Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Red!

Today would be Red Pony's 12th birthday. It's also four days until four months have gone by that I had to put him down. So I figured in his honor I'd do a little Red Pony and Carly history, starting at the very beginning.

Red raced fourteen times with one win, one second, and two thirds. He only earned $48k, but he did his work at the big tracks: Saratoga, Gulfstream, Belmont, and Fair Grounds. In his only win, he was Johnny V's mount a race after Velasquez broke Jerry Bailey's Saratoga meet win record. He also raced against (though finishing eighth) to a horse named Mr Light who would later go on to break the world record for a mile on the turf. Red was not a rescue. He was always very well taken care of on the track and every person I've been able to get ahold of that had him in their barn at some point remembers him--including the people that owned him from a yearling to 3yo. Niall Brennan said he was "Mr Personality" in the barn.

mr personality? i don't believe it!

Red came to me via college. He'd been let down and gelded at Highcliff Farm and we picked him up in December of '05 to be one of our racehorses. When we went to get him, his groom happily warned us, "Just watch him when you turn him out. He likes to jump out to see the mares!" This proved true over and over and over. When he wasn't brought in soon enough for his liking, he'd get running and vault over the 6' wooden fence and trot his merry way back to the barn himself. He was also well known for jumping over gates from a complete standstill when he got pissed.

racehorse red was a dick.
I took him on as my special project for the semester. He was a bit of a looney. Ok....he was an absolute nut. He was a bull to gallop and he spooked at everything. I literally fell off of him more than every other horse I've ever ridden ever combined. I distinctly remember one time when we were galloping out in a field and he spooked at nothing and launched us both into the surrounding cornfield. I wound up upside down with my arms and legs wrapped around his neck and swearing like no one has ever sworn before. After several attempts to haul myself back aboard, I finally gave up and dropped to the ground where he continued to stand like a stone, but I could see the silent LOL that was going on in his head.

Fortunately for me, Red was done racing. His last owners decided they wanted him retired for good and refused to hand over his papers. My advisor, teacher, and friend, Ray Whelihan, thought he'd make a great lesson horse for the school and started working on getting him to jump. Only Red had been ridden solely by me for months and wanted nothing to do with carting around different people every day. He refused to jump anything--not even a crossrail. He threw temper tantrums at trot poles. He took off with people. He had a personal vendetta against the BM. In short, he hated his new life.

I went to work at Saratoga for the summer and Red got kicked out to a field because no one wanted to work with him. I think he was perfectly okay with that. When I got back, I started working with him again, only this time with a riding horse career in mind. He still got wound up and was still a little wild, but he and I really got along and on Valentine's Day, Whelihan simply told me, "So, when are you taking him? I'll trailer him for free for you." I, of course, was elated. I think everyone else at the barn was equally as happy to see him go. He was referred to by people as "that crazy horse."

I moved Red to a barn twenty minutes from school where I also started working. Being out of the hectic atomsphere of a college lesson/boarding barn and being ridden again by just one person settled him right down. He still had his bitch fits, but I could gallop him on a loose rein. He learned to trail ride. He got along with the horses he was turned out with. And he jumped.

He started off on the jumper circuit and was a monster. He would jump anything that was in his way, and he did it stylishly. His knees came to his eyeballs every time and he had scope to spare.

jumper pictures were eaten by former lap top and i wasn't a
facebooker back then so they're lost to eternity.
However, during a round I felt him start to suck back and falter. Instead of listening to him, I asked him to finish the course. He went clear and hobbled back to his stall on three legs. Red had an extremely high pain tolerance level, and he would have done anything I asked him to, no matter how much he hurt. That's why when the time finally came to put him down, I knew he'd reached his limit. He let me know he couldn't take it anymore; it hurt too much.

But this injury was not life-threatening. I don't remember the fancy schmancy term for what happened, but he had a tear to the suspensorary in his RF. Former laptop also ate the ultrasound pics I had saved. He was ordered on three months of stall rest with handwalking twice a day. Then he was allowed to be turned out in the arena for a few hours at a time with more handwalking. As this was going on, I'd blown out my own suspensory in my left knee and was doing three months of PT. We did a lot of hobbling around together. Finally, after a year, he was allowed to go back to full work.

Instead of gearing back up for jumping, I spent my time just enjoying my horse. We spent a full summer barrel racing. In a hackamore. Neither one of us was very good at it, but it was different and it was fun. We dabbled very, very briefly in the hunter ring on the local circuit. (Of which I have pictures, but can't seem to

I transfered to school to my home state of IL and shipped Red out with me. A week in, the school decided it didn't actually take any of my three years worth of credits and if I wanted to finish my education and get my bachelors in English--which should have taken another year at the most--I would be starting off with a freshmen curriculum. Um, no. So back to NY we went. We call it Red's two week vacation. He didn't seem to mind.

Eventually, I got fed up with the Crazies of the barn I was at and brought him back to Cobleskill where he fortunately didn't revert back to his days of being a looney. Unfortuntately, I was broke as hell and unemployed. I ended up making the tough decision to sell him to an amazing girl in upstate PA who, while being a very accomplished western rider, wanted to learn to jump. They loved him a lot, but a year after I sold him, I got a call saying he was up for sale. He had become impossible to tack up and they couldn't tie him to anything because he kept breaking free and had trampled the girl. They didn't seem to hold it against him, though. The thing about Red is, he got away with a lot of naughty things because he was so cute.

So I ended up buying him back for half of what I sold him for and we moved down to my current town together.

red and my other horse at the time, storm the gate.

I got him over the tying issue by cowboying his ass, putting on a neck rope Amish style and tying him to a tree until he got tired of pulling. He never gave me a problem after that.

Most of the rest of the story you can catch up on by reading the very beginning of this blog. Red turned into an eventing pony simply because Bobby wasn't coming along fast enough. I never thought he'd be able to do it given his propensity to spook and his extreme distaste for surface changes, but I disregarded the fact that eventing combined his two favorite things in the world: pulling my arms out and jump big, scary looking fences while going fast.

I wish every single day I'd started him eventing sooner. I'd planned on moving him up to training at the end of this year, and I think that's where a lot of my Bobby issues are coming into play: He's not Red, but I really want him to be, and I hold it against him that he's not taking me up as far and as fast as Red was.

And while he had moments like this:

And this:

It was moments like these that made him so special:

I miss you every single day, Red Pony. I wish you were here for your birthday cookies.


  1. Aw man I feel you. My favorite horse just had to be put down last weekend and its so difficult.
    Red was gorgeous and had a crazy good life with you :D
    I'm really jealous you had racing pics of him! And 48K is nothing to be ashamed of. Yankee only made 4K, HA.
    I am sorry though, loss of a horse is so hard. :(

  2. I didn't realize how long you guys had been together. :-/ Red was a great guy. Glad you had the time with him that you did.

  3. Such a great walk down memory lane!

    RIP Red! Your mom loves you very much!

  4. Awe, what a nice tribute. What a handsome boy he was!!! The pictures that you do have, are amazing....

  5. Aww Happy (Belated) Birthday Red! and RIP.

  6. That was a really sweet post. I'm sorry you lost Red, it sounded like he was a heck of a horse.


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