Each week a different expert ranks three OTTBs in terms of their suitability for a specific discipline. This week features barrel racer, rodeo competitor and OTTB enthusiast Jackie Harris.
This Week’s Evaluator: A longtime barrel racing and rodeo competitor, Jackie Harris is a fairly recent convert to the OTTB world. As founder and President of the non-profit Dreaming of Three, an organization of equestrians throughout the United States that raises funds for a variety of concerns through their passion of horses, she founded the “Ultimate X Showdown” barrel racing competition for off-track Thoroughbreds in 2013. After watching the heart, determination and trainability of the horses in the competition, she was hooked and she now has her own OTTB in barrel training, Pookie’s Princess. Pookie also happens to be the star of an online video series chronicling her journey from the racetrack to the barrel arena, The X Project.
Favorite Thoroughbreds: Jackie says, “My favorite TB is Seabiscuit. As he was small and an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many during the Great Depression. I just love his story! And of course Pookie, as she is my first but probably not my last OTTB that I’ll own.”
This Week’s Thoroughbred Placement Organization: After the Races
Chosen Discipline: Barrel Racing
This Week’s Horses:
Horse #1: JayETeeEss (Jets)
Foaled in Florida on March 6, 2008
15.3 hand Chestnut Thoroughbred gelding
Pomeroy x It’s True Blue by Yes It’s True
10 starts, 1 first, 0 seconds, 1 third for earnings of $21,520
Horse #2: Platinum Sandy
Foaled in Kentucky on May 1, 2009
16.1 hand Chestnut Thoroughbred gelding
Limehouse x Shirley Booth by Dehere
14 starts, 4 first, 3 seconds, 3 third for earnings of $80,580
Horse #3: Sting Boy
Foaled in Florida on April 3, 2006
16.2 hand Bay Thoroughbred gelding
Scorpion x Su Fama by Stack
31 starts, 10 first, 2 seconds, 2 third for earnings of $126,079
First, I’d like to say that I am not a trainer. I am, however, the Producer of the Ultimate X Showdown barrel race, which is an off the track Thoroughbred trainer challenge. To hold a barrel race that gives horses a second chance was my ultimate dream! All of my horses that I own, besides my OTTB, were chosen because of my ability to get a long with them while competing. This is true for most of them accept my current mare, Sis, who became mine my default after a horse I had purchased passed away. She was given to me as a replacement and has become my #1 Horse of all time that I have ever owned, running in the First division and earning a lot of checks that ultimately lead to me starting Dreaming of Three after my step father and father passed away three months apart. So typically, when choosing a barrel horse, I would buy one that was finished and one that I got a long with on the pattern.
When I started to look for my own OTTB and scanning the trainer listings, the first thing I looked at was the height. I didn’t want something too tall, nor too short. I wanted something around 15.1-15.3, as to me this is the perfect height for running barrels. Although many different sizes horses do excel at barrels, this is my preferred height. If they are too small, I have always had a tough time staying with the quicker smaller horses. And those that are too tall, I am just not comfortable riding, plus it’s tough to get on those tall horses! With the Ultimate X Showdown, we are focusing on this height range as well. Many times, these are the horses that tend to fall through the cracks with polo ponies and hunter jumper/dressage horses. These “middle of the road” horses in height often have a hard time getting placed, so of course this is where my focus was in selecting my own so that I could “practice what I am preaching” with the event.
The next thing I tend to look at is the overall build of a horse. I like a nice big, well set hip. I feel this is important for all the stages of a barrel race: stopping, rollbacks, and taking off. A nice shoulder is also important and I prefer a shorter back. I also watched the videos of each horse. A horse that seemed to be more “catty” and quick moving and light on their feet was more appealing to me. Although, some already had that “Quarter Horse”/bigger build, if they were only 4, I figured their body would grow and perhaps just be too large and thick and heavy on their feet to get down, turn and fire out of the barrels.
Although, pretty doesn’t win barrel races, I do like a horse that is easy on the eyes as well. When I selected my OTTB, Pookie, she was going to be my “Poster Child” for the Ultimate X Showdown and also be the star of the online video series documenting her progress and how to take a horse from the track and into barrel racing training, The X Project with Patrick King…so it was awfully nice that she was pretty as well as capable!
Also, with Pookie, in watching her race videos, I could see that out of the gate she was quick, and kept up with the pack, and always seemed to finish in the middle. I think looking for those horses with a quick burst of speed on the track is also key when selecting a horse for barrel racing. They may not have done well on the track because their speed was in the beginning and did not last through to the end. But for barrel horses, it’s a 17 second or less run, so that quick burst of speed is perfect. And to close, I am new to the Thoroughbred world, so I made a point to seek out help from those knowledgeable with the bloodlines of horses that were quicker out of the gates and short distances. Building upon the experience of others is key to success in any endeavor with horses.
How I Placed Them: 1-2-3
Third Place: Sting Boy
Sting Man’s racing videos were impressive–he ran more than any of the others and won more too, and to me that indicates a lot of heart and try. Although he does have a nice build and seems to carry himself well in his videos, I felt he is a little heavy on his feet and heavy in general for a barrel racing prospect. I like a barrel horse light on their feet. And for me, he is a little too tall for my comfort.
Second Place: Platinum Sandy
It was hard to place this horse second and he mainly got knocked down due to his taller height (16.1 hands). I love the look of “Sandor” and his over build. He is nicely compact and muscled well. His neck is put on well and he has a low hock which I like. His race videos showed he certainly had the speed and he has probably the best pedigree of the group.
His sire, Limehouse, was a very fast horse that won several graded stakes and over $1 million and his broodmare sire, Dehere, is one of the top broodmare sires in the nation. That all said, if I still try to avoid using the mounting block if I can so I placed him second!
First Place: JayETeeEss (Jets)
Right away, I liked his smaller, compact build. Some people might be wary of the splint, but I am not. A splint is easily overcome and quite a few performance horses will get one at some point in their life. I appreciate their honesty in telling us what to expect.
Overall, Jets is very well built and put together in a way that says “athlete” to me. His pedigree is fully of classy sprinters — his sire Pomeroy won several Grade 1 sprints and his dam is by Yes It’s True, a horse that was also a multiple grade 1 winner running short. It doesn’t hurt matters that he is very easy on the eyes either!
If 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 retiredracehorsetraining.org
After the Races is a 501(c)3 Thoroughbred rehabilitation center located in Nottingham, Pennsylvania that takes in retiring Thoroughbreds after they are finished racing at Philadelphia Park. All horses are vetted and evaluated prior to arrival to our farm so that we can then put together a rehabilitation plan that fits each individual horse’s needs. As the horse is rehabilitated, we spend time evaluating the horse’s temperament and physical capabilities. With the individual in mind, we then seek to match these wonderful horses to new homes.
About Our Evaluator:
Jackie Harris is the founder and President of a non profit, 501c3 organization, Dreaming of Three and the Producer of the Ultimate X Showdown, an off the track Thoroughbred trainer challenge. Dreaming of Three is a organization of equestrians who raise funds for American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, St. Jude Children’s Hospital as well as many animal rescues throughout the United States through their passion of horses. Dreaming of Three also has a program called Rodeo Kids, where they take children fighting life threatening diseases to rodeos for a night out without worry with their family.
The Ultimate X Showdown was born because of the need to find homes for those horses falling through the cracks of polo ponies or hunter/jumper/dressage.The horses at that are 15.0-16.0 hands are the perfect size for western gaming disciplines such as barrel racing.With this event highlighting the versatility of the OTTB in a western discipline, they hope to gain the attention of many barrel racers across the nation so that perhaps their next prospect will be an OTTB.
Jackie has also teamed up with Natural Horseman, Patrick King, to bring to the public The X Project. The X Project is an online video series following Jackie’s own OTTB, Pookie, through foundation training and into barrel racing training. This series was conceived in the hopes of making more horse owners or potential horse owners more comfortable with the OTTB and giving them the tools needed once they bring one into their barn. They hope that by showing Pookie’s gentle temperament and trainability, it will help to diminish the typical stereotype of off the track Thoroughbreds. The X Project is being produced by Dreaming of Three, so donations to help with this effort are tax deductible. You can learn more here.