Friday, April 30, 2010

I Found Her - Part III, or What She Told Me

It became obvious very quickly that I had on the line a woman who was passionate about thoroughbreds and racing. With an encyclopedic knowledge of bloodlines, her recall was truly awe-inspiring. On any other day, I would have been content to just listen to her rattle off race records and track stories but I was after something specific, and she was happy to oblige.

What She Told Me #1: How Legs Got His Name
"Read My Legs" raises a snicker every time someone sees it on his halter plate. It is a silly name, especially for a race horse. What had puzzled me was where it came from. Neither his sire or his dam had any component of that name in theirs. The story goes like this: at the time of Legs' birth, Ms. S had a foreman who was fond of mocking a certain president by declaring "read my lips!" before just about anything profound (or not) he had to say. When Legs stood for the first time on his wobbly foal legs, the foreman proclaimed, "Read my lips! I mean legs! Look at the stems on that one! He's going to run!" And so Legs was named.

WSTM #2: Why He Started "Late" to Racing
I mentioned in the last post that Legs was well past his "real" 2 year birth date before he ran his first race, and that Ms. S was a big believer in holding off on pushing them too hard. But there was more to Legs' story.

"He was a nervous one," she explained, "really cautious. Had to be sure my most confident riders were on him. Just needed encouragement. Once he was confident there was nothing he would not do for you, but it took a lot to gain that confidence. The first time we took him to Delta I had the girl just walk him around the track, and he literally trembled the whole time! We let him hang out for a week then brought him home. The next time we took him, he wouldn't unload! Thought we would never get him off that trailer, but we did. And this time he was less nervous. Once we actually put him to work he got to liking it - a lot! Glad we took our time with him. Horse like that - once he's lost the nerve he won't likely get it back."

I'm glad too, Ms. S. In that respect, he's not changed a whole lot.

WSTM #3: Big Potential = Big Frustration
"Once we got him really working he impressed. My foreman was right - he could run! Blew everyone away. A week or so before his first race I had him worked out with 3 or 4 other 2 year olds he would be up against, and he out and out smoked them! Left them in the dust! I was of course all excited, thinking this is the one! Then came race day and that booger finished dead last - against the same horses and at a slower pace than he ran the week before!" She paused for a laugh, "He was a frustrating one, but that's horse racing."

WSTM #4: Family History
"I wasn't too worried about his first start though. All [dam's] foals were late bloomers. Let me ask you this - what does he prefer, hay or grass?"

This totally threw me. One of Leg's many nicknames is "Hay Head", because no matter how deep or lush the grass may be, if hay is offered he will stand there until every last straw is consumed before wandering off to graze. I related this to Ms. S, who laughed again. "Yeah, I'm standing here right now looking out at his half sister. Knee deep in grass and hanging her head over the fence waiting for her hay..."

Hold the phone! Did she just say his half sister??

"Yep, Indy, she's still here. Last foal out of [dam]. Sweet girl - they all are. She's 17 now. Raced a couple seasons and did well. I brought her home to breed her, but she had difficulties. When it happened the first time...OK, but when she had trouble with the second one I said 'no more'". Didn't want her going back into racing again - she was already 8 by that time and had been off the track for 4 years. So here she is, babysitting the young ones, eating hay. Spitting image of yours. Course [dam] threw nothing but big chestnuts, no matter who we bred her too."

So, Legs' dam was known for her big, chestnut, good natured, hay loving babies. That right there explained so much.

WSTM #5: Lost...and Found
"I hated to let him go, but I had a bunch running and had to make a choice. Never an easy one. I knew as long as he kept running I could keep up with him - and I did: Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, finally West Virginia, I always knew what he was up to. Course he started doing well the year after I let him go!" She laughs again, "late bloomer."

"So when Mr. C called me from the Mountaineer to tell me he was retiring him and had a buyer in NC, of course I contacted her too - told her to keep in touch. Sounded like a good place. Lady knew what she was doing with a track baby."

Here I had to laugh - Legs retired at age 10, hardly a "track baby!" Ms. S giggled too.

"Yeah, he sure held up. So anyway this lady in NC bought him and we kept in touch for a while. Then I get an email from her that she - or her husband, one of the two - were to be stationed overseas for a while and she was selling him. I don't check my email often, so by the time I got the message she was gone and so was he. That's where I lost him..." For the first time in over an hour, she paused. "But, I'm glad we found each other now."

Me too, Ms. S.

So that, I guess, is where the story begins. It will end with me - someday. Encouraged by my success at tracing his roots, I feel ready to really seek out that elusive "middle" portion of Legs' life that still holds a bunch of question marks - the scar on his neck, for example. Ms. S has offered to help in any way she can.

And because everything else she has told me so far makes perfect sense, I believe that too.


  1. Oh, how fun! What a wonderful way to find out about your the origin of his name!

  2. Fascinating. All his old habits are still there, including the love of hay. But better still, she knew him that well. You are so lucky to have learned his story so far.

  3. I hope I find out more about the horse I just acquired. Reading your blog gives me hope, especially since the previous owners were "mysterious" on the history.

  4. Jackie - feel free to email me: - I would love to try and help you out if I can (have some experience in this area!)