Thursday, January 26, 2012


All riding horses learn to cross-tie. No racehorses do, at least during their time at the track. At the racetrack, when horses are out of their stalls they are either being ridden or being led by someone with a shank. When racehorses are groomed, they are tied by a single rope to the stall wall and stand while the groom goes about their business.

Smarty arrived at Bel Canto having not been exposed to this simple method, used to make horses stand out in the open while the rider grooms and tacks up the horse. I assume that he had never really stood outside of his stall before while being groomed; being out in the barn aisle was something he needed to grow accustomed to.

I began the process shortly after Smarty arrived. I started by keeping him tied in his stall, just like what would be typical at the track. First, I clipped one tie to his halter and knotted it higher up in the stall, while leaving him tied to the stall wall. For a while, I groomed him like that, making sure he was fine with the rope flapping around near his head. I added another tie to the opposite side of his halter, all while leaving him tied in the stall. Smarty was perfectly fine to stand with both ties clipped to either side of his halter.

Then, I took him out of the stall and into the barn aisle.  I would tie him, then just stand there facing him. If he took a step forwards, I would ask him to move back and basically just encourage him to stand still in one place. The next day, I had a friend hold him while I went about grooming. Smarty did take a few steps forwards and move just a bit, but always straightened up when I asked him to. This continued twice more, with a friend holding the horse while I groomed. After I was sure Smarty was comfortable standing outside his stall, I just draped the lead rope over his neck while I worked around him. Smarty was perfect! After a few sessions like this, I felt comfortable unclipping the lead rope and just letting Smarty stand in the cross-ties.

The whole process took about a week, with no problems or delays at all. Smarty was wonderful throughout the whole procedure, as he has been with everything introduced to him so far. This is just a pretty simple and easy thing to teach a horse, but an essential thing to learn. Certainly not much of an accomplishment on my part, but it still feels good to have been part of Smarty’s training! Hopefully he will take the whole riding thing will go just as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In the days that followed

     Mad for Smarty has been a wonderful boy since first arriving to his new home two weeks ago. His temperament and disposition remain fantastic. Within a few days, Smarty had already proven himself to be one of the most even-tempered, well-mannered and lovable horses in the barn. So far, everything that he has been introduced to has been taken in stride without any fireworks or him getting in the least bit worked up. I haven’t seen him shy or spook away from anything yet. Smarty is doing a lot to de-bunk the crazy ex-racehorse myths.

Mad for Smarty and a few of my friends: Emily, Kara and Katie
     Many of my friends and family members have watched me pine for a horse for years. They realize how monumental it is for me to finally have one, and recognize the importance that it has on my life. So, Smarty has had a few visitors over the last week. Everyone has loved him so far, and Smarty has behaved beautifully.

     The biggest obstacle that we have faced so far is Smarty’s feet. He arrived barefoot behind with just shoes on his front feet. Soon after getting to Texas, one of his aluminum shoes bent. The farrier removed both front shoes last week, and Smarty has been a bit footsore since then. I’ve been painting his feet with iodine and the farrier came back and applied Sole Guard to his front feet. Hopefully his feet toughen soon; he is still footsore at the moment. Of course, him having four white hooves doesn’t really help matters.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Arrival

My first glimpse of Mad for Smarty as he is unloaded from the van

     Mad for Smarty arrived at Bel Canto Farms in Wimberley, Texas on the afternoon of January 7, 2012,  just three weeks after I was first notified of the possibility of owning him. The trip down from Kentucky is a long one, Mad for Smarty was en route for 25 hours. He arrived to an entourage - about 15 people saw him arrive, from my trainer and family to fellow riders. Mad for Smarty showed up in style, riding in the most impressive 18-wheeler horse van you've ever seen. The horse was unloaded, and I took the lead rope quietly, unable to speak. That's when I started crying. It was probably the most emotional thing I've ever gone though. I'm not an emotional person for the most part, and have never been so happy that tears were rolling down my face. But I certainly couldn't control it! Having him handed to me was so incredible... it was as if every moment in my life for the last 8 years had been building to this. I can't really describe how it felt to finally get my own horse. I walked him for a good half hour before putting him away in the barn. Smarty was wonderful the entire time; it was a great start to our relationship
Holding my horse for the first time

     Mad for Smarty was in wonderful condition. He was still very fit, and actually much more muscular and conditioned than I thought he would be, considering he has been off the track since September.

     His manners are incredible. Really, really fantastic for a young OTTB. Everyone in my barn was thrilled with how well he behaved throughout the day. There were no fireworks when he got off the van, he never spooked at anything, he wasn't overly mouthy or nippy, he didn't try to bit or kick or play and was minding my space very well, even going in his stall. Again, more evidence of what a classy operation Three Chimneys is!

    Again, I am so, so grateful to everyone at Three Chimneys. I really can't stress that enough; everyone there was so helpful in getting this horse to me. This whole experience has been fantastic, and it has just begun. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Story

     Welcome to my blog! will follow the escapades of myself, Madison, and my newly acquired off-the-track Thoroughbred, Mad for Smarty (2007 gelding, Smarty Jones x Santaria by Star de Naskra). I've been riding for close to six years as a hunter/jumper, and Mad for Smarty is my first horse. There is a quiet story behind our coming together; I'll start at the very beginning.

     On June 5, 2004, having just reached my 10th birthday, I watched the 2004 Belmont Stakes. Undefeated, famed Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones was making his run at history, attempting to become the first horse in 25 years to claim racing’s biggest prize, the Triple Crown. He came heartbreakingly close.

     The 2004 Belmont was the first race I ever viewed. I fell head over heels for the chestnut colt, and became a fan of horse racing for life.

     From then on, I devoured all the knowledge I could about Smarty Jones and the Sport of Kings, catching every racing telecasts and dissecting each newspaper article I came across. In August 2004, Smarty was retired, and I began sending fan mail.

     I wrote dozens of letters to Three Chimneys Farm, Smarty’s new home, drew pictures, composed songs and emails, and sent them all to Smarty. By the time his 2-year-olds hit the track for the first time in the summer of 2008, I started sending weekly updates about his foals running across the globe. Impressed by the amount of knowledge a 14-year-old teenage girl from Texas had about racing, the people at Three Chimneys contacted Patricia Chapman, Smarty’s owner, in regards to me.

     Chapman and I began corresponding on a regular basis. In March, Three Chimneys and Chapman invited me on a trip to meet Smarty and his owner. And in July of 2009, I met Smarty and spent the best week of my life on a VIP trip through the Bluegrass, exploring Kentucky’s Thoroughbred breeding industry with some of the top people in the business. And that's were Mad for Smarty came into the picture.

     During my time at Three Chimneys, owner Robert Clay mentioned that he had a Smarty Jones 2yo who needed to be named. Wanting to honor Smarty's many fans but also tie the name to myself, my mom suggested calling the 2007 Smarty Jones x Santaria colt Mad for Smarty. The name connected myself to the horse (Mad for Madison) but also was a great way to think of all of Smarty Jones' many fans who truly were mad for him. Mr. Clay liked the name and submitted it to the Jockey Club. Within a few days, Mad for Smarty had officially been given his name. My trip to Kentucky was a dream come true, helping to name a Smarty Jones foal was just icing on the cake.

     I follow all of the offspring of Smarty Jones closely, watching replays and keeping notes on each one. Even without the ties I had to Mad for Smarty, I would have still watched his racing career. But I tracked him more intensely than the other Smarty Jones offspring, saving workout notifications and recording his races. He was certainly a decent racehorse - earning his keep at the track, and running in a few stakes and graded stakes races. In September of 2011, Mad for Smarty was retired from racing due to a slight tear in a ligament and taken back to his birthplace, Three Chimneys Farm.

     It wasn't until mid-December that my mom received a phone call from the farm. Mad for Smarty was retired from the track and gelded, ready to begin a new phase of his life as a riding horse. The wonderful people at Three Chimneys were kind enough to think of me in finding a new home for Mad for Smarty. Of course, we accepted. I had been waiting most of my life to have a horse of my own, and never imagined that I would become a horse owner so soon. And not just the owner of any horse, but Mad for Smarty! For several years now, it had been a dream of mine to one day take one of Smarty Jones' foals off the track and transition them into a riding horse of my own. I'm forever grateful to Three Chimneys for making this become realized so early in my life, and for taking such fantastic care of their horses once they leave their racing careers.

     There is so much more to come! I have a multitude of family and friends that would love to follow me, this horse and our growth throughout the retraining process. That is what inspired me to start this blog. Plus, things like this don't happen to everyone, and life-long aspirations aren't typically realized so early in life. I want to record every detail of out time together for myself, too. I am truly blessed!