Meet our third and final RRP Thoroughbred Makeover Blogger, Dr. Cleanth Toledano, who will be sharing a column with us once a month. Today, Dr. Toledano shares where her love of the Thoroughbred began and how she stumbled upon her 2019 hopeful, Mavis. 

I keep my horses for the duration of their lives, and history suggests that I acquire a new Thoroughbred each decade starting from the age of 13. The plight of taking care of my first OTTB led me to becoming a sport horse vet in Middleburg Va. Seeing as I just purchased Mavis, my fourth Thoroughbred, last year, that tells you my age. I am still competing OTTB number three, but am anticipating the next decade with Mavis by punctuating our first year together with the RRP Makeover.

I am excited to share with you Mavis’ journey with what led me to buy her (passing on wonderful freebies), brings me closer to her, and what she represents. As a vet whose entire career has been in Middleburg (10 years at Middleburg Equine and six superb years of working with, analyzing and admiring great horses independently), I have witnessed the hopes and dreams affiliated with racing TBs, and have helped the OTTB’s in their next careers. What I find interesting about the horse industry is the intricacy of “perception of value”. Although Mavis may do everything right to be a good OTTB, she probably will not be perceived as a valuable horse. Mavis does not have the cache of a warmblood colleague of hers. Their stories are and will be intertwined in this blog.

I purchased my first OTTB without my parent’s knowledge three decades ago for the same price as Mavis, both times using agents. I named her “It’s A Puzzle” because as a small OTTB by Quadravan, it was a puzzle why I chose to in-debt my life to this frenetic little mare. Our partnership included eventing, dressage, polo, riding double with boyfriends, giving lessons, breeding her to a warm blood in college for her to foal after graduating, which takes me through a decade of her care of me, teaching me, and directing my life decisions. Thereafter, I took care of her until she died naturally at age 34.

My second thoroughbred mare was purchased after college in my 20’s.  Bred to be a sport horse and not race, she accompanied me in my polo career and then onto vet school. She helped me go preliminary within one season during my fourth year as a veterinary associate under the tutelage of the Leslie’s (The Laws now). She fox hunted and trail rode as needed because “when in Rome do as the Romans”, so in Middleburg that means ride on (special) occasion. She also introduced me to Joe Fargis and show jumping. However, work took precedence over our competitive partnership. I admired and kept her until her unfortunate death last year.

Her demise came from my OTTB number three: a gelding that I acquired from a client early in my professional vet career. I still appreciate, foxhunt and show jump Seamus or “No Nonsense Jones” up to 1.15m thanks to Sonya Crampton’s compassionate coaching and comprehensive reverence for the OTTB. As obliging a soul as this OTTB is, Seamus gets distressed when his close friends leave and a human is not present. He usually stays at another farm. When he came home, he missed his buddies. To comfort him I put him out with my sweet TB number two, a mare named Sweet Pea. He promptly kicked her and broke her tibia before my husband’s eyes. He called me from mucking the stalls they had just been in. He said it was bad. I walked by and kept walking to my truck to get euthanasia solution. I helped her leave this world within five minutes. Despite having worked on phenomenal sport horses, that moment was the pinnacle of my vet career: helping my Sweet Pea quickly.

Since losing her I wanted to appreciate my horses beyond daily husbandry. It was time for my vet career to take a back seat to riding my horses for now. Trying to nurture a horse’s potential creates such an intense partnership and growth for both partners—enter Mavis.

A client wrote me for some advice that fateful night, and I mentioned I’d be looking for a TB mare. He immediately sent me an advert for a little mare that caught his eye with Jessica Redman’s link to Benchmark Sport Horses.

Here is a picture of the OTTB’s free-jump on Benchmark’s ad:

Now allow me to introduce Mavis’ warmblood colleague with a little background. In the year before I lost my sweet mare to a kick, I had fallen upon a dreamy untrained warmblood mare. I purchased this mare with such decisiveness (after my own exam) that a friend of mine immediately became intrigued, remarking upon my uncharacteristic expediency when it came to shopping for myself.  I hadn’t fallen upon a warmblood horse and opportunity the likes of this in the 15 years of my veterinary career. I named her Aviana or Avis (pronounced Avi). Sweet Pea helped me start Avis. Here is Sweet Pea (TB number two) baby-sitting Avis in my backyard. Sweet Pea (with the Star) guided Avis into her first trails, water crossings, and herd life.

Because I still had my 22 year old TB mare number two, and my 15 year old TB gelding number three, and my own horses were background to my vet career, I passed this dream-mare on to that close friend and client. But upon the loss of my TB mare, giving up owning Avis seemed like a mistake. People will undoubtedly desire and value Avis’ kind, attractive, talented warmblood potential, and I had passed her on to one of those people to nurture her value and appeal.

Here is a picture of Avis learning to free jump thanks to Martin Douzant’s free-jump clinic at Spencer Sport Horses. Photo courtesy Michelle Elgin

But who is the similarly dark bay mare with the free-jump in the advertisement? MAVIS, and what does the name Mavis look like? My Avis. The dreamy warmblood’s name, “Avis” is a French word with a French pronunciation and perhaps pretentious and multi-faceted like a fine wine. On the other hand, the name Mavis is pronounced as Irish-American as possible landing hard on every letter.

Mavis is an OTTB, somehow less ”valued”, “less desirable” and more earthly, as opposed to dreamy. When I called about Mavis: whaddya know, she trained around the block in Charlestown WVA. I’ve actually worked on her sire as a vet, and my colleague helped create the pregnancy in the maiden mare that led to Mavis’ existence. And what does Jessica Redman say when I called about this little mare? “If you want a mare (I shouldn’t even say this) I have another one that will make you want her more. She is Roseau and she is pretty and kind and appealing. Mavis is edgy.” So what do I do upon hearing of the really nice OTTB mare? I call my other good friend/client to look at the “nice” mare. We start the inquiries into Roseau (also a twist on a French-like name of Rose water) and, of course, Mavis.

Here Mavis is “biting at her” 19 Hand ISH pony-er (hard to call him a pony). She is more expressive than edgy, I think. She has a voice. Photo courtesy of Cleanth Toledano.

Our official adventure began as we planned a trip to Delaware in July 2018 with a truck and trailer loaded with X-ray equipment (as well as our husbands) to see if these mares would “speak” to either one of us. I think it is safe to admit that the horse telepathy had already started voicing itself from afar….

Check back in next month to read more on Dr. Toledano’s journey to meet Mavis and how their retraining is going so far!