- Bonnie McRae
Graduate Spotlight: Speight Me
This week we're sharing the story of Jeannie and Speight Me, a 2009 gelding by Speightstown and out of a Meadowlake mare. Speight Me was a $200,000 yearling that went on to race 19 times, earning just over $40,000. While he didn't make much return on his buyer's investment, he was the perfect horse to go on all kinds of adventures with adopter Jeannie. The two reside in Virginia and have pursued a lot of different disciplines, while mostly sidesaddle! Read about their story below.
1. You and Spidey have been together for some time now. Do you remember what drew you to him when you were searching for a horse?
Have you SEEN his mug shot? He is so stinking cute! The first time I saw him, he was too footsore to ride and he didn’t even want to walk much. He was politely adamant about not stepping off the rubber mats in the aisle. An impeccably mannered gentleman, even though he wasn’t feeling his best. He also has Gone West in his lines, which must be something I like because maybe half the horses I looked at have it, as did my first horse!
If I’m honest, while I liked him, there wasn’t love or a bond or anything like that. I had a huge horse-shaped hole in my heart that needed filling, and he seemed to want someone who would be patient with him while he figured out what to be. Worst case, we’d be the friend the other needed while we sorted life out, and go our separate ways. Now, 8 years on, and that bond seems to have happened somewhere along the line. I said that to a barnmate once, and she said it was about time I realized what everyone else knew!
2. Is there any backstory to his barn name?
No, Spidey isn’t named for Spider-Man. I think he was being called “Speighty” at ATR, from his JC name Speight Me. I couldn’t manage that, so it just became Spidey. I actually wanted to call him Smee - Capt. Hook’s minion - but it just doesn’t work well to yell in the field. But he’s totally a Smee.
3. I know you have pursued several types of riding together. Can you tell us about what all you've done with him, and what has been his favorite? Your favorite?
Trail riding, dressage, eventing, working equitation, hunters, mounted archery, judged pleasure ride (just once, but we want to do it again), costume classes, free lunging, stand-in lesson horse, bridleless, and on one notable occasion a demo horse for an equine chiropractor! Did I mention we’ve done most of those things sidesaddle?
I don’t know if he has a favorite. Probably hacking to the winery that shares our property line and seeing if he can mooch snacks from the people there. As we walk by, he looks for people by the fence and will march up to them. But in terms of work, it would be jumping and the obstacle phases of working equitation. He seems to find the archery kind of boring, but then we haven’t started doing speed work yet…
My own favorites would have to be trails and costume classes. I like doing silly dress up things, what can I say? And he hasn’t yet objected to anything being put on him. I do wish he was more comfortable on trails - he is well known for balking at things like Where The Big Rocks USED to be, even if he doesn’t bat an eye att motor vehicles. Occasionally, a jogger passes us. Spidey is more concerned with whatever they’re running from than the jogger.
4. Were there any challenges you faced and overcame together?
I usually tell people “we’re supposed to be eventers.” I had a bad fall schooling cross-country, resulting in a nasty concussion and a medivac flight I don’t remember. Witnesses say Spidey was good, but my riding faults all happened at once and off I went. That was four years ago this weekend. Since then, I’ve worked on his free jumping so I know he doesn’t rush fences, and my jump lessons focused on going back to before ground poles and rebuilding. Spidey is a super solid jumper, and honest as the day is long. While I still have huge nerves and confidence issues on course, the terror is gone. I know if I can hold myself together, Spidey is there for me.
5. Any advice for someone considering adopting a Thoroughbred?
Be honest with yourself, your trainer, your horse… everyone. If they’re not long off the track, they probably need time to grow their feet. Use that time to help them build topline and appropriate muscles for their new job. Most TBs love to work, so if they’re cranky about it, figure out why and fix it. We owe them that much.
I was a bit put off at the pre-purchase exam when I learned he had bone chips in both knees. But what the heck - by the time you’re vetting a horse you’re pretty committed anyway. Touch wood, he’s never noticed them, nor his old splints, nor his osslets. Get a baseline if you want, but x-rays don’t dictate what the horse can do.
After being around Spidey, a few folks tell me they’ve re-considered their impressions of OTTBs, and would actually think about getting one. You don’t have to get one that only recently stopped racing, either. There’s lots of retrained OTTBs out there, sometimes even ones that have come back to their “home” organization. Definitely worth looking at!
6. Anything else you want people to know about Spidey?
Spidey is ADORKABLE. He is polite, gentle, and just wants to make his people happy. His vets and farrier like to leave him for last so they have an easy horse at the end of their day. He will lick and/or eat anything - phones, cars, arena footing, concrete walls, towels, dental floats, dogs, bute (twice!), random rock… He will try to mooch from anyone, including jump judges when he’s out on course. If you leave his stall door open, he likes to stand in the doorway as if he has a stall guard up. And it took a couple years, but he did figure out that it’s ok to relax, and how to communicate.
I was getting frustrated because while Spidey walked on the trailer happy as a clam, I couldn’t teach him to self-load. Eventually I realized that I’d taught him not to walk past me while being led. So I taught him a cue to go in front of me, and he’s self-loaded ever since!
We say he lives in Spideyland - a world very much like ours, but with an overlay. Like Pokemon Go. It explains a lot. Like how you can be grooming him, and suddenly he jumps because he just noticed you're there. Or the time I rode him the quarter mile from the barn to the arena, telling my trainer something was a little odd. Then he started and whipped his head around as if he didn't know how he'd gotten there. Sometimes I just put my face in my hands and sigh.
Last year, for the first time in my life, I qualified for a Big Regional Show. My nerves kept us from doing terribly well in the ring. At the end of the day, I was crying in his stall because he’d been so wonderful in spite of me, and how could I possibly deserve such a wonderful creature?
I want to tell a gazillion stories about Spidey, but I don’t have any more time to type them than you do room in the blog. So I’ll leave it at the fact that my Working Eq trainer calls him “Mr Perfect” and our jump trainer - a Canadian Olympian - says she'd take him home in a heartbeat.
Thank you so much, Jeannie, for sharing your and Spidey's story with us!