I find I’m having a lot of fun looking up horses from old listings. It’s nice to be reminded that even the ones you worry about end up landing in awesome places. This next horse, Keep On Dancing, was another on my worry list, if only for the urgency with which he was sent to us to be posted. His price was extremely low ($500), and his picture wasn’t great. Those two things serve to scare people off (paradoxically, when it comes to buying OTTBs, many of the same people who think that $3000 is just too high a price usually assume that one priced under $1000 has something wrong with it. It makes pricing these guys hard, especially when trainers need to move the horses quickly). We took this listing for an assistant trainer who was a little worried about where her charge would end up, and this is the picture our volunteer got:
By far, not the worst photo we’ve ever gotten, but he’s standing on a slope, making him look downhill, and well… a lot of people would probably skim past this one pretty fast, especially given his height (around 15.1 at the time) and the low price “suggesting something was wrong.”
Enter fate (if you can call long-standing business relationships fate).
An extremely well known and well regarded Area II event trainer and expert-in-picking Thoroughbreds named Phyllis Dawson (Team Windchase) found this guy on one of her visits to the track (on her site, she explains that she has purchased over 300 horses from his trainer, all told). When we were told he was sold, the assistant trainer who notified us didn’t know this was where he was going, and was still worried since he just sort of disappeared one afternoon. But a TB going to Windchase has just got the golden ticket – that horse is going to get the great care, great retraining, and will probably find an amazing new home and new competitive career as an eventer.
Not long after, I randomly stumbled onto his ad on the Windchase website, where he was looking… well… fabulous:
Keep On Dancing didn’t just turn out to be pretty, though. He actually turned out to be pretty good at his new job. Sold to Penny Lynch, he was soon eventing and they were doing well enough to be USEA’s Area 2 reserve champions in Beginner Novice.
“He’s got the best brain in the world, and he’s calm and quiet, and very easy to get along with. He LOVES to jump, and he’s probably the most honest horse I’ve ever had. He may be green, and he may get distracted at times, but show him a jump, and he’ll get to the other side from whatever distance, whatever angle, whatever!” (from the USEA Area 2 website)
Because I was curious to see if she had anything more to say, I contacted Penny, who definitely loves gushing about her lovely “Danny”:
“He’s just about as perfect as he can be for me at this time in my life. I feel extremely lucky to have found him. He’s got THE best temperament a horse could possibly have, and that never ceases to surprise me since he’s a Thoroughbred. I describe him as my Quarter Horse in a Thoroughbred body. He’s as quiet and as bombproof as they come. Sweet, affectionate — sometimes a bit of a comedian! He has an excellent work ethic, and absolutely LOVES to jump. But he’s also the type of horse that you can ride every day, or ride twice a month, and he’s always the same horse…. Very steady, very easy-going, very willing and happy to please.
Anyway, as you can probably tell, I could go on and on and on about my Danny.”
Of course Penny didn’t see the sale photo that had been on CANTER’s page since she bought him from a third party. But she did say she probably wouldn’t have gone to look based on that photo. Moral of the story? GO LOOK!
To complete this entry, I did also want to get the point of view of Phyllis, who is the one who actually picked this fine gentleman up off the track. I don’t think she saw the photo either, as I mentioned, she has a long standing relationship with his race trainer and frequently gets horses out of that barn to retrain. But I was curious about why someone with her experience would pick that particular horse to bring home.
Phyllis said a lot of things – looking at basic conformation (good basic proportions and uphill balance), that it’s often like a lottery “because it’s hard to know what you’re really getting,” and pointed out that being a retrainer/seller of horses makes it a bit easier to buy at the track than it would be for an individual looking for a “perfect” horse. If a horse doesn’t turn out to be suitable as, say, a high level prospect, she can work on it and sell him as an amateur or lower level prospect. People looking for one personal horse may not have this flexibility. But one thing she said about Keep on Dancing in particular was that he seemed like a “good soul.”
This is sort of an intangible thing, but one thing I think it’s really important to remember. A lot of people get caught up in looks, details about conformation, etc, but the thing that MOST of us need before any of that is a good brain.
To pontificate for a sec – most of us are not Boyd Martin. We do not need a horse capable of Rolex. “Fancy” is nice, but tolerant, kind, and willing are going to get us a whole lot farther in the long run. OK, done with pretending to know what I’m talking about for the time being 🙂