Salute to the Thoroughbred! This month on YourDressage, we are saluting the versatile Thoroughbred and Thoroughbred crosses of all kinds.
We recently asked our social media followers to share about what makes these horses so special. Here, a rider shares about her 26-year-old Off-Track Thoroughbred, who she purchased for a mere $50, and who recently made his debut at Prix St. Georges!
By Sandi Spellman
I received the offer to start working with Chance (Jockey Club name: Sho Me Mo, foaled in 1995) after I had retired my horse of twenty-plus years. At the time, Chance was owned by the barn I was at and had been sitting in a field not doing much. It took months of lunging and preparation before I was ready to sit in the saddle, and another five years to become a solid lower-level dressage pair. I had been share-boarding him that whole time and when the barn I was at closed, I had to decide what to do. Chance was twenty-one and, not wanting anything bad to happen to him, I bought him for the bargain price of $50. Thinking he was funny, my brother later handed me a $50 bill and now claims partial ownership. Two weeks after he became mine, my daughter and I packed up Chance and Countero (my daughter’s horse, and Chance’s faithful companion) and moved to Silverwood Farm in Camp Lake, Wisconsin. At the time, we did not know that this would end up being the best decision we could make for ourselves.
Silverwood Farm is a beautiful facility owned and operated by Lisa Froehlig. Lisa not only is the owner, but is also a very successful and gifted dressage rider and trainer, and she agreed to take us on a few months later. With Lisa’s help, and the fact that Silverwood Farm hosts a variety of competitions from the end of May until the middle of October each year, we were able to start pursuing our competitive goals. That first summer, we pointed ourselves at the show season aiming to do some First and Second Level tests. At the end of a successful season, I was thinking about the possibility of earning my USDF Bronze Medal and mentioned it to Lisa in one of my lessons. That very lesson, we started working on the changes. By the end of the next season (2018) we had earned our Bronze Medal. The following summer, with the help and support of my daughter (who put together our Freestyles), we added the USDF Bronze Freestyle Bar to our collection. Coming off all that excitement, it was time to start a new goal.
Our local association, the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA), has a “Journey Award” that is awarded to horse and rider combinations who have earned two scores of at least 60% from Test 3 of First through Fourth Levels. The question was, could we tackle the daunting Fourth Level Test 3? Lisa, being the amazing trainer she is, said “why not?” and once again, we started working on it that very lesson. By the time we got to show season, we were ready to try it and, with the support of Lisa and our wonderful barn family, we were able to get our Journey Award that summer.
While I was working on getting the Fourth Level Test 3 scores, my daughter kept mentioning that I should be thinking about Prix St. Georges for the following summer. I was hesitant because I did not want to ask too much of Chance, after all, he had already given me more than I had ever hoped for. However, Lisa pointed out to me that each summer, he was getting better and that if he was still able to stand up on his hind legs when he was playing outside, then he probably was okay to work on the Prix St. Georges movements. Much like every other year and goal, when show season came around, we were ready to give it a try. So I put on the shadbelly and off we went.
Did we knock it out of the park? No. But we are here and we will keep working on it as long as Chance is willing. Chance, being a Thoroughbred, may not be a typical competitive dressage horse, but I am so fortunate in having a horse that is so reliable and willing to try for me day after day. I wouldn’t trade him for any other horse in the world.