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October 8, 2013

I've Got To Get Some Cows

CMA's Katzimo impressed the legendary Rodney Jenkins and everyone else. Photo by Allie Conrad.

I came away from the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and Symposium at Pimlico this weekend with one predominant thought—Thoroughbreds and their fans ROCK!

RRTP’s third challenge has been the best, and the effort that went into putting it on was monumental. Before I get into the nitty gritty of the weekend, I have to give a serious shout-out to Steuart Pittman and his lovely wife Erin, and all of their volunteers, board members and supporters for an amazing job. WELL DONE!

I’d have to say the theme of the weekend was community. Everybody was so supportive and so excited to see the progress of horses they’d followed on the blogs. There were so many different types of horses, each one prettier than the next, and each one with different skills.

CANTER Mid-Atlantic’s horse, Katzimo, trained by Jessica Morthole, was there to represent what CMA does. It turns out the community at Pimlico really came through to help us out with him. Due to personal reasons, Jess was unable to ride Katzimo in the few days leading up to the expo and at the expo itself. Enter awesome human being and phenomenal rider Allie Knowles. 

Allie, having read about what was going on, was more than happy to step in and ride a horse she’d never seen before on the racetrack, both for schooling on Saturday and the demo on Sunday. I will say it’s awfully fun seeing a four-star rider (and winner of the dressage at the Rolex Kentucky!) ride one of our horses. She did a beautiful job and took our breath away when she let him gallop down the stretch to blow off some steam. Is there anything more beautiful than a Thoroughbred galloping with sheer joy?

Allie rode Katzimo beautifully during the demo on Sunday while Jess narrated—talking a bit about how CMA retrains horses after giving them ample time off and puts the time into each horse so we can really understand what they are about before sending them off to their new homes.

The man himself, Rodney Jenkins.
Photo by Allie Conrad

Jess described her process with Katzimo and how for this particular horse, she really had to work hard on teaching him to canter. Because of that, she was mostly working on trotting small fences and slowly introducing cantering fences. It was fun to see Allie riding in the background and introducing Katzimo to the jumps on the track, letting him figure out where his legs should go, getting more confident with each jump. They ended cantering a few jumps to grand applause by the crowd. 

It was GREAT FUN and a super neat opportunity to show that while racehorses can jog and run fast, teaching them the basics of dressage and jumping takes time—and you have to give them that time in order to be successful.

Some of the highlights for me, other than watching our own horse perform on the track:

1) THE Rodney Jenkins came up to us while we were standing with Katzimo and said, “This is a phenomenal looking animal. Can he jump? I bet he can jump!” We all nodded, enthusiastic yet dumbfounded, then just about died when he said the horse looked amazing, and Jess had done a phenomenal job with him. 

We geeked out with Rodney on bloodlines (Katzimo is by Sky Mesa) and his previous Laurel trainer (Hamilton Smith) and then all held hands and skipped over to our unicorns to jump rainbows. Or so it felt :)

Dale Simanton and his off-the-track Thoroughbred 
Duck made me want to go work some cows!
Photo by Allie Conrad

2) Duck.  If you haven’t followed Duck and his rider, Dale Simanton, you are missing out. Go read his blogs and watch his videos. Go on, git! I’ll wait for you to come back.

Anybody who knows me knows I love a horse with an opinion—my own horses are weird and quirky and opinionated and funny. They can take a joke, and they can dole one out. And that’s why, when watching the famous “Duck,” at Pimlico from across the country, doing his thing, I wanted to throw him on my trailer and take him home. He LOVES his job (sorting cattle), and when things didn’t go his way (a cow getting away or running under his belly) he would get MAD, and his temper showed up in this hilarious little in-place bucks and kicks. He was a riot!

The cow work was awesome and really solidified my desire to get some of our CMA horses in to do some of the same. You could tell they just dug it! The horses were competitive and wanted to “win” this cow game.

3) The polo demonstration. Seeing a slew of tiny mares being badasses out on the track chasing a ball around just made me feel like I was really missing out on a super fun sport. The idea of galloping around, turning, spinning, bumping as one with a horse sounds like the most fun ever. 

My only complaint about the weekend was that there was just so much to see, I was having a hard time seeing it all, which is an awfully fun problem to have :)

My own horses are hollering for some attention, so I best cut this short. And I need to clean off that old western saddle sitting in the barn, and maybe find a broom and a soccer ball to chase around. And some cows, I need cows.

Thoroughbreds Rock. RRTP rocks. Can’t wait for next year!

Allie Conrad is executive director of CANTER Mid Atlantic, which provides retiring Thoroughbred racehorses with opportunities for new careers. Allie founded the organization in 1999 at Charles Town Racetrack (W.V.) after purchasing her beloved Thoroughbred Phinny, who had more than 60 starts at Charles Town, at the infamous New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania. A resident of Southern Pines, N.C., Allie also works full time as a project manager for a Washington, D.C., consulting firm. You can learn more about CANTER Mid Atlantic on their website, www.canterusa.org/midatlantic.