“Can you fit another horse at your place?” The race trainer sounded casual, but I could detect a pleading note under his laid back drawl. He knew we were sending a trailer to pick up a horse at Sam Houston Race Park – and he was hoping to add a second horse to our transport. “He’s a really good colt, easy to handle.” The pleading note was stronger now. “I’ll even get him gelded for you. He’d make a great riding horse, if someone would just give him a chance.”
And so Bridge Place arrived at the LOPE Ranch, slipped into a transport at the last minute. Bridge Place was a gorgeous bay fellow, with great conformation and a cheerful look in his kind eyes. Bred in Britain, he was shipped to the US with high hopes for a big racing career – he was regally bred, very expensive and full of talent.
Sadly, he developed a slab fracture in his knee at age three – his race owners sent him for surgery to pin the knee, hoping to save Bridge Place’s racing career. But his knee just couldn’t take the pressure – after a few weeks of training, he was sore. And so he found his way to LOPE.
Bridge Place swaggered off the trailer, looking for attention and treats. He carried himself like a football star, and seemed to be looking for admiring cheerleaders. Clearly he thought highly of himself – the only problem was that he was all of 15H tall. Beautifully conformed, athletic, cocky and…well…kind of short.
The other gelding who came with him was tremendously tall and slim, a supermodel of a racehorse. By contrast, Bridge Place looked like a warmblood, all stocky and sturdy, with round hindquarters. I smiled at the Mutt and Jeff appearance of them – especially since Bridge Place took it upon himself to boss the other gelding all over the pasture. It was hilarious to watch Bridge Place’s confident leadership over the much bigger horse.
Soon after, I began riding Bridge Place, now nicknamed “Billy.” He rode well, and seemed to love the attention. With his breeding and speed, I was expecting sass from him – but he seemed content to go slow, picking his way through pastures and over logs like he was an old ranch horse. If anything, Billy was lazy – I had to kick him into the canter, setting off a sigh and a pout from him.
And I loved Billy’s “short guy” ethos – he truly seemed to believe he was 18H tall. He would carefully walk around hanging tree branches (that were several feet over my head), clearly concerned that his mighty height would put my head at branch-whacking risk. He was a bit of a dandy too – he hated getting muddy and always managed to be the cleanest horse on the farm.
One day, Cheryl came to the ranch to look for a lesson horse and trail riding mount. As she rode Billy, she marveled at his laid back attitude, his responsiveness to voice aids and his happy, beagle-like personality. She adopted him on the spot – he now teaches little girls to ride near Houston. Although a far cry from being a high-end, imported race champion, Billy loves his new job – to the delighted surprise of his former racing colleagues!