Paying it Forward

payIf a horse gets a second chance, shouldn’t that apply to a teenage boy, too? Or is it the other way around? It’s hard to tell sometimes at Sioux River Stables where the Pay it Forward program has been giving racehorses a chance to give young boys a chance, or vice versa as the case might be.

Sometimes a former racehorse is adjusting to a new life or healing from an injury when he or she is turned over to a class of five youngsters in the program from one of three Prentice Houses in Ashland, Wis. Take a horse named Good Thunder, for example. He was healing from a bowed tendon when turned over to the boys, who then became responsible for overseeing his care and well-being. Once the horse was sound again, the boys had to decide as a group what kind of home would be best for the rehabilitated thoroughbred.

Sioux River Stables is located in Washburn, between Ashland and Bayfield. “We’re about an hour and 15 minutes from Duluth,” said Callaee Hyde, who operates the 40-acre farm with her husband, Dave.

Hyde has gotten former racehorses from various locations since establishing Pay it Forward in 2008, primarily from Canterbury veterinarians Dick Bowman and Lynn Hovda.

Sometimes Hyde has made a trip to the barns in Shakopee herself. Another time a meeting was set up in Duluth, and the Pay it Forward program has wound up with horses named Good Thunder, Candy Quik, Rex, Black Bob, and Lamb in the Mist among others.

Hyde has offered two 12-week classes in the Pay it Forward program each year for “at risk” youngsters from the Prentice Houses. “They’ll come out to the farm for two-to-three hour stretches at a time to work with the horses,” Hyde said. “The idea is to teach life skills through rehabilitating the horses. Sometimes it’s as simple as (correcting) a behavioral problem. Other times a horse needs physical rehabilitation before the boys can oversee its adoption.”

The process includes learning to groom the horse, attending to its needs – feeding, vaccinating and worming. “A lot of these horses are fairly anxious in their new settings at first,” Hyde added. “The boys can relate to that.”

Hyde herself has found interesting some of the youngsters’ reactions to situations, one in particular. “These boys get to see how a horse’s anxiety might play out in the herd,” she recalled. “One of the boys said ‘I know exactly how this is going to work’ when we turned out an anxious horse one time. He said ‘that horse is going to go into the herd and find the lowest man on the totem pole and buddy up to him. When he gets more comfortable he’ll start making friends all the way up and then move on and not have anything to do with that first horse again.'”

The boys in the program are residents of Prentice House for any number or reasons. Some don’t have families or are from dysfunctional settings. “There are a variety of reasons,” said Hyde. And she never asks.

“We don’t ask why they are here,” she said. “They’ve been through counseling and can give you a book on what is wrong with them. When they’re here they are just ‘John’ or ‘Paul’ or ‘Bill.’ That’s all.”

The boys are taught that commitment is necessary with a horse that learns to trust and depend on them, that they need to make good on that commitment. Once that is completed, “they get to fill out the adoption forms and screen the adopters and choose where the horse is going to be placed,” said Hyde. So far, so good. “We haven’t had any problems with decisions about placing a horse,” she added.

The adoption fee, usually $500, is used to help fund a subsequent Pay it Forward class, and so forth. “We’ve had horses adopted to race barrels, for dressage or simply as riding horses,” she said.

The farm also offers therapy sessions for the physically handicapped, speech therapy by licensed therapists using horses in their sessions, as well as the usual riding lessons. Graduates of the Pay it Forward program have sometimes returned to help out with a class.

Callaee says her inspiration for starting the Pay it Forward program came from her son, Robert, now 24. The name of the program, of course, came from the movie starring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey. “I saw that movie and I bawled and bawled,” Callaee said.

She didn’t know the author of the book that inspired the movie, however:

Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Hyde, Callaee that is, continues to pass on the message, to Pay it Forward.

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.

A Good Idea Made Better

Sometimes what seems like a good idea turns out to be something altogether different. In this case, a horse named Good Idea wasn’t so good at one thing but is pretty good at another. He was Good Idea when he had a stall in Vic Hanson’s barn at Canterbury Park, even though a wager on him was not. Four years later, he’s a horse of basically the same color but a different stripe. He’s competing as a jumper and doing just fine. “He’s a good jumper,” said trainer Heather Parish. “He’s a good student and a good learner.”

Good Idea, it appears, has the athletic gene going for him; he was simply being schooled in the wrong sport.

Can you imagine, for example, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the best boxer alive, as a swimmer, or a point guard? Hardly. Or Adrian Peterson as a dancer. He’s a ballet artist at times on the artificial turf, but no one would consider matching him against Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Albert Einstein was a pretty darn good numbers guy. How do you think he might have done, say, as an opponent for Mayweather. Or Mayweather, for that matter, trying to explain E =MC2. The point is you got to be where you belong.

In the case of Good Idea, competing against jumpers apparently suits his abilities more than running against his own kind. “He could run,” said Hanson. “But then he’d stop.” He made five career starts and never hit the board.

Good Idea needed to be where he belonged. He was like a duck out of water on the backside at Canterbury Park, like a centerfielder on a football field, or a planetary scientist going one-on-one with Derrick Rose.

He needed a good home and a new occupation.

Lynn Hovda, the state veterinarian at Canterbury Park, was familiar with the horse and placed a call to Parish when it became apparent he needed a second career choice. “She knew him and thought he would be a good jumper. And he is,” Parish added.

Hovda has a familial connection to Parish. Her daughter, Tyne, who is following her mother’s path and studying veterinary medicine at Texas A&M, trains with Parish. “She also helps out with a lot of the vet stuff here,” added Parish.

“Here” is the Mary Jo Cody show farm in Hugo, where Parish has 18 horses in training, including five former racehorses and where Hovda keeps her horses, too. Cody shelled out $1,500 for Good Idea and then gave him to Parish.

Good Idea is a gentle sort, easy to be around, eager to please, although he does on occasion demonstrate an envious side.

“He gets terribly jealous if he sees me with another horse,” Parish said. “He’ll snarl at us.”

Parish exercises a great deal of patience with the new horses in her barn. “Good Idea is in competition but I haven’t showed him over real big jumps yet,” she said.”He got a first and a second at Mason City, Iowa (recently) but I’m taking it a lot slower with him, three feet jumps or so.”

Parish acquired Good Idea sight unseen, with only the slightest physical description of what she was getting. “He’s about 16.1 hands,” Parish said, “with a white blaze and white socks”

She has been around her game for quite some time. She won a gold medal in the Summer Olympic Festival individual show jumping in 1994. The medal, of course, is in safe hands. “It’s at my mother’s house,” said Parish. “I’m 38 but I’m still not allowed to have it.”

What Parish does have is plenty of business, enough to keep her going anywhere from six or eight to 16 hours some days. She is originally from Maplewood and graduated from Mounds Park Academy before graduating from Skidmore College in – ahem! – Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Any trips to the Mecca, Heather? “Oh, you bet I went.”

Parish then taught fourth grade for several years in California before returning home in the autumn of 2001. She has worked with Cody most of the time since returning to Minnesota and has been at the farm full time the last five years.

“I couldn’t ask for a better job,” she said.

Good Idea couldn’t ask for a better home. He caught his new owner’s attention immediately upon arriving at the Cody farm as a three-year-old. That was four summers ago.

“Lynn told us he had a lot of bling to him,” Parish said. “He does have all those white markings going for him.”

Good Idea picked up a nickname as a result. “We call him Elton,” Parish added.

After Elton John, of course.

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.