Here’s the second half of my visit to Three Plain Bays; an interview with Pat Dale, owner of the resale barn that specializes in off-track Thoroughbreds.
Q: When did you start to sell horses from the track?
Pat: “30 years ago or so.”
Q: How did you get into the racehorse end of the horse business?
Pat: “Like a lot of young ladies of my generation, we were drawn to galloping horses and breaking 2-year-olds, as well sales prepping horses. The jobs were plentiful and fun. I worked as farm manager for the late Del Carroll, Sr., a well-known and respected race horse trainer of note (Clever Trick, Bee Bee Bee ) and I sometimes was asked to sell a race horse on to a new career.”
Q: Who was an influence on your career with horses?
Pat: “Jill Willcox, for whom I was a working student for many years, taught me to keep my mouth shut and watch; just really watch a horse move… and there were a myriad of others. You always glean a few nuggets from everyone you work for, coming away with good ideas and things to avoid.”
Q: With regard to conformation and movement what things do you love to see and what things are deal-killers — what can you live with and what is a no-no?
Pat: “I like a balanced horse, one you look at and the symmetry and harmony of how the whole package works just strikes a cord with my minds’ eye. Its never just one thing, like color or size. I do like correct, as in all four legs facing the same direction, and while a bit over at the knee is OK, not back of the knee. A kind, interested eye and a fabulous walk do it for me every time. If they can walk with a huge over track and swing through their hips, they can trot and canter for sure.
I can’t live with chipped knees or ugly, huge blemishes or a blind eye. While the horse may be sound, it’s a deal breaker for a re-seller. I also don’t like stall walkers, it’s a heart breaking obsessive compulsion that’s so tough physically on the horse. Cribbers, I can deal with, if its just that fabulous of a horse — sometimes you can get a buyer to overlook it. Hooves — gotta have a foot that can be worked with.”
Q: What are some things about OTTB’s you think people ought to know, but no one is telling them?
Pat: “It’s the ‘T.J. Maxx’ of horse shopping! Every size, shape, and color combination you can dream up, all packaged in the best, most affordable athlete in the world! Today’s warmbloods have so much Thoroughbred in them now, why not keep your dollar in the USA, and buy a Thoroughbred. Hands down, more heart, the mental ability to train, and a horse who likes a job with stamina and physical toughness you can’t make. The myths about being high-strung, hard to re-train, or having bad feet, or bad minds are so bogus. There are just as many bad as good horses in every breed, not just Thoroughbreds.”
Q: What was your take on the very public Retired Racehorse Retraining Project this winter? (Pat was the owner of the winning horse, Brazilian Wedding)
Pat: “My experience with the RRTC was interesting. Steuart and Erin Pittman were able to actually put legs under a project so many of us had thought about, but never got off our butts to make work. It was a whirlwind, though, with only five weeks, essentially from zero to 60 m.p.h., for these horses to acclimate to new living conditions, changes in shoeing, daily routines and diets. That’s hard on horses.
For instance, Kerry Blackmer went through four different types of feed for Four X The Trouble (Tempyst) and Tiffany Catledge had to deal with hoof abscesses on one of her horses. Brazilian Wedding had a 10-hour van ship (from Maryland to North Carolina) each way, and a different climate to deal with.
In retrospect, I would have liked to have had the horses go (into training) for a longer time period, and an opportunity to know more about the trainers and where the horses were going to live. I had no idea my mare was going so far away where I couldn’t visit her. We all paid for their training, board, and shoe/vet expenses, so it was not gratis.
I have sold about 11 horses since the challenge was over, but so far only one client was even familiar with the program. Nor has it brought any new horses to my barn for resale. I pretty much deal with a few trainers I am comfortable with, and they trust me.
I just wanted to showcase how well an OTTB can do once off the track and in a new job. I am still not clear about where the RRTP is going, and if it is to encourage race trainers or owners to send/pay for horses going out to professionals for re-sale. Which in my mind is not cost effective nor will encourage people to buy OTTB’s. It’s a double edged sword. While I want new, more educated customers, I do not want newbie, starry-eyed buyers who do not have the riding skills to work alone with a green OTTB.
My hope is to keep the public informed about how awesome these horses are, and train people how to buy a horse, absorb some knowledge about conformation, understand why an OTTB is the way it is from track life, how to let down and acclimate the horse, and what soundness issues you can live with and resolve.”
Thanks Pat for your candor and information!