On November 25, 2018, METS Program Director Brittney Vallot traveled out to a farm in Montgomery County to assess five Thoroughbreds who needed to be rehomed after their owner passed away. Of those five was Understanding; a leggy 8-year-old OTTB standing at 17h.
Michelle Craig of West Wind Farms (Upperville, VA.) saw Understanding listed on the Retired Racehorse Project Facebook page and immediately jumped at the chance to give the mare a home. Just four days after Understanding’s listing went live, she was on Michelle’s trailer heading to her new home.
On her way home with Understanding in tow, Michelle got stuck in rush hour traffic and didn’t have time to drop the mare off before picking up her daughter from school. Understanding didn’t seem phased, however, and said hello to a whole kindergarten class!
Since settling in at West Wind Farms Understanding has been excelling in her training, trying everything from side saddle to fox hunting!
In May of 2019, Craig took Understanding to her very first hunt trail ride and only had positive things to say about the sweet mare.
“Everyone thought she was gorgeous! I had to keep saying, ‘Yes, she really is an OTTB,’ and got to tell a lot of people about METS. Not a lot of people in Northern Virginia [had] heard of the program, but hopefully after seeing her out and knowing where she came from, more people around here will look it up!”
By the beginning of December, Understanding was ready to participate in her first real foxhunt.
“It was fast, loud, sometimes chaotic out hunting,” said Michelle. “I’m happy to report Understanding was perfect for her first foxhunt! She handled first field galloping by her in the woods, hounds around her hind legs, and stood at checks very well!”
“She’s rare – we start a lot of hunt horses (OTTBs and others) and she acted like she read a how to be a good hunt horse manual and just did it so well. Most horses would have been rightfully overwhelmed by [the] hunt and she took it all in stride,” she continued. “We came home, she got a bath, she took a nap. She’s just wonderful, and her ears and lower lips were happily flopping the whole time out.”
“We galloped through the woods, open fields, through streams, creeks, and the roads, ending up at our farm. It was a fabulous, fast, and fun day of hunting! Understanding was clearly the most perfect name for her, because she seems to understand everything we’ve asked of her [so far]. She was perfect at checks, she’s sure footed, smart, and seems to love her new career. My husband Dustin was riding her; he starts all the new ones hunting, and he said she’s just a dream [to ride] and a lovely, balanced, and calm mare.”
It’s so rewarding to see horses like Understanding get the second chance they deserve and METS is so lucky to have supporters like Michelle who are willing to see the diamonds in the rough. A common misconception of horses in need of transition is that they’re old, unrideable, or have dangerous behavioral issues. Understanding is proof that sometimes perfectly rideable, young horses are put in situations where they need a new home, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad horses.
We’re excited to see just how far Understanding and all of our rehomed horses can go, so make sure to keep an eye out for more updates as they come!