Read Hunt’s story below about how the son of Spanish Steps, now called “Obie,” became her heart horse.
My journey with Obie started years before he was born and would not have been possible without the incredible horsewomen who supported and encouraged me. Beginning with my first riding instructor, Cheryl Connell-Marsh, a true horsewoman if there ever was one. She taught me that riding a horse is an honor and reasonability; that a horse’s trust and respect are earned not demanded; and was the first to introduce me to OTTBs. I rode my first Thoroughbred with Cheryl. She quickly taught me that Thoroughbreds are not only incredibly intelligent but once you have earned their trust, they will give you every ounce of try in their big beautiful hearts. They are curious and stubborn. You can’t make Thoroughbreds do anything, you must convince them it’s their idea. When you learn to speak the same language it’s like flying. Cheryl also taught me the value of a horse cannot be measured in dollar signs.
After graduating college, I finally had the opportunity to purchase my very own horse. With a small budget and a love of Thoroughbreds I searched CANTER’s site for the perfect match. The day I met Obie, who raced as Steps to the Stars, I was there looking at a different horse. It’s true what they say, you don’t choose your pet they choose you. Though, in this case Obie chose me through my dad. I should mention at this point my dad is not a “horse person.” If it weren’t for a daughter who loved to ride, he probably wouldn’t be around horses at all. When we (my dad, Cheryl, and I) walked into Obie’s stall that day, Obie walked over to my dad, fogged up his glasses and just laid his forehead against my dad’s chest, as if to say “Now I am home.” In that moment, this gentle giant stole our hearts. There was no decision to make, he was coming home with us.
I was not planning on purchasing a 16.2-hand 4-year-old Thoroughbred with only a few rides off the track, but it was the best decision I have ever made. Obie doesn’t have perfect conformation, he has a long back and upright pasterns, but when he moves he floats. At only 5-foot-2-inches, I can barely reach his withers, but we fit perfectly. I literally fit under his jaw. He often rests the soft part of his muzzle between his nostrils, right on my forehead or rests his chin on my shoulder breathing into my ear. He stands like that looking over my head, as if to say “I got your back!”
It’s hard to find the perfect name, especially for a horse that oozes personality. He has three-times the personality of the average horse. Obie is the social director of any barn he is in, saying “hi” to ever horse in his aisle, making sure they are all where they are supposed to be. He secretly thinks he is a dog and if he could fit in your lap he would. It’s no surprise he goes by many names: Bubba Lou, Mister Man, Big Man, Obie-Wan, just to name a few. I finally settled on his name, Obie, he is my very own personal Jedi. He loves people, horses, cats, and canines alike, though he is petrified of pigs. Mostly, he is everything Cheryl taught me about Thoroughbreds. Obie is stubborn, opinionated, he tests me, but once Obie trusted me all he wanted to do is please. Obie gives me everything he has, every step of every ride, even when he really doesn’t want to or thinks he can’t. He is the definition of perseverance.
Our journey has not always been smooth sailing. About four years into owning him, he tore 50 percent of his deep digital flexor tendon in his left hind. The prognosis was not good. I was told our jumping/showing days were over. He would likely only be pasture sound, if that. But I couldn’t give up on him so easily. He had kept me sane through many of life’s challenges, including grad school. I was lucky enough to be living in Ohio for the summer and he was accepted into an Ohio State University stem cell treatment study. It was then that another amazing horse woman entered our lives, Carrie Turner Thorne, who runs an equine rehab facility in Michigan. If it weren’t for Carrie, Obie would likely not be here today.
It was a long road back from this injury, including six to nine months of stall rest with five minutes of hand walking a day. This can be hard on any horse, but especially on one that was bred to run free. However, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I can say my bond with Obie only deepened. This sensitive horse now reads my every emotion, like a 1,200-pound mood ring. After about a year and a half, and to everyone’s surprise, I was given the green light to ride and he stayed sound. Needing a third career, we gave dressage a chance. Neither Obie nor I were made for dressage, but about three years ago we successfully competed in our first recognized show and took home two blue ribbons. We currently train with the third truly amazing horse women of our journey, Cheryl Hollis. Through her biomechanical method of riding we have successfully transitioned to dressage and are now training 2nd level.
Ours is a story of success. Not all racehorses get a second chance, and not all little girls who love horses find their perfect partner the first time. Our communication and connection have progressively developed under Cheryl Hollis’s training. We now ride more like a team than ever before, at times moving totally in sync as two notes in complete harmony. We may never show Grand Prix or receive perfect 10s, but he is my gold medal. Possibility is our story, and we are only limited by how high we can dream.