CANTER Stories: Ex-Racehorse Pyrite Lion Loves Dressage


Pyrite Lion, now Sir Halmstad, with Ami Arwidmark.

It is rare that an amateur rider without a trainer purchases a horse directly off of the racetrack, but that is exactly what Ami Arwidmark did in April of 2016. “I’m not one to romanticize things, but I can’t help but feel like this was one of those ‘universe coming together’ things,” Arwidmark said. Arwidmark was looking for a horse to become her dressage partner. Luckily for her, CANTER Chicago had just the horse for her. A lot of interested people had already visited the horse and he had even passed a pre-purchase exam for one person. Arwidmark went to look at him anyways and put him through a pre-purchase exam.


“The vet who did the pre-purchase told me two things: Thoroughbreds wake up with one of two thoughts, homicide and suicide. And, that this horse was likely untrainable,” Arwidmark recalled. Despite this, Pyrite Lion passed the exam and Arwidmark decided to take him home.


Arwidmark had previously owned 4 OTTBS and had ridden at least 20 others over the years. OTTBs, specifically the “problem” ones, were the only types of horses she could ever afford. She was very familiar with this type of horse and was willing to give him the attention he needed.


“I could have bought a well-made warmblood, but I felt like for me personally, I’d be cheating myself from the experience of the early years with a partner,” Arwidmark explained.


None of the horses she had previous to Pyrite Lion were as sensitive as he was. “Had I not had a child a few years before I don’t think I would have been able to recognize the softness that this horse needed,” Arwidmark said. “I would have just put enough time on him to get his leads down and sold him. I always tell my trainer that my son, my dog, and my horse are the same soul just split into these three different bodies”. Pyrite Lion’s transition from the track to normal life was pretty typical. He put on some weight and quickly began to enjoy being in a program. He spent his first Winter off the track in Florida with some dressage trainers and then returned to Chicago ready to be turned out. He can now be ridden pretty much anywhere. However, Pyrite Lion did have some problems. Last summer he spooked during a ride. Arwidmark ended up pinned underneath him with a broken leg. It was then that she had to decide whether or not she would sell him or continue to work with him. “I really think at that point the only person on the planet who believed in us as a team was my husband who kept asking me to keep him,” disclosed Arwidmark. “It was the first horse we purchased as a married couple making it his first horse. The decision to keep him was 100% based on my husband’s attachment to him”.


Thankfully, though, Arwidmark says the days of his bad reactions are long gone. He has transformed into a horse who loves challenges and wants to please. He is a sweetheart who simply needs some extra time and care.


Pyrite Lion is the dressage partner Ami Arwidmark needed. “Now we are with another professional and from the comments on the judges cards I’d say we are doing ok. If you were to tell me now that I don’t have the right horse for the sport, I’d probably fight you”.


“CANTER makes it possible for horses to transition off the track and into a riding career. I don’t think trainers have a lot of time to advertise horses that aren’t working in their program and that’s where CANTER is a huge help. I wouldn’t have found my horse without CANTER’s services. Who knows where he would have ended up? I wholeheartedly recommend CANTER (+ a pre-purchase exam).” - Ami Arwidmark.


Pyrite Lion is by American Lion and out of Pyrite Fab. He raced twice, finishing off the board both times. He now shows under the name Sir Halmstad and is affectionately called Hal. Pyrite Lion is an example of a troubled horse turned into a success story. While not every horse from CANTER will have issues like he did, Pyrite Lion stands as proof that problems can usually be fixed and that with some time and patience, OTTBs can become successful in any discipline.



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