up on a bucket beside her, but otherwise was very accommodating. I had someone lead her up and down the barn aisle (long barn… 40 stalls or so) with me on her back. Then I rode her by myself up and down the barn. She felt like a dressage horse. Tucked herself into a frame. Bent beautifully at the end of the barn. Stayed quiet and balanced. Soft as butter.
Her destiny came to see her later that day. Watched her do her dressage pony routine. And fell in love with her, thank goodness. Foxy has blossomed in her new career. She’s gotten a little taller. Filled out. Developed some presence.
Because of her ankle, her owner can’t ride as far or as fast as she used to. But Foxy takes good care of her and carried her to her 3000 mile award. Foxy only has a little over 150 miles. But they have been important miles.
Here’s a photo of Foxy from a couple of years ago…