Off to the Races: Meet Brandy & Fancy

“The spring in her hocks and flawless lead changes couldn’t compensate for her lack of speed; she always managed to cross the line in the middle of the pack. Shipped off to a farm and listed for sale, she was stalled waiting for the starting gun to fire on her new career.”

For 616 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, has begun! Over the next eight months, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Horse Nation readers. Today, meet blogger Brandy Stevenson. 

“And they’re off in the third at Delta Downs…With a half a mile to race it’s another three lengths to the trailer who is What’s My Doin…”

Never running better than sixth in two races, the little bay filly’s racing career was ended. The spring in her hocks and flawless lead changes couldn’t compensate for her lack of speed; she always managed to cross the line in the middle of the pack. Shipped off to a farm and listed for sale, she was stalled waiting for the starting gun to fire on her new career.

Photo courtesy of Brandy Stevenson.

Meanwhile in north Texas, I was just beginning my Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover journey. I was preparing my application for submission and making a wish list for the best prospect:
1) sound
2) short
3) good minded
4) no grey horses

I listed an ad on the RRP Facebook group. One hundred twenty-one comments later, I was feeling overwhelmed. There were so many off-trackers available. I checked and scrolled and searched every spare minute, determined to find my hidden gem. On a whim, I did a little nosing around and a reputable re-homer, Jade Favre, re-posted a mare she had available, begging someone to make her an offer as she needed to free up stall space. The next day I was in Louisiana to meet a Roman nosed filly who appeared to have a dull coat and a long back in her conformation photos. When I arrived at the farm there was a small blond hand grazing the most beautiful mahogany bay. I parked the truck and walked over to meet Jade and she introduced me to What’s My Doin.

Photo by Dorothy Hrncir.

Four days later I was the proud owner of a two-coming-three-year-old Thoroughbred filly. I started off with many preconceived notions. What’s My Doin has been slowly and gently re-educating me. She is a sensitive and sensible young horse. She has come with a toolbox of skills: trailering, bathing, shoeing, catching and saddling (western saddle with back cinch). Not rushing her re-training has been my biggest challenge to date. Most professionals advocate down time for horses right off of the track and I have accepted this good advice, but not before just one test ride.

I knew I was starting to push my luck, but I wanted to feel out my filly, so in the days to come as she reverted to a feral pasture horse I had some direction for our training. Besides I just really wanted to ride my new horse. I knew from the groundwork I had put her through that What’s My Doin was sticky in her ribcage, especially to the left, and had the propensity to rear, especially on a loose rein. Rearing was a result of sticky feet and, while she improved greatly, I knew she would be predisposed to the behavior under saddle.

Fancy showing her tendency to rear. Photo by Dorothy Hrncir.

With some nerves I climbed in the saddle. She sat there and eventually turned her head back to me as if to say, “Okay, now what?” In my mind I knew forward and straight would be our best bet. My young OTTB putzed around at walk and a trot just as happy as could be — on a loose rein no less! I tried for a little bend and — oh my. I found her sticky spot. She squealed like a colt and threw her shoulder to the right (we were turning left). Since she didn’t rear straight up I held the bend and when she came around gave her a big release. Now I was a little tight, back to straightness. As I relaxed and we got to know each other better we returned to the bending. Slowly, she improved little by little. With no rearing and a happy horse we called it a day.

Photo by Dorothy Hrncir.

What’s My Doin, affectionately known as Fancy, is enjoying let down time in the pasture. She has completely stolen the heart of the few people she’s met. Her soft eye, sweet nature and big personality have charmed cowboys and strangers alike. One of these people is my mom’s best friend, Gaila Rinke. Gaila, thinks my old Thoroughbred Briscoe is the anti-Crist, and with good reason. If you enjoy being bitten, kicked and perpetually humbled, then he is the horse for you.

Gaila has always been a great admirer of the Thoroughbred racehorse and entertained us endlessly on the 24-hour haul it took to get Fancy home. The next few days Gaila and What’s My Doin bonded over cookies and horse chores. Though she doesn’t know it yet, we chose to call her Fancy after a prize foal Gaila bred and raised in Alaska. The ability of this mare to connect with people is something I have never experienced with another horse. There are few animals that stir our passions like a Thoroughbred. They say you are lucky to ride one great horse in your life. While I can’t say if this filly is mine, there is something undoubtedly special about this mare.

Brandy Stevenson was raised 100 miles from nowhere in the rural community of Glacier View, Alaska. In her twenties, she traveled the country honing her colt starting skills and riding with top professionals. She now resides at her north Texas ranch where she trains a select number of horses and conducts horsemanship retreats throughout the country.