In a true show of the potential of the breed, Ashley describes what it was like to take a green Standardbred to a national horse expo.
In December of 2019, my friend Allie Stahl-Smith posted a picture of a bunch of horses in a kill pen in Pennsylvania. There were over 70 Standardbreds in the pen, and Allie needed help getting pictures and videos of the horses. There was a Standardbred in the center of the image with a big white star on his forehead. And my attention was captured, as he looked very much like my Standardbred, KG’s MattBest, who had been put down in October. So, I agreed to go into the pen to help Allie get pictures and videos for the Full Circle Program.
On December 11th, I went into the pen with Allie, I climbed up onto a gate to try to spot horses while Allie called numbers, and I caught the eye of a big horse with a big star, who was looking at me with the softest big brown eyes. But when I read his tag number, 5502, he wasn’t on the list. We climbed down into the pen and opened the gate so that we had more space to work in, and, as the gate opened and the horses rushed out, I noticed that a horse was standing next to me as if he were protecting me from the other horses. I looked up and it was tag number 5502. I led him out of the pen without a leadline and eventually the big, sweet horse wore me down, and I led him out to the trailer. He hopped on the trailer in the dark, and I sent him home with my friend Allie for quarantine.
I found out that the horse’s name was Nardi Jim Jim, which may actually be the worst race name of all time, and that he was a trotter who had retired from the track after some lackluster performances. After that time, it is likely that he was an Amish work horse. He officially turned 13 on January 1st and came home to my farm on January 11th, once he had completed his quarantine.
This past weekend, I was supposed to be taking my Standardbred, Artomatic Pilot, to the PA Horse World Expo, to represent the group Superior Standardbreds. We had a full slate of Standardbred demos and three clinics with Jennifer Woodruff, including a Standardbred clinic, a ranch clinic and a western dressage clinic. I was also looking forward to hanging out with ROC the Standardbred ambassadors for team orange and team burgundy, since Artie and I are also ROC the Standardbred ambassadors and represent team light pink. But on Thursday morning, when I went to pull Artie out of the field, he had a puncture wound on his left hind.
I contacted the Superior Standardbred organizers and the clinician and asked them if it would be okay if I brought my other Standardbred, Nardi Jim Jim, even though I had less than 20 rides on him under saddle. Both Jennifer and the organizers agreed to let me bring James, so I pulled him out of the field, cleaned him up, and hauled him in.
On Thursday, we had to do a ranch clinic and a demo. Due to the fact that I got to the Horse Expo late, because of the impromptu change in plans, I did not have time to take James into the ring before our ride. So his first ride ever in an indoor arena happened in front of a crowd at the Horse Expo. And he handled it like a champ. The whole weekend, he was calm, level-headed and acted like an old pro. Each day he got a bit better than the day before. And by Sunday, when we rode in the western dressage clinic, he was bending and trotting much better than he had at the start of our trip to the Horse Expo.
It was his first event and it was a wonderful learning opportunity for him. I can’t wait to get him out to a few clinics and shows this spring. And one of my main goals is to take him to a western dressage show in May.
Although initially I was disappointed that I could not take my more seasoned Standardbred to the Horse Expo to represent the breed, in the end, I think it was good to show the crowd that a super green Standardbred could handle the atmosphere and even thrive there. And I think it’s important to show that even Standardbreds, who have spent time working for the Amish, can potentially have successful riding careers.