You may have noticed that an off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) placed fourth at Junior Hunter Finals. That’s right . . . an OTTB. Because I found this story so exciting and full of hope for the breed, I followed up with the horse’s owner, Ashley Williams to learn a bit more about this ex-racehorse and his path to success in the hunter ring. I hope that you will find this interview as full of promise as I do.
Remember, there are OTTBs out there looking for a home everyday. A lot of them may be a bit banged up, skinny, or hot… but knowing what is under the racehorse is the great secret. Cheers to Ashley for seeing through the racehorse to the winning show horse! And this special guy is for sale. (Check out his sale advertisement here). He deserves a special show home that will allow him to showcase what the American Thoroughbred is capable of achieving.
Q: When did you purchase Little Lion Man?
A: I Bought “Louie” as a four-year-old back in October of 2014. Helen Goddard, who I’m assistant to, got a call about an OTTB who looked like he might have some good potential. I had recently sold my horse and was looking for a new project so I took the trailer out the following week to see him. I first glanced at him in the the stall (which stepped down) and he looked tiny but had the cutest face. He had a lot of growing and filling out to do. I hopped on him and loved him. He jumped anything from anywhere and in excellent form. I put him on the trailer right then and brought him home.
Q: How did you react to Little Lion Man’s fourth place finish at Junior Hunter finals?
A: I’m glad no one had a video camera on me because I was all over the place. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there on Tuesday, only on Monday for the Classic round, as I was headed up to the Vermont Summer Festival to set up with our other horses. Since he was the last division and went 48th out of 53 the suspense was killing me! I kept running out of service on my phone so I was constantly trying to keep the livestream going. I finally ran to a local hotel and got the owner to let me on his computer in his office to watch, and I made it with three trips to spare! When I heard he was seventh in the handy I was so happy. And then when they announced he was fourth overall I yelped so loud! There were tears of joy and the biggest grin on my face. I just kept going around saying “he was fourth!!!” I’m still unbelievable proud of my little man.
Q: What other accolades or accomplishments does Little Lion Man have under his belt?
A: He has a good amount of experience for his young age. Exactly a year ago from Junior Hunter Finals he made his Hunter debut up in Vermont in the Take2 Thoroughbred Hunter division where he was reserve champion. Since then I dabbled him in both the jumper and hunter ring and he proved to shine in the hunters where he has since stayed. He had the highest first round score in a USHJA National Hunter derby out of 31 where he jumped around with some of the best and ended up sixth. He was champion first time out with his catch rider Maddie Flocks (who rides for Lauren Newmeyer) at Saratoga Springs where she had literally only tried him one time prior (and it was her first time riding a horse as she is an excellent pony rider!). Junior Hunter finals was only her third show ever riding him! He is that easy!
Q: Name three of your favorite qualities about Little Lion Man.
A: 1. His athleticism has got to be one of my favorites. His jumping style and ability make him shine.
2. His willingness and handiness at the fences. He jumps anything from anywhere and is unbelievable forgiving.
3. His level head. We can be in the show ring one day and out on the trails the next. His versatility is a pleasure.
Q: What makes Little Lion Man exceptional, in your opinion?
A: Everything I said above makes him exceptional. The fact that he is so easy for a six-year-old and has gone out being the underdog and being a thoroughbred and coming out on top makes him that much more remarkable in my eyes and everyone else who knows him. We all knew he had this potential and are so happy to see that he and the breed are getting the recognition they deserve.
Q: Do you have any pre-show ring rituals? Good luck charms? Or superstitions?
A: Nope! Just good old fashion classic training to get us to the ring. No gimmicks or tricks or good luck charms.
Q: What is your favorite venue and why?
A: I really love the Vermont summer festival. The scenery and atmosphere is fantastic. The staff and people are wonderful and the horses and clients all love it.
Q: What is your favorite thing about this sport?
A: How humbling it is. One day you can be on the top and the next your not. If you don’t put in the hard work and the basics you won’t shine.
Q: Favorite piece of tack, accessory, or clothing item to wear in the show ring?
A: I love my Devocoux saddle with my Rhino Aluminum stirrups, with my Success Equestrian jumper pad underneath and my IRH helmet on my head! I always feel confident when our outfit is complete!
Q: If you could tell the world on thing about your thoroughbred, what would it be?
A: That he continues to amaze me everyday. I am unbelievably grateful to have stumbled across him a year and a half ago. I want to applaud the breed for being such great athletes and note how wonderful it is that judges and trainers are recognizing their athleticism and brilliance and see how successful they can be. The thoroughbred was the original Hunter. I wish I didn’t have to sell him cause he is one I’d love to keep in the barn. He is a pleasure to have around and is going to make his next partner a very lucky one!
About Jaclyn Meg Johnson: My name is Jaclyn Johnson (although those that knew me as a kiddo know me as Meg Johnson, which is some cruel joke my parents played on me- making me go by a name that isn’t actually my name at all). I am constantly battling the reality that I can no longer wear bows and jods in the show ring, and I have actual bills to pay. My discipline de préférence is the hunters, although I admire, follow, and dabble in others. You can find my in the Adult Amateur ring counting strides and dreaming of future Derby glory! This post originally appeared on Jaclyn’s website, intothebluegrass.com.