Friday, March 30, 2012

First ride

On Tuesday I rode Mad for Smarty for the first time! He was pretty awesome. All we did was a bit of walking under saddle in the round pen. Smarty stood at the mounting block nicely and didn't try to wall off the instant I sat down. My instructor had Smarty on a lead rope to walk off with him once I mounted and walked with us for a few minutes before unhooking me. My mom and grandmother were there to watch our first ride together (and take photos). He was completely calm and chill throughout the ride with no problems at all. Smarty was walking forward nicely, bending around the circle and responding to my aids.

I rode with a very loose and didn't use much contact at any point in the ride. As he progresses I'll use my reins more actively and plan to work him in side reins down the line. I didn't put much leg pressure on his sides either for the first ride, and will slowly ease him into understanding more traditional leg and rein commands.

Smarty has a pretty good headset all things considered. Right now it is a bit too low, whereas most ex-racehorses have their heads too high. Of course I've just walked him, we'll see if his headset stays nice and low once I ask for faster gates.

Time to develop a top line!

Friday, March 23, 2012


I talked to Three Chimneys’ vet, Dr. Morehead, earlier in the week and he suggested that I start bringing Smarty back to work, as it has been 6 months since his injury. I have been hand walking Smarty daily, and he recommended starting to walk him under saddle for a week before slowly incorporating the trot and working my way up from there. I’ll continue to check Smarty’s ligament for any heat or swelling through the process to make sure that he is good to go. Dr. Morehead thought it would be about 2 months before the horse is fit.

On Wednesday, I began working with Smarty on a longe line at the walk, all tacked up. I believe that he’s been longed before, as he sort of knows what’s being asked of him. We worked in a round pen, first tracking left. He did fairly well, despite falling in and bulging out just a bit. By the second day of walking on the line he was doing even better and moving forward nicely. Tracking right was a different story. He was having some issues on Wednesday and didn’t improve on Thursday; Smarty continually stopped and turned around. So we’re taking it a bit more slowly working to the right as I train him to go both directions.

So far he’s been great! No fireworks, bolting or over-excitement. At the walk, Smarty has a wonderful headset, relaxed and low. For the moment at least, there is none of the stereotypical racehorse tense-neck-head-in-the-air going on. I'll keep y'all updated on his progress!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Carrot stretches

I’ve begun doing a few “carrot stretches” with Mad for Smarty when I go out the barn. Essentially, it is a bit of yoga for my horse. You take a treat and hold it, say, towards his left flank. The horse then has to stretch their neck and work on bending to get the treat. There are several different positions I’ve been doing – left side, right side, in between the front legs – all to get Smarty stretched out and thinking about bending his body. At first when I held the treat to one of his sides he would try to spin in circles to get it. I wouldn’t give it to him those times, but instead would keep asking him to really make an effort to bend his neck and flex to the left. After a couple tires he understood what I was asking and would stand in place and only move his head and neck. I would give Smarty the treat while his head was still in the correct position or the stretch. That way, he’ll eventually learn to hold his position for longer intervals of time.

At first, Smarty was having issues flexing to his right. This was expected coming from the track, and I had already assumed that left would be his easier direction. He kept spinning in circles in an attempt to get the treat held to his right side rather than giving in a bending. Smarty was also less flexible to the right side; he wasn’t able to stretch as far to get the treat. But by the second day he was already improving and had a better idea of what I was asking of him.

The point of this exercise is to get Smarty thinking about bending and to build up a little strength and flexibility. When I begin working with him, Smarty won’t stretch down for the bit or bend but will try to carry his head too high and tense. These simple exercises will hopefully help him learn to relax and flex . Plus, it gives me another thing to do with him until I can begin work.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Race Record

As a huge racing fan myself, I think it's awesome having a horse with a history that is easy to research and track down. Of course, as I already followed all of Smarty Jones' foals at the time Mad for Smarty was running, I was able to experience his career as it was going on. For all of you that weren't quite as in-tune to what my horse has been doing for the past few years of his life, here is a bit of insight into his first career.

Mad for Smarty enjoyed a decent career as a racehorse before retiring from the track and sent to Bel Canto. His racing career spanned 19 months and covered six different tracks in his 19 lifetime starts. Mad for Smarty was trained by racing legend and Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkins and raced for Robert Clay of Three Chimneys Farm as a homebred. He retired with a record of 19 starts, 3 wins, a second and 4 thirds with lifetime earnings of $115,619 (anything over $100k in earnings is considered pretty good for a horse).

Mad for Smarty chillin' at Allen Jerkins barn in Florida. Photo by Kevin  Kraynak (Racing Heart Photography)
The colt debuted as a three year old in 2009, making his first start at Gulfstream Park in February in a Maiden Special Weight.  Coincidentally, he was up against another Smarty Jones foal making his debut, Farmer Jones. Mad for Smarty finished eight after running well off the pace and making up some ground in the stretch. According to Jerkins, the colt came out of the race with “a shin bothering him.” He was given several months off before making his second start in June at Belmont Park, with much more favorable results. He sat just off the pace before taking the lead on the turn and fought hard to the wire to get the win by a neck in the 6 furlong race over a muddy track.

The horse came back after exactly one month, making an appearance in an allowance at Belmont. He was a distant third in his first start against winners.  Just a few weeks later, Mad for Smarty ran at the prestigious Saratoga Race Course in New York, again placing third in an allowance. He followed this effort with two consecutive races at the same level at Saratoga, finishing out of the money both times.

Back to Belmont Park in September for his seventh start, Mad for Smarty was again victorious. Over a track labeled “heavy,” the colt was kept under a firm hold before angling out for the stretch run and taking the lead with an eighth of a mile to go, gradually edging away to a length-and-a-quarter win.  This race, which had been taken off of the turf due to the wet conditions, was an Allowance Optional Claiming race, in which some of the horses are available for purchase prior to the race for a set price. Mad for Smarty was not available for purchase; he was not in for a tag.

After three dull efforts in New York (two at Belmont in AOCs and another in an Aqueduct stakes race) Mad for Smarty was again shipped south to winter in Florida. In his first start at Calder Race Course on December 30, 2010, he was a winner in the best race of his career, on paper at least. Breaking from the rail, Mad for Smarty sat in third off a slow pace, conceding two lengths to the leader. He received a perfect trip in the AOC, and angled out three wide coming for home to make his bid. The colt passed the leader with little effort and went on to draw away in deep stretch to win by 6 ½ lengths under jockey Jose Lezcano. He earned a 91 Beyer speed figure for the race, the best of his career.

Smarty’s form tailed off after this race and he did not win again. The colt raced next in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Challege – a grade 2 – and finished fifth behind the likes of Tackleberry and Soaring Empire. He then faced another stakes field in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in March of 2011 and actually butted heads against eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer. Mad for Smarty was shipped back up to New York for the remainder of his racing career and ran in two AOCs, in for tag in both races, where he earned a fourth and third before finishing off the board in a claiming race at Belmont. In August, Smarty finished second in a race at Saratoga before making a two closing appearances at Belmont. In the final race of his career in September of 2011, Mad for Smarty was third in a high-price claiming race… and that’s where I come into the picture. Y’all know the story from there!

Mad for Smarty's past performances: 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chronicle of the Horse article

This past week an article about Smarty and I was published in the Chronicle of the Horse magazine. Having my story printed in such a well known publication is certainly an honor! Ms. Mollie Bailey did a fantastic job with both the interview and the story; I am thrilled with how well it turned out. The link below is an extended version of the piece that was actually printed in the magazine, which appeared under the "Finish Line" column. I would like to thank Ms. Bailey again for spending the time to write a quality article and for taking an interest in my story.

Here it is!
A Passion For Smarty Jones Leads To A Fairytale Ending For Madison Scott