You’re going to use that thoroughbred for what?

Each week a different expert ranks three OTTBs in terms of their suitability for a specific discipline. This week features RRTP Makeover trainer Nikki Egyed evaluating for barrel racing.

This Week’s Evaluator: 2013 RRTP Makeover trainer Nikki Egyed of Silver Shadow Training in Paso Robles, California. Nikki is also the California State Director for the newly formed Thoroughbred Barrel Racing Association.

This Weeks’ Thoroughbred Placement Organization: Rocky Mountain RACER in Colorado

Chosen Discipline: Barrel racing/gymkhana

Favorite Thoroughbreds: Fly So Free, Damascus, Animal Kingdom, Native Dancer, Storm Cat, Secretariat and of course all of the handsome boys in my barn!

Horse #1: Lark's Twist

Horse #1: Lark’s Twist

Horse #1: Lark’s Twist

  • Foaled in Colorado on April 29, 2007
  • 16.1 dark bay or brown thoroughbred gelding
  • By Oliver’s Twist and out of Favorite Lark by Lark Rise III
  • 2 Starts: No placings and earned $122.Last raced on June 25, 2011.
Horse #2: Riggan

Horse #2: Riggan

Horse #2: Riggan

  • Foaled in Florida on March 19, 2008
  • 15.3 bay thoroughbred gelding
  • By Repent and out of Evita Villa by Forest Wildcat
  • 39 Starts: 5 firsts, 7 seconds and 3 thirds with earnings of $46,757.Last raced on October 26, 2013.
Horse #3: Demand Success

Horse #3: Demand Success

Horse #3: Demand Success

  • Foaled in California on January 15, 2008
  • 16.2 Bay Thoroughbred Gelding
  • By High Demand and out of Excessful by In Excess (IRE)
  • 2 Starts: No placings and earned $700.Last raced on December 15, 2012.

How I ranked them: 1-2-3

Criteria: I’ve been told that I have a risky–or even reckless–way of selecting horses. I grew up buying horses from the kill pens back in Indiana, and back then the tools Facebook and Equibase offer us these days weren’t readily available. You seldom knew how a horse was bred, its racing or training history, and oftentimes if it was even started under saddle! So, you did things the old-fashioned way. You went over conformation, ran your hands over the back, legs, etc., watched movement, and went off feeling and instinct. (Thank goodness for Horse Judging in FFA to guide my conformation evaluations!) It became my way of doing things, and I still always look to conformation above breeding and prior training. Now, when evaluating based on pictures, I obviously don’t get to touch or move the horse, but conformation certainly helps me draw a mental picture (or movie rather!) All that said though, I do often get lost for hours at a time on Equibase pouring over bloodlines and connecting that dots between our horses or horses I’ve trained, doing my best to pinpoint any consistencies in trainability, conformation and athleticism.

Nikki turning a barrel on her OTTB, Cayman.

Nikki turning a barrel on her OTTB, Cayman

When people think of barrel horses, generally the first thing that comes to mind is FAST! Granted, that’s a helpful trait, but I would say we need them to be more efficient. A somewhat “average” speed horse that can sit down and whip through a turn would beat the pants off a a horse twice as fast that needs a 10-foot pocket (lingo for entrance and exit/radius turn). That’s really where a good body comes in. There are plenty of horses out there that have the heart that overcomes the body, but when we’re talking pictures, build is where to start!

The very first thing I’m drawn to when looking at horses is HIP! Most of the work we do really relies on a big, powerful engine that can also serve as a clutch and brakes. A big, well-set hip can really determine how a horse handles every stage of running barrels: forward fast, rate (the several gears from simple canter to “final stretch of the Kentucky Derby,” then back to canter… and everything in between!), often taking off from a dead stop, rollbacks, and of course stopping. A horse that works mostly off the shoulder has a little harder time slowing down/rating back, tends to struggle through the turns, and can often start dropping the shoulder on a barrel. To go with a nice hip, I like a shorter back, which also helps with efficient turns, and short cannon bones for a lower center of gravity.

As I rated them:


First Place:  Lark’s Twist

The sire of Lark's Twist, Oliver's Twist, a noted sporthorse sire as well.

The sire of Lark’s Twist, Oliver’s Twist, is a noted sporthorse sire as well

When I lined up these three geldings, Lark’s Twist jumped out to me immediately. Besides the fact that he is just incredibly nice to look at, he’s the best overall “package.” He has a very balanced topline, with a well matched hip and shoulder. I know many people prefer an uphill topline, but I tend to like the very even topline on my barrel horses. I find that after dropping their hip and coming through a turn, upon coming back up, the uphill horses have a little harder time balancing back out without being a little too light on the font end, losing traction. I also like where his neck ties into his breast, and the set to his shoulders which looks as though it allows a lot of free movement. His short back will help make him a bit more efficient through tight turns, saving him a stride, and time, here and there. Lark’s Twist is pushing my usual height limit, but everything else makes up for it. I’ve found that even the most hulking horses can whip around a barrel or pole if they a) have the right physical attributes or b) just want too! As far as his breeding is concerned, I like Larkspur, Nasrullah, and of course Bold Ruler is always nice to see!


Second Place: Riggan

This guy had something very familiar in his eye, and after looking over his bloodlines, I could see why. His damsire is Forest Wildcat, by Storm Cat, who sired my Symphonic Cat. With that said, it sure made it harder to place him second! When I was asking around before I got Cat, I found there to be a bit of a negative stigma around the Storm Cat kids, but in typical ‘me’ fashion, I took Cat anyway, simply based off a conformation picture and a short video. As usual (a little proud to say), I was spot on! But anyway, back to Riggan. Pedigree-wise, he has a handful of my favorites, including Storm Cat, Nasrullah, Native Dancer, Secretariat x2, and Bold Ruler.

Nikki's Retired Racehorse Training Project Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Symphonic Cat-by Forest Wildcat

Nikki’s Retired Racehorse Training Project Thoroughbred Makeover horse, Symphonic Cat by Forest Wildcat

Broodmare sire of Riggan, Forest Wildcat

Broodmare sire of Riggan, Forest Wildcat

I’m drawn to the fact that he raced heavily (39 times). Granted, those horses tend to require a bit more maintenance, but I also find them to be the easiest to re-train. Racing is certainly more ingrained in them than a 3-year-old with a couple failed starts, but those are the horses that seem to be more welcoming of a change. Think of it almost like, if I dare say, a midlife crisis. They’re ready to shake things up! However, I do find it concerning that he’s only 5 with that many starts. Looking over his history, I see he was pulled up in his first race, something I think could use some investigating.

Overall, I think he’s put together pretty decent. I like his height (15.3hh), but he’s a little too long through his topline. His legs are a bit fine, and though it could be the picture angle, he looks a little over at the knee, so I’d be a concerned about how well he’d hold up to the stress of hard turning. He is very classy and has the look of a hunter in my opinion. He is certainly ready for something more becoming than low level claiming!


Third Place: Demand Success

Demand Success trying out a new second career as a dog walker.

Demand Success trying out a new second career as a dog walker

I certainly have to start with how much I like that name! This is a really attractive horse, but quite far from everything I would look for in a barrel horse. Before I go into pointing out what I don’t like, I will say what I do. I really see this horse blossoming when he goes into full training. He’s got a nice frame with the potential to hold a lot of muscle. His height would make turning a little more challenging, and that added to his long back would make him a bit awkward in tight spaces. I think this handsome boy would be much better suited in a discipline that would better accommodate what I can only assume would be big movement!

RetiredRacehorseTrainingProjectIf you think an off-track thoroughbred might be right for you, no matter what the discipline, find out more information on what to look for, how to purchase and get re-training tips at

RACERLocated near Arapahoe Park in Colorado, Rocky Mountain RACER connects off the track horses of all racing breeds to new owners.  Arapahoe Park hosts Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Paint, Arab and Appaloosa racing and Rocky Mountain RACER helps connect these horses with second careers.  More information can be found via their Facebook page.

About the Evaluator:


I grew up on a small rescue farm in Indiana, buying, training, and often showing the oddball horses that we pulled out of the kill pens here and there. My earliest thoroughbred experience was being toted around double on my Moms MASSIVE thoroughbred stallion, Gilly’s Gold. As a child, that was the norm, and it wasn’t until more recent years that I realized it was the start of something more.

I mostly rode Arabians through high school, and though my heart belongs to my thoroughbreds, I still LOVE working with Arabs and currently have three mares. Later in high school I began showing a gorgeous grey OTTB mare that we bought at auction for $700. She was the first horse I took hunter/jumper lessons on, and she turned out to be a great all-around horse. I mostly did 4H with her, showing hunters in the morning, halter in the afternoon, and barrel racing by night!


After high school I moved to St. Louis, MO, and adopted two geldings from the ILHBPA at Fairmount Racepark: Classacts Zeal and Flying Cayman. One of my students from the barn I was instructing at the time purchased Zeal, and when we decided to move to California, we brought Cayman with us. (Best decision my boyfriend Jake ever made!) It has been a whirlwind ever since. Not only did he come into my life when I needed him more than he’ll ever know, I was able to build my entire business, Silver Shadow Training, and career around Cayman. As lesson horse number one, he helped me get my private lesson and training business get off the ground, and has taken me through the levels of everything from CGA (CA Gymkhana Assoc.) to local hunter/jumper shows and, of course, barrel racing. Even more importantly, he serves as a mascot for the versatility of OTTBs in an area that is dominated by Quarter Horses, and hate to say, narrow-minded riders. After all he’s given me, the best I can do is devote myself to promoting these phenomenal horses in his honor. He inspired me to apply for the RRTP Makeover & Symposium, an experience that has motivated me more than ever to help prove these horses as successful western performance horses. We have some fantastic OTTB geldings in the barn right now, and are very much looking forward to another successful year of competing, traveling, and changing as many minds as we can along the way!

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