Off to See the Wiz…and Pearl

I came in from feeding the horses one morning in early July when I received a text from my friend Linda asking me if I heard about Weather Wiz. A pit sank into my stomach. I wrote back that I hadn’t and to please tell me. She told me to contact Lisa. I asked her to tell me, that I wanted the band-aid ripped off. I feared he broke down during a breeze, and I didn’t want to contact someone else to hear about it.

She wrote back saying, “You got Wiz.”

I sat stunned for I’m not sure how long.

For quite awhile I’ve offered a home to Weather Wiz through his former owner Centennial Farms, but his present owner/trainer was not interested in retiring him each time they reached out to him. After getting that text from Linda, I called Lisa. I honestly wondered if I was being punked I was in such shock. Centennial reached out two weeks ago, and he once again declined the offer. Lisa answered my call, told me the story, and I guess Jamie Ness (owner/trainer) told a friend of hers, “Tell Centennial I will give him to that woman who wants him.” That woman was me, and I was incredulous.

Next I called Danielle from Turning For Home who was the one that spoke to Ness. After a lot of back and forth, we agreed to meet outside of Denver on July 15th where I would meet Wiz for the first time. She was traveling with her niece up to Wyoming for a competition.

My husband stayed behind to take care of the horses and dogs, and I packed up and headed east. It was a hot day and I was making good time until I got east of Glenwood Springs. There I hit the weekend traffic heading to the mountains or Denver, and we all found ourselves in a monsoon downpour. Traffic crawled. Seeing Wiz was delayed by an hour at the least. I grew irritable.

I’ve watched Weather Wiz since his first race at Belmont back in 2017. He is by Tiznow, who is a California bred horse and won two memorable Breeder’s Cups back to back. He is the first and only horse to do that. Tiznow is a special horse that found a huge place in my heart during his racing days. He had this grit, such heart, and he seemed to pass that on to his offspring. Also, when Mojo was supposedly abandoned in some field in Oklahoma, he was found with a Tiznow mare. When Mojo died, I swore I would take in another Uncle Mo or a Tiznow in honor of him. Before I left for the Front Range to pick up Wiz, I realized the day I would meet Wiz was also the anniversary of when Shandoka died. It seemed that I was coming full circle on both tragic losses.

When I finally hit the plains, I couldn’t wait to get to him. My nerves were frayed, and the temperature boiled at 98 degrees. When I exited the freeway, I realized I was in the middle of nowhere. As I looked around it seemed that everyone but a few farms sold off their water. Brown, burnt grass sizzled under the hot sun all around. What used to be thriving farms was now dried up, barren land.

Following the directions, I was surprised to see that I did drive by a weather station that looked like a gigantic golf ball. A short ways down the road, I turned left into the motel where I found other people staking out their spots for the night in a dirt field covered with sparse, brown grass. Butterflies fluttered. All I wanted to do was get to Wiz, but first I had to park where the owners of the horse hotel wanted me to. I got out and headed straight for Wiz where I found him in the back barn. He was tired, worn, and dehydrated from the long trip from Maryland. Laying on the floor of his stall he gave me a look that said, “Get me out of here.”

Exhausted Wiz after a long trip

I pushed a full tube of electrolytes into him to treat the dehydration, which got him up on his feet within ten minutes. He looked straight into my eyes and buried his head in my chest; I held his head while kissing him on his neck.

He loves to be kissed

“Let’s get out of this stall,” I whispered to him.

It was 98 outside but much warmer inside the barn that was filled with stale and heavy air. Nothing circulated. The owners were kind and hung a fan for him when they realized he needed some help. We walked through a small arena to an open area where a gentle, hot wind blew. I hoped the monsoons would come.

His tired yet gentle eyes filled with interest as we watched an elderly man strolling around his yard with his elderly dog. He was fascinated with them as they plodded along on his green grass.

I took him back to his stall where he drank down quite a bit of water over the next few hours. Relief eased my wrinkled brow. I went back to the truck to haul more water for him when I saw the monsoons. They’re coming.

Wiz watching the neighbor walk his dog

I headed back, pulled him out of his stall, and we went back to the opening in the arena. The breeze cooled and the sky poured a blissful rain upon the parched plains. Wiz and I stood in the mist and he let out a long sigh. We stood there or walked around gently for almost an hour. When it was dark and time for sleep, he hadn’t pooped due to the dehydration, I worried about him becoming impacted, although he drank a lot of water since I arrived.

I went to the truck, got my mat, bedding, and some banamine just in case. The closest vet was an hour away. I unrolled my mat and bedding on the floor next to Wiz’s stall. I plopped down from exhaustion. The sky ripped open and it rained hard for almost four hours. I was sure the ground would be mud, and I wondered how difficult it would be to drive out in the morning. The temperature dropped by twenty degrees, and I was lulled into a comfortable sleep listening to Wiz and all of the other horses munch on their hay.



Startled, I shot straight up after an hour of deep sleep; a horse violently kicked the side of one of the stalls. I jumped up to turn on the lights. This is when I finally noticed Pearl. How did I know her name? Her owner hung a sign with her name written in glitter on her stall.

Pearl is a Palomino mare, tall and wide, and she definitely was the queen of the barn. None of the geldings felt like taking her on. Her ears were pinned to the backside of her head, her eyes narrowed, and she bared her teeth at the thoroughbred next door to Wiz. She quickly turned her ass at this terrified horse, and kicked the stall wall that they shared extremely hard. I ran over to her to make sure her leg was still in tact. She upset all of the other horses who began to express themselves in different ways. The horse next to her began walking the stall. The horse directly across from her incessantly pawed the ground. Two other horses were trying to break out of their stalls. Wiz stayed pinned to the stall door next to me not moving.

The thoroughbred moved over by Wiz’s wall and the mare instantly perked up here ears and relaxed. Kindness returned to her eyes as her whole demeaner changed with the flick of a light switch. I went to the stall walker and nuzzled with him, went to the pawer and soothed his mind with some kind words, and went to the two that were sure they could break out. I stood with them until they returned to their feed. I walked back to Wiz reassuring him that all was well. He took a sip of water and returned to eating his hay.

I turned off the light and fell back to sleep. An hour later:



“Pearl, he is only trying to stretch his legs!”

I got up and repeated the above until everyone calmed down again. This happened every hour on the dot.

At 2am when Pearl started, I had it. I turned on the light, checked on Wiz, and stomped over to Pearl.

“Listen you, you’re not the only one in here with mare energy. I have more than enough to match yours. What are you going to do about it? Her ears instantly went up, and she walked over to me for some cuddles. I then went around calming everyone down before collapsing on my mat.




Wiz pooped. Finally. “We’re going to be okay buddy,” I whispered as I dozed off.

At 4am Pearl started up again. I looked at Wiz and said, “Let’s get out of here and go home.”

I normally would never do this with a horse I didn’t know, but Wiz and I had already been through a lot in the twelve hours we knew one another. I also wanted to get him home before the heat of the day boiled. A heat wave was moving in.

I calmed everyone down, rolled up my bedding, and I headed out to the truck in the darkness. Several generators were running, so I didn’t have to worry about waking anyone up. I slid open the main door to Wiz’s barn. I went into his stall, and I told him if this was too much for him, we would head back. We both looked at Pearl, and he seemed more than willing to go. I trusted our relationship.

We headed out of his barn into an open breezeway, through another barn, between two very long horse trailers with generators running, into a moonless night. We walked through a crunchy field to my truck when it dawned on me that despite all of the rain the ground was as hard as a rock, this drought is horrible. Without any hesitation he loaded in the trailer.

I kissed him on the nose and off we went. We drove easily through Denver, but instead of driving along I-70, we went on 285 through the mountains. We climbed passes, drove through beautiful forests with interesting rock formations, followed creeks and rivers, saw a herd of buffalo wandering through an old homestead on a wind swept, high mountain plain before we made the turn for home. The temperature stayed in the low 50’s the entire trip. Each time I stopped to check on him, he was bright eyed and chomping on hay.

After six hours, we pulled into our driveway. The other horses were snoozing in their stall avoiding the heat. When I put Wiz in his turnout area, Sueño came over to greet him. Ever since that moment Sueño has been his companion. They love one another.

Pearl exhausted me, exhausted all of those horses that night, but I honestly think Pearl is the reason why Wiz trusted me as we walked out to my truck in the dark. He knew I was his safety net, and I think we all wanted to escape Pearl. If he ever gets ornery, which happened one time, I tell him, “Don’t tell me you learned that from Pearl!”

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I walk outside and can’t believe he is here. I honestly never thought he would come here even though I never gave up. Seeing him each day brings a huge smile to my heart and soul. If you are offering a home to a thoroughbred that is currently racing, remember it takes time.

After resting and eating, I went out and stood with Wiz who was looking at the mountains., “You’re home Wiz. Those mountains are yours now.”

Wiz enjoying the pasture

I want to thank Centennial Farms for believing in me and putting up with me when I began getting a bit nervous about Weather Wiz. I thank them for reaching out to Jamie Ness for me several times. I especially want to thank Julie who has always been kind to me. I want to thank my friend since the 3rd grade, Lisa, for listening to me as I planned this out. I also want to thank Susan, Lisa F, J, and Linda for being so supportive and being a bridge for bringing Wiz here. I want to thank my dear friend Heather and new friend Robbie for trying to help solve the bumps in the road. You’re the best. Thank you Athena for always having my back. I also want to thank Danielle reaching out to Ness and for bringing Wiz to the Wild West, and I want to thank Jamie Ness for retiring Wiz to me. Thanks Mom for being his cheerleader. Last and the best, I want to thank my husband for all of his support and understanding. Weather Wiz is so loved by Bill, the horses, our dogs and me.

Dulce’s Calm Ride

Since Dulce was a racehorse, he barely had what could be called a saddle on his back. The exercise riders use a bigger saddle, but they are still smaller than the traditional saddle. If he was going to wear a Western saddle, there were some steps to take before I put one on his back.

I’m going to write three blogs to update you on different aspects of Dulce’s healing and progress. I say let’s start with the fun part. Before I start, I am not teaching anyone how to proceed with training their horse. I am simply sharing what I did with Dulce. What you do with your horse is totally up to you, and I bear no responsibility or liability with that. Let’s get started.

Dulce and I have been doing a lot of groundwork and desensitizing work. Movement plays a huge part in his healing and recovery, so I decided to put him into light training. We’ve been working for 15 to 30 minutes four to five days a week followed by stretching and massage.

Since Dulce was a racehorse, he barely had what could be called a saddle on his back. The exercise riders use a bigger saddle, but they are still smaller than the traditional saddle. If he was going to wear a Western saddle, there were some steps to take before I put one on his back.

Before going any further, I want to state don’t do as I do if you are nervous about it. If you don’t feel confident about training your horse to do this transition, get a trainer to help you. You want to get your horse off to the right hoof with a bigger and heavier saddle.

Before you start, you want to make sure there is no back or shoulder pain. I’ve been working on Dulce since I brought him home. He had severe back, shoulder, poll, TMJ, and neck pain. I worked with the Masterson Method, Acupressure, Myofascial Release, stretching, and Tellington Touch before I even considered putting a saddle on him. Also, I waited until he gained enough weight. Most racehorses have severely tight polls, back pain and sacrum area pain to say the least. Again, to get off to a good start, make sure you have all of this worked out.

Since Dulce has been turned out for about a year with no work, I started out with simple desensitizing work such as tossing a rope over his back, rubbing my stick all over him, petting him all over with a plastic bag, and rolling a ball underneath him and at his legs for instance. I also desensitized him to what it might feel like if a rope or wire got wrapped around around his leg. We walked over poles in all sorts of different positions to start strengthening his hind end and topline, which were weak.

I then put a rope around his barrel where the cinch would go. I slowly tightened it, and as soon as he relaxed by cocking his leg, letting out a sigh, or licking his lips, I immediately released. I gradually worked with this increasing the tightness until we got to where he probably would be cinched to. He never had a reaction to it, and actually would start to fall asleep.

I also rolled a big, inflatable ball along his back to remind him of what it felt like to have something on his back. Sometimes I lightly bounced it and other times I put pressure on it. He accepted this easily.

All of this teaches him he can trust me. I always start with the lowest of lowest intensities and slowly work it up. Whenever he shows signs of relaxing at each level, I stop, and I love on him big. The first day I may only do the lowest of intensities, next day take it a slight step higher, and we keep progressing until we get to where we need to get to. However, if he ever shows signs of nervousness, we may stay at a certain level of intensity for a few days until we find the right amount of relaxation, or I may need to take it down a noch before we progress. I go based upon what my horse tells me he needs; not what I think he needs.

We then began to do some light longing work. I do this to help develop communication with my horse on the ground preparing for when I get into the saddle. We both learn each other’s cues. I can find holes in his training and work on those areas. I learn how he responds to different stimuli, and I decide what to toss out and what to keep. I want us to have a great working relationship, so groundwork is a time for us to learn each other in a good and steady way.

People want to skip over groundwork a lot when they get a new horse that has been ridden before, and this can be a huge mistake. The horse had a trust relationship with his previous owner; not you. There is a story about how the famous jockey Angel Cordero asked to sit on Nashua or Bold Ruler, I can’t remember, and the horse bucked him off. Why? He wasn’t his jockey. You aren’t your horse’s jockey. You need to develop a good relationship with your horse before you get on his or her back. You want your horse to know that he can follow you even if he is nervous, to trust you in scary situations, and to listen to you when there are a lot of voices all around.

To prepare him for the western saddle, I put on a surcingle. I will longe him around and hand graze him with it on. This way he gets used to the feel of the cinch in moving through the different gaits and walking on uneven ground. Once he is good and solid with the surcingle, I put the saddle pad on his back, put the surcingle over it, and then I hand walk him over poles and hand graze him. The saddle pad is much bigger and heavier than anything he is used to, so this is a good prep for the saddle. Once this is good and solid, I put a bag of feed on his back to remind him about carrying weight on his back. If he responds well to this, I bring out the saddle and I put it on the fence. The first couple of times I just let him explore it and sniff it. We then move on to me holding it while brushing his side with it to see if he spooks. He never did. If he did, I would have stayed at this spot until he was over his fear of the saddle.

Since he was perfectly calm with the saddle, I gently put it on his back. I didn’t cinch it or anything. I simply loved him all over letting him know that he could relax and how proud I was of him.

The next day I slowly saddled him up, letting him sniff the saddle pad, letting him sniff the saddle, while loving on him after putting the saddle pad on…loving him after I put the saddle on. I slowly pulled the cinch off the saddle, slowly brought it up to his belly letting him feel it and then releasing it, bringing it to his belly and releasing before I finally started to cinch him up. I did it slow as I have done everything else to make sure he was comfortable. Each time I went up a step, I would stop and pet him making sure he was comfortable while also being ready to release it. I watched his ears, head and back to see if he had any signs of discomfort, anxiousness, or irritability. None were seen. Finally, I got him to where I knew if he bucked, it wouldn’t slide, and I began walking him. This is so important! Don’t do any kind of movement work if the saddle is loose. You don’t want it to slide down under his belly causing him to become terrified of the saddle. If you don’t feel comfortable fully cinching the first time around, that is fine. .This is what I did with my horse Shandoka. I put the saddle on his back, brought the cinch under him, got him used to feeling it, and then I tightened it without pulling the latigo through. Instead I grabbed the metal loop where the latigo is tied on to, and I pulled down on that gently while lifting up with the cinch. I worked with it this way until I got him to where he could stand a full amount of tightness with the saddle being pulled down on his back without having to tie it off. This way if he moved, I could let go, and the saddle would slide to the ground instead of the underside of his belly. It didn’t happen of course, because I did a lot of surcingle work with him, so the cinch turned out to be pretty easy. Remember, you want to get off on the right hoof.

He was so calm with the saddle on that I wasn’t worried. If he wasn’t calm, I would have stepped way back to be prepared. Is bucking bad? No. It is something that can be worked with, so if you aren’t experienced working with horses that buck, get yourself a trainer. DO NOT HANDLE THAT ON YOUR OWN. YOU AND YOUR HORSE COULD GET HURT.

As you can see, he was very calm with it.

I let him have a day off to think about everything that we did. On Monday he and Chaco had their morning race, so all of their fresh energy was worked out. It was the perfect time to put the saddle back on going through each step slowly. I walked him around with the saddle, and then I round penned him with the saddle on. He was worn out from his morning romp with Chaco, so I had a bit of a hard time keeping the momentum up. In short, he did fantastic. I had him walk, trot, and canter in each direction, had him turn directions a few times, and there was never a buck, hesitation, or any sign of being uncomfortable at moving under a western saddle.

I then decided to get on him, but before I did, I put downward pressure on both stirrups with my hands to make sure he felt okay with that. He did, I then patted the saddle and put some downward pressure on the saddle. He was fine with that. I brought him alongside the fence, climbed up it, and I put my leg across the saddle while pushing down on the saddle with my leg. He was fine with that. I then slid onto the saddle, talking soothingly, and rubbing my hands all over him. He loved that! I then moved his feet to the right a few steps, stopped, and rubbed him all over. I moved him a few steps to the left, stopped and rubbed him all over. I then walked him along the fence talking to him the whole time letting him know what a good boy he was. We went a hundred feet. I stopped him, and prepared to dismount. This is an important step before hopping off. I put alternating downward pressure with with both of my feet in each stirrup to get him ready for me putting full weight on the stirrups for a dismount. I first push down with my left foot, then right foot, left foot and so on. When I feel he is calm, I bring his nose over towards my left leg, which disengaged his hindquarters preventing him from being able to buck, and I get off. He was a perfect gentleman. I couldn’t be more proud of him. Not only hasn’t he had anyone on his back in a year, he also did all of this bitless! He picks up on everything so fast!

How did it feel to finally ride him? Sweet!!!!!! He walked easily, full stride, calm, held his head in a good way, and listened to me as I spoke to him.

Did I find any holes that need to be worked out? Yes. The moment the saddle went on Saturday, I realized he got nervous any time my training stick went towards his hindquarters. I think he was worried I may hit him with it like one would with a riding crop. I’ve watched his races, and his jockey used the crop on him a lot. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time desensitiizing him to all sorts of things touching his hind end with the saddle on. Yesterday, he really relaxed. We will keep doing this until he shows no signs of caring about it.

Do I follow this plan for each horse? Loosely. The horse will tell me what he or she needs, and I adjust accordingly. I may have to go back to the very beginning steps of our groundwork if the horse shows me he or she needs more work on something. Remain willing to adjust and be flexible while working with any horse. If you are rigid in your training, then your success will be highly limited.

Remember that OTTB’s received a lot of training at the track. They were asked to do all sorts of things from a very young age, and learned to deal with all sorts of things around them. Thoroughbreds are smart and versatile. They can do anything out there. The only limits they have are those that you put upon them, or physical injuries they incurred from the track.

When I go out to train my horses, my attitude means everything to the success of our work. I’ve learned from my past mistakes on this. If I go out there doubting me and my horse, the lesson will fall apart. The horse doesn’t fail at all, rather I failed my horse. If I have an attitude that my horse is going to spook or overreact to something, guess what my horse does? Spooks and overreacts. Horses are perfect mirrors for our doubts, fears, and insecurities.

If I go out there calm, my horse will be much calmer, easier to work with, and more open to me and my suggestions. Does that mean that our lessons always go as planned? Of course not…lol. If I go out there with a calm and positive attitude, then I am more open to solutions in the moment to help my horse. Usually, it is an error in my idea for how to proceed that creates an issue, and for us to have success depends upon how well I learn from what my horse is trying to teach me and implement it.

Of course issues arise due to past training and failures to solves past issues by the previous owners/trainers. These issues can be more difficult to resolve, but usually it is possible if you allow yourself to step outside of the box and find new ways.

When a problem arises, it is important for my mind and ego to not take it personally, to take a step back and breath, watch, and then figure things out. You are the deciding factor in so much of the work you do with your horse. Yes, you will have problems, but look at it as a chance for you and your horse to learn from one another, to get to know each other better, and to learn how to communicate better. Each problem is an opportunity. That is what riding is all about….communication and partnership with your beloved horse.