Over the centuries of the breed’s development, the Thoroughbred has become athletic, intelligent, sensitive, forward-looking and futuristic. Being a warm-blooded person, Thoroughbred is extreme in both positive and challenging moments.
Alison O’Dwyer and Kubo Cat provide great lessons about the extreme nature of thoroughbreds and the challenges and benefits that come with riding this rollercoaster of horse trials.
O’Dwyer won the 2021 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in dressage. She also won a dressage contest in 2019 and 2017, the previous two years she was in.
Kubo Cat, Allison’s dressage champ in 2021, is a 2016 Louisiana-bred Thoroughbred Thoroughbred and raced 16 times in his home state from August 2018 to December 2019. He never won, but finished second five times and third four times.
The five-minute free-swimming test that Kubo and Allison performed during the Thoroughbred Makeover Final included a mix of higher-level moves such as counter-benches that demonstrated the horse’s top-level potential and foundational movements such as simple lead changes suitable for a horse with less than a year of full-time dressage training. Present during the entire test was a calm and consistent behavior in a nerve-damaging competition environment within the high-stimulus covered TCA arena.
Since the Kubo Cat was on sale, Alison’s phone started, well, I want to say “ring from the hook”, but I realize we all use cell phones now. You found the idea. The market for OTTBs has grown exponentially because horses like the Kubo Cat are tremendous ambassadors for the talent and diversity that is inherent in the Thoroughbred breed. The last two columns of “Horowitz on OTTBs” have explored the natural side of purebred genetics and the developmental side of the breed’s evolution through a first career in racing.
Allison’s experiences with the Kubo Cat showcase an aspect of the breed that often gets lost in witnessing the amazing mix of beauty and athleticism of thoroughbreds like him or other horses that excel in Thoroughbred arrangements.
For those who love thoroughbred horses, the extremes are well worth it. Anyone who gets a thoroughbred horse should be prepared for this.
“It’s a tough conversation to have with people,” O’Dwyer said. “My horse seemed very calm inside. The influx of phone calls was all amateurish, and yes, he’s an incredibly different creature than he was before, but he had a legitimate behavioral problem when he came to our farm and it really terrified me.”
Of course, no one, including O’Dwyer, gets a Thoroughbred horse in the hope of being challenged or intimidated in this way. It usually starts as love at first sight.
“When I saw one picture of this horse, my intuition told me that this is a really beautiful horse,” O’Dower said.
We are in the midst of the world of online dating to buy horses. People have more opportunities to find OTTBs today than ever before through social media and the inclusion of organizations like CANTER. Just like online dating, it is possible to fall in love with a horse from a photo and imagine what the future holds.
The people who got in touch with Allison did so with Kubo Cat, but Allison knew better.
“It came to me very sour — like it was very, very sour,” Alison said. “I would stand on his back and maybe I could make him jog in one circle in a certain direction, and as soon as I went to change directions he would hit the brakes and come to a complete stop with his ears buckled. Then he would start to back up and give me this feeling that if I gave him a big correction, He will ascend.”
Remember, this is coming from someone who has retrained horses off the racetrack to take on new jobs as racers like everyone else.
“My first horse ever was a thoroughbred mare who tormented me when I was a kid,” Alison said.
She laughed, saying the word “tortured” in appreciation of the totality of experiences, both positive and negative, that thoroporide can provide.
“I’m not sure I knew any better,” Alison said. “I think she bit me the first day I got it. She was too hot for what a baby should get. It’s not something I would recommend to everyone, but in the end, I had a great partnership with her because I had to take it really slowly and go back to basics.” “.
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Alison described a “safety net” of rules and working with more experienced riders that made the partnership work. She and Something Special IV competed to reach the 3-foot-3 event training level in 2003 when the mare was 21 and Allison was 15.
Next, her next horse, the Rhythmic Drum, is also a thoroughbred, a bay horse from Montana who has raced 21 times at trails like Great Falls, Metrapark and Playfair, won four times, and was in the top three 11 times. Alison and Rhythmic Drum have competed up to one FEI star level.
With Kubo Cat, Allison asked her husband, racehorse trainer Jerry O’Dwyer, to step in, calling him “a wrecked doll, if I really didn’t know anything about the horse.”
Allison: “When Jerry came and got down on it, he sat on it at first and didn’t do anything. I expect fireworks, but he just sat there and slow and rewarded him any time he got ahead.”
Jerry: “I was riding on him very loosely, let him adjust that he wouldn’t get caught and tell him to go fast anymore. It was just a case of letting him move on and enjoy his life. They are very smart, thoroughbred horses. They are like us, and sometimes they get involved in the same things.” If you can freshen their minds up a bit, they will work for you again.”
Alison: “I’m going to go really slow and keep everything for him [the horse’s] idea.”
Jerry will occasionally apply Alison’s dressage techniques to race training to help his horses become more flexible and evenly muscular. Or he will send the horses to Allison’s farm for cross-training in dressage.
Jerry: “I think dressage is great for horses because it makes them turn left, then right. They get to relax a bit and put their heads down. It’s a great benefit.”
Allison: “He’ll send a horse in the chute back behind the starting gate and make him do a flat, eight and serpentine work with the jockeys, and I know he sees a lot of value in that.”
The teamwork has paid off for the O’Dwyers.
“Alison is a very good rider, and she puts a lot of work, time and effort into it,” Jerry said. “What the people in the Makeover saw with that horse were hours and hours of her working with him. She used to take him off the farm to look at other things, and the two kept working after that. The proof is in the candy.”
Making candy is hard work, and people who get thoroughbred horses should be prepared to follow the recipe scrupulously. Alison uses this mindset to sell her thoroughbreds, which she has trained off the track, too.
“I say I’ll talk to you about this horse first,” Allison said, “and if you’re still interested, you can come and ride it.” “That was really tough, especially with Kubo Cat last year because he seemed so calm, which is great to me because he won, but the influx of phone calls was from inappropriate people. This is not a horse that I could sell to Sally Sue’s mom. He was just a professional horse, And it was very difficult to convince people of that.”
Allison sold the Kubo Cat to Leah Lang-Gluscic, a high-profile company, which moved OTTB AP Prime to the highest action level 5-star event at a three-day Land Rover Kentucky event in 2021.
“She has a real love for the breed,” Alison said. “That’s where I wanted him to be. I really think he has the talent to be a top level horse, and he has the attitude of a top level horse. I don’t think he’d be happy just sitting with someone who just wants to hug them and clean them up because they’re going to bite you. It worked really well. ideal “.
The Kubo Cat’s first USEA-recognized event with Lang-Gluscic was the #1 in the 2-foot-7 Novice level at The Horse Trials at Majestic Oaks in Florida earlier this month. They finished the match scoring 30.6 points in dressage and had clear double jumps across cross country and stadium.
As with any relationship, it’s about finding the right match and then putting in the hard work to make the relationship thrive. It’s easy to fall in love with a horse at first sight. It’s great for the horse racing industry that more people are doing this with Thoroughbreds. With many aftercare institutions and vendors, there are many attractive dating profiles out there. But creating a life together takes a lot of hard work. As a standard, wanting a purebred horse that isn’t allergic would be the same as wanting a not-so-cold ice cream.
With their experience in racing and dressage, the O’Dwyers are the ultimate marriage counselor for thoroughbred horse lovers.
Jerry: “It’s about trust for the horse and you and you and the horse. To gain that confidence you have to go slowly at first, especially if you have a cranky person. With a couple of weeks in their new major, you can see the calm in their eyes and how they settle in and really start enjoying their lives new”.
Alison: “If you take your time and keep your faith, I believe all of these creatures can come and become great athletes and be great minds to work with.”