My search for the right partner for my 2017 Makeover partner lasted much less time than I anticipated. Within 12 hours of sharing my blog post "Tips I Consider When Shopping for an Off Track Thoroughbred" on the OTTB Training Facebook page, she found me. I received multiple messages with horses that matched my search criteria, and I was amazed and honored by all the support because I honestly thought I would be searching for at least a month. Truthfully, I had already looked at a few horses, but I hadn't really committed to kicking off my search full force before yesterday.
One horse stood out from the rest for a few reasons, and this is why I chose her and ended my search so abruptly.
Who is she?
Let's first meet this special mare:
"Quality Hey" is a 2012 filly by Exclusive Quality out of Hey Skip (by Skip Away). She is reported to stand at 16.1 hands and to be very sweet with a good brain. She raced 30 times during her career with 10 races in 2016, and she won her last two starts in July at Delaware Park under the training of Keith Nations.
Overall I really like the balance in her conformation. Her back could be a bit longer to make saddle fit a little easier considering I prefer to ride in a 19" saddle, but I esepcially like her short cannon bones, her neckset, and her natural uphill build thanks to the relation of her elbow to her stifle. Her shoulder is a little more upright than I typically like, but I really like the angles in her hind end, and the most important part of her conformation photo to me is her alert yet soft gaze and feminine head.
Her pedigree is nothing super spectacular at a quick glance, but her damsire is "Skip Away." He earned nearly $10 million during his racing career which included running second in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1993 and being named Horse of the Year in 1998. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2004. On her sire side there is "Gone West." He shows up in the breeding of several stallions on the United States Equesterian Federation rankings of top sires for 2016. Going a few more generations back her pedigree includes names like "Northern Dancer," "Bold Ruler," and "Damascus" - all sires who have played important roles in today's sporthorse breeding.
Lastly, looking at her race record and movement shows that she is sound and athletic. A horse that runs 30 races has proven to be athletic and tough, and based on the short clip of her moving around her paddock she presents light and even movement that will most likely develop even more as she gains muscle and loosens up throughout her body. When watching her race video from July 7th of this year it is evident that she could be an awesome prospect for Eventing. She won that race by 5 lengths running wire to wire at a distance over a mile and not appearing to lose speed or drive at the finish. In the post finish footage of all her races, she also shows off a lovely gallop that I'm confident any Eventer would love riding on the Cross Country course.
Why did I pick her?
The main reason I pick any horse to come to my barn is her story, and the second is always based on intuition. Of course a horse's pedigree, athleticism, and soundness all factor into the equation, but I will always pick a horse that "speaks" to me over a horse that appears to be "perfect" in a photo or video. And let's also face it, I'm probably not going to be able to afford the "perfect" horse, but I'm 100% okay with that because perfection is subjective and I am not going to be competing at the upper levels nor will I be selling to someone who has that goal.
Let's revisit the search criteria I outlined in my "Tips for Shopping" blog post and compare "Quality Hey" to them:
What makes her so special?
You might be thinking, "Kyle, there are lots of horses that meet those very basic search criteria, so why not keep searching?" This is actually a valid point. If I had continued shopping, MAYBE I would have found a slightly larger mare or one that was located closer without an osselet, but there are two main reasons I pulled the trigger and ended the search:
Pair that with the following:
The first picture I received of "Quality Hey" immediately caught my attention and made me smile and lean into my computer screen. She might be a plain dark bay mare, but she still has presence. Then to reinforce my intuition, she was offered to me by a fellow Makeover trainer named Kelly Lupton who has competed in the past two Makeovers. Kelly is helping to place Quality Hey for Turning for Home, a 501(c)(3) non-profit group that has provided over 1,000 racehorses with a safe retirement since opening in May 2008. And then let's follow the bread crumbs a little farther. Earlier this week I reached out to another Makeover trainer I greatly respect to see if she might have any horses available. Nina runs Maui Meadow Farm, the oldest working Thoroughbred farm in Pennsylvania, and she is very aware of my "type." Unfortunately Nina did not have any horses that matched my criteria, but she suggested checking with Turning for Home (wait, where have I heard that name before ;-))
The list of connections and "signs" continues, but what really sealed the deal was how Kelly responded when I asked about why "Quality Hey" was being retired after having what appeared to be a very successful racing season this year, "You can speak with the trainer/owner. Great people. Their client claimed the mare and she came super skinny and almost abused. They nourished her back to health and they didn't want to lose her by dropping her in cheap since she already came from a bad situation. They didn't want her bounced around. And so here she is waiting for her new home!"
Now I am excited to be that new home and go on next year's Makeover journey with this beautiful mare who arguably was fated to end up at my barn.
By Kyle Rothfus
This blog is dedicated to providing insight about OTTB re-training, Thoroughbred pedigrees and general equine care. You can also track the progress of horses I have for sale through posts here.