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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Racehorses Who Are Now Showhorses

Before I left for Kentucky, I contacted Wendy Uzelac Wooley, writer of the wonderful "From Racehorse To Showhorse" blog that I've been reading for a couple years. I was very pleased when she said we could get together and I could come and meet her two horses! Wendy moved to Lexington about a year ago after marrying fellow equine photographer Matt Wooley. I'm just a teeny-weeny bit jealous... living in the Bluegrass... photographing gorgeous farms/horses/animals every day (and weddings, which I also love)... having two beautiful TBs of her own... one of them grey... I mean, gosh, why would I be?? ;-)

We first connected on Saturday night at the horse show. I can report that Wendy's even prettier in person and just as nice as I expected. :-) She and Matt sat at one end of the arena and took some fabulous pictures of the Grand Prix horses. I sat in the middle and took crappy ones with my phone - some things are definitely best left to the pros, hah! (Although some of my fellow bloggers do manage to take very respectable amateur photos. I really do need a good camera one of these days.) We arranged for her to pick me up the next morning at the Arena and take me to her barn.

Good thing we did, too, because I never would have found the place on my own! The Bluegrass region is home to a couple major superhighways, some heavily-trafficked main roads, a few minor roads and approximately three hundred thousand not very well-marked maybe-one-and-a-half-car-width "lanes" that wind in and around the farms. It was the latter we traversed for some time in Wendy's truck to get to her boarding place. Did I mention it's not a small truck, either?? I asked her, with no little trepidation, "What do you do if someone is coming the other way?" It is important to note that a lot of these narrow lanes are bordered by beautiful but substantial-looking stone fences and trees. Not a whole lot of places to go if someone comes pelting around a corner. She kind of shrugged and said, "Well, usually someone will yield and pull off to the side." Okay, then. I resigned myself to my fate and spent my time rubbernecking at all the simply beautiful farms we were passing.

One of these farms, Winter Quarter, was right near Wendy's barn. If that place name rings a bell, it's because that is where the great and wonderful Zenyatta was born. Even though it looked like any other (lovely) place in the Bluegrass, I was pretty tickled to see it. You know that every time a new little TB foal hits the ground, the breeder is hoping the next Super Horse/Derby/Classic winner has been born. I love to think about all the potential world-beaters I saw romping around the fields or in utero in the many broodmares I saw. The owner of Winter Quarter has been to see Zenny fairly recently, now that she's nearby at Lane's End - I wonder if she remembers him?

We also passed seemingly endless miles of Darley and Shadwell property. The former is owned by "Sheikh Mo," as he is colloquially known. From the website: Darley is HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s global breeding operation which currently stands stallions in six countries around the world. Shadwell is owned by Sheikh Mo's brother, who keeps a much lower profile. They stand the mighty Invasor who if we'd had time, I might have been able to catch a glimpse of. Wendy also pointed out a white TB who lives on the farm right next to hers, who she's been watching since he was a little fellow. I think different-colored Thoroughbreds are really cool and would not mind having one myself. When I get around to blogging about my first fall visit to Lexington, I'll show you one that was really wild-looking and causing a sensation at the Keeneland Sale.

Wendy's two horses live in a really nice place. The barn is a common type for the area, i.e. a converted tobacco barn. I have been told these make great horse barns because of the excellent ventilation (they are by no means "air tight," having deliberate spaces between the boards to facilitate drying of tobacco leaves). Ollie and Toby get to spend most of their time out in a huge pasture with some friends:
As you can see, it was a simply gorgeous day. It must have rained fairly recently and made some mud somewhere, though, because dear Ollie had rolled thoroughly and was covered in dried muck. Naturally Toby the bay horse was spotless! Wendy and I walked about halfway down the fence line to the gate where the boys were waiting. She haltered Toby, clipped on his lead and I was allowed to bring him back up to the barn. He was quite a gentleman even though he was definitely eager to get to his grain!
You can see what a mess Ollie was - leave it to the grey/white horse.
 Here's what the guys eat:
I don't know what Ollie's main feed is but Toby gets Triple Crown Senior (pictured right). He hasn't eaten this for all that long but Wendy is very pleased with how he's doing on it. [As a side note, when I got back to the horse show I happened to walk by the Triple Crown booth, so I told them I'd just met a horse who liked their Senior feed very much. The lady offered to give me the open bag they had on display when the show ended! Unfortunately, I had no way to get it back to my car, but being fond of "giveaways" I was very tempted to try and get this to Wendy. Something to keep in mind next time you're at a trade show with exhibiting grain manufacturers.]

Ollie has been having a bit of trouble with choke (Wendy just had him checked by the vet and fortunately, he's fine, just greedy, so wetted-down food is in his future) so we watched them eat and then pulled Ollie out for a bit of grooming. We were able to get him looking pretty decent and less like a fake Pinto. :-) Wendy said we could take some photos to commemorate my visit, and first we got this with my trusty iPhone:
Then I was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of Wendy's photographic expertise. She shut the door at the far end of the barn and I stood with the horses at the open end with the sun shining full on us. This somehow creates a black background. These were the nifty result!

Thank you SOO much, Wendy, for this terrific experience - I can't wait to see the photos from your upcoming dressage show with Ollie!

[Off-Topic: I was applying stuff to my face this morning, when to my great amusement, I suddenly realized that my Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion smelled a whole lot like Lexol. This shouldn't surprise anyone; after all, both products are used for softening animal hide! ;-) Nevertheless, I would like to think my skin is slightly less tanned than your average saddle or bridle. I apply sunscreen religiously. I've already had one basal cell carcinoma removed and a bunch of biopsies done so I make every effort to be careful (even if my brothers are fond of calling me Casper on the beach). I do wonder why I've never noticed this similarity before... I think it's because my current bottle of DD is rather old, so the scent must be stronger. Anyway, I thought this was just hilarious and I will enjoy my facial routine all the more! Not sure if I should mention it to the nice lady at the Clinique counter, though, next time I go shopping?? :-)]

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