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Graduate Spotlight: Jojo's Gal

Today's feature focuses on Jojo's Gal, a 2011, bay mare and a true warhorse. Jo raced an amazing 58 times, retiring from racing in 2017. She came to After the Races in partnership with New Start For Horses, the track-based retirement program. Jojo's Gal is by First Defense and out of a Bertrando mare. She sold for $65,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland Yearling Sale in Kentucky, and raced in six states earning $133,561 the hard way, one claiming race after another. She was actually originally adopted by one woman in North Carolina before being resold about a year later to her current owner: Collin. Collin has had her now for a little over 4 years and continued to keep up with After the Races along the way. Collin has proven to be a devoted horse owner and absolutely treasures Jo, even though they haven't always had the easiest path to follow. Read on for their story.


First, thank you so much for being willing to share your story with us. People may be surprised to hear that Jojo's Gal was actually adopted first by another North Carolinian adopter before being sold to you in 2018. Were you at all surprised when After the Races reached out and welcomed you into our adopter family?

Hi, Bonnie. Yes, I was quite surprised! I bought JoJo from her original adopter, Libby. I didn't realize I would be welcomed into the After the Races family like I was!

Can you tell us a bit about how Jo came into your life? What drew you to her when you were horse shopping?

Jo at ATR

Well, it's kind of funny. My husband is retired military and always promised that when he retired I could finally buy a horse. We are in Camden, South Carolina and we have plenty of horses in our area. I always envisioned my first horse would be grey and anything but a mare. I had plenty of negative stereotypes about mares growing up. I had a plan for a grey warmblood on trial. However, Jo's face popped up on Facebook in one of the groups I was in. Something about her eye drew me to her. So I showed my husband and changed gears. Rather than go to see the grey gelding, we drove four hours to North Carolina the next morning to meet and ride Jo. She was perfect. I fell in love. I couldn't say no. When you first got her, you were primarily fox hunting and doing trails I believe. How did she take to it?

I had been out of riding for about six years when I began my search. I had major health issues for a while and required mobility assistance for about 4 years. I was back in the saddle with a friend at the time and just riding was amazing for my health. Growing up and doing Pony Club, foxhunting was always a dream to do. We live in a foxhunting area, so that was my primary goal with her. Trail riding was the start! She loves hacking out on trails. She is brave and confident most of the time. We all have our days, and she is not always a saint, but she is honest.... that was her eye. It did take her three tries to finally settle in at the hunt. Our first two.... well, they were honest attempts. By the third attempt, she really settled into herself.

Any reasons you'd prefer a Thoroughbred over other breeds for fox hunting or trail riding?

Thoroughbreds are kings where we live. I know many race trainers and riders here, and guess what they do with their newbies? They take them on the trails! Some even go as greenies and foxhunt when they aren't racing. It's just a natural evolution for them! I know she unfortunately had some setbacks in the form of injuries and Lyme disease. Can you tell us a bit about what you've been through together? Oh, we have been through it all, it seems! The winter of our first year she began to act a little off. We kind of attributed it to her being a war horse, and maybe just being back sore. Unfortunately it turned out to be Lyme. We treated her seriously for that and she had time off. Then she got a little more time off for her feet. When it was time to come back into work, she was back sore so we did back x-rays. Mild kissing spine.

I decided to haul her over to Tryon and for back injections. I don't know why I asked, but I wondered at that point if she'd be able to carry a foal, and Dr. Hay assured me that she'd be able to if we went that direction. In the meantime, we completed her rehabilitation for her back and she was cleared to go back out in the hunt field. But then, her first hunt back, she slipped coming off the trailer and tore her suspensory! Next came five months of stall rest, which she absolutely hates.

By this time, we had purchased another horse (my husband's quarter horse who fills in to hunt for me). I asked the vet about her future, and with all the time she needed to heal, asked if she could be bred. My vet was ecstatic. She doesn't push breeding at all but joked that she secretly wished for a while that I would. Jo is an amazing mare and so well built.

At what point did you decide to give her the time off to have a foal? Did you always want a foal or was it more of a solution that evolved over time?

Jo and her mini-me

It definitely was a solution that evolved over time. It's not something I have ever done. I mean, Jo was the first horse I even owned! I did have a LOT of good mentors here and support from my vet, so we felt good about taking that leap. Was Jo a good mom? How did things turn out with the foal? Jo was an amazing mom! A little too soft on the baby, never reprimanding even when needed, but she loved the mom life for sure. I still have her foal. Initially the plan was to sell the foal, but you know what they say about best laid plans. Being Jo's mini me, she's staying with me. We hope her baby will just be the sound version of her! Now that she's been weaned and is healing from her most recent injury, what are your plans for the future?

Yes, so the day baby was weaned, Jo decided to have another accident and hurt her hip. It's been four, almost five months now, and she is ready to get back into work. She may never be a performance horse, but we are so happy with where she is in life. Any way she goes, I'm happy. For the immediate future, she will be able to start hacking on the trails again, so she'll babysit her daughter and pony her out on the trails.

Looking back, do you ever think about what all she's been through and have any regrets, or did you get more out of the journey together than you expected? I don't have any regrets! Jo is an amazing horse. The last four years have been full of ups and downs, but that's how life goes! She has taught me a lot and I have enjoyed our journey together. Anything else you'd like to share about your girl? I got Jo at a time in life where I wasn't confident in the saddle. I was still using a cane to get around. She was so patient and kind with me. She would allow me to walk around hanging onto her halter. I gained confidence with her. She is so special, physically and mentally for me. I'm incredibly grateful I found her and was entrusted with her care.

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