By Britney Grover
Photos by Winslow Photography
When talking about angels, they’re usually the ones doing the saving. But Satins Angel had to be saved first. After bleeding ended her racing career, Satin bounced from owner to owner within months, narrowly escaped slaughter, and endured abuse before she met Alexa Lee.
“I rode her literally twice and I don’t know what it was that sparked our connection,” Alexa said. “She was so scared; I couldn’t pet her face, I couldn’t hug her. She would throw her head in the air, her eyes white with fear that someone was going to hit her — she still has scars on her face. But I saw this horse who just wanted to be loved and to have someone to love so badly. I thought, I can do that for you. I want to do that for you.”
Not only did Alexa transform Satin’s life, but Satin has transformed hers. Together, they’ve earned championships and end-of-year championships at Brave Horse, the Ohio Hunter Jumper Association and the World Equestrian Center. Satin was named US Equestrian’s 2018 Thoroughbred Jumper Horse of the Year, and Satin and Alexa’s partnership is only beginning to blossom. This year they’ve begun moving to the high jumper classes at 1.10m: They took second in the $1,500 Adult Jumper Classic at the World Equestrian Center in July, then at Brave Horse in August, put in the only double-clear round to win the $1,500 Childrens/Adult Jumper Classic 1.10m.
A Fateful Meeting
The first time Alexa rode a horse, she was terrified. “I was 4 years old, and my dad took me to a dude ranch,” she said. “I have a picture of me meeting my horse for the first time. But ever since then, horses have been my therapy — my whole world. They filled everything that I needed in my life. I was actually diagnosed with celiac disease, and the only time I didn’t feel sick was when I was at the barn. It was the weirdest thing ever: I could eat bread or pizza or whatever at the barn and never felt sick — it never made sense, but I took it!”
Alexa began taking lessons in Virginia, where she grew up, and found that horses helped her be more patient. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, she always wanted to do right by the horse she was riding. She showed a few times and always begged for a horse, but it wasn’t until after high school that, instead of a graduation present, her parents leased a horse for her to take with her to college.
“I’ve always been really attracted to off-the-track Thoroughbreds, because they’re just as energetic as I am,” Alexa said. “My first horse was an OTTB that I bought on my own after I graduated from college, because that was what I wanted to do — I went to Virginia Tech for electrical engineering so I could afford the lifestyle that I wanted with horses. But it wasn’t until I got Satin that I started learning what a bond we can have with horses, and also how much patience and understanding that bond takes.”
While Alexa was setting herself up for success with horses, Satin was on a more harrowing journey. Born in 2008 and registered as Queen Satin, Satin earned nearly $37,000 over her three-year racing career and 18 starts. But her health issues ended her racing career. “She was sent to a ‘flipper’ for 30 days who couldn’t sell her and finally ended up selling her cheap, and then she got sold to another home, all within five months,” Alexa said. “In November 2016, Satin was sent to the Sugar Creek Auction in Ohio to be sold for slaughter, where she was beaten on her face to the point that she reared up on the stands, terrified.”
Though Satin was “rescued” from slaughter, her skittish tendencies made her new owner impatient. That was when Satin met Alexa.
Alexa happened into the barn by chance — she was simply looking for an indoor arena to get out of Ohio’s harsh winter weather. She rode Satin twice, bought her, and moved her to a new barn. Satin needed time and patience from Alexa to regain trust in people, but despite everything Satin had gone through, she was still willing to give Alexa a chance.
“Anything that I asked her to do, she was going to do,” Alexa said. “Her attitude was, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that for you. Yeah, I can do that. Whatever you want.’ She never fought back. She never argued. She never had an attitude, wasn’t ever sassy. And I love that about her; she has always wanted to try and try and try.”
Alexa’s patience and Satin’s willingness to trust again paid off. With the help of dressage trainer Joy Chapin, they began learning how to work together properly and in balance. Just as Alexa found her passion in horses, Satin found her passion in flying over jumps. Their first year, Satin and Alexa won the $5,000 Classic at the New Vocations Charity Horse Show in 2017 out of over 30 entries and went on to show and earn year-end championships resulting in Satin’s 2018 Horse of the Year selection.
“They both appreciate each other,” said Angela Moore, Satin and Alexa’s jumping trainer for the last year. “There’s a great bond between them; the mare tries super hard because I think she knows she’s loved and appreciated. When they first came, they both had great courage and desire, they just lacked some basic discipline. We worked a lot on the basics of lengthening and shortening, and Alexa’s balance and her position, but they both came with great desire and willingness to learn, so that made it pretty easy.”
With Angela’s help at Stealaway Farm, Satin and Alexa have moved up to the high amateur jumpers and continue to find success — though for Alexa, success is much more than just ribbons. “She is my entire world. I would do anything for this horse; I would give her my right arm and my heart if it meant that she was going to have a happier life. She has done so much for me.”
“As someone who’s trained horses and riders for 30 years,” Angela said, “it’s very refreshing to have someone who just truly loves their horse and the sport, gets off after every round whether it’s good or bad and gives her horse a hug, and is thankful to the horse and myself.”
A Bright Future
Now 26, Alexa lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her 4-year-old miniature labradoodle, Ottis — who also happens to be one of Satin’s best friends. “If she’s ever nervous about something, like crossing a bridge on a trail ride, and Ottis goes and does it first, she thinks, Okay, I can do it, too. He’s my child and goes everywhere with me every day.”
Since she works remotely designing and building power systems for ABB, Alexa is able to prioritize riding in her life. Though it tends to make Satin jealous, Alexa also helps to ride and exercise horses for her trainers to gain more experience and to help give other OTTBs a new purpose in life.
As Alexa and Satin continue to strengthen their bond and hone their competition skills, they draw admiration and help spread appreciation of Thoroughbreds as sporthorses. At a recent clinic with renowned equestrian Bernie Traurig, they not only won the jump off but were asked for a one-on-one to discuss Thoroughbreds. Bernie summed up what many people feel about Satin when he said, “I love this horse.”
“Every time we come out of the arena, people come up to say how awesome she is, how amazing, how much she loves me,” Alexa said. “And it’s great to hear that — but I think she should be honored for everything she does just because she gave me a chance to love her, to give her a third or fourth chance at a good life.”
Photos by Winslow Photography, www.jwinslow.com