Makeover Proves Successful

POR at competitionSo you think former racehorses are tied even in retirement to the track, forever awaiting the call of the starting gate, pinning their ears at the sound of the bugle, their nervous systems overcome by adrenaline and their instincts in command of their wills?

Once a racehorse always a racehorse? Can’t teach an old thoroughbred new tricks?

Don’t tell that to Lindsay Jensen and her seven-year-old mare Porsha, or to any of the other 11 horses and riders they competed against in something called the Extreme Retired Racehorse Makeover competition in Negley, Ohio, the first week of August.

With a mere 100 days of “re-training” to accomplish the task, Lindsay had Porsha reschooled well enough to take second place overall in the competition, using a free-style performance that had the crowd on its feet and hooting in appreciation.

Porsha was known as Doc of the Bay when she competed on the racetrack, a 2006 foal bred in Louisiana by Valene Farms of Minnesota. She finished that first career with a 3-9-6 record from 36 career starts and earnings of $84,000.

From the moment she started working with the small thoroughbred – Porsha’s only about 14.2 hands – Lindsay figured she had a good mare, one that would listen and learn.

For the most part that impression was correct, although at one point during training Lindsay said that an eye-to-eye heart-to-heart became necessary.

She left Rush Meadow Farm near Delano for the event not quite sure what to expect when they arrived as a matter of fact. “We were having a lot of issues about a month before the competition and that delayed training,” she said. “I couldn’t get anything done with her. She didn’t want to work.”

Imagine that, a horse led to water that won’t drink.

Then, with only days to go before the competition, something clicked, the sun shone through and Porsha started behaving like a student who knew her stuff. “A light just seemed to go on,” Lindsay said. “Really wonderful.”

Porsha was once again the sweetheart she had been originally. Working with her was once again a joy.

“I don’t know what set her off,” Lindsay questioned. “We’d be doing reigning-horse spins and she wouldn’t stop. I took her to the vet to see if something was wrong, just to make sure. She was sound.”

Armed with new information and a more profound understanding of the issue, Lindsay had a reaction most people might understand.

“Then I was mad,” she said.”We had a pretty big fight. I took her for a couple-of-hours ride and that made her mind right. She’s been perfect ever since.”

Nonetheless, Lindsay dropped the spin from her routine. She had enough to worry about without adding that to the list. She figured the spin must have set off a “brain trigger” of some kind. Doubts lingered in her mind. Would all go right in the arena, in front of a crowd, when every little thing mattered?

“She was the best she could have been, and I rode the best that I could,” she said.

The competition included a water jump and circle work around “those big construction cones. I did a couple of flying lead changes with her, too,” Lindsay continued. “Actually, at the end, while on her, I picked up the cones and carried them off. She did really well.”

The routines also required a freestyle demonstration and a basic pattern used in barrel racing.

“I had schooled her a lot on the barrels and it paid off,” Lindsay said. We had a little bobble but still managed to finish second.”

Porsha had been playing “demolition derby” with the second barrel during training, so Lindsay tried taking her a little wider on the turn. “She listened too much and took a huge wide step,” she said.”But she was really good anyway.”

Then came the part that thrilled the crowd, the most original freestyle exhibition of the competition. Armed with a 22-pistol loaded with blanks, Lindsay stood in the saddle and began firing off round after round, six in all, and Porsha stood there with her.

“Everyone was cheering,” Lindsay said, “and my legs were shaking when I was standing there, thinking that this might be the dumbest thing I’ve done all year.”

Just dumb enough to finish second in the nation, with a horse that once raced at Canterbury. Definitive proof that some horses can learn new tricks, after all.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Retired Racehorse Makeover

HopScotchIt’s a moniker, a handle, an appellation, a diminutive or, just plain and simple, a name.¬†Yet, the process by which a racehorse acquires his or hers is sometimes complex, convoluted and misunderstood.

Often, the horse’s dam or sire is taken into consideration, and just as often a process never before applied results in the given name as it did in the case of a mare now under the hand of Dr. Jennifer Selvig.

The mare in question here is Hopscotch Ali, a former racehorse now training to participate in the Thoroughbred Makeover competition scheduled the first weekend of October at Pimlico Race Course.

Bred and raised by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame breeders Art and Gretchen Eaton, Hopscotch began her arrival into the world in the middle of the afternoon, of all things, with the Eatons and their veterinarian at the time, Dr. Dave Hermann, looking on from afar.

The delivery was taking place unexpectedly in the pasture that May day in 2005 and the Eatons were there as quickly as possible in the “Gator” and transported the newborn back to the safety and warmth of the barn with mama close behind. “We began calling her Ali, short for alligator,” Gretchen recalled. “That was her barn name.”

Sometime later a high school student who worked in the Eatons’ barn made an observation. “She’s so good on her feet that she’d be good at hopscotch if she were a person,” the girl said.

A name was born. “Hopscotch Ali,” said Gretchen.

Trained by Mac Robertson, Ali didn’t break her maiden in three starts, finishing third once for show money. “Mac simply told us that she might be put to better use off the track,” Gretchen recalled.

Now, turn the clock ahead to 2013. Hopscotch, whose racing career ended briefly after it started due to a stress fracture to the left front cannon bone, had been living life in the pasture at the Eatons’ farm the last four years.

Selvig, now the Eatons’ vet, had tended to Hopscotch and knew her well, at least on a doctor/client basis. Then she decided to give the horse and rider relationship a try.

“She hadn’t been ridden in four years. I got on her and she didn’t buck,” said Selvig. Definitely, a good start.

It didn’t take long for Ali’s other traits to show. “She’s really smart and – one of the reasons I picked her – is that she has really great movement, a correct, beautiful gait,” Selvig added. “She seems to have a very good mind and learns fast. The first time I got on her I thought she’d be perfect for the Thoroughbred Makeover Challenge.”

The Retired Racehorse Makeover competition includes demonstrations in three disciplines: jumping, cross country and dressage. Ali might be just the ticket.

“She’s very agile and quick. She floats when she covers the ground,” Gretchen said.

Jennifer has had Ali a little more than a month and says the horse’s mind might be her greatest asset. “She’s taking well to dressage,” Selvig said. “It might take her a little more time to figure out the jumping part, but she’s certainly got an aptitude for dressage.”

So, the good doctor has a thoroughbred who is smart, agile and quick, all good traits for working with any horse, but she not only looks good while running. This horse looks good merely standing still.

“People who stopped by the farm would also notice her,” Gretchen said. “There are lots of horses here but she is special.”

Special looking that is.

“She’s dark bay or brown but almost looks black,” Gretchen explained. “She has that full forelock and is kind of snorty, like a mustang. There are horses, just like people, who are strikingly pretty and that’s her. She’s just a very striking horse.”

She is not only strikingly pretty but athletic looking too, and she has the controlled, fluid movement of a runway model, an eye catcher anyway you care to look at her.

The Eatons turned down $15,000 for Ali when she was a yearling. They had other plans for her.”She was supposed to be our winner,” Gretchen said. “She was always one of our favorites and she had lots of talent.”

Ali still does – in a different arena is all.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Puppylove at First Sight

SuzPuppyExtendedTrot

Thoroughbreds often evoke mystery, myth and misconception for those in the horse world unfamiliar with the breed. Sometimes Suzanne Wepplo can’t believe the ideas – some approaching folklore – that she hears about this horse, particularly thoroughbreds who’ve had careers at the racetrack.

The beliefs run varied and deep, although Wepplo is doing her best to dispel notions that thoroughbreds are incorrigible, usually crazy and incapable of turning over a new leaf, or learning anything new, once they’ve run a furlong or more.

Some of the folk tales put thoroughbreds in a category with, say, Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Vlad the Impaler. They’re ornery, single-minded and destined to stay that way.

Wepplo, who once wanted to become a veterinarian, studied education and psychology and has a teaching degree from Hamline University. She is sometimes astounded at what people believe about this breed of horse.

“People, even horse people, think they’re crazy, that they can’t canter on the right lead because they’re always running to the left,” Suzanne said. “It’s all such a myth. If you watch these horses at the track, the way most of them are treated and groomed every day, it’s amazing. The horses that are sane on the track usually excel afterward. A horse with a good mind at the track will have a good mind anywhere.”

Take her first acquisition from Canterbury Park, a horse who ran under the name “Rainy” and is known now as Puppylove. Suzanne has worked with this son of Shot of Gold since acquiring him from Vic Hanson in 2009 and in that time turned him into a national dressage champion.

“He wasn’t much of a runner from what I understand,” she said. “But he’s been wonderful to work with.”

Good enough to have won national titles at the third level and attracted enough attention that Suzanne was one of two Minnesotans – Dr. Jennifer Selvig is the other – chosen with 24 others to compete in something called the Retired Racehorse Makeover, sponsored by the Retired Racehorse Training Project.

To compete, a horse has to have a racing history, at least one start, and no other training since leaving the racetrack. Trainers will chronicle the horse’s progress on the internet and then demonstrate what the horse has learned in his or her new discipline the first weekend in October at Pimlico Racetrack.

Thus, Suzanne is in the market for a new horse, preferably between the ages of four to nine,” at least 16 hands, sound, with a good temperament and an aptitude for dressage or jumping.”

She is looking for more than a horse. Sponsors are sorely needed to help with the expenses associated with this project – vet, farrier, feeding, training equipment and shipping. “Sponsors get publicity on our blog pages/social media/you tube,” Suzanne added.

Suzanne changed directions in college simply because she missed her time with horses. “I wanted to be a horse vet,” she said. “But when I was going to school, doing pre-med, I didn’t have time to ride. I wanted to ride and train professionally.”

She is doing both. Wepplo operates Sisu Sporthorse out of the Pegasus Riding School in Medina. “Sisu” is a Finnish word meaning inner strength or fortitude. “I wanted to recognize my heritage,” Wepplo explained. She teaches beginning to experienced riders in dressage or hunter jumping and trains horses in those disciplines as well.

Wepplo rode as a youngster growing up in Forest Lake, working in the barn where she rode to pay for her riding lessons. “I was a barn rat,” she said. “Luckily there was a good trainer living nearby (about five miles from her home) so I worked for my lessons.” That trainer was renowned Grand Prix dressage trainer/rider Anne McKay.

Wepplo hasn’t had the “funds” to buy a Warmblood, a horse bred for dressage with an elastic supple movement and a body conducive to carrying its weight behind for better balance and collection.

Nonetheless, she has been delighted with Puppylove. “I’d ridden thoroughbreds before, but he is the first I’ve owned,” she said.

Actually, it was love at first sight. Suzanne had just watched the horse gallop, which told her nothing beyond his ability to run a straight line. “I went back with him to his stall. He had just galloped and he got all snugly with me and put his head on my chest,” she said. “He was quiet and gentle, even after galloping and all the grooms loved him.”

That was all the information she had. So choosing the right horse takes some luck, too. You want an animal work, study his disposition. Ask questions of those who have spent time with him. And then…

“Then you roll the dice,” she said.

It was her come-out throw with Puppylove, and she rolled a seven.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Porsha’s Not a Porsche but Has Lotsa Horsepower

Porsha imageSome day, like any good cowgirl with the right amount of sand to her, Lindsay Jensen wants to gallop out of the chute at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas and circle those barrels against some of the best riders in the world.

First she’s got to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo and that by itself ain’t no piece of cake at a Sunday picnic. Yet a girl’s got a right to dream, to have goals, don’t she.

Lindsay has a couple of them. Right now it’s gettin’ a mare named Doc of the Bay ready for competition in something called the Extreme Retired Racehorse Makeover. Lindsay was one of 12 trainers in the nation – the only Minnesotan – selected to compete in the event, scheduled for Aug. 2 in Negley, Ohio. All contestants must compete with retired thoroughbreds that once raced on the track. They have approximately 100 days to prepare their horses. The competition includes a freestyle event and a barrel race.

Lindsay is in dire need of sponsorship money to defray the costs associated with this endeavor, primarily feed for the horse, who also needs some dental work. “All my sponsors get lots of recognition,” she said. “I wear their patches on my shirt through all of the rodeos and the competition when we get there.”

So far, Doc of the Bay has taken to new occupation enthusiastically. “We’ve been loping a pattern and she totally digs it,” Lindsay said. “She gets a little hyper before we work, but she’s doing really well. I’ve been working on her spins and fast rollbacks. She’s pretty much a dream to own. She wants to work and is pretty mellow for a horse that was at the racetrack until she was five.”

Doc runs under her registered name but around Lindsay she is known as “Porsha.”

Her looks and demeanor account for that. “She’s a sassy, fun girl, and the name “Doc” does not do her justice,” Lindsay explained. “Porsha seems to fit her better and is more of a girl’s name.”

Doc, or Porsha, is on the smallish size. She goes about 14.2 hands. “Some people like more of a Western horse that gets low in the turns, but I like more run in them,” Lindsay said. “Quarter horse or thoroughbred.”

Although Lindsay prefers horses that aren’t “too big,” size doesn’t seem to be an issue when it comes to circling the barrels. “No, it doesn’t,” she said. “Obviously shorter cannon bones are better for barrel racing, but I’ve seen horses 17 hands run fast barrel times. Some people think they have to be little, but they don’t.”

Lindsay started riding as a youngster with hunter/jumpers. “I did that from about eight until I was 16,” she said. “I climbed through the ranks with a lot of nice horses.”

She grew up in Corcoran and went to Buffalo High School. She started competing in barrel racing and the rodeos in college, at Northwest Oklahoma State. She’s been barrel racing since and competes in up to three rodeos a weekend on the Great Lakes Circuit, traveling to sites in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

She didn’t find her time in college fulfilling, studying agriculture/business, so she returned home and has been in one aspect or another of the horse industry since, giving riding lessons, teaching barrel racing, hunter/jumping, breaking horses, training horses… you name it.

She and her mom, Kris, started a business about six years ago at Rush Meadow Farms. “The last three years we really made it a business said Lindsay. “We work our tails off.”

She works with first-time riders, although her mother usually handles the beginners and then hands them off to Lindsay. Some days she works with hunter/jumpers, others with barrel racers. “We have some nice school horses, but I give lessons on everything I own,” she said.

It’s pretty much a sun-up to sun-down job; when Lindsay’s not giving lessons, breaking a young horse or tending to the never-ending chores associated with horses, she works with Porsha, tuning her for the upcoming competition in August.

Doc of the Bay is a 2006 foal, bred by (Minnesota’s) Valene Farms in Louisiana. She is by Doctor Mike from B.J.’s Delta Pro. Running as a three- and four-year-old, she was 3-9-6 from 36 career starts with earnings of $84,000.

“She competed until she blew out a knee,” said Lindsay, who bought her for $250 and in need of extensive grooming and care. Lindsay sent out a request on Facebook, looking for a horse to train for the August competition and got a response. When she first saw the horse, it was clear some rehab work was needed.

“She’d been sitting for two years, living in the cornstalks and wearing an old winter blanket,” Lindsay explained. “We rescued her, took her home and had some vet work done on her. She was full of crud from wearing that blanket, kind of wormy and had an ear that was mattering.”

Within a couple of weeks, Porsha had gained between 200 and 300 pounds and had become “a beautiful, sassy mare.”

Who knows, if Lindsay one day finds a horse that takes her to Las Vegas in December, she might recall this upcoming national competition and give her NFR horse a special name, too. Maybe Porsha II or just plain Porsche.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Porsha’s Not a Porsche but Has Lotsa Horsepower

Porsha imageSome day, like any good cowgirl with the right amount of sand to her, Lindsay Jensen wants to gallop out of the chute at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas and circle those barrels against some of the best riders in the world.

First she’s got to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo and that by itself ain’t no piece of cake at a Sunday picnic. Yet a girl’s got a right to dream, to have goals, don’t she.

Lindsay has a couple of them. Right now it’s gettin’ a mare named Doc of the Bay ready for competition in something called the Extreme Retired Racehorse Makeover. Lindsay was one of 12 trainers in the nation – the only Minnesotan – selected to compete in the event, scheduled for Aug. 2 in Negley, Ohio. All contestants must compete with retired thoroughbreds that once raced on the track. They have approximately 100 days to prepare their horses. The competition includes a freestyle event and a barrel race.

Lindsay is in dire need of sponsorship money to defray the costs associated with this endeavor, primarily feed for the horse, who also needs some dental work. “All my sponsors get lots of recognition,” she said. “I wear their patches on my shirt through all of the rodeos and the competition when we get there.”

So far, Doc of the Bay has taken to new occupation enthusiastically. “We’ve been loping a pattern and she totally digs it,” Lindsay said. “She gets a little hyper before we work, but she’s doing really well. I’ve been working on her spins and fast rollbacks. She’s pretty much a dream to own. She wants to work and is pretty mellow for a horse that was at the racetrack until she was five.”

Doc runs under her registered name but around Lindsay she is known as “Porsha.”

Her looks and demeanor account for that. “She’s a sassy, fun girl, and the name “Doc” does not do her justice,” Lindsay explained. “Porsha seems to fit her better and is more of a girl’s name.”

Doc, or Porsha, is on the smallish size. She goes about 14.2 hands. “Some people like more of a Western horse that gets low in the turns, but I like more run in them,” Lindsay said. “Quarter horse or thoroughbred.”

Although Lindsay prefers horses that aren’t “too big,” size doesn’t seem to be an issue when it comes to circling the barrels. “No, it doesn’t,” she said. “Obviously shorter cannon bones are better for barrel racing, but I’ve seen horses 17 hands run fast barrel times. Some people think they have to be little, but they don’t.”

Lindsay started riding as a youngster with hunter/jumpers. “I did that from about eight until I was 16,” she said. “I climbed through the ranks with a lot of nice horses.”

She grew up in Corcoran and went to Buffalo High School. She started competing in barrel racing and the rodeos in college, at Northwest Oklahoma State. She’s been barrel racing since and competes in up to three rodeos a weekend on the Great Lakes Circuit, traveling to sites in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

She didn’t find her time in college fulfilling, studying agriculture/business, so she returned home and has been in one aspect or another of the horse industry since, giving riding lessons, teaching barrel racing, hunter/jumping, breaking horses, training horses… you name it.

She and her mom, Kris, started a business about six years ago at Rush Meadow Farms. “The last three years we really made it a business said Lindsay. “We work our tails off.”

She works with first-time riders, although her mother usually handles the beginners and then hands them off to Lindsay. Some days she works with hunter/jumpers, others with barrel racers. “We have some nice school horses, but I give lessons on everything I own,” she said.

It’s pretty much a sun-up to sun-down job; when Lindsay’s not giving lessons, breaking a young horse or tending to the never-ending chores associated with horses, she works with Porsha, tuning her for the upcoming competition in August.

Doc of the Bay is a 2006 foal, bred by (Minnesota’s) Valene Farms in Louisiana. She is by Doctor Mike from B.J.’s Delta Pro. Running as a three- and four-year-old, she was 3-9-6 from 36 career starts with earnings of $84,000.

“She competed until she blew out a knee,” said Lindsay, who bought her for $250 and in need of extensive grooming and care. Lindsay sent out a request on Facebook, looking for a horse to train for the August competition and got a response. When she first saw the horse, it was clear some rehab work was needed.

“She’d been sitting for two years, living in the cornstalks and wearing an old winter blanket,” Lindsay explained. “We rescued her, took her home and had some vet work done on her. She was full of crud from wearing that blanket, kind of wormy and had an ear that was mattering.”

Within a couple of weeks, Porsha had gained between 200 and 300 pounds and had become “a beautiful, sassy mare.”

Who knows, if Lindsay one day finds a horse that takes her to Las Vegas in December, she might recall this upcoming national competition and give her NFR horse a special name, too. Maybe Porsha II or just plain Porsche.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.