Racehorses often travel far and wide during their careers. In the case of Manhattan Striker, it was from Australia, to China, to the heart of an 11 year old girl. Manhattan Striker’s life began in the land down under. He was then shipped to China for his racing career. After his career on the racetrack was over, Manhattan Striker made the long trip to Michigan with twelve other horses. They were referred to as the “Hong Kong Twelve”. He came stateside at the perfect time. Sara Anderson was looking for a horse for her daughter Anna. “I had known about CANTER from my years working at a barn that would foster them,” Anderson explained. “My daughter then rode for Jennifer Blades (who keeps all of the Michigan CANTER horses) with the Interscholastic Equestrian Team and I had the opportunity to see many of the CANTER horses that were coming in.”
“He came out of the stall and I knew immediately he was the right one,” said Anderson. “He had a great eye, a settled confidence about himself, and he was solidly built. He was jet black and had such a commanding presence without being intimidating.” Sara got on Manhattan Striker and gave him a whirl. She was able to walk, trot, and canter Manhattan Striker with a reasonable amount of relaxation. Every step he took was solid and his legs were ice cold. He was perfect for them.
“Manny”, as he was called, did not understand why this young girl was trying to love on him at first. He had an all business attitude and his sensitive skin (likely from ulcers) made grooming a sort of challenge. But, it gave Anna an opportunity to learn how to maneuver around a large horse. After 30 days of “getting to know you” time (no riding), Manny’s personality transformed.
“His personality transitioned from ‘what do YOU want’ to a ‘protector’ of his little girl. We used to tease that he was like a big fierce dragon being led around by a sweet little girl in pink bows,” Anderson described. “Two years later Anna and Manny have such an incredible connection and we see moments of playfulness and silliness with him. He completely agrees now that he is a pet and not simply an asset.”
Manny took some time to adjust to life outside of the racetrack. He was pasture boarded at his new home and each night he would “put himself to bed” in the run in. At first Manny just walked from his run in, to the hay hut, to the water, and back. “Now he has figured out how to play blanket tag, roll in the muddy spots, and always walks up to his girl looking for treats.”
“Under saddle he transitioned very smoothly,” said Anderson. “We took our time working on small achievements and celebrating successes. He was so chill! I kept warning my daughter that ‘come winter... he’s going to get more energetic’ or ‘just wait until we start cantering jumps’. It never happened. He just kept staying level headed and so fair and honest.”
Manny and Anna participated in the 2018 Retired Racehorse Project together. She had from November 2017 to October 2018 to retrain him. They would be competing in the hunter category. They took things slow, learning something new only after he had mastered what was taught to him before.
“We took him to horse shows starting in May with no expectations other than to ‘give him the best 2 minute experience in the ring,” Anderson explained. “We joked that he’s kind of like riding a school bus... a bit long and lacking suppleness, but so fair about his efforts. He isn’t a natural 10 mover, and would tend to be a little sticky about his leads, but nothing you wouldn’t think was fair for a baby horse fresh off the track.” Within just six months, Anna’s younger sister (8 years old) was able to ride Manny. Anna and Manny were successful in the RRP Makeover, but a knocked rail kept them from making it into the finals. Anna was, and still is, the youngest competitor. “Anna was the only person to do the work on him during this year. She wanted to truly represent her efforts with him.”
Together they secured year end championships in the Baby Green and Novice JR divisions of the circuit she was competing in. And, Anna and Manny are still growing together.
“This year, Anna is competing in the 2’6 hunter divisions. She also branched out and took him to a combined test (dressage and a combined cross country / stadium effort). They had a great time and had solid scores in dressage, a clean effort cross country, and 1 rail in the stadium,” Anderson said. “He then returned to the hunter shows the next weekend. Anna also competes with him for her Jr. High Equestrian team. She does the jumping, English flat, bareback (ouch!), barrels and 2 man relay.”
For Sara and Anna, an OTTB was the perfect type of horse for them. They have a love for the straight-forward and hard-working personalities of these horses. Their family also knows about the need of rehoming racehorses and because they have the skillset to retrain, they took the opportunity.
“I also felt it was important for Anna to understand the journey of bringing a horse along from racetrack to ring,” Anderson said. “We have never been a family of having ‘made’ horses. We value the experience of the challenging or learning horse. And...from a practical sense....we just didn’t have the budget to buy a fancy made horse. We had a budget to purchase a fancy green horse.”
CANTER connected the dots of a horse that needed a home and a home that needed a horse. Their efforts to rehome, rehabilitate, and retrain racehorses put Manny into the hands of a young girl who will love him for the rest of his life. Manny and Anna are a prime example of what CANTER is capable of doing for both horses and people.
“I would absolutely recommend CANTER. Trying to purchase an OTTB direct off the track can be very stressful and challenging. There is no opportunity to sit on them, have repeat visits, and/or time for vetting. Lately the primary way to purchase direct off the track is to see a few pictures on Facebook, maybe a quick video, and wire the money. Buying a horse sight unseen for an 11 year old girl for her lifetime horse was not an option. CANTER allowed us the opportunity to meet him, ride him, vet him, and talk to people that genuinely wanted to find the best home for him. There was no concern that the horse was misrepresented or anything but what they knew him to be.” - Sara Anderson, mother of Anna.