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Stories of Standardbreds, Part VII: Gypsy

Elee has developed a passion for Standardbreds, starting with her rescue mare, Gypsy.

Elee Ecklund has been riding since before she was born. Her mother, Christina, rode when she was pregnant and Elee trail rode until she was three. At three, while attending her sister’s riding lesson, she asked, “When’s my turn?”

Photo courtesy of Elee Ecklund.

Elee continued her riding lessons, learned as much about horses as she could and, as she got older, she started to think about getting herself a project horse. She volunteered at Begin Again Horse Rescue (BAHR) in Lima, NY, and logged over 130 volunteer hours at BAHR in the summer of 2017.

Toward the end of the summer, a grey Standardbred mare was returned to the rescue. The mare was a challenge. She was cautious and strong-willed, but that only made Elee more determined to attempt to forge a bond with her. With her mother’s permission, Elee agreed to foster Gypsy and took her home to the family farm. 

Gypsy is an unregistered Standardbred who was born and raised in Quebec, Canada. Before ending up at BAHR (the first time), Gypsy had been run through two kill pens. And when she initially arrived at the rescue, she was a 1.5 on the Henneke scale. After being adopted out, Gypsy returned to the rescue due to behavioral problems.

When Elee and Christina got Gypsy home, they treated her for ulcers and, due to the fact that Gypsy had had major issues with shoeing in the past, they kept her barefoot and had the rescue’s farrier, Jessy Howe, trim her feet. 

Photo courtesy of Elee Ecklund.

Once Gypsy was feeling better, Elee started working on her ground manners and on getting the mare to trust her on the ground. Elee would walk Gypsy along on trails to get her exposed to new things and then, as Elee started to ride Gypsy, her mother, Christina, would walk along with her on trail rides. They took things slowly with Gypsy and let her start to trust Elee and to form a bond with her. 

After getting comfortable with both walk and trot, Elee decided that she wanted to take lessons on Gypsy. She walked Gypsy next door to a trainer named Mark Frohm. With Mark’s help Gypsy learned to canter and even started to jump. Gypsy earned the show name Mark’s Favorite as a nod to the instructor who helped to bring her along. 

Photo courtesy of Elee Ecklund.

In August 2018, Elee’s parents surprised her by adopting Gypsy. Initially Elee had planned to make Gypsy into a hunter horse, but Gypsy had other ideas and is a jumper at heart. So, Elee has changed gears and she and Gypsy have been showing on the jumper circuit. 

Photo courtesy of Elee Ecklund.

Since meeting Gypsy and making her part of the family, Elee has become passionate about advocating for Standardbred horses. Elee didn’t know anything about Standardbreds before volunteering for BAHR, but she wishes that more people would consider them as show horses. Elee describes Gypsy as versatile and willing, and says that she turns heads everywhere she goes. 

Photo courtesy of Elee Ecklund.

In 2019 Elee applied to be a ROC the Standardbred Breed Ambassador. She and Gypsy are now Team Burgundy 2019 Breed Ambassadors. Elee promotes Standardbreds at shows, events and in the horse community. Elee is excited to be an ambassador for the Standardbred. She continues to be impressed with their intelligence and with their work ethic. Elee hopes to continue to promote Standardbreds in the future and to continue to compete with her partner, Gypsy. 

Photo by Carrie Eigbret.

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