Last fall, rider Jennifer Alfano and trainer Susie Schoellkopf decided to find an off-the-track Thoroughbred to join their string of top show hunters at SBS Farm. Jen Alfano will be blogging for the Chronicle about developing Old School, AKA “R.J.” Read Jen's first blog about R.J., "Look Out Hunter World, The OTTBs Are Coming"...
Before we got to HITS Ocala, R.J. was doing great, and the first few days he after we arrived he was awesome. But one day it was like all of the sudden he saw the track [at HITS Post Time Farm], and he thought he was back in race training. We decided that since he’d just come off the track a few months earlier, it wasn’t fair to have him spend the winter at a horse show where there’s so much going on. So we sent him to K.C. Hunter’s farm in Ocala, Fla., to relax, sit in a field and gain some weight for three months. Now that circuit’s over’s over, he’s coming back to join us in Buffalo.
I have another Thoroughbred in the barn who just had a great circuit. That one belongs to my uncle [and farrier] Joe Alfano. He’s tattooed, and he trained to be a steeplechaser, but he never raced. He was registered as Tightenedthereins (Afleet Alex—Zanja, Strawberry Road) and Joe renamed him Chasin The Red. We call him Shine in the barn.
He’s just turned 6, and he’s just the sweetest, kindest horse in the barn. He’s been so easy to teach and train, and he wants to be a pet. He’s a lot further long than R.J., but like RJ, he’s really quiet and he has a perfect lead change.
When he first got down here I took him down for a ticketed warm up and I could feel his little heart beating fast. I could tell he was nervous—he’d only been in two little schooling shows at home—but he didn’t do anything bad, and he cantered right around. I was so proud of him.
He showed in the Thoroughbred division about four of the nine weeks down here, and by the end he was like a seasoned show horse, just cruising around the showgrounds. He was champion one week and reserve another, which is especially impressive when to show in that division, you just need to be a Thoroughbred. There were horses there cross-entering from the children’s and adult and junior divisions—and here Shine’s just turned 6 and has just started showing. He’ll look toward doing the pre-greens down the road.
He’s by Afleet Alex and R.J. is by Smarty Jones. It’s pretty funny that we have two well-bred racehorses in my barn, but they’re both great and I don’t see anything that can get in their way of being great show hunters.
Joe Alfano Weighs In:
I saw Shine at a sale when he was a 4-year-old and thought he was really attractive. His owner said, “I certainly hope you’re not interested in buying him to jump.” I said I was just looking and she said “I have brush horses, and he’s terrible at it. He just refuses to flatten out and jump through the brush. We tried making him go faster hoping he’d get the idea, but five or six steps out he’d slow down and jump way up over it.”
I sort of laughed to myself and thought that sounded O.K. to me as a show hunter. There were three other horses there that day that I liked, but I was outbid. I guess it was my good luck, because I ended up with this guy, who’s great.
We gave him about eight or nine months off and let him gain some weight. We turned him out and longed him some, and just let him grow up. Last summer I had Kayley Kloss come in and ride him for 50 days, to get an idea of what we had, and from there we made the decision that we thought we had a nice enough horse to send him to Jennifer. I’ve had horses for her as junior, but this is the first one I’ve had with her as a professional.
Jen showed him [at two unrecognized shows] in Buffalo, then we decided to send him to Ocala. That’s a big step for me but he was at the point where giving him more time off wouldn’t be a help. So we sent him to Ocala, and everyone’s been really happy with him. He’s very laid back and super sweet.