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, read about a foal surrendered to a rescue at just 5 days old, who has made many believers in the Thoroughbred heart!
By Courtney Mooney
Gabriel SES, or “Shrimp,” (Polish Pro x Radiant Music) came into the world as a most unlikely dressage prospect. Bred for the track on a New York Thoroughbred farm, his fate took a turn when his dam stepped on him during a messy and problematic birth. When the injured dummy foal struggled to nurse, his breeder declined to assist or treat him, refusing to invest even $300 of antibiotics in the foal’s unlikely future. The attending vet contacted local equine rescue organization SquirrelWood Equine Sanctuary and the breeder ultimately agreed to surrender the struggling foal.
SquirrelWood founder Beth Hyman remembers chuckling at the presence of the five day old, plain bay foal, in spite of his high fever. “Shrimp,” as he was immediately dubbed for his small size, spent the balance of his first several weeks hospitalized at New England Equine Practice. He had surgery to remove abscessed fragments of ribs, broken when his dam stepped on him, and had to be fed through a naso-gastric tube. Shrimp recovered and returned to SquirrelWood to grow up, ‘nannied’ by resident mini, Pon-Pon, whose advanced age and unflappable nature cultivated Shrimp’s early confidence.
As he matured into a young horse in need of a job, SES founders Beth Hyman and Diane Butler matched Shrimp’s leggy, short-coupled build and lovely gaits to their own backgrounds in dressage and started him under tack with correct basics and lots of variety. He thrived in his early work but the demands of the rescue operation took priority, and after a strong foundational year or two with dressage rider Kat Schwarz, he spent another year or two off, enjoying pasture life among the other rescue residents.
During his six-year-old winter, Shrimp and now owner, Courtney Budd Mooney, were each in need of a project, and after a body clipping and mane pulling, he picked up exactly where he’d left off. Under saddle, Shrimp is both exceptionally athletic and cerebral, learning quickly and capably, and with clear love for his work, new challenges and routine. Courtney says, “I’ve spent most of my career riding warmbloods, but eight years into riding Shrimp, I think I’m a Thoroughbred rider for life. He is just so incredibly smart and so ‘involved’ in his own training – everything is a partnership and a conversation, and he’s usually a step – or ten – ahead of me. The work comes so easily and enjoyably to him that I could swear he reads the textbooks in his stall at night!”
Shrimp debuted with Courtney at Training Level in 2013 with a win in his very first outing. In his sophomore season, he was the 2014 All Breeds First Level Champion for the North American Thoroughbred Society, and finished 9th in an extremely competitive Region 8 First Level Open Championship. In 2016 he qualified for the Great American Insurance Group/ USDF Region 8 Championships at both Second and Third Levels, and qualified for a wild card berth to US Dressage Finals Presented by Adequan® at Second Level. He came out at Fourth Level in 2017, and is currently schooling all of the Prix St. Georges work.
Shrimp is happiest turning down centerline in the show ring, and the presence, confidence, and joy he brings to his tests are a true testament to the loving care and second chance at life the Sanctuary offered him. “I love to tell people, ‘THIS is what a rescue looks like’” says Courtney, “He is the best partner I’ve ever had, and he can’t wait to climb into his bridle, whether its a beautiful horse show morning or a fourteen degree night in our indoor at home, whether we’re hacking around the farm or I’m sitting my almost two-year old daughter on him for a pony ride. I could not be luckier that fate sent him my way.”