Right now there are hundreds of horses and riders flooding Kentucky. Those horses are all retired racehorses and those riders have taken them from the track and in a total of ten months brought them to the Retired Racehorse Project to show off their new careers. Today we got to talk to one of those ambitious riders and learn about the process leading up to this weekend!
TBR: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
MR: My name is Mary Roby. I am 23 years old and I've been riding since I was 6 years of age. I live in Woodbine MD. I am a full time waitress at an Italian restaurant and I'm in school to get my bachelor's degree in marketing. I've been around horses my entire life as my grandfather was a racehorse trainer and lived on my family farm until I was 12. Other than horses, my activities include running, hiking, going to the gym, photography, and sketching.
TBR: What made you want to participate in the RRP?
MR: I have wanted to do the retired racehorse project for a couple of years now after watching some of my friends do it in the past, but the time wasn't right and the funds weren't there. I got a great opportunity this year with having a better job and an amazing horse to do it all with. Plus I wanted to do something that not many of my Maryland friends have done, nor I have done anything like this. I've never finished outside of Maryland, especially at a big event like this. It's a risk I've been wanting to take.
TBR: What were you looking for in an OTTB?
MR: When I was looking at thoroughbreds, I wanted a horse on the younger side, preferably gelding at that time (although now I've come to realize how much I miss mares 😂). I wanted a horse with a pretty nice trot and an expressive demeanor. I wanted something that I believe would be good to train that could easily find a new home when the time comes.
TBR: What drew you to Indy as the right horse?
MR: Indian song was a horse a friend on Facebook was posting for sale for a couple months and I followed her posts about him. There was just something about the look in his eyes that gave me an impression; they just posed confidence. I just knew there was something great about him. He was 3 years old at the time and definitely butt high. However in his free lunging video, even though the ground was either sloppy or frozen, he had a pretty floaty trot and there was so much potential for more with growth and training. When I test rode him, we were in an arena that was new to him and had small stalls with ponies in the stalls inside the arena. Now with him being only 3 and only a couple months off the track, I was thinking that he would spook at them or take off possibly, but he didn't do anything. He was forward and willing to work, always wanting to please. Then I hopped on him and rode his flatwork and just thought to myself "I have got to get this horse to my barn."
TBR: Tell us a little bit about Indy
MR: Indian song aka Indy is a 4 year old Thoroughbred gelding who ran only 8 times, mostly at Delaware Park. He won 1 race, 1 place, and 3 shows, and earned a total of $25,550. He is by Macleans Music out of Toy Indian who is by Indian Charlie. Indian Charlie is known for throwing some amazing jumper sport horses and eventing horses, one of the reasons why I was so willing to work with Indy. However breeding isn't always everything.
TBR: When did you get him and what have the first few months off the track been like?
MR: I started training Indy back in March. Things were off to a bit of a rocky start which is to be expected when Thoroughbreds are driving over from track like to farm life; he didn't know personal space, wouldn't stand properly at the mounting block, and for our first few rides I couldn't for the life of me get him to canter on his right lead. We worked for weeks on the ground with learning about space and standing still, moving where I tell him to move, and to stand quietly at the mounting block. Then once his ground work improved, I got back in the saddle and worked on his flat work extensively. It was a struggle trying to get this spider leg of a horse to go around without flailing but it happened! No matter what direction Indy decides he wanted to go, I wanted him to have the proper flatwork foundation. Now we continue with his dressage and are including jumps and slowly with lead changes which he can get on his own sometimes.
TBR: What is his biggest strength?
MR: Even though Indy is getting better under saddle, and has overcome difficulties and struggles under saddle, I would say his biggest strength would be his ground manners. He stands so quietly at the cross ties and will now move where you want him to. He enjoys being pampered and groomed, he'll do anything for a scratch. He'll stand in the barn all by himself with no other buddy around and will just munch on his hay and not make a sound.
However if I had to pick his best strength under saddle, it would be his canter work. He is now getting a great canter that can easily be adjusted for anything. He's able to extend for a longer reach for hunters or come back to a more round canter for dressage.
TBR: Biggest weakness?
MR: Indy is not the most confident horse when he is out on trails. He gets a bit anxious if he's all by himself on the trails. He's been improving with the more mileage he covers, I have been trying to go more with buddies than just by himself. With him only being 4, I do believe without a doubt he'll improve with more mileage.
TBR: What discipline(s) will you compete in for the RRP?
MR: We will be competing in the 2'6" hunters Thursday morning and the beginner novice (2'7") eventing Friday afternoon.
It will only be his second show that he is competing in due to all the rain we've received this summer and the month of September alone. We had 3 shows cancel due to rain. Thankfully we've been schooling some 3' fences at home and he doesn't bat an eye.
TBR: What do you hope to accomplish in the last few months before heading to Kentucky?
MR: I hope to accomplish a better relationship with Indy as we grow. With him being for sale, I don't know how long I'll have him for but I hope that we keep going and develop and get as much experience together as possible.
He has given me great confidence in jumping again which I could never repay him back for. It's been a long time since I've jumped so well with so much confidence and no anxiety. It's a great feeling to have a horse that will keep going, even if the rider shuts down.