Thursday, August 27, 2015

HRN: Appreciation for American Pharoah

Each time I post a new article on my Horse Racing Nation blog, I post a notice on this blogThese notices include an excerpt from the beginning of that article and a link to the piece. My latest Horse Racing Nation article is. . .

"Admit it. You have said something along the lines of the statement, “We have a Triple Crown winner,” over and over since the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in hopes that you would eventually become accustomed to the reality. After 37 long years of waiting, American Pharoah put an end to the drought, sweeping the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and Belmont Stakes to the overwhelming elation of racing fans.

At last, the horse we had been waiting for arrived. For nearly four decades, the racing industry had been yearning for a horse that could join the immortals. Finally, American Pharoah came along and gave racing enthusiasts exactly that.

Nevertheless, plenty of naysayers remain. While most of the racing community wishes that we could enjoy this horse for a longer amount of time, some say the horse’s connections are taking too great of a risk by continuing to race him at all. And now that “the one” has finally arrived, many cynics refuse to believe it. . ."

Click here to read the rest of my newest Horse Racing Nation article.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Work Published with 'The Equine Chronicle'

Check out "The Little Horse That Could" - an online feature I wrote for The Equine Chronicle, the leading magazine for the breed show industry. The article can be accessed by clicking the link below.

Born 34 Days to Early, Premature Palomino Colt Goes on to Become World/Reserve World Champ in Three Different Breeds

Soaking Up the Sun, AKA Midas, and his owner, Lisa Blake
Photo by Terri Cage

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When Dreams Come True

Rather than growing out of my horse-crazy phase I have been in all my life, I built upon it. I formed aspirations attached to the horse industry, hoping that one day they would reach fruition. Having been around horses my entire life, it became apparent to me that dreams do not come true in the blink of an eye – especially not with horses. In order for them to become reality, patience, hard work, and dedication are necessities.

I have grown up showing horses. I started out competing in playdays and 4-H shows, showing my fair share of horses throughout my childhood. I was fortunate enough to have a handful of trustworthy horses, but I also owned and showed several bad apples: a pony that left my five-year-old (or near that age) self in the dirt at a playday, an unruly Quarter Horse gelding who also thought I looked better on the ground, a temperamental Quarter Horse mare that refused to do anything other than in-hand classes, and a skittish Quarter Horse mare who never even made it to the show ring. (I loved all of them despite these unfortunate qualities).

I collected many ribbons and belt buckles during this time, but it was not until I began showing Appaloosas at breed shows that I began to raise my goals as the level of my competition heightened. However, despite some success, my streak of bad luck continued. Although my first Appaloosa – Colby – was talented, he was green and sometimes difficult to handle. During my first year at the Appaloosa National Show and the Appaloosa Youth World Championship Show, I cheered my friends on as they achieved National and World Championships. Meanwhile, I never even made the finals.

My second Appaloosa – Byron – found a place in my heart no other horse has ever encompassed, but he, too, was green. We found greater success than I had with Colby, but his inexperience kept us from winning any titles. Nonetheless, I was happy and loved what I was doing.

Riding Byron, November 2014
Photo by Terri Cage

Along with my passion for showing, I have been a devoted fan of horse racing since I was eight years old. That equine-related infatuation has had its fair share of ups and downs, as well. I have fallen in love with countless racehorses over the years, rooting them to victory and experiencing disappointment at their losses. Beginning with Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid in 2004, I have dreamt of a Triple Crown winner. Year after year, I watched as the drought continued.

My passion for both showing and racing endured the disappointments I faced, as my love for horses and these sports overcame any frustrations I encountered. I yearned for a Triple Crown winner like I worked for greater success in the show ring, hoping that someday these dreams would materialize.

This year, everything came together.

This spring marked the end of my first year of college. Throughout the school year, I had not managed to keep up with horse racing on the same level I have in previous years, but my excitement for the Triple Crown did not waiver. When American Pharoah captured both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, my hopes – along with those of the remainder of the racing world – soared at his chances to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

My two “horse worlds” collided in late May, when I made a detour on my return from a horse show in New Jersey, stopping in central Kentucky. Visits to some of the most prestigious Thoroughbred farms in the world, as well as several mornings spent with two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan (one of my all-time personal favorites) would have been more than enough. But an unforgettable opportunity arose while I was in the Bluegrass: the chance to see American Pharoah make his final preparations at Churchill Downs for the Belmont Stakes.

I was able to see the Triple Crown hopeful on three occasions during the week I spent in Kentucky, two of which were mornings during which he breezed beneath the twin spires. Once I saw the colt in person, my confidence in his ability to end the Triple Crown drought only skyrocketed. I relished the opportunity to see American Pharoah firsthand, almost convinced it was not real life each time he galloped past me, each time he stopped to pose, each time his regal eyes looked directly at me.

American Pharoah breezing, May 26, 2015
Photo by Mary Cage
American Pharoah, May 30, 2015
Photo by Mary Cage
It seemed as if my Triple Crown dream was finally coming true, but as the Belmont neared, my showing dreams looked to be doing the opposite. My beloved Byron came up with an injury that would prevent him from competing at Nationals, which was less than three weeks away. My main worry centered upon Byron but once I knew he would be just fine, I was overwhelmed with a sickening feeling that I would not be able to compete at Nationals. Along with the Appaloosa World Championship Show, the Appaloosa National Show is one of my biggest stages on which I compete. I was disappointed to say the least.

But horse racing stepped in to save the day. I woke up on Belmont Stakes Day like it was Christmas morning, headed to the barn to ride a few horses, and then returned home, where I would be glued to the television, watching racing coverage all day long. As post time for the final jewel of the Triple Crown grew closer, my nerves ascended, but a strange sense of confidence in American Pharoah remained.

In a moment defined by sheer joy, I watched the television screen as American Pharoah accomplished what no horse in my lifetime ever had. There were ecstatic tears, shouts, and smiles galore. I had dreamed of this moment before, but my past imagining could not equate with this extraordinary reality.

While still on cloud nine from American Pharoah’s triumph, my showing situation began to improve. Into my life entered Pinky, a multiple World and National Champion Appaloosa gelding that I had known for several years. With the help of some amazing people, including my parents, Pinky became mine.

However, Pinky and I had only two weeks before Nationals to begin becoming accustomed to one another. The white-faced sorrel gelding had a reputation for being selective in terms of riders he gets along with, but the two of us quickly formed an understanding and bond.

It was not long before we arrived in nearby Fort Worth, Texas to compete with the best of the best Appaloosa horses and equestrians the nation has to offer. It was my third year at this particular horse show, but my first year competing at Nationals as a non-pro – as I was now too old to be competing at the youth level. Oddly enough, as I entered the ring for my first riding class of the show (Novice Non-Pro Hunt Seat Equitation) a familiar feeling consumed me – the same calm nerves I had felt prior to the Belmont.

Pinky and I entered the ring, where I rode the best pattern of my life. I received an abundance of compliments on my ride, which boosted my confidence, but the decision was still up to the judges. After rail work, I – along with my competitors – lined our horses up along the rail as we awaited the placings under all four judges.

It felt surreal when my number was announced first under three of the judges, and second under the other – securing me with my first National Championship. I felt as if I was watching from the stands as someone I knew won the class rather than riding Pinky to the center of the arena to accept my trophy. I attempted to take in the moment, but it was truly a blur. For the remainder of the day, I received congratulations from an overwhelming amount of people. I could feel myself glowing with happiness. It felt like my birthday.

Pinky and I on pattern during Hunt Seat Equitation
Photo by Larry Williams Photography
Hunt Seat Equitation win photo
Photo by Larry Williams Photography

Winning that National Championship would have been more than enough, but just a few days later, I walked out of the arena with Pinky carrying my second National Championship trophy after winning the Novice Non-Pro Showmanship. Considering my first championship still had not sunk in, this one felt unreal as well. With top finishes in the remainder of my classes, I was able to receive the Reserve High-Point award in the Novice Non-Pro division. It was the show of a lifetime.

Showmanship win photo
Photo by Larry Williams Photography
Reserve High-Point win photo
Photo by Larry Williams Photography
This summer has certainly been the best I have ever had, all thanks to these amazing animals. Horses have the ability to give me happiness like few other things can, and the life-changing moments of this summer proved this. Thank you, American Pharoah, for making the Triple Crown dream that I and other racing fans have so long desired. And thank you, Pinky, for allowing what I thought was a pipe dream not only come true, but exceed any aspirations I ever had.

Monday, July 20, 2015

More Work Published with 'American Racehorse'

Check out "Golden Horse: Texas-Bred Transitions from the Track to the Barrels" - a feature I wrote for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and American Racehorse. The piece tells the story of Brooks Open Gold - a Texas-bred gelding (now retired from racing) who has led a double life as a racehorse and barrel horse. The article can be accessed by clicking the link below.

Golden Horse: Texas-Bred Transitions from the Track to the Barrels

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Latest Magazine Article

My most recent magazine article was published in the May/June edition of American Racehorse (previously Southern Racehorse). It is an honor to have another magazine article published in this magazine.

I am very excited about the timing of this article, as it is about Secretariat - an always relevant champion who has been even more relevant with American Pharoah's Triple Crown triumph - and his first foal, an Appaloosa - just weeks before I compete at the National Appaloosa Show.

Read article - "Secretariat's Forgotten First Foal" - by clicking here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

HRN: My First Triple Crown Winner

Each time I post a new article on my Horse Racing Nation blog, I post a notice on this blogThese notices include an excerpt from the beginning of that article and a link to the piece. My latest Horse Racing Nation article is. . .

"In a bedroom adorned with pictures of horses and cluttered with toy horses, I glued my eyes to the television as I watched the coverage of the Kentucky Derby. I was a horse-crazy, eight-year-old little girl who was relishing the world of horse racing for the very first time. Little did I know, by watching the 2004 Run for the Roses, my life was changing. I was finding my passion.

On that special day, Smarty Jones won me over. During the pre-race coverage, the colt’s story was shared. It was the colt’s near-death experience as a two-year-old – which occurred when Smarty Jones had reared and hit his head on a starting gate – that earned him a place in my heart.  To a young, horse-loving girl like me, the story of a horse escaping death and making it to the greatest race in America was the greatest story ever told. During the Derby undercard, I fled to a computer to learn everything I could about Smarty Jones.

As the horses loaded into the starting gate, I was already quite emotionally invested. Over and over, I muttered, “He has to win. Let him win.” These words continued throughout the race as I remained focused on the dark chestnut colt. When he galloped through the slop to victory, I leaped in the air, jumping up and down. I had just fallen in love with horse racing. And I didn’t look back. . ."

Click here to read the rest of my newest Horse Racing Nation article.

Friday, June 5, 2015

HRN: The Colt Who Would Be Pharoah

Each time I post a new article on my Horse Racing Nation blog, I post a notice on this blogThese notices include an excerpt from the beginning of that article and a link to the piece. My latest Horse Racing Nation article is. . .

"More than 20,000 registered Thoroughbred foals were born in the United States in 2012. Among them, thousands were sent to public auction as yearlings, primarily in sales held by large sales companies like Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland. At these auctions, bidders offered large sums of money to acquire unproven young Thoroughbreds in hopes of purchasing a future superstar.

Many buyers hope they are lucky enough to find a graded stakes winner, or maybe even a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner. And, maybe, if they are especially optimistic – and possibly crazy in the eyes of others – a Triple Crown winner.

To assist both sellers and buyers, various sales agencies exist within the industry. Among these sales agencies is Taylor Made, a family operation that has proven to be among the largest Thoroughbred sales agencies in the world. Since Taylor Made Sales Agency was launched in 1976, it has sold more than thirty winners of grade one stakes races, including champions Artax, Ashado, Folklore, Lookin At Lucky, and Speightstown.

But should American Pharoah find triumph in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on Saturday, Taylor Made will have quite the claim to fame. A win by the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile would secure them a place in the history books as the yearling consignor of the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. . ."

Click here to read the rest of my newest Horse Racing Nation article.