Thursday, June 28, 2018

charlie's blast from the past

I've written before about being very lucky in the circumstances around adopting Charlie. A couple weeks after his final race in 2016, his connections placed him at an organization dedicated to rehabbing and rehoming OTTBs.

His former owners and trainers had funneled a few horses through this organization previously (and since, I believe) so the woman who runs the program was pretty familiar with them. Plus, I knew a number of horses who had been rehomed by the organization too (hai, Bali!! and others!!), and the organization administrator and I have some close mutual acquaintances.

All this added up to a situation in which, while none of us really knew each other personally or well, we all knew enough about all the other parties to feel pretty good about things. 

So I was able to get in touch directly with Charlie's former owners and trainers, all of whom were really friendly and candid in telling me all about their time with the horse. They each provided their own versions of his full history, their favorite stories, and little details about what made Charlie so special and lovable. Bc yea, it was pretty clear from the start that they all each cared deeply about the horse.

Charlie's portrait by Alyssa Kelley, Jan 2017
Since adopting Charlie, I've tried to keep them up to date on his progress. Obviously I don't want to spam them, or try to act like I'm anything other than a regular old adult ammy playing ponies and jumping small sticks with their former classy race horse.... And naturally I have spared them the roller coaster ride of thrown shoes, random dings, and splints gone bad.....

But, generally speaking, I send the group an email or two a year - usually with some picture of Charlie looking fabulous or with a fun recent cross country video or something (or like that time Charlie made the front page of US Eventing lol...).

One owner, in particular, always replies that he'd love to set up a time to come visit. At first I was really excited at the prospect, but months went by with nothing materializing. So I kinda figured that it might not actually ever happen.

one of charlie's former owners gave me my own framed win pic!!!! much exciting!!! higher res version, and charlie's other (slightly more flattering, but who's counting lol) win pictures can be found at this link
But lo! Last week he emailed me again saying he'd be in the state for his daughter's lacrosse tournament, and was I around for a visit??

Why Yes, sir! I am!! Everything worked out and he found the farm without issue. Charlie for his part was kind enough to be reasonably clean, currently uninjured, and in a particularly hammy mood lol.

So we got to hang out for a little while - with both of us cramming the spoiled rotten pony full of carrots, brushing him off, taking lots of pictures, and generally recounting all of his favorite Charlie stories and histories.

Plus he brought me my own framed picture of one of Charlie's bigger wins!! Which obviously I am totally over the moon about haha. I had found all these pictures not long after bringing Charlie home and had hemmed and hawed about ordering my own framed prints too... but just hadn't pulled the trigger. But now I have one!! Makes me feel like a super legit OTTB owner haha ;)

yep, dat's my classy race horse ;)
I guess this particular owner had first claimed Charlie as a 3yo, and over time used various trainers and partnered with different owners. I had understood some of Charlie's history (esp some of the more unfortunate health- and wellness-related aspects) from his last trainer, and was able to learn more from this owner who actually owned the horse during that time. Very insightful!

Plus it was kinda cool to hear him go on about his enthusiasm for horses (he's currently got a couple other race horses right now too - down in Kentucky and also back up in Delaware) as someone who isn't really as involved in the day to day handling and care of horses.

All in all, it was really great meeting him. He was very kind and seemed genuinely happy to see Charlie looking healthy and happy in his new life (like when one of the very small pony riders at my barn came skipping up alongside Charlie and he immediately lowered his nose to her to say hi <3).

And for my part it was really cool to meet this complete stranger who loves this horse just as much as I do. And who jokingly said that his daughters refer to Charlie as "their little brother" lol.

So often we hear stories of ambivalence or neglect from owners and trainers at the track. Like the impression that these horses are somehow considered disposable and discarded the moment they're no longer profitable.

Maybe that's true somewhere, or sometimes, or in some cases... But I tend to believe it's less common than we might think. And it definitely was not true in Charlie's case haha. And I feel super lucky to have gotten to speak with and now meet some of the people who were so influential in Charlie's life from age 3 to 7. Feels like I have a real piece of Charlie's past now.

Have you ever gotten to meet your horse's previous owners? Or get any glimpses into their histories? Or is your horse's background more of a mystery?

47 comments:

  1. So cool!!! It nice to hear this side of the OTTB story. What a great framed photo too. I have Gem's registration papers and have toyed with the idea of contacting her breeder to learn more about her, but I have never done it. I have Cruise's too so maybe I'll reach out to both this year.

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    1. oooh you definitely should!! i was lucky that i got to learn a lot about isabel's history too, esp bc she was the product of a fairly well known and prolific arab and arab-x breeding program locally. still tho, it's so cool to learn more - and maybe you'll find baby pictures haha!!!

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  2. That's so awesome that you keep in touch with them and that his old owner was able to come visit! 🙂

    My first few horses came from bad situations so I kind of intentionally didn't keep in touch with their old owners. But when I bought my original Andalusians I stayed quite close to the seller, and the same with the guy I got Ruby from, as well as the owner of the stallion who sired Cinna. And on the other side, I am still regularly in contact with the nice lady I sold my original Andalusians to and love watching her progress with them. I think it's so nice for the horses when their history can be shared between their owners over the years!

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    1. ha yea i can definitely understand not wanting to stay close with crazy or questionable folks - there's enough of that in the world already!! very cool tho that you have been able to be on both sides of the equation too, like seeing your former horses out and about happily enjoying their new life. esp bc yea, it definitely seems advantageous for the horse to have that known history as they move through their life and through new potential homes

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  3. Awww! So cool. ❤️ The lil bro comment

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    1. oh man, is that not the sweetest tho??? <3

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  4. Aw how fun! The people I got Scout from connected me with his trainers on Facebook so they follow along with our journey!

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    1. that's awesome! i am not on facebook otherwise i would definitely do the same!

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  5. Very cool to connect with this guy and the framed pic is cool! My horse's previous owner ended up being a close acquaintance. When they delivered him many years ago, I asked her if she wanted updates...she was teary, but nodded yes. We know mutual show people so updates would've gotten around, but we ended up emailing each other quite often. Whenever Spencer was naughty, I called him "her horse". Sadly, she passed away from cancer in 2016...it affected me more than I was expecting. Weird who you connect with in this crazy world.

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    1. hmm - turns out I wrote about it back when I had a blog...http://littlekeebler.blogspot.com/2013/06/an-unexpected-friend-and-heartwarming.html

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    2. aw that is seriously sweet and heart warming! and i totally feel ya on being surprised at how meaningful some of these relationships and connections can turn out to be... something about that shared love for a special horse <3

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  6. i of course am great friends with Remus (previous/current owner). She got him as a youngster (yearling I think?) so i have his whole history (He did nothing till I got him LOL) but i do think it is neat when you get the history on the OTTB. So glad you guys got to meet. and love that he gave you the framed copy of his win. how cool...

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    1. ha i love that you have such a cool dynamic with Remus's original owner! seems like he was always just right there, waiting for you to finally show up and give his life some purpose ;) hopefully he's down in TN with you ASAP!!

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  7. Aww this whole post just makes me smile. Every one of my past OTTBs owners have been so nice and interested in hearing about how their horses are doing, and Opie's trainers/owners treat their whole barn like giant pets. There's still a lot of good in the racing industry. <3

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    1. definitely <3 i haven't been around many backsides and obvi have only owned this one horse, but my experiences and impressions have generally been pretty overwhelmingly positive. esp with the increased focus in recent years on channeling horses safely from the track and into their next careers

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  8. That's so awesome! Such a great thing to know/meet people who've been so influential with your horse and love and care for him too. I bet they're glad he's with you, too!

    Amber's breeder (a small family but had some good horses) and I are friends on FB, so they get to see all sorts of pictures of her, and I am always happy when they "like" a photo. I've always known that if I buy a horse from someone who loves them that I'd try to keep them updated if that's what they'd like. We also keep in touch occasionally with Whisper's previous owner - a little girl who loved her very much when she was "Blaze" lol. She asks us about her every now and then, and we always try to reply quickly with a few pictures :).

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    1. aw that's cool that you're still connected with both your mares' former owners! it's so neat to get that continuity in a horse's story, and to know that there are other people out in the world who care about the horse. it's oddly reassuring haha!

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  9. thats REALLLYYY cute that he came by to visit.

    I got in touch with Runkles breeders, and they sent adorable baby pictures and loved seeing how grown up he was. It was really fun!!!

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    1. awwww <3 i very strongly hinted (ok i outright asked lol...) that any pictures from charlie's early days would be very very welcome, but none have materialized yet - except obvi for this awesome framed print. i love those old candids tho!!

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  10. How cool! I've wished and wished that I could talk to the owners of my OTTBs but never had the contacts to find them. I'm super jealous that you've got so much transparency into Charlie's past, and that they love him just like you do!

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    1. it's definitely seriously appreciated that i've been able to talk to them - esp bc i learned so so so much about how charlie ticks based on hearing more of his past experiences. you could always look up your horses' records on equibase.com to at least get the names of his owners and trainers, and do some google searches to see if any email addresses pop up. worth a shot!

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  11. I'm very fortunate in that I'm only Gwyn's second owner and I'm best friends with the first and original. I know everything about her life before me, which is now far outnumbered by the time she's been in my care. She has always been a character and escape artist. She'd jump out of the pasture to go find better grass and then would jump back in. Stinker

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    1. aww haha that's awesome, and kinda funny lol. so much personality lol and i love when old stories like that help us make more sense of what the horse is doing out in the field today !

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  12. That is so, so cool! The young trainer I bought Niko from has started showing at the same shows as us, so she actually got to see him a few weekends ago and we've stayed in touch. I think it's pretty cool!

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    1. oooh that is really awesome!! she must have been so thrilled to see your recent show too!! the person who runs the adoption center charlie came from sometimes comes out to shows when she knows some of her "alumni" will be there, it's pretty cool!

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  13. May's history is basically a big black box. I don't even know how old she is. It must be so cool to know so much of your horse's history and the people involved in his life.

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    1. yea i mean, all the horses i knew growing up were always kinda mysteries when it came to their background, so i never even really thought particularly deeply about it. isabel was the first horse whose history was pretty well defined and i found myself surprisingly fascinated by it lol. it's definitely fun to know!

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  14. That's awesome! The lady I bought Cupid from owned his dam and stood his sire, and trained and owned him throughout his racing career. I send her periodic updates too.

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    1. ooh that's super cool! i knew isabel's breeder so it was cool getting that perspective of her. it's nice that Cupid has such a complete past without having been shuffled from home to home!

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  15. So cool! I once was able to dredge up a baby photo of P, and then before I bought him I watched a couple of his races. I'd love to talk to those who knew him on the track, but have only run into dead ends.

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    1. awww bebe P!! i'm sure he was super cute lol. i would love to watch some of charlie's races but haven't shelled out the cash to do so on some of the websites i found... maybe one day!

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  16. So, this is the most lovely thing ever. I mean, who can blame them for wanting to come love on Charlie and for loving him so much when he was their horse! What a special relationship! I still chat with the owner of Kilkee, and Georgie, of course. Kilkee's owner didn't like her much, so there were never any stories about how great she was, lol, but I sure loved that mare!

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  17. Love this! And so agree that there is a lot of good in the racing world! I've found knowing Bast's past to be super helpful, and really wish I'd been able to contact Pig's training connections. Makes me sad I couldn't share his successes with them.

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  18. How very cool. And so sweet to bring you the photo!

    I know and love Stans old owners. They know how to get up with me if they ever wanted to see him. I even met his breeder a decade+ ago and she was cool.

    Grif was taken by friends of mine from a teenager who didnt know what TF she was doing. She has since reached out to me some, but as she knows virtually nothing about horses (she managed to get him without her dad knowing then was in trouble) I haven't entertained her requests whatsoever.

    Q is sort of a mystery. I dug into her past a few years ago and hit a dead end and it's mostly stagnated with that. I would love to hear more about her earlier years one day tho if the situation arose.

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  19. I think that's so cool! I have to admit, I have a bad taste in my mouth about some race horse owners, so this is encouraging. I have never met my horses' previous owners, but if I ever did I might have some choice words for them...

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  20. Aww, I love this!

    I know Taran's owner (duh, BFF), and she bred him so we've known him since day 1. Paddy... I tried to find his breeder but they're no longer in the business of breeding haffies so I couldn't get in touch with them. Griffy is a black box.

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  21. That is so cool! I would love an opportunity like that.

    I tried to keep in touch with my first horse Ellie's previous owner but when I mailed a letter and a photo it got sent back as undelivered. I guess she moved and I never had any other contact info for her.

    The person I bought Kachina from is on my facebook so she regularly likes my posts about her, but that particular owner didn't actually do a lot with Kachina and I have barely any info about her prior life.

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  22. That's so cool, it's so nice to know there are people who really do care about their horses and where they end up.

    I bought Coolie off his old owner who I keep in touch with and over the year have met the person who broke him, and his breeder. They all follow our progress and are very supportive. And in a true small world story, his breeder is friends with my Auntie, who doesn't have horses. They live in a town in a rural area near where his breeder has a farm.

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  23. We used to buy pretty regularly from 1 particular trainer at the track because he was long time friends with our Trainer, all of his horses were pretty nice, impeccable care. (I got Carlos from him) It's why I tend to paint previous owners and trainers with the negligent brush (and only a few with the coocoo brush haha). Really awesome that he got to visit Mr Charlie and brought you such an awesome pic!

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  24. There is this post that floats around FB every once and a while about all the people who loved your horse before it became "yours". How someone poured hours into training them, loving them, caring for them and helped them on their journey to get to you. This post reminds me so deeply of that.

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  25. What a wonderful thing to meet with his previous owner and to get a photo.

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  26. That is so awesome his old owner wanted to check in and turned out to be such a cool person.

    I am still friends with the person I got Juice from, and she pulled him out of some lady's field, obese and ornery. So I have no clue what his deal was before age 6 or so. Obviously he is still ornery but less so, and no longer obese.. usually.

    I never got in touch with the trainers for my OTTB when I was a teen.. the Welsh pony I had for several years as a kid was from a breeder that appears to still exist. At one point while I had him my mom tracked down the lady who bred him and we went to a show she had his dam and sire at. So we got to meet both of them and show her photos and videos of my pony, which was really fun. She actually put me on his dam bareback with a halter and I toodled around the showgrounds all day. The 80's were such a different time, hahaha. My guy was dapple gray and was basically a perfect 50/50 combination of his parents in height, color, temperament. Interesting stuff.

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  27. My horses (Nick and Bird) -- neither was a mystery to me. I knew Nick's sire and dam and her breeder. I also knew Bird's parents personally, started his sire under saddle (after he was gelded), knew both of his brothers. At the moment, Nick the El Preggo mare (due in the first or second week of July) continues El Preggo, but as for that baby, I will have known and ridden the dam for sixteen years. As for the stud... I picked him off the internet but we did go to see him being ridden at a show and watch him get a bath and stuff to see how he moved in person and how he behaved in person. We also talked to his rider. I am not very comfortable with unknowns in my horse life.

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  28. I'd love to know App's or Mia's history. I was given a name an address of App's previous owner when my mom brought him home, I had written 3 or 4 letters to the lady to give updates but never once heard back and I stopped after I think 2 years. Mia is a total mystery as the people I bought her from won't tell me anything about where they got her from despite my asking multiple times. The best i have is her breeder who gave her away as a 2 year old and she was "lost" for 4 years.
    How awesome you got to meet the previous owner and even better you got an awesome picture of Charlie!

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