I originally created this blog to write about my experiences with horse ownership and retraining my OTTB Nigel, but I thought I would do something a little different today. My love of Thoroughbred’s (particularly OTTB’s) goes back to my first horse as a teenager. When I was 14yrs old I had a grey OTTB called Brigadier, who at the time was 10yrs old. Brig was formally known as Barney Mains (Aus) and had a racing career of only 7 starts, with one of those winning the Taree Cup. When my Mum and Aunty told me they were getting me a horse, I remember desperately wanting a pretty bay horse. But the universe had a different plan. So here I was, with a dapple grey OTTB that I never got to see or ride before purchasing.. Little did I realise, that he would have a place in my heart for the rest of my life.
Competing Brig in 2001.
I guess the reason why I fell in love with OTTB’s was because Brig was the perfect horse. Ok, he had a bit of attitude (he ALWAYS had his ears pinned back) but so did I back in the day! I competed in my first dressage competition with Brig and scored a cool 4th place. I remember being upset that the judges wrote comments about him coming above the bit, but now I wish I just enjoyed the moment and took the feedback a little more seriously (in my defence, I was a teenager!). We had so many awesome AND challenging rides together, not forgetting to mention the time he stomped on my toe and broke it – And yes I did not take my boot off for the rest of the day in fear my foot would swell and I wouldn’t be able to ride!
Our first Dressage comp – 4th Place.
I think the moment I realised I had the perfect horse was the day we were floating Brig and another horse home from a comp. The other horse in the float had collapsed and was laying directly under the dividing barrier and under Brig. I had never experienced anything like this.. And it was scary! As I watched my Aunty cutting the lead rope off the other horse, all I could think about was how the hell we were going to safely get these horses out. But as we untied Brig, he watched and waited until we were ready to move him back. I distinctly remember Brig looking down at the collapsed horse and calmly navigating his way around the horse as he backed up out of the float, which was parked on the side of a busy highway. I’m not even sure that as a teenager I fully appreciated the intelligence, nature and willingness of this horse, but as I got older I know that he has defined the rest of my Equestrian career. I don’t think I will ever own anything other than an OTTB.
Samuel Riddle, owner of Man O’ War (who Brig is descendant from) use to say that Thoroughbreds have an extra quality greater than speed. He called it heart.
“Thoroughbreds don’t cry. They are big in heart and high in courage. They go on to finish the race” – Samuel Riddle.
I think that day in the float could of ended very differently had I not had a horse so trusting and self aware. And I’m not going to lie, but I’ve unsuccessfully spent the last 6 months trying to track down Brig to find out if he is still alive and where he could be. He would be 26 now. I guess I feel like we never really got to finish our journey together. We had to sell Brig after he injured his back and we could no longer afford the vet bills or having a horse that was retired at such a young age. I’m not exactly sure what I would do if I did find him, but I guess to know that he is having or had a happy retirement would be incredible. Or maybe to even have the opportunity to bring Brig home with me, one last time.