Annie, the Thoroughbred racehorse

I am no longer working with Annie, but can report that she is no longer in training. I never thought for an instant that we would ever get her on a racecourse, due to her extreme sensitivity and inbuilt lack of courage, which is a shame. But it has proved to be right. She only finished one race and has been balloted out of all other entries. The message is that a horse is what it is and although you can train them to work well you cannot change their nature or give them qualities they do not possess.

Annie ran at Plumpton on 8th May. She was running 2 miles over hurdles. She behaved like a professional and ran very well. Matty Batchelor (Wrocket Wroy)was pleased with her and we were all delighted. it was one of the hottest day of the year so far and she coped very well. She will be running again on the 2th May at Worcester all being well.

29th April 2016

The story of Our Crazy Anne continues: She has now been in training for 3 months. Forever Best seen here nearest the camera has left training due to a breathing problem which simply has defied the vets. Annie is doing very well. She has worked with Fastnet Prince and with Bridge that Gap, and we are well pleased.  I continue to ride her.

On the 26th April Matty Bachelor came over to school her over hurdles, as that will be her first race, now to be at Plumpton on Sunday 8th May. Matty rode her over hurdles which really looked rather too small for her, nearly 17 hh. He then came back on the 29th to ride her again and to give her a gallop.

Do go and look up Matty Bachelor (Wrocket Wroy) on YouTube, he is very entertaining and such a competent jockey.

Annie no bridle on gallops
Look no Bridle! “That was a bit different.” I said.

In the meantime I was riding Annie just last Tuesday and as I was galloping up the fibre sand my Myler bit popped. Well it is old. Well there was not much I could do. I had no bit and the ends of the bit were flying around. So I just my hands into the neckstrap and my faith into four and a half of training. Annie was a dream she pulled herself up. Luckily for me a photographer was on hand to capture the scene.

Annie deciding to go home.
“What do I do now?” I said “I’m off home.” said Annie

You see you can train a horse to do just about anything. Well nearly anything! She was very calm. Then was told to get off her, which may well have been my undoing. We could not find a rope to attach to her and in the end she got a bit pissed off with the people faffing about, and she decided to go home on her own. I could not hold her. She was gone. Well she knows the way home and she has been taught the ‘green cross code’. She will stop at a road and check for cars. Despite rushing after her with the Downsmen in their trucks, she made it home safely and walked back into the yard so quietly that Sophie Alp, who was mucking out, did not even hear her. Annie went to the field gate and had a chat with Gordon the Shetland. Oh! And by the way she got my bridle safely home. Thank you Annie.

Well all was well, and Annie seemed unphased by her adventure. I However went straight out and bought another Myler. They make such a difference to the horse, as they are comfy and kind, and do not result in the horse opening its mouth as it tries to deal with the scissoring of the snaffle. I do wish more jockeys and trainers would look at this very humane bit.

Matty Bachelor and Annie

Matty was well pleased with Annie and here are some photos of her jumping  clearly she is a natural. I may well be eating my words when I said to Heather, “We may never get this horse onto a racecourse.”  Training and patience and a belief in the courage and intelligence of the horse. Thoroughbreds are a dream to work with and to ride, but they are not for beginners. You must have had some experience of race riding and work in a race yard before you take on a retired racehorse. Skill is essential and knowledge of your breed. I simply adore them. I hope they like me.

www HB & SA on FB & OCA

Sara Akehurst on Forever Best, Heather Best on Our Crazy AnneThis is the story of ‘Our Crazy Anne’ the thoroughbred racehorse Caroline has been working with for nearly 3 years. The why’s and wherefores of training young horses  and how attentive trainers need to be to get these horses onto the racecourse.

Annie has proved to be an interesting filly, growing to nearly 17 hh. She is a store horse, ready for the National Hunt. Are all TB’s ready to run at 2? Clearly not.

Heather Best, like myself rode racehorses for a living. She was practically born on a horse. It is in her blood. As a young girl she was riding point to pointers and riding in point to points. A tough game and one that requires guts, stamina and a sense of adventure. She lived in Bodmin growing up with ponies on a farm. She continued to ride in Devon until the work dried up. Then she headed for Lambourne and worked for amongst others Mark Pitman. She met Steve and he brought her to Epsom where she worked for John Akehurst, and then a trainer in Newdigate.

She was riding at Newdigate, Surrey when an accident happened. The horse she was riding was young, very green and it was startled by a cow, whipped round and Heather came off but landing on her feet but sadly a boulder got in the way and broke her ankle in two places. The date 28th September 2008.

She was taken to Redhill Hospital and they put plates into the fractures. This was the beginning of a very long and tragic story. The plates it turned out were contaminated and the outcome was an infection known as Osteomyelitis most commonly affects the long bones in the legs, but other bones, such as those in the back or arms, can also be affected.

Symptoms of osteomyelitis may include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • bone pain, which can often be intense
  • swelling, redness and a warm sensation in the affected area

After some months of battling with the infection it was agreed that she should loose the lower part of her leg and foot. Not just the shock of this sudden life change, but the pain and battling with prosthetics that are not designed for athletes. She went into hospital and they took her foot and lower leg off in January in the June 2010 on Derby Day Steve’s brother showed her an advert in the Racing Post for two yearlings for sale. She said it was the only way she would have something to live for to buy and break in her own two yearlings.

Annie and Heather May 2015
Annie and Heather on Epsom Downs 2015

She and a friend set off for Ireland where she had already said yes to two yearlings. She said she took one look at them and was convinced. Nothing would divert her or change her mind. One she called Forever Best and one Our Crazy Anne. The deed was done. Now she had to get them home and break them in. She found a place for them at John Longs’ yard near Caterham.

Heather said that Annie was very head shy. I remember having to be careful about bridling her, back in 2011, when I met Heather at Highlands Farm Livery Stables. Besty clearly had a lot of confidence and was precocious; she was stubborn too, and hated doing the same thing twice. Annie was quite the reverse. She was a bit of a fading violet. She was slow to learn things and obviously had a lot of growing to do.  Where as Besty always looked the part. Annie grew and grew. Her large tummy lengthened and lengthened. Her legs grew and grew. She was always the one who refused to jump over the field tapes to be better grass, whereas Besty was over in a trice. Besty was always getting cuts and bruises. Breaking Annie was tricky and Heather only had one leg, so she fell off a few times. Steve looked on with patience and stoic surprise. He knew she would get there eventually and he was prepared to do anything he could to help her. They are a very dedicated couple and think the world of each other.


RTstringGoing Home
The String going home

When we were at Highlands Heather asked me if I would long rein Annie and Besty. I use homemade cavaletties. I don’t remember being able to get Annie over them. Besty nearly jumped out of the school. We stopped with her. I rode out with Heather and we went for miles around the bridleways of Epsom. We also took the girls to the Downs where I recall they behaved so badly we could not get Annie facing the right way and Besty to stop bucking. Tears of laughter accompanied out journeys together.

Heather knew that every bit of exercise trains the horse. Up hills and down hills, we trotted and walked. We climbed up the back of Box Hill, 4 in 1. Not sure how? We went for miles down bridleways I had no idea existed. Heather was adventurous in every respect. The horses loved it. Soon both horses were phenomenal in traffic. Lorry’s could roar past and they were fine.

Long Reins

Heather then moved to Blakes Lane and I continued my work with Annie, as she was still lacking in confidence. On the long reins I found she would not transition. As soon as you put the pressure on and asked for an up in pace she plunged and backed up. We had to get over this. So we work on the long reins. Time and again I would gently ask Annie to transition and very slowly she began to improve. I had never to use any kind of force but to tickly her into thinking it was her choice. I just got inside her head and watched her with every brain cell I could muster. She was changing.

Bad Winter

Then came the bad winter of 2013, the wind was terrible and trees blew down. Riding out things happened right in front of us. Besty (Forever Best) didn’t care, but Annie freaked out. She spun me off once cause a dog shot out and barked at her. She got me off at the top of the canter one day by spooking at a pheasant. Believe me it is along way to fall off a 16.2hh horse. Heather just kept going. By now her claim for compensation was going through and at the beginning of 2014. She and Steve found Spring Meadow Stud, and moved in and within a week or so of arriving thoroughbreds arrived from all over the place. Race worn, thin, injured, and in all states of sad array, she gave them homes.

Besty ran in 2013 and it became clear she had a breathing problem. So some laser surgery was done. This did not work as was proved when she raced at Southwell, and with a good rest in-between Heather sent her to have a tie forward. She has subsequently had to have an operation on her foot as she developed a Keratoma. But Besty is tough, she loves to race, she loves to jump she is a professional. A natural.

wwwAnnie Heather Gallop 2015
Galloping with Heather 2015

Meanwhile Annie was growing and growing, and Heather and I kept up a regime of exercise that would terrify a racehorse trainer. When we went out riding it would be for 2 or 3 hours. We trotted up hills and down hills, we cantered everywhere we could find to canter. We went out in every day in every kind of weather imaginable, laughing at the state we got ourselves in.

Annie has turned into a lovely looking animal, she is beginning to be furnished with some lovely muscle, she has been slow to come together, but Heather and I both think that she has enormous talent. She strides out at a speed that most horses would struggle to keep up with, when she trots other horses have to canter, and here at last is some footage of her and Besty galloping at Lingfield.

Caroline Baldock.