Man About Town Jumping For Joy

Mr Manhattan was the type of racehorse anyone would love to own. He won six of his 16 starts and rarely finished outside the top three. He was easy to handle, adored by Joe Pride’s Warwick Farm stable staff and loved a treat and a cuddle when his owners came to visit.

Disappointingly, Mr Manhattan’s racing career was cut short by a condition known as Chondritis. As it worsened it affected his breathing and his form deteriorated. The decision was made to retire him straight away and he was sent to Limitless Lodge at Wyong for a well-earned rest.

Mr Manhattan salutes at Warwick Farm. Credit: Bradley Photos.

Not far up the road in Kulnura 26-year-old Mitch Carraro and girlfriend Anna Stenberg operate their equine feed and hay store, Storm Park Produce. Both are talented showjumpers who have trained off the track thoroughbreds so Limitless Lodge’s foreman decided to give them the first offer of Mr Manhattan. With several horses already in their care, they didn’t really want or need another but agreed to go and see him anyway. When they got there, they changed their minds.

“We’ve got a lot of racing clients as well as spelling farms and pre-trainers so we get offered retired racehorses fairly regularly,” Mitch said. “We’ve had about 10 thoroughbreds so far and they’ve all been great. Really athletic and willing. Mr Manhattan was a nice type and walked well so we decided to take him home.”

Mitch and Anna gave Mr Manhattan a month off to let down before attempting anything with him. Anna was too busy with her horses so Mr Manhattan became Mitch’s new project.

Mr Manhattan & Mitch in full flight at the Aquis Champions Tour. Credit: Oz Shotz.

“We decided to see if he could jump and he showed ability straight away,” Mitch said. “I took him to his first competition at Tamworth Show in late 2017 and he went well. There was a lot for him to look at but he behaved himself.”

Since then Mitch has enjoyed taking Mr Manhattan through his grades and didn’t take long before he was jumping 1m.

“We only planned to compete him up to 1m but he showed talent so we started trying him over 1.05m and 1.10m at home,” Mitch said. “The bigger the jumps got, the harder he tried.”

Last month Mr Manhattan and Mitch finished just outside the top 20 in the Group 2 1.10m Thoroughbred Championship at the Aquis Champions Tour on the Gold Coast. It was the biggest competition they had entered together. This weekend they will step up to 1.15m for the first time at the Camden Winter Showjumping Festival.

“It’s all just a bit of fun for us,” Mitch said. “We don’t set out to win, I’d be happy to jump a few clear rounds and have fun. I enjoy the whole process of preparing a horse and it’s satisfying to see how far Mr Manhattan has come. There are no concrete plans for him. We’ll just make sure he keeps his confidence.”

As for the chondritis, it hasn’t affected Mr Manhattan’s showjumping ability or given him any trouble.

“It definitely hasn’t held him back since we’ve had him,” Mitch said. “He’s a real cool dude with plenty of character. He loves attention and lets us know if we’re not giving him enough.”

Retired Racehorses Helping Troubled Teens Get Back On Track

When renowned horseman Patrick Herde walked into Burton’s Saddlery in early 2018, as he had done hundreds of times before, he had no inkling this particular visit would set him on the path for his greatest and most rewarding challenge yet. As he wandered around the shop in the heart of Armidale he struck up a conversation with owner Lee Burton who told him about BackTrack. Lee’s son Paul Dawson was working with the unique not-for-profit organisation which helps the most troubled youths get back on the straight and narrow and raved about its positive impact. Patrick looked up BackTrack online when he got home and knew he wanted to get involved too.

One of the key elements of BackTrack is the Paws Up program where participants learn to train working dogs for shows. It promotes self-control and leadership and as the current Australian champions it has given the kids a sense of accomplishment they’ve never experienced before. Having seen first-hand the emotional and psychological benefits of working with horses, Patrick came up with an ambitious plan to adapt the dog program for ex-racehorses. He approached BackTrack and Racing NSW’s equine welfare division Team Thoroughbred NSW with his pitch and in early 2019 it was given the green light.

Ten retired racehorses from Team Thoroughbred NSW’s rehoming program were delivered to Patrick’s Deepwater property, Ballyoch Horses. Some had managed to win races, others hadn’t even made the trials, but they had all been assessed as retrainable for careers after racing. Once a week Paul Dawson from BackTrack would drive half a dozen kids the 140km from Armidale to Patrick’s place so they could help with the retraining process and in turn learn invaluable skills, form friendships and build confidence.

“Firstly, we made sure the horses were safe and once we were confident of that we started teaching the boys and girls the basics,” Patrick said. “It wasn’t long before we had bums in saddles and could ride up into the hills for a picnic and campfire lunch. I was blown away by how far the kids came in the first month alone. The horse mirrors what you are feeling so you have to control your emotions. The kids became very aware of the energy they were putting out. You would see them get angry or frustrated then realise it was affecting their horse and change their attitude.”

Patrick, Paul and two BackTrack participants enjoying a trail ride.

Some of the boys have shown such a great aptitude for horsemanship, Patrick has employed them to work at his farm. The older ones stay there during the week and go back to Armidale for TAFE.

“We are teaching them a range of horsemanship and general farm skills which will make them more employable in the future,” Patrick said. “I want to see these kids chasing their dreams and being proud of themselves. We’re certainly proud of them.”

With the first group of horses now trained up for stock work and trail riding, they are ready to be sold so new horses can come into the program. An auction and open day will be held at Ballyoch Horses on Saturday, 1st June 2019. Inspections begin at 8:30am and the kids will be parading the horses from 10:30am with the auction to be completed after lunch. People can absentee bid by contacting Ballyoch Horses. 100% of the sale price of each horse will be donated to BackTrack. There will also be working dog demonstrations, plenty of catering and taste testing of Deepwater Brewing Co’s ales.

It’s not just the BackTrack participants and horses who are benefiting for the program. The local community is too. Patrick has sourced all his building materials and feed from the region and uses local service providers including vets and farriers. They’ve also formed a polo club and are fundraising to build a field in the middle of Deepwater Racecourse.

“It’s a win win win situation,” he said. “None of us really knew what it was going to look like but we’ve all been determined to make it work for everyone. We’re looking forward to the next group of horses arriving and welcoming more BackTrack kids to the program. My goal is to create more permanent jobs for BackTrack graduates on our farm.”

Click here to find out more about the Ballyoch Horses/BackTrack Horse Sale & Open Day. 

Ballyoch/BackTrack Trained Horses For Sale

Ballyoch Tianshi

Ballyoch Noah’s Secret 

Ballyoch Star Veeda

Ballyoch Sweet Dynasty

Ballyoch Chief 

Ballyoch D’Jay

Ballyoch Mi Sassy

Ballyoch Appleberry

Ballyoch Donna Riccio 

Ballyoch Moringa’s Stroller 


Angel Rises From An Unexpected Place

Abandoned in a dry paddock at Yass with more than 50 other horses. Raise An Angel found herself 350km and a world away from her previous home. The little grey mare had spent her entire two-year racing career at Phil Sweeney’s Jerilderie stables. She was no star but always tried her best and was loved and cared for like a pet. Both of Phil’s jockey daughters Brooke and Sally Sweeney rode her in races and Sally even saluted on her at Moulamein. They doted on her until she was retired and sold.

Sally Sweeney pilots Raise An Angel to victory at Moulamein Races in 2015.

Raise An Angel was set to be exported to race overseas but when the red tape became too much, her new international owner threw his hands up, walked away and stopped paying the agistment bills. With mounting costs in drought conditions, the agistment property manager tried desperately to rehome the horses before Racing NSW stepped in and rescued them. They were split between Racing NSW’s facilities at Taree and Muswellbrook where they were able to rest, gain weight and get healthy again. Raise An Angel, then five, went to Muswellbrook and eventually begun retraining for life after racing.

Meanwhile in Sydney passionate equestrienne and children’s riding coach Jessica Bott, wife of Randwick trainer Adrian Bott, was looking for her next showjumping horse. Having grown up riding off the track Thoroughbreds in the U.S., they remained her breed of choice. She had heard from her friend Karen Day, Racing NSW’s Equine Welfare General Manager, about the variety of Thoroughbreds available for rehoming through Racing NSW’s programs so she made an appointment, hooked up the float and headed up the highway to Muswellbrook.

Raise An Angel receives plenty of love from Jessica.

“I didn’t think I’d need the float but ended up coming home with not one but three horses,” Jessica said. “My close friends Bernie O’Regan and Emily Inwood made the trip up with me and also bought into the horses. Raise An Angel wasn’t my first choice but Bernie thought she had a lot of scope. She had a fluid movement and was brave over jumps and Bernie wouldn’t let us leave without her!”

Once home, Jessica’s plan to prepare Raise An Angel for showjumping hit a stumbling block. The mare was hot and fizzy on the ground and fired-up on the lunge. With the guidance of friends and more senior coaches Jessica persisted, and within a couple of months Raise An Angel was a different horse.

“I sat on her and she felt so different to how she looked,” Jessica said. “I took her trail riding and just enjoyed spending time with her. She was more like a therapy horse for me. My training of her was sporadic due to work commitments and supporting Adrian but she impressed me beyond her years.”

Jessica Started having lessons with Alison Rowland and Sarah McMillan. Sarah’s partner Nelson Smyth rode Raise An Angel when Jessica couldn’t to help with the retraining process. With each session, the little grey mare showed more and more talent for showjumping. They had their first outing together at Sydney Jump Club where they jumped clear. One of Jessica’s teenage students, Sophie Hatch – a top junior showjumper, then took Raise An Angel to Interschools where she performed well again. Jessica continued competing on Raise An Angel, constantly impressed by the way she took each challenge in her stride.

Jessica on Raise An Angel and husband Adrian on Retrigger (also from Racing NSW’s rehoming program) enjoying a quiet ride.

“She is bold and brave and has a natural desire to jump a fence clean,” Jessica said. “She has never so much as thought about pulling up at a fence. As a breed Thoroughbreds are intelligent and eager to please.”

Earlier this month Jessica and Raise An Angel faced their greatest test – the Aquis Champions Tour on the Gold Coast. In the Group 2 1.10m Thoroughbred Championship they finished in the top 10 – an outstanding achievement for any horse, let alone one who had been found neglected in a paddock just 18 months before.

“She is phenomenal,” Jessica said. “It just goes to show it’s worth taking a chance on a young horse and investing in quality coaching. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and she does still have her quirks but we’ve turned a corner and I am so proud of her.”

When researching Raise An Angel’s breeding Jessica discovered the most astounding link to youth. Her grand sire, Fusaichi Pegasus, was the same sire as the life-changing gelding Jessica owned while studying at university in Kentucky.

Jessica and Raise An Angel shining at the Aquis Champions Tour. Credit: OzShotzPhotography

“Ramsey was a star and I used the money from selling him to come to Australia,” she said. “I have a lot to thank Fusaichi Pegasus for!”

For now Raise An Angel is enjoying a well-earned spell at Evergreen Stud in the Hunter Region and will be stepping up to 1.15m at the Camden Winter Showjumping Festival next month.

“I’m just aiming to be more competitive with her and enjoy the relationship we have,” Jessica said. “I trust her to get me from a to b safely and she’s impressing me all the time. She really is something special.”

Click here to see some of the retired racehorses available for rehoming now via Team Thoroughbred’s programs. 

Retired Racehorse Representing Australia In Eventing

Last November 19-year-old equestrienne Hannah Klep had a six-month goal of competing in three star events with her off the track thoroughbred, Reprieve. This week they will represent Australia at the Oceania Eventing Championships in New Zealand, blowing even Hannah’s own expectations out of the water.

“I have dreamed of representing my country since I began eventing but I can’t believe I am actually here,” an ecstatic Hannah said. “It’s been a whirlwind and it’s so exciting.”

Just four exceptionally talented athletes make up the Australian Young Rider Team and of the four horses they compete with, two are thoroughbreds. The second is Silver Force, a former West Australian galloper who is now partnered with Tayah Andrew, a trackwork rider from Perth. The team completed an intensive camp last week and the training has continued in Taupo.

Hannah and Reprieve in New Zealand.

“Reprieve flew over to New Zealand on a special flight on Monday night and I got in on Tuesday,” Hannah said. “Like always, Reprieve has taken it all in his stride and settled in really well.”

The Oceania Eventing Championships run from Friday to Sunday and include three phases – dressage, cross country and showjumping.

“Cross country is a significant test here because it’s a longer course than normal but this is where Reprieve will excel,” Hannah said. “Being an off the track thoroughbred Reprieve has the natural fitness and stamina to keep jumping and galloping at speed.

This is the first time Hannah has taken Reprieve overseas and it’s given her an invaluable insight into the demands of a being a professional rider.

“Representing your country is a massive deal and I am feeling the pressure to perform to the best of my ability but I am trying to put that out of my mind and just appreciate the experience,” she said.

“The camp last week and the training this week has really built my confidence and confirmed to me that Reprieve is in top shape.

“The are Olympians here both in the Senior team and as coaches and training alongside them has been priceless. The Australian coaches have been fantastic and literally by our side 24/7.”

Hannah first met Reprieve when she was 14 years old. Her horse went lame and her coach arranged for Hannah to borrow him. At the time Reprieve hasn’t long been retired and was being retrained by Kylie Higginbotham, a stablehand at Joseph Jones Racing where Reprieve had spent most of his racing career. She saw the bond developing between Hannah and Reprieve and agreed to sell him to her a few months later.

Hannah took Reprieve to Pony Club and continued regular lessons with him. They began competing at introductory level and completed 14 pre-novice events before qualifying for One Star. At age 15 Hannah and Reprieve represented NSW at The Interschools Australian Championships for the first time then progressed to two star competitions.

Coaches Will Enzinger and Sam Lyle give Hannah and Reprieve directions.

“He was learning while I was learning and he was just so good every step of the way,” Hannah said. “I think going through that journey together created our bond. He’s my once in a lifetime horse.”

Hannah hasn’t set any goals beyond the Oceania Championships. Instead she’s just taking it all in.

“We will come home next week,” she said. “I will put him on the plane and two vets will fly with him. The goal is the get him home safe, sound and happy. He is proof that hard work and persistence are the keys to success.”

Click here to help Hannah with the financial pressure of representing Australia internationally.