Mar. 12, 2016

Highlighting: Country Kingpin

"Country Kingpin" raced until age 5. He had 26 starts on the track, earning 6 wins, 3 seconds and 3 thirds for a total of nearly $50,000 in earnings. This gelding came into my family's racing barn as a gangly 3 year old who had no idea how to use his very long legs. He was unsure of his new surroundings and took each opportunity to crib on anything he could latch onto. We introduced him to some turn out while beginning his new training schedule and getting his teeth floated properly too. He had some chiropractic work done and began getting fit over some hills on the farm. As time went by he learned how to use the new muscles he developed and he began to shine and put on lots of weight. He seemed brighter, happier and much more confident. His first three starts for us were wins, followed by a second place and then another win. We raced him through all of his career wins and watched his confidence explode. His gallop always made me think he would make a great event horse someday. He never spooked and was always business-like. The last time he won from us he was claimed. We were told it was not a claim for the actual trainer who had him but the horse would be running in that person's name. I followed his career after that point in hopes to help him find a home when he was ready to retire. I had a friend helping look out for him too. I received a text one afternoon with a picture that looked nothing like my old horse. He was thin. He had little muscle like what he had had. He had also been ruled off the track for his poor condition. The time had come. That's where Amanda Drda came in. I knew her through a mutual friend and had met her a few times in person. I knew she was a good person and had recently heard that her mare had an injury that was going to limit her future use in the sport. When Amanda heard about Country Kingpin, she drove the two hour drive to see him, trailer in tow. Amanda was reflecting on that day, "After a lot of reflecting, I decided that I wanted to continue eventing and needed to begin my search for my next horse. I’ve owned mostly thoroughbreds. I love their heart, the work ethic, and their personalities. Therefore I reached out to Jen Ruberto, hoping in a few months, I would find my next “big and sound” teammate. Three days later, on October 30, 2013, I hooked up my trailer and was driving down to West Virginia after work to see a skinny, unlucky thoroughbred." 

Amanda recalled him being menatally and physically drained. Defeated and pathetic. He was no longer the image of a winning racehorse as he had been not long before. Country Kingpin was fortunate that Amanda came along. People tend to not see the big picture when they see a skinny, depressed horse. Amanda did. She ran her hands over hus dull coat and felt the scabs and fungus that covered his body and legs to the point his hair actually formed little spikes. He had little energy to move around in the pasture for her. She decided that this horse was coming home with her because he needed help badly and his eyes were so dull she knew there was a chance he wasn't going to get the home he needed. 

Country Kingpin earned a new name for the start of a new life. He was now, "Percy." Amanda spent the better part of a month scrubbing Percy's skin twice per day to rid him of the fungus that plagued him. There were days when she thought she had beat it, only to find more pockets and puss. She eventually decided her best option was to body clip him so she could get right down to his skin and so he would dry quicker. When asked what else helped him, Amanda said, " I placed Percy on Tribute’s Kalm Ultra grain, and added soybean meal mixed with oil in the evenings. He steadily began to gain weight, but was a picky eater. It took about 3 months before he looked to be at a healthy weight, and over a year before I felt he was somewhat “fat”."

When he had gained enough weight, Percy went into a light program of riding for 5 to 10 minutes each time. Eventually he starting feeling a lot better and became a bit "hot" so Amanda enlisted the help of her former instrctor, Eileen "Bud" Roberts. Her help was instrumental in develping Percy over fences and being able to channel his newfound energy. Over fences he was "Obnoxiously talented, tense, and with an engine that didn’t tire." A change of scenry also seemed to be what Percy needed. He was moved to the farm where Amanada worked, Mountain Glen where he had a 6 acre pasture with her mare Fiona. The extra turn out time plus hacking out on the farm's 1200 acres of trails and fields were what started the real bond between them. 

A recount of Percy's start in the show ring from Amanda, "We competed at our first mini trial in June 2014 at Stone Gate Farm in Hanoverton, Ohio. Percy had schooled well the day before—very honest and content to cruise around the starter fences. Our dressage was as expected, but I was thrilled to see Jen at the show, watching our stadium round. When her family had owned him, she had been the one to gallop him. Percy decided to show off. With his knees to his nose, he flew over them as if they were 4’. Cross country was a breeze, he was simple and easy to adjust. We loped around the course. Later that day, something happened that impacted my show schedule for the next year. I got engaged. Bubble wrapped—that’s what I called it, especially where jumping was concerned. In early 2015, I didn’t jump very much. We focused on dressage—and when a facebook post popped up that some friends desperately needed a teammate for the Prix de Ville dressage, we answered the call. Percy liked Lake Erie College, and despite being a bit tense, we received scores in the mid 60’s for training level. After the wedding in July, Percy and I were finally able to get back to what we loved doing—eventing. We competed at the mini trial at South Farm in September at beginner novice. He was great—we finally scored well at dressage and he floated over the jumps. In October, I signed us up for a mini endurance ride at the Buckeye Horse Park. Twelve miles—I’m pretty sure all of my friends thought I was crazy to do it—I had the urge to try something new, especially since I’d missed most of the eventing season. Percy was delightful, he trotted happily for the vets and stood reasonably for inspection. Out on the trails, he was confident and calm trotting through weaving trails. In the end, the vet was impressed as to how fit he was and how quickly his heartrate was back to normal. We placed top 5. This winter, we did some schooling shows at Grand Haven Stable in Jefferson, Ohio. Percy was the Champion High Point Winner for the series. In a few weeks, we will be showing first level dressage at Lake Erie College for the Prix de Ville Dressage team show. We are excited to compete with our friends."

I will say that when I saw them at Stonategate Farm, it was the very first time I saw him in person since the day he was claimed from us. I got a bit emotional at the site of this horse coming back from what looked like a hopeless situation and just flourishing. 

So what is next on the scedule for Amanda and Percy? They plan on showing in some recognized events with a goal of making it to the AECs. Amanda would also like to hit up some more endurance rides, possibly a 25-30 mile one!

Percy has turned into a confident, sometimes cocky, yet loveable horse that loves being loved on. It's pretty amazing that a horse will come back from a poor situation, not once but twice and never hold a grudge. Percy is a horse that Amanda feels has more ability than she will ever need and be able to jump heights she probably wont need to ever ask of him. But it's there, should they exceed their goals. This is the heart of a thoroughbred. Percy is ready for whatever "Shananigans" he is asked to get into and Amanda loves him for that!

If anyone would like information or help develping a proper feed prgram for a horse who may have fallen on hard times, please contact Amanda to see what she did to help Percy get back to health.  alydrda@gmail.com