A few years ago, before I worked at the Thoroughbred farm, I worked for a Standardbred racing stable. One of our racehorses was a lovely, tall, black (technically a “brown”) mare called Dressy Gal. She was a talented but erratic racehorse.
She was a very sound racehorse. She raced 76 times, won 12 times, with earnings of a little over 46K. She never even wore bandages. But at around six, she got tired of racing and became inconsistent, and then just stopped trying entirely. Her owners decided that rather than selling her cheaply and having her move down to the fair circuit, they’d rather see her retire to become a riding horse. They told the trainer to see about sending her to OSAS (Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society… they do excellent work rehabbing Standardbreds). As soon as I heard about it, I asked if I could take her. She’s a truly lovely mare. Elegant, and very friendly. One of her owners came over to check out her prospective home. Dressy came to live with me shortly thereafter. That owner checks in with me every so often to see how Dressy is doing, and once in a while brings carrots for her. There are Standardbreds who are in need of rescue in this world. But to be honest Dressy was never one of them. She’s been well-cared for her whole life.
I didn’t really have a serious plan for her when I took her. I just really couldn’t resist her glorious self. She came here and immediately began a campaign of world domination. She’s know either as “the Queen of the Universe” or “Bossy Boots”. But she’s a fair and benevolent ruler… mostly.
Breaking her to saddle was remarkably easy. I had a friend hold her while I stood beside her on a step stool. Jumped up and down. Flapped my arms over her. Flapped my whole self over her. Yanked on the stirrups. Yanked on the saddle. When I had a good look at her, I realized at one point that she’d actually gone to sleep. So I got on. She did nothing. I had my friend lead her forward, and she ambled along quietly. So I just started riding her with no further ado. We were out on trails on her third day under saddle. And did a two hour trail ride on her fifth outing.
Once I started riding her a bit, I realized what a treasure this mare is. She’s smart, she’s steady, and she is whatever you want her to be. If you are a beginner with no confidence, Dressy will pack you around calmly. If you want speed, she’s happy to smoke down the trail, surefooted as a deer.
During King’s layoff, I started competing a bit on Dressy. She did some mileage rides first, then we tried competitive trail. In 2008, 2009, and 2011 (I rode King in 2010) she was the top Standardbred in distance competition in Ontario (competitive trail, endurance, set speed and ride n tie). She has fabulous pulse rates for CTR. I have done some Ride n Tie with her as well. The poor mare is really held back by the quality of the rest of her team though. I’m not much of a runner. She, of course, is terrific. She understands perfectly how the game is played. When she is tied to a tree, she looks back down the trail for her next runner and waits patiently even when the other horses and runners gallop past.
In 2011, Dressy did a lot of Set Speed rides, First with Brooke, who is a horseless teenaged girl who I enslave for barn labour in exchange for all the riding she can manage. Brooke had quite a bad accident partway through the year (motorcycle, not horse). So I rode Dressy in competition the rest of the season. She ended up as Reserve Champion provincially. (Brooke has fully recovered and is back to riding.)
In 2012, Dressy developed Anhidrosis, which is a failure to sweat. As a consequence, she also developed a heart problem. Atrial Fibrillation. She went to the University Vet School at Guelph where she was successfully put back into normal rhythm using shock treatment. However, a horse that does not sweat is in danger of heatstroke and even death during extended exercise. So her distance career is over. But she did earn her 500 mile plaque (524 miles). And also won the top OCTRA Standardbred trophy for the 4th year. She is otherwise perfectly sound and very cheerful with her lack of employment.