My Horse, Jet, was born the son of a Kentucky Derby winner. Lil E Tee was a longshot when he won the derby in 1992. Not much was made if his pedigree, or of his talent. He won when he made his move from near the back of the pack and fought his way to the wire. I now think he throws the same characteristics to his foals.
His son spent most of his racing career running in cheap claimers, and won a few, but most of the time was too out of control before the start to even threaten the winner. He was sold several times, and then ended up in the hands of some very bad people. Jet had become part of an illegal gambling ring. He was now a “Match Race Horse.” That means that in the dark of night, and away from cops, he was matched against other horses in the desert, where he would run his heart out under very bad circumstances. Apparently he was not a big winner, and at some point was tied to a swing set in the bad man’s back yard, and then left to die. He was left with another horse, who was tied to the tree next to the him.
By the grace of God, someone saw the emaciated half dead horses, and called the police. The Arizona sheriffs department came and arrested the owners, and Jet was taken to jail. He was placed in the care of inmates in “Tent City,” a small, sad, yet wonderful place in the desert, where the rescued animals are rehabilitated by officers and inmates. They are pipe stalls with shade covers. No grass, turnout, or love. Just a place where they are carefully fed and given medical treatment.
Jet a broad 16.1 hand Thoroughbred, was 700 pounds when they found him. He slowly fought his way to recovery, while sadly his neighbor had to be euthanized. He spent a year and a half in that place, waiting for his court case to be heard, and then to be put up for adoption. How does the son of a Kentucky Derby winner end up here?
I was working as a vet tech for the vet who oversees the medical care at the prison, and upon arrival that day, started walking around asking about all of the horses. It was about 115 degrees and not a cloud in the sky (the typical summer in Phoenix), and I found myself seeking shade while walking to the end of the stall rows. A bay head with a big uneven blaze popped over the top rail, looked at me, and nickered. My heart just stopped. All day I couldn’t shake that nicker, and kept hearing it over and over in my head, along with the visual of that bay face looking me right in the eye.
No… I didn’t NEED another horse.
I got home that night, showered, and threw my sweaty clothes in the hamper. I looked over at my husband, and told him of my day. I also may have mentioned this sad horse, his sad story, and the way he looked right at me and spoke to me.
Chad, without hesitation, said, “Go get him.”
The next day my trailer pulled up at the jail, I paid my $400 adoption fee, and he was mine. He had several names in jail-on the paperwork he was Queratano, the inmates called him Q-Ball, and the officers called him Gitano. We shortened that one to Jet. (My husband is a fighter pilot for the USAF, and it was the perfect marriage of a name in my book!) Little did I know that he was “Bumpitee” and his daddy won the Derby. But really, who calls a horse “Bumpitee?”
We knew nothing of his racing history, his training, ect. Just the things that the paperwork said. Needless to say, he had some very heavy emotional baggage. When I got him home, this sweet nickering horse was a nightmare! I kept him at a boarding stable, and they hated him! He bit, he kicked, he ran away, he escaped, he pulled back when tied, he bucked, he reared, ect. We almost gave up.
Chad and I were looking for a small farm of our own, and I just knew I should hold out until I had him in my backyard. I wanted to know him, and I wanted him to know me. I wanted to be the one who fed him breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wanted him to eat carrots out of MY hand. We found the place, brought him home, and started over. And you know what? It worked.
Jet started to look for me in the pasture, started to come when I called him, and learned to behave like a good boy. Why was he so angry? He was in pain. We treated his various minor lamenesses, treated his raging ulcers, and put him to work!
In January of 2011, I put a saddle on him and began the first day of the rest of his life. I had big dreams. This was my future Three Day Event Horse! But… We had a long way to go. I taught him basic commands for the first few months, but I seriously needed some help. A friend recommended an advanced level rider and trainer in North Scottsdale, Barb Crabo. “She is good with difficult horses,” she said. Yep, Jet qualified as “difficult” to say the least! So I put Jet in the trailer, and drove the hour and a half to our first lesson. After telling Barb his story, she was determined to help. She has been amazing. Every few weeks I travel to her, and we get to work.
So just to shorten an already long story, Jet is now my Event horse! I have never sat on a horse that jumps as well as he does. He couldn’t enjoy it more! We started at the beginner novice level, fought through his mental challenges, and have tested him over and over. And you know what? He is A CHAMPION!
Two weeks ago, “Fighter Jet” and I, Jamie Jennings, won the Novice level horse trial at the Coconino Horse Trials in Flagstaff, AZ! He had the best score in the entire division, and won the prestigious award as the Lowest Score for an OTTB in the whole competition! (the lower your score, the better in eventing!)
Jet has and continues to teach me things every day. Sure, he still will take the occasional nip at you, and still throws a mean buck at you every now and then, but I learned some very valuable lessons from him. I learned that no matter what challenges come, don’t ever give up. I am also a much better rider because of him. As I sit here, staring at him out my window, I realize something… It’s time for his afternoon carrot!Tweet Share