Charlene Barry and her Standardbred gelding West Point are going to be making a lot of friends this summer! West Point, who goes by the name Leo around the barn, has already got a number of fans from his time as Standardbred Ambassador at the Horse Wellness Expo in Farm Fair last fall in Edmonton where he met (and enjoyed endless treats) from hundreds of school children on the barn tour. As one of the 2016 Go and Play Stable Ambassadors, Leo and Charlene will be actively promoting Standardbreds at Eventing competitions and other shows and events this year. Go and Play Stables is a Standardbred Rehabilitation and Rehoming charity in Ontario that specializes in finding new careers for off track Standardbreds. With his huge personality and exceptional athletic ability, Leo is the perfect poster child for off track Standardbreds.
West Point was sold in the Harrisburg sale in Pennsylvania, but he didn’t make it as a race horse, never showing any aptitude for the sport he was born and bred for. After several years of switching owners without finding the winner’s circle, West Point was retired by Kelly Hoerdt and he advertised him for sale as a pleasure horse. Charlene had been taking riding lessons for about 6 years and was looking for a nice, quiet trail horse when her parents saw the ad for Leo and by the end of their first meeting something special clicked between the pair. Charlene knew very little about the Standardbred breed, and credits Kelly and the team at Bedrock Training Centre for teaching her about Standardbreds and the harness racing industry. Charlene took Leo home, and with support from her coaches, family and friends she did all of the groundwork and riding and from the beginning rides until now she and Leo have formed an incredible bond.
“My relationship with Leo has not always been easy. We’ve both faced a number of challenges along the way. Working through these challenges with Leo has taught me so many things that have affected the rest of my life. He’s taught me humility, empathy, and more patience that I could have ever thought was possible. Leo has also shown me the benefits of working on a team and how that teamwork can create greater things in the long run, even when its members have to compromise and make sacrifices along the way.”
With patience and humour, Charlene has worked her way from pleasure riding to gymkhana, dressage and eventually Eventing where Leo has decisively found an outlet for his ‘run fast’ bloodlines - he excels at the cross country competition. Charlene says “He loves cross country. He gets super sharp as soon as he sees me put my safety vest on because he’s so excited. Stadium and Dressage are part of his job. But he LOVES cross country!” Although he didn’t take to pulling a race bike, his athleticism and drive have allowed him to put his many other talents to good use.
Leo is a perfect ambassador. He is always interested in the world around him, and is unfailingly curious. He knows when it’s time to go to work at shows, but is highly addicted to attention, and will knock Charlene’s hat off when she’s wrapping his legs or give her a shake down for cookies if she’s ignoring him! He met literally hundreds of people at Farm Fair last fall, and he was quiet and gentle from start to finish – lots of cookies and kisses from little girls probably helped keep him engaged!
Charlene is studying Anthropology at the University of Alberta and spends what free time she has as a representative for the Canadian Standardbred Network, riding and taking clinics and training Leo for their 2016 season. Her goals for the future include upgrading with Leo to Training Level in Eventing (he’d be the first off track Standardbred to show at this level in Alberta), and showing in an Open Jumper class at Spruce Meadows. She also plans to travel to Rebecca Farm for the long format event in Montana in 2017, which would be a step up in competition and a remarkable achievement for her and Leo. Charlene is determined to demonstrate off track Standardbreds are capable of excelling in a discipline that is completely different from harness racing. She wants to dispel the ‘crazy racehorse’ myth, and with Leo as her partner we know they will continue their extraordinary success in competition and as ambassadors! We look forward to following Charlene and Leo on their adventures this summer through their Facebook page (West Point Standardbred) and blog (http://westpointstb.blogspot.ca).
- Beaumont Horse Trials Beaumont Horse Trials
- Cochrane Horse Trials Cochrane Horse Trials
- Charlene and West Point getting ready for the South Peace Horse Trials Charlene and West Point getting ready for the South Peace Horse Trials