I have always enjoyed starting and training horses. Many trainers don’t want the challenge of starting young ones, instead, preferring to work with older, trained horses to really just maintain them for their owners. But I knew I wanted to become a trainer even as a young kid and I wanted to start them, not just take over where someone else left off.
When I began looking for another horse to train from the ground up I knew I wanted something different that I could call my own and do it all myself. The challenges and long road that it takes to turn a young horse playing in a field into a horse that can successfully do a job, I find rewarding. And, that’s where Roxy comes in.
Summer of 2013
I knew it was time to start creating my own horse again. After starting young horses for a few years I knew I enjoyed that particular niche in the horse world the most. I had the bug and now had a place to keep my own horse again, so why not? Still, I kept putting off horse shopping because I was so busy with work, school for the second time, completing the USHJA Certified trainer’s test, the gym, and a social life to keep my sanity! I mean, there is always something to keep you from doing what you really want if you let it.
My goal was to find a horse that had a great personality, and could one day be an excellent kid’s or beginning amateur horse. I wanted a horse that was naturally kind and would make someone else happy one day. I enjoy creating something from nothing and there is tremendous satisfaction in being able to watch that horse go off and make someone else happy. Giving that horse a job, and making them useful really assures their future as staying in a great home forever. Horses are big, expensive, and need a lot of space. Sadly, too many horses that are untrained and not useful end up in not so great situations. Someday, I would like a really nice horse for sport for myself that I will one day keep forever, but right now I like creating for others.
I decided to touch base with an organization that rescued Thoroughbred horses. These horses, after a short-lived racing career, sometimes do not have the best of futures, winding up in random places. If they have suffered an injury, which is often the case, it just adds to the long list of reasons as to why someone would not want an off the track Thoroughbred (OTTB) horse and makes their chances at having another career much harder.
After checking out one potential horse from that rescue organization I knew that particular horse was not for me. I politely said no and waited patiently. I was eager to find a horse, but not in such a hurry as to take anything; I wanted to wait for the perfect one. I specifically wanted a young horse three or four years of age. A horse that had not yet been started; one with a great mind and that had potential to be a great confidence builder for a lower level amateur one day.
I was still looking for the perfect horse when about two months later I got a call from the women I had been talking to at the thoroughbred rescue organization. She told me about a four-year-old mare named Roxy that had not been started, but was very kind and docile. She had been basically kept as a pet while growing up in Carmel California for almost two years. Roxy was now four and the woman who owned her needed to part with her because she was getting a divorce and couldn’t afford to keep her in full training with a trainer and progress her.
The organization has a policy that any horse they adopt out can always come back to them if needed. This creates a wonderful safety net for rescues because horses can get lost in the shuffle, go to random homes, and equines without a job tend to be first to end up being neglected, abused, or sent to auction.
Kindhearted adopters sometimes find that kindness and good intentions are not enough with a rescue – especially young, untrained horses. Most people don’t want to, or lack the skills to properly train a horse. Starting from rock bottom with a horse takes time, patience, and money, and these are things people sometimes don’t want to invest in a horse, but all things I was willing to commit to offering a horse in need.
I was told that Roxy came to the organization with her mother as a two-year-old. She was there a short bit before her mother was adopted out, but Roxy stayed. Eventually, she was also adopted out to a woman who planned to keep her and when she was old enough would put Roxy in full training. But life has a way of changing things and when the time came that Roxy was old enough to start in a training program, the woman no longer had the time or resources to help her, so, with sadness, chose to do the best thing for Roxy and part with her.
The organization emailed me some pictures and videos and after viewing them I decided I wanted to give this special horse a chance. She seemed sweet in the videos, with decent ground manners. I knew she had only been sat on twice before so I was excited that I would be starting from scratch. I figured why not give her a chance? Even though I completely knew what I was getting into starting a young one from ground zero, I was able to get a long trial with her to see how things went. But I wasn’t too concerned, I knew Roxy would be a good one and so I arranged to have her shipped in.
The New Baby Arrives
The day she arrived I get into work to find her stall and already checking things out. She was very sweet, quite curious, but calm really. She was donning a long mane that needed pulling, was super skinny, and overdue with her shoeing, but she seemed happy and was quite a sweetie from day one.
I had a feeling some people would be doubtful based on some pretty superficial things as to what is going to come of this horse when they saw her. All they might see is a small Thoroughbred, untrained, all crazy looking young horse. Why on earth would someone look to take her on as a project? I only asked, why not?
I never came from money and could not afford some ultra-fancy horse so anytime I was able to ride or show a really nice horse it was because no one else wanted him because he was a “leftover.” In horse terms “leftover” meant he would dump you, hit the brakes at fences — and no one wants to show that! If I had a chance at doing well at a show with that horse I had to learn to ride.
Over the years I learned to ride anything and my motto became “why not take what is given to you and make the best of it?” With that motto and help from great trainers I have trained some pretty nice horses which went off to top notch farms. Some of these horses were just a Thoroughbred off the track, or a horse no one cared much about – horse with potential that was being overlooked. With proper training, correct muscle building, and time and patience you can create something nice, I believe even from horses without impressive pedigrees or six-figure price tags.
One trainer I would say I learned the most from was while I was away at school was Kim. She was truly an amazing rider, and of course, trainer. Starting her own horses, she never needed a fancy horse. Although her aspirations were not to be the top trainer in magazines and showing around the world, she enjoyed training horses and doing so came so naturally, seemingly effortlessly to her. She remains one of the best, most talented trainers I have known and most likely will ever know. Very rarely do I see anyone who comes remotely close to how wonderful and talented she was.
Whenever I train I am always thinking what would Kim do? Even though I know what she would do, I could always bounce my thoughts and ideas and we were always on the same track. So if Kim agreed that’s what needed to be done I would know it was correct. I have seen this woman do canter half pass on the buckle than up and over a four foot oxer as effortless as can be.
I first found it ironic when I was offered a job in Los Angeles because that is where Kim was from. I thought wow, maybe just living in LA, even living in the neighborhood she was raised in, means her aura will wash over me every day! Okay, that might sound a little weird and off the wall now, but I was 21 and a total nut job.
Chris and Roxy The Thoroughbred If I even come half as close to how talented she was I would consider myself blessed. She always had a special way with horses; there was always that bond between her horses and she. Kim made each one feel like they were some $250,000 horse even though they were not. Her horses oozed so much confidence and she made them as talented as they could mentally and physically become. I hope to do that with Roxy like I have been able to do with other horses. Create a horse that, maybe if she had not been brought with her mother to the organization, would have been written off as a nothing.
But Roxy was not meant to be written off. She is with me and has a bright future ahead of her. Keep up with her videos as time goes on, even as little as a year I can’t wait to see her progress!
You can follow our journey together on:
◾Chris and Roxy’s YouTube Channel
◾Roxy The Thoroughbred on Facebook
◾Roxy The Thoroughbred on Twitter @RoxytheTB