Friday, 28 October 2016 21:37

Shining Like Diamonds

Written by Julie Brewster
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Lindsay Fex has lived her dream this week at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington! Lindsay and her 5 year old OTTB Diamond Hunter are participating in the Field Hunter and Show Jumping competitions and are loving every moment!

Lindsay’s grandfather had racehorses, her mom was a barrel racer and Lindsay learned to ride on an off track Thoroughbred. Almost as soon as she could walk she wanted to ride, and remembers crouching on a kitchen stool “riding like a jockey”! Lindsay spent many years competing in show jumping, and owned a beautiful Warmblood mare, but she always looked at the Thoroughbred as the ideal horse.

Lindsay graduated from the Olds College Groom School Program in 2009, and she worked as a groom at Northlands Park. In 2014 she moved on to Highfield Stock Farm as Farm Operations Support, which means she helps with everything from administration of stallion service contracts to the daily hands-on care of the horses including handling broodmares and foals, yearling sale prep and rehab of horses home from the track. Lindsay has always had an affinity for Thoroughbreds, but working at the track and now at Highfield has refined her appreciation for the breed. She loves their athleticism, and knows that the qualities that make a great a racehorse translate very well into qualities that make them great horses in their second careers.

The Retired Racehorse Project is a “charitable organization dedicated to facilitating placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers” and the Thoroughbred Makeover was created to “showcase the trainability and talent of off- track Thoroughbreds, to inspire good trainers to engage in the process of transitioning these horses to second careers, and to educate the people involved in the care, training, and sale of these horses to responsible owners.” Lindsay followed the Retired Racehorse Thoroughbred Makeover all last year and she obsessively watched the 30 day, 60 day and 90 day training videos, followed the news and watched the Makeover on-line. In January, Lindsay decided to pursue her dream of training an off track Thoroughbred from the beginning, and she applied to be a participant in this year’s Makeover, and in February she learned she had been approved. Then she had to find a horse!

Adena Springs Thoroughbred farm has a very strong retirement program for their racehorses, so Lindsay took a chance and sent an email to Adena Spings North in Ontario. One of Lindsay’s favourite racehorses was Curlin, and she’s been following his foals on the track and lately in their show careers. With purchase prices for Curlin offspring from $30,000 and up she never imagined that she’d be able to afford a Curlin baby of her own. Adena Springs had three horses available for re-homing and they sent her photos and some information. One of the horses was by Curlin. It was destiny. Lindsay had her Makeover horse!

Diamond Hunter (by Curlin, out of Sister Star) was bred in Kentucky and purchased by Adena Springs as a yearling. He is a big horse, and sustained a couple of training injuries and Adena Springs spent the time to work with him and bring him back slowly to the track. He finally had a single start as a 4 year old and he showed absolutely no aptitude for the races! Fast forward to Lindsay! Diamond Hunter arrived in Calgary in March as a 5 year old maiden who was going to start a new journey! He unloaded off the trailer and Lindsay got see him for the first time, and her first thought was “Wow! He looks like Curlin!” and her second thought was “Wow! He’s a giraffe!” It was love at first sight, and in that moment Lindsay found her perfect equine partner.

Lindsay spent some time with Hunter while he adjusted to his new surroundings, and when she tacked him for the first time a week later they set off at a walk and Lindsay knew they were going to click. All Hunter knew was how to gallop around a track, so they spent some time on foundation work for a couple of months, and in June their training for the Thoroughbred Makeover began. Lindsay describes Hunter as “willing, game, trusting and smart” so he picked up his first formal lessons very quickly and after three months of training he was moving through their flatwork and jumping courses with ease. In August, Lindsay and Hunter entered their first show, and with his huge stride and game attitude he displayed his true personality and jumped everything she put him at and even though they didn’t win any classes, he showed great form and lots of natural talent. Lindsay and Hunter joined the Calgary Hunt Club, and in September they rode out across country with other horses which could have been a tremendous challenge for them both – the jumps on a hunt are solid and when you are running along in a pack horses can easily spook or get into a race. The confidence they have in each other and the bond they have built emerged on the hunts and he took every jump in stride and they had some exhilarating rides!

Diamond Hunter gives Lindsay 110% of himself. She says “He has changed my life. In just a few months he’s given me so much confidence and trust. I used to be on guard with my mare, always waiting for something bad to happen. On Hunter, I feel like nothing bad can ever happen. When I ride him I feel we have a bond and we trust each other. The feeling has translated into the rest of my life. He’s made me a better rider, but he’s also made me a more confident person.”

Lindsay’s husband Jeff is one of her strongest supporters, and as a non-horse person he’s been amazed by watching Lindsay’s year with Hunter. He sees that Hunter has opened a new world for Lindsay, and he’s thrilled that they are on the trip of a lifetime. “Lindsay is obsessed with Thoroughbreds and she’s worked everyday with Hunter and put so much effort into this. She deserves this opportunity to be in Kentucky and ride at the Horse Park – all I need to do is keep the credit card under control at the trade show!”

Lindsay credits Hunter for changing her life for the better. She describes him as having a great work ethic and giving her 110%. The risk she’s taken to be one of five Canadians among the 300 competitors in the Thoroughbred Makeover tells us that she also has a tremendous work ethic and gives 110% of herself. Hunter may have changed Lindsay’s life, but when they get home from this adventure of a lifetime we know that she will have changed his life as well. Congratulations Lindsay and Diamond Hunter! We can’t wait to see where you go next!

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