While we were all disappointed when I’ll Have Another pulled out of the Belmont and the Triple Crown dream died for another year, the overall sentiment in our little corner of California was that Team O’Neill did the right thing by the horse. It cannot have been an easy decision and they deserves kudos for putting IHA ahead of everything else.
But full retirement already? Really? What about a little gallop or some dressage every now and then? Would that be so bad?
I know, I know. We’re talking about a horse worth a LOT of money as a stud. But as much financial sense as it makes to retire IHA to stud–just as it did to retire Zenyatta to become a fantastically gorgeous brood mare–there will always be a little part of me that hopes somebody climbs on them every once in awhile. Retirement sounds like a great idea. Days of wandering in the pasture, eating green grass, making babies, having visitors take your picture. Idyllic life for a horse.
Lava Man said differently. As the story goes, they tried to give him the retirement package and he said, “No.” So he’s back at work and doing a great job by all accounts. I think that may be the case for more than a few of these horses. Calabar is happier and healthier with a job. Mind you, he can be lazy and not overly enthused by arena work, but he never once refuses to come out and he’s always better humored when we’ve done something, even if it’s just carrot stretches. In fact, as one story goes, he once jumped out of his paddock–over pipe panels, so we’re not talking low fencing, here–just to go down to the exercise track he could see on the next property.
Yes, a horse that has worked so hard on the track usually needs at least a little down time, but the OTTBs I’ve met are too busy between the ears to just sit and do nothing–not without tearing down fences and walls just for fun, anyway. Or jumping over them.
Which must be why we’ve come together to do what we do–transition these sensitive and intelligent athletes into new careers. It’s not really about saving Thoroughbreds, no. It’s about saving fences and barn walls from sure destruction at the hooves (and teeth) of bored ponies.