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established in 1999 by Allie at Charles Town Race Track in West
Virginia, but it certainly comes in handy.
Partnership with a horse means everything to Lisa DeHart
Austin, who grew up horse-crazy in Virginia and got into eventing
as a teenager. Ozzy, an Appendix with 5/8th Thoroughbred blood,
was “the teacher that every rider should have at least once in their
life – he taught me fairness, patience and harmony, that good
work is the result of good teachings and that when all else fails,
go back to the beginning,” said Lisa. “Most simply, he taught me
how to ride.”
But their nine years together proved too brief. Three months
after losing Ozzy, Lisa took home an OTTB from CANTER Mid
Atlantic. In her frst post to blog about the experience for CMA, she
quoted George Henry Lowes: “The only cure for grief is action.
And if that action involves being nuzzled by an OTTB, all the
Within the year Woody (registered name Lookndownthebarrel)
offcially became her new dancing partner. Lisa’s passion for
horses embraces more than winning rosettes. “I haven’t owned
a lot of horses in my life, but two of the four have been off-the-
track-Thoroughbreds,” stated Lisa. “Woody has been a tough and
rewarding journey. He’s sweet, endearing, athletic, talented, and
a little famboyant. His nickname is Sir Woods of Spookalot. At the
barn we joke that he’s lucky his person is a psychologist, because
he needs frequent counseling. Nevertheless, he has taught me to
be a better rider than I ever imagined. Plus, he has a face that will
melt your heart.”
Lisa feels strongly that OTTBs need time to learn to be a real
horse and that most beneft greatly from being turned out when
they frst come off the track. “CANTER Mid Atlantic is awesome
about this,” she said. “CMA doesn’t do anything signifcant with
them for the frst few months. They get turned out, eat grass and
fgure out who they are now that their previous career is completed.
To watch the transformation is amazing.”
Then comes the challenging stage of forging a partnership
with a former racing machine. For Lisa, eventing is fun: if she
isn’t having fun, she has to fgure out why and fx it. “It’s a pretty
therapeutic exercise and keeps my priorities in check – it’s all
about the relationship and making personal progress,” she
explained. “I compare my results to where we’ve come from, not
to where anyone else is. If I’m not pleased with that progress, I try
to spend more time fguring out what I need to do better.”
One of the many adult amateurs with career/full-time job,
marriage and/or family, she advised: “Don’t take it personally
when things go badly! Woody is still not 100% brave going into
the water on the cross-country and he has a spooky-stop in him.
When we rack up 20 penalty points, I allow myself 30 seconds to
feel sorry for myself and then I take responsibility for it. If we have
an issue, it’s my issue. If he doesn’t do what I ask, it’s because
1) I didn’t ask him correctly or 2) I didn’t prepare him correctly.
He’s the sweetest little dude and doesn’t have a mean bone in
his body.”
Lisa added, “Woody can be sensitive and reactive, but he is
the exception, not the rule, when it comes to Thoroughbreds. It
took fve years, but we’re eventing at Training level. Most OTTBs
are calm and easy-going and it’s important for people to have an
open mind about them. Allie knows how to match horse to rider.
She’s batting a thousand as far as my horse and my husband
are concerned! Plus, there’s something about the work ethic and
enthusiasm of a willing OTTB that just can’t be beat. My wonderful
Woody was the challenge I needed after I lost Ozzy. Today Woody
is what keeps me sane and moving forward.”
To learn more about CANTER (The Communication Alliance
to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses) visit www.canterusa.
org. CANTER has affliate programs all across the United States.